Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Anne Frank Huis

by Andrew Motion
from "Scanning the Century" ed by Peter Forbes, p. 105

Even now, after twice her lifetime of grief
and anger in the very place, whoever comes
to climb these narrow stairs, discovers how
the bookcase slides aside, then walks through
shadow into sunlit rooms, can never help

but break her secrecy again. Just listening
is a kind of guilt: the Westerkirk repeats
itself outside, as if all time worked round
towards her fear, and made each stroke
die down on guarded streets. Imagine it --

three years of whispering and loneliness
and plotting, day by day, the Allied line
in Europe with a yellow chalk. What hope
she had for ordinary love and interest
survives her here, displayed above the bed

as pictures of her family; some actors;
fashions chosen by Princess Elizabeth.
And those who stoop to see them find
not only patience missing its reward,
but one enduring wish for chances

like my own: to leave as simply
as I do, and walk at ease
up dusty tree-lined avenues, or watch
a silent barge come clear of bridges
settling their reflections in the blue canal.

Anne Frank Huis: the house in Prinsengracht, Amsterdam, where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis in a secret annexe at the top of the house until they were betrayed in 1944. Anne Frank and her sister Margot died in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
Westerkirk: the church close to Anne Frank's House
I read it aloud, and fell in love with the cadence and the emotion. Got choked up a bit, too. Must look for more work by this author.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Random Ideas for Future Poems

1. A date as a title, referring to a historic occasion.

2. A poem taking off from an article in the paper, possibly using a quote as epigraph. Could be serious or silly.

3. Dramatic monologue of a favorite character from a book or a tv show. Like fanfic, but in poetry.

4. Dramatic monologue of either/both of my grandfathers (or other ancestor) whom I have never met.

5. Write a poem in Tagalog and translate it into English, or vice versa.


Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

1 It little profits that an idle king,
2 By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
3 Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole
4 Unequal laws unto a savage race,
5 That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
6 I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
7 Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy'd
8 Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those
9 That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
10 Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
11 Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
12 For always roaming with a hungry heart
13 Much have I seen and known; cities of men
14 And manners, climates, councils, governments,
15 Myself not least, but honour'd of them all;
16 And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
17 Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
18 I am a part of all that I have met;
19 Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
20 Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades
21 For ever and forever when I move.
22 How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
23 To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!
24 As tho' to breathe were life! Life piled on life
25 Were all too little, and of one to me
26 Little remains: but every hour is saved
27 From that eternal silence, something more,
28 A bringer of new things; and vile it were
29 For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
30 And this gray spirit yearning in desire
31 To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
32 Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

33 This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
34 To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,--
35 Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
36 This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
37 A rugged people, and thro' soft degrees
38 Subdue them to the useful and the good.
39 Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
40 Of common duties, decent not to fail
41 In offices of tenderness, and pay
42 Meet adoration to my household gods,
43 When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

44 There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
45 There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
46 Souls that have toil'd, and wrought, and thought with me--
47 That ever with a frolic welcome took
48 The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
49 Free hearts, free foreheads--you and I are old;
50 Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
51 Death closes all: but something ere the end,
52 Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
53 Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
54 The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
55 The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
56 Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
57 'T is not too late to seek a newer world.
58 Push off, and sitting well in order smite
59 The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
60 To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
61 Of all the western stars, until I die.
62 It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
63 It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
64 And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
65 Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
66 We are not now that strength which in old days
67 Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
68 One equal temper of heroic hearts,
69 Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
70 To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

1] "Ulysses was written soon after Arthur Hallam's death, and gave my feeling about the need of going forward, and braving the struggle of life perhaps more simply than anything in In Memoriam" (Tennyson). Based on a passage in Dante's Inferno, canto XXVI. Hallam had drawn Tennyson to a study of Dante. Tennyson exalts his hero's eternally restless aspiration, whereas Dante condemned his curiosity and presumption. Both poets recalled Odyssey, XI, 100-37, where the ghost foretold Ulysses' fortune.
10] Rainy Hyades: a group of stars which rise with the sun in spring at the rainy season.
34] the isle: Ithaca, of which Ulysses was king.
60-61] the baths: the place where the stars seem to plunge into the ocean.
62] wash us down: The ocean was imagined by Homer as a river encompassing the earth, and on the west plunging down a vast chasm where was the entrance of Hades.
63] the Happy Isles: the islands of the blessed, supposed to lie to the west of the Pillars of Hercules, i.e., in the Atlantic.


Thursday, August 11, 2011


1. Stealing the Goods by Stephen Dunn (225)
Take any failed poem of yours (from your notebook of failed poems, which all of us should have) and extract from it the line that most interests you. Use it as the first line in a poem that you will now write. Throughout, the poem should live up to the standard of language and thought that that line represents.

2. Jump-Starting the Dead Poem by Lynne McMahon (227)
Take... an old or abandoned poem, around twenty or thirty lines, and begin to write its negative... Try isolating the key words and finding their opposite. Try a line-for-line reversal for as long as you make sense. It maybe be that the negative can sustain itself for two lines only, and another poem begins to appear.

