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Ask HN: Who are your favorite poets?
349 points by 0xdeadbeefbabe on March 30, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 344 comments

Neruda is my favourite.

    I want to do to you , what the spring does to the cherry trees.
Here's another one

    Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
    I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.
How he is able construct such powerful verse out of simple words and concepts always blows me away. Though it looks easy I've never seen a good imitation of his style.

Then there's this poem by Phillip Larkin that I like.

    They fuck you up, your mum and dad.   
    They may not mean to, but they do.   
    They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.

    But they were fucked up in their turn
    By fools in old-style hats and coats,   
    Who half the time were soppy-stern
    And half at one another’s throats.

    Man hands on misery to man.
    It deepens like a coastal shelf.
    Get out as early as you can,
    And don’t have any kids yourself.
Shakespeare's sonnets are good.

    Let me not to the marriage of true minds
    Admit impediments. Love is not love 
    Which alters when it alteration finds,
    Or bends with the remover to remove:
    O no; it is an ever-fixed mark, 
    That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
    It is the star to every wandering bark,
    Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
    Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks 
    Within his bending sickle's compass come; 
    Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, 
    But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
    If this be error and upon me proved,
    I never writ, nor no man ever loved. 
Classical poetry is just really hardcore when you consider how hard it is to write within the constraints of rhyme , meter and the chosen form. It's definitely in the hacker spirit of doing things like the JS1K contest , or maybe crazy assembly optimised demos.

Also checkout Charles Bukowski and Coleridge.

Genius.com is a wonderful way to read poetry.

"I want to do to you , what the spring does to the cherry trees." I've never seen that in english, so I looked it up (http://albalearning.com/audiolibros/neruda/poema14-sp-en.htm...) I guess it goes without saying, but english really doesn't do him justice, rhyming trees with kisses is pretty poor compared to cerizos and besos which is perfect rhyme. But I suppose poetry is about the most difficult thing to translate b/c of the many levels from phonetical to subtle contextual and semantical differences that are all overlayed and compacted into a few small verses. I certainly wouldn't want to / couldn't translate it.

But yea, in spanish my favorites are Neruda and Borges (see: http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generaci%C3%B3n_del_45). I found this link which has a lot of other good poets IMHO for instance ruben dario or mario benedetti (http://www.cubaeuropa.com/cubarte/poesia/PoesiaLatinoamerica...).

In english I just nerd out on the old the stuff and for some reason never really got into anything newer... I like chaucer, spencer, milton, shakespeare, plus just reading through all those in the original is so cool after a couple pages you slip into another world and time, nice escapism.

I would like to become more "cultured" and just aware of more words, forming sentences, communicating, and have more to call on for expressing my feelings.

What is the best way to get into poetry more? Read a couple a day or something? I would actually really like to read Shakespeare, but most seem to be of the mind that you really need a class or something to really get the translation.

well, if you want to get into the older stuff like shakespeare I would suggest just diving in. At first, just lookup the words you dont know and after maybe one play you should have already learned enough to understand his style and language and "get" his works on their face value.

as far as literary references go - aka john milton - (basically the only reason you'd need a class), I really think you'd just have to read/know most of the greek/roman classics and the bible to be able to get most of them. But no worries, if you enjoy reading the classics are a blast, the hebrew old testament is packed with pretty cool stories (the mad king Nebuchadnezzer) and it doesn't get much better than the iliad and odyssey.

> rhyming trees with kisses is pretty poor compared to cerizos and besos which is perfect rhyme

I read the spanish version from the link you posted and, although I don't speak spanish, it doesn't look like there is any other rhyme at all in the whole poem. Am I right? Do you think that this was intentional - does it mean something in spanish/latin american poetry?

No there's rhyming all over the place in this one, just not always on the end of the line. But first and second stanzas, in the 4th just take for example:

"Pasan huyendo los pájaros. El viento. El viento"

huyendo rhymes with viento, pasan alliterates with pajaros, and the "l" en los and "o" in pajaros fits very nicely with the "l" and "o" in the repition of "el viento".

In english you see the translator trying to get it somewhat with birds and by :

"The birds go by, fleeing. The wind. The wind."

> cerizos and besos which is perfect rhyme

Since letters in Spanish have only one sound, '-izos' and '-esos' cannot be made to rhyme without distorting the pronunciation of one of the words. I don't see how that makes 'perfect' rhyme.

He actually had a typo there. It's 'cerezos', not 'cerizos'.

+1 for Coleridge, especially the first stanza of Kubla Khan [0].

Also, I'm surprised to see nobody here recommending A.E. Houseman. His Reveille is my favorite poem:

... Up, lad, up, 'tis late for lying: Hear the drums of morning play; Hark, the empty highways crying 'Who'll beyond the hills away?' ...

[0] http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173247

I read Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency before ever coming across Coleridge's Kubla Khan and spent quite a bit of time (this was before I was on the Internet) trying to find the rest of the poem. I was quite disappointed once I figured things out but on the plus side I understood what happened in the book afterwards.

A personal favourite of mine, by Coleridge :-


Why? Because in the movie Groundhog Day, when Phil Connors has had his moment of enlightenment/peripety, he quotes :

"And winter, slumbering in the open air, Wears on his smiling face a dream of Spring!"

Knowing this poem makes the film better. Knowing how widely popular Coleridge became makes the poem better.

Houseman's a favorite of mine as well.

Hurray, I've been looking for that Larkin poem since college.

Wow! I though nothing could be cornier than Neruda.

I'll join you in appreciating Neruda. Me gusta especialmente Los Versos del Capitan. Night on the Island, just one of the gems.


Genius.com is a wonderful site.

I love many poets and poetry.Two that I would like to share with HN commuity at this time would be - Rumi and Gulzar

Rumi said things like

  Forget safety.
  Live where you fear to live.
  Destroy your reputation.
  Be notorious.
Rumi: Meet you there

  Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
  there is a field.I 'll meet you there.
Rumi: Silence

  There is a way between voice and presence
  where information flows.
  In disciplined silence it opens.
  With wandering talk it closes.
Gulzar: Dil toh bachcha hai ji

  (hindi) Dil toh bachcha hai ji

  (english) Heart is such a child
Gulzar: Your name

  Nazm uljhi hui hai seene mein
  misare atke hue hain hothon par
  udate phirte hain titaliyon ki tarah
  lafz kaagaz pe baithate hi nahin
  kab se baithaa hun main jaanam
  saade kaagaz pe likh ke naam tera
  bas tera naam hi mukammal hai
  isse behtar bhi nazm kyaa hogi

  A poem is entangled in my heart.
  lines are stuck on my lips.
  Fluttering like butterflies,
  words refuse to settle on paper.
  I have labored
  for hours my darling,
  writing your name on this blank sheet of paper.
  Your name itself suffices;
  What other poem can excel that ?

Rumi - http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/875661.Rumi

Gulzar - http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10289313-selected-poems

I love it, mostly Rumi. It's like motivational poetry, for the nerds from 800 years ago.

  “If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?” - Rumi 
  “Sit, be still, and listen,
  because you're drunk
  and we're at
  the edge of the roof.” 
  ― Rumi

And one of the best ones from Rumi

  What you seek is seeking you
  - Rumi

If you ever take a Sufi Islam class, it is introductions to quotes of Rumi like these that will ruin you forever.

God I love his work. There is a whole school of Sufi sects known as drunk Sufis, drunk on their love of God, so to speak, and Rumi is a fantastic artistic characterization of their mindset.

I only discovered Rumi relatively recently, but it was quite a revelation. This one really struck a chord with me:


(Yes, putting poetry in a GitHub Gist seems weird, but at least I know it won't disappear in a hurry.)

"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you there."

This is one of my favorite quotes - first came across it while reading "And the Mountains Echoed". I'll definitely have to check out more of Rumi's works.

Yeah. I first thought it was from some Pamuk, but, no, you're right.

I absolutely agree. He is a true poet. He started his career in 1957 and he is still going! And the amazing thing about his poetry is that it caters to everyone. I and my father both enjoy listening to his poems(see the age difference) and it never gets old!

I love Neruda, specially "No culpes a nadie". It helped me a lot to stop complaining. C&P a possibly wrong translation

        ## Don't Blame Anyone

        Never complain about anyone, nor anything,
	because basically you have done
	what you wanted in your life.

        Accept the difficulty of improving yourself
	and the courage to start changing yourself.
	The triumph of the true man emerges from
	the ashes of his mistake.

        Never complain about your loneliness or your
	luck, face it with courage and accept it.
	In one way or another it is the outcome of
	your acts and the thought that you always
	have to win.

        Don't be embittered by your own failure or
	blame it on another, accept yourself now or
	you'll keep making excuses for yourself like a child.
	Remember that any time is
	a good time to begin and that nobody
	is so horrible that they should give up.

        Don't forget that the cause of your present
	is your past, as well as the cause of your
	future will be your present.

        Learn from the bold, the strong,
	those who don't accept situations, who
	will live in spite of everything. Think less in
	your problems and more in your work and
	your problems, without eliminating them, will die.

        Learn how to grow from the pain and to be
	greater than the greatest of those
	obstacles. Look at yourself in the mirror
	and you will be free and strong and you will stop
	being a puppet of circumstances because you
	yourself are your own destiny.

        Arise and look at the sun in the mornings
	and breathe the light of the dawn.
	You are part of the force of your life;
	now wake up, fight, get going, be decisive
	and you will triumph in life. Never think about
	luck because luck is
	the pretext of losers.

This poem (and the original spanish) is one of my favourites! Thank you for posting.

“Come to the edge," he said.

"We can't, we're afraid!" they responded.

"Come to the edge," he said.

"We can't, We will fall!" they responded.

"Come to the edge," he said.

And so they came.

And he pushed them.

And they flew.”

― Guillaume Apollinaire

close second:

I am Ebenezer Bleezer, I run BLEEZER’S ICE CREAM STORE, there are flavors in my freezer you have never seen before, twenty-eight divine creations too delicious to resist, why not do yourself a favor, try the flavors on my list:


I am Ebenezer Bleezer, I run BLEEZER’S ICE CREAM STORE, taste a flavor from my freezer, you will surely ask for more.

-- Jack Prelutsky

Natalie merchant has a wonderful song using the second poem as the lyrics. Enjoy:



This is not better.

it's not Apollinaire, it's Christopher Logue, an English poet

One Art

Elizabeth Bishop, 1911 - 1979 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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.

Charles Baudelaire (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Baudelaire):

    You have to be always drunk. That’s all there is to it
    it’s the only way. So as not to feel the horrible burden
    of time that breaks your back and bends you to the earth,
    you have to be continually drunk.

    But on what?
    Wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish. But be drunk.

Baudelaire is an incredibly powerful poet. My favorite is "L'Albatros", this poem leaves me speechless every time.

  The Albatross
  Often, to amuse themselves, the men of a crew 
  Catch albatrosses, those vast sea birds 
  That indolently follow a ship 
  As it glides over the deep, briny sea.

  Scarcely have they placed them on the deck 
  Than these kings of the sky, clumsy, ashamed, 
  Pathetically let their great white wings 
  Drag beside them like oars.

  That winged voyager, how weak and gauche he is, 
  So beautiful before, now comic and ugly! 
  One man worries his beak with a stubby clay pipe; 
  Another limps, mimics the cripple who once flew!

  The poet resembles this prince of cloud and sky 
  Who frequents the tempest and laughs at the bowman; 
  When exiled on the earth, the butt of hoots and jeers, 
  His giant wings prevent him from walking.

I studied this poem back in high school (in France).

I have mixed feeling about it. I said "studied", but I really meant "had to study". There's something about school's treatment of the subject that just robs the poem of any power. Maybe it's because as teenagers we likely didn't have the life experience for it to resonate with us. Even now, I can vaguely sense it but am numb to it. On the other hand, I'm glad I have been introduced to such poetry, as I think it helps me later in life to appreciate the finer things.

Also, did you know Baudelaire's translation of Poe's work brought it french recognition? (I earlier got it the wrong way around, thinking Poe had translated Baudelaire)

I had to study a corpus of 30 texts for the bac as well a couple months ago. I certainly understand how you feel... (I am glad to be done with high-school)

I don't blame the teachers because it is true that most literary masterpieces are hard to tackle the "right way" especially when there is a standard final examination that students have to be prepared for.

I was lucky enough to have a very passionate teacher during my senior year of high-school who introduced me to some really exciting readings, and had enough charisma to capture the imagination of a room full of troubled teenagers. That is one of my fondest memory so far.

As far as I can remember, I always liked L'Albatros. Although I have to admit that the original version resonates a lot more with myself.

The slower pace of the last few sentences are like a kiss of death, a condemnation at the end of a trial: unquestionable and absolute.

You can almost feel the tears tearing Baudelaire apart. It's glorious in its very own morbidity. I just love it :)

> I had to study a corpus of 30 texts for the bac as well a couple months ago. I certainly understand how you feel... (I am glad to be done with high-school)

Bravo! I'm curious though: 15 years ago the french part was done a year earlier than the rest. Is it common to do everything together nowadays, or was your curriculum a bit different?

My favorite is "Le Poison"

  Wine can conceal a sordid room  
  In rich, miraculous disguise,  
  And make such porticoes arise  
  Out of its flushed and crimson fume  
  As makes the sunset in the skies.  

  Opium the infinite enlarges,  
  And lengthens all that is past measure.  
  It deepens time, and digs its treasure,  
  With sad, black raptures it o'ercharges  
  The soul, and surfeits it with pleasure.  

  Neither are worth the drug so strong  
  That you distil from your green eyes,  
  Lakes where I see my soul capsize  
  Head downwards: and where, in one throng,  
  I slake my dreams, and quench my sighs.  

  But to your spittle these seem naught —   
  It stings and burns. It steeps my thought   
  And spirit in oblivious gloom,  
  And, in its dizzy onrush caught,   
  Dashes it on the shores of doom.

  Ωtranslated by Roy Campbell, Poems of Baudelaire 
  (New York: Pantheon Books, 1952)

It's even better in French:

  Le Poison
  Le vin sait revêtir le plus sordide bouge
  D'un luxe miraculeux, 
  Et fait surgir plus d'un portique fabuleux
  Dans l'or de sa vapeur rouge,
  Comme un soleil couchant dans un ciel nébuleux.

  L'opium agrandit ce qui n'a pas de bornes,
  Allonge l'illimité,
  Approfondit le temps, creuse la volupté,
  Et de plaisirs noirs et mornes
  Remplit l'âme au delà de sa capacité.
  Tout cela ne vaut pas le poison qui découle

  De tes yeux, de tes yeux verts,
  Lacs où mon âme tremble et se voit à l'envers...
  Mes songes viennent en foule
  Pour se désaltérer à ces gouffres amers.

  Tout cela ne vaut pas le terrible prodige
  De ta salive qui mord,
  Qui plonge dans l'oubli mon âme sans remords,
  Et charriant le vertige,
  La roule défaillante aux rives de la mort!
In Immortal Ad Vitam (2004) (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0314063/), they quote a mix of the original version in French and the English translation, combined with the song Beautiful Days by Venus, and it's really beautiful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=spMm3A2T-CM

Isn't it strange to call that Beaudelaire's? Edna St. Vincent Millay put these words on paper, Beaudelaire wrote only in French...

