The poet says poetry demands that readers and thinkers slow down. Just as a poem emerges out of careful attention, it demands and recreates that kind of attention within the reader. Poems are the antithesis of the sound bite; they are antidotes to polarisation.

How to Write Poetry at Five Books

Every day an eminent writer, thinker, commentator, politician, academic chooses five books on their specialist subject. From Einstein to Keynes, Iraq to the Andes, Communism to Empire.


The volumes consigned to the flames in Berlin, and more than 30 other university towns around the country on that and following nights, included works by more than 75 German and foreign authors, among them (to cite but a few) Walter Benjamin, Bertolt Brecht, Albert Einstein, Friedrich Engels, Sigmund Freud, André Gide, Ernest Hemingway, Franz Kafka, Lenin, Jack London, Heinrich, Klaus and Thomas Mann, Ludwig Marcuse, Karl Marx, John Dos Passos, Arthur Schnitzler, Leon Trotsky, HG Wells, Émile Zola and Stefan Zweig. Also among the authors whose books were burned that night was the great 19th-century German poet Heinrich Heine, who barely a century earlier, in 1821, had written in his play Almansor the words: “Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen” – “Where they burn books, they will, in the end, also burn people.”

Jon Henley

via wood s lot

There are two elements in “finding” a poem: discovering the subject matter and locating the concrete details and images out of which the poems are built. In this instance, I do not mean the subject matter to be the ideas or subjects for poems. Instead, I am referring to finding the resonant sources deep inside you that empower those subjects and ideas when they are put in poems. For example, I am made of the landscape in northern California where I grew up, made of my father’s uninhabited mountain where my twin sister and I spent most of our time as small children with the live oak trees, the stillness, the tall grass, the dry smell of the hot summer air where the red-tailed hawks turned slowly up high, where the two of us alone at ten did the spring roundup of my father’s twenty-six winter-shaggy horses. Down below there were salmon in the stream that ran by our house, the life of that stream and the sound of it as we lay in our bunks at night, our goat and the deer standing silently outside in the mist so many mornings when we awoke. The elements of that bright world are in my poetry now when I write about love or Nicaragua or the old gods in the rocky earth of Greece, just as the Greek islands where I lived for almost five years resonate in the poems I write now about the shelter for abused women in Manhattan or how a marriage failed in New England—but not directly. They are present as essences. They operate invisibly as energy, equivalents, touchstones, amulets, buried seed, repositories, and catalysts. They function at the generating level of the poems to impregnate and pollinate the present—provoking, instigating, germinating, irradiating—in the way the lake high up in the Sierra mountains waters the roses in far away San Francisco.

Linda Gregg

The Song of the Little Hunter

Ere Mor the Peacock flutters, ere the Monkey People cry,
    Ere Chil the Kite swoops down a furlong sheer,
Through the Jungle very softly flits a shadow and a sigh–
    He is Fear, O Little Hunter, he is Fear!

    softly down the glade runs a waiting, watching shade,
    And the whisper spreads and widens far and near;
And the sweat is on thy brow, for he passes even now–
    He is Fear, O Little Hunter, he is Fear!

     the moon has climbed the mountain, ere the rocks
          are ribbed with light,
    When the downward-dipping trails are dank and drear,
Comes a breathing hard behind thee–snuffle-snuffle
          through the night–
    It is Fear, O Little Hunter, it is Fear!

      thy knees and draw the bow; bid the shrilling arrow go;
    In the empty, mocking thicket plunge the spear;
But thy hands are loosed and weak, and the blood has left
          thy cheek–
    It is Fear, O Little Hunter, it is Fear!

      the heat-cloud sucks the tempest, when the slivered
          pine-trees fall,
    When the blinding, blaring rain-squalls lash and veer;
Through the war-gongs of the thunder rings a voice more
          loud than all–
    It is Fear, O Little Hunter, it is Fear!

        the spates are banked and deep; now the footless
          boulders leap–
    Now the lightning shows each littlest leaf-rib clear–
But thy throat is shut and dried, and thy heart against
          thy side
    Hammers: Fear, O Little Hunter–this is Fear!

from The Second Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling


The Jungle Books at Google Books

illustration from wikimedia commons

Reality, what can we do with it? Where is it in words?

Just as it flickers, it vanishes. Innumerable lives

unremembered. Cities on maps only,

without that face in the window, on the first door, by the market,

without those two in the bushes near the gas plant.

Returning seasons, mountain snows, oceans

& the blue ball of the earth rotates,

but silent are they who ran through the artillery fire,

who clung to a lump of clay for protection,

& those deported from their homes at dawn

& those who have crawled out from under a pile of bodies

while here, I, an instructor in forgetting,

teach that pain passes (for its the pain of others),

still in my mind trying to save miss Jadvyga,

a little hunchback, a librarian by profession,

who perished in the shelter of an apartment house

that was considered safe but toppled down

& no one was able to dig through the slabs of wall,

though knocking & voices were heard for many days.

So a name is lost for ages, forever,

no one will ever know about her last hours

time carries her in the layers of pliocene.

The true enemy of man is generalization,

the true enemy of man, so-called history,

attracts & terrifies with its plural number.

Don’t believe it. Cunning & treacherous

history is not, as Marx told us, anti-nature,

& if a goddess, a goddess of blind faith.

The little skeleton of miss Jadvyga, the spot

where her heart was pulsating. This only

I set against necessity, law, theory.

Czeslaw Milosz


Rachel Wetzsteon, 19672009 *

The Country of Single Women

At sunrise, check the ashes.
If you see your face in them
you have your freedom.

The national plant, let it be sawgrass
its thin smile sharp enough
to cut the unwary, but easy enough
to pick if you choose your approach.
A practical plant is required
one that survives drought and frost
and can be used as fodder
for the wild and the dumb
when times are hard.

Our anthem must be sung a capella
by a single voice with
or without microphone
in difficult conditions
for there will be many competing voices
to rise above.

National treasures comprise mainly
photo albums, anecdotes
and a shopping bag full of letters
refolded in original envelopes
stamps now wildly out of date
some of them foreign
and every letter
once known
by heart.

Nationality is a gift
that cannot be returned
by the recipient. If revoked
the papers must be twisted
into chains and set alight with a flame
carried from your first birthday cake.
This can only be done by a gentle man
at the time of a full moon.


Rhona McAdam

Rhona blogs at iambic cafe

From The Lemon Trees by Eugenio Montale:

You realize that in silences
things yield and almost betray
their ultimate secrets.
At times, one half expects
to discover an error in Nature,
the still point of reality,
the missing link that will not hold,
the thread we cannot untangle
in order to get at the truth.

You look around. Your mind seeks,
makes harmonies, falls apart
in the perfume, expands
when the day wearies away.
There are silences in which one watches
in every fading human shadow
something divine let go.

Found at Bitter Grace Notes

The rest of the poem is here

cross-posted at mirabile dictu