Trapped Forever In Its Net Of Ice

Linda Pastan b. 1932

“I made a list of things I have to remember and a list of things I need to forget and then I see they are the same list.”

Linda Pastan

A New Poet

By Linda Pastan

Finding a new poet
is like finding a new wildflower
out in the woods. You don’t see
its name in the flower books, and
nobody you tell believes
in its odd color or the way
its leaves grow in splayed rows
down the whole length of the page. In fact
the very page smells of spilled
red wine and the mustiness of the sea
on a foggy day – the odor of truth
and of lying.
And the words are so familiar,
so strangely new, words
you almost wrote yourself, if only
in your dreams there had been a pencil
or a pen or even a paintbrush,
if only there had been a flower.

I have been reading Linda Pastan’s book The Five Stages of Grief.  There are some remarkable poems in it and last week I spent some time reading more of her work on-line.   She is one of those poets that the more I read the more I wonder why I haven’t run into her before this year.  Every year I put together a little book of my favorite poems from the year and I think this year half of them could be Pastan.

Pastan was born the same year as my Mother, so it could be my affinity for her writing is in part because she speaks of things in ways that ring true to my inner ears, her words expressive in ways that are not unlike things my Mother said.  Each generation wrestles with its own unique challenges and opportunities.  My parents and Pastan grew up during the great depression.  They learned to make do with what you had and that ability carried over into their inner life as well, not expecting or wanting too much of themselves or others. Pastan’s writing is private, she reveals just enough to draw the reader into her prose, but doesn’t get carried away in personal details that would be too revealing for either. She knows how to maintain a line of modesty in her poetry that serves to keep the reader thinking without veering into lurid thoughts all on their own.

Do you have poets that remind you of your parents?  If yes, what emotions does that create for you when you read them?


by Don Paterson

In the same way that the mindless diamond keeps
one spark of the planet’s early fires
trapped forever in its net of ice,
it’s not love’s later heat that poetry holds,
but the atom of the love that drew it forth
from the silence: so if the bright coal of his love
begins to smoulder, the poet hears his voice
suddenly forced, like a bar-room singer’s — boastful
with his own huge feeling, or drowned by violins;
but if it yields a steadier light, he knows
the pure verse, when it finally comes, will sound
like a mountain spring, anonymous and serene.
Beneath the blue oblivious sky, the water
sings of nothing, not your name, not mine.

Thou In Our Wonder and Astonishment

black robe in Oxford.jpg
Albert Einstein in Academic Robes at Oxford, England

“I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will only have a generation of idiots.”

Albert Einstein

A Scholar

Pro captu lectoris habent sua fata libelli

by Don Paterson

The light is dying, and the clock has died;
the page succumbs to the atrocious care
that disinters the things not wholly there
by which your solemn field is justified.
You burnish them until they bear the shine
of common knowledge, knowing one black skill
is yours alone: before the greater will
all text is dream, and takes on the design
of what was sought there.  Thus your word is god.
This grammarie electrifies the gate;
none pass but such as you initiate.
The students hurry by you in the quad
attending to their feet.  What can you say?
You know your Shakespeare would have walked that way.

I could not bear to watch the Kavanaugh hearings.  It didn’t matter the political stripe of the news organization broadcasting the senate chambers, it all was just ugly theater. What little I did see, was like a car wreck – my focus uncontrollably drawn to it before I could avert my eyes. I came away thinking Ford was believable and genuine and Kavanaugh unfit for the Supreme Court in which he is being considered. But I am guessing no one’s mind was swayed that will actually vote on the matter, so ingrained is the political trenches that Republicans and Democrats find themselves today, that actually thinking for oneself no longer occurs in the modern warfare we call democracy.

I instead chose to mostly read about it afterwards, admittedly selecting op-eds that probably leaned towards my liberal bias. I wonder what the great minds of past centuries would think about our modern communication? What would Lincoln have done to deal with the 24/7 news cycle of CNN and Fox news during the civil war? What would Franklin Roosevelt thought about Twitter during the height of the depression? What would Shakespeare have put out on Instagram as a 16 year old that would come back to haunt him professionally? What would John Milton have posted on Facebook? I am guessing the answer in each case is nothing that would have added to their greatness and legacy.


On Shakespeare. 1630

by John Milton

What needs my Shakespeare for his honoured bones,
The labor of an age in pilèd stones,
Or that his hallowed relics should be hid
Under a star-ypointing pyramid?
Dear son of Memory, great heir of fame,
What need’st thou such weak witness of thy name?
Thou in our wonder and astonishment
Hast built thyself a live-long monument.
For whilst to th’ shame of slow-endeavouring art,
Thy easy numbers flow, and that each heart
Hath from the leaves of thy unvalued book
Those Delphic lines with deep impression took,
Then thou, our fancy of itself bereaving,
Dost make us marble with too much conceiving;
And so sepúlchred in such pomp dost lie,
That kings for such a tomb would wish to die.