Happy World Poetry Day!

Happy World Poetry Day, everybody!

Some of the discussion in the “What are you reading?” thread made me think it’d be fun to share some favourite lines in the spirit of the day. Here’s mine, “Sonnets to Orpheus no. 3” by Rainer Maria Rilke (*waves at Juuves*):

Sonnets to Orpheus, no. 3

A god has the power. But tell me,
How can a man follow that narrow path
between a lyre’s strings?
A man is split. And there stand no temples of Apollo
at such crossed heartstrings.

Verse, You teach, relies not on desire,
Nor on pursuit and possession;
Verse is to be alive. Trifling for the god;
But are we truly alive? And when does He

Turn the earth and stars to face our being?
Yes, you are young and alight in love,
And the voice flies from your lips - it is lovely.

But learn to forget being birdsong - this is fleeting.
True song is breath of a different kind.
A breath destined for nowhere. Breath, within the god. Wind.

edited to add another that describes my trying to remember the Great and Fantastic idea I had in the shower, which has now escaped into the ether :joy:

Harmonie du soir

Voici venir les temps où vibrant sur sa tige
Chaque fleur s’évapore ainsi qu’un encensoir;
Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l’air du soir;
Valse mélancolique et langoureux vertige!

Chaque fleur s’évapore ainsi qu’un encensoir;
Le violon frémit comme un coeur qu’on afflige;
Valse mélancolique et langoureux vertige!
Le ciel est triste et beau comme un grand reposoir.

Le violon frémit comme un coeur qu’on afflige,
Un coeur tendre, qui hait le néant vaste et noir!
Le ciel est triste et beau comme un grand reposoir;
Le soleil s’est noyé dans son sang qui se fige.

Un coeur tendre, qui hait le néant vaste et noir,
Du passé lumineux recueille tout vestige!
Le soleil s’est noyé dans son sang qui se fige…
Ton souvenir en moi luit comme un ostensoir!

What are some of your nearest and dearest poems - or, ones that you don’t particularly love, but have stuck with you all the same?


Lol Mine is topical: leaving winter for spring!

Le temps a laissé son manteau - Charles d’Orléans

Le temps a laissé son manteau
De vent, de froidure et de pluie,
Et s’est vêtu de broderie,
De soleil luisant, clair et beau.

Il n’y a bête ni oiseau
Qu’en son jargon ne chante ou crie :
Le temps a laissé son manteau
De vent, de froidure et de pluie.

Rivière, fontaine et ruisseau
Portent en livrée jolie,
Gouttes d’argent d’orfèvrerie ;
Chacun s’habille de nouveau :
Le temps a laissé son manteau.

Edit… I forgot this one, tying for 1st place actually

La courbe de tes yeux - Paul Éluard

La courbe de tes yeux fait le tour de mon cœur,
Un rond de danse et de douceur,
Auréole du temps, berceau nocturne et sûr,
Et si je ne sais plus tout ce que j’ai vécu
C’est que tes yeux ne m’ont pas toujours vu.

Feuilles de jour et mousse de rosée,
Roseaux du vent, sourires parfumés,
Ailes couvrant le monde de lumière,
Bateaux chargés du ciel et de la mer,
Chasseurs des bruits et sources des couleurs,

Parfums éclos d’une couvée d’aurores
Qui gît toujours sur la paille des astres,
Comme le jour dépend de l’innocence
Le monde entier dépend de tes yeux purs
Et tout mon sang coule dans leurs regards.


The poem that occurs to me so often, especially when I see people crowing triumphantly about someone they hate dying, is from Donne. I remember reading it in High School and it has stuck with me ever since.

No Man is an Island (John Donne)

No Man Is an Island

No man is an island,
Entire of itself;
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less,
As well as if a promontory were:
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were.

Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.


Of all irritations
I hate perspirations.
They make my beard itch
Like a son of a bitch.
Worse than all damnations.


A quick haiku, by me:

Poetry is hard.
Is this seven syllables?
Oh hey, I did it!

I don’t know of any poems that were written to stand alone; I can only name song lyrics. However, it would take me some time to select lyrics that impact me the most, because there are simply too many to remember on the spot.

There is one line that does stick out, though, and it’s part of the chorus of Penny by People in Planes:

I’m a machine, but I’m a funny color.

