Catherine Chandler's Poetry Blog

Monday, December 24, 2012

Greeting of the Season !

Christmas stockings near a decorated Christmas tree. ©

Merry Christmas!

Froehliche Weinachten! 

 счастливого Рождества!

Selamat Hari Natal!

Shub Naya Baras! 
Joyeux Noël!

¡Feliz Navidad!

Boldog Karácsonyt!
Wesołych Świąt

. . . and thank you for your frequent visits to 
The Wonderful Boat.

Love and Peace,
Catherine Chandler

Thursday, December 20, 2012

"December" by Eric Ormsby

Photo by Ian Britton (


December rings in the chill mouths of bells,
The shadowy solicitude of grasses
Eyelashed with precarious snow.
There is a crystalline insistence in the black
Repetitious roof-tops with their shock
Of snow. The ragged chimneys seem
To pray with fingers pinched
Together in entreaty while the luscious
Clouds of winter wallow on grey
Organzas of sundown.

                                            December bows
Under threadbare memories. The spider
In the corners of the house shrivels
To a small, dark claw. At night
Our dreams infringe and pool,
Our common terrors shake us in sleep.

Upriver there are remote
Oceans whose cold waves will ring
Like freezing echoes in the mouths of bells.

- Eric Ormsby (from Bavarian Shrine and other poems, 1990) 
[reprinted with Eric Ormsby's written permission] 


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"Vermont Passage"

The Green Mountains of Vermont (Photo: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images )

This year, the earliest winter since 1896 will arrive Friday morning, December 21, 2012, with the solstice at 6:12 A.M.

In his recent review of my poetry collection Lines of Flight, Richard Wakefield had this to say about my poem "Vermont Passage":

“Vermont Passage” also transforms a landscape, describing the profuse flowers of summer that linger in memory after summer gives way to cold: “I breathe in honeyed memories of clover, / and winter, for a while at least, is over.” We live in two worlds, or many worlds: the literal “bitter night” of winter, along with our memory of what was, which is also our expectation of what will be. Chandler gives texture to the flat world. If there’s any truth to the cliché that poetry reminds us to stop and smell the roses, Chandler’s poetry reminds us that we can also revel in the smells and sights that linger in our recollection. It is the remembered roses we smell most poignantly.

Richard Wilbur also had a few choice words for the poem when he wrote:

Catherine Chandler's poems — I think particularly of the sonnet "Vermont Passage" — offer the reader a plain eloquence, a keen eye, and a graceful development of thought. (Back cover, Lines of Flight)

Here is "Vermont Passage", which I wrote after a drive through Vermont on my way to Newburyport, Massachusetts in July 2006. The poem was originally published in Mezzo Cammin, Volume 1, Issue 2, Winter 2006.

Vermont Passage

For Deborah Warren

Wildflowers thrive and form, in mid-July,
a buoyant blue and gold receiving line
the length of Interstate Route 89,
as if to welcome friends and passersby.

But high up in the hillside meadow teems
a purple floret whose divine perfume
makes one forget that roses are in bloom--
mellifluous, the stuff of summer dreams.

And when Vermont's Green Mountains turn to white,
when northern folk see little of the sun,
before the sugar maple sap can run,
when better days attend each bitter night,
I breathe in honeyed memories of clover,
and winter, for a while at least, is over.

Source: Wikipedia

Sunday, December 16, 2012

"Lines of Flight" Reviewed in NYQ

Lines of Flight by Catherine Chandler

Lines of Flight
by Catherine Chandler
Able Muse Press 2011
ISBN:  978-0-9865338-3-9
Pages: 98
Reviewed by: Richard Wakefield

Whatever else our brains do – or our hearts, if you prefer a more figurative view – they seem as ineluctably dedicated to reading meaning into the world as our lungs are evolved to separate oxygen from air. It’s as natural as breathing, this process of seeing things in the fourth dimension of significance. Call it the confluence of the outer and inner worlds.

