a curious Yankee in Europe's court

blog about living in Europe, and Italy

Some thoughts about Europe from T.S. Eliot

Posted on the December 4th, 2013

Today while reading T.S. Eliot’s (1945) essay “The Social Function of Poetry” I came across a rich passage of thought focusing on Europe, diversity and unity. It struck me as particularly relevant to aspects of the public conversation of our present time.


…I do not believe that the cultures of the several of Europe can flourish in isolation from each other. There have been, no doubt, in the past, high civilizations producing great art, thought and literature, which have developed in isolation. Of that I cannot speak with assurance, for some of them may not have been so isolated as at first appears. But in the history of Europe this has not been so. Even Ancient Greece owed much to Egypt, and something to the Asiatic frontiers; and in the relations of the Greek states to each other, with their different dialects and different manners, we may find a reciprocal influence and stimulus analogous to that of the countries of Europe upon each other.

But the history of European literature will not show that any has been independent of the others; rather that there has been a constant give and take, and that each has in turn, from time to time, been revitalized by stimulation from outside. A general “autarky” in culture simply will not work: the hope of perpetuating the culture of any country lies in communication with others.

But if separation of cultures within the unity of Europe is a danger, so also would be a unification which led to uniformity. The variety is as essential as the unity. For instance, there is much to be said, for certain limited purposes, for a universal lingua franca such as Esperanto or Basic English. But supposing that all communication between nations was carried on in such an artificial language, how imperfect it would be! Or rather, it would be wholly inadequate in some respects, and there would be a complete lack of communication in others.

Poetry is a constant reminder of all the things that can only be said in one language, and are untranslatable. The “spiritual” communication between people and people cannot be carried on without the individuals who take the trouble to learn at least one foreign language as well as one can learn any language but one’s own, and who consequently are able, to a greater or less degree, to “feel” in another language as well as in their own. And one’s understanding of another people, in this way, needs to be supplemented by the understanding of those individuals among that people who have gone to the pains to learn one’s own language.


A note about the citation: I have broken this excerpt into paragraphs for easier reading, and placed quotations around some words that were italicized in the original.

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The poet as T.S. Eliot

Posted on the October 2nd, 2013

From time to time some raise the question: “Does poetry matter?”

As counter-intuitive as it seems in a world strafed so often by brute force and brutal chaos, poetry matters most of all.

It’s the poet’s voice that reminds us, for instance, that if you have to murder children to win a war, you’ve already lost a lot more than just the war.

It’s the poet’s voice that restores heart.

From Eliot: Excerpt from “Preludes” (1917)

His soul stretched tight across the skies
That fade behind a city block,
Or trampled by insistent feet
At four and five and six o’clock;
And short square fingers stuffing pipes,
And evening newspapers, and eyes
Assured of certain certainties,
The conscience of a blackened street
Impatient to assume the world.

I am moved by fancies that are curled

Around these images, and cling:
The notion of some infinitely gentle
Infinitely suffering thing…

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The Butterfly upon the Lavanda

Posted on the July 9th, 2013

The Butterfly upon the Sky,

That doesn’t know its Name

And hasn’t any tax to pay

And hasn’t any Home

Is just as high as you and I,

And higher, I believe,

So soar away and never sigh

And that’s the way to grieve —

Emily Dickinson


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SPECK ‘N U (29): The Cuckoo Song

Posted on the May 4th, 2013

Speck 'N U 20130504b

* Speck is paraphrasing the first two lines of an anonymous thirteenth century poem, “The Cuckoo Song.” The poem is written in Middle English, so the spellings are odd and the meanings are obscure at times, compared to present day English. (Middle English dictionary here.)

This version of “The Cuckoo Song” is from the textbook “Poems, Poets, Poetry” by Helen Vendler (Harvard University).


The Cuckoo Song

Sumer is icumen in,
Lhude* sing, cuccu!    (loud)
Groweth sed and bloweth med*    (meadow)
And springth the wude nu.
Sing, cuccu!