I think this sums up really succinctly a way to solve the confusion of being a unique person, while still living as part of a larger system, which is something that people would describe as a paradox, and perhaps reject one half for the other.


Aw, I love poetry! I have a bunch of poems that I keep stuffed in my little purse to rummage through for just this sort of occasion. Here’s a little sampler of poems that I love.

The first poem that got me interested in pursuing poetry as a medium:

The Sciences Sing a Lullabye
by Albert Goldbarth (1948)

Physics says: go to sleep. Of course
you’re tired. Every atom in you
has been dancing the shimmy in silver shoes nonstop from mitosis to now.
Quit tapping your feet. They’ll dance
inside themselves without you. Go to sleep.

Geology says: it will be all right. Slow inch
by inch America is giving itself
to the ocean. Go to sleep. Let darkness
lap at your sides. Give darkness an inch.
You aren’t alone. All of the continents used to be
one body. You aren’t alone. Go to sleep.
Astronomy says: the sun will rise tomorrow, Zoology says: on rainbow-fish and lithe gazelle,
Psychology says: but first it has to be night, so
Biology says: the body-clocks are stopped all over
History says: here are the blankets, layer on layer,
down and down.

The first poem that I felt 'seen' by while reading it:

Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver (1986)

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

The first poem that I stumbled across by one of my favourite poets:

by Richard Siken, (2005)

Tell me about the dream where we pull the bodies out of the lake
and dress them in warm clothes again.
How it was late, and no one could sleep, the horses running
until they forget that they are horses.
It’s not like a tree where the roots have to end somewhere,
it’s more like a song on a policeman’s radio,
how we rolled up the carpet so we could dance, and the days
were bright red, and every time we kissed there was another apple
to slice into pieces.
Look at the light through the windowpane. That means it’s noon, that means
we’re inconsolable.
Tell me how all this, and love too, will ruin us.
These, our bodies, possessed by light.
Tell me we’ll never get used to it.

The first poem I studied that wasn't a Shakespearean sonnet:

I Do Not Love You Except Because I Love You
by Pablo Neruda (1960)

I do not love you except because I love you;
I go from loving to not loving you,
From waiting to not waiting for you
My heart moves from cold to fire.

I love you only because it’s you the one I love;
I hate you deeply, and hating you
Bend to you, and the measure of my changing love for you
Is that I do not see you but love you blindly.

Maybe January light will consume
My heart with its cruel
Ray, stealing my key to true calm.

In this part of the story I am the one who
Dies, the only one, and I will die of love because I love you,
Because I love you, Love, in fire and blood.


You have a beard???


I apologize for the formatting of the Ferlinghetti poem. I did my best.

CW: potentially disturbing imagery, vulgar language

In Goya's Greatest Scenes We Seem to See by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
In Goya’s greatest scenes we seem to see
                            the people of the world   
       exactly at the moment when
             they first attained the title of
                                               ‘suffering humanity’   
          They writhe upon the page
                           in a veritable rage
                                            of adversity   
          Heaped up
                groaning with babies and bayonets
                                     under cement skies   
           in an abstract landscape of blasted trees
               bent statues bats wings and beaks
                        slippery gibbets
               cadavers and carnivorous cocks
           and all the final hollering monsters
               of the
                     ‘imagination of disaster’
           they are so bloody real
                             it is as if they really still existed

    And they do

            Only the landscape is changed

They still are ranged along the roads   
      plagued by legionnaires
             false windmills and demented roosters
They are the same people
                      only further from home
      on freeways fifty lanes wide
                     on a concrete continent
                           spaced with bland billboards   
              illustrating imbecile illusions of happiness

              The scene shows fewer tumbrils
                            but more strung-out citizens
                                         in painted cars
                  and they have strange license plates   
               and engines
                         that devour America
Dream Song 385 by John Berryman
My daughter’s heavier.  Light leaves are flying.
Everywhere in enormous numbers turkeys will be dying
and other birds, all their wings.
They never greatly flew.  Did they wish to?
I should know.  Off away somewhere once I knew
such things.

Or good Ralph Hodgson back then did, or does.
The man is dead whom Eliot praised.  My praise
follows and flows too late.
Fall is grievy, brisk.  Tears behind the eyes
almost fall.  Fall comes to us as a prize
to rouse us toward our fate.