Catherine Chandler is one of the skilled and discerning few who help us navigate the resulting stream. In place of the fragments of meaning glimpsed by most of us most of the time, Chandler gives us a coherent view of the course along which we speed. The view sometimes enlarges us, makes us more at home in the world, and at others forces us to look a little more soberly at the vast and frightening void toward which we are hurled.

In “66” she contemplates a coincidence of toponymy: “Along Route 66, connected by / a six-mile stretch of road, two towns align; / one bears his family name, the other mine.” A charming bit of chance, it seems, a bit of geography that reflects an emotional connection, the kind of thing we might notice and recall as an anecdote. But Chandler traces its meaning far beyond the trivial. “The decommissioned highway’s gone to hell,” she continues, and the fading connection between the two towns becomes a metaphor for the complex ambivalence of human relationships. The road connects; the road separates. We find that we and those we love inhabit “universes spinning parallel.” That may not be the meaning we wanted, but it’s more true to experience than the facile sentimentality we might have preferred.

Someone noted once that poetry gives us tools for living. A poem like “66” does exactly that, nudging us out of complacency and into an awareness that will better serve us. The poem acknowledges the separateness that we work so hard to ignore, and yet, paradoxically, it makes us a little less alone by assuring us that we are not alone in our loneliness.

What better occasion for sentimentality than Mother’s Day? And what can be more oppressive than the narrow, mass-produced emotions that holidays can impose on us? In “Mother’s Day” Chandler opens a woman’s heart to reveal wounds that the woman herself cannot express; in fact, as she weeps, the tyranny of expectations makes others blind to the real meaning of her tears. There must be no more profound loneliness than that. We understand the woman better than those closest to her, and perhaps we understand ourselves and our own loved ones a little better for it.

“Supernova” begins by asking why we should “dull” the beauty of nature with “a lapse to metaphor / or scientific fact, or myth.” A telling word, that “lapse.” Our need to analyze, to probe beneath the surface of beauty, can feel like a fall from grace (perhaps it was that very need that drove Eve to eat the forbidden fruit which, after all, was from the tree of knowledge). At the conclusion of three stanzas that seem to celebrate the “burnished afternoon” in preference to what she will later call “logic, reason, purpose, cause,” the poet asks, “Why resort to words / when hush will do?” The answer comes in the second half of the poem, where we learn that the speaker has come to scatter a loved-one’s ashes: “…I find / it’s easier to release you, as I must, / less harrowing by far, / knowing that all human dust / was once a star.” How do we live through loss? The Book of Common Prayer, with its “dust to dust,” assures us that our senses get it wrong when we see mortal remains as mere elemental dust; science, teaching us that all elements had their origins in the fires of supernovas, assures us that there is nothing “mere” about dust. Either way, our consolation – dare we say our salvation? — comes in our ability to see more than motes.

A big part of a writer’s inner life is, of course, literature. It is no surprise to find that the meaning Chandler finds in the world is informed in part by her wide reading, just as there’s no doubt that her own poetry will become part of many readers’ inner lives. The epigraph to “Journey” comes from Robert Frost’s “Hyla Brook,” a poem about how memory conditions our view of what we care deeply about: “We love the things we love for what they are.” What they are, inevitably, is a palimpsest, one impression written over another and over yet another – the sum of our experience of them.

“New Hampshire Interval” pays explicit homage to Frost. At the farm to which Frost returned after his desperate (and successful) quest for recognition in England, Chandler sees the tangible objects, “his Morris chair,” “the woodstove,” “the frosted trees” he tapped for maple sugar (delightful trope, that “frosted"), and she sees them all transformed by her knowledge of Frost’s life and work, hears him “speaking to God about the world’s despair.” Just as Frost himself wrote meaning into the landscape, Chandler writes another page of her own, and for us.

