Poem of the Day: “Cacoethes Scribendi” by Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

I can’t believe it’s already the last day of poetry month! (And coincidentally the middle of my finals.) This year is going by incredibly quickly.

Anyway I have a couple of things to share with you today. First, this quote that my mom posted on Facebook this morning which I think is beautiful and important:

When power leads men towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses. For art establishes the basic human truth which must serve as the touchstone of our judgment. – JFK at Amherst College shortly after Robert Frost’s death. 1963

And now the poem for today. I searched for poems about poetry, sort of to keep in pattern with last year’s closing poem and thanks to the Poetry Foundation’s excellent search function I was able to find this gem from Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. (I can’t remember if he’s more famous or if his son is…).

If all the trees in all the woods were men;
And each and every blade of grass a pen;
If every leaf on every shrub and tree
Turned to a sheet of foolscap; every sea
Were changed to ink, and all earth’s living tribes
Had nothing else to do but act as scribes,
And for ten thousand ages, day and night,
The human race should write, and write, and write,
Till all the pens and paper were used up,
And the huge inkstand was an empty cup,
Still would the scribblers clustered round its brink
Call for more pens, more paper, and more ink.
 (Disclaimer: I’m basing my poem choices on those I understand to be in the public domain. If I’ve made a mistake – which is very possible – and you own the copyright to a poem I have posted please e-mail me at igetabitobsessive@gmail.com and I will take the post down immediately.)

Poem of the Day: “When We Last Parted” by Catherine Maria Fanshawe

I can’t believe it’s almost the end of April, this is my last poem from a female poet this year and she’s another one that I had never heard of before this project. According to Wikipedia some of her work is often to attributed to Lord Byron, because sexism…

When last we parted, thou wert young and fair,
    How beautiful let fond remembrance say!
    Alas! since then old time has stolen away
Full thirty years, leaving my temples bare.—
So has it perished like a thing of air,
    The dream of love and youth!— now both are grey
    Yet still remembering that delightful day,
Though time with his cold touch has blanched my hair,
    Though I have suffered many years of pain
Since then, though I did never think to live
    To hear that voice or see those eyes again,
I can a sad but cordial greeting give,
And for thy welfare breathe as warm a prayer—
As when I loved thee young and fair.
 (Disclaimer: I’m basing my poem choices on those I understand to be in the public domain. If I’ve made a mistake – which is very possible – and you own the copyright to a poem I have posted please e-mail me at igetabitobsessive@gmail.com and I will take the post down immediately.)

Five Star Book: Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Like with most things I love, I’ve had trouble knowing where to start writing about Jenny Offill’s novel Dept. of Speculation. The plot summary doesn’t seem like much – a young woman writer in New York, meets a guy, marries him, has a kid, feels secure, he cheats, she tries to deal – but that is so not the point of this book.

It’s written in a series of short vignettes, interspersed with quotes from Yeats, Rilke, Dickinson and self-help books, and linked together more by tone than any true sense of cohesion. Although told mostly in chronological order and from a third-person narrator, it feels like being inside “the wife’s” head most of the time, in a really beautiful way.

I took a class in college on “the lyric novel,” and this feels like it should be on that syllabus. Each section works like its poem and taken together they come together into something almost indescribable. It felt heavy to read it, even though at times it’s wryly funny. And it has that thing that the best books have, of certain lines feeling like a slap to the face. Even something as simple and plaintive as the repetition of the sentence “Why did you ruin my best thing?” got lodged in my brain.

If I didn’t have annoying obligations like a Master’s program and a couple of jobs I would have finished this one in one sitting, and I recommend it, but with the caveat that it may make you cry. Not because things can be tragic but because they can be ordinary and still hurt.

Poem of the Day: “Chanson at Madison Square” by Stephen Vincent Benét

You live in the Terminal Building, I
In the Metropolitan Tower.
This is what I send you every night,
A flash of red and a flash of white,
The red for our hearts and their pulse that is Delight,
The white for power.

You have hung your home with crimson lamps,
Apples swinging on a tree,
They band like a ring round that tall stone thumb,
They ladder up its sides like the spillings of a plum,
I must climb and pick them all ere our double kingdom come
Where the motors roar like sea.

You have crowned your hall with granite thorns,
Mine stands huge as steam.
It carries all Time like a watch upon its side,
And the slow hands sway like the cautious feet of Pride,
Doling out mortality to Moloch and his bride,
And to us the clear Edens of our dream.

