Monday, March 31, 2014

Poem of the Day: "Sonnet" by Bill Knott

"Sonnet" by Bill Knott is the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for March 31, 2014.  It is also's offering from Poem-A-Day for the same date.  A link to the poem may be found here:

Bill Knott (pictured) was born in 1940 and died March 12, 2014.  He was a teacher at Emerson College in Boston and a recipient of the Iowa Poetry Prize and a Guggenheim Fellowship.  Although he had over ten books of poetry published by various houses, he self-published most of his work on his blog.  He said, "If I had to rely on real publishers to present my work, I might very well have stopped writing altogether."  Reference to this and additional biographical information may be found here:

"Sonnet" is written in fairly liberal free verse, but has the requisite fourteen-line length, and its subjects--truth and beauty and love--are frequent topics of the traditional sonnet forms.  Lines eleven and twelve reveal the sonnet as a love poem--a nice surprise, given the rather dry treatment of truth and beauty in the preceding ten lines.  The poem comes full circle and ends as it began, with lines one and fourteen and two and thirteen being identical.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Poem of the Day: "Machines" by Michael Donaghy

"Machines" by Michael Donaghy is the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for March 30, 2014.  A link to the poem may be found here:

Michael Donaghy (pictured) was born in 1954 in New York and grew up in the Bronx.  His parents were Irish immigrants.  In 1985, he moved to London where he taught at City University and Birkbeck College.  He authored four books of poetry, one of which was a Poetry Book Society Choice and Forward Poetry Prize winner.  He died of a brain hemorrhage in 2004.  Reference to this an additional biographical information may be found here:

"Machines" is organized in seventeen lines with three, four, or five feet per line.  The rhyme scheme is nearly ababcdcd &c, excepting the longish ninth line which does not fit, but does divide the poem into eight lines above and eight lines below it.

If the opening tercet were left off, the poem would be a kind of sonnet, which causes one to wonder why the sonnet form was not chosen.  As is, the poem is a kind of sonnet with a three-line introduction, opening with "Dearest," as though it were a letter to a loved one.  Perhaps the "dearest" is a loved-one of the speaker, perhaps it refers to the "dear reader."

The poem uses the conceit of comparing an elaborate dance accompanied by a harpsichord to a racing bicyclist riding a twelve-speed bicycle.  In each case, there is a machine and human "players" (two in the case of the harpsichord--one playing the instrument, and another dancing).  As elegant as the machines--instrument and bicycle--are, it is the cyclist who steers and the harpsichordist who plays.

I see the final couplet, though it is not heroic, as a nod to the Shakespearean sonnet form.  Taken along with the last line of the penultimate stanza, a nearly perfect heroic couplet is formed if the final couplet is read as a single line.  The observation expressed--that movement and balance are intertwined--is obvious and yet somehow breathtaking.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Poem of the Day: "In the City of Night" by John Gould Fletcher

"In the City of Night" by John Gould Fletcher is the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for March 29, 2014.  It is also's Poem-A-Day feature for the same date.  Since it was first published in 1921, it is in the public domain and, therefore, can be and has been legally reprinted here.

In the City of Night
by John Gould Fletcher

(To the Memory of Edgar Allan Poe) 

City of night, 
Wrap me in your folds of shadow. 

City of twilight, 
City that projects into the west, 
City whose columns rest upon the sunset, city of square, 
threatening masses blocking out the light: 
City of twilight, 
Wrap me in your folds of shadow. 

City of midnight, city that the full moon overflows, city where 
the cats prowl and the closed iron dust-carts go rattling 
through the shadows: 
City of midnight, 
Wrap me in your folds of shadow. 

City of early morning, cool fresh-sprinkled city, city whose 
sharp roof peaks are splintered against the stars, city that unbars tall haggard gates in pity, 
City of midnight, 
Wrap me in your folds of shadow. 

City of rain, city where the bleak wind batters the hard drops 
once and again, sousing a shivering, cursing beggar who clings amid the stiff Apostles on the cathedral portico; 
City where the glare is dull and lowering, city where the 
clouds flare and flicker as they pass upwards, where sputtering lamps stare into the muddy pools beneath them; 
City where the winds shriek up the streets and tear into the 
squares, city whose cobbles quiver and whose pinnacles waver before the buzzing chatter of raindrops in their flight; 
City of midnight, 
Drench me with your rain of sorrow. 