My house is made of wood and it’s made well,
unlike us.  My house is older than Henry;
that’s fairly old.
If there were a middle    ground between things and the soul
or if the sky resembled more the sea,
I wouldn’t have to scold
                                           my heavy daughter.
American Sonnet for My Past and Future Assassin (I lock you in an American sonnet that is part prison) by Terrance Hayes
I lock you in an American sonnet that is part prison,
Part panic closet, a little room in a house set aflame.
I lock you in a form that is part music box, part meat
Grinder to separate the song of the bird from the bone.
I lock your persona in a dream-inducing sleeper hold
While your better selves watch from the bleachers.
I make you both gym & crow here. As the crow
You undergo a beautiful catharsis trapped one night
In the shadows of the gym. As the gym, the feel of crow-
Shit dropping to your floors is not unlike the stars
Falling from the pep rally posters on your walls.
I make you a box of darkness with a bird in its heart.
Voltas of acoustics, instinct & metaphor. It is not enough
To love you. It is not enough to want you destroyed.
Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note by Amiri Baraka
Lately, I've become accustomed to the way
The ground opens up and envelopes me
Each time I go out to walk the dog.
Or the broad edged silly music the wind
Makes when I run for a bus . . .

Things have come to that.

And now, each night I count the stars,
And each night I get the same number.
And when they will not come to be counted,
I count the holes they leave.

Nobody sings anymore.

And then last night, I tiptoed up
To my daughter's room and heard her
Talking to someone, and when I opened
The door, there was no one there . . .
Only she on her knees, peeking into

Her own clasped hands.
Diving Into the Wreck by Adrienne Rich
First having read the book of myths,
and loaded the camera,
and checked the edge of the knife-blade,
I put on
the body-armor of black rubber
the absurd flippers
the grave and awkward mask.
I am having to do this
not like Cousteau with his
assiduous team
aboard the sun-flooded schooner
but here alone.

There is a ladder.
The ladder is always there
hanging innocently
close to the side of the schooner.
We know what it is for,
we who have used it.
it is a piece of maritime floss
some sundry equipment.

I go down.
Rung after rung and still
the oxygen immerses me
the blue light
the clear atoms
of our human air.
I go down.
My flippers cripple me,
I crawl like an insect down the ladder
and there is no one
to tell me when the ocean
will begin.

First the air is blue and then
it is bluer and then green and then
black I am blacking out and yet
my mask is powerful
it pumps my blood with power
the sea is another story
the sea is not a question of power
I have to learn alone
to turn my body without force
in the deep element.

And now: it is easy to forget
what I came for
among so many who have always
lived here
swaying their crenellated fans
between the reefs
and besides
you breathe differently down here.

I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
I stroke the beam of my lamp
slowly along the flank
of something more permanent
than fish or weed

the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring
toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty
the ribs of the disaster
curving their assertion
among the tentative haunters.

This is the place.
And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
streams black, the merman in his armored body.
We circle silently
about the wreck
we dive into the hold.
I am she: I am he

whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes
whose breasts still bear the stress
whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies
obscurely inside barrels
half-wedged and left to rot
we are the half-destroyed instruments
that once held to a course
the water-eaten log
the fouled compass

We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to this scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
in which
our names do not appear.

I’ve been reading Barbara Ras:


Isn’t it always the heart that wants to wash
the elephant, begging the body to do it
with soap and water, a ladder, hands,
in tree-shade big enough for the vast savannahs
of your sadness, the strangler fig of your guilt,
the cratered full moon’s light fueling
the windy spooling memory of elephant?

What if Father Quinn had said, “Of course you’ll recognize
your parents in heaven,” instead of
“Being one with God will make your mother and father
pointless.” That was back when I was young enough
to love them absolutely though still fear for their place
in heaven, imagining their souls like sponges full
of something resembling street water after rain.

Still my mother sent me every Saturday to confess,
to wring the sins out of my small baffled soul, and I made up lies
about lying, disobeying, chewing gum in church, to offer them
as carefully as I handed over the knotted handkercheif of coins
to the grocer when my mother sent me for a loaf of Wonder,
Land O’Lakes, and two Camels.

