One Poem

I recently stumbled across a well-known poem I’d read many times before, and something compelled me to read it yet again.

There are only a few poems I know so well that they feel like well-worn clothing to me, and this poem happens to be one of them. I know at least half the lines by heart, even though I’ve never tried to memorize it. And now, as I read it again, I am yet still amazed by how powerful, chemical and magical these particular lines are, and how much concentrated truth they seem to hold, and how deeply important it seems to me that everybody in the world have the chance to hear the words of this one searingly beautiful, singularly perfect poem.

Even though I don’t put much stock behind the concept of “favorite”, I suppose I have to face the fact that this is my favorite poem in the universe, and has been so for a long time.

Just to build up some suspense, though, I’d rather not tell you the title of this work until next week. This week, I’d like to know if there is any one poem you feel this way about — any work of free or structured verse, long or short, modern or old, that you love and admire so much that you want to proclaim to everyone you know and anyone who is willing to hear that this is the one greatest poem in the world. If so, please tell us what it is.

I’m also happy to take guesses as to what poem I am speaking of as my favorite. I will give one hint, just to sweep away a couple of obvious guesses. The title has more than four letters.

76 Responses

  1. My favorite poemT.S. Eliot’s
    My favorite poem

    T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is my all-time favorite poem, la de da, amen. It’s strange, though, because I’ve never been a fan of Eliot and I don’t really like many of his other works (although some of them have their moments). It wasn’t always my favorite. In fact, there was a time that I didn’t really like it much, but then a few years ago I read it again, and it hit me just right, the way good poetry should. And then I read it a few more times. And then some more. And by a certain point I knew that I loved it, despite my intentions or any of my feelings about the poet (but isn’t that the way it always is with love?).

    I love the poem for Prufrock’s questions (‘Do I dare?’ and ‘Do I dare?’) and that he “should have been a pair of ragged claws/ Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.” I love it because he’s seen the eternal Footman and heard the mermaids and there are those damned women talking of Michelangelo. I love it because “In a minute there is time/ For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.”

    Yes, I love this poem. Unabashedly. For all of those reasons I listed above, and also none of those reasons, I still have a visceral reaction to the words, no matter how many times I read them. And that is why it is my favorite.

    The runner-up in the Jamelah’s Favorite Poem Contest is, of course, completely different. It came out of the 1950s and the title has four letters.

  2. High FlightBecause my father
    High Flight

    Because my father was a pilot, this poem was printed on the program for his memorial service. It’s written by another pilot. By way of introduction I would like to quote Dave English from his website Great Aviation Quotes:

    “On 3 September 1941, Magee flew a high altitude (30,000 feet) test flight in a newer model of the Spitfire V. As he orbited and climbed upward, he was struck with the inspiration of a poem …

    “Once back on the ground, he wrote a letter to his parents. In it he commented, ‘I am enclosing a verse I wrote the other day. It started at 30,000 feet, and was finished soon after I landed.’ On the back of the letter, he jotted down his poem, ‘High Flight’.”

    Three months later, on 11 December 1941 Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr., was killed when his plane collided with another plane.

    “John’s parents were living in Washington D.C. at the time, and the sonnet was seen by Archibald MacLeish, who was Librarian of Congress. He included it in an exhibition of poems called ‘Faith and Freedom’ in February 1942. And after that it was widely copied and distributed.”

    Here is the poem:

    High Flight
    by John Gillespie Magee, Jr

    Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
    And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
    Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
    Of sun-split clouds, – and done a hundred things
    You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
    High in the sunlit silence.

    Hov’ring there,
    I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
    My eager craft through footless halls of air. . . .
    Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
    I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
    Where never lark, or ever eagle flew –
    And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
    The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
    Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

  3. My first responsewas the
    My first response

    was the first poem I ever really loved. I memorized it and can still quote most of it. It is Oliver Wendell Holmes’s The Height of the Ridiculous. Reading it made me laugh.

    But actually the rhythm and beauty of this passage from the Bible is probably my favorite. You may not feel it is poetry, but from the King James Version, it reads like poetry. It is from Jesus’ sermon on the mount… and although I love that entire passage (Matthew 5 – 7) here are my very favorite verses

    Mt 6:25 – 34

    Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

    Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

    Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

    And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

    And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

    Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

    Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

    (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

    But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

    Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

  4. I remember listening to a
    I remember listening to a recording of Eliot reading this poem in a Lit class. It was on vinyl – a long play album. His voice was not unlike that of William S. Burroughs as he intoned, “April is the cruelest month…”

    Good choice, J.

  5. Out of the Cradle Endlessly
    Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking

    Some of my favorite lines from this poem:

    From the memories of the bird that chanted to me,
    From your memories, sad brother-from the fitful risings and fallings I heard,
    From under that yellow half-moon, late-risen, and swollen as if with tears,
    From those beginning notes of sickness and love, there in the transparent mist,
    From the thousand responses of my heart, never to cease,
    From the myriad thence-arous’d words, From the word stronger and more delicious than any,
    From such, as now they start, the scene revisiting,
    As a flock, twittering, rising, or overhead passing,
    Borne hither-ere all eludes me, hurriedly,
    A man-yet by these tears a little boy again,
    Throwing myself on the sand, confronting the waves,
    I, chanter of pains and joys, uniter of here and hereafter,
    Taking all hints to use them-but swiftly leaping beyond them,
    A reminiscence sing.

    And then, when the he-birds mate disappears, and operatic singing ensues the he-bird calls out:

    O darkness! O in vain! O I am very sick and sorrowful.
    O brown halo in the sky, near the moon, drooping upon the sea!
    O troubled reflection in the sea!
    O throat! O throbbing heart! O all-and I singing uselessly, uselessly all the night.

    And finally, when the narrator child is responding to the bird:

    Now in a moment I know what I am for-I awake,
    And already a thousand singers-a thousand songs, clearer, louder and more sorrowful than yours,
    A thousand warbling echoes have started to life within me,
    Never to die.
    O you singer, solitary, singing by yourself-projecting me;
    O solitary me, listening-nevermore shall I cease perpetuating you;
    Never more shall I escape, never more the reverberations,
    Never more the cries of unsatisfied love be absent from me,
    Never again leave me to be the peaceful child I was before what there, in the night,
    By the sea, under the yellow and sagging moon,
    The messenger there arous’d-the fire, the sweet hell within,
    The unknown want, the destiny of me.

