Stolen sweets are always sweeter, Stolen kisses much completer, Stolen looks are nice in chapels, Stolen, stolen be your apples.
To My Friend, the Indicator
by Charles Lamb
Your easy Essays indicate a flow,
Dear friend, of brain which we may elsewhere seek;
And to their pages I and hundreds owe,
That Wednesday is the sweetest of the week.
Such observation, wit and sense are shown,
We think the days of Bickerstaff return’d;
And that a portion of that oil you own,
In his undying midnight lamp which burn’d.
I would not lightly bruise old Priscian’s head
Or wrong the rules of grammar understood;
But, with the leave of Priscian be it said, The Indicative is your Potential Mood.
Wit, poet, prose-man, party-man, translator-
H, your best title yet is Indicator.
The frugal snail, with forecast of repose, Carries his house with him where’er he goes; Peeps out,—and if there comes a shower of rain, Retreats to his small domicile again. Touch but a tip of him, a horn, – ’tis well, – He curls up in his sanctuary shell. He ’s his own landlord, his own tenant; stay Long as he will, he dreads no Quarter Day. Himself he boards and lodges; both invites And feasts himself; sleeps with himself o’ nights. He spares the upholsterer trouble to procure Chattels; himself is his own furniture, And his sole riches. Wheresoe’er he roam, – Knock when you will, – he ’s sure to be at home.
by Charles Lamb
What’s Life still changing ev’ry hour? Tis all the seasons in a Day! The Smile, the Tear, the Sun, the Show’r” Tis now December, now tis May At morn we hail some envied Queen; At eve she sinks some Cottage guest; Yet if contentment gilds the scene Contentment makes the Cottage blest.
Who more than I, this truth can feel? I feel it yet am charm’d to find While thus I turn the spinning-wheel The station humbles not the mind. Ah no! in days of youth and health Nature will smile tho’ fortune frown Be this my song Content is wealth” And duty ev’ry toil shall crown.
In poetry, you must love the words, the ideas and images and rhythms with all your capacity to love anything at all.
Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour
by Wallace Stevens (1879 – 1955)
Light the first light of evening, as in a room
In which we rest and, for small reason, think
The world imagined is the ultimate good.
This is, therefore, the intensest rendezvous.
It is in that thought that we collect ourselves,
Out of all the indifferences, into one thing:
Within a single thing, a single shawl
Wrapped tightly round us, since we are poor, a warmth,
A light, a power, the miraculous influence.
Here, now, we forget each other and ourselves.
We feel the obscurity of an order, a whole,
A knowledge, that which arranged the rendezvous.
Within its vital boundary, in the mind.
We say God and the imagination are one…
How high that highest candle lights the dark.
Out of this same light, out of the central mind,
We make a dwelling in the evening air,
In which being there together is enough.
I have a fascination with Wallace Stevens’ poetry. Some of his poems have a way of transcending language in ways that feel like he is speaking directly to me. I wonder if Stevens’ wife was jealous of his love affair with words? Did he love words, ideas and images and rhythms of poetry more than he did her? It’s hard to compete with a passion of a spouse that is outside of your shared experiences unless each finds a way to be tethered and ascended by it.
I am trending towards less sharing of my inner thoughts on Fourteen Lines and more letting the poetry speak for itself, in what ever way it speaks to those that read it. I think this growing reticence stems from the old adage, “if you have nothing good to say, its better to say nothing at all.” Thriving in 2020 for me requires resilience, patience, a thick skin from the insanity of the world around us and a re-evaluation of goals and expectations. It’s all about a heaping spoonful of keep on, keeping on.
The House Was Quiet and The Earth Was Calm
by Wallace Stevens
The house was quiet and the world was calm. The reader became the book; and summer night
Was like the conscious being of the book. The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The words were spoken as if there was no book, Except that the reader leaned above the page,
Wanted to lean, wanted much most to be The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom
The summer night is like a perfection of thought. The house was quiet because it had to be.
The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind: The access of perfection to the page.
And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world, In which there is no other meaning, itself
Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself Is the reader leaning late and reading there.
When summer ended the leaves of snapdragons withered taking their shrill-colored mouths with them. They were still, so quiet. They were violet where umber now is. She hated and she hated to see them go. Flowers
born when the weather was good – this she thinks of, watching the branch of peaches daring their ways above the fence, and further, two hummingbirds, hovering, stuck to each other, arcing their bodies in grim determination to find what is good, what is given them to find. These are warriors
distancing themselves from history. They find peace in the way they contain the wind and are gone.
by Edward Thomas
Tall nettles cover up, as they have done These many springs, the rusty harrow, the plough Long worn out, and the roller made of stone: Only the elm butt tops the nettles now.
