Archive for the ‘Poetry Lessons’ Category

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~ Gabriel Zech (Sollars Elementary)

screen shot 2018-10-22 at 1.38.53 pm~ Pat Davis (Pembroke, NH)
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~ Lee Nash (France)

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~ Ana Drubot (Bucharest)


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winter solstice
our son reads a fairy tale
to his unborn child

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winter night
I dreamed your garden lights
were fireflies
Reaching for green pears–
the pull
of an old scar

  for her mother
roots and all

hazy moon
the nun begins her journey
with a backward glance


an open window
a woman’s wordless song

sweet peas
tremble on the trellis
the bride’s “I will”

smooth garden bench
a woman embroiders
a unicorn
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dew drops
on the dark rose
our reflections
yellow leaves
a girl plays hopscotch
by herself
on the harp strings
Christmas Eve
clay on the wheel I confess my faith
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winter night
he patiently untangles
her antique silver chain
cathedral garden
cardinals in the birdbath
scatter drops of light
the boy stands still
fingers splayed
above a starfish
through open windows—
he lifts the veil
night flight
a young man fast asleep
beside his cello
dress by dress
the story of her life
day lilies close
soft Gullah
at the graveside…
blue glass shines
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In a Station of a Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

by Ezra Pound

Ezra Pound’s Precepts

In March 1913, Poetry published “A Few Don’ts by an Imagiste.” In it, imagist poet F. S. Flint, quoting Pound, defined the tenets of imagist poetry:

I. Direct treatment of the “thing,” whether subjective or objective.
II. To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation.
III. As regarding rhythm: to compose in sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of the metronome.

by H.D.

Whirl up, sea—

whirl your pointed pines,

splash your great pines

on our rocks,

hurl your green over us,

cover us with your pools of fir.

by Richard Aldington

Like a gondola of green scented fruits
Drifting along the dark canals of Venice,
You, O exquisite one,
Have entered into my desolate city.

The blue smoke leaps
Like swirling clouds of birds vanishing;
So my love leaps forth toward you,
Vanishes and is renewed.

A rose-yellow moon in a pale sky
When the sunset is faint vermillion
In the mist among the tree-boughs
Art thou to me, my beloved.

A young beech tree on the edge of the forest
Stands still in the evening,
Yet shudders through all its leaves in the light air
And seems to fear the stars–
So are you still and so tremble.

The red deer are high on the mountain,
They are beyond the last pine-trees,
And my desires have run with them.

The flower which the wind has shaken
Is soon filled again with rain;
So does my heart fill slowly with tears
Until you return.

Red Wheelbarrow
by William Carlos Williams

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

by e.e. cummings





* Read more poems by e.e. cummings:


Even the iris bends

when the butterfly lights upon it.

by Amy Lowell

by Amy Lowell 

I walk down the garden-paths,
And all the daffodils
Are blowing, and the bright blue squills.
I walk down the patterned garden-paths
In my stiff, brocaded gown.
With my powdered hair and jeweled fan,
I too am a rare
Pattern. As I wander down
The garden-paths.
My dress is richly figured,
And the train
Makes a pink and silver stain
On the gravel, and the thrift
Of the borders.
Just a plate of current fashion,
Tripping by in high-heeled, ribboned shoes.
Not a softness anywhere about me,
Only whalebone and brocade.
And I sink on a seat in the shade
Of a lime tree. For my passion
Wars against the stiff brocade.
The daffodils and squills
Flutter in the breeze
As they please.
And I weep;
For the lime-tree is in blossom
And one small flower has dropped upon my bosom.

And the plashing of waterdrops
In the marble fountain
Comes down the garden-paths.
The dripping never stops.
Underneath my stiffened gown
Is the softness of a woman bathing in a marble basin,
A basin in the midst of hedges grown
So thick, she cannot see her lover hiding,
But she guesses he is near,
And the sliding of the water
Seems the stroking of a dear
Hand upon her.
What is Summer in a fine brocaded gown!
I should like to see it lying in a heap upon the ground.
All the pink and silver crumpled up on the ground.

I would be the pink and silver as I ran along the paths,
And he would stumble after,
Bewildered by my laughter.
I should see the sun flashing from his sword-hilt and the
buckles on his shoes.
I would choose
To lead him in a maze along the patterned paths,
A bright and laughing maze for my heavy-booted lover.
Till he caught me in the shade,
And the buttons of his waistcoat bruised my body as he
clasped me,
Aching, melting, unafraid.
With the shadows of the leaves and the sundrops,
And the plopping of the waterdrops,
All about us in the open afternoon–
I am very like to swoon
With the weight of this brocade,
For the sun sifts through the shade.