City of vermilion curtains, city whose windows drip with 
crimson, tawdry, tinselled, sensual city, throw me pitilessly into your crowds. 
City filled with women's faces leering at the passers by, 
City with doorways always open, city of silks and swishing 
laces, city where bands bray dance-music all night in the plaza, 
City where the overscented light hangs tepidly, stabbed with 
jabber of the crowd, city where the stars stare coldly, falsely smiling through the smoke-filled air, 
City of midnight, 
Smite me with your despair. 

City of emptiness, city of the white façades, city where one 
lonely dangling lantern wavers aloft like a taper before a marble sarcophagus, frightening away the ghosts; 
City where a single white-lit window in a motionless 
blackened house-front swallows the hosts of darkness that stream down the street towards it; 
City above whose dark tree-tangled park emerges suddenly, 
unlit, uncannily, a grey ghostly tower whose base is lost in the fog, and whose summit has no end. 
City of midnight, 
Bury me in your silence. 

City of night, 
Wrap me in your folds of shadow. 

City of restlessness, city where I have tramped and 
City where the herded crowds glance at me suspiciously, city 
where the churches are locked, the shops unopened, the houses without hospitality, 
City of restlessness, 
Wrap me in your folds of shadow. 

City of sleeplessness, city of cheap airless rooms, where in 
the gloom are heard snores through the partition, lovers that struggle, couples that squabble, cabs that rattle, cats that squall, 
City of sleeplessness, 
Wrap me in your folds of shadow. 

City of feverish dreams, city that is being besieged by all the 
demons of darkness, city of innumerable shadowy vaults and towers, city where passion flowers desperately and treachery ends in death the strong: 
City of night, 

Wrap me in your folds of shadow.

John Gould Fletcher (pictured) was born in Arkansas in 1886 and deliberately drowned himself in 1950.  He became independently wealthy thanks to an early inheritance from his banker father, and spent most of his early poetic career as an expatriate in Italy, France, and England.  He was involved with the Imagist movement and later the Fugitive movement, and hobnobbed with the famous literati of his day, including Ezra Pound, Amy Lowell, Ford Maddox Ford, and W. B. Yeats.  He received the Pulitzer Prize for his Selected Poems in 1939.  Reference to this and other biographical information may be found here:

Fletcher dedicated "In the City of Night" to Edgar Allan Poe, one of the poets who influenced him greatly during his early, lonely years in Arkansas.  Certainly, the dark mood and the chorus-like use of the final two lines of each stanza are characteristic of Poe.  However, I see more of Walt Whitman than Poe here.  The use of:  anaphora, internal rhyme, alliteration, assonance, consonance, the listing of the various elements--both good and bad--of the city, the subject of the city itself, and the expressed desire to become part of or wrapped into the substance or essence of the city are all Whitmanian in character.

New Poem: "Copyright 20__"

One of the most annoying aspects of striving to be a professional (ie: paid, published) poet is that sharing my unpublished work with others--including handing out or emailing individual copies of unpublished poems and even posting unpublished poems on my own or someone else's blog--is considered to be "publishing" by publishers.  This kind of "publishing" carries the same weight with publishers as would publication by a major publishing house.  By engaging in such "publishing," I would be forfeiting "first rights" to the work, making the work technically only available for further publishing as a much less valuable and much less marketable "reprint."  This is why I only list the titles and brief descriptions of my unpublished works and perhaps what inspired them.

Still, if one is careful, one can share (technically "publish") a poem with a small number of individuals deemed trustworthy enough to keep the sharing of the work and the work itself confidential and still be able to sell first rights.  For example, I have written dozens of love poems to my honey over the years.  To date, only she and I have read them.  Technically, once I gave her the poems, they were "published."  However, I would run into no issues marketing a collection of them to any publisher, were I inclined to do so.

So, it is not without some irony that I announce the composition of "Copyright 20__" which was inspired by a trusted relative choosing to wait for an autographed copy of my published work rather than accept an advance copy of my unpublished work.  The message of the poem is simple if stark:  wait and you could be dead by then.