Yes, I'm French and I agree. The message is well translated, but the original is made with much more precision, and it is more gracious. But English has some nice poetry, I like Whitman and e. e. cummings. When it comes to French, I'd recommend this classic from Victor Hugo, Tomorrow at dawn, it's simple but human, and the translation is fair, it's dedicated to his daughter: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/972635-tomorrow-at-dawn-the...

There's also this poem of Baudelaire about female homosexuality, which I like, Damned women, also called Delphine and Hippolyta. His whole book "Les fleurs du mal" (The Flowers of Evil) was heresy at the time (1860), it was about the beauty of evil, well, in part. There are English versions there but it's not easy to translate: http://fleursdumal.org/poem/180

I don't find it strange to claim that this is Baudelaire's work. Of course the style and the rhymes makes it very different compared to the original version. I also think that translation has altered the poem's beauty but the message is still here, the story is the same and it leaves me with the same humbled feelings.

Story? There's no story in poetry!

But yes, this is still Baudelaire's poem, I would have recognized it (I know well the French version).

I particularly like the Liam Clancy recitation of it.


Shel Silverstein [0] has been on my bookshelf. I enjoyed reading Falling Up [1] as a way to help my kids understand that poetry is more than rhyming.

From The Little Boy And the Old Man [2]:

Said the little boy, "Sometimes I drop my spoon."

Said the old man, "I do that too."

The little boy whispered, "I wet my pants."

"I do that too," laughed the little old man.

Said the little boy, "I often cry."

The old man nodded, "So do I."

"But worst of all," said the boy, "it seems Grown-ups don't pay attention to me."

And he felt the warmth of a wrinkled old hand. "I know what you mean," said the little old man.

[0] http://www.shelsilverstein.com/

[1] http://www.shelsilverstein.com/books/falling/

[2] http://www.poetrysoup.com/famous/poems/best/shel_silverstein

As somebody who studied lit, this is an impossible question to answer, so I'll just link to my favorite John Donne ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Donne ) poem from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Sonnets, number 14 http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Holy_Sonnets#Holy_Sonnet_14

  Batter my heart, three-person'd God; for you
  As yet but knock; breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
  That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
  Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
  I, like an usurp'd town, to another due,
  Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
  Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
  But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
  Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
  But am betroth'd unto your enemy:
  Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
  Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
  Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
  Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
It's set to music in the fantastic Doctor Atomic by John Adams, with a superb recording available from http://www.metopera.org

Edits: still not good at HN formatting, should be good now.

And one poet I never appreciated when introduced to her, but love now: Edna St. Vincent Millay http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edna_St._Vincent_Millay

Renaissance and Other Poems is full of just staggering work: http://books.google.com/books?id=vxUpAAAAYAAJ

Since you studied it - what do you look for in great poetry?


  here’s a toast to Alan Turing
  born in harsher, darker times
  who thought outside the container
  and loved outside the lines
  and so the code-breaker was broken
  and we’re sorry
  yes now the s-word has been spoken
  the official conscience woken
  – very carefully scripted but at least it’s not encrypted –
  and the story does suggest
  a part 2 to the Turing Test:
  1. can machines behave like humans?
  2. can we?”

  ― Matt Harvey

Belfast man checking in, poetry is one of the main traditions here and has a thriving local community, so I thought I would recommend some of my favourites from this part of the world.

Paul Muldoon,

Maybe something of a "poet's poet" but certainly worth checking out. His style is a casual one, but bursts with sidelong allusions to history, literature, art and etymological punnery. Perhaps of particular interest to people here, might be his novel-length poem Madoc, an hallucinogenic journey through time and place, in which "[he] supposes that Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey took up their (actual) fancy of founding a Pantisocratic community in North America."

Ciaran Carson,

Took a break from writing through most of the 70s to travel with his wife playing traditional music and steep himself in the Irish storytelling tradition. His books since then have been an, at time excitingly precarious, marriage of traditional storytelling and a modernist mock pedanticism. Worth checking out is his Belfast Confetti, a mix of essays and poems which explore the psychological relationship one has to one's city.

Leontia Flynn, A much younger poet, of the generation of artists who have had to deal with adapting to life and working in the 21st Century. Her last book, from 2011, Profit & Loss is a striking meditation on the changing role of memory in pre- and post- Internet society.

And for something different that I would particularly recommend to the HN crowd,

Sam Riviere,

An English poet of the current generation who deals with the cognitive fallout of the ever varied linguistic and cultural deluge one experiences day to day in 2015. I don't want to say too much about his writing as he is still so young, but certainly seek out his latest book, Kim Kardashian's Marriage.

I stumbled across this in a high school magazine left in a youth hostel in Maroochydore, Queensland in 1986, and have never seen another reference to it since. It's attribution was 'anonymous', and googling key lines bring up nothing.

I've always liked it, and posting it here might give it some longevity beyond that of my hard drive.

  Running on the front line
  Leading the way to uncertainty.
  With the shadow of a dream to guide you,
  Following a gleaming ray
  Picked from another’s closed mind.
  Why will you lead the way while
  Others show no taste for adventure?
  Alone and self-exiled
  In the midst of a crowd
  Something not quite a thought flickers and is gone
  Leaving just enough to tell it came
  But not enough to remember.
  Somehow it is connected
  To what you don’t know
  But must find out.
  Go forward, relish the unusual,
  And question the normal.
  Push yourself always to the edge
  And the edge will move with you.
  A blur of consciousness, knowledge,
  Experience, prediction, guesses and lies
  The elusive unknown and
  The excitingly uncertain.

I don't particularly enjoy poetry (or poets for that matter), but I always liked reading "Algorhyme" by Radia Perlman, the inventor of spanning tree network protocol


    I think that I shall never see
    A graph more lovely than a tree.
    A tree whose crucial property
    Is loop-free connectivity.
    A tree that must be sure to span
    So packets can reach every LAN.
    First, the root must be selected.
    By ID, it is elected.
    Least-cost paths from root are traced.
    In the tree, these paths are placed.
    A mesh is made by folks like me,
    Then bridges find a spanning tree.
    - Radia Perlman

This is a great one, and one that often comes up when I tutor students. It's even better if you can teach it as a sing-along.

What's the tune?

I wish I had a better answer than "I make one up as needed", but I have more of a filking ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filk_music ) background than any actual musical training.

nice to see another filker on here :)

Dylan Thomas

    My tears are like the quiet drift
    Of petals from some magic rose;
    And all my grief flows from the rift
    Of unremembered skies and snows.
    I think, that if I touched the earth,
    It would crumble;
    It is so sad and beautiful,
    So tremulously like a dream. 


Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

Because their words had forked no lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright

Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,

And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight

Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on that sad height,

Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Aside from Tolkien's poetry in-world poetry, my favorite is probably Tennyson. Ulysses in particular is awesome. This is the final stanza.

    There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
    There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
    Souls that have toil'd, and wrought, and thought with me—
    That ever with a frolic welcome took
    The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
    Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
    Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
    Death closes all: but something ere the end,
    Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
    Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
    The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
    The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
    Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
    'T is not too late to seek a newer world.
    Push off, and sitting well in order smite
    The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
    To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
    Of all the western stars, until I die.
    It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
    It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
    And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
    Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
    We are not now that strength which in old days
    Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
    One equal temper of heroic hearts,
    Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
    To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Seamus Heaney - Digging

  Between my finger and my thumb
  The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.
  Under my window a clean rasping sound
  When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
  My father, digging. I look down
  Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
  Bends low, comes up twenty years away
  Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
  Where he was digging.
  The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
  Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
  He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
  To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
  Loving their cool hardness in our hands.
  By God, the old man could handle a spade.
  Just like his old man.
  My grandfather could cut more turf in a day
  Than any other man on Toner's bog.
  Once I carried him milk in a bottle
  Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
  To drink it, then fell to right away
  Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
  Over his shoulder, digging down and down
  For the good turf. Digging.
  The cold smell of potato mold, the squelch and slap
  Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
  Through living roots awaken in my head.
  But I've no spade to follow men like them.
  Between my finger and my thumb
  The squat pen rests.
  I'll dig with it.

Great to see Heaney mentioned by several people here! Recently voted Ireland's favourite poet of the last 100 years. This poem is a great example of his talent to document the small but evocative, quintessential elements of Irish experience. I'm having some wonderful childhood flashbacks of days on the bog right now :)

For me it's Sir John Betjeman. Very English of course. But...

    A man on his own in a car
    Is revenging himself on his wife;
    He open the throttle and bubbles with dottle
    and puffs at his pitiful life

    She's losing her looks very fast,
    she loses her temper all day;
    that lorry won't let me get past,
    this Mini is blocking my way.

    "Why can't you step on it and shift her!
    I can't go on crawling like this!
    At breakfast she said that she wished I was dead-
    Thank heavens we don't have to kiss.

    "I'd like a nice blonde on my knee
    And one who won't argue or nag.
    Who dares to come hooting at me?
    I only give way to a Jag.

    "You're barmy or plastered, I'll pass you, you bastard-
    I will overtake you. I will!"
    As he clenches his pipe, his moment is ripe
    And the corner's accepting its kill.

"Passion not spent"

    What's my great fear?
    I'll tell you; come near...
    To lay down in death
    with so much left.

    Passion not spent -
    Oh cowardly regret!
    For fear of others?
    The thousand deaths.

    I'm afraid to die
    With no twinkle in my eye -
    To pass meagerly by
    Yet hidden inside.     

    To walk through life
    Not truly alive,
    And to pass in the night
    With an unfelt "goodbye".

That's fantastic. Who wrote it?

Thanks :) Yes, it's a personal poem.

I think he himself wrote that :) Caleb Madriga. and it is indeed fantastic :)

he did

I have this one tacked up on my wall. Not only is it inspirational, but I am impressed by the syllabic structure of the poem (alternating 11/10 syllables, iambic). Having never really studied poetry before, I found this really cool.

If, by Rudyard Kipling

    If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
    If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
    If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
    Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

    If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
    If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
    If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
    Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

    If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
    And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
    If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
    And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

    If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
    If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
    If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
    Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

                    ~~~ The Palace ~~~
                 by Rudyard Kipling, 1902

  When I was a King and a Mason -- a Master proven and skilled --
  I cleared me ground for a Palace such as a King should build.
  I decreed and dug down to my levels. Presently, under the silt,
  I came on the wreck of a Palace such as a King had built.

  There was no worth in the fashion -- there was no wit in the plan --
  Hither and thither, aimless, the ruined footings ran --
  Masonry, brute, mishandled, but carven on every stone:
  "After me cometh a Builder. Tell him, I too have known."

  Swift to my use in my trenches, where my well-planned ground-works grew,
  I tumbled his quoins and his ashlars, and cut and reset them anew.
  Lime I milled of his marbles; burned it, slacked it, and spread;
  Taking and leaving at pleasure the gifts of the humble dead.

  Yet I despised not nor gloried; yet, as we wrenched them apart,
  I read in the razed foundations the heart of that builder's heart.
  As he had risen and pleaded, so did I understand
  The form of the dream he had followed in the face of the thing he had planned.

  When I was a King and a Mason -- in the open noon of my pride,
  They sent me a Word from the Darkness. They whispered and called me aside.
  They said -- "The end is forbidden." They said -- "Thy use is fulfilled.
  "Thy Palace shall stand as that other's -- the spoil of a King who shall build."

  I called my men from my trenches, my quarries, my wharves, and my sheers.
  All I had wrought I abandoned to the faith of the faithless years.
  Only I cut on the timber -- only I carved on the stone:
  "After me cometh a Builder. Tell him, I too have known!"

No Mention of the Bard?

    That time of year thou may'st in me behold
    When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
    Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
    Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
    In me thou see'st the twilight of such day,
    As after sunset fadeth in the west,
    Which by-and-by black night doth take away,
    Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
    In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire
    That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
    As the death-bed whereon it must expire
    Consum'd with that which it was nourish'd by.
        This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
        To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

Mario Benedetti:

   Don’t Play it Safe

   Don’t stand idle
   at the side of the road
   don’t hold off on happiness
   don’t love with half a heart
   don’t play it safe now
   or ever
   don’t play it safe
   don’t fill up with calm
   don’t take cover from the world
   in a quiet corner
   don’t let your eyelids come down
   like a weighty sentence
   don’t forget you have lips
   don’t sleep but to rest
   don’t ignore the blood in your veins
   don’t think you have no time

   but if
   in any case
   you can’t help it
   and hold off on happiness
   and love with half a heart
   and play it safe now
   and fill up with calm
   and take cover from the world
   in a quiet corner
   and let your eyelids come down
   like a weighty sentence
   and dry up without lips
   and sleep not to rest
   and ignore the blood in your veins
   and think you have no time
   and stand idle
   at the side of the road
   and play it safe
   in that case
   don’t hold on to me.

Pushkin, Lermontov, Nekrasov... Yeah, I'm Russian :-p

Among English poems, I rather like this one by Laurie Lee:

    A golden fish like a pint of wine
    Rolls the sea undergreen,
    Glassily balanced on the tide
    Only the skin between.

    Fish and water lean together,
    Separate and one,
    Till a fatal flash of the instant sun
    Lazily corkscrews down.

    Did fish and water drink each other?
    The reed leans there alone;
    As we, who once drank each other's breath,
    Have emptied the air, and gone.
And of course W.H. Auden:

    ...I and the public know
    What all schoolchildren learn,
    Those to whom evil is done
    Do evil in return.

I'm not Russian and I like Lermontov :)

Same, but I'm more partial to Pushkin :)

This was a scene from the movie "Бакенбарды" ("Backenbardy", literary "sideburns") where Pushkin cultists encounter Lermontov fanboys.


What Auden couldn't find On hornbooks or in verses Is whether it is our condition Only stirring with the curses

Bro ;)

So many... but recently...

Shelley, Ozymandias:

    I met a traveller from an antique land
    Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
    Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
    Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
    And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
    Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
    Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
    The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
    And on the pedestal these words appear:
    'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
    Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
    Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
    Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
    The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Yeats, The Second Coming:

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

    Surely some revelation is at hand;
    Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
    When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
    Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
    A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
    A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
    Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
    Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

    The darkness drops again but now I know
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep
    Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

The Second Coming. It is beyond extraordinary. The power of the images is utterly breathtaking.

However, your version does not have the words of the poem as it's generally published. I've never seen your version. Italics below show the more common wording.

"When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi / Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert / A shape with lion body and the head of a man, / A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,..."

You're right... I copied it from the top search result (http://www.potw.org/archive/potw351.html), which seems to be the 1920 version. There have been others since, and Wikipedia uses the newer wording.

I'm a fan of Invictus, by William Ernest Henley:

  Out of the night that covers me,
  Black as the pit from pole to pole,
  I thank whatever gods may be
  For my unconquerable soul.

  In the fell clutch of circumstance
  I have not winced nor cried aloud.
  Under the bludgeonings of chance
  My head is bloody, but unbowed.

  Beyond this place of wrath and tears
  Looms but the Horror of the Shade,
  And yet the menace of the years
  Finds and shall find me, unafraid.

  It matters not how strait the gate,
  How charged with punishments the scroll,
  I am the master of my fate,
  I am the captain of my soul.

I always loved Invictus. it was also my Father's favorite, and I remember how I felt "offended" when I learned Timothy McVeigh had chosen it for his last words.


