Poem for the Day: December 1st, 2021

To the Reader by James Merrill

Each day, hot off the press from Moon & Son,
“Knowing of your continued interest,”
Here’s a new book — well, actually the updated
Edition of their one all-time best-seller —
To find last night’s place in, and forge ahead.
If certain scenes and situations (“work,”
As the jacket has it, “of a blazingly
Original voice”) make you look up from your page
— But this is life, is truth, is me! — too many
Smack of self-plagiarism. Terror and tryst,
Vow and verbena, done before, to death,
In earlier chapters, under different names …
And what about those characters? No true
Creator would just let them fade from view
Or be snuffed out, like people. Yet is there room
(In the pinch of pages under your right thumb)
To bring them back so late into their own? —
Granted their own can tell itself from yours.
You’d like to think a structure will emerge,
If only a kind of Joycean squirrel run
Returning us all neatly to page 1,
But the inconsistencies of plot and style
Lead you to fear that, for this author, fiction
Aims at the cheap effect, “stranger than fiction,”
As people once thought life — no, truth, was. Strange …
Anyhow, your final thought tonight,
Before you kiss my picture and turn the light out,
Is of a more exemplary life begun
Tomorrow, truer, harder to get right.

© 1990 James Merrill. “To the Reader” was originally published in the November 1990 – Spring 1990 issue of The Yale Review. James Merrill (1926-1995) was one of the most celebrated poets of his generation. During his lifetime, he published eleven collections of poetry as well as plays, novels, a memoir, and the trilogy The Changing Light at Sandover.

One of the things I love most about James Merrill, other than the fact that he was a wholly original and inimitable poet, was that he was openly gay in most of his circles. For someone born in 1926 to live so openly and so unashamedly despite the stigma and prejudice he no doubt dealt with on a daily basis is incredible to me. It’s truly a shame that he is not discussed more outside of the queer literati because he changed the landscape of American poetry for everyone that came after him, queer or not.

Do you have a favorite poem of James Merrill’s or even a favorite collection? Before reading today’s post, had you heard of him? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: November 29th, 2021

Tonight No Poetry Will Serve: Poems 2007-2010 by Adrienne Rich

Tonight No Poetry Will Serve by Adrienne Rich

Saw you walking barefoot
taking a long look
at the new moon's eyelid

later spread
sleep-fallen, naked in your dark hair
asleep but not oblivious
of the unslept unsleeping
elsewhere

Tonight I think
no poetry
will serve

Syntax of rendition:

verb pilots the plane
adverb modifies action

verb force-feeds noun
submerges the subject
noun is choking
verb disgraced goes on doing

now diagram the sentence


2007

© 2011 Adrienne Rich. Today’s poem is taken from Rich’s collection Tonight No Poetry Will Serve: Poems 2007-2010, which was published by W.W. Norton in 2011 and was nominated for the National Book Award for Poetry.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: November 28th, 2021

There Will Come Soft Rains by Sara Teasdale

(War Time)

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white,

Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

Sara Teasdale (1884-1933), while frequently excluded from mention in conversations surrounding early twentieth century American poetry, was critically acclaimed and lauded by both her peers and the public alike during her lifetime. Her deeply personal and heartfelt poems charted the changing inner landscape of a woman living through one of the most turbulent periods in American history, and we would do well to re-examine her impact on her contemporaries as well as her successors. You can read more about her life and work here.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: November 27th, 2021

Patronage by Solmaz Sharif

They say
willingness is what one needs
to succeed.

They say one needs to succeed.

*

Our poets do not imagine
a screaming

audience.

Our poets are used to padding,

vinyl, on the foldable chairs,
bookshelves on casters
moved aside
to make space for them

A world polite
for their words

A well-­behaved.
A world’s behavior

malformed and they step
in as one steps in
to a nursery and

quiet

calms the tantrum
attempts not to wake
the sleeping, the milk-­drunk

and burped babe.

Our poets coo.

And beg their feet be placed in a large room.

*

Prize ring. Bull ring. Lion
through the ring of flames.

Poets convinced they are ringmaster
when it is with big brooms and bins, in fact,
they enter to clear the elephant scat.

*

There was an inlet
I pulled over once to watch the sunset, which
was still another hour or so away, the light
just low enough there to begin to change.
I should’ve stayed. I should’ve stayed.

*

A life of idle, with money

doing the work. A life beholden,
but bestowed. To make reformists of us all,

even the fascists.
Especially

of the fascists.

*

But he’s a patron.
But he makes a star of us,
he makes us of rank.

