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Archive for the 'On Poetry' Category

June 6th, 2013 • Posted in On Poetry

Cactus Sickness by Ted Hughes

By Ted Hughes

I hope you never contract
The lunar galloping cact-
us, which is when dimples
Suddenly turn into pimples,
And these pimples bud—
Except for the odd dud—
Each one into a head with hair
And a face just like the one you wear.
These heads grow pea-size to begin
From your brows, your nose, your cheeks and your chin.
But soon enough they’re melon-size,
All with mouths and shining eyes.
Within five days your poor neck spreads
A bunch of ten or fifteen heads
All hungry, arguing or singing
(Somewhere under your own head’s ringing).
And so for one whole tedious week
You must admit you are a freak.

And then, perhaps when you gently cough
For silence, one of the heads drops off.
Their uproar instantly comes to a stop.
Then in silence, plop by plop,
With eyes and mouth most firmly closed,
Your rival heads, in turn deposed,
Land like pumpkins round your feet.
You walk on feeling light and neat.

In the next mirror you are assured
That now you stand completely cured.

from Moon-Whales and Other Poems ( Viking, 1976. Illustrated by Leonard Baskin).

May 11th, 2013 • Posted in On Poetry

A Drive in the Country to visit a Poet

Drove up to the town of Wakefield (about half an hour North of Ottawa) last week to chat with Bruce Taylor about bugs

and boats

and bark (well, wood, more like it)

and banjos

(okay guitars), and

bush, and, oh yes, poetry. Because Bruce is one of Canada’s very best poets.

Read about what came of the conversation in the next issue of Guerilla magazine.

April 22nd, 2013 • Posted in Authors and Books, On Poetry

A response to coverage of the events in Boston by Daryl Hine


News or weather overhead,
Inauspicious as a name,
Bulletins are gathering
Symptomatic of a storm.
From the summit ultimata
Grumble in an undertone
Of catastrophe to come.
Temporarily the rain
Of terrors interupts itself
For a commercial message;
All the colours of the rainbow
Envisaging an age of gold
Based on universal ruin
Ere the flood begin again.
Television melodrama
Apes the structure of a dream
Dictated by the camera
That cool connoisseur of crime.
Inauthentic pity aches
For catharsis in the chase.
Recognition is a scream.
Robin Holmes and Sherlock Hood,
All the difference between
Them the sportive uniform
Of a strenuous regime.
Not half-bad and none-too-good
Trace their sources from the same
Ambiguous watershed.
Polyphemas chatterbox
Shows millennia of sound,
The metalanguage money talks,
Ultimately condescend
Maybe to a second’s sense.
Repetition seems a plot
To explain experience.
Unexceptional as dust
Sycophantic ghosts intrude
On living rooms to trade
Post mortems, introduced
By a phsychopompous guide
Whose blythe travesty suggests
The nature of the TV god.
Insomnia’s unwinking eye,
Stereoptic, stares at grief
Without sympathy or awe
For the unexamined life.
Sure that you have seen enough
Already, fascinated, you
Watch until it turns you off.

from Daylight Saving, Poems by Daryl Hine (Atheneum, 1978)

February 2nd, 2013 • Posted in On Poetry

Paul Muldoon on Obama’s Inauguration and Hillary’s Coronation

I’m liking the mid-section of Paul Muldoon’s poem for Barack Obama’s second inauguration:


“They’ve got their work cut out for them,
those reps (and I mean Reps and Dems),
who preach state-building, nationhood,
the selfless seeking after good
to every warlord in the Stans,
the Taiwanese, the Taliban,
but cannot bring themselves to run
a country now under the gun
with any of that self-same zeal.
It’s no bad thing we’ve been revealed
to be fit merely to muster
the strength to fudge and filibuster,
no bad thing democracy is found
wanting, that our moral high ground
has run out with the fiscal cliff,
no bad thing we may no longer sniff
at other nations’ moral faults
now we’ve shown ourselves to exalt
“enhanced interrogation,” q.v.,
of our “high value” detainees.
Truth-twisting is our Trojan horse.
Now haute couture and torture are outsourced
perhaps we won’t ourselves feel forced
to teach the world how to behave
by sending in wave after wave
of troops. For if you must launch an assault
you might think of calling a halt
to letting school kids make their day
despite the response of the NRA
being semi-automatic.”


and also its intriguing rabbit-punch finish:


“unless you want a pillory
as your bequest. If you do bring out the artillery,
position it behind Hillary!”

At first I read the second last line as if there was a comma beside ‘do’, which begs the question: Is it by supporting Hillary, or deep-sixing her,  that Obama’s Presidency will be exposed to ridicule? Does ‘behind’ mean ‘in back of’, so that the guns are pointed at her, or ‘getting behind’ her, so that her wish is done? Did Muldoon know that Hillary was on the way out, or did he simply like the rhyme? What does this auger? That Hillary is the horse to back in 2016?

Read the full poem here.

December 23rd, 2012 • Posted in On Poetry

It’s snowy in these suburbs…

Snow in the Suburbs 
by Thomas Hardy

Every branch big with it, 
Bent every twig with it; 
Every fork like a white web-foot; 
Every street and pavement mute: 
Some flakes have lost their way, and grope back upward when 
Meeting those meandering down they turn and descend again. 
The palings are glued together like a wall, 
And there is no waft of wind with the fleecy fall. 
A sparrow enters the tree, 
Whereon immediately 
A snow-lump thrice his own slight size 
Descends on him and showers his head and eye 
And overturns him, 
And near inurns him, 
And lights on a nether twig, when its brush 
Starts off a volley of other lodging lumps with a rush. 
The steps are a blanched slope, 
Up which, with feeble hope, 
A black cat comes, wide-eyed and thin; 
And we take him in.