Join Poetry Under the Paintings from the Comfort of Your Home

Poetry (and a little music) Under the Paintings
Poetry (and a little music) Under the Paintings

You’ve read posts here and watched videos too about this local event I go to every month called “Poetry Under the Paintings.” It’s hosted by Faustina’s Gallery in the gorgeous little Victorian town of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, where every second Thursday a group of local poetry and art lovers join to celebrate verse read aloud in the presence of beautiful works of art.

Sometimes we are even accompanied by musicians, the legendary Steve Mitchell on bongos, my beautiful Brian Kelly on keyboard, even Dave Miller of the Dave Miller Band has accompanied us on acoustic guitar.

Well, tomorrow night’s gathering has been cancelled due to the uncertain conditions of this nor’easter that is heading our way. Depending on which forecast you prefer we could get anywhere from three inches to a foot of snow!

But perhaps I shouldn’t say it’s cancelled, only restructured. Instead of braving the dangers of Mother Nature’s cold caresses we are going to get our live poetry fix by meeting virtually on our Facebook page! The upside of doing it this way is that you don’t even have to be in Pennsylvania to join us! If you have nothing going on tomorrow, Thursday the 13th of February, please visit us for this online event.

We usually meet at 7:00 PM EST, but if that doesn’t work for you, by all means drop by early or late, and post a poem or three. You’ll of course need to click like on the Facebook page to post something, and by all means comment and like the postings of others there. It’s a social gathering, not a formal event. You’ll have to bring your own coffee though.

If you don’t have Facebook (You may be smarter than most of us.), feel free to drop your post here int he comment section and I’ll add it to the PUP page as soon as I can.

You can post original poems or favorites by poets you like. It can be in text, video or audio form. Think of it as a Thursday free-for-all, poetry, art, whatever gets to your heart. Snow-bound and Valentine themes are entirely optional. We did this in December to work around everyone’s celebratory schedules and it was a lot of fun.

Again, the Poetry Under the Paintings Facebook link is right here.  See you in the virtual gallery!

Below is a sample of what we do when we get together. Everyone takes a turn reading a piece; we all applaud. Actually we all applaud first because it’s easier to perform when you know we already love you. Then the next person hops up and takes the mic. No pressure, no sign-ups, no formalities. Just lots of love for good poetry and art.


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A Thursday Love Poem, Edgar Allan Poe Meets Stevie Nicks

1848 Daguerreotype of Edgar Allan Poe at 39, a...
1848 Daguerreotype of Edgar Allan Poe at 39, a year before his death (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although she is a classy, gorgeous woman, I am not sure that she would be Poe’s type. Stevie Nicks might well be too strong and independent for the old-fashioned American Romantic, though I think he might have loved her in the recent season of American Horror Story Coven, where she played “herself in a universe where Stevie Nicks is an actual witch.”

But today Stevie and Eddy join forces to bring us this week’s Thursday Love Poem, a feature based on the quirky poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay called “Thursday.” In that flagship post I said that a Thursday Poem has “got to be a bit unconventional. No Hallmark cards of course. . . Here I want to share something different, off center, unexpected, something that resonates, though it doesn’t fit the traditional love poem mold.”

Poe’s “Annabel Lee” somehow manages to fit that definition, despite its traditional ballad-like form, and themes of love and death. How so? Well, depending on how one reads this poem it’s really downright creepy, and satisfyingly beautiful at the same time.

The photo we have of Poe here was taken in the year before his death which is the same year in which it is believed that he wrote “Annabel Lee.” Our friend, the poet, well he had a thing for both death and beauty. In fact, the two went hand in hand for him. It’s been speculated and debated time and again if poems like “Anabel Lee” were in fact based in reality. I can only say that the emotions of the poem seem real. Whether based on the tuberculous death of his young bride Virginia or not, the material for inspiration was certainly abundant in Poe’s life.

In his essay “Philosophy of Composition” in reference to his themes and methods in the writing of his poem “The Raven,” Poe asserted, “Melancholy is thus the most legitimate of all the poetical tones.” If you have the patience to read the essay for yourself, and if you are inclined to believe that he was being honest, and not merely making up the method after the fact, you might understand, or at least forgive him for, his insistence that the death of a beautiful woman was the “most poetic topic in the world.”