Friday, March 28, 2014

New Poem: "Saint Jerome"

Yesterday, during my lunch break, I went to the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City.  I had just enough time to compare and contrast two radically different depictions of Saint Jerome, who was credited as the first to translate the Bible into Latin.  The painting by the Dutch artist Bloemaert showed the saint as a cozy Santa Claus-like figure.  Just feet away in the gallery, the painting (pictured) by the Italian artist d'Enrico showed the saint as a gaunt hermit in a filthy cave.  A nice new addition to my Nelson-Atkins Ekphrastic Poetry collection was the result.

Poem of the Day: "Snow" by David Berman

"Snow" by David Berman is the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for March 28, 2014.  A link to the poem may be found here:

David Berman (b. 1967) (pictured), poet, cartoonist, and gentleman songster, is best known for his involvement with the indie rock bands "Pavement" and "Silver Jews."  He has been a teacher at the University of Massachusetts.  Reference to this and additional biographical information may be found here:

"Snow" is arranged in sixteen lines of irregular free verse.  Many stanzas are only a single line long, and the longest are tercets.  Perhaps this arrangement was used to indicate breaks in the narrative, or perhaps it represents the distracted thoughts of the speaker.

Mr. Berman captures a universal moment in the experience of the interaction between older and younger brothers in childhood.  An off-hand remark on the part of the older brother disturbs the younger brother, who takes his older, wiser brother's comment at face value.  The younger brother attempts to integrate the new information into his world view by asking clarifying questions, but the answers only lead to more questions.  The off-hand remark "snowballs" out of control.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Poem of the Day: "River Bicycle Peony (from August Notebook: A Death)" by Robert Hass

"River Bicycle Peony (from August Notebook:  A Death)" by Robert Hass is the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for March 27, 2014.  It is the first of four numbered poems entitled, "August Notebook:  A Death," and was published in the Winter 2009 issue of The Paris Review.  A link to the poem, including the entire set of four, may be found here:

Robert Hass (b. 1941) (pictured) teaches at the University of California, Berkeley.  He served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 1995 - 1997 and transformed the until then largely ceremonial position into a vocal platform for the promotion of poetry and literacy.  He was a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2001 - 2007.  A Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award may also be counted among his many honors.  In addition, he is highly lauded in literary circles for his translations of the works of the Japanese poem masters Basho, Buson, and Issa, and for his ongoing project in translating the work of the Nobel Prize-winning Polish poet, Czeslaw Milosz.  Reference to this and additional biographical information may be found here:

The peony (pictured) has significance in Greek mythology as a symbol of healing.  According to the myth, Paeon was a disciple of the healing god Asclepius.  Asclepius became jealous of Paeon, and Zeus, in order to save Paeon from being murdered by his envious master, transformed Paeon into a peony.  Reference to this and additional information about this myth may be found here:

The peony also has significance in Chinese culture and was once prized by Chinese emperors for its beauty and medicinal value.  Peonies are said to symbolize royalty, wealth, luck, honor, and bravery.  Reference to this and additional information about the significance of the peony in Chinese culture may be found here:

The poem is an elegy to the speaker's, presumably the poet's, economically challenged brother.  The first stanza contains deliberate typos and at first appears abortive, but shortly thereafter it is seen to set the serious tone of the poem--"the first dignity."  Indeed, dignity, or the lack of it, is an obvious concern throughout the brother's tribute to his brother; here, the formal arrangement of the poem in seventeen tercets, a nod to the short Japanese form, itself lends the tribute a certain decorum--"the second dignity."

This poem really moved me on a deeply personal level.  It is no longer so much the case now, but my brother, who is a musical genius, was for many years a person on the margin of society, living hand-to-mouth, and sleeping in what I will diplomatically describe as a hovel.  A recurring nightmare of mine was that I would get a call from the police or from my parents with a report of his death, most likely from a vaccine-preventable disease or dental infection that metastasized.  I still worry about him and hope I will never be called upon to compose his elegy.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Poem of the Day: "Phantasmagoria Canto I (The Trystyng)" by Lewis Carroll

"Phantasmagoria Canto I (The Trystyng)" by Lewis Carroll is the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for March 26, 2014.  It is in the public domain and is reprinted below in its entirety.  The poem is the opening Canto in a series of seven first published in 1869 in the collection Phantasmagoria and Other Poems.  A link to the free Gutenberg eBook Project version of the collection may be found here:

Phantasmagoria Canto I (The Trystyng)
by Lewis Carroll

ONE winter night, at half-past nine,
Cold, tired, and cross, and muddy,
I had come home, too late to dine,
And supper, with cigars and wine,
Was waiting in the study.

