Stephen Crane – I was in the darkness

I was in the darkness;
I could not see my words
Nor the wishes of my heart.
Then suddenly there was a great light —

“Let me into the darkness again.”



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Poet Craig Arnold is missing in Japan

Poet Craig Arnold, winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets, is missing in Japan:

ABC Article

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James Longenbach – Draft of a Letter

Today I read “Draft of a Letter” by James Longenbach. I haven’t read any of Longenbach’s poetry before. I am impressed by his skill at conveying a great deal of meaning succinctly. Here are some examples:

From “Self and Soul”

Sunlight on a day like this,
Poppies in front of him,
Bones behind?

The poppies emphasize life and are contrasted with the bones, death.

From “Swallowtail”

When an insect assumes
A different shape,
A form,

It doesn’t deceive;
It becomes a different
Version of itself.

These lines imply that some creature is different than an insect. Perhaps he is referring to a human? When a person changes, do they deceive?

From “Abacus”

Forty-nine, forty-eight–
Our daughters won’t be

Children forever.

The line break is very effective for me. I don’t think I would have responded as strongly to these lines had “Children forever” been in the same stanza.


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Robert Hass – The Yellow Bicycle

Poetry often challenges our expectations of the world and other people. For example, consider these lines from “The Yellow Bicycle” by Robert Hass:

… Just at the entrance there was an old woman in a
thin floral print dress. She was barefoot. Her face was covered
with sores and dry peeling skin. The sores looked like raisins and
her skin was the dry yellow of a parchment lampshade ravaged by
light and tossed away. They thought she must have been hungry
and, coming out again with a white paper bag full of hot rolls,
they stopped to offer her one. She looked at them out of her small
eyes, bewildered, and shook her head for a little while, and said
very kindly, “No.”

The characters feel sorry for the old woman. They try to offer her bread, but she is not interested. The woman does not need pity or bread. She ends the poem:

Her song to the yellow bicycle:

The boats on the bay
have nothing on you,
my swan, my sleek one!

The characters’ expectation of the old woman are based on her appearance, but they turn out to be wrong. Often times, people believe they know more about a person than they do. It goes back to the old adage, “don’t judge a book by its cover,” which is easier said than done.

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C. P. Cavafy – Encouraging words for poets

It is easy to get discouraged as a writer. More often than not, writers face a great deal of rejection in order to have a small measure of success. With this in mind, I recently stumbled upon a poem by C. P. Cavafy. In the poem, a young poet, Evmenis complains to Theocritos:

“I have been writing for two years now
and I have only composed just one idyll.
It’s my only completed work.
I see sadly, that the ladder of Poetry
is tall, extremely tall;
and from this first step I now stand on
I will never climb any higher.”

In response, Theocrites tells the young poet:

Even this first first step
is a long way above the ordinary world.

While it is easy to get discouraged, it is also easy to forget accomplishments along the way. Even a small success with writing can be an extraordinary experience.

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William Blake – “The Sick Rose”

The Sick Rose

O Rose, thou art sick!
The invisible worm
That flies in the night,
In the howling storm,

Has found out they bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does they life destroy.

“The Sick Rose” is from William Blake’s collection “Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience.” Poems in the collection are divided between two themes: innocence and experience. “The Sick Rose” is from “Songs of Experience.”

Often times, readers want to know what the author intended when they were writing. In some cases, it is better not to know. The ability to read a poem in many different ways can be richer than pinning it down to one single meaning.


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Ezra Pound – In a Station of the Metro

In a Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;

Petals on a wet black bough.


I love this poem.  In two short lines and a title, Ezra Pound captures the sense of being in a crowded subway station.  The narrator is looking at a group of people, but he is not focusing on any one person in particular.  As a result, all of the faces in the crowd look the same.

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