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Moving Into Fall

fall road

 

We’re seeing some red leaves here in southern Maine. The fall foliage will peak

the first week of October.  There are so many good poems about fall, many with an elegiac tone.

Here is one by Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926).

 

AUTUMN

 

The leaves fall, fall as from far,

Like distant gardens withered in the heavens;

They fall with slow and lingering descent.

 

Andin the nights the heavy Earth, too, falls

From out the stars into the Solitude.

 

Thus all doth fall.  This hand of mine must fall

And lo! the other one:  it is the law.

But there is One who holds this falling

Infinitely softly in His hands.

 

 

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Mouser and Monk

gray cat books

International Cat Day was this past week, but of course every day is Cat Day at my house.

Here is a delightful ninth century Irish poem, newly translated by Seamus Heaney, written by a monk about his cat.

Pangur Ban

 

Pangur Ban and I at work,

Adepts, equals, cat and clerk:

His whole instinct is to hunt,

Mine to free the meaning pent.

 

Moe than loud acclaim, I love

Books, silence, thought, my alcove.

Happy for me, Pangur Ban

Child-plays round some mouse’s den.

 

Truth to tell, just being here,

Housed alone, housed together,

Adds up to its own reward:

Concentration, stealthy art.

 

Next thing an unwary mouse

Bares his flank: Pangur pounces.

Next thing lines that held and held

Meaning back begin to yield.

 

All the while, his round bright eye

Fixes on the wall, while I

Focus my less piercing gaze

On the challenge of the page.

 

With his unsheathed, perfect nails

Pangur springs, exults and kills.

When the longed-for, difficult

Answers come, I too exult.

 

So it goes.  To each his own.

No vying.  No vexation.

Taking pleasure, taking pains,

Kindred spirits, veterans.

 

Day and night, soft purr, soft pad,

Pangur Ban has learned his trade.

Day and night, my own hard work

Solves the cruxes, makes a mark.

 

Dog days at last

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dog joy ride

This year we got to the solstice before summer finally came to southern Maine.  I’ve been reading a lot of excellent poems about dogs; it seems like a good time to post one.  This fine example, from the dog’s point of view, is by the late Michael Macklin,  a popular poet and teacher who lived in Portland.  It’s in a Moon Pie Press anthology of animal poems (by many poets) called THE WILDEST PEAL (2015).  There was also a first animal poetry anthology called AGREEABLE FRIENDS, published in 2008.  Profits from both these books go to the Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals, a non-profit based in Windham, Maine that is the largest horse shelter in New England. (For more about the wonderful work they do,  see http://www.msspa.org.)

Watching the Westminster Dog Show With My Human

He sits in the chair opposite
me and I watch his jowls droop

Notice the way his face has whitened
and see the stiffness in his hips

as he rises slowly. Though his youth
has been slipping lately, his eyes

still shine when I approach. Neither
of us moves as quickly as we used to,

unless, of course, someone younger and
female enters to turn back our clocks.

Funny how at middle age everything
runs to our middles and stops.

Even though we ought to know
better, we each want one more

chase, through the deepest brambles
our voices rising from the memory

of young muscles. But after a hundred
yards breath comes in wheezes

so we turn back to curl in our corners
and dream what we woulda done,

could done yesterday when we
were pups and best in show

was still ahead of us.

 

 

Childhood memory

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This is an evocative poem by George VanDeventer, a largely unsung hero of Maine literature.  George is a Bristol, Maine resident who has been writing, publishing, teaching and promoting poetry in Maine for decades.  George started the poetry journal OFF THE COAST and ran it for many years, giving countless  Maine poets of all ages their first publication. Now in his eighties, George continues to write, tackle ambitious gardening projects, and help promote poetry.

 

Thomas Street, Newark, 1943

My dog has a special place to go.
I sweep away the waste
for the begonias next spring.
Sunflowers rise off the railroad bank.

