Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Tuesday Poem: "Anseo" by Paul Muldoon

When the Master was calling the roll
At the primary school in Collegelands,
You were meant to call back Anseo
And raise your hand
As your name occurred.
Anseo, meaning here, here and now,
All present and correct,
Was the first word of Irish I spoke.
The last name on the ledger
Belonged to Joseph Mary Plunkett Ward
And was followed, as often as not,
By silence, knowing looks,
A nod and a wink, the Master's droll
'And where's our little Ward-of-court?'

I remember the first time he came back
The Master had sent him out
Along the hedges
To weigh up for himself and cut
A stick with which he would be beaten.
After a while, nothing was spoken;
He would arrive as a matter of course
With an ash-plant, a salley-rod.
Or, finally, the hazel-wand
He had whittled down to a whip-lash,
Its twist of red and yellow lacquers
Sanded and polished,
And altogether so delicately wrought
That he had engraved his initials on it.

I last met Joseph Mary Plunkett Ward
In a pub just over the Irish border.
He was living in the open,
In a secret camp
On the other side of the mountain.
He was fighting for Ireland,
Making things happen.
And he told me, Joe Ward,
Of how he had risen through the ranks
To Quartermaster, Commandant:
How every morning at parade
His volunteers would call back Anseo

And raise their hands
As their names occurred.

by Paul Muldoon

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Tuesday Poem: "Dispatch from the Fringe" (a VideoPoem) by Paul E. Nelson

Here's a cool VideoPoem from Paul E. Nelson, a Seattle-based poet, writer and radio interviewer.

His achievements are too numerous to mention, but you can find out more about him here:

Here's a bit of information from his own blog:

"Over 26 years, Paul E Nelson has interviewed poetic luminaries such as Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Anne Waldman, Robin Blaser, Sam Hamill, Wanda Coleman, Eileen Myles, Jerome Rothenberg, Sam Hamill and George Bowering. As host of a whole-systems public affairs radio interview program, he also interviewed authors and activists who understand the shift from a mechanistic ethos to one of process, partnership and interconnection."

Credit for Video: Kyle McCormick, videographer

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Tuesday Poem: "After the Last Bulletins" by Richard Wilbur

After the last bulletins the windows darken  
And the whole city founders readily and deep,  
Sliding on all its pillows
To the thronged Atlantis of personal sleep,

And the wind rises. The wind rises and bowls  
The day’s litter of news in the alleys. Trash  
Tears itself on the railings,
Soars and falls with a soft crash,

Tumbles and soars again. Unruly flights  
Scamper the park, and taking a statue for dead  
Strike at the positive eyes,
Batter and flap the stolid head

And scratch the noble name. In empty lots  
Our journals spiral in a fierce noyade  
Of all we thought to think,
Or caught in corners cramp and wad

And twist our words. And some from gutters flail  
Their tatters at the tired patrolman’s feet,
Like all that fisted snow
That cried beside his long retreat

Damn you! damn you! to the emperor’s horse’s heels.  
Oh none too soon through the air white and dry  
Will the clear announcer’s voice
Beat like a dove, and you and I

From the heart’s anarch and responsible town  
Return by subway-mouth to life again,  
Bearing the morning papers,
And cross the park where saintlike men,

White and absorbed, with stick and bag remove  
The litter of the night, and footsteps rouse  
With confident morning sound
The songbirds in the public boughs.

by Richard Wilbur

I think this poem is wonderful because the poet has taken what would seem to be an unlikely subject, paper litter, and produced something quite beautiful and magnificent.

And maybe I'm being a word nerd, but I get a bit of a frisson when I come across a new word I've never encountered before. In Line 2, Stanza 4, a "noyade" is, according to the Webster's Dictionary, "an execution carried out by drowning". Apparently, it sprang from the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution.

And knock me down with feather and call me an ignorant peon, but I've never encountered the noun, "anarch" ( Line1, Stanza 7) before which the Collins Dictionary defines as "(archaic) an instigator or personification of anarchy".

I love the journey described in this poem, a kind of rake's progress of wind-whipped trash. There are so many fantastic images in this poem that startle and delight the reader. Don't you just love "the thronged Atlantis of personal sleep" or "And some from gutters flail / 
Their tatters at the tired patrolman’s feet"? And the next day, as the poem closes, the cycle begins all over again.

For more about the poet, Richard Wilbur, see:

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Tuesday Poem: "The Great Figure" by William Carlos Williams

Among the rain
and lights
I saw the figure 5
in gold
on a red
to gong clangs
siren howls
and wheels rumbling
through the dark city.

by William Carlos Williams
I love the way this poem manages to convey such an intense and vibrant image of a firetruck (or fire engine as we call them in New Zealand) racing to an emergency with such economy, in such a pared-down use of words.
For more information about the poet, William Carlos Williams, see:


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tuesday Poem: "Weathering" by Fleur Adcock

My face catches the wind
from the snow line
and flushes with a flush
that will never wholly settle.
Well, that was a metropolitan vanity,
wanting to look young forever, to pass.
I was never a pre-Raphaelite beauty
and only pretty enough to be seen
with a man who wanted to be seen
with a passable woman.

But now that I am in love
with a place that doesn't care
how I look and if I am happy,
happy is how I look and that's all.
My hair will grow grey in any case,
my nails chip and flake,
my waist thicken, and the years
work all their usual changes.

If my face is to be weather beaten as well,
it's little enough lost
for a year among the lakes and vales
where simply to look out my window
at the high pass
makes me indifferent to mirrors
and to what my soul may wear
over its new complexion.

By Fleur Adcock

For more about the poet, Fleur Adcock, see:

I love this poem because the poet says I am what I am and as I age I no longer care about pleasing anyone but myself and it's all superficial in comparison to the beauty of the world all around us.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tuesday Poem: "Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota" by James Wright

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,   
Asleep on the black trunk,
Blowing like a leaf in green shadow.   
Down the ravine behind the empty house,   
The cowbells follow one another   
Into the distances of the afternoon.   
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,   
The droppings of last year’s horses   
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.   
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.

By James Wright

To find out more about the poet James Wright, see:


I love the meditative nature of this poem. I don't agree with the last line, but perhaps he is being ironic. Moments of reflection and contemplation of beauty are never wasted, I feel.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Tuesday Poem: "Sunset" by Rainer Maria Rilke

Slowly the west reaches for clothes of new colours
which it passes to a row of ancient trees.

You look, and soon these two worlds both leave you

one part climbs toward heaven, one sinks to earth.

Leaving you, not really belonging to either,

not so hopelessly dark as that house that is silent,

not so unswervingly given to the eternal as that thing

that turns to a star each night and climbs--

leaving you (it is impossible to untangle the threads)

your own life, timid and standing high and growing,

so that, sometimes blocked in, sometimes reaching out,

one moment your life is a stone in you, and the next, a star.

By Rainer Maria Rilke

For more about the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, see: