American Poetry, Poetry

Black Earth – Marianne Moore

Poet Marianne Moore once said, 'Poetry watches life with affection,' a sentiment echoed in her poem Black Earth, which featured in a 1924 collection called Observations. In the poem, Moore imagines herself - affectionately - as an elephant, with thick skin 'cut into checkers by rut upon rut of unpreventable experience' that conceals the 'beautiful… Continue reading Black Earth – Marianne Moore

American Poetry, Poetry

Behind Me – dips Eternity – Emily Dickinson

The term between eternity and immortality - our lives - is the subject of Emily Dickinson's poem number 721. It's a gentle vision of life melting and disappearing into a drift and the being itself a 'miracle' as she refers to it in the last verse. She also uses the image of the moon reflected… Continue reading Behind Me – dips Eternity – Emily Dickinson

American Poetry, Poetry

Jane Hirshfield’s Ode to Optimism and Resilience

"Poetry itself is an instrument of resilience," Jane Hirshfield wrote more than a decade ago when referring to her poem 'Optimism' for the Washington Post. Poetry, she continues, reflects "life's continuing embrace of its own implausible, risky existence." A residential Zen student of many years, Jane Hirshfield's work embodies a continuing sense of wonder and… Continue reading Jane Hirshfield’s Ode to Optimism and Resilience

American Poetry, Lyrics, Poetry

The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton – John Darnielle

"To take somebody's adolescence away is to deny that person some of the closest looks at God's face that we ever get on this planet," said songwriter John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats in reference to his song The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton. The song is an ode to the integrity of adolescent ambitions,… Continue reading The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton – John Darnielle

American Poetry, Book Excerpts, Poetry

W.S. Merwin – Variation on a Theme

“I think there’s a kind of desperate hope built into poetry now that one really wants, hopelessly, to save the world.” These were the words of former Poet Laureate W.S. Merwin whose work reflected his lifelong concern and respect for the natural world. Merwin moved to Hawaii in 1977 in order to study Zen Buddhism,… Continue reading W.S. Merwin – Variation on a Theme

Chinese Poetry, Chinese Texts, Poetry

Chuang Tzu’s Action and Non-Action

The true stillness that is at the root of human wisdom and the Taoist endeavor is a positive state, in as much as it is not the absence of anything nor a resistance to anything. Chinese philosopher Chuang Tzu, author of foundational Taoist texts, writes in this poem: "The sage is quiet because he is not… Continue reading Chuang Tzu’s Action and Non-Action

American Poetry, Book Excerpts, Poetry

Dorianne Laux – Life is Beautiful

In her poem, Life is Beautiful, Dorianne Laux is literally making art from trash as she considers the wonder of a fly and its lifecycle through the things that we discard. That the miraculous can exist in the most pungent and fecund places, and that the birth of a maggot in such a world can… Continue reading Dorianne Laux – Life is Beautiful

American Poetry, Poetry

The Caged Bird Sings of Freedom

The image of a caged bird is one that Maya Angelou used repeatedly to illustrate the struggle of African-Americans during the Civil Rights era in the United States. A powerful image, it can also represent the wider human endeavor towards freedom of every variety, both internal and external. The free bird is the one who… Continue reading The Caged Bird Sings of Freedom

Book Excerpts, Persian Poetry, Poetry

On the Lip of Oblivion We Linger – Hafiz

Fourteenth century poet Hafiz is one of Persia's most celebrated poets. Not so much is known about him, and it's thought that only a small portion of his prodigious work survives. At first glance, many of Hafiz's poems read like heartbroken laments, penned at closing time after a rowdy night at the tavern. However, they… Continue reading On the Lip of Oblivion We Linger – Hafiz

American Poetry, Beat Poetry, Poetry

A Buddha in the Woodpile

Lawrence Ferlinghetti was a poet and an activist and one of the central figures of the Beat movement in the 1950s. From his City Lights Bookstore and publishing house, he published writers like Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder and Jack Kerouac who were breaking with the norms and traditions of not just poetry and literature, but… Continue reading A Buddha in the Woodpile