Awe* bleteth after lomb,      (ewe)
Lhouth* after calve cu,*    (loweth/cow)
Bulluc sterteth,* bucke verteth*     (leaps/breaks wind)
Murie sing, cuccu!
Cuccu, cuccu.
Wel singes thu, cuccu.
Ne swik* thu never nu!      (stop)


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Commentary by Emily Dickinson

Posted on the March 26th, 2013


I started Early – Took my Dog –
And visited the Sea –
The Mermaids in the Basement
Came out to look at me –

Emily Dickinson

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SPECK ‘N U (27): White Heat by Brenda Wineapple

Posted on the March 12th, 2013

Speck 'N U 20130312

Speck is paraphrasing a quote from “White Heat” (2008) by Brenda Wineapple, a literary biography about the friendship between the poet Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson. The full quote is: “No man can measure what a single hour with Nature may have contributed to the moulding of his mind.” (Higginson)

Speck ‘N U is a cartoon series that I do. It is often about books. To see more Speck cartoons, click here.

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Here, there and everywhere

Posted on the November 15th, 2012

I saw a thing of beauty this morning. And it was neither one of Italy’s gazillion art treasures or antiquities, nor something exclusive to this country. It can easily be found in many other places.

A piece of a branch from one of the sycamore trees that line the street near where we live had been snapped off and blown to the ground by last night’s winds. The small segment had come to rest near the curb between two parked cars.

It was the harmony achieved by its contrasting shapes that was most striking – the linear variety of the branch itself, the entangled geometry of the curled and dying leaves, and the delicacy of the seed balls hanging by their stalks. Enhancing all was a single hue of golden brown, saved from monotony by the range of textures composing each part of the branch.

Although torn away from the whole creation of the tree, the fallen piece remained complete in its altered form.

To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower…*


 * William Blake, Auguries of Innocence


UPDATE: Today, while browsing my photo archives in search of another photo, I came across a long forgotten series of shots I made of the fallen branch (back in 2007). I’m posting one of these photos at the top of the blog, and moving yesterday’s shot of a sycamore tree in Rome to the bottom.

UPDATE 2: U-turn. Decided to take down the close-up photo of the branch and leave the imagination unfettered by the concrete.



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A son’s tribute to poet-Mother: The Egyptian Cycle by Sheila Alexander

Posted on the October 23rd, 2012


The poet-writer

In thinking about a recent publication of a book of poems by Sheila Alexander (1918-1984), I can’t stop wondering what this remarkable poet and writer would wish to have said about her. It strikes me as a question Alexander herself might have pondered, given some confusion and neglect in critiques about her previous published writing.

Very much on the plus side were some encouraging words from the first US writer to win a Nobel Prize in Literature, Sinclair Lewis. The young Alexander took night courses at the University of Minnesota and was fortunate to have Lewis as one of her instructors. In a private letter to Alexander, Lewis praised her first published novel, “Walk With a Separate Pride”:

…Separate Pride isn’t merely a promise that urges you to go on – though it is that too. It is in itself a fine achievement, original and full of power.” (April 28, 1947)


But then there was this damning-with-faint-praise piece from the New Yorker:

Probably only women will want to bother with this novel, another of those stream-of-consciousness stories about a pregnancy. Mrs. Alexander, who is possessed of a lively imagination… and a poetic cast of mind, almost certainly does not speak for the typical expectant mother. It is possible though that she has pioneered a rich field that almost any lady author in search of a subject can make her own.” (April 19, 1947)


Similar ambivalence came in a whirlwind of conflicting commentary in a review in the New York Times:

Probably no mere man could ever properly appreciate “Walk With a Separate Pride”… How could a man be expected to understand all that there is to understand in a book that is entirely about having a baby? Yet, since Mrs. Alexander’s book is not an obstetrical text but a novel of unusual emotional intensity, it is to a certain extent news in the world of books and cannot be ignored. So, doing my best to suppress any natural masculine diffidence, I will now try to describe a completely feminine book… (April 2, 1947)


The NY Times reviewer went on to describe the book as an astonishing performance and an amazing tour de force. Then with a condescension breathtaking in its disdain, the critic summed up by declaring that though women readers may find pleasure in the emotion described in the book, “… it is not remotely likely that any man would choose to read ‘Walk With a Separate Pride’ of his own free will.”

To be fair, the two reviewers were expressing societal views toward women that were overwhelmingly the cultural norm at the time. Pointless here to bash them for airing sexist perspectives. And it’s doubtful that the brutal condescension came as much of a surprise to Alexander. A consistent theme in her writing, presented clear-eyed and without bitterness, is a powerful sense of the world as it is.

Noting the head-spinning confusion in these reviews, however, serves well to illuminate the magnitude of the task the very courageous Alexander took on in writing her first published book entirely about having a baby, to quote the flabbergasted reviewer. How truly extraordinary that Alexander wrote and won publication of this book in a time of such overriding and contemptuous dismissal of childbirth as a minor matter that could possibly interest women, but never men!

Blinded by the unapologetic sexism of their time, the reviewers in two of the most important publications in the country missed completely the true literary feat of Alexander’s novel — creation of a groundbreaking narrative, poetically personal, that explores the inexorable proximity of birth and death. Recognition of this theme did come in an introduction to an excerpt of ‘Separate Pride’ from North Country Reader: Classic Stories By Minnesota Writers, Editor Jean Ervin, (1979/2000):

It was the pervasive atmosphere of death during the Second World War that moved her to write of a young woman about to give birth to her first child.


Though brief, this sentence calls up a vivid image of the worldwide catastrophic events of the times Alexander had just lived through. It locates for us the powerful genesis of the imaginative leap that became ‘Separate Pride.’

Alexander’s depth and ambition of perspective can be seen in the excerpt below from the third chapter of the book. The very pregnant protagonist Nessa is sitting in a waiting room full of other pregnant women, all waiting to see the doctor. It’s titled “Intimately, As Women With Strangers”:

Nessa looked along the row of faces opposite her. She remembered the Chinese poem that began, ‘Since there is joy in suffering for a woman,’ and her ear made soundings for the ripe and authentic word in the harsh flow of their speech. When you only listen, she thought, you don’t impose yourself. When you stare they hate you like an animal would hate you; eyes excite them to a deep rage. But you must get as close to them as they will let you come, even when you have a sensation of suffocation, of oppression; not because they are people only, but ill, people with mortal problems and mortality, with their deaths in them, and living things leaping under their clothes, and not simple as you had once supposed but unendurably complex, each with a labyrinth brain, each heavy with childhoods, mothers, fears, and deaths. They are so excessive, and you try to understand them because that’s all you can do, and they try to understand you, and it is the trying that matters…


Alexander was born in Davenport, Iowa in 1918. While taking night classes in writing at the University of Minnesota, her instructors included both Sinclair Lewis and Robert Penn Warren. She was married and had three children at the time she published her first novel. And even though the praise was restrained, to win reviews of her novel in such prestigious publications as the New Yorker and The New York Times was in itself a remarkable achievement.

Alexander’s second novel, “King’s X” won the Eugene F. Saxton Award, and her poetry was published in Poetry magazine.


Colin Alexander, son of Sheila Alexander, in Rome (Oct 2012)


The son’s tribute

In deciding how to pay homage to the life and work of his mother, Colin Alexander chose to use the writer’s own words. The tribute is a series of nine poems written by Alexander following a first time trip to Egypt in 1974. Previously unpublished, the poetry was transcribed directly from voice recordings and manuscript compositions made by Alexander between 1974-1977 (see introduction).

Each of the poems describes a historic site Alexander saw during the trip to Egypt. Though the places are routine stops on a tourist’s itinerary, Alexander, with her characteristic depth of perspective, offers far more than a mere travelogue view. History, humanity, cosmos, philosophy and metaphor weave together as the poet regards the mix of ancient and modern world before her.

From the opening poem, Son et Lumière, describing a night visit to the pyramids:

Lights kiss the shapes.
The pyramids are on stage
But once you look up,
The sky is full
Of wicked smiles.
Stars think they know everything.
Only the moon
Admits her faults,
Waxing, waning —
A dust ball, a sweet wooer,
Out of her blackness
Like a woman at a window.


“The Egyptian Cycle” is available in paperback and ebook through Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com and Powell’s Books.com.

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Rescuing the childhood home of Francesco Petrarch

Posted on the July 13th, 2012

 View from childhood home of medieval poet Francesco Petrarch in Incisa, Tuscany

The medieval poet-theologian Francesco Petrarch is grandly known as the “Father of Humanism” and creator of the Petrarchan sonnet. For ordinary mortals, however, it’s more endearing that he could well be the patron saint of the lovelorn and broken-hearted.

As the story goes, while at church one day the 20-something Petrarch’s gaze fell on a beautiful woman named Laura. Though not a word was exchanged between them, he fell in love. Unfortunately for the young poet, Laura was married and happily so. The good news for poetry lovers and posterity, however, is that the heartbroken Petrarch spent the rest of his life writing love sonnets to Laura.

Here is a stanza from Sonnet 101, Ways apt and new to sing of love I’d find:

Ways apt and new to sing of love I’d find,
Forcing from her hard heart full many a sigh,
And re-enkindle in her frozen mind
Desires a thousand, passionate and high;

At the behest of his father, reportedly, Petrarch first studied law. He soon abandoned it, however, in preference for his first loves of writing and literature. His work and literary reputation in Europe were officially recognized in 1341 when he was named poet laureate in Rome.

On a recent visit to Incisa, a small town about twenty minutes south of Florence, we had a serendipitous encounter with a former living space of the medieval luminary. A friend we were visiting offhandedly mentioned that her new apartment is in the childhood home of Petrarch. She shared this tidbit just as we were climbing into our car to follow her through the town’s narrow streets to her front door.

Engraving on facade of childhood home of Francesco Petrarch in Incisa, Tuscany

Three minutes later we pulled up in front of a large medieval Tuscan residence, four floors of rustic design at the top of a steep hill. Originally built in the 12th century, it was the home of Petrarch’s maternal grandparents. Back in the day, it was within the protective security of the small city’s protective walls. The walls are long gone, but the house still has its tranquil view of the green valley below with the Arno river winding through it.

The newborn poet came with his parents from a nearby town to live in Incisa soon after his birth in July 1304, according to historical accounts. He remained there through his early childhood.

Unlike the celebrated and elegant villa Arquà Petrarca (now a museum) in a northern region of Italy where Petrarch lived out his last years, the more humble Incisa structure is much less wellknown. Its history also is more troubled.  The line of family inheritance to the property was broken in succeeding centuries, according to local sources.

The residence did continue to be recognized up until the end of World War II as a one-time home of Petrarch. It housed a small museum and library dedicated to the poet. In the chaotic aftermath of the great war, however, the residence fell into abandonment and neglect.

City councilman Gianfranco Mazzotta overseeing the restoration of childhood home of Francesco Petrarch

On our recent sunny day in Incisa, we were fortunate to bump into a lead player in the restoration of the former Petrarchal home there, local city councilman Gianfranco Mazzotta. In fact, when we first saw him, Mazzotta was energetically wielding a mop to clean the floor of the newly completed public meeting room on the lower level of the Incisa structure.

Do your city council members in the US do this? he calls out, smiling as he held the dripping mop aloft.

In a complicated arrangement, the ownership of the former Petrarch home was previously held jointly by private owners and by the Italian state. Mazzotta recounted to us the sometimes thorny process of negotiating a fair sales price of the state’s share of the property to the city of Incisa. His pride in his ultimate success in the battle is evident.

Completion of the full renovation of the Casa Petrarca is expected to be a year from now, at which point it will be open to the public. In addition to the public meeting room, the residence will comprise a small museum and a library celebrating the poet.

Casa Petrarca, childhood home of Francesco Petrarch in Incisa, Tuscany

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SPECK ‘N U: 17 (Emily Dickinson)

Posted on the August 29th, 2011

* From “Emily Dickinson: Selected Letters” edited by Thomas H. Johnson

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SPECK ‘N U: 16 (Emily Dickinson)

Posted on the August 4th, 2011

From “The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson” (1960), edited by Thomas H. Johnson

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Transformative power of our minds and barking dogs

Posted on the July 7th, 2011

Sometimes we learn something in the course of daily living that is just too good to keep to ourselves. So here’s my sharing for the day. It’s about the amazing transformative power of our mind, if we just allow ourselves to make use of it.

Years ago while trying to fall asleep — either for a nap or at bedtime, I don’t remember — some noises outside were keeping me awake. Trying to ignore them was useless. It came to me then that, perhaps, if I tried an opposite approach, it might be better.

So I began to concentrate on trying to hear all the sounds both big and small that it was possible for me to hear in those moments — including the noises. I imagined that they were all coming together to create a sound symphony. All I had to do was accept each distinctive sound/noise I heard into the orchestra.

It worked. The cacophony waned and was replaced by a sense of strange harmony. Very soon I felt asleep. This sound symphony technique continues to serve me well. Maybe it will work for you also.

What brought this to mind today was re-reading the famous poem by Billy Collins that is here below. Collins, being the poet that he is, explores the mind’s transformative power in his imaginatively amusing and insightful way.

Enjoy! (For those who can’t bear the very idea of reading a poem, there’s the video above.)

Another Reason Why I Don’t Keep A Gun In The House

The neighbors’ dog will not stop barking.
He is barking the same high, rhythmic bark
that he barks every time they leave the house.
They must switch him on on their way out.

The neighbors’ dog will not stop barking.
I close all the windows in the house
and put on a Beethoven symphony full blast
but I can still hear him muffled under the music,
barking, barking, barking,

and now I can see him sitting in the orchestra,
his head raised confidently as if Beethoven
had included a part for barking dog.

When the record finally ends he is still barking,
sitting there in the oboe section barking,
his eyes fixed on the conductor who is
entreating him with his baton

while the other musicians listen in respectful
silence to the famous barking dog solo,
that endless coda that first established
Beethoven as an innovative genius.

(Billy Collins)

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Recalling a poem: Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

Posted on the March 19th, 2011

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

(From “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” by Wallace Stevens)


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On Hope: David Ray’s idea

Posted on the April 16th, 2010

From an interview with poet David Ray – CERVENA BARVA PRESS LLC, 2005-2006

“No matter how regrettably our ‘creative’ intentions misfire, taking action is more honorable than evasion and paralysis. I stray from your question, but that’s precisely what my writings do, whatever scattered work you mention.

I hope my leadings of conscience, especially ‘One Thousand Years’ and ‘The Death of Sardanapalus,’ will not be remembered merely as propaganda. I hope I will not, like Cervantes, wind up burning my manuscripts. I hope I will not, like Flaubert and Tolstoy, curse my work as contemptible. I hope I will not, like Edna St. Vincent Millay, depressed and addicted to alcohol and morphine, denounce as ‘propaganda’ her work of humanitarian passion such as ‘The Murder of Lidice’ and her activism protesting the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti. Did she really want to be remembered only for her sonnets and that splendid poem of enthusiasm for nature, ‘Renascence,’ which made her famous while she was still in her teens? Instead, I would rather witness, in all senses of the word, to the unbearable lightness of being, not the unbearable burden of darkness.

First lines from Ray’s poem, “THANKS, ROBERT FROST” (“Music of Time: Selected and New Poems” 2006):

Do you have hope for the future?
someone asked Robert Frost, toward the end.
Yes, and even for the past, he replied,
that it will turn out to have been all right
for what it was, something we can accept,
mistakes made by…

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On hope: Emily Dickinson’s idea

Posted on the April 15th, 2010

From “The Poems of Emily Dickinson” (Franklin, 1999):

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

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From a poem by Nazim Hikmet

Posted on the January 12th, 2010


Living is no laughing matter:
you must live with great seriousness
like a squirrel, for example-
I mean without looking for something beyond and above living,
I mean living must be your whole occupation.
Living is no laughing matter:
you must take it seriously,
so much so and to such a degree
that, for example, your hands tied behind your back,
your back to the wall,
or else in a laboratory
in your white coat and safety glasses,
you can die for people-
even for people whose faces you’ve never seen,
even though you know living
is the most real, the most beautiful thing…

Nazim Hikmet
Feb 1948
Trans. Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk

Found by clicking on a link in a 2005 post on the literary blog The Middle Stage.

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Grasshopper days: speaking of heroes

Posted on the October 26th, 2009

I am being haunted by Lord Byron. Last Saturday evening, while entering the park at Villa Borghese in Rome, a statue of the poet loomed up alongside the path. Yesterday, perched on a mossy boulder while taking a lunch break during a long walk, from high on a hill I gazed down at Lake Nemi. Entering and playing and replaying through my mind came Byron’s poetic image in “Childe Harolde”:

Lo, Nemi! …
A deep cold settled aspect nought can shake,
All coil’d into itself and round, as sleeps the snake.

A more apt description even than a photograph, I thought when I read those lines days after first seeing the lake.