  6. I love the last line: “till
    I love the last line: “till human voices wake us and we drown.”

  7. This is also one of my
    This is also one of my favorites, Bill. As a matter of fact, way back in the day, when I was a teacher this poem was in the 8th grade literature text I used. I doubt you could find it in a school text today, however. Don’t know, just a guess.

  8. … punished by your
    … punished by your absence

    “Everything is punished by your absence”

    This is a line from Li-Young Lee’s poem, The City in Which I Love You. I’m not sure I have a favorite poem, but I circle back to this selection any time this question comes up. I don’t think it’s deeply important to me that everybody in the world has the chance to hear the words of this piece. I’m not sure it would matter to most or that it would hold the same meaning to those I might tell. In this case, I think it’s more of a personal tether relating to events of my life and my innermost feelings that lash this poem to me, even though at times I find it nearly painful to read. More than well-placed words, meter, metaphor and rhyme — a poem gains its highest importance from the memories, emotions and realizations it evokes in the reader.

    Beyond this, I admire Li-Young Lee’s word choices in this and other works — as he seems to have a gift to maintain a gritty realism and lyrical otherworldness in the same lines. In The City in Which I Love You, Lee seems to transcend any contemporary stereotypes about love as he combines raw sexuality, mystical want and longing, the profanities of urban snapshots and even hope within the use of simple language. Although the poem seems to be skewed into a metaphor (depending on your perspective), it’s almost as if the metaphor itself is the act of not hiding behind one in the first place. It could be the personal identification that draws me back to this piece, or the raw honesty … or just the talent of the words. In any case, here is a portion of the poem:

    And your otherness is perfect as my death.
    Your otherness exhausts me,
    like looking suddenly up from here
    to imposssible stars fading.
    Everything is punished by your absence.

    Is prayer, then, the proper attitude
    for the mind that longs to be freely blown,
    but which gets snagged on the barb
    called world, that
    tooth-ache, the actual? What prayer

    would I build? And to whom?
    Where are you
    in the cities in which I love you,
    the cities daily risen to work and to money,
    to the magnificent miles and the gold coasts?

    Morning comes to this city vacant of you.
    Pages and windows flare, and you are not there.
    Someone sweeps his portion of sidewalk,
    wakens the drunk, slumped like laundry,
    and you are gone.

    You are not in the wind
    which someone notes in the margins of a book.
    You are gone out of the small fires in abandoned lots
    where human figures huddle,
    each aspiring to its own ghost.

    Between brick walls, in a space no wider than my face,
    a leafless sapling stands in mud.
    In its branches, a nest of raw mouths
    gaping and cheeping, scrawny fires that must eat.
    My hunger for you is no less than theirs.

    I don’t need to proclaim that this is the best poem in the world … if I thought that, I don’t know what business I’d have trying to write, but for me, this seems to catch everything I’d expect a good poem to contain. Including a hard slap at the end:

    enter, without retreat or help from history,
    the days of no day, my earth
    of no earth, I re-enter

    the city in which I love you.
    And I never believed that the multitude
    of dreams and many words were vain.

  9. And I guess I should include
    And I guess I should include the text of this poem because including text seems like the hip thing to do, and this text deserves inclusion and all of that, so yeah:

    The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
    T. S. Eliot

    S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse
    A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
    Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
    Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
    Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero,
    Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.

    Let us go then, you and I,
    When the evening is spread out against the sky
    Like a patient etherized upon a table;
    Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
    The muttering retreats
    Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
    And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
    Streets that follow like a tedious argument
    Of insidious intent
    To lead you to an overwhelming question …
    Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
    Let us go and make our visit.

    In the room the women come and go
    Talking of Michelangelo.

    The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
    The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes,
    Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
    Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
    Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
    Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
    And seeing that it was a soft October night,
    Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

    And indeed there will be time
    For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
    Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
    There will be time, there will be time
    To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
    There will be time to murder and create,
    And time for all the works and days of hands
    That lift and drop a question on your plate;
    Time for you and time for me,
    And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
    And for a hundred visions and revisions,
    Before the taking of a toast and tea.

    In the room the women come and go
    Talking of Michelangelo.

    And indeed there will be time
    To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
    Time to turn back and descend the stair,
    With a bald spot in the middle of my hair–
    (They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)
    My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
    My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin–
    (They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)
    Do I dare
    Disturb the universe?
    In a minute there is time
    For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

    For I have known them all already, known them all:
    Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
    I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
    I know the voices dying with a dying fall
    Beneath the music from a farther room.
    So how should I presume?

    And I have known the eyes already, known them all–
    The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
    And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
    When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
    Then how should I begin
    To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
    And how should I presume?

    And I have known the arms already, known them all–
    Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
    (But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!)
    Is it perfume from a dress
    That makes me so digress?
    Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
    And should I then presume?
    And how should I begin?

    Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
    And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
    Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? …

    I should have been a pair of ragged claws
    Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

    And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
    Smoothed by long fingers,
    Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
    Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
    Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
    Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
    But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
    Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
    I am no prophet–and here’s no great matter;
    I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
    And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
    And in short, I was afraid.

    And would it have been worth it, after all,
    After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
    Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
    Would it have been worth while,
    To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
    To have squeezed the universe into a ball
    To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
    To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
    Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”–
    If one, settling a pillow by her head,
    Should say: “That is not what I meant at all;
    That is not it, at all.”

    And would it have been worth it, after all,
    Would it have been worth while,
    After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
    After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the
    And this, and so much more?–
    It is impossible to say just what I mean!
    But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
    Would it have been worth while
    If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
    And turning toward the window, should say:
    “That is not it at all,
    That is not what I meant, at all.”

    No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
    Am an attendant lord, one that will do
    To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
    Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
    Deferential, glad to be of use,
    Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
    Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
    At times, indeed, almost ridiculous–
    Almost, at times, the Fool.

    I grow old … I grow old …
    I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

    Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
    I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
    I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

    I do not think that they will sing to me.

    I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
    Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
    When the wind blows the water white and black.