There was a strangeness in the room,
And Something white and wavy
Was standing near me in the gloom -
I took it for the carpet-broom
Left by that careless slavey.

But presently the Thing began
To shiver and to sneeze:
On which I said "Come, come, my man!
That's a most inconsiderate plan.
Less noise there, if you please!"

"I've caught a cold," the Thing replies,
"Out there upon the landing."
I turned to look in some surprise,
And there, before my very eyes,
A little Ghost was standing!

He trembled when he caught my eye,
And got behind a chair.
"How came you here," I said, "and why?
I never saw a thing so shy.
Come out! Don't shiver there!"

He said "I'd gladly tell you how,
And also tell you why;
But" (here he gave a little bow)
"You're in so bad a temper now,
You'd think it all a lie.

"And as to being in a fright,
Allow me to remark
That Ghosts have just as good a right
In every way, to fear the light,
As Men to fear the dark."

"No plea," said I, "can well excuse
Such cowardice in you:
For Ghosts can visit when they choose,
Whereas we Humans ca'n't refuse
To grant the interview."

He said "A flutter of alarm
Is not unnatural, is it?
I really feared you meant some harm:
But, now I see that you are calm,
Let me explain my visit.

"Houses are classed, I beg to state,
According to the number
Of Ghosts that they accommodate:
(The Tenant merely counts as WEIGHT,
With Coals and other lumber).

"This is a 'one-ghost' house, and you
When you arrived last summer,
May have remarked a Spectre who
Was doing all that Ghosts can do
To welcome the new-comer.

"In Villas this is always done -
However cheaply rented:
For, though of course there's less of fun
When there is only room for one,
Ghosts have to be contented.

"That Spectre left you on the Third -
Since then you've not been haunted:
For, as he never sent us word,
'Twas quite by accident we heard
That any one was wanted.

"A Spectre has first choice, by right,
In filling up a vacancy;
Then Phantom, Goblin, Elf, and Sprite -
If all these fail them, they invite
The nicest Ghoul that they can see.

"The Spectres said the place was low,
And that you kept bad wine:
So, as a Phantom had to go,
And I was first, of course, you know,
I couldn't well decline."

"No doubt," said I, "they settled who
Was fittest to be sent
Yet still to choose a brat like you,
To haunt a man of forty-two,
Was no great compliment!"

"I'm not so young, Sir," he replied,
"As you might think. The fact is,
In caverns by the water-side,
And other places that I've tried,
I've had a lot of practice:

"But I have never taken yet
A strict domestic part,
And in my flurry I forget
The Five Good Rules of Etiquette
We have to know by heart."

My sympathies were warming fast
Towards the little fellow:
He was so utterly aghast
At having found a Man at last,
And looked so scared and yellow.

"At least," I said, "I'm glad to find
A Ghost is not a DUMB thing!
But pray sit down: you'll feel inclined
(If, like myself, you have not dined)
To take a snack of something:

"Though, certainly, you don't appear
A thing to offer FOOD to!
And then I shall be glad to hear -
If you will say them loud and clear -
The Rules that you allude to."

"Thanks! You shall hear them by and by.
This IS a piece of luck!"
"What may I offer you?" said I.
"Well, since you ARE so kind, I'll try
A little bit of duck.

"ONE slice! And may I ask you for
Another drop of gravy?"
I sat and looked at him in awe,
For certainly I never saw
A thing so white and wavy.

And still he seemed to grow more white,
More vapoury, and wavier -
Seen in the dim and flickering light,
As he proceeded to recite
His "Maxims of Behaviour."

The renowned British author and poet, Lewis Carroll (1832 - 1898), was born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson.  He is perhaps most famous for his fantasy novellas, Alices's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) (reviewed in Songs of Eretz May 14, 2012, and Through the Looking-Glass (1872) (reviewed in Songs of Eretz September 18, 2012  However, he was also a prolific poet; he included many memorable poems within the aforementioned novellas and authored several free-standing poetry collections.  For his "day job," he was a Professor of Mathematics at the Christ Church College in Oxford.  Reference to this and additional biographical information may be found here:

"The Trystyng" is comparable to the work of Carroll's American contemporary, Edgar Allan Poe, albeit with a light-hearted, humorous treatment of the paranormal elements.  (Poe's works have been reviewed in Songs of Eretz on several occasions:, and  Carroll employed a delightful rhyme scheme (abaab, cdccd, &c), as well as a ballad-like rhythm scheme, having organized the poem in quintets of iambic tetrameter with the omission of a foot in the second and fifth lines of each.  The omitted feet create a natural pause and slight emphasis as one might find in a ballad or song.