If guilt is the damage of childhood, then eros is the fall of adolescence.
Or the fall begins there, and never ends, desire after desire parading
through a lifetime like the Ringling Brothers elephants
made to walk through the Queens-Midtown Tunnel
and down 34th Street to the Garden.
So much of our desire like their bulky, shadowy walking
after midnight, exiled from the wild and destined
for a circus with its tawdry gaudiness, its unspoken

It takes more than half a century to figure out who they were,
the few real loves-of-your-life and how much of the rest—
the mad breaking-heart stickiness—falls away, slowly,
unnoticed, the way you lose your taste for things
like Popsicles unthinkingly.
And though dailiness may have no place
for the ones that have etched themselves in the laugh lines
and frown lines on the face that’s harder and harder
to claim as your own, often one love-of-your-life
will appear in a dream, arriving
with the weight and certitude of an elephant,
and it’s always the heart that wants to go out and wash
the huge mysteriousness of what they meant, those memories
that have only memories to feed them, and only you to keep them clean.

And Jennifer Michael Hecht (this one is a riff on Robert Frost’s Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening)



Promises to keep was a lie, he had nothing. Through
the woods. Over the river and into the pain. It is an addict’s
talk of quitting as she’s smacking at a vein. He was always
going into the woods. It was he who wrote, The best way

out is always through. You’d think a shrink, but no, a poet.
He saw the woods and knew. The forest is the one that holds
promises. The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, they fill
with a quiet snow. Miles are traveled as we sleep. He steers

his horse off the road. Among the trees now, the blizzard
is a dusting. Holes in the canopy make columns of snowstorm,
lit from above. His little horse thinks it is queer. They go
deeper, sky gets darker. It’s the darkest night of the year.


He had no promises to keep, nothing pending. Had no bed
to head to, measurably away in miles. He was a freak like me,
monster of the dawn. Whose woods these are I think I know,
his house is in the village though. In the middle of life

he found himself lost in a dark woods. I discovered myself
in a somber forest. In between my breasts and breaths I got
lost. The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I’ve got promises
to keep, smiles to go before I leap. I’m going into the woods.

They’re lovely dark, and deep, which is what I want, deep lovely
darkness. No one has asked, let alone taken, a promise of me,
no one will notice if I choose bed or rug, couch or forest deep.
It doesn’t matter where I sleep. It doesn’t matter where I sleep.


So we do have a Rilke reader. :wink: That’s nice to know.

Ah, now. Poetry and I haven’t quite had the time nor chance to get to know the other yet. Of course I’ve read poems every now and then, here and there; but I never did get to the point where I understood a poem or author beyond the surface level, or loved anything enough to memorize it.

On the other hand, here’s a poem I searched up a few months ago that captured me enough for me to still have memory of it now:

"Discoverers" by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, translated by Angel Flores.

From the north Almagro brought his wrinkled lightning,
and over the territory, amid explosion and twilight
he bent day and night as over a chart.
Shadow of thorns, shadow of thistle and wax
the Spaniard united with his dry figure,
watching the wounded strategies of earth.
Night, snow and sand make the form
of my slim fatherland,
all silence is in its long line,
all foam emerges from its marine beard,
all coal fills it with mysterious kisses.
Like an ember, gold burns in its fingers
and silver illumines, like a green moon,
its hardened shadow of grave planet.
The Spaniard seated near the rose, one day,
near the oil, near the wine, near the old sky,
could not conceive this spot of angry stone
rising from the dung of the marine eagle.

Neruda wrote this about his country, Chile. I love reading about other people writing about their homelands. And this one is particularly poetic; packs a particular punch, it does.

Besides that, here, have a Chinese poem (they’re quite different from European ones) — and my translation that I did for a class. I liked it enough to still have it, so I guess that should count for something, maybe?

Note that I tend to take a fair bunch of liberty in translating things.



in the dark; people’s homes, halved in two by late moonlight,
across the sky, the big bear chases the little bear out of sight.
tonight i’ve finally known the warmth of spring air
and through green-screened windows,
heard once more the crickets chirping with all their might.

Note: The Big Dipper(北斗)and the Little Dipper(南斗)are part of constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, which, with origins from Greek mythology, are often depicted in Western culture as a mother-and-son bear duo. Therefore my use of the “big bear” and “little bear” in the above translation.

