Favorite Poem Project

Discussion in 'Books' started by Iceblink, Oct 31, 2004.

  1. Iceblink

    Iceblink Member

    Oct 11, 1999
    Ipswich Town FC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Robert Pinsky's project while he was poet laureate was to start the "Favorite Poem Project."

    People write letters in talking about their favorite poems and why they like them. They print the poems and excerpts from the letters in the books.

    There have been three anthologies so far; the third just came out.

    My letter and poem are on page 172! I was selected from something ridiculous like 30,000 entries to be in the new book, An Invitation to Poetry.

    I just got a signed 1st edition of the new book in the mail today.

    Anyway, I picked Marianne Moore's "A Jelly-fish" as my favorite. While probably not my overall favorite these days (only two years later), I still love it. By the way, for those familiar with the new Marianne Moore anthology that came out earlier this year, it's not that version. It's the shortened one that I like.

    Anyway, everyone should check out the books, go to their web site, and submit your own favorites!
  2. nicephoras

    nicephoras A very stable genius

    Fucklechester Rangers
    Jul 22, 2001
    Eastern Seaboard of Yo! Semite
    I don't think they'd print mine ;)

    But here's my favorite poem of all time, and one of the few I have memorized:

    Ее спеленутое тело
    Сложили в молодом лесу.
    Оно от мук помолодело,
    Вернув бывалую красу.

    Уже не шумный и не ярый,
    С волненьем, в сжатые персты
    В последний раз архангел старый
    Влагает белые цветы.

    Златит далекие вершины
    Прощальным отблеском заря,
    И над туманами долины
    Встают усопших три царя.

    Их привела, как в дни былые,
    Другая, поздняя звезда.
    И пастухи, уже седые,
    Как встарь, сгоняют с гор стада.

    И стражей вечному покою
    Долины заступила мгла.
    Лишь меж звездою и зарею
    Златятся нимбы без числа.

    А выше, по крутым оврагам
    Поет ручей, цветет миндаль,
    И над открытым саркофагом
    Могильный ангел смотрит в даль.

    June 4, 1909
  3. Dr. Wankler

    Dr. Wankler Member+

    May 2, 2001
    The Electric City
    Chicago Fire
    They had video equipment set up at the Printer's Row bookfair in Chicago one year, and I was tempted to recite one of the few poems I've managed to remember without any effort, by England's Philip Larkin.

    They f#$k you up, your mum and dad,
    They may not mean to, but they do.
    The fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.

    But they were f#$(ked up in their turn
    By fools in old-style hats and coats,
    Who half the time were soppy-stern,
    And half at one-another's throats.

    Man hands on misery to man.
    It deepens like a coastal shelf.
    Get out as early as you can,
    And don't have any kids yourself.
  4. FlashMan

    FlashMan Member

    Jan 6, 2000
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I would do Kerouac's Heaven

    if i get the time i'll type it in here. but it's pretty long.
  5. nicodemus

    nicodemus Member+

    Sep 3, 2001
    Cidade Mágica
    PAOK Saloniki
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    A bit off topic, but since people have talked about memorizing poems, a friend of mine memorized T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland. Because memorizing a 400+ line poem is a reasonable thing to do. :D
  6. Dr. Wankler

    Dr. Wankler Member+

    May 2, 2001
    The Electric City
    Chicago Fire
    Did he memorize the footnotes, too? That would be truly impressive. Or compulsive.

    Actually, there are huge chunks of it that are fairly memorable IMO. Recalling them in the proper order would be the challenge.

    A college prof of mine took a Milton Seminar under noted Harvard Old-Skool scholar Douglas Bush, who taught Paradise Lost without the book. Question one of the final exam was "quote at least 20 consecutive lines of Paradise Lost." To my professor's surprise (he was surprised enough already that Bush had a final, since most grad seminars don't), he managed to get down a pretty accurate passage of around 25 lines. Whenever the prof told that story, he would then recite a pretty fair chunk of those 25 lines, which he never really tried to memorize, but he worked with the poem so closely, he could remember it with little trouble.

    Don't get me going on contemporary poet Galway Kinnell, who recites most of his poems at readings from memory...
  7. tog

    tog Member

    Oct 25, 2000
    I used to memorize a poem a week. Some were as short as four lines, probably the longest was about 50.

    It's nice, because sometimes when I'm doing completely unrelated things I have lines from poems running through my head.

    Here's the shortest one I know:

    Carver is way underrated as a poet.
  8. minorthreat

    minorthreat Member

    Jan 1, 2001
    Real Madrid
    Nat'l Team:
    Federico Garcia Lorca
    Romance Sonambulo

    This isn't the whole poem, but it's the part that grabs me the most.