The reaction of the first person singular character in the poem, presumably the poet, to his haunting is unexpected, funny, and excruciatingly nonchalant.  The reaction of the phantom to this reaction is even more unexpected and funnier still.  The eventual outcome, with the phantom sitting down and sharing supper and conversing with the subject of his haunting, is simply delicious.  There is also a pun worth mentioning:  "He was so utterly aghast"--a pun on "a ghast"--bazinga!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Poem of the Day: "The Park" by Harry Clifton

"The Park" by Harry Clifton is the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for March 25, 2014.  A link to the poem may be found here:

Born, raised, and educated in Dublin, Harry Clifton (b. 1952) (pictured) became a world traveler, living and working throughout Europe, Africa, Asia, and North America.  He currently teaches at University College Dublin, and is considered by critics to be one of the most important Irish poets of our time.  Reference to this and additional biographical information may be found here:

"The Park" is presented in ten tercets of free verse.  Frequent use of enjambment gives the poem a lilting flow.  Some stanzas have a stand-alone haiku-like quality, despite going over seventeen syllables.  I will allow my readers to discover and decide which ones fall into this category.

The first stanza introduces the second person pronoun, which may refer to the reader, the readers (all of you), or perhaps to a park bench.  This ambiguity is not irksome.  Rather, it serves to fuse the reader(s) with the several delightful aspects of a perfect escape to a beautiful park on a perfect in a season for which "there is no name."

Monday, March 24, 2014

New Poem: "Global Warming"

"Global Warming" is the latest poem to be added to my growing Snowetry collection.  It is a short, traditional ballad--three quatrains of rhyming iambic tetrameter.  The poem did not begin as political commentary, but ended up taking a jab at those bird brains on the left who are so arrogant as to believe that they understand anything about global climatology.  In fact, by calling those bozos "bird brains," I insult the birds, who know more than humans do about the climate, the changing of the seasons, and the rhythms of the earth.  For example, a  Starling (pictured, looking angry in its winter plumage) knows when to change the color of its feathers.  Given the domination of the left in the industry, I doubt the poem will ever get published as a stand-alone, but it may reach the public as part of a collection.  Anyway, a poet can dream.

Poem of the Day: "Samurai Song" by Robert Pinsky

"Samurai Song" by Robert Pinsky is the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for March 24, 2014.  A link to the poem may be found here:

Robert Pinsky (b. 1940) (pictured) teaches in the graduate writing program at Boston University.  He served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 1997 - 2000 and as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2004 - 2010.  Additional biographical information may be found here:

"Samurai Song" is organized as seven tercets, clearly a nod to the short Japanese forms.  Pinsky uses anaphora, opening each tercet save the last with "When I had no…."  This creates a relentless, song-like, rhythmic quality.  The moral lessons, although nominally of Japanese and pagan origin, sing true in a European and Judeo-Christian context--I daresay Stephen Covey would approve.

The final stanza, which deviates from the others by placing the anaphora phrase in the middle rather than at the opening, describes the overall philosophy of life that the Samurai follows and that, by implication, the reader should consider following, or at least admire.  The final example shows that this philosophy may be applied to control one of the most passionate and difficult human dilemmas--the need for a lover.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Poem of the Day: "The Hippopotamus" by t.s. eliot

"The Hippopotamus" by t.s. eliot is the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for March 23, 2014.  The poem is in the public domain and is reprinted here:

The Hippopotamus
by t.s. eliot (1920)

The broad-backed hippopotamus
Rests on his belly in the mud;
Although he seems so firm to us
He is merely flesh and blood.
Flesh-and-blood is weak and frail,
Susceptible to nervous shock;
While the True Church can never fail
For it is based upon a rock.

The hippo's feeble steps may err
In compassing material ends,
While the True Church need never stir
To gather in its dividends.