    We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
    By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
    Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

  10. Dylan Thomas’s Poem in
    Dylan Thomas’s Poem in October

    I used to love this poem and I still love it:


    And the twice told fields of infancy
    That his tears burned my cheeks and his heart moved in mine.
    These were the woods the river and sea
    Where a boy
    In the listening
    Summertime of the dead whispered the truth of his joy
    To the trees and the stones and the fish in the tide.
    And the mystery
    Sang alive
    Still in the water and singingbirds

    And there could I marvel my birthday
    Away but the weather turned around. And the true
    Joy of the long dead child sang burning
    In the sun.
    It was my thirtieth
    Year to heaven stood there then in the summer noon
    Though the town below lay leaved with October blood.
    O may my heart

  11. Cool. And the thing is, I
    Cool. And the thing is, I like the poem for its literal meaning, and also as a metaphor for that epic striving of man’s spirit.
    And it goes hand-in-hand with the old Zen saying, “Before I was enlightened, I chopped wood and carried water. After I was enlightened, I chopped wood and carried water.” Because when those pilots came back home, they watered their lawns and went to the grocery store, etc. but inside they were changed.

  12. FC, you did a great job
    FC, you did a great job explaining why you like that poem.

  13. yes!When i finally get to
    When i finally get to teach an English class (English as a Foreign Language) that isn’t special ed, i’ll dare to teach them Prufrock.
    It’s a classic, alright.

  14. Two – uh, 3Constantly Risking
    Two – uh, 3

    Constantly Risking Absurdity by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, because it’s so accessible to someone with an artistic mind.

    And A Supermarket in California, by Allen Ginsberg, because it’s so wonderful and embodies so much culture in such a short space.

    and e.e. cummings l(a

  15. judih!”A Supermarket in

    “A Supermarket in California” is another one of my favorites (and you, garcia lorca, what were you doing by the watermelons?). I actually read it at a stuffly library-sponsored poetry reading a couple of days after Ginsberg died.

    The cummings poem — this is the one about the leaf? Love that one, too.

  16. Now, to guess Levi’s
    Now, to guess Levi’s favorite…

    I’ll say “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman.

  17. Well Bill, this is just a
    Well Bill, this is just a guess, but I’m thinking Dylan Thomas.

  18. Consider the lilies — yes,
    Consider the lilies — yes, it is a lovely passage. And I think it counts as poetry. At least, I had a teacher once who used it as an example of poetry in a class, so there’s that.

  19. rilke, autumn dayi know there
    rilke, autumn day

    i know there are stronger, deeper, more pulsating poems by rilke than this one, but this one is like an old friend to me.
    i read it for the first time in the fall when i was 16, and it captured the essence of this very fall so perfectly for me (and, in a way, it’s still part of the very nature of my autumn, my favourite time of the year).

    i had just moved into my own place a few months ago back then, and i put the poem on my wall.
    since then, i have moved over 15 more times, and i still have it hanging on my wall.


    Herr: es ist Zeit. Der Sommer war sehr gross.
    Leg deinen Schatten auf die Sonnenuhren,
    und auf den Fluren lass die Winde los.

    Befiehl den letzten Fr

  20. i have found several
    i have found several different translations of it on the web, but none of it is able to transport the original’s energy and melody… still, i post them here so that you can get an idea about the content:

    Lord: it is time. The summer was immense.
    Lay your shadow on the sundials
    and let loose the wind in the fields.

    Bid the last fruits to be full;
    give them another two more southerly days,
    press them to ripeness, and chase
    the last sweetness into the heavy wine.

    Whoever has no house now will not build one
    Whoever is alone now will remain so for a long
    will stay up, read, write long letters,
    and wander the avenues, up and down,
    restlessly, while the leaves are blowing.

    (Translated by Galway Kinnell and Hannah Liebmann, “The Essential Rilke” (Ecco))

    Lord, it is time. The summer was too long.
    Lay your shadow on the sundials now,
    and through the meadow let the winds throng.

    Ask the last fruits to ripen on the vine;
    give them further two more summer days
    to bring about perfection and to raise
    the final sweetness in the heavy wine.

    Whoever has no house now will establish none,
    whoever lives alone now will live on long alone,
    will waken, read, and write long letters,
    wander up and down the barren paths
    the parks expose when the leaves are blown.

    (Translated by William Gass,
    “Reading Rilke: Reflections on the Problem of Translation” (Knopf))

    Lord: it is time. The huge summer has gone by.
    Now overlap the sundials with your shadows,
    and on the meadows let the wind go free.

    Command the fruits to swell on tree and vine;
    grant them a few more warm transparent days,
    urge them on to fulfillment then, and press
    the final sweetness into the heavy wine.

    Whoever has no house now, will never have one.
    Whoever is alone will stay alone,
    will sit, read, write long letters through the
    and wander the boulevards, up and down,
    restlessly, while the dry leaves are blowing.

    (Translated by Stephen Mitchell,
    “The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke” (Random House))

    Lord, it is time now,
    for the summer has gone on
    and gone on.
    Lay your shadow along the sun-
    dials and in the field
    let the great wind blow free.
    Command the last fruit
    be ripe:
    let it bow down the vine —
    with perhaps two sun-warm days
    more to force the last
    sweetness in the heavy wine.

    He who has no home
    will not build one now.
    He who is alone
    will stay long
    alone, will wake up,
    read, write long letters,

    and walk in the streets,
    walk by in the
    streets when the leaves blow.

    (Translated by John Logan,
    “Homage to Rainer Maria Rilke,” (BOA Editions))

  21. a few years ago, i wrote a
    a few years ago, i wrote a poem that was inspired by rilke’s autumn day, using his images and atmosphere, trying to capture the essence of how the original feels to me:

    leaves falling down on you

    you walk the alleys
    of tired sunlight
    warm summer still
    inside your shoes

    there’s a shadow
    on the sundial
    and the winds
    the winds
    are loose

    the fruits are full
    with southern days
    the grapes are filled
    with purple wine

    you wander restlessly
    thru falling leaves
    breathe words into
    descending time

  22. paul celan, death fuguethis
    paul celan, death fugue

    this is the other poem that whenever i read it feels like looking at a familiar picture of the family album… or, as levi puts it, is like a well-worn clothing that still helds my own private scent and at the same time still inheres the intensity that i experienced when i first wore/read it.


    Schwarze Milch der Fruehe wir trinken sie abends
    wir trinken sie mittags und morgens wir trinken sie nachts
    wir trinken und trinken
    wir schaufeln ein Grab in den Lueften da liegt man nicht eng
    ein Mann wohnt im Haus der spielt mit dem Schlangen der schreibt
    der schreibt wenn es dunkelt nach Deutschland dein goldenes Haar Margarete
    er schreibt es und tritt vor das Haus und es blitzen die Sterne er pfeift seine Rueden herbei
    er pfeift seine Juden hervor laesst schaufeln ein Grab in der Erde
    er befiehlt uns spielt auf nun zum Tanz

    Schwarze Milch der Fruehe wir trinken dich nachts
    wir trinken dich morgens und mittags wir trinken dich abends
    wir trinken und trinken
    Ein Mann wohnt im Haus der spielt mit den Schlangen der schreibt
    der schreibt wenn es dunkelt nach Deutschland dein goldenes Haar Margarete
    Dein aschenes Haar Sulamith wir schaufeln ein Grab in den Lueften da liegt man nicht eng

    Er ruft stecht tiefer ins Erdreich ihr einen ihr andern singt und spielt
    er greift nach dem Eisen im Gurt er schwingt seine Augen sind blau
    stecht tiefer die Spaten ihr einen ihr andern spielt weiter zum Tanz auf

    Schwarze Milch der Fruehe wir trinken dich nachts
    wir trinken dich mittags und morgens wir trinken dich abends
    wir trinken und trinken
    ein Mann wohnt im Haus dein goldenes Haar Margarete
    dein aschenes Haar Sulamith er spielt mit den Schlangen

    Er ruft spielt suesser den Tod der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland
    er ruft streicht dunkler die Geigen dann steigt ihr als Rauch in die Luft
    dann habt ihr ein Grab in den Wolken da liegt man nicht eng

    Schwarze Milch der Fruehe wir trinken dich nachts
    wir trinken dich mittags der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland
    wir trinken dich abends und morgens wir trinken und trinken
    der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland sein Auge ist blau
    er trifft dich mit bleierner Kugel er trifft dich genau
    ein Mann wohnt im Haus dein goldenes Haar Margarete
    er hetzt seine Rueden auf uns er schenkt uns ein Grab in der Luft
    er spielt mit den Schlangen und traeumet der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland

    dein goldenes Haar Margarete
    dein aschenes Haar Sulamith

    Two translations:

    Paul Celan – Fugue of Death

    Black milk of daybreak we drink it at nightfall
    we drink it at noon in the morning we drink it at night
    drink it and drink it
    we are digging a grave in the sky it is ample to lie there
    A man in the house he plays with the serpents he writes
    he writes when the night falls to Germany your golden hair Margarete
    he writes it and walks from the house the stars glitter he whistles his dogs up
    he whistles his Jews out and orders a grave to be dug in the earth
    he commands us strike up for the dance

    Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
    we drink in the mornings at noon we drink you at nightfall
    drink you and drink you
    A man in the house he plays with the serpents he writes
    he writes when the night falls to Germany your golden hair Margarete
    Your ashen hair Shulamith we are digging a grave in the sky it is ample to lie there

    He shouts stab deeper in earth you there and you others you sing and you play
    he grabs at the iron in his belt and swings it and blue are his eyes
    stab deeper your spades you there and you others play on for the dancing

    Black milk of daybreak we drink you at nightfall
    we drink you at noon in the mornings we drink you at nightfall
    drink you and drink you
    a man in the house your golden hair Margarete
    your ashen hair Shulamith he plays with the serpents

    He shouts play sweeter death’s music death comes as a master from Germany
    he shouts stroke darker the strings and as smoke you shall climb to the sky
    then you’ll have a grave in the clouds it is ample to lie there

    Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
    we drink you at noon death comes as a master from Germany
    we drink you at nightfall and morning we drink you and drink you
    a master from Germany death comes with eyes that are blue
    with a bullet of lead he will hit in the mark he will hit you
    a man in the house your golden hair Margarete
    he hunts us down with his dogs in the sky he gives us a grave
    he plays with the serpents and dreams death comes as a master from Germany

    your golden hair Margarete
    your ashen hair Shulamith.


    Deathfugue (Paul Celan)

    Black milk of daybreak we drink it at evening
    we drink it at midday and morning we drink it at night
    we drink and we drink
    we shovel a grave in the air there you won’t lie too cramped
    A man lives in the house he plays with his vipers he writes
    he writes when it grows dark to Deutschland your golden hair
    he writes it and steps out of doors and the stars are all sparkling
    he whistles his hounds to come close
    he whistles his Jews into rows has them shovel a grave in the ground
    he commands us to play up for the dance.

    Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
    we drink you at morning and midday we drink you at evening
    we drink and we drink
    A man lives in the house he plays with his vipers he writes
    he writes when it grows dark to Deutschland your golden hair
    Your ashen hair Shulamith we shovel a grave in the air there you won’t
    lie too cramped

    He shouts jab the earth deeper you lot there you others sing up and
    he grabs for the rod in his belt he swings it his eyes are so blue
    jab your spades deeper you lot there you others play on for the dancing
    Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
    we drink you at midday and morning we drink you at evening
    we drink and we drink
    a man lives in the house your goldenes Haar Margareta
    your aschenes Haar Shulamith he plays his vipers

    He shouts play death more sweetly this Death is a master from
    he shouts scrape your strings darker you’ll rise then as smoke to the sky
    you’ll have a grave then in the clouds there you won’t lie too cramped

    Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
    we drink you at midday Death is a master aus Deutschland
    we drink you at evening and morning we drink and we drink
    this Death is ein Meister aus Deutschland his eye it is blue
    he shoots you with shot made of lead shoots you level and true
    a man lives in the house your goldenes Haar Margarete
    he looses his hounds on us grants us a grave in the air
    he plays with his vipers and daydreams der Tod ist ein Meister
    aus Deutschland

    dein goldenes Haar Margarete
    dein aschenes Haar Shulamith

  23. constantly risking absurdity
    constantly risking absurdity is what first brought me to litkicks!

    i had read the poem somewhere and then did a search on ferlinghetti – and then landed at litkicks and remembered the beats that i had been getting into years ago but hadn’t read again for quite a while… and i found tons of material to read there, and i kept coming back to read and followed links, and then, two years later, the board appeared, and, well, the rest is history…

  24. ah… yes!this poem makes me
    ah… yes!
    this poem makes me expand from the inside… expand with longing and that yellow swollen moon…

  25. The Cloud In TrousersBy the
    The Cloud In Trousers

    By the maddest of the mad Russian poets, Vladimir Mayakovsky. Completely blows me away every time I read it, for many of the same reasons other people have stated for their favorite poems.