The city lies at ease and her lazy paws of light
Claw idly up and down the sky,
She strikes peacock-Night on his phosphorescent fans,
And he shudders into jewels and his eyed and blinking vans
Shake their ocean-nurtured purple on the turrets that are Man’s,
And I love you and we cannot die.

Shut your eyes — you are tired — let the blue bed of air
Be your pillow through the hot short night.
We are children lost together in a wood turned rock.
We are gods whose eyes are Wisdom, and Olympus is our mock.
Drowse into your Paradise! I say above the clock
“White — red — white — red — white!”

 (Disclaimer: I’m basing my poem choices on those I understand to be in the public domain. If I’ve made a mistake – which is very possible – and you own the copyright to a poem I have posted please e-mail me at igetabitobsessive@gmail.com and I will take the post down immediately.)

Weekly Adventure: Memphis Edition

Walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale

Walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, then you are probably already sick of how much fun I had with Julia in Memphis this weekend.We chose the city, mostly because we both had never been there and it was vaguely in the middle of us, and we wanted to…The truth is I don’t really remember our whole motivation for choosing Memphis, because my entire knowledge of the city before this weekend came from this song:

(incidentally, we definitely did land in the middle of the pouring in the rain, but we were not blue)

and this movie:

(Sorry about the janky video.)

Anyway, we had an amazing time, especially because we stayed in the best AirBnB ever, not only was it adorable:

IMG_2392 but our hosts left us a book with a list of things to do (and more importantly eat) while we were in town.

Like I said it rained for most of our first day in town, but we found some fun inside, including the very strange phenomenon which is the Peabody ducks:

IMG_2568

After that we followed our hosts’ recommendation to check out Ernestine & Hazel’s for a Soul Burger, and we happened to catch this really fun bar band:

IMG_2404 The next day we went to Graceland! Which is very Disneyland-esque, and surreal, and yet somehow still personal and I left with a new appreciation for Elvis as a person.

Jules modeling her Elvis mug. (I got one too!)

Jules modeling her Elvis mug. (I got one too!)

I hope he was half as good/interesting/humble/charasmatic as the iPad tour (inexplicably narrated by John Stamos) made him out to be. While I was there I took a million photos, here are my favorite 5:

The living room complete with stained glass

The living room complete with stained glass

The truly surrealy 70s TV room

The truly surrealy 70s TV room

The ceiling in the pool room, which he had upholstered in this fabric I'm kind of in love with

The ceiling in the pool room, which he had upholstered in this fabric I’m kind of in love with

The Jungle Room!

The Jungle Room!

His hall of gold records

His hall of gold records

Walking through the trophy room reminded me that Elvis recorded at Sun Studio, which meant of course that Sun Studio was in Memphis, so we went there next!

(Photo Credit: Julia Davidson)

(Photo Credit: Julia Davidson)

And in contrast to Graceland, it felt nothing at all like a theme park. Yes there were pictures of all of the amazing stars that had recorded there, and they sold memorabilia, but they also still sold soda and decorated mostly with albums recorded there. It seriously felt like at any moment Johnny Cash or Carl Perkins could just walk out of one of the rooms.

IMG_2550

I have never felt cooler than at this moment.

From there we went to the National Civil Rights Museum, which is really well done, moving and thought provoking. It’s housed in what used to be the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. King was assassinated, and it does a good job of honoring that without focusing too much on him above the contributions of the larger movement.

IMG_2530

Jules made a good point that it might be best to reverse the order we did our day, because it can be a somber way to end the day. (But the lines/wait times at Graceland are kind of insane, so definitely make reservations ahead of time.)

After that we drove around a bit, inadvertently crashed a wedding and made our way back downtown to get some barbecue at Central BBQ, where they had this sign that made me very happy as a fan of this song and puns:

IMG_2549 (Then we were tired so we went home and watched Bring It On, which was an excellent decision.)

The next day we had another delightful meal, and then walked around a bit downtown. Julia’s flight left hours before mine, so I wandered a bit on my own, and attempted to get some homework done. (Because I decided the week before final projects started being due was the best time for a vacation) and stumbled upon this great cafe:

IMG_2577 It’s called Cafe Keough, and it had an Irish Tricolor hanging on the wall and I had a meal made almost entirely of cheese:

IMG_2576 Overall we had a fabulous time, but feel like we really only scratched the surface of what Memphis was really about. I for one can’t wait to go back. (And not just to stay in that carriage house again.)