“Vermont Passage” also transforms a landscape, describing the profuse flowers of summer that linger in memory after summer gives way to cold: “I breathe in honeyed memories of clover, / and winter, for a while at least, is over.” We live in two worlds, or many worlds: the literal “bitter night” of winter, along with our memory of what was, which is also our expectation of what will be. Chandler gives texture to the flat world. If there’s any truth to the cliché that poetry reminds us to stop and smell the roses, Chandler’s poetry reminds us that we can also revel in the smells and sights that linger in our recollection. It is the remembered roses we smell most poignantly.

“Lines of Flight” ranges far and deeply. The poems display a craft that is all the more impressive for the way it never distracts us from the scene but, rather, adds a dimension of music and, yes, memorable texture.

Catherine Chandler, an American poet born in New York City and raised in Pennsylvania, completed her graduate studies at McGill University in Montreal, where she has lectured in the Department of Languages and Translation for many years. She is the winner of the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award. Her poems, interviews, essays and English translations from French and Spanish have been published in numerous journals and anthologies in the USA, the UK, Canada and Australia.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Shortlisted !

Announced today: My online mini-collection, "Coming to Terms", (ten poems in ten different forms) has been shortlisted for the ATYYS award (competitor category). A judging panel has sent all finalists' work to the final contest judge, Margaret Atwood.

There were 3,730 entries (of ten poems each) in the competitor category.

Wish me luck !

Friday, December 7, 2012

All Said and Done (ASD)

I'm thrilled to have been approached by David Sollis, editor of All Said and Done, a wonderful anthology of light poetry, to contribute my poem "Take Off" (page 67). I'm in the company of stellar poets such as John Whitworth, Julie Kane and Wendy Cope, to name only a few.

Proceeds to the National Autistic Society. You can buy it on Amazon for a little over $13.00 (paperback) or the Kindle edition for $7.00. If you're a member of Amazon Prime you can read it for free.

Published only last week, it is already #18 on the Amazon (UK) best seller's list for poetry anthologies (#45 in the US).

Read more about ASD by clicking here.

Why not put it on your Christmas list?



Book Description

December 2, 2012
This unique anthology contains a smörgåsbord of the best in light verse and will have you laughing out loud, or at the very least, raise a wry smile. Throughout the book there are also some more poignant and thought provoking pieces. The poems have been chosen to provide a snapshot of modern life and cover topics we're all familiar with (e.g. Relationships, Communication and Empathy). It is no coincidence that these themes encompass some of the main areas of difficulty for autistic individuals.

Contributions from: Alanna Blake, Andy White, Anna Evans, Attila The Stockbroker, Bill Greenwell, Brendan Beary, Catherine Chandler, Charles Ghigna, D A Prince, David Axton, David Hedges, Dave Spicer, Dean Parkin, Diane Zoller-Ciatto, Donna Williams, Gillian Ewing, Helena Nelson, Joanne Neill, John Whitworth, Julie Kane, Kate Gladstone, Laura Ledbetter, Mae Scanlan, Martin Parker, Matty Angel, Melinda Smith, Murray Lachlan Young, Nicole Nicholson, Patrick Winstanley, Peter Goulding, Rick Lupert, Scott Emmons, Steve Morris, Susan McLean, Wendy Cope & Wendy Lawson.

Attila The Stockbroker ??????  Yep.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


 by Catherine Chandler

December at this latitude is stark,
the woods a snarl of black and brown and gray.
By five o’clock the west’s already dark.
On the sandpit pond, now set along its edges,
straggling greylags land then hie away
while redpolls huddle deeper in the hedges.
Whitetail forage in the field and browse
on brittle forbs untouched by moldboard plows.

Then every year, around this time, a stream
loosens from the underlime of summer’s
stranglehold. And when the morning steam
dissipates above the flinty bed
like idle gossip or unfounded rumors,
a song arising from its fountainhead
trips over still, impenetrable stones
into my house, my heart, my blood, my bones.