No more games, I'ma change what you call rage

Tear this motherfucking roof off like two dogs caged

I was playing in the beginning, the mood all changed

I've been chewed up and spit out and booed off stage

But I kept rhyming and stepped right into the next cypher

Best believe somebody's paying the pied piper

All the pain inside amplified by the fact

That I can't get by with my 9 to 5

And I can't provide the right type of life for my family

Cause man, these goddamn food stamps don't buy diapers

And it's no movie, there's no Mekhi Phifer, this is my life

And these times are so hard, and it's getting even harder

Trying to feed and water my seed, plus

Teeter totter caught up between being a father and a prima donna

Baby mama drama's screaming on and

Too much for me to wanna

Stay in one spot, another day of monotony

Has gotten me to the point, I'm like a snail

I've got to formulate a plot or I end up in jail or shot

Success is my only motherfucking option, failure's not

Mom, I love you, but this trailer's got to go

I cannot grow old in Salem's lot

So here I go it's my shot.

Feet, fail me not, this may be the only opportunity that I got

Eminem has written some really good lines. His play with words is just fantastic.

Major points for dropping rap lines. I like you.

I'm not sure who the poet was, but here's an old Chinese poem that I love. My translation doesn't quite do it justice, but...

少小離家老大回 鄉音無改鬢毛衰 兒童相見不相識 笑問客從何處來

I left my hometown as a young boy and returned as an old man.

The local speech hadn't changed, but the hair on my head had.

The children looked at me but recognized me not.

Laughing, they asked from where this visitor had come.

Do you mind sharing the original author's name? It sounds gorgeous, but I can only read Japanese, so I'm not sure if I'm just completely wrong in getting the images from the Chinese.

Search engine yielded both the rest of the poem and the identity of the author.

少小離家老大回,鄉音無改鬢毛衰。 兒童相見不相識,笑問客從何處來。

(as above)

離別家鄉歲月多,近來人事半消磨。 惟有門前鏡湖水,春風不改舊時波。

I have left home for so long, society has lost its meaning. There are only the waters of Mirror Lake before the door, and the spring winds cannot change the ripples of the past. [my translation]

The author is Hè​ Zhī​zhāng​ (賀知章), a Tang Dynasty poet. The poem comes from the second part of his book Images of Homecoming (回鄉偶書). He is one of the Eight Immortals of the Wine Cup (ie. alcohol-loving Tang poets): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eight_Immortals_of_the_Wine_Cup

Coming from Japanese or modern Chinese you can use http://www.mdbg.net/chindict/chindict.php to understand the relationships between words. Also try http://chinesenotes.com/classical_chinese.php for grammatical background. More Tang poems @ http://chinesenotes.com/classics.php

Can you recommend a good English-language collection of his works? The poem you wrote was amazing.

Thanks so much! I only got a brief overview of Chinese poetry in school, so getting to appreciate more is really awesome.

Felix Dennis (†2014)

What’s It Like Then, Being Rich?

What’s it like then, being rich,

Knitting gold to warm an itch?

        Very much like being poor;

        Wealth is just a key — no more.

Why not share this magic key

To luxury — and start with me!

        Surely better that you earn it;

        Could I trust you to return it?

How does one become your ilk?

Is it bred in mothers’ milk?

        Many paths can lead to riches,

        Few in sunlight, most in ditches.

Wherein lies the difference

From us — this odd ambivalence?

        Envy, malice, obligations;

        Toadying from poor relations.

Grown far richer than his neighbour,

Why would any rich man labour?

        Wealth is salt in wine immersed,

        Quaffing but excites the thirst.

Salt my arse! It’s filthy greed —

How many homes does one man need?

        For some the trick’s in trading it;

        For others, in parading it.

I’ve seen. But surely, comfort pales

Perched on padded Chippendales?

        When affluence holds no surprise,

        Wonders come in other guise.

Aye, the eyes of tart and whore!

What might you miss, if you were poor?

        Time.  The luxury of choices.

        First editions.  Old Rolls-Royces.

Except his poems, I also recommend his great book on becoming rich http://www.felixdennis.com/books/how-to-get-rich/

  Tear It Down

  We find out the heart only by dismantling what
  the heart knows. by redefining the morning,
  we find a morning that comes just after darkness.
  we can break through marriage into marriage.
  by insisting on love we spoil it, get beyond
  affection and wade mouth-deep into love.
  we must unlearn the constellations to see the stars.
  but going back toward childhood will not help.
  the village is not better than pittsburgh.
  only pittsburgh is more than pittsburgh.
  rome is better than rome in the same way the sound
  of racoon tongues licking the inside walls
  of the garbage tub is more than the stir
  of them in the muck of the garbage. love is not
  enough. we die and are put into the earth forever.
  we should insist while there is still time. we must
  eat through the wildness of her sweet body already
  in our bed to reach the body within the body.

  -Jack Gilbert

The poetic reference to Rome being better than Rome reminds me of Edmund Spenser's adaptation of Bellay's poem about Rome. http://www.bartleby.com/153/23.html

I think the most famous stanza (an excerpt from a much, much longer poem) is

  Thou stranger, which for Rome in Rome here seekest,
  And nought of Rome in Rome perceiv’st at all,
  These same olde walls, olde arches, which thou seest,
  Olde palaces, is that which Rome men call.
  Behold what wreake, what ruine, and what wast,
  And how that she, which with her mightie powre
  Tam’d all the world, hath tam’d herselfe at last,
  The pray of Time, which all things doth devowre.
  Rome now of Rome is th’ onely funerall,
  And onely Rome of Rome hath victorie;
  Ne ought save Tyber hastning to his fall
  Remaines of all: O worlds inconstancie!
   That which is firme doth flit and fall away,
   And that is flitting doth abide and stay.
Bellay (and Spenser) claim that the only city that was ultimately able to conquer ancient Rome is ... modern Rome. I found that a striking observation.

Wislawa Syzmborska, for me. When lighthearted, she has depth, and when dark, she keeps a glimmer of light.

  The Joy of Writing

  Why does this written doe bound through these written woods?
  For a drink of written water from a spring
  whose surface will xerox her soft muzzle?
  Why does she lift her head; does she hear something?
  Perched on four slim legs borrowed from the truth,
  she pricks up her ears beneath my fingertips.
  Silence - this word also rustles across the page
  and parts the boughs
  that have sprouted from the word "woods."

  Lying in wait, set to pounce on the blank page,
  are letters up to no good,
  clutches of clauses so subordinate
  they'll never let her get away.

  Each drop of ink contains a fair supply
  of hunters, equipped with squinting eyes behind their sights,
  prepared to swarm the sloping pen at any moment,
  surround the doe, and slowly aim their guns.

  They forget that what's here isn't life.
  Other laws, black on white, obtain.
  The twinkling of an eye will take as long as I say,
  and will, if I wish, divide into tiny eternities,
  full of bullets stopped in mid-flight.
  Not a thing will ever happen unless I say so.
  Without my blessing, not a leaf will fall,
  not a blade of grass will bend beneath that little hoof's full stop.

  Is there then a world
  where I rule absolutely on fate?
  A time I bind with chains of signs?
  An existence become endless at my bidding?

  The joy of writing.
  The power of preserving.
  Revenge of a mortal hand.

Great thread.

  Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
  Just keep going. No feeling is final.

  - Rainer Rilke

Cecil Day Lewis:

   Tempt me no more, for I
   Have known the lightning's hour,
   The poet's inward pride,
   The certainty of power.
And, of course being a Scot, Robert Burns:

   What though on hamely fare we dine,
   Wear hoddin grey, an' a that;
   Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine;
   A Man's a Man for a' that:
   For a' that, and a' that,
   Their tinsel show, an' a' that;
   The honest man, tho' e'er sae poor,
   Is king o' men for a' that. 

   By oppression's woes and pains!
   By your sons in servile chains!
   We will drain our dearest veins,
      But they shall be free!

   Lay the proud usurpers low!
   Tyrants fall in every foe!
   Liberty's in every blow!—
      Let us do or die!
[Apologies for the bloodthirsty nature of Scots Wha Hae - but I was taught this stuff from an early age and it kind of stuck even though it's describing events of 700 years ago.]


    Farewell to the mountains, high-cover'd with snow,
    Farewell to the straths and green vallies below;
    Farewell to the forests and wild-hanging woods,
    Farewell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods. 

    My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
    My heart's in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer;
    Chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,
    My heart's in the Highlands, wherever I go.

Burn's Selkirk Grace is about the only thing I've tried to memorise; I'll check afterwards how far away I was:

  Some hae meat and cannae eat,
  And some wid eat that want it,
  But we hae meat and we can eat,
  And sae the Lord be thankit

Not too far off, but it turns out there are several versions.

From http://www.rampantscotland.com/poetry/blpoems_grace.htm:

  Some hae meat and canna eat,
     And some wad eat that want it;
  But we hae meat, and we can eat,
     Sae let the Lord be thankit.
The last line is often varied to read-

  And sae the Lord be thankit

Violet Jacobs, from Hallowe'en:

     But gin the auld fowks' tales are richt
    An ghaists come hame on Hallow nicht,
    O freend o' freends! what wad I gie
    To feel ye rax yer hand to me
    Atween the dark an' caun'le licht?

    Awa in France, across the wave,
    The wee lichts burn on ilka grave,
    An' you an' me their lowe hae seen--
    Ye'11 mebbe hae yer Hallowe'en
    Yont, whaur ye're lyin' wi' the lave.

    Inspiring bold John Barleycorn!
    What dangers thou canst make us scorn!
    Wi' tippenny, we fear nae evil;
    Wi' usquabae, we'll face the devil!

Simon Armitage. Lovely northern English rhythms.


My Party Piece from Book of Matches

  My party piece:
  I strike, then from the moment when the matchstick
  conjures up its light, to when the brightness moves
  beyond its means, and dies, I say the story
  of my life -
  dates and places, torches I carried,
  a cast of names and faces, those
  who showed me love, or came close,
  the changes I made, the lessons I learnt -
  then somehow still find time to stall and blush
  before I'm bitten by the flame, and burnt.
  A warning, though, to anyone nursing
  an ounce of sadness, anyone alone:
  don't try this on your own; it's dangerous,

"Digging" by Seamus Heaney. One of my favorites.

  Between my finger and my thumb   
  The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

  Under my window, a clean rasping sound   
  When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:   
  My father, digging. I look down

  Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds   
  Bends low, comes up twenty years away   
  Stooping in rhythm through potato drills   
  Where he was digging.

  The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft   
  Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
  He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
  To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
  Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

  By God, the old man could handle a spade.   
  Just like his old man.

  My grandfather cut more turf in a day
  Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
  Once I carried him milk in a bottle
  Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
  To drink it, then fell to right away
  Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
  Over his shoulder, going down and down
  For the good turf. Digging.

  The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
  Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
  Through living roots awaken in my head.
  But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

  Between my finger and my thumb
  The squat pen rests.
  I’ll dig with it.

The Little Dog's Day by Rupert Brooke

All in the town were still asleep, When the sun came up with a shout and a leap. In the lonely streets unseen by man, A little dog danced. And the day began.

All his life he'd been good, as far as he could, And the poor little beast had done all that he should. But this morning he swore, by Odin and Thor And the Canine Valhalla—he'd stand it no more!

So his prayer he got granted—to do just what he wanted, Prevented by none, for the space of one day. "Jam incipiebo, sedere facebo," In dog-Latin he quoth, "Euge! sophos! hurray!"

He fought with the he-dogs, and winked at the she-dogs, A thing that had never been heard of before. "For the stigma of gluttony, I care not a button!" he Cried, and ate all he could swallow—and more.

He took sinewy lumps from the shins of old frumps, And mangled the errand-boys—when he could get 'em. He shammed furious rabies, and bit all the babies, And followed the cats up the trees, and then ate 'em!"

They thought 'twas the devil was holding a revel, And sent for the parson to drive him away; For the town never knew such a hullabaloo As that little dog raised—till the end of that day.

When the blood-red sun had gone burning down, And the lights were lit in the little town, Outside, in the gloom of the twilight grey, The little dog died when he'd had his day.

Rabindranath Tagore:

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high

Where knowledge is free

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments

By narrow domestic walls

Where words come out from the depth of truth

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way

Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit

Where the mind is led forward by thee

Into ever-widening thought and action

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake

Richard Brautigan!!

~All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace

  I like to think (and
  the sooner the better!)
  of a cybernetic meadow
  where mammals and computers
  live together in mutually
  programming harmony
  like pure water
  touching clear sky.

  I like to think
  (right now, please!)
  of a cybernetic forest
  filled with pines and electronics
  where deer stroll peacefully
  past computers
  as if they were flowers
  with spinning blossoms.

  I like to think
  (it has to be!)
  of a cybernetic ecology
  where we are free of our labors
  and joined back to nature,
  returned to our mammal
  brothers and sisters,
  and all watched over
  by machines of loving grace.

I like George Bacovia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Bacovia)

Here is his probably most known one:

   Dormeau adanc sicriele de plumb,
   Si flori de plumb si funerar vesmant -
   Stam singur in cavou ... si era vant ...
   Si scartaiau coroanele de plumb.

   Dormea intors amorul meu de plumb
   Pe flori de plumb, si-am inceput sa-l strig -
   Stam singur langa mort ... si era frig ...
   Si-i atarnau aripile de plumb.

(Translation from: http://www.aboutromania.com/bacovia1.html)


   The coffins of lead were lying sound asleep,
   And the lead flowers and the funeral clothes -
   I stood alone in the vault ... and there was wind ...
   And the wreaths of lead creaked.
   Upturned my lead beloved lay asleep
   On the lead flower ... and I began to call -
   I stood alone by the corpse ... and it was cold ...
   And the wings of lead drooped.
Translating poems is pretty hard. That was an ok translation. It doesn't quite sound quite right.

Regarding poetry translation (and a lot more), there is this book:

By Douglas Hofstadter, that I quite like and recommend!

This is (arguably) a better book than GEB ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gödel,_Escher,_Bach ) for the literature-minded folks out there. I can't recommend it enough.

William S. Burroughs

  Dead City Radio (1990)

  Discipline of Do Easy (1982)

  Ah Pook (1979-Poem, 1994-Animation)

One of the 'beat poets' and pioneer of the "cut up", a semi-randomized collage of slicing, duplicating, and splicing media. The effect seems to create awareness of the medium itself.

  (The Cut Ups, 1966)

  Speaking on his Cut Ups (1983)

Wislawa Szymborska


My nonarrival in the city of N. took place on the dot.

You'd been alerted in my unmailed letter.

You were able not to be there at the agreed-upon time.

The train pulled up at platform 3. A lot of people got out.

My absence joined the throng as it made its way toward the exit.

Several women rushed to take my place in all that rush.

Somebody ran up to one of them. I didn't know him, but she recognized him immediately.

While they kissed with not our lips, a suitcase disappeared, not mine.

The railroad station in the city of N. passed its exam in objective existence with flying colors.

The whole remained in place. Particulars scurried along the designated tracks.

Even a rendezvous took place as planned.

Beyond the reach of our presence.

In the paradise lost of probability.

Somewhere else. Somewhere else. How these little words ring.

Gustavo Adolfo Becquer, about poetry itself (sorry, Spanish is my language, still wanted to share):

No digáis que agotado su tesoro, de asuntos falta enmudeció la lira: podrá no haber poetas, pero siempre habrá poesía.