I asked myself — “Of all melancholy topics, what, according to the universal understanding of mankind, is the most melancholy?” Death — was the obvious reply. “And when,” I said, “is this most melancholy of topics most poetical?” From what I have already explained at some length, the answer, here also, is obvious — “When it most closely allies itself to Beauty: the death, then, of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world — and equally is it beyond doubt that the lips best suited for such topic are those of a bereaved lover.”

And why not the death of a beautiful man? Or the death of a child, or a parent, or a beautiful idea? A beautiful and well-loved dog, or planet? Well, setting aside discussions of misogyny and sexism for the moment, I don’t want to be too hard on him, knowing that he, like most of us, was at least in part a product of his own experience, and projecting that experience onto the larger world is not uncommon. In fact, perhaps this is how we find universal meaning in the particulars. In any case, Poe had lost women in his life, mothers and lovers, figuratively and literally, in courtship and in death. It’s an interesting topic to research (as usual there are great sources in those links).

I confess “Annabel Lee” is probably my favorite of the “Dead Bride” poems, with its archaic fairy tale-feel, young romantic love, celestial jealousies, tragedy and sense of the macabre. I remember in middle school wondering how literally we could take the lines at the end about lying down with his love in her sepulcher by the sea. Is it any wonder that Poe becomes popular with the emotional goth and emo kids?

I think that he would be pleased though that much of why I find the poem so beautiful springs from the poem’s form. There is an excellent analysis of Poe’s technique in this work on The rhyme, meter, repetition all build the framework for this particular version of his favorite theme, and Harger explicates it exceedingly well. I encourage you to read it.

Poe, a champion of the “Art for art’s sake” creed, believed that poetry should be song-like in its aesthetics, and as such I suspect he would be tickled to hear how Stevie Nicks put his poem to music in her 2011 album In Your Dreams. He might be miffed about the dropping of one entire stanza, the poetic and specific term seraphim being dropped for the more general word “angels,” and the omission of the word chilling in the line “Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.” But overall I think he would be in the audience, beaming with pride and applauding if he could see and hear Stevie in concert.

In keeping with my tendencies to be a night owl, and since I have not yet gone to bed, and since I started this post well before the witching hour, it is still, in spirit at least, Thursday Poem territory.

Often in a post like this I copy the the full text below the video, but to keep the formatting the way Poe intended it, and to point you toward a wonderful resource, click here for the full text of “Annabel Lee” at The Poetry Foundation.

Stevie Nicks – Annabel Lee from Mister VJ on Vimeo.

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A Thursday Love Poem (or Two) with E.E. Cummings

e e cummings
E. E. Cummings (Photo credit: Zoe52)

My dear friend and champion of peace, Ann Keeler Evans has been reminding me lately about the importance of being present, and in-the-moment. But after starting the new year with a bad cold, followed by a knock-out horrible bout of the flu virus, I found myself needing a little bit of hope. And she’s right, as I feel better, it’s easier to be present. But this week I was looking at previous spring posts, and the milder days associated with them.

Love, so often associated with spring, with bees and birds, this got me to thinking of our new-ish Thursday Love Poem feature, inspired by the flagship poem of lot, “Thursday,” by Edna St. Vincent Millay.

It’s rather an anti-love poem, a thumb-your-nose-at-love-poem, a men-have-treated-us-like-this-for-eons-and-now-it’s-my-turn-poem. But a poem need not be anti-love to qualify for the Thursday Love Poem slot. It only needs to make us think, or as I once said, squint our eyes, stand on our heads, and glance sideways at the whole circus of love. It’s got to be different, and in doing so, it’s got to stretch the mind as well as the heart.

I think these two poems by modern master E. E. Cummings succeed in doing just that. Hey, how about that–two for the price of one! This first one was recorded almost two years ago for my personal Record-a-Poem-a-Day-Challenge during 2012’s National Poetry Month in April. I was experimenting with making the video mimic what the poem was doing. Some loved it while others were decidedly unimpressed. Still, it’s about Spring, about Time and it’s seeming predictability, while pointing out that flowers, birds and bees do not use clocks.

