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Archive for the tag “poetry”

Robert Frost’s “Birches”

In 1989, Frederick “Rick” Lamore, my AP English teacher at Gibbs High School, handpicked snippets of poems for each of his students upon graduation. Rick chose for me these last lines of Robert Frost‘s “Birches” (and if he gave them to you, too, I don’t want to know about it because I still have that damn piece of paper. I cherish it).

I think these words show what the English language is capable of. May I share them with you?:

I’d like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth’s the right place for love:
I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.
I’d like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches. 

Nice, huh? It’s a great sentiment for a secretly sappy iconoclast like me. Oh, Rick, you saw right through me.

What a great teacher!

Oh yeah, Happy April!

From the opening section of T.S. Eliot‘s The Waste Land:

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
Bin gar keine Russin, stamm’ aus Litauen, echt deutsch.
And when we were children, staying at the archduke’s,
My cousin’s, he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free.
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.

Read the rest of the poem here.

e.e. cummings on Spring

In Just

in Just-
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman
whistles far and wee
and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it’s
when the world is puddle-wonderful
the queer
old balloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing
from hop-scotch and jump-rope and
balloonMan whistles

Emily Dickinson’s response to war

When I visited the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, Ma., this past weekend, our tour guide handed us each a copy of one of Emily’s poems, written in 1863 in response to the Civil War. I think the poem is very timely and I wanted to share it with you:

They dropped like Flakes –
They dropped like stars –
Like Petals from a Rose –
When suddenly across the June
A Wind with fingers – goes –

They perished in the seamless Grass –
No eye could find the place –
But God can summon every face
On his Repealless – List.


Powerful stuff. Any thoughts? Maybe you’ve got a favorite protest poem?

Emily Dickinson might have a sex tape!

Are you one of those who thinks 19th century American poet Emily Dickinson spent her time alone in her father’s house in Amherst, Mass? That she never even kissed a boy and probably lay in bed at night pretending to french her pillow? Ha!

Christopher Benfey at Slate argues that “spinster” Emily had several gentleman callers in her lifetime. And one of them was a judge her father’s age!

Benfey cites evidence from stuffy scholarly journals proving Emily was engaged while she was in college. She even – gasp! – entertained men at home. Her poetry certainly brimmed with longing and love, but for whom? Who inspired lusty lines such as these:

Wild nights! Wild nights!
Were I with thee,
Wild nights should be
Our luxury!
Futile the winds
To a heart in port,
Done with the compass,
Done with the chart.

Rowing in Eden!
Ah! the sea!
Might I but moor
To-night in thee!

Was it the judge? The college beau? Whoever he was, he inspired some of America’s most potent poems about love and lust. Isn’t it interesting to know that Emily wasn’t just pretending?

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