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Poems read Jan-Mar 2021

Posted in poetry

‘How Pharaoh Tried to Steal the Exodus’

For Passover, I wrote a rhyming poem in the style of Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” It’s called “How Pharaoh Tried to Steal the Exodus.” The link I provided here will get you through the paywall. At the top of the article, there’s a link to a SoundCloud recording that will open in a new window and play you my 9-minute narration of the poem, in case you’d like to listen while you read with the text. Hey, if you don’t need the transcription and just want the direct link to the SoundCloud, there you go.

Enjoy the holiday! Let quarantines not take rhyming poetry, at least, away from us.

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‘The Elephant’: A poem about authenticity

Today I learned about Carlos Drummond de Andrade’s poem “The Elephant,” translated from the Portuguese by Richard Zenith in the collection Multitudinous Heart. The translation of this poem is also available online.

“I make an elephant,” the poet says, repurposing “some wood / from old furniture” and stuffing it “with cotton, / silk floss, softness.” Glue, too, will have to do. But what to do about the ivory, “that pure white matter / I can’t imitate”? What to do about the eyes, “the most / fluid and permanent / part of the elephant”?

It’s not so much an external object. The elephant is “my dearest disguise,” the poet says. He is constructing himself.

It is a poem that might appeal especially to anyone who has tried to sculpt or reconstruct their own body, and perhaps it also may, more abstractly, address the sculpting or reconstructing of nonphysical aspects of a life.

It’s about the risk that we do it badly. We don’t meet our own standards, or the world is not ready to receive us and believe in us. The elephant enters “a jaded / world that doesn’t believe / anymore in animals / and doubts all things,” and “no one will look / at him, not even to laugh / at his tail.” It’s also about monstrosity: how an attempt to imitate an awesome, beautiful being may result in a half-invisible, ugly accident that inevitably must be disassembled by its creator as a failed experiment. Or: This is, at least, part of the process that others pick up on when they perceive us as monsters.

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Poems read Oct-Dec 2020

Poems that stumbled across my path online. You might like them, too.

Lisa Ampleman, “Gilding the Lily”
Molly Brodak, “Ok
William Bronk, “Deus Vobiscum”, “Questions for Eros,” “The Remains of a Farm”
Jericho Brown, “Another Elegy,” in The New Testament
Lauren Clark, “Illinois in Spring”
Lucille Clifton, “birth-day”
Cid Corman, “The Unforgivable”
Gregory Corso, “Hello”
Kwame Dawes, “Loneliness
Ansel Elkins, “Autobiography of Eve
Rhina P. Espaillat, “November”
Jack Gilbert, “Exceeding the Spirit”
Aracelis Girmay, “[strange earth, strange]”
Peter Gizzi, “The Present is Constant Elegy
Louise Glück, “October,” “The Pond” in The House On Marshland
Linda Gregg, “God’s Places”
Paul Guest, “Post Factual Love Poem”
Alen Hamza, “Someday I Will Learn”
Joy Harjo, “She Had Some Horses”
Zbigniew Herbert, “Prayer”
Amorak Huey, “Lifespan of a Deer”
Laura Jensen, “Memory,” “Here in the Night”
Jean Joubert, “Brilliant Sky” (tr. Denise Levertov)
Dilawar Karadaghi, “[I’m not here]”
Joanna Klink, “On Mercy”
Ada Limón, “Instructions on Not Giving Up”
Moira Linehan, “My Great Blue”
Timothy Liu, “Survivors”
Audre Lorde, “Speechless
Sophia de Mello Breyner, “[You will never again feel]”
W. S. Merwin, “The Morning”, “How It Happens”
Malena Mörling, “Ashes
Sharon Olds, “I Cannot Say I Did Not”
Mary Oliver, “Fall Song,” in American Primitive
Charles Olson, “[I measure my song]”
George Oppen, “Psalm”, “World, World–“
Katherine Osborne, “[My son died.]”
Linda Pastan, “In This Season of Waiting,” “Go Gentle”
Carl Phillips, “And If I Fall
Rowan Ricardo Phillips, “Grief and the Imaginary Grave”
Roger Reeves, “After Death”
Rainer Maria Rilke, “[Only in our doing can we grasp you]” in The Book Of Hours
Theodore Roethke, “Memory”
Charif Shanahan, “Ligament
Natalie Shapero, “Not Horses,” in Hard Child
Izumi Shikibu, “[You ask my thoughts]” tr. Hirshfield & Aratani
Charles Simic, “Poem” [Every morning I forget how it is]
Maggie Smith, “Rain, New Year’s Eve”
Tracy K. Smith, “An Old Story”
Molly Spencer, “Most Accidents Occur At Home”
Matt Stefon, “A bent rainbow”
Nomi Stone, “On World-Making
Timmy Straw, “Willamette”
Anna Swir, “Her Death is In Me” (tr. Milosz and Leonard Nathan)
Fiona Sze-Lorrain, “[Nothing in my song]”
Shuntaro Tanikawa, “Twenty Billion Light Years of Loneliness” trans. Wright
Chase Twichell, “Fox Bones”
Jean Valentine, “The One You Wanted to Be Is The One You Are”
diane wakoski, “the moon has a complicated geography”
Katharine Whitcomb, “Through the Window,” in The Daughter’s Almanac
James Womack, “To Maximian”
Wendy Xu, “[Most things lose]”