Mientras las ondas de la luz al beso palpiten encendidas, mientras el sol las desgarradas nubes de fuego y oro vista, mientras el aire en su regazo lleve perfumes y armonías, mientras haya en el mundo primavera, ¡habrá poesía!

Mientras la ciencia a descubrir no alcance las fuentes de la vida, y en el mar o en el cielo haya un abismo que al cálculo resista, mientras la humanidad siempre avanzando no sepa a do camina, mientras haya un misterio para el hombre, ¡habrá poesía!

Mientras se sienta que se ríe el alma sin que los labios rían, mientras se llore, sin que el llanto acuda a nublar la pupila, mientras el corazón y la cabeza batallando prosigan, mientras haya esperanzas y recuerdos, ¡habrá poesía!

Mientras haya unos ojos que reflejen los ojos que los miran, mientras responda el labio suspirando al labio que suspira, mientras sentirse puedan en un beso dos almas confundidas, mientras exista una mujer hermosa, ¡habrá poesía!

Henry James made it into the original (for me) Hack FAQ https://w2.eff.org/Net_culture/Hackers/hacking.faq

But also Neruda:

  Of the many men whom I am, whom we are,
  I cannot settle on a single one.
  They are lost to me under the cover of clothing
  They have departed for another city.
  When everything seems to be set
  to show me off as a man of intelligence,
  the fool I keep concealed on my person
  takes over my talk and occupies my mouth.

Is this the same (American) Henry James that I think of as a novelist?

This one wrote the middle years http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_James where you can find:

  We work in the dark
  We do what we can
  We give what we have
  Our doubt is our passion,
  and our passion is our task
  The rest is the madness of art.

Ah, we were thinking of the same one. It's worth noting that his brother, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_James , wrote some of the most lyrical philosophy and psychology works of the late 19th century.

Wallace Stevens is a favorite of mine. His work has been described as "rigorous", which I would agree with. He is an inspiration to me due to his ability to straddle two worlds: his day job was mainly as an insurance executive, but he flowered late and won a Pulitzer for his poetry. I particularly like "The Emperor of Ice Cream":

  Call the roller of big cigars,
  The muscular one, and bid him whip
  In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
  Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
  As they are used to wear, and let the boys
  Bring flowers in last month's newspapers.
  Let be be finale of seem.
  The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

  Take from the dresser of deal,
  Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
  On which she embroidered fantails once
  And spread it so as to cover her face.
  If her horny feet protrude, they come
  To show how cold she is, and dumb.
  Let the lamp affix its beam.
  The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

The Snow Man is quite good:

  One must have a mind of winter
  To regard the frost and the boughs
  Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

  And have been cold a long time
  To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
  The spruces rough in the distant glitter

  Of the January sun; and not to think
  Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
  In the sound of a few leaves,

  Which is the sound of the land
  Full of the same wind
  That is blowing in the same bare place

  For the listener, who listens in the snow,
  And, nothing himself, beholds
  Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

This poem does in two stanzas at least part of what Hamlet does in five acts. It's even more brilliant once you 'decode' it, one of my favorites.

Of Mere Being

  The palm at the end of the mind,
  Beyond the last thought, rises
  In the bronze distance.

  A gold-feathered bird
  Sings in the palm, without human meaning,
  Without human feeling, a foreign song.

  You know then that it is not the reason
  That makes us happy or unhappy.
  The bird sings. Its feathers shine.

  The palm stands on the edge of space.
  The wind moves slowly in the branches.
  The bird’s fire-fangled feathers dangle down.

E.E. Cummings, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

One of Cummings's short poems that I enjoy:

  should this fool die

  let someone fond
  of living lay

  in his left hand

  a flower whose

  glory by no
  mind ever was

  taught how to grow

A few mentions of Hopkins in this thread, but too few examples.

So, Heaven Haven:

  I have desired to go
  Where springs not fail,
  To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail,
  And a few lilies blow.

  And I have asked to be
  Where no storms come,
  Where the green swell is in the havens dumb,
  And out of the swing of the sea. 
And then: "The Habit of Perfection":

    ELECTED Silence, sing to me 
    And beat upon my whorlèd ear,   
    Pipe me to pastures still and be    
    The music that I care to hear.  
    Shape nothing, lips; be lovely-dumb: 
    It is the shut, the curfew sent 
    From there where all surrenders come    
    Which only makes you eloquent.  
    Be shellèd, eyes, with double dark  
    And find the uncreated light:        
    This ruck and reel which you remark 
    Coils, keeps, and teases simple sight.  
    Palate, the hutch of tasty lust,    
    Desire not to be rinsed with wine:  
    The can must be so sweet, the crust  
    So fresh that come in fasts divine! 
    Nostrils, your careless breath that spend   
    Upon the stir and keep of pride,    
    What relish shall the censers send  
    Along the sanctuary side!     
    O feel-of-primrose hands, O feet    
    That want the yield of plushy sward,    
    But you shall walk the golden street    
    And you unhouse and house the Lord. 
    And, Poverty, be thou the bride    
    And now the marriage feast begun,   
    And lily-coloured clothes provide   
    Your spouse not laboured-at nor spun.

Ted Kooser.


He was the US Poet Laureate for a few years. He is from Nebraska, and writes about Midwestern life, among other things. His most recent volume just came out, and I thought it was great.


From "Splitting an Order":

    I like to watch an old man cutting a sandwich in half 
    … and then to see him lift half
    onto the extra plate that he asked the server to bring,
    and then to wait, offering the plate to his wife
    while she slowly unrolls her napkin and places her spoon,
    her knife and her fork in their proper places,
    then smoothes the starched white napkin over her knees
    and meets his eyes and holds out both old hands to him.

I always come back to Frost's "The Road Not Taken"

  TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,	
  And sorry I could not travel both	
  And be one traveler, long I stood	
  And looked down one as far as I could	
  To where it bent in the undergrowth;	        5
  Then took the other, as just as fair,	
  And having perhaps the better claim,	
  Because it was grassy and wanted wear;	
  Though as for that the passing there	
  Had worn them really about the same,	        10
  And both that morning equally lay	
  In leaves no step had trodden black.	
  Oh, I kept the first for another day!	
  Yet knowing how way leads on to way,	
  I doubted if I should ever come back.	        15
  I shall be telling this with a sigh	
  Somewhere ages and ages hence:	
  Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—	
  I took the one less traveled by,	
  And that has made all the difference.

I'm a Frost fan as well. My favorite is Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.

  Whose woods these are I think I know.   
  His house is in the village though;   
  He will not see me stopping here   
  To watch his woods fill up with snow.   

  My little horse must think it queer   
  To stop without a farmhouse near   
  Between the woods and frozen lake   
  The darkest evening of the year.   

  He gives his harness bells a shake   
  To ask if there is some mistake.   
  The only other sound’s the sweep   
  Of easy wind and downy flake.   

  The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
  But I have promises to keep,   
  And miles to go before I sleep,   
  And miles to go before I sleep.

Mine is:

  Some say the world will end in fire,
  Some say in ice.
  From what I've tasted of desire
  I hold with those who favor fire.
  But if it had to perish twice,
  I think I know enough of hate
  To say that for destruction ice
  Is also great
  And would suffice.

Omar Khayyam

  “The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
  Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
  Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
  Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”


Thomas Gray

    Presumptuous Maid! with looks intent 
    Again she stretch'd, again she bent, 
    Nor knew the gulph between; 
    (Malignant Fate sat by, and smil'd.) 
    The slippery verge her feet beguil'd; 
    She tumbled headlong in. 
http://www.potw.org/archive/potw90.html https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Gray

Omar Khayyam is wonderful. I have the first stanza of the Rubaiyat painted and framed in khatam style.

This quatrain makes me think Khayyam was a HN reader:

    Myself when young did eagerly frequent 
    Doctor and Saint, and heard great argument 
    About it and about: but evermore 
    Came out by the same door where in I went.

not really a favorite poet, but a favorite poem : 'Cat in an empty apartment'

  Die--you can't do that to a cat.
  Since what can a cat do
  in an empty apartment?
  Climb the walls?
  Rub up against the furniture?
  Nothing seems different here
  but nothing is the same.
  Nothing's been moved
  but there's more space.
  And at nighttime no lamps are lit.

  Footsteps on the staircase,
  but they're new ones.
  The hand that puts fish on the saucer
  has changed, too.

  Something doesn't start
  at its usual time.
  Something doesn't happen
  as it should.
  Someone was always, always here,
  then suddenly disappeared
  and stubbornly stays disappeared.

  Every closet's been examined.
  Every shelf has been explored.
  Excavations under the carpet turned up nothing.
  A commandment was even broken:
  papers scattered everywhere.
  What remains to be done.
  Just sleep and wait.
  Just wait till he turns up,
  just let him show his face.
  Will he ever get a lesson
  on what not to do to a cat.
  Sidle toward him
  as if unwilling
  and ever so slow
  on visibly offended paws,
  and no leaps or squeals at least to start.
  -- Wislawa Szymborska
it never fails to get to me.

this, absolutely! My favourite as a kid

  A big locomotive has pulled into town,
  Heavy, humungus, with sweat rolling down,
  A plump jumbo olive.
  Huffing and puffing and panting and smelly,
  Fire belches forth from her fat cast iron belly.

  Poof, how she's burning,
  Oof, how she's boiling,
  Puff, how she's churning,
  Huff, how she's toiling.
  She's fully exhausted and all out of breath,
  Yet the coalman continues to stoke her to death.

  Numerous wagons she tugs down the track:
  Iron and steel monsters hitched up to her back,
  All filled with people and other things too:
  The first carries cattle, then horses not few;
  The third car with corpulent people is filled,
  Eating fat frankfurters all freshly grilled.
  The fourth car is packed to the hilt with bananas,
  The fifth has a cargo of six grand pi-an-as.
  The sixth wagon carries a cannon of steel,
  With heavy iron girders beneath every wheel.
  The seventh has tables, oak cupboards with plates,
  While an elephant, bear, two giraffes fill the eighth.
  The ninth contains nothing but well-fattened swine,
  In the tenth: bags and boxes, now isn't that fine?

  There must be at least forty cars in a row,
  And what they all carry -- I simply don't know:

  But if one thousand athletes, with muscles of steel,
  Each ate one thousand cutlets in one giant meal,
  And each one exerted as much as he could,
  They'd never quite manage to lift such a load.

  First a toot!
  Then a hoot!
  Steam is churning,
  Wheels are turning!

  More slowly - than turtles - with freight - on their - backs,
  The drowsy - steam engine - sets off - down the tracks.
  She chugs and she tugs at her wagons with strain,
  As wheel after wheel slowly turns on the train.
  She doubles her effort and quickens her pace,
  And rambles and scrambles to keep up the race.
  Oh whither, oh whither? go forward at will,
  And chug along over the bridge, up the hill,
  Through mountains and tunnels and meadows and woods,
  Now hurry, now hurry, deliver your goods.
  Keep up your tempo, now push along, push along,
  Chug along, tug along, tug along, chug along
  Lightly and sprightly she carries her freight
  Like a ping-pong ball bouncing without any weight,
  Not heavy equipment exhausted to death,
  But a little tin toy, just a light puff of breath.
  Oh whither, oh whither, you'll tell me, I trust,
  What is it, what is it that gives you your thrust?
  What gives you momentum to roll down the track?
  It's hot steam that gives me my clickety-clack.
  Hot steam from the boiler through tubes to the pistons,
  The pistons then push at the wheels from short distance,
  They drive and they push, and the train starts a-swooshin'
  'Cuz steam on the pistons keeps pushin' and pushin';
  The wheels start a rattlin', clatterin', chatterin'
  Chug along, tug along, chug along, tug along! . . . . 

  Julian Tuwim

Kendrick Lamar:

  If I think and act like you do
  The world would die
  From not seeing something new
  And if I don't speak on how I feel
  The world would lose out on
  What's really real
  And if should die before I wake
  I pray my music will take my place
  The World
  The Relevant
Сергей Есенин and Immortal Technique:

  Love...doesn't need a complicated metaphor
  And sometimes nothing needs to be said at all
  Sometimes a person you with is not your one and only
  And you just fuck with them because you afraid to be lonely
  And when you come back its too late
  So you overcompensate
  Like victims of rape
  Full of self hate
  Lost in the affection to strangers around you
  Instead of the only person that ever gave a fuck about you

Ghalib[0], whose every poem is like a heartbreaking Koan, although it's very hard to find good English translations:

    Let awareness spread wide its net of comprehension,
    In my world of words, meaning is a bird of dreams.
    A thousand wishes thus, that each demands a life,
    I've done the best I could, but couldn't do too much.
(My translations)

[0]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghalib, http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00ghalib/index....

And here is a famous one from Ghalib:

   Rekhta k tum he nahi ustaad Ghalib
   Kehte hain Aglay Zamanay mein koi Mir[1] bhi tha
Rough translation:

   You aren't alone the master of Rekhta, Ghalib
   It is said that there was also someone called Mir[1] in the previous era
[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mir_Taqi_Mir

Not the blossom of song not the veil of music

I am the sound of my own breaking

You toy with the length of your dark curls

I am captive to my own dark thoughts

We brag to ourselves that we are different

this weakness has burdened our simple grief

Now you have come and I find myself bowing

this blessing a sadness this prayer a longing

I am a fragment sounding the dawn

you are the walls of my every echo

THE TYGER (from Songs Of Experience)

By William Blake

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies Burnt the fire of thine eyes? On what wings dare he aspire? What the hand dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art. Could twist the sinews of thy heart? And when thy heart began to beat, What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain? In what furnace was thy brain? What the anvil? what dread grasp Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears, And watered heaven with their tears, Did he smile his work to see? Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?


I've always enjoyed Blake's poems. One of my favourites from that collecion is The Fly:

    Little Fly
    Thy summer's play,
    My thoughtless hand
    Has brush'd away.

    Am not I
    A fly like thee?
    Or art not thou
    A man like me?

    For I dance
    And drink & sing;
    Till some blind hand
    Shall brush my wing.

    If thought is life
    And strength & breath;
    And the want
    Of thought is death;

    Then am I
    A happy fly,
    If I live,
    Or if I die.

THAT is no country for old men. The young

In one another's arms, birds in the trees

- Those dying generations - at their song,

The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,

Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long

Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.

Caught in that sensual music all neglect

Monuments of unageing intellect.


An aged man is but a paltry thing,

A tattered coat upon a stick, unless

Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing

For every tatter in its mortal dress,

Nor is there singing school but studying

Monuments of its own magnificence;

And therefore I have sailed the seas and come

To the holy city of Byzantium.


O sages standing in God's holy fire

As in the gold mosaic of a wall,

Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,

And be the singing-masters of my soul.

Consume my heart away; sick with desire

And fastened to a dying animal

It knows not what it is; and gather me

Into the artifice of eternity.


Once out of nature I shall never take

My bodily form from any natural thing,

But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make

Of hammered gold and gold enamelling

To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;

Or set upon a golden bough to sing

To lords and ladies of Byzantium

Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

- W B Yeats

> be the singing-masters of my soul

Those have to be seven of the most powerful words ever written in any language.

