Monthly Archives: April 2009

April 28, 2009 The Birth

Dear Readers,

The other nice thing about being in Belle Mead, NJ, last weekend, was being closer to the employer of Paul Muldoon, MV staple and a favorite poet of your editor. As you all know, he teaches at Princeton, and has also been poetry editor of the New Yorker for about a year. My friend Mike gave me a copy of the Princeton magazine, which featured an article about one of Muldoon’s other personas, lyricist/singer/rhythm guitarist for the local garage-pop band Rackett.

I never need much of an excuse to run a Muldoon poem, but there it was. And after enjoying such a lovely weekend, and the Mets game at Citifield last night, I went looking for a “spring” poem by the man. What I found, however, was this paean, which speaks not of rebirth, but birth itself. Nonetheless this is a nature poem of sorts: look at the vocabulary following “haul into the inestimable realm.” Muldoon is copying, of course, since a catalogue of scientific names of flora and fauna is an old trick of English-language poets. He does it in his own inimitable style, however, ditching the phyla and species names for his own arcane choices–jennets? eel-spears? kickapoo quiffs? A real treatment of the poem would of course send one to the OED. Anyone game?

I’m dedicating this poem to my friends Brian and Kathleen, special guest readers of this week’s verse. Last week they welcomed their daughter, Maeve, and what could be more appropriate than an Irish-american poem welcoming Dorothy Aoife? Have a good week, y’all. ~mjl






THE BIRTH


Seven o’clock. The seventh day of the seventh month of the year.
No sooner have I got myself up in lime-green scrubs,
a sterile cap and mask,
and taken my place at the head of the table

than the windlass-woman ply their shears
and gralloch-grub
for a footling foot, then, warming to their task,
haul into the inestimable

realm of apple-blossoms and chanterelles and damsons and eel-spears
and foxes and the general hubbub
of inkies and jennets and Kickapoos with their lemniscs
or peekaboo-quiffs of Russian sable

and tallow-unctuous vernix, into the realm of the widgeon—
the ‘whew’ or ‘yellow-poll’, not the ‘zuizin’—

Dorothy Aoife Korelitz Muldoon: I watch through floods of tears
as they give her a quick rub-a-dub
and whisk
her off to the nursery, then check their staple-guns for staples

-1994

April 21, 2009 The Afternoon

Dudes,

I’m sorts pressed on time of late. Anyone care to share the important career notes on Constantine Cavafy? First heard from him via a lecture made by a member of our readership, concerning his influence on a certain Irish poet (Cathal Ó Searcaigh forgive any misspelling, I believe), about 10 years ago… Maybe someone else has info of the top of his/her head, too.

Anyway, I thought of him recently because after arriving at my friend’s house for Easter lunch last week, I was introduced to a Greek immigrant whom I’d been warned was “kind of self-involved.” Instead of talking to me about marketing consulting for big pharma, though, he wanted to talk about his newfound love for the the classic philosophers and reading poetry, and how he learned ancient greek in high school. Cavafy is of course writing in modern greek at the beginning of the last century, and is certainly the premier “world poet” of modern Greece. Although there’s plainly a nostalgia in this one, it’s for the very recent and personal past–a sentiment I’m sure we can all identify with.

Have a good week,

-ed.




***





THE AFTERNOON
translated by Aliki Barnstone


This room, how well I know it.
Now they rent it and the one next door
as commercial offices. The whole house became
offices for agents and merchants and companies.

Ah, this room, how familiar.

The couch was near the door, here;
in front, a Turkish rug;
near the couch, two yellow vases on a shelf.
On the right, no, across from it, was an armoire with a mirror.
In the middle, the table where he wrote
and three wicker chairs.
Next to the window was the bed 
where we made love so many times.

These sad things must still be somewhere.

Next to the window was the bed;
the afternoon sun spread across halfway.

...One afternoon at four o'clock, we separated,
just for a week....Alas,
that week became forever.


