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”

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

In Memory of Okla Elliot, Three Poems

On Monday morning, the first day of spring, I stepped out my door and looked up to the clouds that were breaking. I smiled to think how the chill this morning would be warming up as the day went on, according to the weather forecast. Still gazing at the sky, I remember saying, “Good morning, World!” Well, I started to say that, but as the W came out my foot slid out and away, landing me instantly and jarringly on my back. I don’t know how I managed to not crack my head open on the concrete steps, let alone how I saved all but a few drops from my coffee thermos.

The pain I would be in was not yet fully known. I was up immediately and spreading salt on the steps. The previous layer had been washed away by yesterday’s melting snow, and the water had frozen over again in the night. Continue reading

Two Love Poems by Derek Walcott

You might question my designation of this first poem as a love poem but I would counter that a poem need not mention the word “love” to be a love poem. To be precise, though, one might call it a lovelorn poem or a writer’s poem about love and loss. From someone who lives in the Northeast, watching the snow not quite melting on this day before spring, it seems the perfect choice to mourn his passing this weekend.

It’s called “In the Village,” and perhaps the fact that I had the joy and honor of reading with the poets of 2 Bridges Review in the East Village less than two weeks ago, is another reason it resonates so deeply with me today. The text can be found here.

The second poem is one that I recorded before but I was not happy with it. Even this time, I question myself about how I stressed certain words and not others. But I always do that when I read the work of other poets and each reading is its own interpretation. You can find many interpretations on YouTube and elsewhere online of this poem called “Love After Love.”

In the Village

Love After Love

And now the poet and playwright’s book White Egrets sits beside me here at my table this afternoon and his book-length poem Omeros awaits my return on the shelf. The music and tone of his language I can only describe as luminous. We are fortunate that he lived to be 87 and brought so much richness to the world of literature. Read more about the Nobel laureate and his work here and in the following articles.