Sunday, March 6, 2016


One of the big 'must read' blogs is AnthonyWilson'sPoetry site, but I find I rarely agree with the poems he's chosen/enjoys. This one is an exception--It's the Russian [b. 1933] Yevgeny Yevtushenko's "damp white imprints..." if only because it seems to have come from Last year at Marienbad [1961], the infamous modern cinema classic:

Damp white imprints dog the feet;
snowbound trolley, snowbound street.
Her tip of glove to lip and cheek,
“Goodbye.” Go.
Deathly, into soaring snow
and stillness, as expected, go.
A turn:
    the plunge to the metro.
A blare of lights. A melting hat.
I stand, am spun in drafts, see black
take the tunnel, train, and track,
sit and wait as others sat,
touch cold marble, chill my hand
and, heavy-hearted, understand
that nothing ever really happened,
ever would, ever can.

Yevgeny Yevtushenko, translated by Anthony Kahn, from Stolen Apples (Doubleday, 1971)

Spring Song by Robert Louis Stevenson

THE air was full of sun and birds,
The fresh air sparkled clearly.
Remembrance wakened in my heart
And I knew I loved her dearly.

The fallows and the leafless trees
And all my spirit tingled.
My earliest thought of love, and Spring's
First puff of perfume mingled.

In my still heart the thoughts awoke,
Came lone by lone together -
Say, birds and Sun and Spring, is Love
A mere affair of weather? 



Le Testament: Ballade: Pour Robert d’Estouteville

At dawn of day, when falcon shakes his wing,
Mainly from pleasure, and from noble usage,
Blackbirds too shake theirs then as they sing,
Receiving their mates, mingling their plumage,
O, as the desires it lights in me now rage,
I’d offer you, joyously, what befits the lover.
See how Love has written this very page:
Even for this end are we come together.
Doubtless, as my heart’s lady you’ll have being,
Entirely now, till death consumes my age.
Laurel, so sweet, for my cause now fighting,
Olive, so noble, removing all bitter foliage,
Reason does not wish me unused to owing,
Even as I’m to agree with this wish, forever,
Duty to you, but rather grow used to serving:
Even for this end are we come together.
And, what’s more, when sorrow’s beating
Down on me, through Fate’s incessant rage,
Your sweet glance its malice is assuaging,
Nor more or less than wind blows smoke away.
As, in your field, I plant I lose no grain,
For the harvest resembles me, and ever
God orders me to plough, and sow again:
Even for this end are we come together.
Princess, listen to this I now maintain:
That my heart and yours will not dissever:
So much I presume of you, and claim:
Even for this end are we come together.

Spring Pools by Robert Frost

These pools that, though in forests, still reflect
The total sky almost without defect,
And like the flowers beside them, chill and shiver,
Will like the flowers beside them soon be gone,
And yet not out by any brook or river,
But up by roots to bring dark foliage on. 

The trees that have it in their pent-up buds
To darken nature and be summer woods -
Let them think twice before they use their powers
To blot out and drink up and sweep away
These flowery waters and these watery flowers
From snow that melted only yesterday. 

To Spring by William Blake

O thou with dewy locks, who lookest down
Thro' the clear windows of the morning, turn
Thine angel eyes upon our western isle,
Which in full choir hails thy approach, O Spring!

The hills tell each other, and the listening
Valleys hear; all our longing eyes are turned
Up to thy bright pavilions: issue forth,
And let thy holy feet visit our clime.

Come o'er the eastern hills, and let our winds
Kiss thy perfumed garments; let us taste
Thy morn and evening breath; scatter thy pearls
Upon our love-sick land that mourns for thee.

O deck her forth with thy fair fingers; pour
Thy soft kisses on her bosom; and put
Thy golden crown upon her languished head,
Whose modest tresses were bound up for thee. 

Spring In New Hampshire by Jamaican-American Claude McKay

Too green the springing April grass,
Too blue the silver-speckled sky,
For me to linger here, alas,
While happy winds go laughing by,
Wasting the golden hours indoors,
Washing windows and scrubbing floors. 

Too wonderful the April night,
Too faintly sweet the first May flowers,
The stars too gloriously bright,
For me to spend the evening hours,
When fields are fresh and streams are leaping,
Wearied, exhausted, dully sleeping. 

“Feuerzauber” [1936] by Louis Untermeyer

This excellent piece is by a New Yorker who loved the literary world of the 1920s and 1930s:

I never knew the earth had so much gold—
   The fields run over with it, and this hill
Hoary and old,
   Is young with buoyant blooms that flame and thrill.

Such golden fires, such yellow—lo, how good 
   This spendthrift world, and what a lavish God! 
This fringe of wood,
   Blazing with buttercup and goldenrod.

You too, beloved, are changed. Again I see 
   Your face grow mystical, as on that night 
You turned to me,
   And all the trembling world—and you—were white.

Aye, you are touched; your singing lips grow dumb; 
   The fields absorb you, color you entire . . .
And you become
   A goddess standing in a world of fire!


This excellent, concise 'haiku'-mood/tone poem is by the Austrian poetess Elfriede Jelinek [2007], trans. by Michael Hofmann. 

april breath 
of  boyish red 
the tongue crushes 
strawberry dreams 

                                  hack away wound 
                                  and wound the fountain 

and on the mouth 
perspiration white 
from someone's neck 

a little tooth   
has bit the finger 
of  the bride the 
                                  tabby yellow and sere 

the red boy   
from the gable flies 
an animal hearkens 
in his white throat 
                                  his juice runs down 
                                  pigeon thighs 

a pale sweet spike 
still sticks 
in woman white 

an april breath 
of  boyish red

Penumbrae by John Updike

The shadows have their seasons, too. 

The feathery web the budding maples 
cast down upon the sullen lawn

bears but a faint relation to
high summer's umbrageous weight 
and tunnellike continuum—

black leached from green, deep pools 
wherein a globe of gnats revolves 
as airy as an astrolabe.

The thinning shade of autumn is 
an inherited Oriental,
red worn to pink, nap worn to thread.

Shadows on snow look blue. The skier, 
exultant at the summit, sees his poles 
elongate toward the valley: thus

each blade of grass projects another 
opposite the sun, and in marshes 
the mesh is infinite,

as the winged eclipse an eagle in flight 
drags across the desert floor 
is infinitesimal.

And shadows on water!—
the beech bough bent to the speckled lake 
where silt motes flicker gold,

or the steel dock underslung 
with a submarine that trembles, 
its ladder stiffened by air.

And loveliest, because least looked-for, 
gray on gray, the stripes 
the pearl-white winter sun

hung low beneath the leafless wood
draws out from trunk to trunk across the road 
like a stairway that does not rise.