This corner of the farmyard I like most: As well as any bloom upon a flower I like the dust on the nettles, never lost Except to prove the sweetness of a shower.
It’s a journey . . . that I propose . . . I am not the guide . . . nor technical assistant . . . I will be your fellow passenger . . .
Though the rail has been ridden . . . winter clouds cover . . . autumn’s exuberant quilt . . . we must provide our own guide-posts . . .
I have heard . . . from previous visitors . . . the road washes out sometimes . . . and passengers are compelled . . . to continue groping . . . or turn back . . . I am not afraid . . .
I am not afraid . . . of rough spots . . . or lonely times . . . I don’t fear . . . the success of this endeavor . . . I am Ra . . . in a space . . . not to be discovered . . . but invented . . .
I promise you nothing . . . I accept your promise . . . of the same we are simply riding . . . a wave . . . that may carry . . . or crash . . .
It’s a journey . . . and I want . . . to go . .
Hiking recently I realized what a bad judge of distance I am. While carrying an uncomfortable amount of weight on my shoulders and hips backpacking a relatively short distance of 1.6 miles, halfway seemed like it should have been almost there and yet while driving home from the North Shore in the rain halfway slipped by without notice. Maybe distance is directly proportional to my comfort and ease and not a measurement of space and time.
Writing this blog has not been effortless, but it slips by without measurement of time, without a connection to the passage of days; time is not connected to the way I think about poetry and my immersion in it. I know of course that it is nearly the three year anniversary since I began Fourteen Lines. This post marks the 500th entry on a self proscribed journey to 1,000 blog entries, but I have no sense of time or true goal on this journey. I honestly don’t know where its headed or when it will end. It will end at some point, as most journey’s do, but how and when I am still unsure.
I am undergoing a different kind of journey at the moment, one I am very much aware; moving from the condo I have lived in the past six years to a house owned by someone else. It will be the first time since I was 21 years old that I do not own the dwelling in which I live. Being a bit precocious in purchasing property, it feels odd to suddenly be a renter again. This fall’s move is temporary, as there is another more permanent destination a year from now, so this dislocation compounds my inner awkwardness in that I have put 95% of what I own in a box and into storage, wondering when and if I will ever open those boxes ever again. It’s not the worst thing to become disengaged from one’s possessions. It feels somewhat refreshing to not really purge but to disentangle from it all, like diving into a cold lake, not exactly comfortable but bracing once I get used to it, knowing I can still swim back to shore and comfort awaits. This defined temporary storage will be a test to see what I really miss in the next 12 months and what I will bring back into our future living space and what I am ready to permanently let go, after having already gotten rid of what feels like a mountain of possessions the past 10 years. I have been continually downsizing size 2010 and feel I am on the right trajectory, one that if I execute it well, will leave only my writing, my music and my art for my children and friends to sort through once I am gone and the rest can be dropped off at a Goodwill with no emotional attachment to finding any of it a new home.
What journey are you are on currently? Do you mark the milestones or simply let the next foot fall in front of the other? Are you aware of the passage of time or space or is your destination undecided and not pre-determined? What companion(s) are most important on this journey of yours? If you could add one additional companion on this quest, who or what would it be, if it could be anyone or anything in this world? Have you asked them (it) to join you?
by A. A. Milne
Halfway down the stairs is a stair where i sit. there isn’t any other stair quite like it. i’m not at the bottom, i’m not at the top; so this is the stair where I always stop.
Halfway up the stairs Isn’t up And it isn’t down. It isn’t in the nursery, It isn’t in town. And all sorts of funny thoughts Run round my head. It isn’t really Anywhere! It’s somewhere else Instead.
Dawn will set candles guttering. It will light up and loose the swifts. With this reminder I’ll burst in: Let life be just as fresh as this! Dawn’s like a gunshot in the dark. A bang-and flying burning bits Of wadding go out, spark by spark. Let life be just as fresh as this. Another guest outside’s the wind. At night, it huddled close to us. It’s shivering-at dawn, it rained. Let life be just as fresh as this. It’s so ridiculous and vain! Why did it want to guard this place? It saw the “No admittance” sign. Let life be just as fresh as this. I’ll do your bidding at a sign- A wave of kerchief-now, While in the darkness you still reign And while the fire’s not out.