    And my guess for Levi’s favorite is “The Wasteland.”

    Here’s a sample from “Cloud”:
    The stroke of twelve fell
    like a head from a block.

    On the gray windowpanes, gray raindrops
    howled together,
    piling on a grimace
    as though the gargoyles
    of Notre Dame were howling.

    Damn you!
    Isn’t that enough?
    Screams will soon claw my mouth apart.

    Then I heard,
    a nerve leap
    like a sick man from his bed.
    barely moving
    at first,
    it soon scampered about,
    Now, with a couple more,
    it darted about in a desperate dance.

    The plaster on the ground floor crashed.

    big nerves,
    tiny nerves,
    many nerves!-
    galloped madly
    till soon
    their legs gave way.

    But night oozed and oozed through the roomand the eye, weighed down, could not slither out of the slime.

  26. Answers …These are great
    Answers …

    These are great responses so far. I’ve heard of some of these poems, others are new to me. It’s also fun to read the guesses, about which I must remain silent for now …

  27. a well-known poemWell,
    a well-known poem

    Well, assuming that it must be a well-known poem, I would venture this one, by W. B. Yeats, “The Second Coming”. It’s haunted me since I first read it.

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all convictions, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

    Surely some revelation is at hand;
    Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
    When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
    Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
    A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
    A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
    Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
    Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
    The darkness drops again; but now I know
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep
    Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

  28. SomeMy favorite poems seem to

    My favorite poems seem to resemble incantations, prayers.

    Kaddish stuck in my head the first time I read it, moreso after I found an mp3 of Ginsberg reading the first part of it himself.

    And Corso’s Power.

    But Lew Welch, especialy, there are many, but one I say every night, as a prayer against the too often awfullness of the world:

    What strange pleasure do they get who’d

    wipe whole worlds out,

    to end our lives, our

    wild idleness?

    But we have charms against their rage-
    must go on saying, “Look,
    if nobody tried to live this way,
    all the work of the world would be in vain”

    And now and then a son, a daughter, hears it.

    Now and then a son, a daughter

    gets away

    and a reminder and affirmation:

    I saw myself
    a ring of bone
    in the clear stream
    of all of it

    and vowed,
    always to be open to it
    that all of it
    might flow through

    and then heard
    “ring of bone” where
    ring is what a

    bell does

  29. Bits and PiecesI do love
    Bits and Pieces

    I do love entire poems. There are many that are great when read all the way through. But, what mostly sticks in my mind on repeat are fantastic sections of poems. Here is whats playing now, and mostly has been playing for years and years:

    There’s just no accounting for happiness,
    or the way it turns up like a prodigal
    who comes back to the dust at your feet
    having squandered a fortune far away.
    ~Jane Kenyon

    Gone, I say and walk from church,
    refusing the stiff procession to the grave,
    letting the dead ride alone in the hearse.
    It is June. I am tired of being brave.
    ~Anne Sexton

    To live a shameless, shameful life,
    His plaything and his love,
    He wore me like a silken knot,
    He changed me like a glove.
    ~Christina Rossetti

    I will read ashes for you, if you ask me.
    I will look on the fire and tell you from the gray lashes
    And out of the red and black tongues and stripes,
    I will tell how fire comes
    And how fire runs far as the sea.
    ~Carl Sandburg

    There they are. My favorite lines. There are of course more, but these ones really stick.

  30. 2 to pickThe perfect poem?
    2 to pick

    The perfect poem? Seems kinda difficult. But there are poems that seem to work completely on their own, outside of any prior knowledge of the poet or of poetry in general.
    Some well known poems come to my mind – Yeats’ ‘Wild Swans at Coole’, Rimbaud’s ‘Le Bateau Ivre’. Then there’s any Shakespeare you care to throw in, and great passages from the Bible. Most of my favourite poetry isn’t ‘perfect’ – it’s more likely to be imbalanced, not straight truth, giving it a bit of edge. But after eliminating the well known and more imbalanced works, I arrived at two pieces, both published last century in Spanish, from South/Central America. The translations are both by Martin Seymour-Smith.

    Soneto Postrero


    Mi voluntad de ser no tiene cielo;

  31. mud-lusciousin Just- spring

    in Just-
    spring when the world is mud-
    luscious the little
    lame balloonman

    whistles far and wee

    and eddieandbill come
    running from marbles and
    piracies and it’s

    when the world is puddle-wonderful

    the queer
    old balloonman whistles
    far and wee
    and bettyandisbel come dancing

    from hop-scotch and jump-rope and



    balloonMan whistles

    E.E. Cummings

    A teacher made poetry fun and pertinent to my young world. How much fun is cummings? This is the poem she used to that taught me that poetry and words can be used in a million wonderful ways and that poetry was in everything, even rock songs or news stories, if we look for it. It’s is a fun poem, playful in form and tone, with the haunting little minor chord “the goat-footed balloonMan whistles far and wee”
    The vernal equinox is coming next week and I remember this poem every year.

  32. Lew Welch is a wonderful
    Lew Welch is a wonderful poet.
    He was my fourth choice
    a sad thing that he died so young

  33. How silly of me.Obviously
    How silly of me.

    Obviously what happened here is, I saw the name “Arcadia” and knew it would be a great post, regardless of the subject line, so I simply jumped right into the text, referring back to the small type under the “Post!” icon…

    Yeah, that’s it…

  34. Does this count as a
    Does this count as a poem?

    “What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculties! in form and moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension, how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me; no, nor woman neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.”

    –From Shakespeare’s Hamlet (II, ii, 115-117)

  35. Sure it does. I love that
    Sure it does. I love that one. “What is this quintessence of dust?” That’s some good stuff.

