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My poems are hymns of praise to the glory of life.
Source: Dame Edith Sitwell, Collected Poems (1957). Some Notes on my Poetry.
A poem should be part of one’s sense of life.
Source: Wallace Stevens in his Adagia, Opus Posthumous (1957).
Do you know,
Considering the market, there are more
Poems produced than any other thing?
No wonder poets sometimes have to seem
So much more businesslike than businessmen.
Their wares are so much harder to get rid of.
Source: Robert Frost, “New Hampshire” (1923)
…what makes the poet the potent figure that he is, or was, or ought to be, is that he creates the world to which we turn incessantly and without knowing it and that he gives to life the supreme fictions without which we are unable to conceive of it.
Source: Wallace Stevens, The Noble Rider and the Sound of Words (1942), p. 31.
Poetry is the supreme fiction, madame.
Source: Wallace Stevens, A High-toned Old Christian woman (1923)
Poetry is a way of taking life by the throat.
Source: Robert Frost
Citation: Elizabeth S. Sergeant, Robert Frost: the Trial by Existence, (1960).
by Judy Page Heitzman (b. 1952)
While most of us copied letters out of books,
Mrs. Lawrence carved and cleaned her nails.
Now the red and buff cardinals at my back-room window
make me miss her, her room, her hallway,
even the chimney outside
that broke up the sky.
In my memory it is afternoon.
Sun streams in through the door
next to the fire escape where we are lined up
getting our coats on to go out to the playground,
the tether ball, its towering height, the swings.
She tells me to make sure the line
does not move up over the threshold.
That would be dangerous.
So I stand guard at the door.
Somehow it happens
the way things seem to happen when we’re not really looking,
or we are looking, just not the right way.
Kids crush up like cattle, pushing me over the line.
Judy is not a good leader is all Mrs. Lawrence says.
She says it quietly. Still, everybody hears.
Her arms hang down like sausages.
I hear her every time I fail.
by Edward Hirsch (b. 1950)
He couldn’t remember what propelled him
out of the bedroom window onto the fire escape
of his fifth-floor walkup on the river,
so that he could see, as if for the first time,
sunset settling down on the dazed cityscape
and tugboats pulling barges up the river.
There were barred windows glaring at him
from the other side of the street
while the sun deepened into a smoky flare
that scalded the clouds gold-vermilion.
It was just an ordinary autumn twilight—
the kind he had witnessed often before—
but then the day brightened almost unnaturally
into a rusting, burnished, purplish red haze
and everything burst into flame:
the factories pouring smoke into the sky,
the trees and shrubs, the shadows
of pedestrians singed and rushing home …
There were storefronts going blind and cars
burning on the parkway and steel girders
collapsing into the polluted waves.
Even the latticed fretwork of stairs
where he was standing, even the first stars
climbing out of their sunlit graves
were branded and lifted up, consumed by fire.
It was like watching the start of Armageddon,
like seeing his mother dipped in flame …
And then he closed his eyes and it was over.
Just like that. When he opened them again
the world had reassembled beyond harm.
So where had he crossed to? Nowhere.
And what had he seen? Nothing. No foghorns
called out to each other, as if in a dream,
and no moon rose over the dark river
like a warning—icy, long-forgotten—
while he turned back to an empty room.
by Charles Simic (b. 1938)
Enter without knocking, hard-working ant.
I’m just sitting here mulling over
What to do this cold, rainy day?
It was a night of the radio turned down low,
Fitful sleep, vague, troubling dreams.
I woke up lovesick and confused.
I thought I heard Estella in the garden singing
and some bird answering her,
But it was the rain. Dark tree tops swaying
And whispering. “Come to me, my desire,”
I said. And she hurried to me,
Her breath smelling of mint, her tongue
Wetting my cheek, and then she vanished.
Slowly day came, a gray streak of daylight
To bathe my hands and face in.
Hours passed, and then you crawled suddenly
Under the door, and stopped before me.
You visit the same tailors the mourners do,
Mr. Ant. I like the long silence between us.
Quiet, that holy state even the rain
Knows about. Listen to her begin to fall,
As if with eyes closed,
Muting each drop in her wild-beating heart.
by Leonard Nathan (1924 – 2007)
Night, and a candle guttering on the table.
Three low stools. Father spoons
his mush, growling just a little now.
Mother intently watches her men.
Am I the only one who hears the cry? –
a scared girl stumbling on and on
through the dark and dripping woods, hungry, cold.
But yellow hair, so not our kind.
Speech beyond us still, we growl softly,
nuzzle, and – our claws retracted – stroke.
Father scrapes the bowl. Mother, rising,
sighs me far away and lost.