It babbles things which in July lie laden
with sunny dispositions; things that cry
out from lengthened shadows; things forbidden;
of many-splendored things; of things that wilt,
weep, bleed and ultimately die.
And though the rivulet retreats to silt
come spring, it sings me all I need to know,
flanked though I be by behemoths of snow.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Of Ink and Blood

Photo by ellirra (

For Caitlin and Steven

Unlike the lilac bush that knows
its spikes will weather winter’s snows,
I’ve yet to find the wherewithal
to rightly come to terms with fall.

In forests full of empty nests,
withered boughs, November guests,
I seek but find no feathered thing,
no green remembrances of spring.

All that I have, now summer’s gone,
are love notes from a lexicon.
My gift to you, this fragile bud —
inheritance of ink and blood. 

(by Catherine Chandler, first published in The Raintown Review, December 2008)

Friday, November 23, 2012

6th Pushcart Prize Nomination !

My sonnet "Avaritia: If the Shoe Fits" has been nominated by the editors of The Raintown Review for a 2012 Pushcart Prize.

This is my sixth nomination.

Thanks, Anna and Quincy!

Avaritia: If the Shoe Fits

They say Imelda owned three thousand pair
of shoes. The ones with Duracells would flash
as she merengued on the dance floor. She
would buy, with tidy sums of laundered cash,
Gucci platforms, pumps from Givenchy,
Ferragamo flip-flop leisurewear;
not to mention Halston golden calf-
skin spike-heeled boots. Her size, eight-and-a-half.

She ran the Beatles out of town, pell-mell,
then fled herself, accused of gross misdeeds.
Back in Manila now, she struts, undaunted,
in cap-toe slingback sandals by Chanel.
Lennon was right. Love’s all one really needs.
Perhaps that’s all Imelda’s ever wanted.

(by Catherine Chandler, from "SALIGIA: Seven Deadly Sonnets", originally published in The Raintown Review, 2012)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Thanksgiving Song (sung by Mary Chapin Carpenter HERE)
Grateful for each hand we hold
Gathered round this table.
From far and near we travel home,
Blessed that we are able.

Grateful for this sheltered place
With light in every window,
Saying “welcome, welcome, share this feast
Come in away from sorrow.”

Father, mother, daughter, son,
Neighbor, friend and friendless;
All together everyone
in the gift of loving-kindness.

Grateful for what’s understood,
And all that is forgiven;
We try so hard to be good,
To lead a life worth living.

Father, mother, daughter, son,
Neighbor, friend, and friendless;
All together everyone,
let grateful days be endless.

Grateful for each hand we hold
Gathered round this table.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

14,000 and counting!

The Wonderful Boat

In the past six months, visits to my blog have doubled, from 7,000 to 14,000. 

My most loyal readers are from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, Indonesia, France, India and Australia, though I've had visitors from all continents.

Thank you, readers!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

"November is a season all its own —"

Late afternoon sky over my front yard, November 8, 2012 (Catherine Chandler)

by Catherine Chandler

November is a season all its own —
a month of saints and souls and soldiers. Snow
will soon white-out a fallacy of brown.
It is a month of waiting, lying low.

November is a season all its own —
a time for turning back the clock as though
it’s useless to pretend. A dressing-down.
Thin ice entices me to touch and go.

November’s neither there nor there, but here
in dazzling dawns that dissipate to grey;
here in the tilting asymmetric branch
and sharp note of a towering white pine where
the pik and churlee of a purple finch
can either break a heart or make a day.

Click HERE to hear the lovely song of the purple finch

November Sky

"The thinnest yellow light of November is more warming and exhilarating than any wine they tell of.  The mite which November contributes becomes equal in value to the bounty of July."
-   Henry David Thoreau  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

"Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?"

Election Day
by William Carlos Williams (1940)

Warm sun, quiet air
an old man sits

in the doorway of
a broken house—

boards for windows
plaster falling

from between the stones
and strokes the head

of a spotted dog


Monday, October 29, 2012

Farewell, Friend

Chola — May 23, 1998 - October 29, 2012

Thank you for over fourteen years of love, loyalty, companionship and happy memories.