The second one below it has never been on this blog before, though I had recorded it on my balcony in July of 2011 and had uploaded it to my YouTube channel where it too received mixed reviews. It was a request from a sexy teacher-friend and so I was attempting to be kinda mock-sexy. I think some people took my stance (Come on, shades? Don’t you recognize a poser making fun of posers when he poses?) a bit too seriously. I was trying to capture the poet’s brilliance whilst poking fun at the drama of it all, hoping it worked. Well, for some it did, but others. . .  Ah, you can’t roll sixes every time.

I hope these two springy poems about love help to thaw your cold, winterized heart. Unless of course you live south of the equator, in which case I am far to envious to even talk to you right now.

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A Thursday Love Poem, “The Four Moon Planet,” by Billy Collins

Cover of "The Notebooks of Robert Frost"
Cover of The Notebooks of Robert Frost

I don’t know what Robert Frost was thinking when he jotted those words in his notes, “I have envied the four moon planet.” Or maybe he never wrote them at all. Maybe Billy Collins just made the whole thing up. I’ll have to read The Notebooks of Robert Frost to find out for sure. But it’s a lovely poem that Billy created from Frost’s idea.

And since aliens and outer space are sometimes subjects of scary movies and costumes (I’ve dressed as an alien for Halloween, haven’t you?), then maybe it’s not too much of a stretch to make “The Four Moon Planet” by Billy Collins our October 31st Thursday Love Poem. You know, it being Halloween and all, and we bloggers feeling this market-driven need to relate everything to everything else.

Come to think of it, isn’t that what poets do? I recall Billy saying as much in another poem. “The Trouble with Poetry,” I believe it was.

Aside: And while I’m thinking of it, if you managed to miss the former Poet Laureate reading, quipping, and doing poetry tricks with Stephen Colbert on the Colbert Report Tuesday night, treat yourself by clicking here.

But what’s a Thursday Love Poem, you ask? Well, let me quote myself from last Thursday, when we enjoyed the first ever Thursday Love Poem. Last week we were dumped unceremoniously by Edna St. Vincent Millay via the Thursday Love Poem feature’s flagship poem, appropriately called “Thursday.”

. . . And what should a Thursday Love Poem be here on The Dad Poet? Well, let’s face it, it’s got to be a bit unconventional. No Hallmark cards of course, and none of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Not that your sweetheart doesn’t deserve a nice greeting card, and not they the Bard’s love poems are not a delight (come to think of it a few might actually fit in here) . . . But we have already read Robert Burns’, “my luv is like a red red rose.” Here I want to share something different, off-center, unexpected, something that resonates, but may not be what you expect from a love poem.

. . . I do not wish to act as if true love and romance in a poem is “dishonest,” as some writers claim. But for a poem to be a Thursday Love Poem it will have to look at that tenderness squinting sideways, maybe standing on its head, in order to give us a unique view, one other than what the masses have come to expect of a love poem.

In other words a Thursday Love Poem isn’t your grandmother’s love poem, baby.

And so for this Thursday Love Poem we go galactic, but subtly with the master of wit and winsomeness, Billy Collins. Perhaps I’ll make a brief comment or two below the poem’s text.


The Four-Moon Planet

I have envied the four-moon planet.
-The Notebooks of Robert Frost

Maybe he was thinking of the song
“What a Little Moonlight Can do”
and became curious about
what a lot of moonlight might be capable of.

But wouldn’t this be too much of a good thing?
and what if you couldn’t tell them apart
and they always rose together
like pale quadruplets entering a living room?

Yes, there would be enough light
to read a book or write a letter at midnight,
and if you drank enough tequila
you might see eight of them roving brightly above.

But think of the two lovers on a beach,
his arm around her bare shoulder,
thrilled at how close they were feeling tonight
while he gazed at one moon and she another.