But he’s a churchgoer

and they place their hands on him and pray and bountiful
grow their wives’ bellies, a bully
for each family. Exponential doom.

Singing to each other in the private gazebo of their youth.

*

Now sing.

*

I said what I meant
but I said it

in velvet. I said it in feathers.
And so one poet reminded me


Remember what you are to them.

Poodle, I said.

And remember what they are to you.

*

Meat.

© 2021 Solmaz Sharif. “Patronage” originally appeared in The Yale Review on May 19th, 2021. Solmaz Sharif is the author of two collections of poetry: Look: Poems, which was published by Graywolf Press in July 2016 and was a finalist for the 2016 National Book Award; and Customs: Poems, which is forthcoming from Graywolf Press in March 2022 and is available to preorder wherever books are sold.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: November 26th, 2021

Diving into the Wreck: Poems 1971-1972 by Adrienne Rich

Diving into the Wreck by Adrienne Rich

First having read the book of myths,
and loaded the camera,
and checked the edge of the knife-blade,
I put on
the body-armor of black rubber
the absurd flippers
the grave and awkward mask.
I am having to do this
not like Cousteau with his
assiduous team
aboard the sun-flooded schooner
but here alone.

There is a ladder.
The ladder is always there
hanging innocently
close to the side of the schooner.
We know what it is for,
we who have used it.
Otherwise
it is a piece of maritime floss
some sundry equipment.

I go down.
Rung after rung and still
the oxygen immerses me
the blue light
the clear atoms
of our human air.
I go down.
My flippers cripple me,
I crawl like an insect down the ladder
and there is no one
to tell me when the ocean
will begin.

First the air is blue and then
it is bluer and then green and then
black I am blacking out and yet
my mask is powerful
it pumps my blood with power
the sea is another story
the sea is not a question of power
I have to learn alone
to turn my body without force
in the deep element.

And now: it is easy to forget
what I came for
among so many who have always
lived here
swaying their crenellated fans
between the reefs
and besides
you breathe differently down here.

I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
I stroke the beam of my lamp
slowly along the flank
of something more permanent
than fish or weed

the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring
toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty
the ribs of the disaster
curving their assertion
among the tentative haunters.

This is the place.
And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
streams black, the merman in his armored body.
We circle silently
about the wreck
we dive into the hold.
I am she: I am he

whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes
whose breasts still bear the stress
whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies
obscurely inside barrels
half-wedged and left to rot
we are the half-destroyed instruments
that once held to a course
the water-eaten log
the fouled compass

We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to this scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
in which
our names do not appear.

© 1973 Adrienne Rich and W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. “Diving into the Wreck” originally appeared as part of Rich’s collection Diving into the Wreck: Poems 1971-1972, which was published in 1973 by W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. Rich was awarded the National Book Award for Poetry in 1974 for this collection.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: November 25th, 2021

Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

© 1995 Naomi Shihab Nye. “Kindness” originally appeared as part of Nye’s collection Words Under the Words: Selected Poems, which was published by Eighth Mountain Press in 1995.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: November 24th, 2021

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

This poem is in the public domain. “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is one of Robert Frost’s best-known and most-loved poems. It was written in 1922 and included in his Pulitzer Prize-winning collection New Hampshire, which was published by Henry Holt in 1923.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: November 23rd, 2021

Self-Compassion by James Crews

My friend and I snickered the first time
we heard the meditation teacher, a grown man,
call himself honey, with a hand placed
over his heart to illustrate how we too
might become more gentle with ourselves
and our runaway minds. It’s been years
since we sat with legs twisted on cushions,
holding back our laughter, but today
I found myself crouched on the floor again,
not meditating exactly, just agreeing
to be still, saying honey to myself each time
I thought about my husband splayed
on the couch with aching joints and fever
from a tick bite—what if he never gets better?—
or considered the threat of more wildfires,
the possible collapse of the Gulf Stream,
then remembered that in a few more minutes,
I’d have to climb down to the cellar and empty
the bucket I placed beneath a leaky pipe
that can’t be fixed until next week. How long
do any of us really have before the body
begins to break down and empty its mysteries
into the air? Oh honey, I said—for once
without a trace of irony or blush of shame—
the touch of my own hand on my chest
like that of a stranger, oddly comforting
in spite of the facts.

