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It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by.  How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment?  for the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone.  That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop.

 

~ Vita Sackville-West

 

“Beauty and the Butterfly” by Vittorio Matteo Corcos, 1933

Old forms and phrases began to have a sense that frightened her.  She had a new feeling, the feeling of danger; on which a new remedy rose to meet it, the idea of an inner self or, in other words, of concealment.  She puzzled out with imperfect signs, but with a prodigious spirit, that she had been a centre of hatred and a messenger of insult, and that everything was bad because she had been employed to make it so.  Her parted lips locked themselves with the determination to be employed no longer.  She would forget everything, she would repeat nothing, and when, as a tribute to the successful application of her system, she began to be called a little idiot, she tasted a pleasure new and keen.  When therefore, as she grew older, [they] in turn announced before her that she had grown shockingly dull, it was not from any real contraction of her little stream of life.  She spoiled their fun, but she practically added to her own.  She saw more and more; she saw too much.

 

~ From What Maisie Knew by Henry James, born on this day in 1843

 

Fritz Zuber-Buhler

Every issue of the paper presents an opportunity and a duty to say something courageous and true; to rise above the mediocre and conventional; to say something that will command the respect of the intelligent, the educated, the independent part of the community; to rise above fear of partisanship and fear of popular prejudice.  I would rather have one article a day of this sort; and these ten or twenty lines might readily represent a whole day’s hard work in the way of concentrated, intense thinking and revision, polish of style, weighing of words.

 

~ Joseph Pulitzer, born on this day in 1847

 

Joseph Pulitzer, 1918

Some day, when trees have shed their leaves

   And against the morning’s white

The shivering birds beneath the eaves

   Have sheltered for the night,

We’ll turn our faces southward, love,

   Toward the summer isle

Where bamboos spire the shafted grove

   And wide-mouthed orchids smile.

 

And we will seek the quiet hill

   Where towers the cotton tree,

And leaps the laughing crystal rill,

   And works the droning bee.

And we will build a cottage there

   Beside an open glade,

With black-ribbed blue-bells blowing near,

   And ferns that never fade.

 

                              ~ Claude McKay

 

“The Flower Garden” by John Falconer Slater, 1899

Since its inauguration by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, April has been recognized around the world as National Poetry Month, so now is the perfect time to reflect on the richness of poetry and the many ways it enhances our lives.  Coinciding with the celebration is National Poetry Writing Month, also known as NaPoWriMo, an annual creative writing event that challenges participants to write a new poem each day from April 1 through April 30.

The project was founded by Maureen Thorson in 2003 and modeled after NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, which challenges participants to write 50,000 words of a new novel in the month of November.

For a comprehensive list of NaPoWriMo FAQs, guidelines, and daily prompts, visit the website at http://www.napowrimo.net.

If writing thirty new poems this month seems too daunting, literary journals and websites offer an abundance of suggestions for other ways of celebrating poetry throughout April.  Below are a few of my favorites.

  • Sign up to receive poem-a-day e-mails from the Academy of American Poets at https://www.poets.org.  This is a great website to peruse!
  • Organize an open mic poetry reading or start a regular poetry reading group.  Gather a group of friends at your local coffee shop, bookstore, art gallery, or bar and share your original or favorite poetry.
  • Become an expert on your favorite poet.  If you have always loved the poetry of Robert Browning or Sara Teasdale or Sappho, read all or most of his or her poetry.
  • Subscribe to a poetry journal such as The American Poetry Review or Poetry.  For a comprehensive list of literary magazines and journals, visit https://www.newpages.com.
  • Discover a new favorite poet.  Lately I’ve been awed by the evocative poetry of John Milton and delighted by Timothy’s Steele’s allegiance to the meters and rhymes of traditional poetic forms.
  • Learn and experiment with one or two classic styles.  If you prefer to write in free verse, try writing a villanelle or rondeau.
  • If you typically write rhymed or formal poetry, play with free verse.  With no structural rules to follow, you can focus solely on the rhythm and lyrical quality of your poetry.
  • Commit a few poems to memory.  The Oxford Book of English Verse (edited by Arthur Quiller-Couch) and John Hollander’s Committed to Memory: One Hundred Best Poems to Memorize are terrific resources for this.

For more ideas and a calendar of poetry events near you, visit https://www.poets.org.

Enjoy the month!

 

Late March

Saturday morning in late March.

I was alone and took a long walk,

though I also carried a book

of the Alone, which companioned me.

 

The day was clear, unnaturally clear,

like a freshly wiped pane of glass,

a window over the water,

and blue, preternaturally blue,

like the sky in a Magritte painting,

and cold, vividly cold, so that

you could clap your hands and remember

winter, which had left a few moments ago –

if you strained you could almost see it

disappearing over the hills in a black parka.

Spring was coming but hadn’t arrived yet.

 

………………………………………………

 

I walked down to the pier to watch

the launching of a passenger ship.

Ice had broken up on the river

and the water rippled smoothly in blue light.

The moon was a faint smudge

in the clouds, a brushstroke, an afterthought

in the vacant mind of the sky.

 

……………………………………………….

 

Down at the water, the queenly ship

started moving away from the pier.

Banners fluttered.

The passengers clustered at the rails on deck.

I stood with the people on shore and waved

goodbye to the travelers.

Some were jubilant;

others were broken-hearted.

I have always been both.

 

Suddenly, a great cry went up.

The ship set sail for the horizon

and rumbled into the future

but the cry persisted

and cut the air

like an iron bell ringing

in an empty church.

I looked around the pier

but everyone else was gone

and I was left alone

to peer into the ghostly distance.

I had no idea where that ship was going

but I felt lucky to see it off

and bereft when it disappeared.

 

                       ~ Edward Hirsch

 

“Bootssteg auf der Herreninsel im Chiemsee” by Wilhelm Trübner, 1874

Retired ballerinas on winter afternoons

     walking their dogs

          in Central Park West

  (or their cats on leashes –

    the cats themselves old highwire artists)

The ballerinas

      leap and pirouette

           through Columbus Circle

   while winos on park benches

     (laid back like drunken Goudonovs)

    hear the taxis trumpet together

      like horsemen of the apocalypse

            in the dusk of the gods

It is the final witching hour

       when swains are full of swan songs

   And all return through the dark dusk

       to their bright cells

             in glass highrises

    or sit down to oval cigarettes and cakes

           in the Russian Tea Room

or climb four flights to back rooms

            in Westside brownstones

      where faded playbill photos

          fall peeling from their frames

              like last year’s autumn leaves

 

~ Lawrence Ferlinghetti, born on this day in 1919

 

“Dancer with a Hoop” by Jean-Louis Forain (1852-1931)

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