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26 April 2012

Today is Poem In Your Pocket Day, a part of National Poetry Month. The idea is to carry a favorite poem around with you to share with people, so let's make MeCha our virtual pocket and post some favorite poems in this thread.
Here's one of mine: "Riding The Elevator Into The Sky" by Anne Sexton, published in 1975.
posted by BoringPostcards 26 April | 07:03
One of my favorites is by William Carlos Williams:

"He invites the storm,
he lives by it! Instinct
with fears that are not fears
but prickles of ecstasy"

I always think about that when fear threatens to rule me.

Can be heard at the beginning of this song.
posted by Eideteker 26 April | 07:36
Some friends of mine have been doing 30/30, and I'm kinda jealous. I didn't find out about it until a week ago. I suppose I can do it whenever, though.
posted by Eideteker 26 April | 08:55
Pattiann Rogers.
posted by JanetLand 26 April | 08:58
(Re: Poem in your Pocket, literally — Since I was in high school, I've kept a copy of "The Raven" in every wallet I've gone through, but I figure that one's a bit obvious, and also, it doesn't speak to me as directly. I just really enjoy the meter/cadence.)
posted by Eideteker 26 April | 09:24
Drummer Hodge ~Thomas Hardy

They throw in Drummer Hodge, to rest
Uncoffined – just as found:
His landmark is a kopje-crest
That breaks the veldt around;
And foreign constellations west
Each night above his mound.

Young Hodge the Drummer never knew –
Fresh from his Wessex home –
The meaning of the broad Karoo,
The Bush, the dusty loam,
And why uprose to nightly view
Strange stars amid the gloam.

Yet portion of that unknown plain
Will Hodge forever be;
His homely Northern breast and brain
Grow to some Southern tree,
And strange-eyed constellation reign
His stars eternally.
posted by ColdChef 26 April | 09:29
One of my favorites:

[anyone lived in a pretty how town] by E.E. Cummings

"anyone lived in a pretty how town
"(with up so floating many bells down)
"spring summer autumn winter
"he sang his didn’t he danced his did. ..."


dive for dreams

dive for dreams
or a slogan may topple you
(trees are their roots
and wind is wind)

trust your heart
if the seas catch fire
(and live by love
though the stars walk backward)
posted by halonine 26 April | 09:39
Another personal favorite, one that has brought tears to my eyes before: "The Heaven of Animals," by James Dickey.
posted by BoringPostcards 26 April | 09:42
Lately I've been digging poems by Edwin Arlington Robinson - who I discovered via Simon & Garfunkel's adaptation his poem "Richard Cory". I generally prefer his more narrative character study poems, but this verse from "Dear Friends" seems appropriate here:

Dear friends, reproach me not for what I do,
Nor counsel me, nor pity me; nor say
That I am wearing half my life away
For bubble-work that only fools pursue.
And if my bubbles be too small for you,
Blow bigger then your own:—the games we play
To fill the frittered minutes of a day,
Good glasses are to read the spirit through.
posted by Slack-a-gogo 26 April | 09:52
I never fully embraced poetry until a few years ago, so lately I've been catching up on the classics and poems most people have probably known most of their life. Looking forward to discovering some new voices here.
posted by Slack-a-gogo 26 April | 09:53
The Emperor of Ice-Cream || Wallace Stevens

Call the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
As they are used to wear, and let the boys
Bring flowers in last month's newspapers.
Let be be finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

Take from the dresser of deal,
Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
On which she embroidered fantails once
And spread it so as to cover her face.
If her horny feet protrude, they come
To show how cold she is, and dumb.
Let the lamp affix its beam.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.
posted by youngergirl44 26 April | 11:58
I love poems!!
posted by youngergirl44 26 April | 12:04
I've always loved Edna St. Vincent Millay, who has written so eloquently on the searing, visceral pain of grief and on the flippant bitterness of heartbreak.

She can also, I grant you, be kind of a bummer. So here is one of her most joyous poems:

Afternoon on a Hill/Edna St. Vincent Millay

I will be the gladdest thing
Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
And not pick one.

I will look at cliffs and clouds
With quiet eyes,
Watch the wind bow down the grass,
And the grass rise.

And when lights begin to show
Up from the town,
I will mark which must be mine,
And then start down!
posted by Elsa 26 April | 13:54
There was a period in my life where I could rouse myself at 8:30 am, lounge in bed for a half hour, listening to NPR, and finally getting up after listening to a poem read by Garrison Keillor. I copied a few of my favorites from The Writer's Almanac, and copied the style of TWA's website from that time period, too. I think my favorite from those three is the one by X.J. Kennedy. The last line still rings in my mind.

Anything. Anything for a fix of light.
posted by filthy light thief 26 April | 14:08
This is the first poem I ever memorized:
The Song of Hiawatha
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis,
Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.
Dark behind it rose the forest,
Rose the black and gloomy pine-trees,
Rose the firs with cones upon them;
Bright before it beat the water,
Beat the clear and sunny water,
Beat the shining Big-Sea-Water.
There the wrinkled old Nokomis
Nursed the little Hiawatha,
Rocked him in his linden cradle,
Bedded soft in moss and rushes.
Safely bound with reindeer sinews;
Stilled his fretful wail by saying,
"Hush! the Naked Bear will hear thee!"
Lulled him into slumber, singing,
"Ewa-yea! my little owlet!
Who is this, that lights the wigwam?
With his great eyes lights the wigwam?
Ewa-yea! my little owlet!"
posted by arse_hat 26 April | 15:05
When I was in college, and I was dumped by the girl I loved more than anyone in the world, I used this poem to boost my spirits and get me back out there into the world. (Translated from Latin--probably poorly)

Catullus 8
Miserable Catulus, you should stop being a fool,
And that which you see to have died, you should consider lost.
Once bright suns gleamed for you
When you used to go repeatedly where the girl was leading.
Loved by you as much as no other girl will be loved.
There when those many moments of pleasure occurred
Which you were wanting nor did the girl not want them.
Truly bright stars gleamed for you.