Underneath the fallen blossom
In my bosom,
Is a letter I have hid.
It was brought to me this morning by a rider from the
“Madam, we regret to inform you that Lord Hartwell
Died in action Thursday se’nnight.”
As I read it in the white, morning sunlight,
The letters squirmed like snakes.
“Any answer, Madam,” said my footman.
“No,” I told him.
“See that the messenger takes some refreshment.
No, no answer.”
And I walked into the garden,
Up and down the patterned paths,
In my stiff, correct brocade.
The blue and yellow flowers stood up proudly in the sun,
Each one.
I stood upright too,
Held rigid to the pattern
By the stiffness of my gown.
Up and down I walked,
Up and down.

In a month he would have been my husband.
In a month, here, underneath this lime,
We would have broke the pattern;
He for me, and I for him,
He as Colonel, I as Lady,
On this shady seat.
He had a whim
That sunlight carried blessing.
And I answered, “It shall be as you have said.”
Now he is dead.

In Summer and in Winter I shall walk
Up and down
The patterned garden-paths
In my stiff, brocaded gown.
The squills and daffodils
Will give place to pillared roses, and to asters, and to snow.
I shall go
Up and down
In my gown.
Gorgeously arrayed,
Boned and stayed.
And the softness of my body will be guarded from embrace
By each button, hook, and lace.
For the man who should loose me is dead,
Fighting with the Duke in Flanders,
In a pattern called a war.
Christ! What are patterns for?

Amy Lowell on Imagism (1917)

  1. To use the language of common speech, but to employ always the exact word, not the nearly-exact, nor the merely decorative word.
  2. To create new rhythms -as the expression of new moods — and not to copy old rhythms, which merely echo old moods. We do not insist upon “free-verse” as the only method of writing poetry. We fight for it as for a principle of liberty. We believe that the individuality of a poet may often be better expressed in free-verse than in conventional forms. In poetry a new cadence means a new idea.
  3. To allow absolute freedom in the choice of subject. It is not good art to write badly of aeroplanes and automobiles, nor is it necessarily bad art to write well about the past. Webelieve passionately in the artistic value of modem life, but we wish to point out that there is nothing so uninspiring nor so old-fashioned as an aeroplane of the year 19 11.
  4. To present an image (hence the name: “Imagist”). We are not a school of painters, but we believe that poetry should render particulars exactly and not deal in vague generalities, however magnificent and sonorous. It is for this reason that we oppose the cosmic poet, who seems to us to shirk the real difficulties of his art.
  5. To produce poetry that is hard and clear, never blurred nor indefinite.
  6. Finally, most of us believe that concentration is of the very essence of poetry.

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Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise Him.

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I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-
dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.

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The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs–
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Another biography (with digitized facsimiles of works and letters)


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“Can Poetry Matter?”

by Dana Gioia

“1. When poets give public readings, they should spend part of every program reciting other people’s work--preferably poems they admire by writers they do not know personally. Readings should be celebrations of poetry in general, not merely of the featured author’s work.

2. When arts administrators plan public readings, they should avoid the standard subculture format of poetry only. Mix poetry with the other arts, especially music. Plan evenings honoring dead or foreign writers. Combine short critical lectures with poetry performances. Such combinations would attract an audience from beyond the poetry world without compromising quality.

3. Poets need to write prose about poetry more often, more candidly, and more effectively. Poets must recapture the attention of the broader intellectual community by writing for nonspecialist publications. They must also avoid the jargon of contemporary academic criticism and write in a public idiom. Finally, poets must regain the reader’s trust by candidly admitting what they don’t like as well as promoting what they like. Professional courtesy has no place in literary journalism.

4. Poets who compile anthologies–or even reading lists–should be scrupulously honest in including only poems they genuinely admire. Anthologies are poetry’s gateway to the general culture. They should not be used as pork barrels for the creative-writing trade. An art expands its audience by presenting masterpieces, not mediocrity. Anthologies should be compiled to move, delight, and instruct readers, not to flatter the writing teachers who assign books. Poet-anthologists must never trade the Muse’s property for professional favors.

