Category Archives: English Poet

All Souls’ Night

At the BeanRunner, Andrew began his turn with his own definition of not understanding, an idea carried-over from a previous meeting with the theme Poems We Don’t Understand. Andrew did some fancy-footwork to segue from “Not Understand” to “Nervous.” And, he did it well!

From Andrew: Types of “Not Understanding:” All not understandings are perforce subjective. Understanding itself being a complex poetic term since much poetry attempts to bypass the overtly cerebral to capture nuance and subtle body of the spirit the ephemeral the peripheral the prehensile and prognostic. Poetry like a band of motley coyotes yips and howls in the wee…st of hours making itself seem large and more multifarious than it is.

Keep close watch over your pets for Poetry might abscond with a few and leave you in the unease and awe of the uncanny.

…Which leads us to poems that make us nervous.
Andrew then read:

This Living Hand

This living hand, now warm and capable
Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold
And in the icy silence of the tomb,
So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming
That thou wouldst wish thine own heart dry
Of blood
So in my veins red life might stream again,
And thou be conscience-calmed – see here
it is –
I hold it towards you.

John Keats

Keats, again. Quite accidentally the poet known for keeping death a constant companion became the spokesman for the All Souls’ Night event. Perfect.

A lively discussion of “This Living Hand,” included thoughts on the horror movie quality of the poem and summed-up with the idea that the poet was holding out his poem, his living hand, and even after his death the poem will live. Yes, Keats.

The visual impact of the words, “…thine own heart dry of blood/so in my veins red life might stream again” came-up, too,…the power of those  images plunked right in the middle of pale cold of that poem. Life right inside of death.

Poets Read Poetry Goes Public

Poems That Make Us Nervous was the theme of PRP’s first public event. A smashing success! A capacity crowd gathered at the BeanRunner Cafe in Peekskill, New York. The microphones worked…the set that imitated my living room was delightful…the cappuccinos hot and foamy. But, most important was the energy of the audience: They wanted in on the poetry discussion!

We used the same format as we do at our monthly meetings–We choose a theme, this time it was Poems That Make Us Nervous. Each of us selects a poem on the theme and reads it aloud. Then we discuss  it for 15 minutes. At the BeanRunner we invited the audience to participate. And they did..with vigor. Hands were raised. Points were made. Memories of childhood experiences with poetry were shared. A elderly woman seated way in the back popped-up twice to say: “I’ll stick with Keats,’ Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’ that is all/ye on earth need to know.

As a tribute to her passion, here is the last stanza of  Ode on a Grecian Urn:

O Attic shape! Fair Attitude! with brede
Of Marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in the midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” – that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

John Keats

Next time: Andrew on “understanding ”  and his choice of This Living Hand by Keats for Poems That Make Us Nervous.

I Don’t Read Enough

I don’t read enough.

Magazines pool colorfully around my feet. Never cracked books, fat books, thin books, picture-books, books with church book sale stickers still attached, books so old they smell, deliciously, of dirty hair, yellowed-paperbacks all stack around my desk. Books splayed like Pilates-ladies’ legs wait atop the night-table. Chunky books and ones with broken spines clutter the dressers. Upside-down titles nap on unused beds. These books call to me. Call to me.

I cringe at dinner parties when the person at my right asks what I thought of a new title. Where do they find time to read? Are bills unpaid? Phone messages permanently lodged in the machine? Don’t their cats take heart medicine? Do they not dry clean their clothes? Toenails. I sneak a look below the table. Uncut?

I read. I’m reading all the time. My glasses never leave my nose. But what is it I read? Emails. Instructions. Enough of an article to get the gist. A novel on a plane. All fat-free. My brain growls. My spirit gnaws.

Poetry is what I want. But, alone I won’t make it. So I assemble three local poets. Good thinkers. Good writers. I create a once a month group. We’re trying to give ourselves a name. Having four poets agree on anything is tough….

We throw out suggestions for the first session.  I win. “Poems That Made Us Poets.” We each bring 3 to the next meeting plus a bit of why. William Blake, Ferlinghetti, Robert Louis Stevenson, Keats. The poems are terrific but the “whys” are better.

Mine: Keats, “When I Have Fears.” My voice cracks as I read it aloud. I want this at my funeral. (Along with Louis Armstrong’s singing both “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen,” and “Wonderful World.” He’s my idol. And a collage maker, like me.) Amy Lowell, “Patterns,” and Edna St. Vincent Millay, “First Fig.” I’m thirteen again, struck by the powerful force of words, transported, understood, giving in to what William James calls,” mystical susceptibility.”

More to come….


Next month: “The Poets You Can’t Get Rid Of.” Saddle-up Cavafy. I’m about to take you for a ride.