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Poems read July-Sept 2020

Albert Abonado, “Luxury,” in Jaw
John Ashbery, “Iphigenia in Sodus”
Ruth Awad, “We don’t talk about children until we do”
David Baker, “Fire Watch: After You Have Gone”
Wendell Berry, “A Warning To My Readers”
Frank Bidart, “You Cannot Rest”
Yves Bonnefoy, “Wind and Smoke,” [trans. John Naughton]
Lucille Clifton, “blessing the boats”
Peter Clive, “Chimpanzee”
Natalie Diaz, “Isn’t The Air Also a Body, Moving?” in Postcolonial Love Poem
Jack Gilbert, “Walking Home Across the Island”
Aracelis Girmay, “Jacaranda,” [“Listen to me”]
Louise Glück, “Elms,” “October” “The Traveler” and “The Destination,” “Descent to the Valley”
Linda Gregg, “We Manage Most When We Manage Small,” in All of It Singing
Guillevic, tr. Levertov, [“Is there still talk of thee…”]
Joy Harjo, “The Story Wheel”
Jim Harrison, “Return,” “Mary” in Songs of Unreason
Robert Hayden, “Those Winter Sundays”
Denis Johnson, “The Heavens”
Saeed Jones, “A Stranger”
W. Todd Kaneko, “Naming the Birds”
Celia Kim, “We Make the Deer”
Suji Kwock Kim, “The Tree of Unknowing,” in Notes from the Divided Country
Noelle Kocot, “Pressure Belt”
Li-Young Lee, “The Hammock,” [“I loved you before I was born.”]
Ada Limon, “The Conditional”
Timothy Liu, “The Lovers”
Devon Marsh, “Motion”
Jane Mead, “Bounty,” in To the Wren
W. S. Merwin, “Separation”
Emilee Moyce, “To My Younger Self”
Lisel Mueller, “Joy”
John Murillo, “Mercy, Mercy Me”
Frank O’Hara, “To the Harbormaster”
Grace Paley, “Proverbs”
Emily Pettit, “How to Be Alone in a Shape”
Carl Phillips, “For Long to Hold,” [“All night, again…”], “For Chiron”
Ben Purkert, “The Only Conversation”
Adrienne Rich, “Song”
Mary Ruefle, “Blue”
Diane Seuss, “Tear Bottle”
Tracy K. Smith, “The Universe is a House Party,” in Life on Mars
Leon Stokesbury, “Unsent Message to My Brother in His Pain”
D. Thomas, “[see the titbits…]”
Tomas Tranströmer, “Slow Music”
Jean Valentine, “[You ask, Could we have coffee?]”
Diane Wakoski, “Walking Past Paul Blackburn’s Apt. on 7th St.”