5. Poetry teachers especially at the high school and undergraduate levels, should spend less time on analysis and more on performance. Poetry needs to be liberated from literary criticism. Poems should be memorized, recited, and performed. The sheer joy of the art must be emphasized. The pleasure of performance is what first attracts children to poetry, the sensual excitement of speaking and hearing the words of the poem. Performance was also the teaching technique that kept poetry vital for centuries. Maybe it also holds the key to poetry’s future.

6. Finally poets and arts administrators should use radio to expand the art’s audience. Poetry is an aural medium, and thus ideally suited to radio. A little imaginative programming at the hundreds of college and public-supported radio stations could bring poetry to millions of listeners. Some programming exists, but it is stuck mostly in the standard subculture format of living poets’ reading their own work. Mixing poetry with music on classical and jazz stations or creating innovative talk-radio formats could re-establish a direct relationship between poetry and the general audience.

… watch the ancient, spangle-feathered, unkillable phoenix rise from the ashes.” ~ Dana Gioia

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Haiga is a Japanese art form combining haiku, written in calligraphic script, with a painting. The painting may not be an illustration of the poem. Instead, the poem and the painting may be in juxtaposition to one another — so that their contrast may create fuller meaning.

Here is an example by Yosa Buson, an 18th century Japanese poet and painter:

“A little cuckoo
a hydrangea”

Buson greatly admired his predecessor in the art of poetry, Matsuo Basho (who made both haiku and haiga, too), and he painted a portrait in his honor.

Buson’s artwork frequently combines poetry and painting. Two years before he died, he painted “Old Pine.” Like so much of his oeuvre, this masterpiece shows his detailed attention to the beauty of Nature.

Contemporary haiga artists continue to combine poetry and image. Somtimes they create word-and-image duets in honor of past poets, as is the case in this picture, which remembers a haiku by Shushiki, a Japanese woman who wrote haiku in the Edo period in the tradition of Basho.

To view some other examples of this creative work, with original poetry and artwork by contemporary poets, visit:

See Haiku Here

Haiga Online

Daily Haiga

Women Poets of Japan

A contemporary haiga by John Hawkhead that I particulary enjoy is this:

“lying together
after the spring thunderstorm
blossom and hailstones”

I encourage you to make your own haiga!

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I was recently exploring The American Poetry Journal’s website and discovered this wonderful description of sevenlings, a poetic form based on a famous poem by Anna Akhmatova (one of my favorite poets!). Your challenge? Write a poem in this form!

Direct from APJ:

The sevenling is a poem of seven lines inspired by the form of this much translated short verse by Anna Akhmatova (1889 – 1966).
He loved three things alone:
White peacocks, evensong,
Old maps of America.
He hated children crying,
And raspberry jam with his tea,
And womanish hysteria.
… And he married me.
tr. D M Thomas
from Selected Poems (Penguin)
The rules of the sevenling are thus:

The first three lines should contain an element of three – three connected or contrasting statements, or a list of three details, names or possibilities. This can take up all of the three lines or be contained anywhere within them. Then, lines four to six should similarly contain an element of three, connected directly or indirectly or not at all. The seventh line should act as a narrative summary or punchline or as an unusual juxtaposition. There are no set metrical rules, but being such as short form, some rhythm, metre or rhyme is desirable. To give the form a recognisable shape, it should be set out in two stanzas of three lines, with a solitary seventh, last line. Titles are not required. A sevenling should be titled Sevenling followed by the first few words in parentheses The tone of the sevenling should be mysterious, offbeat or disturbing, giving a feeling that only part of the story is being told. The poem should have a certain ambience which invites guesswork from the reader.”


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Last night, I had the pleasure of attending a one-man dramatic performance by John “Chuck” Chalberg who was impersonating G.K. Chesterton, “the prince of paradox,” a man who wrote the Father Brown mysteries, a biography of Saint Francis, and more than 75 other books; he famously influenced C.S. Lewis. As Chalberg showed, he was dramatic, funny, and meaningful. And tho’ of course I don’t agree with everything Chesterton believed, I can’t deny that Chalberg made him very persuasive!

One of the types of poems that Chesterton delighted in writing was the “clerihew,” and to celebrate the Chesterton evening last night, the audience was challenged to write clerihews, too.

What is a clerihew? Invented by Edward Clerihew Bentley, it is a whimsical biographical poem usually poking fun at famous people. The first line names the person. The poem has a total of four lines and a rhyme scheme of AABB. Anyone can be subjected to clerihew treatment  — architects, economists, and even other poets! Here are some examples from the clerihew inventor himself:

(1)Sir Christopher Wren
Went to dine with some men
He said, “If anyone calls,
Say I’m designing Saint Paul’s.”

