Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

It’s a motley lot.  A few still stand

at attention like sentries at the ends

of their driveways, but more lean

askance as if they’d just received a blow

to the head, and in fact they’ve received

many, all winter, from jets of wet snow

shooting off the curved, tapered blade

of the plow.  Some look wobbly, cocked

at oddball angles or slumping forlornly

on precariously listing posts.  One box

bows steeply forward, as if in disgrace, its door

lolling sideways, unhinged.  Others are dented,

battered, streaked with rust, bandaged in duct tape,

crisscrossed with clothesline or bungee cords.

A few lie abashed in remnants of the very snow

that knocked them from their perches.

Another is wedged in the crook of a tree

like a birdhouse, its post shattered nearby.

I almost feel sorry for them, worn out

by the long winter, off-kilter, not knowing

what hit them, trying to hold themselves

together, as they wait for news from spring.


                               ~ Jeffrey Harrison


Scottius 11

Scottius 11

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In the Library

Yesterday I enjoyed my inaugural quest into the musty stacks of the Claremont Colleges Library and emerged victorious with all the books on Grace Paley I sought.  With my first doctoral research paper due in May, I can anticipate a great deal of time will be relished here…


There’s a book called

“A Dictionary of Angels.”

No one has opened it in fifty years,

I know, because when I did,

The covers creaked, the pages

Crumbled. There I discovered


The angels were once as plentiful

As species of flies.

The sky at dusk

Used to be thick with them.

You had to wave both arms

Just to keep them away.


Now the sun is shining

Through the tall windows.

The library is a quiet place.

Angels and gods huddled

In dark unopened books.

The great secret lies

On some shelf Miss Jones

Passes every day on her rounds.


She’s very tall, so she keeps

Her head tipped as if listening.

The books are whispering.

I hear nothing, but she does.


~ Charles Simic


"The Bookworm" by Carl Spitzweg, circa 1850

“The Bookworm” by Carl Spitzweg, circa 1850

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The University Poem

Upon such days, with such-like sloth

who wants to study?  And yet, alas,

exams impend, like it or not.

I guess we’ll have to work a little…

The book, however, seems stale bread,

it’s dry, it’s stiff, I can’t bite through.

We’ve overcome much more than that…

And now I spin in bacchanalias

of terms and systems’ orgies,

and I remember midst all that

what a boat my friendly boatman

had promised me the previous day –

and all the unfinished volumes

slam shut and on their shelf.  It’s time!


~ From “The University Poem” by Vladimir Nabokov, whose controversial classic Lolita is the next text in this semester’s literary lineup at Claremont Graduate University


"Daydreams" by Thomas Couture, 1859

“Daydreams” by Thomas Couture, 1859

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Work without Hope

All Nature seems at work. Slugs leave their lair –

The bees are stirring – birds are on the wing –

And Winter slumbering in the open air,

Wears on his smiling face a dream of Spring!

And I the while, the sole unbusy thing,

Nor honey make, nor pair, nor build, nor sing.


Yet well I ken the banks where amaranths blow,

Have traced the fount whence streams of nectar flow.

Bloom, O ye amaranths! bloom for whom ye may,

For me ye bloom not! Glide, rich streams, away!

With lips unbrightened, wreathless brow, I stroll:

And would you learn the spells that drowse my soul?

Work without Hope draws nectar in a sieve,

And Hope without an object cannot live.


                                                   ~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge


Caroline Léna Becker

Caroline Léna Becker

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Desert Places

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.


                             ~ Robert Frost


"Snow Maiden" by Viktor Vasnetsov, 1899

“Snow Maiden” by Viktor Vasnetsov, 1899

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Romance, who loves to nod and sing,

With drowsy head and folded wing,

Among the green leaves as they shake

Far down within some shadowy lake,

To me a painted paroquet

Hath been—a most familiar bird—

Taught me my alphabet to say—

To lisp my very earliest word

While in the wild wood I did lie,

A child—with a most knowing eye.

Of late, eternal Condor years

So shake the very Heaven on high

With tumult as they thunder by,

I have no time for idle cares

Through gazing on the unquiet sky.

And when an hour with calmer wings

Its down upon my spirit flings—

That little time with lyre and rhyme

To while away—forbidden things!

My heart would feel to be a crime

Unless it trembled with the strings.


                        ~ Edgar Allan Poe, born on this day in 1809


"Un Rêve d'Amour" by Franceso Vinea, 1895 (photo by JoJan)

“Un Rêve d’Amour” by Franceso Vinea, 1895 (photo by JoJan)

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To the Dreamer

Hold fast to dreams

For if dreams die

Life is a broken-winged bird

That cannot fly.


Hold fast to dreams

For when dreams go

Life is a barren field

Frozen with snow.


~ Langston Hughes, “Dreams”


The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Plaque, Washington, DC (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0)

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Plaque, Washington, DC (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0)

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