    -Compadre, quiero cambiar
    mi caballo por su casa,
    mi montura por su espejo,
    mi cuchillo por su manta.
    Compadre, vengo sangrando,
    desde los puertos de Cabra.
    -Si yo pudiera, mocito,
    este trato de cerraba.
    Pero ya no soy yo,
    ni mi casa es ni mi casa.
    -Compadre, quiero morir
    decentemente en mi cama.
    De acero, si puede ser,
    con las sabanas de holanda.
    No ves la herida que tengo
    desde el pecho a la garganta?
    -Trescientas rosas morenas
    lleva tu pechera blanca.
    Tu sangre rezuma y huele
    alrededor de tu faja.
    Pero ya no soy yo,
    ni mi casa es ya mi casa.
    -Dejadme subir al menos
    hasta las altas barandas,
    dejadme subir! dejadme
    hasta las verdes barandas.
    Barandales de la luna
    por donde retumba el agua.

    Ya suben los dos compadres,
    hacia las altas barandas.
    Dejando un rastro de sangre.
    Dejando un rastro de lagrimas.
    Temblaban en los tejados
    farolillos de hojalata.
    Mil panderos de cristal
    herian la madrugada.

    "My friend, I want to trade
    my horse for your house,
    my saddle for your mirror,
    my knife for your blanket.
    My friend, I have come here bleeding
    from the pass of Cabra."
    'If I could, young one,
    I'd make you that deal.
    But I am no longer myself,
    and my house no longer mine.'
    "My friend, I want to die
    decently in my bed.
    If possible, a steel one
    with real linen sheets.
    Can't you see I am wounded
    from my chest to my throat?"
    'Three hundred tiny brown roses
    cover your white shirt.
    Your blood oozes and smells
    around your sash.
    But I am no longer myself,
    and my house no longer mine.'
    "Then let me climb, at least
    up to the high railings.
    Let me climb! Let me,
    up to the green trails!
    The large trails of the moon
    where the water roars!"

    Up the two companions climb,
    up to the high railings,
    leaving a trail of blood,
    leaving a trail of tears.
    Little lanterns of tin leaves
    tremble on the roofs.
    A thousand crystal tambourines
    were wounding the early hours.
  9. elainemichelle

    elainemichelle New Member

    Jul 20, 2002
    i am a little church(no great cathedral)
    far from the splendor and squalor of hurrying cities
    -i do not worry if briefer days grow briefest,
    i am not sorry when sun and rain make april

    my life is the life of the reaper and the sower;
    my prayers are prayers of earth's own clumsily striving
    (finding and losing and laughing and crying)children
    whose any sadness or joy is my grief or my gladness

    around me surges a miracle of unceasing
    birth and glory and death and resurrection:
    over my sleeping self float flaming symbols
    of hope,and i wake to a perfect patience of mountains

    i am a little church(far from the frantic
    world with its rapture and anguish)at peace with nature
    -i do not worry if longer nights grow longest;
    i am not sorry when silence becomes singing

    winter by spring,i lift my diminutive spire to
    merciful Him Whose only now is forever:
    standing erect in the deathless truth of His presence
    (welcoming humbly His light and proudly His darkness)

    e.e. cummings

    This is my favorite poem that I've ever found on my own.
  10. elainemichelle

    elainemichelle New Member

    Jul 20, 2002
    by John Donne

    AS virtuous men pass mildly away,
    And whisper to their souls to go,
    Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
    "Now his breath goes," and some say, "No."

    So let us melt, and make no noise,
    No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move ;
    'Twere profanation of our joys
    To tell the laity our love.

    Moving of th' earth brings harms and fears ;
    Men reckon what it did, and meant ;
    But trepidation of the spheres,
    Though greater far, is innocent.

    Dull sublunary lovers' love
    —Whose soul is sense—cannot admit
    Of absence, 'cause it doth remove
    The thing which elemented it.

    But we by a love so much refined,
    That ourselves know not what it is,
    Inter-assurèd of the mind,
    Care less, eyes, lips and hands to miss.

    Our two souls therefore, which are one,
    Though I must go, endure not yet
    A breach, but an expansion,
    Like gold to aery thinness beat.

    If they be two, they are two so
    As stiff twin compasses are two ;
    Thy soul, the fix'd foot, makes no show
    To move, but doth, if th' other do.

    And though it in the centre sit,
    Yet, when the other far doth roam,
    It leans, and hearkens after it,
    And grows erect, as that comes home.

    Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
    Like th' other foot, obliquely run ;
    Thy firmness makes my circle just,
    And makes me end where I begun.

