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a letter to my bestfriend
In mystery the twig is bent Imagines, by some mental twist, That he alone is sentient Of the intolerable load That on all living creatures lies, Nor stoops to pity in the toad The speechless sorrow of his eyes. He asks no questions of the snake, Nor plumbs the phosphorescent gloom Where lidless fishes, broad awake, Swim staring at a nightmare doom. Anne Sexton was a model who became a confessional poet, writing about intimate aspects of her life, after her doctor suggested that she take up poetry as a form of therapy. Sexton won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in , but later committed suicide via carbon monoxide poisoning. Topics she covered in her poems included adultery, masturbation, menstruation, abortion, despair and suicide. The Truth the Dead Know by Anne Sexton For my Mother, born March , died March and my Father, born February , died June Gone, I say and walk from church, refusing the stiff procession to the grave, letting the dead ride alone in the hearse. I am tired of being brave. We drive to the Cape. I cultivate myself where the sun gutters from the sky, where the sea swings in like an iron gate and we touch. In another country people die. My darling, the wind falls in like stones from the whitehearted water and when we touch we enter touch entirely. Men kill for this, or for as much. And what of the dead? They lie without shoes in the stone boats. They are more like stone than the sea would be if it stopped. They refuse to be blessed, throat, eye and knucklebone. Vincent Millay was the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for poetry. She was openly bisexual and had affairs with other women and married men. When she finally married, hers was an open marriage. She was one of the earliest and strongest voices for what became known as feminism. One of the recurring themes of her poetry was that men might use her body, but not possess her or have any claim over her. And perhaps that their desire for her body gave her the upper hand in relationships. She was also one of the best modern writer of sonnets, if not the best. Dirge Without Music by Edna St. Vincent Millay I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground. So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind: Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned. Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you. Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust. A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew, A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost. They have gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. But I do not approve. More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world. Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind; Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave. And I am not resigned. Vincent Millay I, being born a woman, and distressed By all the needs and notions of my kind, Am urged by your propinquity to find Your person fair, and feel a certain zest To bear your body's weight upon my breast: So subtly is the fume of life designed, To clarify the pulse and cloud the mind, And leave me once again undone, possessed. Think not for this, however, this poor treason Of my stout blood against my staggering brain, I shall remember you with love, or season My scorn with pity — let me make it plain: I find this frenzy insufficient reason For conversation when we meet again. When this now-famous sonnet was written in it barely caused a ripple. When its author died in , the poem wasn't even mentioned in her obituary. And yet today, most Americans can probably recite a line or two, or at least recognize the most famous lines when quoted. Since then the poem has changed the perceived meaning and purpose of the Statue of Liberty itself. As a gift from the government of France, purchased with coins donated by French school children, the Statue was meant to symbolize the hard-won liberty of two nations that had become friends. Today, thanks to Lazarus's sonnet, "Lady Liberty" is better known as a beacon to immigrants and a welcoming to America. According to John T. Cunningham, "The Statue of Liberty was not conceived and sculpted as a symbol of immigration, but it quickly became so as immigrant ships passed under the statue. However, it was Lazarus's poem that permanently stamped on Miss Liberty the role of unofficial greeter of incoming immigrants. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door! Burch We cannot know the beheaded god nor his eyes' forfeited visions. But still the figure's trunk glows with the strange vitality of a lamp lit from within, while his composed will emanates dynamism. Otherwise the firmly muscled abdomen could not beguile us, nor the centering loins make us smile at the thought of their generative animus. Otherwise the stone might seem deficient, unworthy of the broad shoulders, of the groin projecting procreation's triangular spearhead upwards, unworthy of the living impulse blazing wildly within like an inchoate star—demanding our belief. You must change your life. I believe this is a poem about a major resolution: While it is only my personal interpretation of the poem, I think Rilke was saying to himself: Perhaps because he wanted to be a real artist, and when confronted with real, dynamic, living-and-breathing art of the sculptor Rodin, he realized that he had to inject the same vital and muscular elements into his poetry. Michelangelo said that he saw the angel in a block of marble, then freed it. Perhaps Rilke had to find the dynamic image of Apollo, the God of Poetry, in his materials, which were paper, ink and his imagination. Burch Those Winter Sundays Sundays too my father got up early and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold, then with cracked hands that ached from labor in the weekday weather made banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him. I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking. When the rooms were warm, he'd call, and slowly I would rise and dress, fearing the chronic angers of that house, Speaking indifferently to him, who had driven out the cold and polished my good shoes as well. What did I know, what did I know of love's austere and lonely offices? Robert Hayden is probably an unknown or undervalued poet to most readers today, but every reader should be intimately familiar with this wonderful poem. I may never remember another poem by Hayden, but I will certainly never forget this one. Do not stand at my grave and weep by Mary Elizabeth Frye Do not stand at my grave and weep: I am not there; I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds that blow, I am the diamond glints on snow, I am the sun on ripened grain, I am the gentle autumn rain. I am the soft starshine at night. Do not stand at my grave and cry: I am not there; I did not die. She had never written poetry before. Frye wrote the poem on a ripped-off piece of a brown grocery bag, in a burst of compassion for a Jewish girl who had fled the Holocaust only to receive news that her mother had died in Germany. The girl was weeping inconsolably because she couldn't visit her mother's grave to share her tears of love and bereavement. When the poem was named Britain's most popular poem in a Bookworm poll, with more than 30, call-in votes despite not being one of the critics' nominations, an unlettered orphan girl had seemingly surpassed all England's many cultured and degreed ivory towerists in the public's estimation. Although the poem's origin was disputed for some time it had been attributed to Native American and other sources , Frye's authorship was confirmed in after investigative research by Abigail Van Buren, the newspaper columnist better known as "Dear Abby. Frye never formally published or copyrighted the poem, so we believe it is in the public domain and can be shared, although we recommend that it not be used for commercial purposes, since Frye never tried to profit from it herself. Acquainted With The Night I have been one acquainted with the night. I have walked out in rain—and back in rain. I have outwalked the furthest city light. I have looked down the saddest city lane. I have passed by the watchman on his beat And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain. I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet When far away an interrupted cry Came over houses from another street, But not to call me back or say good-by; And further still at an unearthly height, One luminary clock against the sky Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right. I have been one acquainted with the night. Robert Frost was well-acquainted with darkness, because members of his family wrestled with depression and insanity. My interpretation of the poem is that night symbolizes the speaker's depression, loneliness and feelings of alienation. And while in poetry light often symbolizes the brighter aspects of life, here the appearance of light is neutral, not helpful. While the poem is written in iambic pentameter and has fourteen lines like a traditional sonnet, it employs a terza rima rhyme scheme with the pattern aba bcb cdc dad aa. There is even an element of the villanelle, a refrain, as the first line is repeated at the end of the poem. Sweet Rose of Virtue loose translation by Michael R. William Dunbar's wonderful "Sweet Rose of Virtue" is one of my favorite poems from the early days of English poetry. I chose to translate it myself, to make it more accessible to modern readers. While Robert Burns is generally considered to be the greatest Scottish poet, and for very good reasons, his ancient peer William Dunbar should definitely remain in the discussion. The Unreturning Suddenly night crushed out the day and hurled Her remnants over cloud-peaks, thunder-walled.
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