The Spring equinox was just yesterday —— “the first day of spring” in the Northern Hemisphere, and the poem above was coincidentally also about the arrival of spring, so I guess happy Spring, everyone! :herb:


The Ferlinghetti and American Sonnet are some of my faves too! I was in a really fun poetry workshop series once where we riffed off to make our own American Sonnets.


Funnily enough, Rilke is one of the poets in the letters/poets/time travel project I mentioned on the other thread! First day of spring brings us all full circle. :joy:


Nice! I was obsessed with sonnet variations for quite a while. Settled on counting syllables without worrying about meter or rhyming. So, 14 ten-syllable lines. I’m sure I wrote fifty at least.


My favorite poet has been Swinburne ever since I first discovered him, though most of his poetry is very melancholy and/or very horny. And my favorite of his works would have to be The Garden of Proserpine:

Pale, beyond porch and portal,
⁠Crowned with calm leaves, she stands
Who gathers all things mortal
⁠With cold immortal hands;
Her languid lips are sweeter
Than love’s who fears to greet her
To men that mix and meet her
⁠From many times and lands.

She waits for each and other,
⁠She waits for all men born;
Forgets the earth her mother,
⁠The life of fruits and corn;
And spring and seed and swallow
Take wing for her and follow
Where summer song rings hollow
⁠And flowers are put to scorn.

Fun fact: this poem was one of the inspirations for the depiction of Death in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series.


I love The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (probably not a surprise given the adaptation I wrote) and it’s probably my favorite poem. It’s. Extremely long so I don’t think I’ll paste it here? But I have memorized most of it because I’m that person. Here’s a link to the poem.

Another favorite of mine is a poem by W.B. Yeats (not The Second Coming, though I have memorized all of that one) (wait I’ve memorized this one too…)

The Song of Wandering Aengus

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;

And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:

It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;

And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

Also, re: the above poem, I first encountered it in this art piece in the Met museum, by a Chinese artist, Xu Bing.

Poem adaptation

A little puzzler for you all, if it should interest you: You don’t need to know Chinese to read the words of Yeats’ poem in Xu’s piece. Can you figure out how?


Yup! Reading from left to right, up to down. The characters are comprised of Latin letters! It’s the Chinese I can’t read (and I really should, I mean, I can read simplified Chinese at best? — these look like some ancient form of Chinese character writing, maybe in the style of the Qin Shi Huang era, when writing was standardized for the first time across China).


I’m not into poetry that much, but was just rereading John M. Ford’s Winter Solstice, Camelot Station: I always forget how good that is.

Camelot is served
By a sixteen-track stub terminal done in High Gothick Style,
The tracks covered by a single great barrel-vaulted glass roof framed upon iron,
At once looking back to the Romans and ahead to the Brunels.
Beneath its rotunda, just to the left of the ticket windows,
Is a mosaic floor depicting the Round Table
(Where all knights, regardless of their station of origin
Or class of accommodation, are equal),

[…etc. etc., it’s a long poem]

The nerves of the kingdom, the lines of exchange,
Running to a schedule as the world ought,
Ticking like a hot-fired hand-stoked heart,
The metal expression of the breaking of boundaries,
The boilers that turn raw fire into power,
The driving rods that put the power to use,
The turning wheels that make all places equal,
The knowledge that the train may stop but the line goes on;
The train may stop
But the line goes on.


Edgar Allan Poe, The Raven (quite famous poem)

It’s long so here only parts of it:

Once upon a midnight dreary…
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
… - sorrow for the lost Lenore -
…Open here I flung with shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven…
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”


Snow by David Berman

Walking through a field with my little brother Seth

I pointed to a place where kids had made angels in the snow.
For some reason, I told him that a troop of angels
had been shot and dissolved when they hit the ground.

He asked who had shot them and I said a farmer.

Then we were on the roof of the lake.
The ice looked like a photograph of water.

Why he asked. Why did he shoot them.

I didn’t know where I was going with this.

They were on his property, I said.

When it’s snowing, the outdoors seem like a room.

Today I traded hellos with my neighbor.
Our voices hung close in the new acoustics.
A room with the walls blasted to shreds and falling.

We returned to our shoveling, working side by side in silence.

But why were they on his property, he asked.


I keep coming back to this one by Emily Dickinson:

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee, And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.

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