Sunday, August 14, 2016

Léonie Adams

'Country Summer':

Now the rich cherry, whose sleek wood,  
And top with silver petals traced  
Like a strict box its gems encased,  
Has spilt from out that cunning lid,  
All in an innocent green round,  
Those melting rubies which it hid;  
With moss ripe-strawberry-encrusted,  
So birds get half, and minds lapse merry  
To taste that deep-red, lark’s-bite berry,  
And blackcap bloom is yellow-dusted. 

The wren that thieved it in the eaves  
A trailer of the rose could catch  
To her poor droopy sloven thatch, 
And side by side with the wren’s brood— 
O lovely time of beggar’s luck— 
Opens the quaint and hairy bud;  
And full and golden is the yield  
Of cows that never have to house,  
But all night nibble under boughs,  
Or cool their sides in the moist field. 

Into the rooms flow meadow airs, 
The warm farm baking smell’s blown round.  
Inside and out, and sky and ground  
Are much the same; the wishing star,  
Hesperus, kind and early born,  
Is risen only finger-far; 
All stars stand close in summer air, 
And tremble, and look mild as amber;  
When wicks are lighted in the chamber,  
They are like stars which settled there. 

Now straightening from the flowery hay,  
Down the still light the mowers look,  
Or turn, because their dreaming shook,  
And they waked half to other days,  
When left alone in the yellow stubble  
The rusty-coated mare would graze.  
Yet thick the lazy dreams are born,  
Another thought can come to mind,  
But like the shivering of the wind,  
Morning and evening in the corn.

Louise Glück

An interesting piece called 'Vespers [In your extended absence, you permit me]':

In your extended absence, you permit me 
use of earth, anticipating 
some return on investment. I must report 
failure in my assignment, principally 
regarding the tomato plants. 
I think I should not be encouraged to grow 
tomatoes. Or, if I am, you should withhold 
the heavy rains, the cold nights that come 
so often here, while other regions get 
twelve weeks of summer. All this 
belongs to you: on the other hand, 
I planted the seeds, I watched the first shoots 
like wings tearing the soil, and it was my heart 
broken by the blight, the black spot so quickly 
multiplying in the rows. I doubt 
you have a heart, in our understanding of 
that term. You who do not discriminate 
between the dead and the living, who are, in consequence, 
immune to foreshadowing, you may not know 
how much terror we bear, the spotted leaf, 
the red leaves of the maple falling 
even in August, in early darkness: I am responsible 
for these vines.

Seamus Heaney

The summer classic 'Blackberry-Picking':

Late August, given heavy rain and sun 
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen. 
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot 
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot. 
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet 
Like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it 
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for 
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger 
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots 
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots. 
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills 
We trekked and picked until the cans were full, 
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered 
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned 
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered 
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's. 

We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre. 
But when the bath was filled we found a fur, 
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache. 
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush 
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour. 
I always felt like crying. It wasn't fair 
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot. 
Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Book rec: adventure and gothic

The famous female writer Ann Radcliffe's [1764-1823] seminal book The Mysteries of Udolpho is an incredible, very long piece that is great to try. You get sucked in easily by her descriptive writing and the soft touches of the macabre and eerie. Of course, it was written in 1794, so you need to expect over-dramatization, over the top emotional, and antiquated gender roles. As a famous early gothic novel, there is a damsel in distress and quite a sense of fear, confusion and worry.

It's as fun as Balzac, and much more exciting. It's also very poetic, so be prepared. People have reported it can give you a chill even in the hot sun of Capri. Begin fast by starting at a random early page to just dive in quick. If you love it, you can go back and read those pages.

Here are a few quotes:

“Towards evening, they wound down precipices, black with forest of cypress, pine and cedar, into a glen so savage and secluded, that, if Solicitude ever had local habitation, this might have been "her place of dearest residence” 

“Groves of orange and lemon perfumed the air, their ripe fruit glowing among the foliage; while, sloping to the plains, extensive vineyards spread their treasures. Beyond these, woods and pastures, and mingled towns and hamlets stretched towards the sea, on whose bright surface gleamed many a distant sail; while, over the whole scene was diffused the purple glow of evening.” 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Warsan Shire

Warsan Shire is a breakout poet recently -- most infamously featured in Beyonce's Lemonade film.

One great section of her piece "Intuition" is this:

I tried to make a home out of you, but doors lead to trap doors, a stairway leads to nothing. Unknown women wander the hallways at night.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Milton and Stevenson

Milton's "Sonnet 7" 

How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth, 
       Stol'n on his wing my three-and-twentieth year! 
       My hasting days fly on with full career, 
       But my late spring no bud or blossom shew'th. 
Perhaps my semblance might deceive the truth 
       That I to manhood am arriv'd so near; 
       And inward ripeness doth much less appear, 
       That some more timely-happy spirits endu'th. 
Yet be it less or more, or soon or slow, 
       It shall be still in strictest measure ev'n 
       To that same lot, however mean or high, 
Toward which Time leads me, and the will of Heav'n: 
       All is, if I have grace to use it so 
       As ever in my great Task-Master's eye.




"Spring Carol" by Robert Louis Stevenson

WHEN loud by landside streamlets gush,
And clear in the greenwood quires the thrush,
With sun on the meadows
And songs in the shadows
Comes again to me
The gift of the tongues of the lea,
The gift of the tongues of meadows.

Straightway my olden heart returns
And dances with the dancing burns;
It sings with the sparrows;
To the rain and the (grimy) barrows
Sings my heart aloud -
To the silver-bellied cloud,
To the silver rainy arrows.

It bears the song of the skylark down,
And it hears the singing of the town;
And youth on the highways
And lovers in byways
Follows and sees:
And hearkens the song of the leas
And sings the songs of the highways.

So when the earth is alive with gods,
And the lusty ploughman breaks the sod,
And the grass sings in the meadows,
And the flowers smile in the shadows,
Sits my heart at ease,
Hearing the song of the leas,
Singing the songs of the meadows. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Milne and Hopkins

'Daffodowndilly' by A.A. Milne

She wore her yellow sun-bonnet, 
She wore her greenest gown; 
She turned to the south wind 
And curtsied up and down. 
She turned to the sunlight 
And shook her yellow head, 
And whispered to her neighbour: "Winter is dead." 

'Spring' by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Nothing is so beautiful as spring— 
  When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush; 
  Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush 
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring 
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing; 
  The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush 
  The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush 
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.   
What is all this juice and all this joy? 
  A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning 
In Eden garden.—Have, get, before it cloy, 
  Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning, 
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy, 
  Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.