The 'potamus can never reach
The mango on the mango-tree;
But fruits of pomegranate and peach
Refresh the Church from over sea.

At mating time the hippo's voice
Betrays inflexions hoarse and odd,
But every week we hear rejoice
The Church, at being one with God.

The hippopotamus's day
Is passed in sleep; at night he hunts;
God works in a mysterious way--
The Church can sleep and feed at once.

I saw the 'potamus take wing
Ascending from the damp savannas,
And quiring angels round him sing
The praise of God, in loud hosannas.

Blood of the Lamb shall wash him clean
And him shall heavenly arms enfold,
Among the saints he shall be seen
Performing on a harp of gold.

He shall be washed as white as snow,
By all the martyr'd virgins kist,
While the True Church remains below

Wrapt in the old miasmal mist.

Thomas Stearns Eliot (1888 - 1965) (pictured) received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1948.  His The Waste Land (1922) is considered by many scholars to be the most influential poetic work of the twentieth century.  He was also a notable critic and playwright in his day.  Additional biographical information may be found here:

"The Hippopotamus" is a traditional ballad comprised of nine quatrains of rhyming iambic tetrameter.  The hippopotamus is used as a conceit to contrast its animal innocence and purity of spirit with the "True Church" where those characteristics are sadly often wanting.  Given the cynical nature of this poem, it is interesting to note that Eliot converted to orthodox Christianity in the late 1930s.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Poem of the Day: "The Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo" by Edward Lear

"The Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo" by Edward Lear is the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for March 22, 2014.  The poem is in the public domain and is reprinted here along with the illustration that accompanied it in Lear's collection:

The Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo,
whose Head was ever so much bigger than his
Body, and whose Hat was rather small.

Edward Lear (1812 - 1888) (pictured) was well-known during his lifetime as a painter and illustrator, particularly of birds and landscapes, as well as for being the author of a respected series of illustrated travel books.  However, he is best remembered today as being the author of volumes of nonsense poetry, eclipsed perhaps only by his contemporary, Lewis Carroll, in this regard.  Additional biographical information about this irreverent poet may be found here:

Lear composed a longer and probably more well-known poem about the man with the large head and diminutive hat, "The Courtship of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo."  A link to this poem may be found here:  

However, the shorter poem presented here, really no more than a caption accompanying the illustration of the hyper-cephalic hero, has a haiku-like, memorable quality that has always made me smile.  Speaking as one who had the biggest head in his college graduating class--figuratively perhaps, but most definitely literally (I checked at the time)--I also cannot help but to identify personally with this humanoid version of Oswald the Octopus (pictured here accompanied by his faithful dog, Weenie).

Friday, March 21, 2014

Poem of the Day: “Your Server for This Evening” by Sarah Rose Nordgren

“Your Server for This Evening” by Sarah Rose Nordgren is the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for March 21, 2014.  A link to the poem as it appears in the fall/winter 2013 issue of 32 Poems Magazine may be found here:

Sarah Rose Nordgren (pictured) is a teacher in the English Department of the Miami University of Ohio in Middletown.  She was awarded several poetry fellowships, scholarships, and residencies.  Her forthcoming collection, Best Bones, was the winner of the 2013 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize.  Additional biographical information about this up-and-coming poet may be found here:

"Your Server" creates an enchanting moment, made more immediate by its story being told in the first person.  The "I" in the poem may or may not be the poet, but I chose to believe that it is Nordgren speaking directly to her readers.  This makes the poet at once the reader's servant and the reader's most intimate acquaintance--even though you know her not, she knows all about you and what you want.  The meal here is a conceit for the poem itself.  Braggadocio in the manner of Walt Whitman is there, but in a more subtle, seductive, feminine way.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Poem of the Day: "Churn" by Literata

"Churn" by Literata is the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for March 20, 2014.  It appears in the 2014 Spring Equinox issue of Eternal Haunted Summer.  A link to the poem, as well as a brief bio of the poet, may be found here:

According to her website which may be found here:, Literata (pictured in photograph left) is an "ordained High Priestess with the Order of the White Moon." She considers her cigarette lighter to be "consecrated as a sacred flame to Brigid."  Her poetry has appeared in several serials, and she served as editor of the anthology Crossing the River.