    Jenny Kissed Me
    by Leigh Hunt
    Jenny kissed me when we met,
    Jumping from the chair she sat in.
    Time, you thief! who love to get
    Sweets into your list, put that in.
    Say I'm weary, say I'm sad;
    Say that health and wealth have missed me;
    Say I'm growing old, but add-
    Jenny kissed me!

I'm surprised no-one said Keats (which is mine) but Hunt is, in some sense, close enough


T.S. Eliot. "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" perfectly captures the essence of a middle-aged man's insecurities, and Eliot wrote it when he was 23.

If you haven't already, you should watch this lecture by Nick Mount on Eliot's "The Waste Land": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PxF9xkB5o04

April is the cruellest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain.

I recently reread Christopher Alexander's foreword to "Patterns of Software" and remembered his mention of this poem. He asks, with something that could be called optimism:

"Can you write a program which overcomes the gulf between the technical culture of our civilization, and which inserts itself into our human life as deeply as Eliot's poems of the wasteland or Virginia Woolf's The Waves?"

Eliot is amazing; folks who love his work do themselves a disservice, however, if they aren't also reading Ezra Pound ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ezra_Pound ) for a very different perspective on most of the same inspirations that made Eliot's early work so powerful.

Alec Guinness reading the Wasteland is amazing.


"Hurry up please, it's time."

I like him in-person even more than on the page.

A couple recordings:

Where Dogs Come From: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DOvbl3ZPPV4

A reading from Prairie Home Companion in February, dealing with cats: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTxpQCY7df8

If you get a chance tosee him live, don't miss it. He's delightful.


Also a fan of Mary Oliver.

    Georgia Dusk (by Jean Toomer)

    The sky, lazily disdaining to pursue
       The setting sun, too indolent to hold
       A lengthened tournament for flashing gold,   
    Passively darkens for night’s barbecue,

    A feast of moon and men and barking hounds,   
       An orgy for some genius of the South
       With blood-hot eyes and cane-lipped scented mouth,   
    Surprised in making folk-songs from soul sounds.

    The sawmill blows its whistle, buzz-saws stop,
       And silence breaks the bud of knoll and hill,
       Soft settling pollen where plowed lands fulfill   
    Their early promise of a bumper crop.

    Smoke from the pyramidal sawdust pile
       Curls up, blue ghosts of trees, tarrying low   
       Where only chips and stumps are left to show   
    The solid proof of former domicile.

    Meanwhile, the men, with vestiges of pomp,   
       Race memories of king and caravan,
       High-priests, an ostrich, and a juju-man,
    Go singing through the footpaths of the swamp.

    Their voices rise . . the pine trees are guitars,   
       Strumming, pine-needles fall like sheets of rain . .   
       Their voices rise . . the chorus of the cane
    Is caroling a vesper to the stars . .

    O singers, resinous and soft your songs
       Above the sacred whisper of the pines,
       Give virgin lips to cornfield concubines,
    Bring dreams of Christ to dusky cane-lipped throngs.

I've been reading a lot of Aleksa Šantić for the past few years, but I haven't seen any translations to English that really do him justice (not that I've been looking for them).

    Last night, returning from the warm hamam
    I passed by the garden of the old Imam
    And lo, in the garden, in the shade of a jasmine,
    There with a pitcher in her hand stood Emina.

    What beauty! By iman I could swear,
    She would not be ashamed if she were at the sultan’s!
    And the way she walks and her shoulders move...
    -- Not even an Imam’s amulet could help me!

    I offered her salaam, but by my dīn,
    Beautiful Emina would not even hear it.
    Instead, scooping water in her silver pitcher,
    Around the garden she went to water the roses.

    A wind blew from the branches down her lovely shoulders
    Unraveling those thick braids of hers.
    Her hair gave off a scent of blue hyacinths,
    Making me giddy and confused!

    I nearly stumbled, I swear by my faith,
    But beautiful Emina did not come to me.
    She only gave me a frowning look,
    Not caring, the naughty one, that I am crazy for her!
This entry contains links to articles explaining some of the more archaic words:


For people who live in Brooklyn or have connections to it, you might be interested in Walt Whitman's "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" where he emphasizes his power to, through his poetry, be mentally or spiritually united with future generations crossing the East River:



It's one of the more intensely second-person poems I've come across, with its repeated focus on the reader's presence and what the reader has in common with the poet.

I learned about this poem from the novel 10:04 by Ben Lerner, in which it figures prominently. The novel is an interesting meditation on nostalgia, modernity, introspection, and being a writer (although I fear readers might like it much less if they don't share some of the author's nostalgias).


Patrick Kavanagh - Stony Grey Soil

    O stony grey soil of Monaghan
    The laugh from my love you thieved;
    You took the gay child of my passion
    And gave me your clod-conceived.
    You clogged the feet of my boyhood
    And I believed that my stumble
    Had the poise and stride of Apollo
    And his voice my thick tongued mumble.
    You told me the plough was immortal!
    O green-life conquering plough!
    The mandril stained, your coulter blunted
    In the smooth lea-field of my brow.
    You sang on steaming dunghills
    A song of cowards' brood,
    You perfumed my clothes with weasel itch,
    You fed me on swinish food
    You flung a ditch on my vision
    Of beauty, love and truth.
    O stony grey soil of Monaghan
    You burgled my bank of youth!
    Lost the long hours of pleasure
    All the women that love young men.
    O can I stilll stroke the monster's back
    Or write with unpoisoned pen.
    His name in these lonely verses
    Or mention the dark fields where
    The first gay flight of my lyric
    Got caught in a peasant's prayer.
    Mullahinsa, Drummeril, Black Shanco-
    Wherever I turn I see
    In the stony grey soil of Monaghan
    Dead loves that were born for me.

Just had to add my favorite, William Carlos Williams:

  so much depends

  a red wheel

  glazed with rain

  beside the white

You should all subscribe to the writers almanac podcast. A free poem & other good stuff in < 5 minutes every day. http://writersalmanac.org/podcast/

Thats a tough question to answer. Between bukowsky , Edgar Alan Poe, Shakespeare, a few of miltons work, Gulzar, Tolkien, you can imagine the choice to be tough! But here is an unlikely candidate I find particularly interesting because of his simplicity and yet intricacy of expression. Vikram Seth. His work "golden gate" is just a masterpiece with so many hidden gems. To have a story spannig a good 700pages in verse itself is astounding. Here are some of his smaller beauties


    *Awake for hours and staring at the ceiling 
    Through the unsettled stillness of the night 
    He grows possessed of the obsessive feeling 
    That dawn has come and gone and brought no light.*
And this, which happens to be the name of the small book of his selected short poems

    *All you who sleep tonight 
    Far from the ones you love, 
    No hand to left or right 
    And emptiness above -

    Know that you aren't alone 
    The whole world shares your tears, 
    Some for two nights or one, 
    And some for all their years.*
PS: pardon the bad formatting. Long form text entry via a tiny screen is still a pain point :)

Poems > Poets

"The Abnormal is Not Courage"

The Poles rode out from Warsaw against the German tanks on horses. Rode knowing, in sunlight, with sabers, A magnitude of beauty that allows me no peace. And yet this poem would lessen that day.

Question the bravery. Say it's not courage. Call it a passion. Would say courage isn't that. Not at its best. It was impossible, and with form. They rode in sunlight, Were mangled.

But I say courage is not the abnormal. Not the marvelous act. Not Macbeth with fine speeches. The worthless can manage in public, or for the moment. It is too near the whore's heart: the bounty of impulse, And the failure to sustain even small kindness. Not the marvelous act, but the evident conclusion of being. Not strangeness, but a leap forward of the same quality.

Accomplishment. The even loyalty. But fresh. Not the Prodigal Son, nor Faustus. But Penelope. The thing steady and clear. Then the crescendo.

The real form. The culmination. And the exceeding. Not the surprise. The amazed understanding. The marriage, Not the month's rapture. Not the exception. The beauty That is of many days. Steady and clear.

It is the normal excellence, of long accomplishment.

-Jack Gilbert

Minor disclaimer - the incident this poem is about had not happened. It's German war propaganda.

More: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charge_at_Krojanty

Not that it matters for poetry.

I've always enjoyed the Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll. It is full of emotive gibberish that creates wonderful imagery and feeling out of meaningless sounds. Which is all poetry really is in the end!

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand; Long time the manxome foe he sought— So rested he by the Tumtum tree And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood, The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame, Came whiffling through the tulgey wood, And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through The vorpal blade went snicker-snack! He left it dead, and with its head He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock? Come to my arms, my beamish boy! O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!” He chortled in his joy.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe.

Seamus Heaney & Patrick Kavanagh

Heaney was a literary genius. Kavanagh was a master at capturing the bleak reality of working class Ireland.

Both very different in their own right but both are prime examples of the immense variety within Irish poetry.

I've always been fond of Albert Goldbarths' "Budget Travel Through Time and Space". He's an old timer with modern sensibilities, narratives that criss-cross eras with ease and a cosmological perspective. Science is inflected in a lot of his work.

"The Sciences Sing a Lullabye"

Physics says: go to sleep. Of course you’re tired. Every atom in you has been dancing the shimmy in silver shoes nonstop from mitosis to now. Quit tapping your feet. They’ll dance inside themselves without you. Go to sleep.

Geology says: it will be all right. Slow inch by inch America is giving itself to the ocean. Go to sleep. Let darkness lap at your sides. Give darkness an inch. You aren’t alone. All of the continents used to be one body. You aren’t alone. Go to sleep.

Astronomy says: the sun will rise tomorrow, Zoology says: on rainbow-fish and lithe gazelle, Psychology says: but first it has to be night, so Biology says: the body-clocks are stopped all over town and History says: here are the blankets, layer on layer, down and down.

It's a lot more metaphorical and more fanciful but there's "Evolution" by Langdon Smith: https://msuweb.montclair.edu/~furrg/int/evolution.html

  When you were a tadpole and I was a fish
  In the Paleozoic time,
  And side by side on the ebbing tide
  We sprawled through the ooze and slime,
  Or skittered with many a caudal flip
  Through the depths of the Cambrian fen,
  My heart was rife with the joy of life,
  For I loved you even then. [...]

How do I format text like that on HN? Use <pre> tags?

Two spaces in front of each line should work.

  One space is not enough,
  Yet two suffice.

Georg Trakl, an austrian.

The following was written a few days before his death and is an expression of his experience as a medic after the battle of Gródek in the first world war (translated from german by Eric Plattner & Joseph Suglia):


  This evening the autumn woods are alive
  with exploding arms, the golden fields
  and blue lakes—and above it all the sun
  unfurls the dark. Night surrounds
  the dying men, the unhinged moan
  of crushed mouths.
  And still, in the willows,
  the red cloud, the abiding God, bloodshed itself,
  begins the harvest in mute fury, the moon’s coolness.
  All roads rupture into black rot.
  Under the golden spray of night and stars
  the sister’s shadow staggers across the acquiescent grove
  to greet the ghosts of heroes, their blossoming skulls.
  And beyond human ears the dark flutes of autumn whisper.
  O noble mourning!—you brazen altars,
  the searing flame of the spirit nurtures a vaster ache,
  the grandsons unborn.

Gerard Manley Hopkins: God’s Grandeur

  THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.

    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;

    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil

  Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?

  Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;

    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;

    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil

  Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

  And for all this, nature is never spent;

    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;

  And though the last lights off the black West went

    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—    

  Because the Holy Ghost over the bent

    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

I don't actually liken the poem to god's grandeur... more the seemingly unending bounty of the world, and its perseverance in spite of a harsh and unforgiving universe.

I love this poem. It's also one of my favorites. As a non-religious person, the poem inspires me to always look for hope, no matter what. Thanks for posting!

Wislawa Szymborska.

Until I read her poems, I thought people that fawned over poetry were just making it up.

Here is the one that I read first http://bettinamay.com/poem/2008/10/view-with-a-grain-of-sand...

I love Kipling, especially his more humorous work. Case in point:

  I go to concert, party, ball --
    What profit is in these?
  I sit alone against the wall
    And strive to look at ease.
  The incense that is mine by right
    They burn before her shrine;
  And that's because I'm seventeen
    And She is forty-nine.

  I cannot check my girlish blush,
    My color comes and goes;
  I redden to my finger-tips,
    And sometimes to my nose.
  But She is white where white should be,
    And red where red should shine.
  The blush that flies at seventeen
    Is fixed at forty-nine.

  I wish I had Her constant cheek;
    I wish that I could sing
  All sorts of funny little songs,
    Not quite the proper thing.
  I'm very gauche and very shy,
    Her jokes aren't in my line;
  And, worst of all, I'm seventeen
    While She is forty-nine.

  The young men come, the young men go
    Each pink and white and neat,
  She's older than their mothers, but
    They grovel at Her feet.
  They walk beside Her 'rickshaw wheels --
    None ever walk by mine;
  And that's because I'm seventeen
    And She is foty-nine.

  She rides with half a dozen men,
    (She calls them "boys" and "mashers")
  I trot along the Mall alone;
    My prettiest frocks and sashes
  Don't help to fill my programme-card,
    And vainly I repine
  From ten to two A.M. Ah me!
    Would I were forty-nine!

  She calls me "darling," "pet," and "dear,"
    And "sweet retiring maid."
  I'm always at the back, I know,
    She puts me in the shade.
  She introduces me to men,
    "Cast" lovers, I opine,
  For sixty takes to seventeen,
    Nineteen to foty-nine.

  But even She must older grow
    And end Her dancing days,
  She can't go on forever so
    At concerts, balls and plays.
  One ray of priceless hope I see
    Before my footsteps shine;
  Just think, that She'll be eighty-one
    When I am forty-nine.

Some really inspiring versification in here, and it would be difficult to surpass the aesthetic and philosophic achievements already mentioned.

However, for sheer technical brilliance, perhaps a word should be said for the ElectroBard from Stanislaw Lem's Cyberiad, whose verbal virtuosity was such that when challenged:

“compose a poem- a poem about a haircut! But lofty, tragic, timeless, full of love, treachery, retribution, quiet heroism in the face of certain doom! Six lines, cleverly rhymed, and every word beginning with the letter S!!"

the response was instant:

    Seduced, shaggy Samson snored.
    She scissored short. Sorely shorn,
    Soon shackled slave, Samson sighed,
    Silently scheming
    Sightlessly seeking
    Some savage, spectacular suicide."
... and if you think that's good, just imagine how great it was before being translated into English! (By Michael Kandel iirc)

Vincas Mykolaitis-Putinas


Goethe is fine too, and some Russian poets.

I'm from England but I gladly concede that the best poetry tends to come from countries east of my own.

Omar Khayyam, the Persian poet is by far my favorite. His writings are absolutely riveting and awe-inspiring!! He was so ahead of his time and genius polymath as well.

Do you have any particular poems, or collections that you would suggest?

Desert Places by Robert Frost

Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast In a field I looked into going past, And the ground almost covered smooth in snow, But a few weeds and stubble showing last.

The woods around it have it-it is theirs. All animals are smothered in their lairs. I am too absent-spirited to count; The loneliness includes me unawares.

And lonely as it is, that loneliness Will be more lonely ere it will be less- A blanker whiteness of benighted snow With no expression, nothing to express.

They cannot scare me with their empty spaces Between stars-on stars where no human race is. I have it in me so much nearer home To scare myself with my own desert places.