And now this morning, my A.Word.A.Day newsletter served up Byronic.

It’s silly of Byron to haunt me, I think. I know next to nothing about him. It’s his contemporary Keats whose spiritual ghost I myself spent years pursuing. Years ago, during a decade long spiritual pilgrimage immersing myself in Keats’ poems, biographies, commentaries and that tremendous sadness that characterized his life experience, I managed to memorize in its entirety his 78- line ” Ode To A Nightingale.” On going to bed, I would recite the lines to myself as if they were a lullaby:

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense…

One of the very first things I did after coming to Italy — on my first visit to Rome the first evening after I arrived — was to seek  out Keats’ old apartment next to the Spanish Steps. It’s now the Keats-Shelley museum. We reached the front doors just after midnight. I stared up at the darkened windows of his old rooms, hoping something would evoke his presence.

I’d made the tourist’s error of  being persuaded to buy one of those awful scentless red roses that street vendors push into the face of unwary passersby. On impulse, I tucked it under the museum’s door handle. It felt a foolish thing to do, and through my imagination came the sound of one of Keats’ sad sighs, he despairing over such a tawdry tribute.

“This Grave contains all that was Mortal of a YOUNG ENGLISH POET Who on his Death Bed, in the Malicious Power of his Enemies, Desired these Words to be engraved on his Tomb Stone ‘Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water”

A month or so later, I insisted we go to what is  known as the Protestant Cemetery just outside Rome’s walls. I wanted to  visit Keats’ grave there. I remember that it seemed off in a corner all to itself. In morbid fashion, I hovered next to the grave for a few minutes before sitting down on a bench nearby. A black cat, behaving as if it were the grave’s proprietor,  leaped up to sit next to me. Pleased, I reached over to stroke it. It promptly scratched me, jumped down and stalked away, its tail high.

Enormously susceptible to symbolism, I felt as if Keats himself had rebuffed me. Feeling hurt and silly, I slunk away from the bench. I relinquished my long homage. Keats is refusing to tolerate my mourning of him, I thought…  and still think.

So  I gave up my own haunting of Keats, Poor fellow! But now here is Byron at my doorstep, so to speak, haunting me. Or so I imagine. What does he want, I soliloquize to myself. I grasp at this for fun, for pleasure, for learning, for life. Confronting the celebrated, celebrating, heroic Byron.

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Is my verse alive? Emily Dickinson asked

Posted on the August 20th, 2008

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.
by Emily Dickinson

For fans old or new of Emily Dickinson, a new biography is just out. Titled “White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson & Thomas Wentworth Higginson,” it’s by Brenda Wineapple and it’s getting high praise from critics.

You can find one recent review here from The New York Sun (“The Activist and the Recluse” by Eric Ormsby, Aug 6, 2008).

And if you want to read an excerpt from Wineapple’s book itself, there’s one here on the publisher’s website (Random House/Knopf).

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Kay Ryan: the poem’s the thing

Posted on the July 17th, 2008

It’s far more than merely interesting to consider that while all the noisy, so often violent events of life are flooding our attention each day, also somewhere, somehow on this earth a person such as the poet Kay Ryan is quietly living her life, quietly, persistently, day by day by day achieving an enduring and nourishing creation to share with her fellow humans.

As a writer for Salon wrote in a review of her work: “With aplomb and wit, Ryan sallies forth against quandaries as immense as the nature of nothingness and as petite as the mechanics of dewdrops rolling off a leaf.”

In an interview in 2004 with The Christian Science Monitor, Ryan is quoted: “‘I’ve tried to live very quietly, so I could be happy,’ she says, explaining that the simpler her routine, the more complex her thinking can be.” (“Poet Kay Ryan: A profile” by Elizabeth Lund, August 25, 2004)

Here are the closing lines of her short poem “Paired Things”: (PoetryFoundation.org)

So many paired things seem odd.
Who ever would have dreamed
the broad winged raven of despair
would quit the air and go
bandylegged upon the ground,
a common crow?

Today Kay Ryan is being named as the new Poet Laureate of the U.S. You can read a sampling of her poems here (“Selected Poems by Kay Ryan” New York Times, July 17, 2008).

A short video here of Ryan reading and talking about her poems (from the Academy of American Poets):

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