© 2021 James Crews. “Self-Compassion” was originally published by the Academy of American Poets for their Poem-a-Day series on November 17th, 2021. Crews is the editor of the forthcoming collection The Path to Kindness: Poems of Connection and Joy, which is due to be released in April 2022 by Storey Publishing and is now available to preorder wherever books are sold.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: November 21st, 2021

Winter Journal: Threshed Blue, Cardings, Dim Tonsils by Emily Wilson

stripped batting of cloud
glimpsed ligaments
dusk coming up under
lithographic, nib-hatchings
instruments click
the fine-sprung locust
replicate dinge along hill-lines
tailings of umber, the rust smudge
There is still that hemmed ocean of oaks
the various reds, the somehow
silver cast over the brown-gold
the under-brushed shadows
How can there be more of their dispensing
into air?
The night-openings of the trees
The thousand clefts into
Their corridors shiver and merge and piece apart
There is no one beside what was once river
Only the carbons incoming
accreting in leaves
Love of old oaks unencumbering
Root-beauties brought through
crude sieves of bare trees
the few fastened leaves
Those pods are like tongues or like sickles
The blades have been pulled from their sheaths
The backs of the clouds now upturned
They herd from pink seas
They make their untouchable stream
through regions of steep emptiness
against which the trees have their gestures
Drop down, drop down toward me
your little sleek scars
Make your bed in rough cedars
clangor of darks numbering in
clusters of trunks and spoked lungs
the thistles that work at the gums

© 2001 Emily Wilson and Iowa City: University of Iowa Press. “Winter Journal: Threshed Blue, Cardings, Dim Tonsils” originally appeared in Wilson’s collection The Keep, which was published in 2001 by University of Iowa Press.

Emily Wilson studied at Harvard University and the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She has taught at the latter, as well as at Colby College, Grinnell College, and the University of Montana. Wilson is the author of four poetry collections: The Keep (University of Iowa Press, 2001); Morpho Terrestre (2006), a limited edition book featuring artwork by Sara Langworthy; Micrographia (University of Iowa Press, 2010); and The Great Medieval Yellows (Canarium Books, 2015).

Writing for Boston Review, James Galvin said of Wilson: “Generous in her spareness, clear in her complexity, matching wildness of diction with precision of sense, nervousness with nerve, her poems are not written for analysis, perhaps not even for approval. As we watch poetical heresies turn into orthodoxies, it becomes clear, especially in a poet like Wilson, that only originality, a signature style, remains steadfastly heretical.”

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: November 20th, 2021

Chorus Attempting to Interpret Unearthed Fragments of Their Play by Carolina Ebeid

Can you let go the concern
for how it began what happened

Here the word house remains
A reddening ( ) near house

To describe the sounds
coming in A human voice
barks through the window

the same voice like horsehair
stretched along the bow drawn
across the strings

Where the action is missing
we place ( ) A girl pours out

water from a pail flung up
so that the water arches
into a sickle in an instant
of daylight

The word swallows as a complaint
of swallows raiding the air
suddenly thick with gnats

When you notice the ash
you will mutter ash
& it will appear again: ash
on everything, behind the ears ash

Maybe this shadow belongs
to the house at 4:30
Shadow is a length of gauze
loosened over the garden

It began with blizzards
for nine hours

A cleft on the ceiling
or a cleft in the chest
No matter, a cleft let
the weather in

Here is a description
of a face in anger
a weather of arrows

Instead of counting sheep
the injured man folds clothes
in his head into heaps

Separate what is missing
from what’s disappeared

(here has been eaten by silverfish)
We are left to think of ( )

as the space between falling
asleep & waking up
Swallow can be a passage

the gullet, throat,
a grave in the ground
We’re surrounded by swallows

that open ( ) so fluent with bodies
nobodies

Here there was a story
& we were part of the after-
waves in a disaster

braiding wreaths of roadside flowers

The violet ones we’ll call purple daughters
The white ones: asylum lights

© 2019 Carolina Ebeid. Today’s poem originally appeared in the July/August 2019 issue of Poetry Magazine.

Ebeid earned her MFA from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin and is pursuing her Ph.D. in creative writing from the University of Denver. She currently lives in Colorado where she teaches at Lighthouse Writers Workshop. She also serves as poetry editor at The Rumpus and edits (with her husband, Jeffrey Pethybridge) Visible Binary, an online journal specializing in experimental poetics and avant-garde expression. She has been published in numerous journals both in print and online and has been awarded multiple fellowships, among them fellowships from the Lannan Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

You Ask Me To Talk About the Interior by Carolina Ebeid

She is the author of the poetry collection You Ask Me To Talk About the Interior, which was published in 2016 by Noemi Press and is available to purchase through Small Press Distribution.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.