Ode by Arthur William Edgar O'Shaughnessy.

WE are the music-makers,

  And we are the dreamers of dreams, 
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,

  And sitting by desolate streams; 
World-losers and world-forsakers, On whom the pale moon gleams:

Yet we are the movers and shakers

  Of the world for ever, it seems. 

With wonderful deathless ditties

We build up the world's great cities, And out of a fabulous story

  We fashion an empire's glory: 
One man with a dream, at pleasure,

  Shall go forth and conquer a crown; 
And three with a new song's measure Can trample an empire down.

We, in the ages lying

  In the buried past of the earth, 
Built Nineveh with our sighing,

  And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o'erthrew them with prophesying

  To the old of the new world's worth; 
For each age is a dream that is dying,

  Or one that is coming to birth.

Great thread. Emily Dickinson

  I'm nobody! Who are you?
  Are you nobody, too?
  Then there's a pair of us -- don't tell!
  They'd banish -- you know!

  How dreary to be somebody!
  How public like a frog
  To tell one's name the livelong day
  To an admiring bog!

I discovered The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran around 2009 and it quickly became and has remained one of my favorites. I appreciate the descriptiveness and beauty of the language along with the continuing relevance of the advice. It's very easy reading and enjoyable to pick up for a short time and enjoy in small bits or read straight through.


A couple favorites of mine are:

On Pain - http://www.katsandogz.com/onpain.html

On Reason & Passion - http://www.katsandogz.com/onreason.html

While hardly a pleasant person himself, Berthold Brecht had some compelling ones (especially as an antidote for all the roses and moons and lips ;))


   Seven years I could not walk a step.
   When I to the great physician came
   He demanded: Why the crutches?
   And I told him: I am lame.

   He replied: That's not surprising.
   Be so good and try once more.
   If you're lame, it's those contraptions.
   Fall then! Crawl across the floor!

   And he took my lovely crutches
   Laughing with a fiend's grimace
   Broke them both across my back and
   Threw them in the fireplace.

   Well, I'm cured now: I can walk.
   Cured by nothing more than laughter.
   Sometimes, though, when I see sticks
   I walk worse for some hours after.

My favorite single book of poetry was actually written by my best friend. It's called God's Livestovk Policy, and it's a completely brilliant commentary on how we relate to each other and power figures. It's brutally funny as well as beatiful language.


Other than that, I'm a huge fan of romantic era German poetry. Heine's Wenn ich in deine Augen seh is haunting

Wenn ich in deine Augen seh, So schwindet all mein Leid und Weh; Doch wenn ich küsse deinen Mund, So werd ich ganz und gar gerund.

Wenn ich mich lehn an deine Brust, Kommts über mich wie Himmelslust; Doch wenn du sprichst: Ich liebe dich! So muß ich weinen bitterlich.

My favourite poet is K. P. Cavafy and my favorite poem is Ithaca:

    As you set out for Ithaka
    hope the voyage is a long one,
    full of adventure, full of discovery.
    Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
    angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
    you’ll never find things like that on your way
    as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
    as long as a rare excitement
    stirs your spirit and your body.
    Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
    wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
    unless you bring them along inside your soul,
    unless your soul sets them up in front of you.
    Hope the voyage is a long one.
    May there be many a summer morning when,
    with what pleasure, what joy,
    you come into harbors seen for the first time;
    may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
    to buy fine things,
    mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
    sensual perfume of every kind—
    as many sensual perfumes as you can;
    and may you visit many Egyptian cities
    to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.
    Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
    Arriving there is what you are destined for.
    But do not hurry the journey at all.
    Better if it lasts for years,
    so you are old by the time you reach the island,
    wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
    not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
    Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
    Without her you would not have set out.
    She has nothing left to give you now.
    And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
    Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
    you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

This translation is by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Cavafy is a Greek poet who lived in Alexandria in the beginning of the century. He was very shy, he never sold any of his poets. He made copies and distributed his poetry to friends only. He was a perfectionists. Reports say that he would literally work up to 20 years to a single poem, changing words, syllables or entire lines accordingly. His poetry greatly improved as he grew older. Personally, I enjoyed this version[1] by Sir Sean Connery.

Then I also admire deeply Shakespeare. To me Shakespeare is like a crossroad between, poetry, philosophy, love, wisdom. An unbelievably refreshing, well-made cocktail of thought and art.

Those two poets are the ones that touch my spirit the most :-)

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1n3n2Ox4Yfk

As this is my favourite poem as well and you beat me to sharing it, I may as well add some context to it for the people not familiar with names and situations:

Ithaca[1] is where Odysseus[2], one of the greek heroes in the Trojan War, came from. After the war was over he set, along with his crew, to return home but this took him ten whole years and Homer wrote about his adventures and misfortunes in the epic that is known as Odyssey[3].

Now, as this consists of dangerous situations, very bad luck, betrayal and a couple of other bad things, the word "odyssey" has become one with which modern greeks describe a long and difficult period until something (a goal, a destination, etc) is reached. However, Kavafis (greek for Cavafy) turned this around and is describing all the great things that one can benefit from during such journeys: new harbours, Phoenician goods, Egyptian cities - all these pictures are used to demonstrate how rich one will be after an "odyssey" even if he/she has to face Laistrygonians, Cyclops and angry Poseidons.

In the end, Kavafis tells us about what Ithaca really is about: not reaching your destination but experiencing the journey.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ithaca [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odysseus [3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odyssey

  High Flight
  By John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

  Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
  And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
  Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
  Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
  You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
  High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
  I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
  My eager craft through footless halls of air. . . .

  Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
  I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
  Where never lark, or ever eagle flew —
  And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
  The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
  Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Czeslaw Milosz. "Gift" [1] and "A Song on the End of the World" [2].

Philip Larkin. Almost everything he wrote.

Robert Frost.

Ted Hughes. The Birthday Letters. Esp. "You Hated Spain" [3]

T S Elliot. Four Quartets. Preludes.

[1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A17245-2004Aug...

[2] http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/179559

[3] https://philosopherpoet.wordpress.com/2008/04/05/you-hated-s...

Edna St. Vincent Millay is certainly one of my favorites. Here's one:

  I, being born a woman and distressed
  By all the needs and notions of my kind,
  Am urged by your propinquity to find
  Your person fair, and feel a certain zest
  To bear your body's weight upon my breast:
  So subtly is the fume of life designed,
  To clarify the pulse and cloud the mind,
  And leave me once again undone, possessed.
  Think not for this, however, the poor treason
  Of my stout blood against my staggering brain,
  I shall remember you with love, or season
  My scorn wtih pity, -- let me make it plain:
  I find this frenzy insufficient reason
  For conversation when we meet again.

Poetry often goes way beyond just the naked words. Understanding the context around the writer, including background on his or her place and time matters a lot.

In this sense, this amazing iOS app completely changed my understanding of T.S. Eliot and his classic "The Waste of the Land": https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/the-waste-land/id427434046?m...

Highly recommended. It makes it pretty obvious that there is still so much opportunity to do more things with augmented content.

Aehm, it's "The Waste Land".

You're right, sorry for the typo

I really don't know what to do with this. It's from a Spanish poet, I discovered it in French and got to prefer the Spanish original. I haven't been able to find the English translation.

    Más allá de donde
    aún se esconde la vida, queda
    un reino, queda cultivar
    como un rey su agonía,
    hacer florecer como un reino
    la sucia flor de la agonía:
    yo que todo lo prostituí, aún puedo
    prostituir mi muerte y hacer
    de mi cadáver el último poema.
    – Leopoldo María Panero

Of course it's Spanish and about sex, indirectly. I think I prefer the German poets and their poems about nature, the human struggle, etc. (I'm sure someone will provide some examples of German poets that write about sex)

This is one of my favourite poems.

  Where are you now? Who lies beneath your spell tonight?  
  Whom else from rapture’s road will you expel tonight?

  Those “Fabrics of Cashmere—” “to make Me beautiful—”  
  “Trinket”—to gem—“Me to adorn—How tell”—tonight?

  I beg for haven: Prisons, let open your gates—  
  A refugee from Belief seeks a cell tonight.

  God’s vintage loneliness has turned to vinegar—  
  All the archangels—their wings frozen—fell tonight.

  Lord, cried out the idols, Don’t let us be broken;  
  Only we can convert the infidel tonight.

  Mughal ceilings, let your mirrored convexities  
  multiply me at once under your spell tonight.

  He’s freed some fire from ice in pity for Heaven.  
  He’s left open—for God—the doors of Hell tonight.

  In the heart’s veined temple, all statues have been smashed.  
  No priest in saffron’s left to toll its knell tonight.

  God, limit these punishments, there’s still Judgment Day—  
  I’m a mere sinner, I’m no infidel tonight.

  Executioners near the woman at the window.  
  Damn you, Elijah, I’ll bless Jezebel tonight.

  The hunt is over, and I hear the Call to Prayer  
  fade into that of the wounded gazelle tonight.

  My rivals for your love—you’ve invited them all?  
  This is mere insult, this is no farewell tonight.

  And I, Shahid, only am escaped to tell thee—  
  God sobs in my arms. Call me Ishmael tonight.
- Agha Shahid Ali Khan

  At dawn, the moon,
  like a creature of fantasy,
  stole into my room
  and woke me from some
  lazy and unproductive sleep.
  Her face quickly illuminated
  the underside of my soul
  and my own being stood
  revealed in the naked light.
  Sighing in wonder,
  I faced my Self, which said:
  "Your life so far has chased
  the illusion of control:
  You will not meet me on that path.
  One flash of my glance
  is worth a thousand years of piety."
  Overcome by waste and loss,
  my soul endarkened itself with shame.
  But my moon-faced Self,
  whose radiance equaled the sun,
  filled a cup of Direct Experience
  and urged me to drown my despair:
  "No bouquet... no flavor...
  but this wine can wash away
  your being's whole historical library."
  I finished the cup in one gulp,
  and, intoxicated by its purity,
  fell to the earth.
  Since then I am not sure
  whether I am here or not.
  Neither sober nor drunk,
  sometimes I feel the joy of
  my soul's eyes looking through mine.
  Other times I feel the curl of its hair
  and my life bobs and weaves.
  Sometimes, from sheer habit,
  I'm back on the compost heap.
  And sometimes,
  when that glance finds me again,
  I am back in the Rose Garden.

Some non-English poets:

Faiz: Your feet bleed, Faiz, something surely will bloom as you water the desert simply by walking through it.

Ahmad Faraz: ... All those with outspoken mouths have become torn bodies. Those with unbowed heads have been led to the gallows and the rope.

All the Sufis and saints, every Sheikh and Imam hope to find favour at the court of the rulers. The dignitaries of the law courts wait to take oaths like beggars squatting at the side of the road. ... Look at the principles of those unworldly loyalists who are with you look around! So the condition of saving your life is to place your pen and slate in the killing fields. If not you will be the only target of the archers this time. Therefore surrender your integrity. Seeing the treaty I spoke to the messenger. He does not know what history teaches. When the night martyrs the sun the morning sculpts a new one. ... My pen does not commend that protector who is proud of besieging his own city. My pen is not the bowl of the simple fool who renders praise-poems to the usurpers.

My pen is not the tool of the housebreaker who makes a hole in the roof of his own home. My pen is not the friend of the midnight thief who scales the walls of lamp less houses.

My pen is not the prayer beads of the missionary who always keeps account of his worshipful deeds. My pen is not the scale of the judge who places a double veil over his face.

My pen is the pious gift of my people. My pen is the court of my conscience. ...

Walt Whitman ..

    AH poverties, wincings, and sulky retreats,
    Ah you foes that in conflict have overcome me,
    (For what is my life or any man's life but a conflict with foes, the 
            old, the incessant war?) 
    You degradations, you tussle with passions and appetites,
    You smarts from dissatisfied friendships, (ah wounds the sharpest 
             of all!) 
    You toil of painful and choked articulations, you meannesses,
    You shallow tongue-talks at tables, (my tongue the shallowest of 
    You broken resolutions, you racking angers, you smother'd ennuis!
    Ah think not you finally triumph, my real self has yet to come 
    It shall yet march forth o'ermastering, till all lies beneath me,
    It shall yet stand up the soldier of ultimate victory.

original manuscripts :: http://www.whitmanarchive.org/manuscripts/transcriptions/ind...

So many. To name a few:

Marge Piercy (see below)

Robert Frost (if you read him carefully)

Philip Larkin

William Stafford


To be of use – by Marge Piercy


  The people I love the best
  jump into work head first
  without dallying in the shallows
  and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
  They seem to become natives of that element,
  the black sleek heads of seals
  bouncing like half-submerged balls.
  I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
  who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
  who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
  who do what has to be done, again and again.
  I want to be with people who submerge 
  in the task, who go into the fields to harvest 
  and work in a row and pass the bags along,
  who are not parlor generals and field deserters
  but move in a common rhythm
  when the food must come in or the fire be put out.
  The work of the world is common as mud.
  Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
  But the thing worth doing well done
  has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
  Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
  Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
  but you know they were made to be used.
  The pitcher cries for water to carry
  and a person for work that is real.

Another good one by Philip Larkin:

Vers de Société

My wife and I have asked a crowd of craps To come and waste their time and ours: perhaps You’d care to join us? In a pig’s arse, friend. Day comes to an end. The gas fire breathes, the trees are darkly swayed. And so Dear Warlock-Williams: I’m afraid—

Funny how hard it is to be alone. I could spend half my evenings, if I wanted, Holding a glass of washing sherry, canted Over to catch the drivel of some bitch Who’s read nothing but Which; Just think of all the spare time that has flown

Straight into nothingness by being filled With forks and faces, rather than repaid Under a lamp, hearing the noise of wind, And looking out to see the moon thinned To an air-sharpened blade. A life, and yet how sternly it’s instilled

All solitude is selfish. No one now Believes the hermit with his gown and dish Talking to God (who’s gone too); the big wish Is to have people nice to you, which means Doing it back somehow. Virtue is social. Are, then, these routines

Playing at goodness, like going to church? Something that bores us, something we don’t do well (Asking that ass about his fool research) But try to feel, because, however crudely, It shows us what should be? Too subtle, that. Too decent, too. Oh hell,

Only the young can be alone freely. The time is shorter now for company, And sitting by a lamp more often brings Not peace, but other things. Beyond the light stand failure and remorse Whispering Dear Warlock-Williams: Why, of course—


  W. H. Auden, 1907 - 1973
   Lay your sleeping head, my love,
  Human on my faithless arm;
  Time and fevers burn away
  Individual beauty from
  Thoughtful children, and the grave
  Proves the child ephemeral:
  But in my arms till break of day
  Let the living creature lie,
  Mortal, guilty, but to me
  The entirely beautiful.
  Soul and body have no bounds:
  To lovers as they lie upon
  Her tolerant enchanted slope
  In their ordinary swoon,
  Grave the vision Venus sends
  Of supernatural sympathy,
  Universal love and hope;
  While an abstract insight wakes
  Among the glaciers and the rocks
  The hermit’s carnal ecstasy.
  Certainty, fidelity
  On the stroke of midnight pass
  Like vibrations of a bell,
  And fashionable madmen raise
  Their pedantic boring cry:
  Every farthing of the cost,
  All the dreaded cards foretell,
  Shall be paid, but from this night
  Not a whisper, not a thought,
  Not a kiss nor look be lost.
  Beauty, midnight, vision dies:
  Let the winds of dawn that blow
  Softly round your dreaming head
  Such a day of welcome show
  Eye and knocking heart may bless,
  Find the mortal world enough;
  Noons of dryness find you fed
  By the involuntary powers,
  Nights of insult let you pass
  Watched by every human love.

