Wicked Wednesday – Favorite Poets

Happy Wednesday! Continuing the theme of “what are we reading that isn’t mystery fiction,” let’s talk poetry today, Wickeds. Who’s your favorite poet, or what’s your favorite poem and why?

Liz: I’ve been super into Mary Oliver lately. I discovered her years ago with her famous poem The Journey and lately I’ve been devouring her work. Wild Geese keeps coming up lately – one of her standards, but seems so relevant for me right now. I think she’s such a master at weaving life and nature into one concept. (As you can see, I like to mark my favorites!)

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Edith: Mary Oliver is one of my favorites, too. “The Summer Day,” with it’s stunning, clarion-call last line: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” I also love many of Billy Collin’s poems, particularly when I can hear him read them himself in his regular, almost deadpan voice. “Purity” is a wonderful poem for authors, about his favorite time to write, and how he goes about it. Here’s the first part:

My favorite time to write is in the late afternoon,
weekdays, particularly Wednesdays.
This is how I got about it:
I take a fresh pot of tea into my study and close the door.
Then I remove my clothes and leave them in a pile
as if I had melted to death and my legacy consisted of only
a white shirt, a pair of pants and a pot of cold tea.

Then I remove my flesh and hang it over a chair.
I slide it off my bones like a silken garment.
I do this so that what I write will be pure,
completely rinsed of the carnal,
uncontaminated by the preoccupations of the body.

Finally I remove each of my organs and arrange them
on a small table near the window.
I do not want to hear their ancient rhythms
when I am trying to tap out my own drumbeat.

Now I sit down at the desk, ready to begin.
I am entirely pure: nothing but a skeleton at a typewriter.

Sherry: I confess I don’t read a lot of poetry. It’s not that I don’t like it, but it usually isn’t on my radar unless someone posts a poem. I tend to like New England poets like Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson. Here is my favorite poem of hers. I had it posted on my bulletin board for years starting in high school:

Not In Vain

by Emily Dickinson

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain:
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

Jessie: When I was a small child I received a copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein which I loved for its silliness and its wisdom. I love it still. Here’s one of my favorites:

Listen to the Mustn’ts

Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child,

Listen to the DON’TS

Listen to the SHOULDN’TS

The IMPOSSIBLES, the WON’TS

Listen to the NEVER HAVES

Then listen close to me-

Anything can happen, child,

ANYTHING can be.

Barb: In honor of Key West, I’m including poet Elizabeth Bishop. (Though I would note that three other poets mentioned in this post have connections there. Robert Frost spent part of eighteen winters, Shel Silverstein lived there, and Billy Collins lives there now.)

One Art

by Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

– Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Julie: Like Sherry, I am not a huge poetry reader. But my friend Ruth Polleys makes me reconsider it. She has an MFA in poetry, and wrote a remarkable blog called “All That Can Happen in 1000 Days”. (A line from Our Town.) Part memoir of an extraordinary time in her life, part poetry journal. Very raw.  I’ve been trying to talk her into doing something with it for a couple of years. Her passion for poetry is contagious, and her talent is real. I’m going to say that Ruth is my favorite poet. (PS, if you are going to read the blog, start from day one. It is a journey.)

Edith: These are all so wonderful. I must include one more, which I had on my wall for many years, by Rumi:

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Readers: Share your favorite poet or poem!

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9 thoughts on “Wicked Wednesday – Favorite Poets

  1. I am a huge fan of the poet David Whyte and share this:
    Mid life woman
    you are not
    invisible to me.
    I seem to see
    beneath your face
    all the women
    you have ever been.

    Midlife woman
    I have grown with you
    secretly,
    in another parallel,
    breathing with you
    as you breathed,
    seeing with you
    as you see,
    lining my face
    with an earned care
    as you lined yours,
    waiting for you,
    as it seems
    you waited for me.

    I see your
    inner complexion
    breathing beneath
    your outward gaze,
    I see all your lives
    and all your loves,
    it must be for you
    that I wanted to become
    more generous,
    a better man
    than ever I could be
    when young,
    let me join all your
    present giving
    and all your receiving,
    through you I learn
    the full imagination
    of every previous affection.

    Mid life woman
    you are not
    invisible to me,
    in you
    I see a young girl,
    lifting her face to the sky,
    I see the young woman
    in haloed light,
    full and strong,
    standing before
    the altar of time,
    waiting for her chosen.

    I see the mother in you,
    in your past
    or in some yet
    to be understood
    future,
    I see you
    adoring and
    I see you adored,
    and now,
    when I call your name
    I want to see
    day by day,
    the woman
    you will become
    with me.

    Mid-life woman
    come to me now,
    I see you more clearly
    than all
    the airbrushed
    girls of the world.

    I became a warrior
    only to earn
    your present
    mature affection,
    I bear my scars to you,
    my eyes are lined
    to smile with you
    and I come to you
    uncultivated
    and unshaven
    walking rough
    and wild through rain
    and wind and I pace
    the mountain
    all night
    in my happy,
    magnificence
    at finding you.

    Mid life woman,
    In the dark of the night
    I take you in my arms
    and in that embracing
    invisibility feel all of your
    inner lives made touchable
    and visible again.

    Mid-life woman
    I have earned
    my ability to adore you.

    Mid life woman
    you are not invisible to me.
    Come to me now
    and let me kiss passionately
    all the beautiful women
    who have
    ever lived in you.
    My promise
    is to you now
    and all their future lives.
    .…

    MID LIFE WOMAN
    from
    ‘THE SEA IN YOU’ :
    Twenty Poems of Requited and Unrequited Love’
    © David Whyte and Many Rivers Press

  2. Ah, you’ve stolen my favorites! Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson are the only poets whose collected works I have read in their entirety. Both New Englanders, both able to express their thoughts clearly and succinctly but undeniably effectively. But I also have to add a single poem by Grace Paley, which is so apt for writers (a copy lives permanents on my refrigerator):

    The Poet’s Occasional Alternative

    I was going to write a poem
    I made a pie instead it took
    about the same amount of time
    of course the pie was a final
    draft a poem would have had some
    distance to go days and weeks and
    much crumpled paper

    the pie already had a talking
    tumbling audience among small
    trucks and a fire engine on
    the kitchen floor

    everybody will like this pie
    it will have apples and cranberries
    dried apricots in it many friends
    will say why in the world did you
    make only one

    this does not happen with poems

    because of unreportable
    sadnesses I decided to
    settle this morning for a re-
    sponsive eatership I do not
    want to wait a week a year a
    generation for the right
    consumer to come along

  3. My favorite poet is Longfellow, of course, but I’ll spare everyone sharing the text of Evangeline! I also enjoy Walt Whitman and have a soft spot for Rupert Brooke, especially the following:

    The Soldier

    If I should die, think only this of me:
    That there’s some corner of a foreign field
    That is for ever England. There shall be
    In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
    A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
    Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
    A body of England’s, breathing English air,
    Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

    And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
    A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
    Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
    Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
    And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
    In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

  4. I’m not much of a poem person. However, it is funny this should come up this week since Friday, I referenced Emily Dickinson’s “Hope is a Thing with Feathers” to a co-worker.

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