    This is my favorite poem from English so far this year.
  11. odg78

    odg78 Member

    Feb 14, 2001
    North Carolina
    --Wow. You stole my poem. I first read it in a brit lit class and it made me fall in love with Donne's work.
  12. elainemichelle

    elainemichelle New Member

    Jul 20, 2002
    He's absolutely genius.
  13. tog

    tog Member

    Oct 25, 2000
    Meditation at Lagunitas
    by Robert Hass

    All the new thinking is about loss.
    In this it resembles all the old thinking.
    The idea, for example, that each particular erases
    the luminous clarity of a general idea. That the clown-
    faced woodpecker probing the dead trunk
    of that black birch is, by his presence,
    some tragic falling off from a first world
    of undivided light. Or the notion that,
    because there is in this world no one thing
    to which the bramble of blackberry corresponds,
    a word is elegy to what it signifies.
    We talked about it late last night and in the voice
    of my friend, there was a thin wire of grief, a tone
    almost querulous. After a while I understood that,
    talking this way, everything dissolves: justice,
    pine, hair, woman, you
    and I. There was a woman
    I made love to and I remembered how, holding
    her small shoulders in my hands sometimes,
    I felt a violent wonder at her presence
    like a thirst for salt, for my childhood river
    with its island willows, silly music from the pleasure boat,
    muddy places where we caught the little orange--silver fish
    called pumpkinseed. It hardly had to do with her.
    Longing, we say, because desire is full
    of endless distances. I must have been the same to her.
    But I remember so much, the way her hands dismantled bread,
    the thing her father said that hurt her, what
    she dreamed. There are moments when the body is as numinous
    as words, days that are the good flesh continuing.
    Such tenderness, those afternoons and evenings,
    saying blackberry, blackberry, blackberry.
  14. DoctorJones24

    DoctorJones24 Member

    Aug 26, 1999
    That's pretty great. Thanks.
  15. Dr. Wankler

    Dr. Wankler Member+

    May 2, 2001
    The Electric City
    Chicago Fire
    My favorite Thomas Hardy poem:

    The Darkling Thrush

    I LEANT upon a coppice gate
    When Frost was spectre-gray,
    And Winter’s dregs made desolate
    The weakening eye of day.
    The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
    Like strings of broken lyres,
    And all mankind that haunted nigh
    Had sought their household fires.

    The land’s sharp features seem’d to be
    The Century’s corpse outleant,
    His crypt the cloudy canopy,
    The wind his death-lament.
    The ancient pulse of germ and birth
    Was shrunken hard and dry,
    And every spirit upon earth
    Seem'd fervourless as I.

    At once a voice arose among
    The bleak twigs overhead
    In a full-hearted evensong
    Of joy illimited;
    An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
    In blast-beruffled plume,
    Had chosen thus to fling his soul
    Upon the growing gloom.

    So little cause for carollings
    Of such ecstatic sound
    Was written on terrestrial things
    Afar or nigh around,
    That I could think there trembled through
    His happy good-night air
    Some blessèd Hope, whereof he knew
    And I was unaware.
  16. Dr. Wankler

    Dr. Wankler Member+

    May 2, 2001
    The Electric City
    Chicago Fire
    After my favorite poem with a living animal in it, here's my favorite dead animal poem (with apologies to William Stafford and his road-kill deer)

    The Groundhog
    Richard Eberhart

    In June, amid the golden fields,
    I saw a groundhog lying dead.
    Dead lay he; my senses shook,
    And mind outshot our naked frailty.
    There lowly in the vigorous summer
    His form began its senseless change,
    And made my senses waver dim
    Seeing nature ferocious in him.
    Inspecting close his maggots' might
    And seething cauldron of his being,
    Half with loathing, half with a strange love,
    I poked him with an angry stick.
    The fever rose, became a flame
    And Vigor circumscribed the skies,
    Immense energy in the sun,
    And through my frame a sunless trembling.
    My stick had done nor good nor harm.
    Then stood I silent in the day
    Watching the object, as before;
    And kept my reverence for knowledge
    Trying for control, to be still,
    To quell the passion of the blood;
    Until I had bent down on my knees
    Praying for joy in the sight of decay.
    And so I left: and I returned
    In Autumn strict of eye, to see
    The sap gone out of the groundhog,
    But the bony sodden hulk remained.
    But the year had lost its meaning,
    And in intellectual chains
    I lost both love and loathing,
    Mured up in the wall of wisdom.
    Another summer took the fields again
    Massive and burning, full of life,
    But when I chanced upon the spot
    There was only a little hair left,
    And bones bleaching in the sunlight
    Beautiful as architecture;
    I watched them like a geometer,
    And cut a walking stick from a birch.
    It has been three years, now.
    There is no sign of the groundhog.
    I stood there in the whirling summer,
    My hand capped a withered heart,
    And thought of China and Greece,
    Of Alexander in his tent;
    Of Montaigne in his tower,
    Of Saint Theresa in her wild lament.
  17. nicodemus

    nicodemus Member+

    Sep 3, 2001
    Cidade Mágica
    PAOK Saloniki
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I need to go dig out some of my favorites.
  18. DoctorD

    DoctorD Member+

    Sep 29, 2002
    Philadelphia Union
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    You are a bird
    <bongo drum roll>

    But today there is no food for you
    <bongo drum roll>

    Only death.
    <rhythmic finger-snapping>
  19. coachklowco

    coachklowco New Member

    Jan 27, 2003
    Newark Ohio
    Not my favorite, though I am trying to quit smoking and this has been running through my head.