Recently been into Bukowski, alongside Shelley, Frost and Tennyson remain favs

I met a traveler from an antique land Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand, Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown, And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, Tell that its sculptor well those passions read Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed; And on the pedestal these words appear: “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away.

– Percy Shelley

if you’re going to try, go all the way. otherwise, don’t even start.

if you’re going to try, go all the way. this could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives, jobs and maybe your mind.

go all the way. it could mean not eating for 3 or 4 days. it could mean freezing on a park bench. it could mean jail, it could mean derision, mockery, isolation. isolation is the gift, all the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. and you’ll do it despite rejection and the worst odds and it will be better than anything else you can imagine.

if you’re going to try, go all the way. there is no other feeling like that. you will be alone with the gods and the nights will flame with fire.

do it, do it, do it. do it.

all the way all the way.

you will ride life straight to perfect laughter, its the only good fight there is.

Thank you so much for reminding me of his writing. I fell in love with a Greek woman on Crete many years ago. It was one of the most painful times of my life when I realized that I could not stay there with her, or she with me. Cavafy's poem Ithaca has haunted me whenever I'm reminded of it:


I am a muted Ulysses.

[Update] Looks like I'm not the only one who loves this poem. See the follow-on comment for some background.


Henry David Thoreau & Walt Whitman

Nature Poem by Henry David Thoreau

  O Nature! I do not aspire
  To be the highest in thy choir, -
  To be a meteor in thy sky,
  Or comet that may range on high;
  Only a zephyr that may blow
  Among the reeds by the river low;
  Give me thy most privy place
  Where to run my airy race.

  In some withdrawn, unpublic mead
  Let me sigh upon a reed,
  Or in the woods, with leafy din,
  Whisper the still evening in:
  Some still work give me to do, -
  Only - be it near to you!

  For I'd rather be thy child
  And pupil, in the forest wild,
  Than be the king of men elsewhere,
  And most sovereign slave of care;
  To have one moment of thy dawn,
  Than share the city's year forlorn.
Pioneers! O Pioneers! by Walt Whitman

It's a long one so here is the first part:

  COME, my tan-faced children,
  Follow well in order, get your weapons ready;
  Have you your pistols? have you your sharp edged axes?
  Pioneers! O pioneers!

  For we cannot tarry here,	 
  We must march my darlings, we must bear the brunt of danger,	         
  We, the youthful sinewy races, all the rest on us depend,  
  Pioneers! O pioneers! ...

I love Bukowski's "Pulled Down Shade"

"what I like about you she told me is that you're crude -- look at you sitting there a beercan in your hand and a cigar in your mouth and look at your dirty hairy belly sticking out from under your shirt. you've got your shoes off and you've got a hole in your right stocking with the big toe sticking out. you haven't shaved in 4 or 5 days. your teeth are yellow and your eyebrows hang down all twisted and you've got enough scars to scare the shit out of anybody. there's always a ring in your bathtub your telephone is covered with grease and half the crap in your refrigerator is rotten. you never wash your car. you've got newspapers a week old on the floor. you read dirty magazines and you don't have a tv but you order deliveries from the liquor store and you tip good. and best of all you don't push a woman to go to bed with you. you seem hardly interested and when I talk to you you don't say anything you just look around the room or scratch your neck like you don't hear me. you've got an old wet towel in the sink and a photo of Mussolini on the wall and you never complain about anything and you never ask questions and I've known you for 6 months but I have no idea who you are. you're like some pulled down shade but that's what I like about you: your crudeness: a woman can drop out of your life and forget you real fast. a woman can't go anywhere but UP after leaving you, honey. you've got to be the best thing that ever happened to a girl who's between one guy and the next and has nothing to do at the moment. this fucking Scotch is great. let's play Scrabble."

Favourite poets: Rumi, Neruda, Herrick, Byron, Keats, Frost...

One day somebody sent me this. It still gets me every time.

  I will try to live on earth without you.
  I will try to live on earth without you. 
  I will become any object,
  I don’t care what—
  I will be this speeding train.
  This smoke
  or a beautiful gay man laughing in the front seat.
  A human body is defenseless 
  on earth.
  It’s a piece of fire-wood.
  Ocean water hits it.
  Lenin puts it on his official shoulder.
  And therefore, in order not to suffer, a human spirit
  inside the wind and inside the wood and inside the shoulder    of a great dictator.

  But I will not be water. I will not be a fire.

  I will be an eyelash.
  A sponge washing your neck-hairs.
  Or a verb, an adjective, I will become. Such a word
  slightly lights your cheek.
  What happened? Nothing.
  Something visited? Nothing.
  What was there you cannot whisper.
  No smoke without fire, they whisper.
  I will be a handful of smoke
  over this lost city of Moscow.
  I will console any man,
  I will sleep with any man,
  under the army’s traveling horse carriages.
  -- Polina Barskova

Favourite? I don't know... Blake? Poe? Various Japanese classics? Currently reading "Paradise Lost" by Milton. But what I've probably listened to most, lately, is Kate Tempest:

    I know now, first hand,
    That regretting love will empty you
    Of all that makes you love
    And all that lovers pay attention to.

    (Verse from "Best Intentions", Kate Tempest)
It's interesting to see that many seem to have fallen in love with poetry that's been translated to English. While there's nothing wrong with translation, I do think it is a little curious that some seem to prefer translated poetry, to native language authors (Much as it'd be a bit curious to hold up Blake as one's favourite poet in Spanish). At least one should make note of not just the original author, but also the translator -- as the end result is very much a team effort.

[edit: Somewhat apropos, perhaps:

  "Kate Tempest - 13 Commandments"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DktpzYOHTXo ]

Dambudzo Marechera - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dambudzo_Marechera

  The lives of small men are like spiders' webs;
  they are studded with minute skeletons of greatness.
  Excerpt from House of Hunger

  I’m against everything
  Against war and those against
  War. Against whatever diminishes
  Th’ individual’s blind impulse.

  Shake the peaches down from 
  The summer poem, Rake in ripe
  Luminosity; dust; taste. Lunchtime
  News – pass the Castor Oil, Alice.

  I have no ear for slogans
  You may as well shut up your arse
  I run when it’s I LOVE YOU time
  Don’t say it I’ll stick around
  I run when it’s A LUTA time
  I run when it’s FORWARD time
  Don’t say it we’ll fuck the whole night
  The moon won’t come down
  At first awkwardly, excruciatingly embarrassing
  But with Venus ascending, a shout and leap of joy

  When the sheets are at last silent
  Don’t ask “What are you thinking?”
  Don’t ask “Was it good?”
  Don’t feel bad because I’m smoking
  They ask and feel bad who are insecure
  Who say after the act “Tell me a story”
  And you may as well know
  Don’t talk of “MARRIAGE” if this reconciliation
  is to last.

  Like meteorites, through my long
  Isolated heart-atmosphere, you
  Burst incandescent over my platinum history.
  My future in earthquake reeled; my present only on 
  Seismograph could point to the cataclysm – no
  Evidence of you attached to my stone and flesh,
  Only nightmarish passions which I can still hear
  When you shake your head. Shake it vigorously.
  Nuclear tests of underground love!

Not my absolute favorite poem but one I always liked.

    Madame quel est votre mot
    Et sur le mot et sur la chose
    On vous a dit souvent le mot
    On vous a fait souvent la chose
    Ainsi de la chose et du mot
    Vous pouvez dire quelque chose
    Et je gagerais que le mot
    Vous plaît beaucoup moins que la chose
    Pour moi voici quel est mon mot
    Et sur le mot et sur la chose
    J'avouerai que j'aime le mot
    J'avouerai que j'aime la chose
    Mais c'est la chose avec le mot
    Mais c'est le mot avec la chose
    Autrement la chose et le mot 
    A mes yeux seraient peu de chose
    Je crois même en faveur du mot
    Pouvoir ajouter quelque chose
    Une chose qui donne au mot 
    Tout l'avantage sur la chose
    C'est qu'on peut dire encore le mot
    Alors qu'on ne fait plus la chose
    Et pour peu que vaille le mot
    Mon Dieu c'est toujours quelque chose
    De là je conclus que le mot
    Doit être mis avant la chose
    Qu'il ne faut ajouter au mot
    Qu'autant que l'on peut quelque chose
    Et que pour le jour où le mot
    Viendra seul hélas sans la chose 
    Il faut se réserver le mot
    Pour se consoler de la chose
    Pour vous je crois qu'avec le mot
    Vous voyez toujours autre chose
    Vous dites si gaiement le mot
    Vous méritez si bien la chose
    Que pour vous la chose et le mot
    Doivent être la même chose
    Et vous n'avez pas dit le mot
    Qu'on est déjà prêt à la chose
    Mais quand je vous dis que le mot
    Doit être mis avant la chose
    Vous devez me croire à ce mot
    Bien peu connaisseur en la chose
    Et bien voici mon dernier mot
    Et sur le mot et sur la chose
    Madame passez-moi le mot
    Et je vous passerai la chose
It's by an 18th century libertine priest who was called l'Abbé de Lattaignant.


I asked for Strength,

God gave me difficulties to face.

I asked for Wisdom,

God gave me problems to solve.

I asked for Courage,

God gave me danger to overcome.

I asked for Love,

God gave me troubled people to help.

I asked for Favours,

God gave me opportunities.

I received nothing I wanted;

I received everything I needed.

My PRAYER has been answered.

-Vedanta Kesari

Keith Douglas ww2 war poet

"The noble horse with courage in his eye, clean in the bone, looks up at a shellburst: away fly the images of the shires but he puts the pipe back in his mouth. Peter was unfortunately killed by an 88; it took his leg away, he died in the ambulance. I saw him crawling on the sand, he said It's most unfair, they've shot my foot off."

Thomas Grey ("Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard," with its lyric celebration of ordinary life, is arguably the greatest English poem).

TS Elliot, on his good days (Prufrock counts as a good day, as do the Landscape poems. He oversteps in "The Waste Land".)

Tennyson, when in the mood for melancholy.

Robert Herrick, when in the mood for insouciance, contemplation and the poet's struggle.

Czesław Miłosz, "Campo di fiori":

  In Rome on the Campo dei Fiori
  baskets of olives and lemons,
  cobbles spattered with wine
  and the wreckage of flowers.
  Vendors cover the trestles
  with rose-pink fish;
  armfuls of dark grapes
  heaped on peach-down.

  On this same square
  they burned Giordano Bruno.
  Henchmen kindled the pyre
  close-pressed by the mob.
  Before the flames had died
  the taverns were full again,
  baskets of olives and lemons
  again on the vendors' shoulders.

  I thought of the Campo dei Fiori
  in Warsaw by the sky-carousel
  one clear spring evening
  to the strains of a carnival tune.
  The bright melody drowned
  the salvos from the ghetto wall,
  and couples were flying
  high in the cloudless sky.

  At times wind from the burning
  would drift dark kites along
  and riders on the carousel
  caught petals in midair.
  That same hot wind
  blew open the skirts of the girls
  and the crowds were laughing
  on that beautiful Warsaw Sunday.

  Someone will read as moral
  that the people of Rome or Warsaw
  haggle, laugh, make love
  as they pass by the martyrs' pyres.
  Someone else will read
  of the passing of things human,
  of the oblivion
  born before the flames have died.

  But that day I thought only
  of the loneliness of the dying,
  of how, when Giordano
  climbed to his burning
  he could not find
  in any human tongue
  words for mankind,
  mankind who live on.

  Already they were back at their wine
  or peddled their white starfish,
  baskets of olives and lemons
  they had shouldered to the fair,
  and he already distanced
  as if centuries had passed
  while they paused just a moment
  for his flying in the fire.

  Those dying here, the lonely
  forgotten by the world,
  our tongue becomes for them
  the language of an ancient planet.
  Until, when all is legend
  and many years have passed,
  on a new Campo dei Fiori
  rage will kindle at a poet's word.

  Warsaw, 1943

I'm partial to Larkin and Heaney, but I have to say my favourite poem is this one by Lawrence Raab -

    Attack of the Crab Monsters

    Even from the beach I could sense it---
    lack of welcome, lack of abiding life,
    like something in the air, a certain
    lack of sound.  Yesterday
    there was a mountain out there.
    Now it's gone.  And look

    at this radio, each tube neatly
    sliced in half.  Blow the place up!
    That was my advice.
    But after the storm and the earthquake,
    after the tactic of the exploding plane
    and the strategy of the sinking boat, it looked

    like fate and I wanted to say, "Don't you see?
    So what if you're a famous biochemist!
    Lost with all hands is an old story."
    Sure, we're on the edge
    of an important breakthrough, everyone
    hearing voices, everyone falling

    into caves, and you're out
    wandering through the jungle
    in the middle of the night in your negligée.
    Yes, we're way out there
    on the edge of science, while the rest
    of the island continues to disappear until

    nothing's left except this
    cliff in the middle of the ocean,
    and you, in your bathing suit,
    crouched behind the scuba tanks.
    I'd like to tell you
    not to be afraid, but I've lost

    my voice. I'm not used to all these
    legs, these claws, these feelers.
    It's the old story, predictable
    as fallout---the re-arrangement of molecules.
    And everyone is surprised
    and no one understands

    why each man tries to kill
    the thing he loves, when the change
    comes over him. So now you know
    what I never found the time to say.
    Sweetheart, put down your flamethrower.
    You know I always loved you.
Hilarious, sad, and sweet. It wasn't until decades after I first read this that I found out that this wasn't just metaphor, it's pretty much an accurate synopsis of the Roger Corman film of the same name.

Did a quick search for a few poets (the usual, Robert Creeley, William Carlos Williams, George Oppen, Lorraine Neidecker, Robert Zukofsky), thinking about trying to champion at least one of them (Neidecker, probably).

Then I remembered, this is hacker news, these are programmers. Before I was a programmer, I was a poet and a poetry teacher. One of the things that started drawing me towards programming and technology were poets like bpNichol and his fantastic "First Screening". He wrote it on an Apple IIe using BASIC in 83-84 and folks have been "translating" it throughout the past 30 years to keep it accessible on newer PCs.

There's a lot of poetry and hacker ethos coming together to keep this little gem alive:

I recommend the .mov[1] version as the Javascript[2] version is a bit too nice (fonts, no flickering, etc), but you can also run the original code[3] in an emulator.

Or, for an entirely different experience, read the source code[4].

Read all about it here: http://vispo.com/bp/introduction.htm

1: http://vispo.com/bp/firstscreening.mov

2: http://vispo.com/bp/first-screening-javascript-version/first...

