Tuesday Muse: Edna St. Vincent Millay

Photograph of Edna St. Vincent Millay

Photograph of Edna St. Vincent Millay

This is the project my son and I are doing: We picked four poets for this Poetry Month and for each week we both record a different poem or poems by the chosen poet of the week. Micah has recorded his Edna St. Vincent Millay poem and has hinted to me that since it’s early in the week, there may be more coming.

It’s no wonder we picked Vincent, as she liked to be called, for our final poet. Looking back, I’ve written about her and recorded her works quite frequently, in over a half a dozen posts, in fact. And she keeps showing up in our Thursday Love Poem feature as well since it is based on her little piece called “Thursday.”

My recording for this week will be coming up in the next day or three, so for now, here’s a flashback to exactly five years ago today, while I was doing my infamous “30 Poets, 30 Days” project, video recording, and writing about a different poet and poem each day that April.

From Day 25:

The lady at the counter looked at me over her glasses when I handed her the book.

She said, “I don’t like her.” I wanted to respond, “I don’t care.”

Read the rest and view the one minute video by clicking on the following: Day 25 – 30 Days, 30 Readings: Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Portrait by a Neighbor”

Shaving with Richard Blanco

Unfortunately, that headline is not followed by a photo of Richard Blanco and me draped in bath towels, side-by-side in the mirror and shaving. I’m sorry to disappoint (myself). No, this is supposed to be a more family friendly post for Global/National Poetry Month.

The Monkey and I are doing a project in which we choose the same poet each week, and then each record a different piece by said poet. You can go back and listen to the results on both of our pages. In fact, we’d truly love it if you did that. We put a lot of brain power into selecting two living and two dead poets for this project. The dead poets wouldn’t get back to us, and we’re hoping that the two living poets don’t mind.

The chosen poet this week is a favorite who we both got to meet a few years back in State College, Pennsylvania.  When he became the inaugural poet for Barack Obama I felt as if I were somehow, by extension, included in the honor. A gay poet, reading for the president. I was seeing one of “my own people” up there, being given the respect that this country historically has failed to give us. More importantly, although we were the very last in a long line of admirers, he was gracious and kind and took an interest in my son and his own writing. This at the end of what must have been a very long day for him at Penn State.

Besides all of that, we just find his poetry so enriching. We hope you do too. Click here to listen to Micah’s lovely reading of Blanco’s poem, “Burning in the Rain.” As for my choice, the following piece seemed exactly right for this father-son effort. The text is not available online, but please, do yourself a favor and purchase a copy of the book for yourself. You can do that at one of the numerous places conveniently linked to from Blanco’s own website here.

Saturday Songs with Sophie (Again!)

I’ve been working on poems all day, well in between laundry, shopping lists, and lunch. Between the projects in the air, and whatever else I might have worth submitting into the great abyss of lit mags and journals, this feeling has grown that I’m on the verge of a new phase. Maybe all the unfinished poems in my notebooks were just my poet’s voice practicing its scales. Maybe it’s time to let some old things go and keep moving.

That in mind, I moved on to do my workout. Even when I feel like my energy levels are low, Sophie Ellis-Bextor can always get me moving. Here are two songs that I want to dance to at my wedding some (not too far off) day. Yeah, more about that another time. Suffice it to say, more than seven years together and he still lights up when I walk into the room. Someone told me once that there are more important things, but I’ve been around enough to know better.

Kay Ryan and Her Amazing Flying Chickens

I had a rough start to the week. I had too much caffeine and not enough sleep, and pretty soon those chickens come home to roost. So it’s taken until Wednesday to get to this post. Thanks for waiting. I know you’ve been on the edge of your keyboard.

The Monkey likes a good twist on an old phrase as much as I do, so to keep things thematic, he has a Kay Ryan poem today too, “All Your Horses.” You could say it’s sort of a barnyard theme we’ve got going.

Former Poet Laureate Kay Ryan is our featured poet of the week for National Poetry Month. We had a hard time limiting it to just four poets, but we talk about poets all the time, and even if we did a poet a day, someone would still be disappointed that we didn’t include their favorite.  So, yes, just one poet of the week. If you’ve never heard either of us read your favorite, you could make a request. I think we’d enjoy that. Just nothing like this, okay?

Kay Ryan talked about this poem with Andrea Seabrook on NPR right after she became Poet Laureate in 2008, so you can learn a little background about the poem and hear her own reading of it by listening in.  Her version catches the rhyme better than mine does, but it was an interesting exercise for me to explore how to measure her lines. And that’s really what I’m doing when I read other people’s poems out loud. I think it’s the best way to get a handle on them. I’d like to go at this again, but hey, it’s Wednesday, and she’s the Poet of the Week, not the poet of next week.

You can follow along with the text here. And don’t forget to check out the Monkey’s reading of the horses poem too.

Of Peaches and Plumbs: Things, Ideas, and Wheelbarrows

English: Photograph (believed to be passport p...

Probable passport photo of American poet and physician William Carlos Williams. Courtesy of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University.

Yesterday Micah shared a brilliant interpretation of “that plums poem,” a video of Mathew Macfadyen dramatizing William Carlos Williams’ little piece “This is Just to Say.” Do me a favor, click here and watch it (It’ll open in a new window) and then come back. I’ll wait.

Back? Worth it, right? That video was part of a larger DVD collection released in the UK in 2004 by Daisy Goodwin, called Essential Poems (to Fall in Love with).  It seems to be impossible to find the whole production or a copy of it that will play in an American DVD drive at this point. But you can find some other scattered clips here and there if you are willing to do some digging.

What follows is a slightly revised article I wrote some time ago on the blog, in which I ramble on about everything from modern poetry to Aristotle’s critique of forms.  I won’t be offended if you skip down to the video in which I portray Kenneth Koch’s play on the plums piece. Continue reading

William Carlos Williams, Poet of the Week

Did you know that William Carlos Williams was a pediatrician?

The Monkey hatched a plan for National Poetry Month. He and I would pick four poets, one for each week, and record some poems by each. In years past, I have recorded a poem each day. The first year, in 2012, all of them were on YouTube. This took far more time than I had bargained for. Aside from work, nobody saw me the entire month of April that year. In 2013, I decided to mix it up and record a few on YouTube and more on SoundCloud. You can find all of the poems from both years, by searching here on this blog.

Suffice it to say, I like Micah’s plan better. It wasn’t easy selecting only four poets, but then we both like recording, so we knew we’d do more in time anyway. And there are lots of poem-a-day services available out there; we don’t need to worry that anyone is being neglected. For us this month, four is manageable, and we thought it would be fun to see which poems the other would chose. Already he’s ahead of me. You can listen Continue reading