The triple goddess Brigid (pictured in illustration right), the subject of "Churn," was considered by the Celts to be, among many other things, the goddess of poetry.  More about the legends surrounding this Celtic goddess may be found here:  Saint Brigid aka the first Abbess of Kildare (pictured in illustration below left), was once as important to the Irish as Saint Patrick (and perhaps still may be, despite her "decanonization" by the Vatican in the 1960s).  Additional information about her  may be found here:

"Churn" is an invocation that a poet might make to Brigid before composing a poem.  Here Brigid is revealed as the "goddess of dairymaids and poets," making the conceit of butter churning as metaphor for composing poetry both satisfying and compelling.

Saying a prayer or invoking the Muse before composing a poem is an ancient poetic tradition.  I have not been in this habit, and my Jewish side is a bit repulsed by the idea.  My Catholic side may have no recourse, as Saint Brigid was "decanonized."  However, I must admit that my fay Irish side is intrigued by Literata's poem and by what reciting it might do for me and my work.

"The Ride of the Dullahan" Is Published in Eternal Haunted Summer

"The Ride of the Dullahan" appears in the 2014 Spring Equinox issue of Eternal Haunted Summer.  A link to the poem may be found here:

"Ride" is one of my rhythmic narrative poems based on Celtic lore.  The Dullahan is also known as "Death's Herald."  If he calls out your name, you're done.  More about the legend of the Dullahan may be found here:

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Poem of the Day: "The First Steps" by Edgar Albert Guest

"The First Steps" by Edgar Albert Guest is the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for March 19, 2014.  A link to the poem, including a brief bio and links to other poems by the same poet, may be found here:  The selection of this poem was suggested by my mother who recalls witnessing my first steps on a long ago March 19 when I was ten-months old.  It was the most athletic thing I ever did.

Edgar Albert Guest (1881 - 1959) (pictured) was the author of an immensely popular syndicated newspaper column called "Chaff" that consisted of an original poem every day and ran for decades.  His many poetry collections were immensely popular as well--one of them, Just Folks, in which "The First Steps" appeared, sold over one million copies.  Additional information about this poet may be found here:

I'll admit it:  I'm jealous of Mr. Guest.  He lived the dream of making a living as a poet--and a good living at that.  Imagine!  He became a millionaire by writing heartwarming, if simple and sentimental, poetry aimed at "just folks."  He has few peers as a twentieth century poet of the masses--off hand, I can only offer Seamus Heaney and Dr. Seuss.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Poem of the Day: "study eight" by William Kistler

The Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for March 18, 2014 is "study eight" by William Kistler.  A link to the poem as well as to several other "studies" by Kistler may be found here:  The poem also appeared in the January/February issue of American Poetry Review, along with nine other studies and an informative "afterward" by the poet.

William Kistler (pictured) is the author of five books of poetry.  "study eight" appears in his latest book, In the Middle of Things.  Mr. Kistler was on the board of Poets and Writers for many years, and is the co-founder of New York's Poets House.  Additional information about Mr. Kistler, as well as about his latest book, may be found here:

As Mr. Kistler reveals in his "afterward" in American Poetry Review, he begins his "studies" without capitalization and ends them without the use of periods, symbolic of beginning "in the middle of things."  He describes his style as a type of narrative, not quite poetry.  There are certainly narrative elements in "study eight," in that a story of sorts unfolds as one reads.  However, there is a quiet, lyrical, dream-like quality, and a gentle rhythm in "study eight" (and in the other "studies").  These elements create a distinct and enchanting voice that is undeniably poetic.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Poem of the Day: "Lovers on Aran" by Seamus Heaney

"Lovers on Aran" by Seamus Heaney is the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for St. Patrick's Day 2014.  A link to the poem, that will also lead to many other poems by the same poet, may be found here:

Seamus Heaney (1939 - 2013) (pictured) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995 "for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past."  He held professorships at Harvard and Oxford.  A native of Northern Ireland, he is widely recognized as one of the major poets of the twentieth century.  As Blake Morrison noted, Heaney was "that rare thing, a poet rated highly by critics and academics yet popular with the 'common reader.'"  In 2008, two thirds of the poetry collections sold in the UK were composed by Heaney.  Additional biographical information may be found here:

Ireland's Aran Islands (pictured x3) are located at the mouth of Galway Bay.  The three islands are cold, rocky, austere, and constantly pounded by the violent waves of the Atlantic Ocean.  The locals, who speak both Gaelic and English, are fond of saying that they live at the "western edge of Europe," and that "the next parish over is in Boston."  Additional information about the Aran Islands may be found here:

The rhythm, assonance, consonance, alliteration, and rhyme in "Lovers on Aran" evoke the sights, sounds, and even the feel of the Atlantic Ocean crashing into the land, certainly, but there is much more to the three triplets that comprise the poem.  As I read, I felt a sense of yearning, of reaching toward Ireland from Kansas, my arms thrown out like the Islands' "wide arms of rock."