3: http://vispo.com/bp/emulatedversion.htm

4: http://vispo.com/bp/download/FirstScreeningBybpNichol.txt

Desiderata by Max Ehrmann:

    Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
    and remember what peace there may be in silence.
    As far as possible without surrender
    be on good terms with all persons.
    Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
    and listen to others,
    even the dull and the ignorant;
    they too have their story. 
    Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
    they are vexations to the spirit.
    If you compare yourself with others,
    you may become vain and bitter;
    for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
    Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. 
    Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
    it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
    Exercise caution in your business affairs;
    for the world is full of trickery.
    But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
    many persons strive for high ideals;
    and everywhere life is full of heroism. 
    Be yourself.
    Especially, do not feign affection.
    Neither be cynical about love;
    for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
    it is as perennial as the grass. 
    Take kindly the counsel of the years,
    gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
    Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
    But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
    Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
    Beyond a wholesome discipline,
    be gentle with yourself. 
    You are a child of the universe,
    no less than the trees and the stars;
    you have a right to be here.
    And whether or not it is clear to you,
    no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. 
    Therefore be at peace with God,
    whatever you conceive Him to be,
    and whatever your labors and aspirations,
    in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. 
    With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
    it is still a beautiful world.
    Be cheerful.
    Strive to be happy.

As I age, I grow ever fonder of Tennyson, particularly his "Ulysses", from which:

...Come, my friends, 'T is not too late to seek a newer world. Push off, and sitting well in order smite The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths Of all the western stars, until I die. It may be that the gulfs will wash us down: It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles, And see the great Achilles, whom we knew. Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho' We are not now that strength which in old days Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts, Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.


edit: sorry, can't format correctly

L'infinito - Giacomo Leopardi


  Always dear to me was this lonely hill,
  And this hedge, which from me so great a part
  Of the farthest horizon excludes the gaze.
  But as I sit and watch, I invent in my mind
  endless spaces beyond, and superhuman
  silences, and profoundest quiet;
  wherefore my heart
  almost loses itself in fear. And as I hear the wind
  rustle through these plants, I compare
  that infinite silence to this voice:
  and I recall to mind eternity,
  And the dead seasons, and the one present
  And alive, and the sound of it. So in this
  Immensity my thinking drowns:
  And to shipwreck is sweet for me in this sea.

Happy indeed we live, friendly amidst the hostile. Amidst hostile men we dwell free from hatred.

Happy indeed we live, friendly amidst the afflicted (by craving). Amidst afflicted men we dwell free from affliction.

Happy indeed we live, free from avarice amidst the avaricious. Amidst the avaricious men we dwell free from avarice.

Happy indeed we live, we who possess nothing. Feeders on joy we shall be, like the Radiant Gods.

Victory begets enmity; the defeated dwell in pain. Happily the peaceful live, discarding both victory and defeat.

There is no fire like lust and no crime like hatred. There is no ill like the aggregates (of existence) and no bliss higher than the peace (of Nibbana). [17]

Hunger is the worst disease, conditioned things the worst suffering. Knowing this as it really is, the wise realize Nibbana, the highest bliss.

Health is the most precious gain and contentment the greatest wealth. A trustworthy person is the best kinsman, Nibbana the highest bliss.

Having savored the taste of solitude and peace (of Nibbana), pain-free and stainless he becomes, drinking deep the taste of the bliss of the Truth.

Good is it to see the Noble Ones; to live with them is ever blissful. One will always be happy by not encountering fools.

Indeed, he who moves in the company of fools grieves for longing. Association with fools is ever painful, like partnership with an enemy. But association with the wise is happy, like meeting one's own kinsmen.

Therefore, follow the Noble One, who is steadfast, wise, learned, dutiful and devout. One should follow only such a man, who is truly good and discerning, even as the moon follows the path of the stars.

-- Sukhavagga: Happiness http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/dhp/dhp.15.budd.h...

Stephen Crane

  In the desert
  I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
  Who, squatting upon the ground,
  Held his heart in his hands,
  And ate of it.
  I said, “Is it good, friend?”
  “It is bitter—bitter,” he answered;

  “But I like it
  “Because it is bitter,
  “And because it is my heart.”

I like Rimbaud quite a lot:

  "The star wept rose-colored [. . .]"
  The star wept rose-colored in the heart of your ears,
  The infinite rolled white from your nape to your loins
  The sea turned ruddy at your vermilion nipples
  And Man bled black on your sovereign flank.

  "The wolf howled under the leaves [. . .]"
  The wolf howled under the leaves
  As he spat out the fine feathers
  Of his meal of fowl:
  Like him I consume myself.
  Lettuce and fruit
  Wait only to be picked;
  But the spider of the hedge
  Eats only violets.
  Let me sleep! Let me boil
  At the altars of Solomon.
  Boiling water courses over the rust,
  And mixes with the Kidron.
These are translated from the French by Wallace Fowlie.

Rimbaud: “Jadis, si je me souviens bien, ma vie était un festin où s'ouvraient tous les coeurs, où tous les vins coulaient.”

Edwin Arlington Robinson - Richard Cory

  Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
  We people on the pavement looked at him:
  He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
  Clean favored, and imperially slim.
  And he was always quietly arrayed,
  And he was always human when he talked;
  But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
  "Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked.
  And he was rich – yes, richer than a king –
  And admirably schooled in every grace:
  In fine, we thought that he was everything
  To make us wish that we were in his place.
  So on we worked, and waited for the light,
  And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
  And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
  Went home and put a bullet through his head

The recently passed Tomas Tranströmer, I love his writing. He can go from personal headspace to outer space in a cherry blossom in a moment during a car crash:


  After a Death 
  (translated by Robert Bly)

  Once there was a shock
  that left behind a long, shimmering comet tail.
  It keeps us inside. It makes the TV pictures snowy.
  It settles in cold drops on the telephone wires.

  One can still go slowly on skis in the winter sun
  through brush where a few leaves hang on.
  They resemble pages torn from old telephone directories.
  Names swallowed by the cold.

  It is still beautiful to hear the heart beat
  but often the shadow seems more real than the body.
  The samurai looks insignificant
  beside his armor of black dragon scales.

Buddy Wakefield. Slam poet, spoken word. He got be through some really hard times.


Robinson Jeffers!

You can visit the stone Tor House in Carmel, just 90 minutes south of the SF Bay Area:


~ ~ ~ ~

The Beauty of Things

To feel and speak the astonishing beauty of things — earth, stone and water, Beast, man and woman, sun, moon and stars — The blood-shot beauty of human nature, its thoughts, frenzies and passions, And unhuman nature its towering reality — For man’s half dream; man, you might say, is nature dreaming, but rock And water and sky are constant — to feel Greatly, and understand greatly, and express greatly, the natural Beauty, is the sole business of poetry. The rest’s diversion: those holy or noble sentiments, the intricate ideas, The love, lust, longing: reasons, but not the reason.

Clouds Gathering by Charles Simic

    It seemed the kind of life we wanted.
    Wild strawberries and cream in the morning.
    Sunlight in every room.
    The two of us walking by the sea naked.

    Some evenings, however, we found ourselves
    Unsure of what comes next.
    Like tragic actors in a theater on fire,
    With birds circling over our heads,
    The dark pines strangely still,
    Each rock we stepped on bloodied by the sunset.

    We were back on our terrace sipping wine.
    Why always this hint of an unhappy ending?
    Clouds of almost human appearance
    Gathering on the horizon, but the rest lovely
    With the air so mild and the sea untroubled.

    The night suddenly upon us, a starless night.
    You lighting a candle, carrying it naked
    Into our bedroom and blowing it out quickly.
    The dark pines and grasses strangely still.
Japan by Billy Collins

    Today I pass the time reading
    a favorite haiku,
    saying the few words over and over.

    It feels like eating
    the same small, perfect grape
    again and again.

    I walk through the house reciting it
    and leave its letters falling
    through the air of every room.

    I stand by the big silence of the piano and say it.
    I say it in front of a painting of the sea.
    I tap out its rhythm on an empty shelf.

    I listen to myself saying it,
    then I say it without listening,
    then I hear it without saying it.

    And when the dog looks up at me,
    I kneel down on the floor
    and whisper it into each of his long white ears.

    It's the one about the one-ton temple bell
    with the moth sleeping on its surface,

    and every time I say it, I feel the excruciating
    pressure of the moth
    on the surface of the iron bell.

    When I say it at the window,
    the bell is the world
    and I am the moth resting there.

    When I say it at the mirror,
    I am the heavy bell
    and the moth is life with its papery wings.

    And later, when I say it to you in the dark,
    you are the bell,
    and I am the tongue of the bell, ringing you,

    and the moth has flown
    from its line
    and moves like a hinge in the air above our bed.

Almost all of the poetry I know well came from a single audio collection that I was happily exposed to many years ago; it's called Exact Change and each track is still available on the U.Penn web site [0]. All of the poets are well-known in their fields, some well-known enough to be known to the public, and I have wound up taking many to heart. Among my favorites are the ones by Jack Spicer, John Godfrey, and Kamau Brathwaite. Take a moment to listen, it's very revealing to hear a poem read by its author.

[0] http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Exact-Change.html

I adore the nonsense poems of Edward Lear. He's most famous for The Owl and The Pussycat, but The Nutcracker and The Sugartongs is one of my favourites to read aloud: http://www.nonsenselit.org/Lear/ns/nutcrackers.html

When read aloud, the rhythm is impeccable and almost addictive.

Another shout out has to go to A A Milne, particularly for Disobedience, which again is a delight to read aloud: http://www.umiacs.umd.edu/~ridge/local/disobedience.html

John Peale Bishop is pretty hilarious:

  Famously she descended, her red hair
  Unbound and bronzed by sea-reflections, caught
  Crinkled with sea-pearls. The fine slender taut
  Knees that let down her feet upon the air,

  Young breasts, slim flanks and golden quarries were
  Odder than when the young distraught
  Unknown Venetian, painting her portrait, thought
  He'd not imagined what he painted there.

  And I too commenced with that golden cloud:
  Lipped her delicious hands and had my ease
  Faring fantastically, perversely proud.

  All loveliness demands our courtesies.
  Since she was dead I praised her as I could
  Silently, among the Barberini bees.

This guy reads a lot of poems and I like his voice:


Yes I know that doesn't answer your question. I've been reading and enjoying John Clare the past few days. One of his poems, read by the guy above, is in this video: https://vimeo.com/121024561 I love the poem and the music but I don't think the footage connects that well.

A Poison Tree

William Blake, 1757 - 1827

I was angry with my friend:

I told my wrath, my wrath did end.

I was angry with my foe:

I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I watered it in fears

Night and morning with my tears,

And I sunned it with smiles

And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night,

Till it bore an apple bright,

And my foe beheld it shine,

And he knew that it was mine,--

And into my garden stole

When the night had veiled the pole;

In the morning, glad, I see

My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

I've been reading poetry ever since I read one by Cocteau that physically moved me. Yes, I felt it in my body, not only in my mind. Since then, I've read too many. Here are some of my favorites. Delve deep into the greats and then the lesser known, you'll find the ones that move you.

Fernando Pessoa (if he were a french or english poet, he would be considered, I have absolutely no doubt about it, one of the greatest poets to have ever written)

W.H. Auden

Robert Desnos



I'm not that much of a fan of beat poetry, but I recently got a hold of Mexico City Blues by Kerouac and discovered how much more I like his poetry than his prose.

Definitely, Brodsky. Unfortunately, not many of his poems were written in English, and only a few were translated.

  All the huskies are eaten. There is no space
  left in the diary And the beads of quick
  words scatter over his spouse's sepia-shaded face
  adding the date in question like a mole to her lovely cheek.
  Next the snapshot of his sister. He doesn't spare his kin:
  what's been reached is the highest possible latitude!
  And like the silk stocking of a burlesque half-nude
  queen it climbs up his thigh: gangrene.

   Ek herhaal jou

   Ek herhaal jou
   sonder begin of einde
   herhaal ek jou liggaam
   Die dag het ’n smal skadu
   en die nag geel kruise
   die landskap is sonder aansien
   en die mense ’n ry kerse
   terwyl ek jou herhaal
   met my borste
   wat die holtes van jou hand namaak
- Ingrid Jonker

The poem is in Afrikaans and the poet is South African.

For those who are interested, an English language Dutch film about her was made a few years ago called Black Butterflies.

I can however not say that I have seen any translations that do justice to the original.

All the "classics" have been listed already, so I'll mention someone more modern who I think programmers would enjoy: Christian Bök. Check out Crystallography and Eunoia.

I love Edgar Allen Poe, but one particular reason is because of his essay "The Philosophy of Composition".[1] It's a long piece basically describing the methodical and mathematical way he developed The Raven. It's a really cool look at his process for creation.

Plus it pisses off your run-of-the-mill literary types.

1: http://www.eapoe.org/works/essays/philcomp.htm

It's been a long time since my last college English class, but I enjoyed Derek Walcott:

"...I loved them, my children, my wife, my home;

I loved them as poets love the poetry

that kills them, as drowned sailors the sea."



A fellow Walcott fan!

"The time will come

when, with elation

you will greet yourself arriving

at your own door, in your own mirror

and each will smile at the other's welcome..."

I think the highest forum of poetry is the double-dactyl (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_dactyl).

Here's one I wrote in 2010 about reddit:

    Hexis-a-plexis, A-
    -lexis Ohanian
    Started a website with
    His best friend Steve.

    Then after selling it,
    Conde Nast management's
    Forced them to leave

Don't forget the clerihew.


I once wrote one about Jon Johansen (although that was only my second-best-known poem about him).

William Butler Yeats:

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

David E. Howerton. He's not well known but one of my favorites.

  tajpe’ joj ‘oy’wI’Daq
  boS yabwImey
  legh choSmeyDaq
  nuqDaq Hon e’be’ pa’
  Qoy ghoghmey tun
  retlh HeH yabmey
  ghIH nuqDaqvIpbe’
And the translation:

  Torn between pains,
  the gathering of my mind,
  seeing shadows move,
  which aren’t there.
  Hear the voices whispering
  along the edge of minds
  coming out of nowhere.

what on earth language is that?

It's Klingon.

My ex-girlfriend (not Portuguese) when she wanted to "paper cut me" used to say that every Portuguese is a poet. Seeing Portugal with the distance of an expat this is (un)fortunately true.

The most relevant of us is certainly Fernando Pessoa.[1]

[1] http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fernando_Pessoa

Mihai Eminescu - "Si Daca" (And If in English)

And if the branches tap my pane And the poplars whisper nightly, It is to make me dream again I hold you to me tightly.

And if the stars shine on the pond And light its sombre shoal, It is to quench my mind's despond And flood with peace my soul.

And if the clouds their tresses part And does the moon outblaze, It is but to remind my heart I long for you always.

John Donne. "The Anagram" is probably one of the cleverest poems ever written; I have never seen such an elaborate put-down in any form.



    De jeunes bourgeoises circulent entre les rayonnages
    du Monoprix, élégantes et sexuelles comme des oies.
    Il y a probablement des hommes, aussi; je m'en fiche
    pas mal. On a beau ne plus imaginer de mots possibles
    entre soi et le reste de l'humanité, le vagin reste
    une ouverture.

A physicist's poem:

To wonder as we wander through this world of mysteries many, is to fulfill the purpose of man's creation and destiny; and he who does not wonder, or the mysteries have not moved, should be interred in the dampest earth, for he is dead and never lived. (Source: the author of a very old Penguin book I once had on relativity)


The road to wisdom? -- Well, it's plain and simple to express: Err and err and err again but less and less and less.

~Piet Hein

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