However, now she does not want them: don't be helpless,
Nor chase after she who flees, nor live miserably
But with a stubborn mind, endure and be firm.
Goodbye girl, now Catullus is firm,
Nor does he go looking for you nor will he be asking you to go out unwillingly.
And you will hurt when you are asked out not at all.

Wretched woman, alas for you, what life remains for you?
Who now will come to you? To whom will you be beautiful?
Whom now will you love? Whose will you be said to be?
Whom will you kiss? Whose lips will bite?
And you, Catullus? Be firm and determined.

(Ended up marrying that girl years later, so what do I know?)
posted by ColdChef 26 April | 17:32
Mary Oliver - Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Halonine, Eideteker, and ColdChef have mentioned some great ones.

I do not get Wallace Stevens! What is wrong with me! Some of my favorite people are Wallace Stevens fans, I swear! I just don't get it.

And I know there are many detractors of the poem I'm sharing, but it's in my pocket, darnit.
posted by rainbaby 26 April | 18:53
I'm very mainstream in the poetry that I like. Yeats and Eliot are my faves. Prufrock, of course, because under my sunny exterior I am a deeply cynical motherfucker. But if I want something to make me happy, it's always The Lake Isle of Innisfree.

I WILL arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.
posted by gaspode 26 April | 20:52
Thanks for the heads-up, BP! I was tempted to choose something by Yeates, but here's my very favorite poem ever, by Patrick Barrington:

I had a Hippopotamus, I kept him in a shed
And fed him upon vitamins and vegetable bread
I made him my companion on many cheery walks
And had his portrait done by a celebrity in chalk

His charming eccentricities were known on every side
The creatures' popularity was wonderfully wide
He frolocked with the Rector in a dozen friendly tussles
Who could not but remark on his hippopotamuscles

If he should be affected by depression or the dumps
By hippopotameasles or the hippopotamumps
I never knew a particle of peace 'till it was plain
He was hippopotamasticating properly again

I had a Hippopotamus, I loved him as a friend
But beautiful relationships are bound to have an end
Time takes alas! our joys from us and rids us of our blisses
My hippopotamus turned out to be a hippopotamisses

My house keeper regarded him with jaundice in her eye
She did not want a colony of hippotami
She borrowed a machine gun from from her soldier nephew, Percy
And showed my hippopotamus no hippopotamercy

My house now lacks that glamour that the charming creature gave
The garage where I kept him is now as silent as the grave
No longer he displays among the motor tyres and spanners
His hippopomastery of hippopotamanners

No longer now he gambols in the orchards in the spring
No longer do I lead him through the village on a string
No longer in the morning does the neighbourhood rejoice
To his hippopotamusically-modulated voice

I had a hippopotamus but nothing upon earth
Is constant in its happines or lasting in its mirth
No joy that life can give me can be strong enough to smother
My sorrow for that might-have-been-a-hippopota-mother.
posted by Susurration 26 April | 21:33
Just last weekend we hosted a huge poetry festival at my museum. One of the readers was Joy Harjo. She didn't read this poem, but I stumbled across it while learning about her, and I think it's full of truth.

Perhaps the World Ends Here

by Joy Harjo
The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what,
we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the
table so it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe
at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what
it means to be human. We make men at it,
we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts
of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms
around our children. They laugh with us at our poor
falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back
together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella
in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place
to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate
the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared
our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow.
We pray of suffering and remorse.
We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table,
while we are laughing and crying,
eating of the last sweet bite.

from: Reinventing the Enemy's Language.
Edited by Joy Harjo and Gloria Bird.
New York: Norton, 1997.
posted by Miko 26 April | 21:44
I love all these poems! But Susurration, yours is going to be in my head for days! I've never seen it before.
posted by halonine 26 April | 23:44
This thread has been so great. Sometime I want to do a thread where we post audio recordings of ourselves reading favorite poems (or pieces of prose)... it's been discussed in the distant past, but I think we should finally get around to doing it now.
posted by BoringPostcards 28 April | 19:53
night of the living, night of the dead — kim addonizio

When the dead rise in movies they're hideous
and slow. They stagger uphill toward the farmhouse
like drunks headed home from the bar.
Maybe they only want to lie down inside
while some room spins around them, maybe that's why
they bang on the windows while the living
hammer up boards and count out shotgun shells.
The living have plans: to get to the pickup parked
in the yard, to drive like hell to the next town.
The dead with their leaky brains,
their dangling limbs and ruptured hearts,
are sick of all that. They'd rather stumble
blind through the field until they collide
with a tree, or fall through a doorway
like they're the door itself, sprung from its hinges
and slammed flat on the linoleum. That's the life
for a dead person: wham, wham, wham
until you forget your name, your own stinking
face, the reason you jolted awake
in the first place. Why are you here,
whatever were you hoping as you lay
in your casket like a dumb clarinet?
You know better now. The soundtrack's depressing
and the living hate your guts. Come closer
and they'll show you how much. Wham, wham, wham,
you're killed again. Thank God this time
they're burning your body, thank God
it can't drag you around anymore
except in nightmares, late-night reruns
where you lift up the lid, and crawl out
once more, and start up the hill toward the house.
posted by seanyboy 02 May | 08:35
99 Problems || Molly Ringwald does a Reddit AMA