In the early 1950’s Pasternak was invited to an important Soviet writers’ conference in Moscow. Pasternak knew if he attended and spoke his mind, he would likely be arrested for what he wanted to say; if he attended and didn’t speak, he would be arrested for contempt; if he didn’t attend, he’d be arrested for disobeying Stalin’s direct invitation. Pasternak decided to attend the three day conference. The first day Pasternak said nothing. Colleagues and friends urged him to speak, since if he was going to be arrested, at least he might benefit from the support of a sympathetic and prestigious State sanctioned audience. He remained silent again on the second day. On the third day he rose and said two words; “Thirty-two”. The audience immediately understood Pasternak meant Shakespeare’s XXXII sonnet which Pasternak had popularized with his hopeful Russian translation and the crowd recited the words from heart, words beyond even Stalin’s iron-fisted reach.
I know little of Pasternak’s writing or legacy beyond Dr. Zhivago, a novel he began in 1921 and did not finished until 1956. He was in no hurry, as he was certain that it’s content would be controversial if not considered grounds for a firing squad. But as often happens with great art, it found a way to eventually come into the light. It had been rumored that Pasternak was under consideration for the Nobel Peace prize for literature for several years prior to Dr. Zhivago’s publication and so it was not a surprise that he won in 1958 on the wave of it’s Western popularity. However receiving the Nobel only made life more difficult for Pasternak, as a smear campaign was organized by the State in the former Soviet Union, forcing even close friends to denounce him publically while pressure mounted that he was going to be deported. Pasternak decided it was best to decline the award but he continued to be denounced harshly in the State-owned press. Finally Pasternak wrote directly to Soviet Premier Nikita Khruhschev:
I am addressing you personally, the C.C. of the C.P.S.S., and the Soviet Government. From Comrade Semichastny’s speech I learn that the government, ‘would not put any obstacles in the way of my departure from the U.S.S.R.’ For me this is impossible. I am tied to Russia by birth, by my life and work. I cannot conceive of my destiny separate from Russia, or outside it. Whatever my mistakes or failings, I could not imagine that I should find myself at the center of such a political campaign as has been worked up round my name in the West. Once I was aware of this, I informed the Swedish Academy of my voluntary renunciation of the Nobel Prize. Departure beyond the borders of my country would for me be tantamount to death and I therefore request you not to take this extreme measure with me. With my hand on my heart, I can say that I have done something for Soviet literature, and may still be of use to it.
Pasternak died in his beloved homeland in 1960. His death did not mark the end of the suffering of those that loved him nor the suppression of his writing. His wife, Olga Ivinskaya, was arrested for the second time in 1961, with her daughter, Irina Emelyanova. The charges; Ivinskaya and her daughter were Pasternak’s link with Western publishers and by doing so they had dealt in hard currency for the royalties on Doctor Zhivago. The KGB quietly released them, Irina in 1962, and Olga in 1964 having served four years of her eight-year sentence.
Immediately following their arrests in 1961, the KGB seized all of Pasternak’s letters to Ivinskaya, along with correspondence to other writers and intellectuals, his manuscripts, plays and unpublished poems and prose. In 1988, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Ivinskaya sued for their return. The Russian supreme court ruled against her, saying she had “no proof of ownership.”
At Pasternak’s funeral, the final speaker said:
“God marks the path of the elect with thorns, and Pasternak was picked out and marked by God. He believed in eternity and he will belong to it… We excommunicated Tolstoy, we disowned Dostoevsky, and now we disown Pasternak. Everything that brings us glory we try to banish to the West… But we cannot allow this. We love Pasternak and we revere him as a poet… Glory to Pasternak.”
Definition of Poetry
by Boris Pasternak
It’s a whistle blown ripe in a trice, It’s the cracking of ice in a gale, It’s a night that turns green leaves to ice, It’s a duel of two nightingales. It is sweet-peas run gloriously wild, It’s the world’s twinking tears in the pod, It is Figaro like hot hail hurled From the flutes on the wet flower bed. It is all that the night hopes to find On the bottom of deep bathing pools, It’s the star carried to the fish-pond In your hands, wet and trembling and cool. This close air is as flat as the boards In the pond. The sky’s flat on its face. It would be fun if these stars guffawed- But the universe is a dull place.