Catherine Chandler's Poetry Blog

Friday, December 30, 2011

Blessed Hope

I wish everyone a happy, healthy, peaceful and blessed 
New Year!

[Click here to hear a song thrush "fling his soul".]

The Darkling Thrush

by Thomas Hardy

I leant upon a coppice gate
   When Frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
   The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
   Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
   Had sought their household fires.

The land’s sharp features seemed to be
   The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
   The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
   Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
   Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
   The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
   Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
   In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
   Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
   Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
   Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
   His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
   And I was unaware.

Friday, December 23, 2011

. . . give my heart

Audio version (James Taylor) here.

In the bleak midwinter

By Christina Rossetti 1830–1894

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Women Poets Timeline Project

I'm thrilled to announce that I will be presenting Uruguayan poet María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira at the 2012 West Chester Poetry Conference Mezzo Cammin Women Poets Timeline Project panel in June 2012.

Vaz Ferreira, a metaphysical poet celebrated during her lifetime and then relatively "forgotten" after her death in 1924, was the precursor to four Southern Cone poetisas, Uruguayans Delmira Agustini and Juana de Ibarbourou, as well as Chilean Gabriela Mistral and Swiss-born Argentine Alfonsina Storni. I will examine the reasons for this silence, which lasted thirty-five years; the efforts that have been made since that time to bring to light her complete oeuvre; and make a close reading of one of her sonnets, "La estrella misteriosa" (which I will render in Spanish as well as my English translation).

I'm leaving for Uruguay tomorrow to try to tie up some "loose ends" to my investigation.

¡ Hasta luego !

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"Paralyzed, with Gold —"

The sea "drips with sunset", too.

Sunset in Punta del Este, Uruguay:

How the old Mountains drip with Sunset
by Emily Dickinson


How the old Mountains drip with Sunset
How the Hemlocks burn—
How the Dun Brake is draped in Cinder
By the Wizard Sun—

How the old Steeples hand the Scarlet
Till the Ball is full—
Have I the lip of the Flamingo
That I dare to tell?

Then, how the Fire ebbs like Billows—
Touching all the Grass
With a departing—Sapphire—feature—
As a Duchess passed—

How a small Dusk crawls on the Village
Till the Houses blot
And the odd Flambeau, no men carry
Glimmer on the Street—

How it is Night—in Nest and Kennel—
And where was the Wood—
Just a Dome of Abyss is Bowing
Into Solitude—

These are the Visions flitted Guido—
Titian—never told—
Domenichino dropped his pencil—
Paralyzed, with Gold—

Monday, December 5, 2011

"Where the wild creatures ranged . . ."

I'll be arriving in Uruguay for December's full moon. Below is a beautiful poem just right for tonight . . .

Poem: "December Moon," by May Sarton, from Coming into Eighty (W.W. Norton & Company).

December Moon

Before going to bed
After a fall of snow
I look out on the field
Shining there in the moonlight
So calm, untouched and white
Snow silence fills my head
After I leave the window. 

Hours later near dawn
When I look down again
The whole landscape has changed
The perfect surface gone
Criss-crossed and written on
Where the wild creatures ranged
While the moon rose and shone. 

Why did my dog not bark?
Why did I hear no sound
There on the snow-locked ground
In the tumultuous dark? 

How much can come, how much can go
When the December moon is bright,
What worlds of play we'll never know
Sleeping away the cold white night
After a fall of snow.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

" . . . stakes and ties will cure them of the blues . . ."

One of the wonderful poets I met at this year's West Chester University Poetry Conference was Timothy Steele, one of the three poets who encouraged my writing when I began to consider publishing back in 2004. I had sent him a few poems by email, and he graciously sent me his thoughts and suggestions on several of the poems. One he especially liked was "Spirit" and the other, "Wilkes-Barre". His poetry is brilliant, and his two books on meter, "Missing Measures" and "All the fun's in how you say a thing" are an invaluable source for formalist writers.

Thanks again, Mr. Steele!


December in Los Angeles

The tulip bulbs rest darkly in the fridge
To get the winter they can't get outside;
The drought and warm winds alter and abridge
The season till it almost seems denied.

A bright road-running scrub jay plies his bill,
While searching through the garden like a sleuth
For peanuts that he's buried in the soil:
How different from the winters of my youth.

Back in Vermont, we'd dress on furnace vents.
A breakfast of hot cereal -- and then
We'd forge out to a climate so intense
It would have daunted Scott and Amundsen.

I'd race down icy Howard Street to catch
The school bus and pursue it, as it roared
Up Union, my arms waving, pleading, much
To the amusement of my friends on board.

But here I look out on a garden, whose
Poor flowers are knocked over on their side.
Well, stakes and ties will cure them of the blues
(If not the winds) and see them rectified.

And in the shower is a pail we use
To catch and save the water while it warms:
I fetch and pour it on the irises
And hope this winter will bring drenching storms.

--Timothy Steele

Friday, December 2, 2011

Poem in the Carmine Street Metrics Section - Umbrella

In April, 2008, I was honored to be invited and to read at the Carmine Street Metrics poetry reading series in Greenwich Village, New York City. I met some very fine poets for the first time, including Terese Coe, Wendy Sloan, Nemo Hill, Rick Mullin, Carolyn Raphael and Claudia Gary.

Here's the link to the poem in the current issue of Umbrella.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The countdown begins . . .

Beach Dogs
In memory of Alfonsina Storni

A man parades his paunch, and you can bet
his wife, though dripping gold, will not get wet.
His brother reads Clarín; his bored son pokes
a jellyfish; abuela smirks and smokes.

They seem to sense that I’m not one of them –
I’m much too serious, too plain. Ajém,
I hear them warn each other as I rise
to shift my chair. They weigh my gringa thighs.

What’s this I see? A scrawny mongrel winds
his way along the shore. At last he finds
a spot of shade. The worn-down, worn-out fella
drops down beneath the nearest beach umbrella.

Mine. My neighbors bray in disapproval,
insist upon the vagabond’s removal;
then take a different tack and whisper, Pleece . . .
mayvee he hab dee rrrrabies o dee fleece.

That well may be. For look, his skin is bruised
and scarred; he’s been excluded, bashed, abused.
I feed the dog some water and a crust
as the porteños gawk in dark disgust.

Before the Prefectura comes, we fly,
he to the sands of Mansa Beach; while I
cast off, adrift, unmoored from the décor,
will drown at sea and later wash ashore.

(Catherine Chandler, Punta del Este, Uruguay, January 2009)