Monday, October 28, 2013

The Freedom That Follows Disappointment


I was feeling pretty religious
standing on the bridge in my winter coat
looking down at the gray water:
the sharp little waves dusted with snow,
fish in their tin armor.

That's what I like about disappointment:
the way it slows you down,
when the querulous insistent chatter of desire
             goes dead calm

and the minor roadside flowers
pronounce their quiet colors,
and the red dirt of the hillside glows.

She played the flute, he played the fiddle
and the moon came up over the barn.
Then he didn't get the job, —
or her father died before she told him
             that one, most important thing—

and everything got still.

It was February or October
It was July
I remember it so clear
You don't have to pursue anything ever again
It's over
You're free
You're unemployed

You just have to stand there
looking out on the water
in your trench coat of solitude
with your scarf of resignation
             lifting in the wind.

~ Tony Hoaglund

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Filling the Unforgiving Minute

The best poems are timeless and this is certainly no exception, gender set aside.


If you can keep your head when all about you
   Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you.
   But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting.
   Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
   And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master
   If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
   And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
   Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools.
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
   And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
   And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
   And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
   To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
   Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
   Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
   If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
   With sixty seconds' worth of distance run.
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
   And—which is more—you'll be a Man, my son!

~ Rudyard Kipling


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Dogs Make Good Teachers

Several of you have probably read this Mary Oliver poem, as it showed up a few days ago in the online Writer's Almanac. She has a new book of poetry, Dog Songs, from which this poem was taken. Although this beautiful poem and the recording I made on Soundcloud which follows are somewhat disparate in their tone, the perspective remains the same. Life without dogs seems incomplete, as though you're shunning love itself and all that goes with it. Buddy remains one of my greatest teachers. I mean that. He's helped me to be a better person and I think a better poet. I still use that term, as applied to myself, rather loosely because, well, Mary Oliver.

"The Poetry Teacher"

The university gave me a new, elegant
classroom to teach in. Only one thing,
they said. You can't bring your dog.
It's in my contract, I said. (I had
made sure of that.)

We bargained and I moved to an old
classroom in an old building. Propped
the door open. Kept a bowl of water
in the room. I could hear Ben among
other voices barking, howling in the
distance. Then they would all arrive—
Ben, his pals, maybe an unknown dog
or two, all of them thirsty and happy.
They drank, they flung themselves down
among the students. The students loved
it. They all wrote thirsty, happy poems.

~Mary Oliver

The image is of Shackleton's dogs, including Samson, Shakespeare, and Surley. The book, Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition, by Caroline Alexander, remains among my all-time favorite books.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Broken Hallelujah

Leonard Cohen is one of the greatest songwriters who's ever lived and I love his song, "Hallelujah." For some time now, I've been rather partial to Jeff Buckley's version, but I recently found another and have grown to love its quiet gentleness. These boys from Norway can sing and their kind souls can be heard in every note.


The photograph is mine.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Lonely Street

Several months ago, I was introduced to micro-poetry by Cletis Stump, a friend and fellow blogger. Shortly after I created my new poetry site, he created a Tumblr site and with my permission has been regularly posting my poems there along with his own, as well as occasional guest poets he's chosen from Twitter. Shelly, aka WildThing, a friend from Twitter, created this youtube video for us using a song Cletis chose by the great Patsy Cline. You might want to enlarge your screen to read the poems and even pause at certain poems ... I hope you enjoy it: