Monthly Archives: September 2019

Monday’s Verse 9/9/2019

Here’s a nice poem for a September morning.

This is a good one for folks who tend towards pre-20th century poems, who miss the

colons and "O"s of, say, Victorian poetry. Personally, I stayed for the puns.

Aria Aber (a bare air) has just published her first book of poems, which won the Prairie Schooner Prize. -ed.

MOTHER OF ALL BALMS

Morning she comes, mother of all balms.

Only the news reporter says it wrong:

but aren’t you strung: little ping

and doesn’t memory embalm

your most-hurt city:

those yellow creeks of your rickety holm

where your mater: your salve:

left all her selves behind

so she could surrender to a lifetime

of Septembering: what she members most:

yellow grapes and celeries

and visiting her father’s glove

a balm, to be by absence so enclaved:

your mender

a follower, devoted

to what she cannot see. O air miles,

how can it be real?

How uncertain you should

be if it existed, if there are no photos left

of her playing

on her childhood lawn—

burned are all the documents, or eaten—

this ink,

like memory,

an ancient unguent,

enshrining what cannot be held

of what went missing—the dog, her hat of hay,

one brother. She was in prism,

your mother says—and that’s how you will write her,

atoning her, just in fluorite a figurine caught

to fracture   her stolen years,

   her brother,

all her once-upon-a-chimes.

Monday’s Verse 9/2/2019

Dear readers,

Eugenio Montale (1896-1981) studied to be an opera singer, fought in WWI, and when his voice teacher died in 1923, turned his attention to poetry. He entered an old tradition, weighed down by a distinctly non-modern poetic language indebted more to Dante and Gabriel D’Annunzio than to 20th century lived experience. And his approach was to turn slightly more inward, to come closer to his own life on this earth via language. Although he rejected the classification, he became associated with a mid-century school of Italian poets known as hermeticism.

In 1989, Poetry magazine ran a double-issue called "Italian Poetry Since WWII," featuring several Montale poems in translation by Jonathan Galassi. Here is "A Letter Not Written." Ever had that feeling where you’re at a place, thinking of someone, thinking, I could write it all down, but what’s the point? That seems a little bit like what the speaker is thinking through here… but of course he did write it, just not to the "you" of the poem. -ed.

SU UNA LETTERA NON SCRITTA

Per un formicolìo d’albe, per pochi
fili su cui s’impigli
il fiocco della vita e s’incollano
in ore e in anni, oggi i delfini a coppie
capriolano coi figli? Oh ch’io non oda
nulla di te, ch’io fugga dal bagliore
dei tuoi cigli. Ben altro è sulla terra.

Sparir non so né riaffacciarmi; tarda
la fucina vermiglia
della notte, la sera si fa lunga,
la preghiera è supplizio e non ancora
tra le rocce che sorgono t’è giunta
la bottiglia dal mare. L’onda, vuota,
si rompe sulla punta, a Finisterre.

A LETTER NOT WRITTEN

For a tingling of daybreaks, for a few
threads on which the tuft of
life is tangled and strung
on hours and years, today do paired dolphins
caper with their young? Oh let me hear
nothing of you — let me elude the flash
of your eyelashes. Earth has more than this.

I cannot vanish or reappear; late
is the vermilion forge of
night, evening lengthens,
prayer is torture and not yet among
the rising rocks has come to you
the bottle from the sea. The empty breaker
smashes on the point at Finisterre.