  36. Shakespeare’s Sonnets – all
    Shakespeare’s Sonnets – all of them are exquisite, but this is the one I like to teach:

    SONNET 130
    My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
    Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
    If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
    If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
    I have seen roses damask’d, red and white,
    But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
    And in some perfumes is there more delight
    Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
    I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
    That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
    I grant I never saw a goddess go;
    My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
    And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
    As any she belied with false compare.

  37. A Great OneAfter really
    A Great One

    After really thinking about it, Ginsberg’s HOWL is still #1 with me. It’s interesting, and long, and back in the day was a wee bit controversial. In my interpretation, it captures both frustration and zest with his generation, time and life of which he speaks of, perhaps I “could” post the poem later, but I’m sure many have read it. As well, it reminds me of good times in my youth and is also a poem I will never forget. I cannot say that about too many other poems.

    (Guess: The Raven by Poe..hey, it is more than 4 letters!)

  38. MiltonThis one always had a

    This one always had a resonance with me.

    When I consider how my light is spent,
    Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
    And that one talent which is death to hide
    Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
    To serve therewith my Maker, and present
    My true account, lest He returning chide,
    “Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
    I fondly ask; But patience, to prevent
    That murmur, soon replies “God doth not need
    Either man’s work or his own gifts. Who best
    Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best. His state
    Is kingly: thousands at His bidding speed
    And post o’er land and ocean without rest;
    They also serve who only stand and wait.”

  39. The PuristThis is the first
    The Purist

    This is the first poem I ever memorized. It still makes me laugh:

    The Purist —

    I give you now Professor Twist,
    A conscientious scientist,
    Trustees exclaimed, “He never bungles!”
    And sent him off to distant jungles.
    Camped on a tropic riverside,
    One day he missed his loving bride.
    She had, the guide informed him later,
    Been eaten by an alligator.
    Professor Twist could not but smile.
    “You mean,” he said, “a crocodile.”

    — Ogden Nash

  40. Two SonnetsThis poem was read
    Two Sonnets

    This poem was read by the Justice of the Peace when I got married, so when I recite it to myself, or stumble upon it in some anthology, I think of that day, and my wife. It was a good day.

    Sonnet 116
    Let me not to the marriage of true minds
    Admit impediments; love is not love
    Which alters when it Alteration finds,
    Or bends with the remover to remove.
    Oh no it is an ever fixed mark
    That looks on tempests and is ne’er shaken;
    It is the star to every wandering bark,
    Whose worth’s unknown although his height be taken.
    Loves not times fool though rosy lips and cheeks
    With in his bending sickle compass come;
    Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
    But bares it out even to the edge of doom.
    If this be error and upon me proved,
    I never writ nor no man ever loved.

    This is just a damn good sonnet. It’s not vague, or difficult to understand. It’s clear and beautiful. It’s a poem of Eros. Of Absolute Divine Love.

    I think Sonnets make great poems cuz they’re easy to memorize, (not to write though.) You can always amuse yr self when you’re on a long drive alone and sick of the radio by reciting poems. ee cummings could write a mean sonnet. Look at “next to of course god america i”… (one of the finalists for my favorite poem.)

    “next to of course god america i
    love you land of pilgrims and so forth oh
    say can you see by the dawns early my
    country tis of centuries come and go
    and are no more what of it we should worry
    in every language even deafanddumb
    thy sons acclaim your glorious name by gory
    by jingo by gee by gosh by gum
    why talk of beauty what could be more beaut-
    iful than these heroic happy dead
    who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter
    they didn’t not stop to think they died instead
    then shall the voice of liberty be mute?”

    He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass of water.

    I like this poem because of its haste, its relevance, its wit, and its form. Where I live it’s quite a novelty to recite poems. On par with a magic card trick or something. I like pulling “next to of course god,” out at gigs, parties, or social gatherings when the war/patriotism comes up. It’s hard to argue with a good poem. It’s damn near impossible.

    (At parties I sometimes substitute “glass of water” for “bottle of beer” in the last line.)

  41. As a catalystOh, yes, yes.
    As a catalyst

    Oh, yes, yes. Wow.

    I was taught this at school last year. Prufrock had a big part to play in getting me into poetry. It helped that I had an awesome cover teacher for that one lesson, excellent luck.

    A strong candidate for my own favourite. I’m going to go and stick it on my wall right now.

    Emily Dickinson said that ‘If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me I know THAT is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know THAT is poetry.’

    That’s what we’re talking about here.

  42. As the Mist Leaves No
    As the Mist Leaves No Scar

    (this from memory, apologies to the Silent One if i got something wrong)

    As the mist leaves no scar
    On the dark green hill
    So my body leaves no scar
    On you nor ever will

    As wind and hawk encounter
    What remains to keep
    So you and I encounter
    Then turn and fall to sleep

    As many nights endure
    Without a moon or star
    So you and I endure
    When one is gone and far.

    –Leonard Cohen

    i found this in some hippy anthology of poetry (poems with drawings, poems scattered haphazardly), long before hearing any Cohen songs. i just like the simple imagery, the easy rhyme, the emotion. and how despite the endurance promised in the last line, there’s a buddhist kinda impermenance about the whole thing.

    also, reciting Leonard Cohen will get you laid.

    the same anthology had:

    The Reason I Write (Leonard Cohen):

    The reason I write
    is to create something
    as beautiful as you

    When I’m with you
    I want to be
    the kind of man
    I wanted to be
    when I was six years old

    A perfect man, who kills.

  43. archie ammonsthere are others
    archie ammons

    there are others of his that I love for the metaphysics, but the alliteration towards the ineffable via the quotidian makes this my favorite:

    So I said I am Ezra

    So I said I am Ezra
    and the wind whipped my throat
    gaming for the sounds of my voice
    I listened to the wind
    go over my head and up into the night
    Turning to the sea I said
    I am Ezra
    but there were no echoes from the waves
    The words were swallowed up
    in the voice of the surf
    or leaping over the swells
    lost themselves oceanward
    Over the bleached and broken fields
    I moved my feet and turning from the wind
    that ripped sheets of sand
    from the beach and threw them
    like seamists across the dunes
    swayed as if the wind were taking me away
    and said
    I am Ezra
    As a word too much repeated
    falls out of being
    so I Ezra went out into the night
    like a drift of sand
    and splashed among the windy oats
    that clutch the dunes
    of unremembered seas

    A. R. Ammons

  44. I love that quote, from my
    I love that quote, from my favorite Shakespeare play. And yet I must also confess that whenever I see it I sing it to myself as it was set to music in “Hair.”

