Category Archives: Poetry

Nine-year-old writes one of the darkest poems of all time

The first poem was by Christopher, aged nine.

Seashells

Seashells are shining. Seashells are like ocean waves. Seashells beam at night.

The second poem was by Skylar, aged eight.

Parakeets

Parakeets are loud. On Friday, I take them out. They are so pretty.

The third poem was by Gabi, aged nine.

Red as Blood

The fire is red as blood. I watch the flames go up in the air as I taste the sadness of the people whose houses have burnt to the ground. I turn back, but all I hear is the bursting and explosion of flames.

Wait, what?

As comedian Shelby Fero, originally tweeted, Gabi “really took it up a notch”.

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The Day Dylan Thomas’s Poetic Brilliance Triumphed Over His Sad Alcohol Dependency.

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He couldn’t even pour a glass of water. Then, he began to read his poetry…By Hans Meyerhoff

Monday, October 27 marked one hundred years since Dylan Thomas—the brilliant, beloved, mercurial poet—was born in Swansea, Wales. Just thirty-nine short years later, he died after achieving fame—and infamy. One afternoon, a New Republic contributor attended a poetry reading held by Thomas that highlighted both the depths Thomas’s alcoholism had taken him to, and the sheer awesome power of his voice and work. His report of that reading is sad and triumphant, in equal measure.

To mark its 100th anniversary, The New Republic is republishing a collection of its most memorable articles. This week’s theme: Literary birthdays.

This piece originally appeared at The New Republic on July 11, 1955.

I saw and heard Dylan Thomas only once. De mortuis…. Perhaps it is unbecoming to remember him as I do; but this memory is deeply engraved as his mark of greatness for me; and it is by this mark that I shall always remember this man and poet whom I did not know.

It was a public reading of poetry at a university. At three o’clock—who reads poetry at three o’clock in the afternoon?—the large lecture hall was half-filled with students, visitors, and a sprinkling of the faculty. The introduction was stiff, formal, academic, and distant. Then the poet stepped forward to the lectern. Only it wasn’t the poet. It wasn’t the lean, sensitive face with the Grecian curls and dreamy, far-away look in his eyes familiar from the youthful portrait of Dylan Thomas by Augustus John which had become a trademark for every edition of the poet’s works. (It is, fortunately on the cover of the present volume.) Instead, the man behind the lectern was quite pudgy and stocky, with a fleshy face, a fiery, almost angry, eye, a thrust of the jaw, unruly hair, a wrinkled suit and a loose collar and tie.

There was time to absorb the initial shock; for he had trouble finding his bearings behind the lectern. He appeared unsteady, nervous and ill at ease. The notes from which he was going to read were written on loose sheets which looked like scraps of paper. As he was shuffling them rapidly, perhaps to put them into some kind of order, they fluttered to the floor. He stooped down, scrambled after them and scooped them up in awkward gestures—all the while cursing in sotto voce obscenities. Then he poured himself a glass of water; only he didn’t. He held the water pitcher with an outstretched arm and aimed at the glass below; but he missed; and a steady stream of water ran from the pitcher onto the floor. There was no doubt now that he was unsteady. Nobody laughed. There was deep silence in the room.

Then he began to read, without a word of greeting, from his notes. He read hurriedly and half-audibly as if embarrassed; but what he had written, as an introduction and commentary to his readings, was excellent: quick, sharp pen sketches of the poets—he seemed to like Hardy best—catching them in a live portrait on a bicycle ride or in a family group around the table, and subtle, sensitive insights laying bare the heart of the poem with an empathetic eye and ear and an attitude loving, hesitating, and reticent as if these confessions were not meant, as they were not, for a public reading before a college audience. Let’s get this over with as quickly as possible, because I am suffering—he seemed to say and said it in almost these words. And then the initial shock gave way to a wave of deep sympathy among his listeners; for he obviously was suffering. This was some kind of an indignity, and he responded to it with ill-concealed disdain and suppressed anger.

Continue reading The Day Dylan Thomas’s Poetic Brilliance Triumphed Over His Sad Alcohol Dependency.