♥ ♥ ♥

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Salamander Cove

Salamander Cove

A brief entry to report that two of my poems, "Upheavals" and "The End" are now online at the Salamander Cove poetry blog .

The poems are permission-secured and were chosen on an invitational basis.  I'm thrilled to have my work appear alongside poetry by Allison Joseph, Kurt Brown, Ruth Bavetta, James Tate and Lorna Crozier.

Thank you, Annie Wyndham!

Friday, October 26, 2012

New York Quarterly Review

"Lines of Flight" by Catherine Chandler

I just received some very good news.

Able Muse Press Editor, Alex Pepple, has just let me know that Richard Wakefield's review of my poetry collection, Lines of Flight (Able Muse Press, 2011), will be published in the New York Quarterly in November.

Thank you, Alex! Thank you, Richard!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

"With aster-blur and ferns of toasted gold . . .."

"Aster Blur" by Mike McRoberts a photo by phoGARDEBtog on Flickr.

Late October Musing

In October of 2003, after I had returned to writing poetry after a hiatus of several decades, that is, when I decided to be faithful to my true vocation, I rather brazenly sent a letter to US Poet Laureate and my favorite poet, Richard Wilbur, along with twenty-one poems, asking if he wouldn't mind letting me know if my poetry "is any good".

Two weeks later, Mr. Wilbur wrote back to me: "Well, it seems to me that your poems are very good indeed; formally accomplished, well-paced, witty, and full of the right words."

He went on to mention three of my sonnets in particular, as poetry of "a transcendent realm which reaches out of the mere everyday."

I've been blessed since then to have met, heard, and spoken briefly with Mr. Wilbur, both in Newburyport, Massachusetts at their annual literary festival and at West Chester University's poetry conference in 2011. He has subsequently written that my translation of Verlaine's Ars poetica is "excellent", and wrote an endorsement of my first full-length collection, Lines of Flight, for the book's back cover, the manuscript having been sent to him by Alex Pepple of Able Muse Press.

Since October is quickly coming to a close, I wanted to include Mr. Wilbur's extraordinary and unforgettable poem, "Elsewhere", in my poetry blog.

My letter to Mr. Wilbur, written nine years ago, ends by stating "Mr. Wilbur, poetry is the underpinning of my life. It sustains me. And I dearly want to share mine with the world, but have no idea of how to go about it . . . What I am trying to ask is that you kindly read over some of the poems I've included in this package (whenever you have the time and/or inclination), and then please let me know your opinion of them. For this I would be eternally grateful."

And I am, Mr. Wilbur. I truly am.


The delectable names of harsh places:
Cilicia Aspera, Estremadura.
In that smooth wave of cello-sound, Mojave,
We hear no ill of brittle parch and glare.

So late October’s pasture-fringe,
With aster-blur and ferns of toasted gold,
Invites to barrens where the crop to come
Is stone prized upward by the deepening freeze.

Speechless and cold the stars arise
On the small garden where we have dominion.
Yet in three tongues we speak of Taurus’ name,
And of Aldebaran and the Hyades,

Recalling what at best we know,
That there is beauty bleak and far from ours,
Great reaches where the Lord’s delighting mind,
Though not inhuman, ponders other things.

 - Richard Wilbur (from his book Mayflies)

I meet Richard Wilbur for the first time - Fall 2007

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

" . . . slant or straight and narrow — "

Two months to Christmas Eve! Hundreds of geese are now landing on the local sandpit pond here in Saint-Lazare, Quebec, stopping by on their way to warmer climes. Starlings have formed and gone weeks ago. Hopefully, I'll be following my feathered friends eleven weeks from now.

My poem, "Delineations", was first published in Able Muse Journal (Winter 2010) and is included in my collection, Lines of Flight.


Wild geese flee the coming cold and ice,
 sketching the sky with epic Vs;
no roundabout for these –
their route precise.

Starlings in formation never jostle –
            aggregates of living art,
                        together yet apart
                                    in graceful rustle.

Patterns of exuberant design,
            cadenza, cadence, wavelength, arrow,
                        slant or straight and narrow –
                                    theirs, mine.