My Sicilian neighbor walks his goats
early every Sunday morning,
to nibble the dandelions
on a hill that rises to a railroad track,
sunflowers, thistles and old freight cars.

A pony pulls a decorated yellow wagon,
four children and a man
sitting upright
clip-clopping cobbled Thomas Street.

People from away, so near,
I watch them passing –
gesticulating in the air –

with four children in a yellow wagon,
a pony and a man.

sunflowers RR track.jpg

Poem for May

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Please note:  It would be wonderful if you followed my blog.  It is usually monthly, about poetry and other literary matters.  Comments are welcome.  Thanks for visiting!

 

The following is a lovely short poem by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), who lived in Amherst, Massachusetts.  The mayflower, the state blossom of Massachusetts, is blooming here in the Maine woods in our late, rather wet spring.

 

May-Flower

 

Pink, small and punctual,

Aromatic, low,

Covert in April,

Candid in May,

 

Dear to the moss,

Known by the knoll,

Next to the robin

In every human soul.

 

Bold little beauty,

Bedecked with thee,

Nature forswears

Antiquity.

 

 

mayflower

Welcoming fickle April

 

Here in southern Maine we are seeing a haze of green on lawns and buds on forsythia, though old snirt (snow and dirt) is still lying around, and a bit of snow is predicted for tonight. April is National Poetry Month and events abound.  See the Moon Pie Press website for a listing of events involving our poets.

Here is a poem by Erich Kastner (1899-1974), translated from the German by Ruth Bookey and used with her permission.

 

APRIL

 

Rain strums a green Easter melody

with one finger.

The year gets older, yet younger daily.

Oh harmonious contradiction!

 

The moon in his gold jacket

hides behind cloud curtain.

His left cheek is fat, poor thing.

He feels a little foolish.

March was successful:

he sent a full moon into April.

 

Rabbits are hopping,

with paintbrushes, tubes of color

and twitching noses.

Out of hollows and dens,

through gardens and streets,

over lawns, they hop

even in barns and homes.

 

As if it were easy they lay their eggs,

made of nougat, chocolate and marzipan.

The bravest lays a “bonbonniere.” *

He stares into space with determination.

“Bonbonniere” is easier said than done.

 

Next comes the painting.  It takes hours.

Then tying on the silk ribbons.

Hiding places are looked for, found:

behind the stove, under the sofa,

in the wall clock, on the path,

outside under the birch,

in the grandfather clock,

in the closet.

 

The rooster crows morning.

The rabbits disappear.

Windows sparkle in the sun.

A man yawns and leans on his garden gate.

Green fire runs over the slope

covering bushes and trees.

The man thinks spring is coming.

He doesn’t feel wonder or adventure,

he isn’t surprised any more.

 

Isn’t that a tiny paintbrush lying in the grass?

Even this the man doesn’t find unusual.

He didn’t even notice that an Easter rabbit

lost it on his way home.

 

  • Bonbonniere:  box holding bonbons, given on special occasions.

 

forsythia close up

Farewell to a wonderful poet and mentor

 

Poet, teacher and mentor to many: Ted Bookey died March 10 in Augusta, Maine at age 90. I was lucky to meet Ted and Ruth about 15 years ago.  I had the privilege of publishing four books of his poetry and two anthologies he did of UMaine-Augusta Senior College student poets’ work.  Ted and Ruth were my Maine “parents” in many ways and unfailingly supportive and generous.  Ted was always willing to encourage and mentor poets of all levels of skill and experience, write blurbs, and spread the word about others’ work.  He was funny, wise and had a great zest for life.  His poetry is often profound but also often amusing. Here is one of his short poems from his collection WITH A W/HOLE IN ONE, published by Moon Pie Press in 2010.

BEE SEX

 

The bee can mate while he’s in flight

–penis forward, feet retracted.

Not that I would mind the height

Only that I am easily distracted.

Ted portrait