Poetry Sunday

Sometimes the morning’s fare from The Writer’s Almanac is too good to not share.

How To Be a Poet

by Wendell Berry

(to remind myself)

Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill-more of each
than you have-inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your work,
doubt their judgment.

Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.
“How to be a Poet” by Wendell Berry from Given. © Shoemaker Hoard, 2005. Reprinted with permission.

In an odd juxtaposition, I see that today is Anne Sexton’s birthday. Hard to think of two poets whose lives and sensibilities could be more different.  With Anne (not unlike my mother, who’s another Ann … and equally unlike Wendell Berry) her ending is what springs to mind – more than her beginning, I’m afraid.  Anyway, here’s Flee on Your Donkey.  A favorite of mine, it chronicles, in brutal and mundane detail, one of Sexton’s many hospitalizations.  It ends with this haunting, heartbreaking stanza:

Anne, Anne,
flee on your donkey,
flee this sad hotel,
ride out on some hairy beast,
gallop backward pressing
your buttocks to his withers,
sit to his clumsy gait somehow.
Ride out
any old way you please!
In this place everyone talks to his own mouth.
That’s what it means to be crazy.
Those I loved best died of it-
the fool’s disease.

Anne Sexton, born November 9, 1928.

And finally, a wee podcast from yours truly … reprised from an entry last year right about this time.  (Not sure I can rememeber how to do this, but try clicking here and we’ll see if it works!

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5 Responses to Poetry Sunday

  1. JordanCornblog says:

    Hey Alice – looking forward to seeing you when you get home (for l’opera, for sure). It sounds like a lovely trip – so wonderful to be in the presence of the young ones!

    Like

  2. Alice says:

    Your autumn poem is a favorite of mine that I keep in my folder of favorites. And hearng you read it this morning is wonderful—very moving–and especially so since I am away from home in the southwest where the landscape is radically different and I’m missing home and connections and the familiar even while thoroughly enjoying the gift of a three year old’s take on the world and each day–a perspective that is enthusiastically open and confident. Good luck to you, dear one, I keep thinking. May the world be kind to you–as open and accepting to you as you are to it. Tonight is All Souls Procession here in Tucson and I will gather with thousands, many in outlandish dress, to honor the dead and celebrate life. It’s an Arizona variation of the Day of the Dead I’m told, and last night I left my personal message of gratitude and loss to those that I most miss on the community altar. It’s a sobering yet joyful time. And today’s poems are a perfect accompaniment. Thank you JordanCornblog. I’ll see you soon.

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  3. CB says:

    I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast.

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  4. Wow – that is sobering. Thirty years. Did we go to the Llanerch Diner? 😉

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  5. CB says:

    That’s the first time I’ve heard your voice since 1978.
    And by the way, the poem is wonderful.

    Like

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