Seven Questions for mwpm

Recently, poet and publisher Rob McLennan paid me a compliment in the form of an interview. Though I have accomplished little to deserve an interview, I appreciate the compliment nonetheless!

Read the interview here: Seven Questions for mwpm


John Ashbery’s How To Continue

John Ashbery died today. Here’s a poem…

How To Continue
John Ashbery

Oh there once was a woman
and she kept a shop
selling trinkets to tourists
not far from a dock
who came to see what life could be
far back on the island.

And it was always a party there
always different but very nice
New friends to give you advice
or fall in love with you which is nice
and each grew so perfectly from the other
it was a marvel of poetry
and irony

And in this unsafe quarter
much was scary and dirty
but no one seemed to mind
very much
the parties went on from house to house
There were friends and lovers galore
all around the store
There was moonshine in winter
and starshine in summer
and everybody was happy to have discovered
what they discovered

And then one day the ship sailed away
There were no more dreamers just sleepers
in heavy attitudes on the dock
moving as if they knew how
among the trinkets and the souvenirs
the random shops of modern furniture
and a gale came and said
it is time to take all of you away
from the tops of the trees to the little houses
on little paths so startled

And when it became time to go
they none of them would leave without the other
for they said we are all one here
and if one of us goes the other will not go
and the wind whispered it to the stars
the people all got up to go
and looked back on love

Jean Follain’s Speech Alone

Jean Follain was born 114 years ago today. Here’s a poem…

Speech Alone
Jean Follain

It happens that one pronounces
a few words just oneself
alone on this strange earth
then the small white flower
the pebble like all those that went before
the sprig of stubble
find themselves re-united
at the foot of the gate
which one opens slowly
to enter the house of clay
while chairs, table, cupboard
blaze in a sun of glory.

Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s Waking

Yevgeny Yevtushenko was born 85 years ago today. Here’s a poem…

Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Waking then was like dreaming.
Waking then was like a lonely dream
in this cottage in this settlement,
thinking: time to go and pick mushrooms,
and ruffling your hair to wake you,
and kissing your eyes open,
all this each day a new discovery.
We stayed on at the settlement for a month,
gardens, chirping birds,
the meadow paths winding among the wheat,
tense creak of the floorboards underfoot.
And when we cut the sunflower into two
there was no need for special explanations.
When under the presentiment of dawn
we ran down into the river
(gudgeon tickle your feet in those reaches)
there was no place for complicated questions.
At first it didn’t seem a mystery
incapable of human explanation
that you lay dreaming in the night beside me.
I thought it due from a just destiny
that every morning was my rendezvous
with you, which never could or would be broken.
And how I flattered myself
nothing in you could be unknown to me.
You don’t belong to the mind’s calculations,
and you disproved each of my demonstrations,
since to be unexpected is your truth.
You came to me never with what I knew,
never the days’ familiar repetitions,
but new beginning and your new surprise.
We felt no quarrel on that droning flight,
and yet there was a presence
moving around us circle by circle,
flying with us and measuring up on us.

Aimé Césaire’s Elegy

Aimé Césaire was born 104 years ago today. Here’s a poem…

Aimé Césaire

Aimé Césaire

The hibiscus that is nothing other than a burst eye
from which hands the thread of a long gaze the trumpets of the chalice vines
the huge black sabers of flamboyants the twilight that is an ever jingling bunch of keys
the Arecas that are nonchalant suns never setting because pierced through and through by a pin which the addlebrained lands
never hesitate to jab all the way in
to their hearts the terrifying souklyans Orion
the ecstatic butterfly that magical pollens
crucified on the gate of trembling nights
the beautiful black curls of canafistulas that are very proud
mulatto women whose necks tremble a bit under the guillotine
and do not be surprised if at night I moan more heavily
or if my hands strangle more secretly
it is the herd of old sufferings which toward my smell
black and red
stretches its head and with the still soft and clumsy
insistence of its muzzle
searches more deeply for my heart
then it is no use for me to press my heart against yours
nor to lose myself in the foliage of your arms
the herd finds it
and very solemnly
in a manner always new
licks it
until the first blood savagely appears
on the abrupt open claws of

Adam Zagajewski’s En Route

Adam Zagajewski was born 72 years ago today. Here’s a poem (translated by Clare Cavanagh)…


En Route
Adam Zagajewski

1. without baggage

To travel without baggage, sleep in the train
on a hard wooden bench,
forget your native land,
emerge from small stations
when a gray sky rises
and fishing boats head to sea.

2. in belgium

It was drizzling in Belgium
and the river wound between hills.
I thought, I’m so imperfect.
The trees sat in the meadows
like priests in green cassocks.
October was hiding in the weeds.
No, ma’am, I said,
this is the nontalking compartment.

3. a hawk circles above the highway

It will be disappointed if it swoops down
on sheet iron, on gas,
on a tape of tawdry music,
on our narrow hearts.

4. mont blanc

It shines from afar, white and cautious,
like a lantern for shadows.

5. segesta

On the meadow a vast temple—
a wild animal
open to the sky.

6. summer

Summer was gigantic, triumphant—
and our little car looked lost
on the road going to Verdun.

7. the station in bytom

In the underground tunnel
cigarette butts grow,
not daisies.
It stinks of loneliness.

8. retired people on a field trip

They’re learning to walk
on land.

9. gulls

Eternity doesn’t travel,
eternity waits.
In a fishing port
only the gulls are chatty.

10. the theater in taormina

From the theater in Taormina you spot
the snow on Etna’s peak
and the gleaming sea.
Which is the better actor?

11. a black cat

A black cat comes out to greet us
as if to say, look at me
and not some old Romanesque church.
I’m alive.

12. a romanesque church

At the bottom of the valley
a Romanesque church at rest:
there’s wine in this cask.

13. light

Light on the walls of old houses,
Passerby, open your eyes.

14. at dawn

The world’s materiality at dawn—
and the soul’s frailty.