Why You Shouldn’t Delay Reading The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson…

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There are various editions of Dickinson’s Complete Poems. This is my favorite edition, numbered by Thomas H. Johnson.

‘I’m embarrassed by how long I resisted Emily Dickinson’s “Complete Poems,” and I’m struck by how much my copy means to me now. As a daft young punk I too often sought out reckless emotion and vulgar effects, the same way one sometimes wants, when callow and feckless, to date a person with obvious physical attributes. Dickinson’s famous line — “I’m nobody! Who are you?” — is not what you want to hear when you are younger than 30, or, in my delayed maturity, closer to 40. It should have helped, but did not, when one of my favorite high school English teachers, Donald Glancy, explained that you could sing nearly all of Dickinson’s verse to the tune of “The Yellow Rose of Texas.”

I keep a commonplace book, a place where I write down passages that matter to me from the books I read. It’s packed with Dickinson, from her poems and her letters. These lines come to me, in my daily life, both in their intended contexts and quite far out of them. She explains why we read: “I am out with lanterns, looking for myself.” She underscores my sense of what it is like to watch cable news: “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain.”

She suggests what I am thinking when I order a Negroni:

“Bring me the sunset in a cup.” She catches why gay marriage took so long: “The Truth must dazzle gradually/Or every man be blind.” Her sarcasm rings down the ages: “They say that ‘home is where the heart is.’ I think it is where the house is, and the adjacent buildings.”

Few writers circled religion with more wary alertness: “They say that God is everywhere,” she said, “and yet we always think of Him as somewhat of a recluse.” She wrote: “The only commandment I ever obeyed — ‘Consider the Lilies.’ ” And:

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church;
I keep it, staying at Home,
With a Bobolink for a Chorister,
And an Orchard, for a Dome.

I could not stop for Emily Dickinson, but she kindly stopped for me. Her raw, spare, intense poetry was written as if carved into a desktop. Now that I am older and somewhat wiser, what I prize about Dickinson is that she lives up to her own observation:
“Truth is so rare, it is delightful to tell it.”

(from an article by Dwight Garneraug published in The New Yorker, August 2015)
(Art: Pinterest)

“Dawn” — A Love Poem by Mick A. Quinn, 2017

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Dawn

It’s more than the flower–
although every pale petal is important
if this incantation is to breathe;
stand; lift up its leg; and
dance. It’s even more
than all the honeyed light
spilling in folds from
the spoon of the Sun—
(stamen; anther;
filament; ovule)
all moist and chanting to
the goddess of devotion;
a few drips for the
roots, too,
for hope.

These are delicate words.

New, like the blue of your eye,
just before it closes in sleep;
when the last look we share
fades till morning, and
I’m still awake pondering
aquamarine, turquoise,
robin’s-egg.

It’s more about the way
the flower leans,
east, at dawn’s edge;
no need for time spent
considering options;
only bend, receive,
partake.

It’s more about the way
sunshine triggers
transformation
from warm white light,
into something sweet,
and beckoning love
alight.

Existence itself murmurs:

“This is not about a beginning;
or an ending. This
is desire, resting,
at last,
on the soft, daily bounty.

“This is the morning, noon, and night
of it all—
two things, merging;
trembling; moments full,

now, as you take to heart
this newness—this
pink-petalled blurring between
love as tether
and love
as wing.”

– Mick A. Quinn

(C) 2017. All Rights Reserved.

the firestarter, a Poem by Woody D.

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the firestarter

deem not tomorrow
sentient or flesh
quick flash
then none
torment not a
somber hope a
promised light
forever burning—
measure fire
wisdom’s tool
resurrection’s
golden wire
ancient touchstone
searing night
strike!
strike!
flint to flame
one small tool
breath be quick
bellow tame
dawn-light curl
dry and crackle
strike!
strike!
each spark—one day
handful’s hours
all you own—
one day—not hope
one strike
torn yoke
cleft night
prophets’ yearning
every breath
from you
its burning

– Woody Dexter, (c)2017

(gif: Google Images)

“The Road to Winter” … a Poem by Woody D.

The Road to Winter

The angled light cuts deeper
Here the 45th degree pulls taught
The string-like girth belies the tension’s
Spring wore warmer shades and fell
Into these woods we steal like
Darkling needles evergreen
Brush soft behind me velvet drape
Wrapped shadows feed on moss and
Fungal rings hold cinnamon and clove and
Nutmeg fawn your dapples hide a sanctuary
Born the minute light is sapped away a
Taunting yellow flame the funnel
Wind me tighter ‘fore I’m
Tangled limbs go gray and dry and
Snap and crack the ember spent its heart a
Pumpkin orange hues each hollow
Sound like timber rending ground–hilt to
Tip the bowl of nighttime colors
Hide the axe and leave me splayed crest-
Fallen once again in love with endings
Taught to spring the trap let light between
Old leaves burnt-brown broom
Paint my crown a dying green.

– (c) 2016 by Woody Dexter

I Have Nothing to Report, a poem by Ryokan Taigu

 

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My hut lies in the middle of a dense forest;
Every year the green ivy grows longer.
No news of the affairs of men,
Only the occasional song of a woodcut tree.
The sun shines and I mend my robe;
When the moon comes out I read Buddhist poems.
I have nothing to report my friends.
If you want to find the meaning,
Stop chasing after so many things.

 

– Ryokan Taigu

 

(from Pleasures of Nature, A Literary Anthology, edited by Christina Hardyment)

(Photo: Buddhist patching his robe. Pinterest)

 


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Ryokan Taigu (1758 – 1831) was a Zen Buddhist monk with a great sense of humor. He was famous for his poetry, his calligraphy, and his eccentricities.

In the Mountains, a Poem by Mark Strand

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Happening to sit,
For no useful reason,
In such a cold, rough terrain,
We see a snowy herringbone of firs
Flush on the nearest mountain,
And are impressed.

But a moment later
We find our gaze has strayed
To a farther, fainter range
Where only rocks break up
The crust of a plainer cloth.
And beyond,

Balanced at the end
Of sight lies a long question
Of what is sky and what is mountain.
Until, by dark, the whole scene
Folds into one simple texture
And we are deep in something else.

For though we stared at mountains
Earlier, the dark has made us
Wonder where we are, and where
We were, and who we are
Thinking of where we were,
And, even, if.

– Mark Strand, Collected Poems, Knopf, 2014

(Image: Fir Forest, Photographer Unknown. Pinterest.)