Friday, October 19, 2012

Fitful Alternations

The Fitful Alternations Of The Rain
The fitful alternations of the rain,
When the chill wind, languid as with pain
Of its own heavy moisture, here and there
Drives through the gray and beamless atmosphere.
by Percy Bysshe Shelley

These are among the many short fragments from Shelley's MSS. published by Mary Shelley, the poet's wife, in her editions of 1824 and 1839. There she entitles this poem Rain. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

"The hue—of it—is Blood—"

The name—of it—is "Autumn"


The name—of it—is "Autumn"—
The hue—of it—is Blood—
An Artery—upon the Hill—
A Vein—along the Road—

Great Globules—in the Alleys—
And Oh, the Shower of Stain—
When Winds—upset the Basin—
And spill the Scarlet Rain—

It sprinkles Bonnets—far below—
It gathers ruddy Pools—
Then—eddies like a Rose—away—
Upon Vermilion Wheels—

Emily Dickinson

Monday, October 15, 2012

" . . . the truth of his joy . . ."







This is one of my favorite poems . . .

Poem in October

By Dylan Thomas

It was my thirtieth year to heaven
Woke to my hearing from harbour and neighbour wood   
      And the mussel pooled and the heron
                  Priested shore
            The morning beckon
With water praying and call of seagull and rook
And the knock of sailing boats on the net webbed wall   
            Myself to set foot
                  That second
      In the still sleeping town and set forth.

      My birthday began with the water-
Birds and the birds of the winged trees flying my name   
      Above the farms and the white horses
                  And I rose   
            In rainy autumn
And walked abroad in a shower of all my days.
High tide and the heron dived when I took the road
            Over the border
                  And the gates
      Of the town closed as the town awoke.

      A springful of larks in a rolling
Cloud and the roadside bushes brimming with whistling   
      Blackbirds and the sun of October
            On the hill’s shoulder,
Here were fond climates and sweet singers suddenly   
Come in the morning where I wandered and listened   
            To the rain wringing
                  Wind blow cold
      In the wood faraway under me.

      Pale rain over the dwindling harbour
And over the sea wet church the size of a snail   
      With its horns through mist and the castle   
                  Brown as owls
            But all the gardens
Of spring and summer were blooming in the tall tales   
Beyond the border and under the lark full cloud.   
            There could I marvel
                  My birthday
      Away but the weather turned around.

      It turned away from the blithe country
And down the other air and the blue altered sky   
      Streamed again a wonder of summer
                  With apples
            Pears and red currants
And I saw in the turning so clearly a child’s
Forgotten mornings when he walked with his mother   
            Through the parables
                  Of sun light
      And the legends of the green chapels

      And the twice told fields of infancy
That his tears burned my cheeks and his heart moved in mine.   
      These were the woods the river and sea
                  Where a boy
            In the listening
Summertime of the dead whispered the truth of his joy   
To the trees and the stones and the fish in the tide.
            And the mystery
                  Sang alive
      Still in the water and singingbirds.

      And there could I marvel my birthday
Away but the weather turned around. And the true   
      Joy of the long dead child sang burning
                  In the sun.
            It was my thirtieth
Year to heaven stood there then in the summer noon   
Though the town below lay leaved with October blood.   
            O may my heart’s truth
                  Still be sung
      On this high hill in a year’s turning.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

"The dearest hands that clasp our hands . . ."

Bernard F. Chandler, Sr. and Catherine Chandler Oliveira, July 2011

The Autumn  by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Go, sit upon the lofty hill,
And turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods and waters wild
Do hymn an autumn sound.
The summer sun is faint on them —
The summer flowers depart —
Sit still — as all transform’d to stone,
Except your musing heart.

How there you sat in summer-time,

May yet be in your mind;
And how you heard the green woods sing
Beneath the freshening wind.
Though the same wind now blows around,
You would its blast recall;
For every breath that stirs the trees,
Doth cause a leaf to fall.