  45. This is Just to Say…Well,
    This is Just to Say…

    Well, this may not be my favourite poem, but it makes me smile and dream of summer…mmm….it’s such a simple poem, but you want to keep reading into it. Also, I’ve included a variation I think is worthwhile, too.

    This is Just to Say (W.C.Williams)

    I have eaten
    the plums
    that were in
    the icebox

    and which
    you were probably
    for breakfast

    Forgive me
    they were delicious
    so sweet
    and so cold


    Variations on a Theme by

    William Carlos Williams

    I chopped down the house that you had been saving to live in next summer,
    I am sorry, but it was morning, and I had nothing to do
    and its wooden beams were so inviting.

    We laughed at the hollyhocks together
    and then I sprayed them with lye.
    Forgive me. I simply do not know what I am doing.

    I gave away all the money that you had been saving to live on for the next ten years.
    The man who asked for it was shabby
    and the firm March wind on the porch was so juicy and cold.

    Last evening we went dancing and I broke your leg.
    Forgive me. I was clumsy, and
    I wanted you here in the wards, where I am the doctor!

    – Kenneth Koch

    (P.S. A lot of people have come up with variations on variation–I’m just putting it out there for all you “poet types”…)

  46. ” your golden hair
    ” your golden hair Margareta
    Your ashen hair Shulamith”

    I first saw this quote appended to a painting by Anselm Keifer made of tar and straw in the early 90s when I was working at Christie’s auction house, and it made a powerful impression on me, the phrase as well as the painting. Not least of which because my real name is Margaret and my hair is blonde, and I felt dimly implicated by the associations, although my personal heritage is Irish working class etc. Anyway, I didn’t know the attribution until now. Thank you!!

  47. One Favorite PoemI have many
    One Favorite Poem

    I have many favorite poems; however, one favorite poem is this one by Dylan Thomas:

    “And Death Shall Have No Dominion”
    By Dylan Thomas

    And death shall have no dominion.
    Dead men naked they shall be one
    With the man in the wind and the west moon;
    When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
    They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
    Though they go mad they shall be sane,
    Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
    Though lovers be lost love shall not;
    And death shall have no dominion.

    And death shall have no dominion.
    Under the windings of the sea
    They lying long shall not die windily;
    Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
    Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
    Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
    And the unicorn evils run them through;
    Split all ends up they shan’t crack;
    And death shall have no dominion.

    And death shall have no dominion.
    No more may gulls cry at their ears
    Or waves break loud on the seashores;
    Where blew a flower may a flower no more
    Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
    Though they be mad and dead as nails,
    Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
    Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
    And death shall have no dominion.

    Hope everyone likes it…

  48. I don’t know about
    I don’t know about greatest…

    But I do adore Allen Ginsberg’s ‘In Society’. I really can’t say why, except I love the last stanza. It was one of the first Ginsbergs I read beyond his more famous ones. I also like the rhyming in Robert Frost’s ‘Acquainted with the Night’. There’s another one, about a man who swims from the Titanic as it sinks to New York and gets drunk, but I can’t remember the author nor title.

  49. this is greatI really like
    this is great

    I really like reading all these favorites. What a collage of different voices show up among us. And … yeah, the title of my own favorite poem does appear somewhere in the above posts. (Which one? This will be revealed next week.)

    Thanks everybody … it is really inspiring to read all these great finds.

  50. Nice one. For some reason
    Nice one. For some reason this makes me recall the first poem I ever memorized, which I found in “The Outsiders”. It’s by Robert Frost.

    nature’s first green is gold
    her hardest hue to hold
    her early leaf’s a flower
    but only so an hour

    then leaf subsides to leaf
    so eden sank to grief
    so dawn goes down to day
    nothing gold can stay

    I actually don’t agree that nothing gold can stay. But “then leaf subsides to leaf/so eden sank to grief” just killed me.

  51. So many to choose from…I’ve
    So many to choose from…

    I’ve been on a Wallace Stevens kick, here are my two faves…

    “13 Ways of looking at a blackbird”
    (Stanza 5 is my favorite)

    Among twenty snowy mountains,
    The only moving thing
    Was the eye of the blackbird.

    I was of three minds,
    Like a tree
    In which there are three blackbirds.

    The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
    It was a small part of the pantomime.

    A man and a woman
    Are one.
    A man and a woman and a blackbird
    Are one.

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

    Icicles filled the long window
    With barbaric glass.
    The shadow of the blackbird
    Crossed it, to and fro.
    The mood
    Traced in the shadow
    An indecipherable cause.

    O thin men of Haddam,
    Why do you imagine golden birds?
    Do you not see how the blackbird
    Walks around the feet
    Of the women about you?

    I know noble accents
    And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
    But I know, too,
    That the blackbird is involved
    In what I know.

    When the blackbird flew out of sight,
    It marked the edge
    Of one of many circles.

    At the sight of blackbirds
    Flying in a green light,
    Even the bawds of euphony
    Would cry out sharply.

    He rode over Connecticut
    In a glass coach.
    Once, a fear pierced him,
    In that he mistook
    The shadow of his equipage
    For blackbirds.

    The river is moving.
    The blackbird must be flying.

    It was evening all afternoon.
    It was snowing
    And it was going to snow.
    The blackbird sat
    In the cedar-limbs.


    “The poem that took the place of a mountain”

    There it was, word for word,
    The poem that took the place of a mountain.

    He breathed its oxygen,
    Even when the book lay turned in the dust of his table.

    It reminded him how he had needed
    A place to go to in his own direction,

    How he had recomposed the pines,
    Shifted the rocks and picked his way among clouds,

    For the outlook that would be right,
    Where he would be complete in an unexplained completion:

    The exact rock where his inexactness
    Would discover, at last, the view toward which they had edged,

    Where he could lie and, gazing down at the sea,
    Recognize his unique and solitary home.

