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Tag Archives: summer

Full On Bug Season

It’s July, and that means a proliferation of bugs – including the deer ticks we dread in Maine for their ability to carry Lyme disease.  The mosquitoes in Maine are pretty legendary, too.  I dislike bugs, except perhaps fireflies and butterflies.  They are the price we pay for our short, glorious summer.  Here is a poem by William Oldys (1687-1761) – not very sanitary, but an interesting meditation on the fleeting nature of existence.  Oldys lived to be 74, which in the 1700s was a long life.


On A Fly Drinking Out Of His Cup


Busy, curious, thirsty fly!

Drink with me and drink as I:

Freely welcome to my cup,

Couldst thou sip and sip it up:

Make the most of life you may,

Life is short and wears away.


Both alike are mine and thine

Hastening quick to their decline:

Thine’s a summer, mine’s no more,

Though repeated to threescore.

Threescore summers, when they’re gone,

Will appear as short as one!

fireflies and jar


An August poem

I’ve been enjoying a wonderful, irreverent book of contemporary quotations about poets and poetry called QUOTE POET UNQUOTE, edited by Dennis O’Driscoll. Some samples (more to come in later posts):
“The making of a poem ought to be a sprinkling of words and experiences with gunpowder and throwing a match in.” — Michael Milburn
“Any good poem is an act of taming the savage or savaging the tame.” — Tony Hoagland
“Writing comes to be associated with the outlaw parts of the self, but one really needs an orderly, bourgeous life to get work done.” — Robert Hass
“Poems are never made out of 100% good will and good tidings. There is always a little cold wind in a good poem.” — George Szirtes

Midsummer, Tobago               by Derek Walcott

Broad sun-stoned beaches.

White heat.
A green river.

A bridge,
scorched yellow palms

from the summer-sleeping house
drowsing through August.

Days I have held,
days I have lost,

days that outgrow, like daughters,
my harbouring arms.

Summer in Maine, and a bird poem

blue bird

blue fence flowers
We’re in the full flush of summer here, where Maine gets some Deep South-type heat and humidity and lots of folks complain about it. (Would they rather shovel snow?) Heavy rains and hot sunny days are making everything green grow and burst into bloom. Before first light, a cacophony of birds breaks out in the neighborhood. I keep refilling the bird feeder, and my bird bath often has a waiting line. This poem is by Maine’s redoubtable George Van Deventer. It’s dedicated to my sister Charlotte, who has toiled for many years (as a volunteer) for the Audobon Society where she lives in Washington state, not that far from the Other Portland.

When birds die

Imagine a day without bird song.
The ear would wither
like leaves in December.

Song fills all there is about us:
chickadee, raven, barnyard hen,
heron deep and raspy.

Finch in a cage.
Song of the eye in
a falcon’s whistle.

Pigeons coo
off the hand that feeds them.
Crows rattle the air

in an acclamation of company.

When the mine bird dies
we hear the silence
of its song.


Labor Day and lost literary opportunities

Truman Capote

Labor Day is significant in Maine – the tourists and summer people stream south and we year-round residents sigh in relief at getting our state back. The kids are back in school. I live very close to Westbrook High School, known for its marching band. In the end of August, the band starts practicing in the big parking lot in the evenings, and I hear it all. Because they are good, and these kids and teachers are dedicated, I rather like hearing them, and it’s always evocative of a new beginning in autumn. Fall is my favorite season in New England even though I admit that the coming winter brings a bit of dread.

This week we lost Seamus Heaney, a terrific poet. Many years ago when I was in college in Oregon I went to hear him read to a packed house. I was too shy to approach him. I’m not bragging, but I am related to Truman Capote, whose original name was Truman Streckfus Persons. I admire his writing but was too chicken to ever write him a fan letter, and I never met him. I regret this. Advice: tell writers you love their work. Get books signed. Writers never tire of hearing from fans, especially in person, and of course admiration means more to a non-famous person, like most poets!