Incomparable Things Said Incomparably Well – Emerson’s Extraordinary Letter of Appreciation to Young Walt Whitman by Maria Popova

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On July 4, 1855, American Poet Walt Whitman self-published Leaves of Grass — the monumental tome, inspired by an 1844 essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson titled The Poet, that would one day establish him as America’s greatest poet. But despite Whitman’s massive expectations for the book, sales were paltry and the few reviews that rolled in were unfavorable.

Everything changed on July 21 that year when Whitman received an extraordinary letter of praise from none other than Emerson himself, who was not only the muse for the volume but also, by that point, America’s most significant literary tastemaker. The missive is nothing short of spectacular — both in its beauty of language and its generosity of spirit:

Dear Sir,

I am not blind to the worth of the wonderful gift of Leaves of Grass. I find it the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed. I am very happy in reading it, as great power makes us happy. It meets the demand I am always making of what seemed the sterile & stingy Nature, as if too much handiwork, or too much lymph in the temperament, were making our Western wits fat and mean. I give you joy of your free and brave thought. I have great joy in it. I find incomparable things said incomparably well, as they must be. I find the courage of treatment which so delights us, & which large perception only can inspire.

I greet you at the beginning of a great career, which yet must have had a long foreground somewhere, for such a start. I rubbed my eyes a little, to see if this sunbeam were no illusion; but the solid sense of the book is a sober certainty. It has the best merits, namely, of fortifying & encouraging.

I did not know until I, last night, saw the book advertised in a newspaper, that I could trust the name real & available for a post-office. I wish to see my benefactor, & have felt much like striking my tasks, & visiting New York to pay my respects.

R.W. Emerson

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I know why the caged bird sings by Maya Angelou

I know why the caged bird sings by Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

A free bird leaps on the back
Of the wind and floats downstream
Till the current ends and dips his wing
In the orange suns rays
And dares to claim the sky.

But a BIRD that stalks down his narrow cage
Can seldom see through his bars of rage
His wings are clipped and his feet are tied
So he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings with a fearful trill
Of things unknown but longed for still
And his tune is heard on the distant hill for
The caged bird sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
And the trade winds soft through
The sighing trees
And the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright
Lawn and he names the sky his own.

But a caged BIRD stands on the grave of dreams
His shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
His wings are clipped and his feet are tied
So he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings with
A fearful trill of things unknown
But longed for still and his
Tune is heard on the distant hill
For the caged bird sings of freedom.

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For The Fallen by Robert Laurence Binyon

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With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Author Notes

During September-October 1939 throughout ten Allied countries, and upon the suggestion of FIDAC (Inter-allied Federation of Ex-Servicemen), the 25th anniversary of Laurence Binyon’s “For the Fallen”, was observed.

This is one of the most famous and enduring war poems, and it was written at an historic moment … just after the retreat from Mons and the victory of the Marne.

As to how it came to be written, Laurence Binyon, who celebrated his 70th anniversary on 10 August 1939, says: “I can’t recall the exact date beyond that it was shortly after the retreat. I was set down, out of doors, on a cliff in Polzeath, Cornwall. The stanza “They Shall Grow Not Old” was written first and dictated the rhythmical movement of the whole poem

A poem Neil Gaiman wrote for Amanda Palmer and read aloud to her at the Sydney Opera House in 2011

For Amanda, an appreciation

For I shall enumerate my lady’s charms, although they are numberless.

For FIRSTLY, she has a smile like a beam of sunlight breaking through a cloud in a medieval painting.

For SECONDLY she moves like cats and panthers and also she can stand still.

For THIRDLY she has eyes of a color that no two people can agree on, which I remember when I close my eyes.

For FOURTHLY she laughs at my jokes, sings unconcerned on the sidewalk and gives money to buskers as a religious act.

For FIFTHLY she fucks like wild cats in thunderstorms.

For SIXTHLY her kisses are gentle.

For SEVENTHLY I would follow her, or walk behind her, or in front of her, wherever she wished to go, and being with her would ease my mind.

For EIGHTHLY I dream of her and am comforted.

For NINTHLY there is no one like her, not that I’ve ever met, and I’ve met so many people, no-one at all.

For lastly she squeals when I say “waste-paper basket” and also in the morning, eyebrowless and waking, she always looks so perfectly surprised.

[signed] Neil Gaiman
(for the fireflies)

 

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