Who are the "lovers?"  They could be the land and the sea, Ireland and America, the poet and Ireland, unnamed actual lovers inspired to ravage each other just as the sea ravages the rocks, or perhaps a combination of all of these.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Poem of the Day: "Bilbo's Last Song" by J. R. R. Tolkien

 "Bilbo's Last Song" by J. R. R. Tolkien is the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for March 16, 2014.  A link to the poem, including some interesting facts about the poem's history, may be found here:  A rousing presentation set to music may be found here:

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (pronounced tol-keen with equal syllabic stress) (1892 - 1973) (pictured) was a Professor of Anglo-Saxon (Old English) at Oxford.  He is most famous for his fantasy epic trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, and is considered by may scholars to be the father of fantasy fiction.  His poetry is scattered throughout the trilogy, as well as throughout its prelude, The Hobbit.  An interesting and extensive biography may be found here:

"Bilbo's Last Song" was not included in The Lord of the Rings, but, had it been, it would have been sung by Bilbo near the end of The Return of the King as a farewell to his friends and to Middle Earth just before he boarded the last ship in the Grey Havens (pictured above) bound for the lands to the West, the final home of the undying elves.  The song evokes the yearning of much of mankind to leave the old world behind and to seek the promised land, a land of hopes and dreams--the call of the sea, whether literal or figurative, ever guided by a Star.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Poem of the Day: "The Power of the Dog" by Rudyard Kipling

"The Power of the Dog" by Rudyard Kipling is the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for March 15, 2014.  It was also offered as's Poem-A-Day on the same date.  Since the poem is in the public domain, I have taken the liberty of reprinting it here in its entirety.

The Power of the Dog
by Rudyard Kipling

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie—
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet’s unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find—it’s your own affair—
But … you’ve given your heart to a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!).
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone—wherever it goes—for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.

We’ve sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we’ve kept ’em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long—
So why in—Heaven (before we are there)

Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

Joseph Rudyard Kipling (1865 - 1934) (pictured below) was born to British parents in India, where he spent the first five years of his life and his late teenaged years.  He began publishing poetry at the age of twenty-one and rapidly became well-known and popular.  He was also famous for his novels and short stories, and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1907.  Additional biographical information and links to other poems by the same poet may be found here:

This poem really moved me.  I had a Kerry Blue Terrier growing up, Shannah (pictured below right).  She came into my life when I was seven and lived for seventeen years.  She always wanted to catch a squirrel, but was never successful in this endeavor, at least not to my knowledge.  

One day, when I was twenty-four, I came home from medical school to visit and found Shannah looking old and decrepit.  She was stretched out on the back porch steps, enjoying the sun.  It had been some years since she bothered to chase a squirrel, but when one walked into her line of sight that day, her head came up, and her ears moved forward.  
Suddenly, she exploded into action, streaking after the squirrel just like she used to in her prime.  It was beautiful to see--breathtaking.  It ended as it always did--with the squirrel safely in a tree and the dog disappointed.  Shannah turned away from her treed nemesis and walked slowly back to her step (but see below Editor's Note).*  A week later, she was dead.  It was one of the saddest days of my life.

Five years ago, nearly twenty years since Shannah died, I bought an Airedale Terrier, Lana (pictured above opposite the poem).  My daughter was seven.  I have given my heart to Lana, just as the Kipling poem warns against.  I do enjoy having her in my life, but always lurking in the back of mind is the knowledge that she will not live long.  When those thoughts occur, I do my best to try to enjoy her even more while she is still here.

*Editor's Note:  My mother remembers this incident differently.  She recalls Shannah collapsing and requiring assistance to return to the porch step.  The following year, there were three white crocuses blooming where she fell.