3. The Shell Game by Thomas Rabbitt (239)
Revise one of your earlier poems into a formal structure, either a received form such as a sonnet or a rigorous stanzaic pattern. If the poem you choose to revise is already "formal," transform it.

Richard Tillinghast
Savvy rewriting is a way of staying flexible when entertaining that separate being which is the poem. The metaphor of "entertaining" is deliberate. Being a good host means coming up with fresh things to do that will allow your guest to enjoy herself. And if she's having a good time, well, you take it from there... Revising is not so much a task as it is a romance. I like to write the whole poem out fresh whenever I make changed. That puts me into the flow of the poem, the music of the poem. It's at this point that those assonances, consonances, alliterations, repetitions, that give the poem its subtle music become refined.

Donald Justice
Move on quickly to the next poem and trust to the kindness of the muse.

Susan Snively
Seeing oneself anew, reenvisioning the predicament out of which the poem grew, gives it more, not less to draw upon. Sometimes the questions are painful: "What am I not allowing myself to say? Should it be said? Why do I want this poem to end? Is it a false resolution?" Asking them is necessary, as is admitting that some poems don't make it... But the "stillborn" poem, by drawing off negative energy, may lead to a viable poem, rescued by silence and waiting.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Other titles from the library

Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within, Kim Addonizio.
Poetry in Person: Twenty-five Years of Conversation with America's Poets, ed. Alexander Neubauer.
The Art and Craft of Poetry, Michael J. Bugeja.
The Practice of Poetry: Writing Exercises from Poets who Teach, eds. Robin Behn & Chase Twichell.
The Writer as an Artist: A New Approach to Writing Alone and with Others, Pat Schneider.

Poetry Reading List

A Natural History of the Senses, Diane Ackerman.
A Passionate Patience: Ten Filipino Poets on the Writing of their Poems, Ricardo M de Ungria.
Book of Luminous Things, Czeslaw Milosz.
Dreaming by the Book, Elaine Scarry.
Getting Real: an introduction to the practice of poetry, Gemino Abad.
How does a poem mean, John Ciardi.
How to read a poem and fall in love with poetry, Edward Hirsch.
Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke.
The Demon and the Angel: Searching for the Source of Artistic Inspiration, Edward Hirsch.
Western Wind: an introduction to poetry, John Frederick Nims.

I feel like I'm missing a few more. Such as:
Seven Types of Ambiguity, William Empson.
Tradition and the Individual Talent, T.S. Eliot. (essay)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Globe

Here are borders defined
By blocks of color out of date
By the time it comes to stand
On my desk, tilted like the head
Of a puzzled child, whose fingertips
Trace the ridges and spin it round
And round. Where am I? Here
Is a slew of names, too big to pinpoint
On a too small space though old men's eyes
Squint to find some city they visited long ago
Before the wars upended this globe as if
It held glittered water you shake and shake.
From here to there. I crossed this ocean,
Straddled this line, and ever so often try
To wrap my tongue around this world of a word

Called Home.
In answer to another challenge to list an ordinary object, its functions and a summary statement.

Matthewsian Invisible Hinge

by Pamela Alexander, p. 147

Write a poem in which some major change (in style or content) occurs across a stanza break. The poem should not explicate or comment on the change; it should rather absorb or reflect it.


The experiment is based on William Matthews's delightful discussion of the genesis of his poem "Merida, 1969" in Ecstatic Occasions, Expedient Forms. ("Invisible hinge" is his phrase.) Across the hinge (or pivot or dovetail joint) "the poem could propose... an implied relationship" between its two parts.

This is a fairly sophisticated assignment that could be perceived as vague or overwhelming to beginning students. Don't try to define the nature of the hinge before starting; instead, allow it to arise from some opportunity presented by a poem underway.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Not so automatic automatic writing exercise

(abridged, pp. 5-7)
by Thomas Lux

1. Write without stopping for a set period of time or until you reach a certain predetermined point on the page. Keep it short, particularly at the beginning: 5 - 7 minutes per exercise, a page maximum.
2. Do not read it. Put it away.
3. Do for several days until you get at least ten pages. Gradually lengthen time for each exercise but never more than 20 minutes.
4. Read through them all and underline anything that seems interesting, fresh, weird, reverberant. Trust your instincts. If you have followed the above rules, you will not even remember having written most of it.
5. Pull out these underlined fragments. Correct spelling, punctuation, etc. Type them double-spaced so you'll have room to make hand-written revisions. Number the fragments.
6. Repeat rules 4 and 5, this time being a harder editor regarding what is truly interesting, loaded, fresh, etc. Change, add to, or cut words from fragments, listening to them a little for what they might be suggesting, where they might be trying to lead you.
7. Read them, listen to them: somehow numbers 1, 4, 7, 9, for example, will seem to belong together, be thematically/emotionally linked. Some might not seem to be connected to others but might seem to contain some seed of a poem, a title, a rhythm, etc. Some might be just beautiful, enigmatic orphans.
8. Put the fragments that seem to belong together on a page and use them as psychic notes to a poem. Make the conscious connections, put all the sweat in, do whatever work necessary to write a poem.