    The Best Cigarette

    There are many that I miss
    having sent my last one out a car window
    sparking along the road one night, years ago.

    The heralded one, of course:
    after sex, the two glowing tips
    now the lights of a single ship;
    at the end of a long dinner
    with more wine to come
    and a smoke ring coasting into the chandelier;
    or on a white beach,
    holding one with fingers still wet from a swim.

    How bittersweet these punctuations
    of flame and gesture;
    but the best were on those mornings
    when I would have a little something going
    in the typewriter,
    the sun bright in the windows,
    maybe some Berlioz on in the background.
    I would go into the kitchen for coffee
    and on the way back to the page,
    curled in its roller,
    I would light one up and feel
    its dry rush mix with the dark taste of coffee.

    Then I would be my own locomotive,
    trailing behind me as I returned to work
    little puffs of smoke,
    indicators of progress,
    signs of industry and thought,
    the signal that told the nineteenth century
    it was moving forward.
    That was the best cigarette,
    when I would steam into the study
    full of vaporous hope
    and stand there,
    the big headlamp of my face
    pointed down at all the words in parallel lines.

    --Billy Collins
  20. ProfZodiac

    ProfZodiac Moderator
    Staff Member

    Jan 17, 2003
    Boston, MA
    New England Revolution
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I'll post the one of his I've memorized, with my two favorites to follow when I have them to copy:

    Halfway Down
    by A. A. Milne

    Halfway down the stairs is the stair where I sit;
    There isn't any other stair quite like it.
    It isn't at the bottom; it isn't at the top,
    But this is the stair where I always stop.

    Halfway down the stairs isn't up and isn't down.
    It isn't in the nursery; it isn't in the town.
    And all sorts of funny thought run around my head.
    It isn't really anywhere. It's somewhere else, instead.
  21. Iceblink

    Iceblink Member

    Oct 11, 1999
    Ipswich Town FC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States

    Billy Collins is pretty great. I went to a literary festival near here and saw him this summer. His brain doesn't work like other people's.
  22. christopher d

    christopher d New Member

    Jun 11, 2002
    Weehawken, NJ
    Ginsberg's Howl would be way too long to post. As would Eliot's The Wasteland.

    Eliot's Portrait of a Lady, however, isn't. The progression from Chopin to a calliope is as evocative as the rest of the imagery. And it so reminds me of my former marriage. :rolleyes:

  23. christopher d

    christopher d New Member

    Jun 11, 2002
    Weehawken, NJ
    And another set: this time some Edna St Vincent Millay

    First Fig

    I burn my candle at both ends;
    It will not last the night;
    But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends--
    It gives a lovely light!

    Second Fig

    Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
    Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!
  24. tog

    tog Member

    Oct 25, 2000
    Billy Collins is kind of a jerk, though. He thinks he's a rock star these days.

    I do like a few of his poems, however.

    Most poets brains don't work like others'. Try C.K. Williams or Robert Hass or Heather McHugh (her brain is especially different) or Jack Gilbert or Linda Gregg or Tony Hoagland or a number of others.
  25. Dr. Wankler

    Dr. Wankler Member+

    May 2, 2001
    The Electric City
    Chicago Fire
    The last Billy Collins book I read, last summer, I didn't like that much (Nine Horses?), and I can see where a little Billy Collins would go a long way for some people, but I have to say, I really wish I'd written this one:

    Another reason why I don't keep a gun in the house
    By Billy Collins

    The neighbors' dog will not stop barking.
    He is barking the same high, rhythmic bark
    that he barks every time they leave the house.
    They must switch him on on their way out.

    The neighbors' dog will not stop barking.
    I close all the windows in the house
    and put on a Beethoven symphony full blast
    but I can still hear him muffled under the music,
    barking, barking, barking,

    and now I can see him sitting in the orchestra,
    his head raised confidently as if Beethoven
    had included a part for barking dog.

    When the record finally ends he is still barking,
    sitting there in the oboe section barking,
    his eyes fixed on the conductor who is
    entreating him with his baton

    while the other musicians listen in respectful
    silence to the famous barking dog solo,
    that endless coda that first established
    Beethoven as an innovative genius.

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