-1919

April 13, 2009 Crossing the Water

FIRST IN A SERIES OF 5…

Readers, 

yesterday I took a trip by train to Belle Mead, NJ, for dinner with some old friends. My leisure activities and transit reading provided a linkage of 5 poets that we’ll be reading through May: 4 MV favorites and one poet I’d never heard of before. 

On the train from Penn Station to New Brunswick I read an article about the professional life of Nicholas Hughes, who was an academic and independent researcher of fish habitats in Alaska. Mr. Hughes apparently never liked to talk about the fact that he was the son of two of the most important English-language poets of the 20th century, preferring to ice fish or talk about rivers. His death by suicide, however, will surely add to the discussions about depression and creativity and suicide that shroud the work of his mother, Sylvia Plath. Ted Hughes was of course the “nature poet” of that dyad, but here’s one by Plath that invokes natural imagery–it also invokes myth, anyone wanna jump on that?

I’d never read this poem before, and I present it here in memory of Nicholas Hughes. Have a good week,

-ed.


PS: Tip of the pen to reader AN for sending me one of the articles below. Please read more if you’re interested:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/03/opinion/03sexton.html?scp=4&sq=nicholas%20hughes&st=cse

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/12/us/12hughes.html?_r=1&scp=3&sq=nicholas%20hughes&st=cse


***



CROSSING THE WATER


Black lake, black boat, two black, cut-paper people.
Where do the black trees go that drink here?
Their shadows must cover Canada.

A little light is filtering from the water flowers.
Their leaves do not wish us to hurry:
They are round and flat and full of dark advice.

Cold worlds shake from the oar.
The spirit of blackness is in us, it is in the fishes.
A snag is lifting a valedictory, pale hand;

Stars open among the lilies.
Are you not blinded by such expressionless sirens?
This is the silence of astounded souls.

-1962

Monday’s Verse, April 7/09

Readers,

I just learned that a good friend of mine (and the best friend of my dad, who turns 72 this day) died this morning. Mike was a professor of French, so I’m dedicating this François Villon poem, first in its original, and then in a translation by MV favorite Galway Kinnell, to him. -ed.

BALLADE

Je connais bien mouches en lait
Je connais à la robe l’homme
Je connais le beau temps du laid
Je connais au pommier la pomme
Je connais l’arbre à voir la gomme
Je connais quand tout est de même
Je connais qui besogne ou chôme
Je connais tout, fors que moi-même

Je connais pourpoint au collet
Je connais le moine à la gonne
Je connais le maître au valet
Je connais au voile la nonne
Je connais quand pipeur jargonne
Je connais fols nourris de crèmes
Je connais le vin à la tonne
Je connais tout, fors que moi-même

Je connais cheval et mulet
Je connais leur charge et leur somme
Je connais Bietris et Belet
Je connais jet qui nombre et somme
Je connais vision et somme
Je connais faute des Bohêmes
Je connais le pouvoir de Rome
Je connais tout, fors que moi-même

Prince, je connais tout en somme
Je connais colorés et blêmes
Je connais mort qui tout consomme
Je connais tout, fors que moi-même

***

BALLADE

I know flies in milk
I know the man by his clothes
I know fair weather from foul
I know the apple by the tree
I know the tree when I see the sap
I know when all is one
I know who labors and who loafs
I know everything but myself.

I know the coat by the collar
I know the monk by the cowl
I know the master by the servant
I know the nun by the veil
I know when a hustler rattles on
I know fools raised on whipped cream
I know the wine by the barrel
I know everything but myself.

I know the horse and the mule
I know their loads and their limits
I know Beatrice and Belle
I know the beads that count and add
I know nightmare and sleep
I know the Bohemians’ error
I know the power of Rome
I know everything but myself.

Prince I know all things
I know the rosy-cheeked and the pale
I know death who devours all
I know everything but myself.