Monthly Archives: April 2008

April 28, 2008

Dear Readers,

I haven’t much time for a proper intro to this sonnet by Anne Sexton,
which appears in a collection called “Love Poems.” It was compiled
from verse she wrote in the late 1960’s, and should really be called
“adultery poems” or “poems of love and hate” or some such. I will say
that confessional poetry, the “school” or mode under which her poetry
is usually categorized, has been influential in American verse, and
not always to salubrious effect. However, if some lovely poet wanted
to confess this to me–well I’m all ears. I’ll leave the detailed
analyses to y’all. Please note: it is raining in New York City this
morning. -ed.


On the day of breasts and small hips,
the window pocked with bad rain,
rain coming on like a minister,
we coupled, so sane and insane.
We lay like spoons while the sinister
rain dropped like flies on our lips
and our glad eyes and our small hips.

“The room is so cold with rain,” you said
and you, feminine you, with your flower
and novenas to my ankles and elbows.
You are a national product and power.
Oh my swan, my drudge, my dear wooly rose,
even a notary would notarize our bed
as you knead me and I rise like bread.

April 21, 2008

Holy cow, how great is this. Sometimes we discuss what poetry can do,
sometimes we discuss how poetry is different from prose. And then
sometimes a poem is just a fucking kick. ~mjl

The Correspondence-School Instructor Says Goodbye to His Poetry Students
by Galway Kinnell

Goodbye, lady in Bangor, who sent me
snapshots of yourself, after definitely hinting
you were beautiful; goodbye,
Miami Beach urologist, who enclosed plain
brown envelopes for the return of your very
“Clinical Sonnets”; goodbye, manufacturer
of brassieres on the Coast, whose eclogues
give the fullest treatment in literature yet
to the sagging breast motif; goodbye, you in San Quentin,
who wrote, “Being German my hero is Hitler,”
instead of “Sincerely yours,” at the end of long,
neat-scripted letters extolling the Pre-Raphaelites:

I swear to you, it was just my way
of cheering myself up, as I licked
the stamped, self-addressed envelopes,
the game I had of trying to guess
which one of you, this time,
had poisoned his glue. I did care.
I did read each poem entire.
I did say everything I thought
in the mildest words I knew. And now,
in this poem, or chopped prose, no better,
I realize, than those troubled lines
I kept sending back to you,
I have to say I am relieved it is over:
at the end I could feel only pity
for that urge toward more life
your poems kept smothering in words, the smell
of which, days later, tingled in your nostrils
as new, God-given impulses
to write.

you who are, for me, the postmarks again
of imaginary towns—Xenia, Burnt Cabins, Hornell—
their solitude given away in poems, only their loneliness kept.


April 14, 2008

She was a curious offshoot of the Romantic period, this Christina Rossetti
(1830-1894). Daughter of an Italian poet and political radical, sister of a
more famous painter/poet, raised in England, she wrote poetry that was
widely hailed at the time, but suffered in reputation after the advent of
the Modernist aesthetic. I discovered her in an undergrad class, at about
the same time I was memorizing and performing musical settings of her works
“In the Bleak Midwinter” and “Remember Me” with my choir. Both are haunting.
The poem here, though, is a little more jaunty, but her words always tend to
lead to layers of meaning (as a successful poem often, but not always,
does). Check out the rigor of her form: ABABB, but the final stanza ABABBBA
in its rhyme scheme. And I thought that Frost was the first poet to rhyme
“suffice” with “ice,” but look at how she works it here–suffices/ice is.
That’s lovely, and creative. At the same time, she employs some curious
syntax, but NOT to shoe-horn meaning into meter, as so often happens. No,
her syntax produces a nice staccato in the lines “Was the fallow field left
unsown?/Will these buds be always unblown?”

The poet begins in questioning, and ends with some resolve. No, not resolve:
resolution. It’s a poem about regeneration, and the garden that will teem
with spices could be SO many things, knowhattamean? But it’s appropriate for
the season, and for the day, and I dedicate it in particular to two readers,
MK and NS, who know who they are and who know why I say, “Amen!”



It is over. What is over?

Nay, now much is over truly!–

Harvest days we toiled to sow for;

Now the sheaves are gathered newly,

Now the wheat is garnered duly.

It is finished. What is finished?

Much is finished known or unknown:

Lives are finished; time diminished;

Was the fallow field left unsown?

Will these buds be always unblown? 10

It suffices. What suffices?

All suffices reckoned rightly:

Spring shall bloom where now the ice is,

Roses make the bramble sightly,

And the quickening sun shine brightly,

And the latter wind blow lightly,

And my garden teem with spices.

Monday’s Verse, Apr. 7, 2008

Dear Friends,

because of its surpassing beauty, this poem asks for no introduction.
Today I want to dedicate it to my dad, who turns 71, and to my friend
whose grandmother is sick. Enjoy, and don’t forget to tell your
friends you love them. ~mjl


Wait, for now.
Distrust everything, if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Buds that open out of season will become lovely again.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again,
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands. And the desolation
of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness
carved out of such tiny beings as we are
asks to be filled; the need
for the new love is faithfulness to the old.

Don’t go too early.
You’re tired. But everyone’s tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a while and listen.
Music of hair,
Music of pain,
music of looms weaving all our loves again.
Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear,
the flute of your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.

-Galway Kinnell

Monday’s Verse, Apr. 1, 2008

his is not a joke. Today I’m plugging a good cause, and reprinting a
message sent to me last month by intrepid reader Jonelle Lonergan of
Cambridge, MA:

Hi all,

As many of you know (because I can’t stop talking about it) I’m
training for the 2008 Boston Marathon with the Dana-Farber Marathon
Challenge, raising money to fund cancer research. If history is any
indication, it’s gonna be a good time.

This is my fourth little trek from Hopkinton to Boston and once again,
I’m running in honor of my mom, Barbara. Many of you have met Barbara,
often in the context of chicken cutlets and/or eggplant parmesan.
Besides being an Italian culinary force and an all-around spectacular
mom, she’s also a breast cancer survivor — four years cancer-free.
Pretty awesome.

I’ve raised almost $15,000 for Dana-Farber over the last few years,
and I’m aiming for another $6,000 this spring. If you’re inclined to
help, e-mail me for more info, or check out to make a donation online.

And for those of you who already kicked me a donation, thanks thanks
thanks! Barbara promises to make you cutlets.


Jonelle is very close to her goal and the race is April 21, so if
anyone out there would like to donate there’s still time. Meanwhile,
enjoy the following tight sonnet by Timothy Murphy, in honor of all
those who take on, if not more, then as much as they can possibly
chew. I know, the poem makes no sense in this context but that’s OK.
Remember Michael O’Brien, “everything is not something else”? ~mjl


What polished flattery or slippery truth
tempted your marble athlete from his plinth?
Now that you’ve won so statuesque a youth,
what brazen gates safeguard this Hyacinth?
You keep no sentries posted at your doors,
no trusted eunuchs to massage your prize,
nor spies to poison your competitors
who pace the racetrack with appraising eyes.
What powder or potion, what force of arms
mustered at midnight will forestall your boy
from yielding to a younger rival’s charms?
What Troy or Partha can you destroy
make yourself his hero? And what less
would make you worthy of his loveliness?