From Ballistics
Copyright © 2008 by Billy Collins
Random House

Alright then. You have heard me defend Collins, as if he needs defending, from those who criticize his “simplicity,” using the word “accessible” as if it were a bad thing, as if erecting an electric, barbed-wire fence around an art museum were a good idea. You have heard me say a hundred times that accessibility does not equal simplicity. Neither does complexity, ambiguity, or depth of thought require linguistic word puzzles meant to lose the reader and prove how very clever and intelligent the poet is. Collins is certainly accessible, but he’s anything but simplistic.

And this poem is a prime example. It may also serve as an illustration of why I love poetry so much.  Prose might have simply told us, “In matters of love we are so unknowably different from each other that we are doomed to have wildly divergent views of what our relationship actually is.” Or, “We never see each other for who we are, and nobody could ever truly know the other’s thoughts.”

This is probably all true; it might even be a revelation, but how beautifully Collins sets us up, not to tell us this, but to let us discover it ourselves in the final line, “while he gazed at one moon and she another.” He says it without ever saying it. And the result is that tiny gasp, maybe not the freezing, headless sensation Emily Dickinson described, but a tug in the gut that makes me feel something true. And it comes about from a carefully laid trap that I am glad to have fallen into, the way I am glad when Agatha Christie brilliantly shows me why I should have known all along what Miss Marple understood about the murderer. This is why I can’t get enough good poems in my life, getting slapped in the gut, liking it, and asking for more.

Poem on.

A Thursday Love Poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay
Edna St. Vincent Millay

This blog seems to get a lot of hits from people googling for “love poems.” Internet searches for love poems in general peak every February because of St. Valentine’s Day, but the Dad Poet gets at least a few searches for them every day.

So I have decided to add a new feature, the Thursday Love Poem. I don’t want you to expect this every Thursday. I mean I’m not committing myself here. This is just for fun, and like Edna St. Vincent Millay I don’t want to be tied down.

To be honest, I hope you don’t take such jokes too seriously. Millay was married to her husband for 26 years, until the day of his death, and she followed just over a year later. Whatever you think of any “arrangements” she and her husband may have had, it appears they loved and were committed to each other.

Millay still gets a lot of flack for some of the poems in A Few Figs From Thistles. I believe she was well aware of the dangers of burning candles at both ends, and building houses in the sand. But in her beautiful, seemingly glib little pieces were gems of truth about how we all really are at the heart. They were telling commentary too about the spirit of the women’s movement at the time. I think the point was that if men can act this way, why not women?

Whether a poet is writing about historical fact or not is never the point. It’s whether the emotions are honest even if the facts are fabricated or exaggerated. But many who wish to make every poem a poet’s confession in morality court will miss the point. I could go on, but I am writing a response to an article by a jealous moralist who doesn’t know what she’s gotten herself into, and I will share that here when I am done.

Meanwhile I’ve promised a Thursday Love Poem, and what should a Thursday Love Poem be here on The Dad Poet? Well, let’s face it, it’s got to be a bit unconventional. No Hallmark cards of course, and none of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Not that your sweetheart doesn’t deserve a nice greeting card, and not they the Bard’s love poems are not a delight (actually one or two could fit in here). It’s not that Blake’s verses didn’t walk “in beauty as the night.” But we have already read Robert Burns’, “my luv is like a red red rose.” Here I want to share something different, off center, unexpected, something that resonates, though it doesn’t fit the traditional love poem mold.

On the other side of love’s penny, I do not wish to act as if true love and romance in a poem is “dishonest,” as some writers claim. But for a poem to be a Thursday Love Poem it will have to look at that tenderness squinting sideways, maybe standing on its head, in order to give us a unique view, one other than what the masses have come to expect of a love poem.

In other words a Thursday Love Poem isn’t your grandmother’s love poem, baby.

As an example I present to you now the flagship poem of this new Thursday feature, the biting little satire on the fickleness of the human heart, by Edna St. Vincent Millay. It’s entitled appropriately (She wrote this just for the Thursday Love Poem feature and has been waiting a very long time for me to post this) “Thursday.”


AND if I loved you Wednesday,
Well, what is that to you?
I do not love you Thursday–
So much is true.

And why you come complaining
Is more than I can see.
I loved you Wednesday,–yes–but what
Is that to me?