  52. Dylan Thomas and Randall
    Dylan Thomas and Randall Jarrell

    These were the two most influential to me:

    The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner

    From my mother’s sleep I fell into the State,
    And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
    Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
    I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
    When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

    Randall Jarrell


    Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
    About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
    The night above the dingle starry,
    Time let me hail and climb
    Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
    And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
    And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
    Trail with daisies and barley
    Down the rivers of the windfall light.

    And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
    About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
    In the sun that is young once only,
    Time let me play and be
    Golden in the mercy of his means,
    And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
    Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
    And the sabbath rang slowly
    In the pebbles of the holy streams.

    All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
    Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
    And playing, lovely and watery
    And fire green as grass.
    And nightly under the simple stars
    As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
    All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars
    Flying with the ricks, and the horses
    Flashing into the dark.

    And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
    With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
    Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
    The sky gathered again
    And the sun grew round that very day.
    So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
    In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
    Out of the whinnying green stable
    On to the fields of praise.

    And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
    Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
    In the sun born over and over,
    I ran my heedless ways,
    My wishes raced through the house high hay
    And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
    In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
    Before the children green and golden
    Follow him out of grace.

    Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
    Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
    In the moon that is always rising,
    Nor that riding to sleep
    I should hear him fly with the high fields
    And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
    Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
    Time held me green and dying
    Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

    Dylan Thomas

  53. And I’m going to print that
    And I’m going to print that Emily Dickinson quote and put it on my wall. That’s good stuff. Especially the part about the scalp. An old friend of mine used to say, “The eagle flew down and snatched my scalp!” when he got that feeling.

  54. I do like this one very much.
    I do like this one very much. Dylan Thomas seems to be quite popular here.

  55. “…as if the top of my head
    “…as if the top of my head were taken off.”

    Yes, that’s it exactly.

  56. favorite poem collageWe
    favorite poem collage

    We should run all the quotes from people’s favorite poems together in a collage. What do you’ll think?

    As an aside, I recently learned that there is no authority in english usage and style that prohibits the use of “but” at the beginning of a sentence! This was a revelation to me, because when I was in grade school that false rule was drilled into me, and I have since used “however” for a contrasting link at the beginning of sentences. But that word “however” makes the writing much more cumbersome and interrupts the musicality of the language. We examined a New York Times article, and sure enough, two out of ten sentences began with the word but, and William Zinser (“On Writing Well”) claims it is the single most effective way to begin a sentence. Incidentally, there is also no rule of usage which prohibits ending a sentence with a preposition.

    It is funny how the word of some grade school teacher, one lady whose name I don’t remember, could be transformed into a law that has significantly affected my writing for decades. I wish I had her address, I want to send her a letter that reads: “you were wrong.”

  57. My Poem and My GuessWell, I’d
    My Poem and My Guess

    Well, I’d have to say that Frost’s “Mending Wall” is my favourite…oh sure, I love “Howl” and “Love Is A Dog From Hell” as much as the next guy, but there’s something about this one that really strikes me as having been able to capture the dichotomy between mundane human endeavours and that certain metaphysical je ne sais quoi with which those same endeavours often get wrapped up…

    here’s the text:

    “Mending Wall” – Robert Frost

    Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
    That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
    And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
    And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
    The work of hunters is another thing:
    I have come after them and made repair
    Where they have left not one stone on stone,
    But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
    To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
    No one has seen them made or heard them made,
    But at spring mending-time we find them there.
    I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
    And on a day we meet to walk the line
    And set the wall between us once again.
    We keep the wall between us as we go.
    To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
    And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
    We have to use a spell to make them balance:
    “Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”
    We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
    Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
    One on a side. It comes to little more:
    He is all pine and I am apple-orchard.
    My apple trees will never get across
    And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
    He only says, “Good fences make good neighbors.”
    Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
    If I could put a notion in his head:
    “Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it
    Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
    Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
    What I was walling in or walling out,
    And to whom I was like to give offence.
    Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
    That wants it down!” I could say “Elves” to him,
    But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
    He said it for himself. I see him there,
    Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
    In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
    He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
    Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
    He will not go behind his father’s saying,
    And he likes having thought of it so well
    He says again, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

    And my guess at Levi’s favourite? well, I’m simply going to agree with the mad Floridian and say “Leaves of Grass”, for reasons I’m not entirely sure of.

  58. Fern Hill is my second
    Fern Hill is my second favourite Dylan Thomas poem. The last two lines are great.

  59. yes, those last two
    yes, those last two lines.
    they have a melody.

    every time i say them, they sing me.
    and i sing them.

  60. This I love…goddamned grade
    This I love…goddamned grade school English teachers. I laboured under the same BS for centuries, I tell you!!! CENTURIES!!!

  61. Kilgore, you’ve set us free
    Kilgore, you’ve set us free from our shackles. As jim_vinny says, we’ve been under their thumbs for way too long. Thanks for the tip!

  62. … just the reply that
    … just the reply that Prufrock never got.

    In fact there is now a copy on my wall and in my wallet. Tommorow I’m going to go into college and hide copies in library books and stick them on the backs of toilet doors.

    It is time for guerilla poetry.

  63. Yes, I first became familiar
    Yes, I first became familiar with it from Hair. I really must get that original broadway musical soundtrack on CD. Jerome Ragni, Galt McDermot, James Rado… I remember it like it was yesterday.

    You know, Hair has recently been making a come-back, which could be why Levi (brooklyn) said he recently saw that poem again. Not only that, but I know he’s a Shakespeare fan. Hmmm…

  64. I don’t know, Jim. I’m
    I don’t know, Jim. I’m starting to waffle on my guess. The musical ‘Hair’ is making a come-back, and there is a fine Shakespeare quote in it, and Levi is a fan of the Bard.
    “What a piece of work is man…”

  65. If it wasn’t fleeting, it
    If it wasn’t fleeting, it isn’t gold. If it stays, tarnish becomes it’s mainstay. Do you have an example of gold that can stay?

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Litkicks will turn 30 years old in the summer of 2024! We can’t believe it ourselves. We don’t run as many blog posts about books and writers as we used to, but founder Marc Eliot Stein aka Levi Asher is busy running two podcasts. Please check out our latest work!