(2) John Stuart Mill,
By a mighty effort of will,
Overcame his natural bonhomie
And wrotePrinciples of Economy.

(3)The people of Spain think Cervantes
Equal to half-a-dozen Dantes;
An opinion resented most bitterly
By the people of Italy.

Edward Clerihew Bentley (1905)

Michael Curl wrote a clerihew in honor of the inventor of the clerihew. Here it is:

E. C. Bentley
Mused while he ought to have studied intently;
It was this muse
That inspired clerihews.

So the question that naturally emerges from gaining knowledge of this most recent of poetic forms is  … do you clerihew? Try it!

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My sister Alice is awesome. At the moment, she’s a senior in high school and getting all her college acceptance letters (hooray! I am so proud of you!!) after months of waiting on pins and needles. She’s also a devout Christian, and her youth pastor has asked her to preach to her youth group, the Rebellion. (Yes, the Rebellion, an inner city youth group at Church on the Hill in Vallejo, California.) She’s preaching on the theme made fearless. She called to tell me about it, and I got to encourage her. Women preachers run in our family: I preach, our sister Anne preaches, and now Alice will preach the gospel, too. Soli Deo gloria.

As we talked, Alice shared with me a poem she recently wrote. It is modeled on a poem by José Martí, a 19th century Latin American poet from Cuba who wrote in Spanish. The poem by Martí emphasizes a repeated refrain; likewise, the poem by Alice does, too. Alice’s poem is in Spanish (about which she modestly says, “not perfect Spanish, I wish I was fluent!”), but she has provided an English translation for readers of The Poetry Place. I’ve provided a translation of of José Martí. Spanglish readers, read on!

“Selección de Versos Sencillos: XLIV”
José Martí

Tiene el leopardo un abrigo the leopard has a coat
En su monte seco y pardo: in his mountain dry and dark:
Yo tengo más que el leopardo, I have more than the leopard
Porque tengo un buen amigo. because I have a dear friend.

Duerme, como en un juguete, She sleeps, as if inside a toy,
La mushma en su cojinete the Japanese girl on her cushion
De arce del Japón: yo digo: under a Japanese maple. I say:
“No hay cojín como un amigo.” “there is no cushion like a friend.”

Tiene el conde su abolengo: The count has his ancestry,
Tiene la aurora el mendigo: the dawn has her beggar,
Tiene ala el ave: ¡yo tengo the bird has its wing:  but I have,
Allá en México un amigo! there in Mexico, a friend!

Tiene el señor presidente The respectable old president
Un jardín con una fuente, has a garden with a fountain,
Y un tesoro en oro y trigo: and a treasure of gold and wheat,
Tengo más, tengo un amigo. but I have more: I have a friend.

“Un Dios Quién Me Ama”
Alice Holthuis

Se dice que está contento
con la vida tal como es,
pero tengo un Dios
quién me ama.

Se dice que se vive para el fin
de semana, ¿Por qué no vive para
hoy? Porque tengo un Dios
quién me ama.

Se dice que “Estoy tan enamorado.”
Pero el día siguente, se rompa
el corazón. ¿Puedo decirle
de Dios quién me ama?

Se dice que ha tratado eso antes,
que éste no es su “cosa.”
¿Sabe qué me alegro porque
Dios me ama?

Se dice que no hay esperanza, propósito, no tiene prisa…
Yo he encontrado esperanza, propósito,
y un razón para vivir
en el Dios quién me ama.

“A God Who Loves Me”
Alice Holthuis

You say that you are content
with life as it is,
but I have a God
who loves me.

You say that you live for the weekend,
but why not live for today?
Because I have a God
who loves me.

You say that you’re so in love,
but the next day you break her heart.
Can I tell you about the God
who loves me?

You say you’ve tried that before,
this isn’t your “thing.”
Do you not know that I rejoice
because God loves me?

You say there is no hope, no hurry,
no purpose. I found purpose,
hope, and a reason to live
in the God who loves me.

I appreciated my sister’s poetic work because it really is a well structured, bilingual poetry lesson. Begin with a poem in a language other than English. Translate it. Write your own poem in the language of the poet, following the model the poet has provided, but enlarge or change the meaning, the message, with your own ideas. Then translate your own poem into English. Every poet can and should do this kind of work in order to explore the possibilities of poetic language in translation.

I encourage you to try it!

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