Oh! like that wind, is all the mirth

That flesh and dust impart:
We cannot bear its visitings,
When change is on the heart.
Gay words and jests may make us smile,
When Sorrow is asleep;
But other things must make us smile,
When Sorrow bids us weep!

The dearest hands that clasp our hands, —

Their presence may be o’er;
The dearest voice that meets our ear,
That tone may come no more!
Youth fades; and then, the joys of youth,
Which once refresh’d our mind,
Shall come — as, on those sighing woods,
The chilling autumn wind.

Hear not the wind — view not the woods;

Look out o’er vale and hill —
In spring, the sky encircled them —
The sky is round them still.
Come autumn’s scathe — come winter’s cold —
Come change — and human fate!
Whatever prospect Heaven doth bound,
Can ne’er be desolate.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

" . . . not one lasts . . ."

Autumn Movement by Carl Sandburg
I cried over beautiful things knowing no beautiful thing lasts.

The field of cornflower yellow is a scarf at the neck of the copper sunburned woman, the mother of the year, the taker of seeds.

The northwest wind comes and the yellow is torn full of holes, new beautiful things come in the first spit of snow on the northwest wind, and the old things go, not one lasts.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Especially when the October wind
by Dylan Thomas

Especially when the October wind
With frosty fingers punishes my hair,
Caught by the crabbing sun I walk on fire
And cast a shadow crab upon the land,
By the sea's side, hearing the noise of birds,
Hearing the raven cough in winter sticks,
My busy heart who shudders as she talks
Sheds the syllabic blood and drains her words.

Shut, too, in a tower of words, I mark
On the horizon walking like the trees
The wordy shapes of women, and the rows
Of the star-gestured children in the park.
Some let me make you of the vowelled beeches,
Some of the oaken voices, from the roots
Of many a thorny shire tell you notes,
Some let me make you of the water's speeches.

Behind a post of ferns the wagging clock
Tells me the hour's word, the neural meaning
Flies on the shafted disk, declaims the morning
And tells the windy weather in the cock.
Some let me make you of the meadow's signs;
The signal grass that tells me all I know
Breaks with the wormy winter through the eye.
Some let me tell you of the raven's sins.

Especially when the October wind
(Some let me make you of autumnal spells,
The spider-tongued, and the loud hill of Wales)
With fists of turnips punishes the land,
Some let me make of you the heartless words.
The heart is drained that, spelling in the scurry
Of chemic blood, warned of the coming fury.
By the sea's side hear the dark-vowelled birds.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Bleak and remembered, patched with red . . .

What a wonderful way Millay uses the extended metaphor of an autumn daybreak to communicate the "dawning on" the writer of death consciousness, as autumn replaces the green summertime prime of life. The hill is, of course, a cemetery, and the patches of red are the flags placed on the graves of fallen soldiers on Memorial Day.

Autumn Daybreak
by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Cold wind of autumn, blowing loud
At dawn, a fortnight overdue,
Jostling the doors, and tearing through
My bedroom to rejoin the cloud,

I know — for I can hear the hiss
And scrape of leaves along the floor —
How many boughs, lashed bare by this,
Will rake the cluttered sky once more.

Tardy, and somewhat south of east,
The sun will rise at length, made known
More by the meagre light increased
Than by a disk in splendour shown;

When, having but to turn my head,
Through the stripped maple I shall see,
Bleak and remembered, patched with red,
The hill all summer hid from me.


Monday, October 1, 2012


I'll be posting some of my favorite Fall poems here on the blog this month. A little truth and beauty to soften the stings and arrows, if you will . . .

One of my favorites is, of course, "October" by Robert Frost. I memorized this memorable poem ages ago, and never tire of reciting it, sometimes even aloud while looking out into the woods behind my home. Notice the wonderful onomatopoeia in  the word "call" to describe the crows in line 5!



O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
To-morrow's wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
To-morrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow,
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know;
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away;
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes' sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost--
For the grapes' sake along the wall.