Poem of the Day: “A Song” by Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea

How fancy does she sound?

Love, thou art best of Human Joys,
    Our chiefest Happiness below;
All other Pleasures are but Toys,
Musick without Thee is but Noise,
       And Beauty but an empty show.
Heav’n , who knew best what Man wou’d move,
    And raise his Thoughts above the Brute;
Said, Let him Be, and Let him Love;
That must alone his Soul improve,
       Howe’er Philosophers dispute.

Apparently she was fancy. (I apologize for the blatant racism in this painting. It makes me think of the beginning of Belle – which is an excellent movie.)

(Disclaimer: I’m basing my poem choices on those I understand to be in the public domain. If I’ve made a mistake – which is very possible – and you own the copyright to a poem I have posted please e-mail me at igetabitobsessive@gmail.com and I will take the post down immediately.)

Poem of the Day: “Mending” by Adolf Wolff

Sorry about the slight delay in posting today, I had a pressing appointment with some ducks in a hotel lobby. (More on that tomorrow, but the Reader’s Digest version – Memphis = awesome.)

A bronze from Mr. Wolff

Night
a shop window
two women
mending
doing invisible mending
the light
close to their eyes
their eyes
close to their work
wearing out their eyes
mending
wearing out their life
mending
doing invisible mending.

   (Disclaimer: I’m basing my poem choices on those I understand to be in the public domain. If I’ve made a mistake – which is very possible – and you own the copyright to a poem I have posted please e-mail me at igetabitobsessive@gmail.com and I will take the post down immediately.)

Poem of the Day: “The Wonder of It” by Harriet Monroe

I learned a lot about Ms. Monroe in How Did Poetry Survive? She founded Poetry Magazine and was instrumental in launching the careers of Pound and Eliot and countless others, but they didn’t respect her as a writer and her work hasn’t been studied in the same way as those who she championed. Which is a shame, because I really love this poem:

How wild, how witch-like weird that life should be!
That the insensate rock dared dream of me,
And take to bursting out and burgeoning—
Oh, long ago—yo ho!—
And wearing green! How stark and strange a thing
That life should be!

Oh mystic mad, a rigadoon of glee,
That dust should rise, and leap alive, and flee
Afoot, awing, and shake the deeps with cries—
Oh, far away—yo hay!
What moony masque, what arrogant disguise
That life should be!

 (Disclaimer: I’m basing my poem choices on those I understand to be in the public domain. If I’ve made a mistake – which is very possible – and you own the copyright to a poem I have posted please e-mail me at igetabitobsessive@gmail.com and I will take the post down immediately.)

Poem of the Day: “Upstairs Downstairs” by Hervey Allen

Good Morning from Memphis, I’ve already traveled through a storm and an overly chatty flight attendant, but I’m here and using the lovely free Wi-Fi at the Memphis airport to share this poem with you while I wait for Jules to arrive! Happy Friday everyone! (It’s far from a Happy Friday poem I’m afraid, but I plan these out awhile in advance…)

 The judge, who lives impeccably upstairs
With dull decorum and its implication,
Has all his servants in to family prayers,
And edifies his soul with exhortation.
Meanwhile his blacks live wastefully downstairs;
Not always chaste, they manage to exist
With less decorum than the judge upstairs,
And find withal a something that he missed.

This painful fact a Swede philosopher,
Who tarried for a fortnight in our city,
Remarked, one evening at the meal, before
We paralyzed him silent with our pity —
Saying the black man living with the white
Had given more than white men could requite.

He looks like I’ve always imagined the face of Big Brother in 1984 would be

(Disclaimer: I’m basing my poem choices on those I understand to be in the public domain. If I’ve made a mistake – which is very possible – and you own the copyright to a poem I have posted please e-mail me at igetabitobsessive@gmail.com and I will take the post down immediately.)

Ten Songs to Travel By

I’m hittin’ the road (or more accurately the air) to meet Jules in Memphis tomorrow! And I put together this little playlist to keep me awake while I wait to board the plane. Happy almost weekend everyone:

Dance in the Boat – The Kenleys

While Jules was in Austin about a month ago, I found a used copy of this CD at Waterloo. I was obsessed with this sister-duo when I was little and am pretty sure no one other than my mom and I remember them, but I will always have a soft spot for this song.

I Want to Win – Karen Kilgariff

This is my (pretty offensive) theme song for my less gracious moments. Also, on Super Bowl Sunday, Miró, Katie, Ralph and I got in an extended Twitter conversation with her, and it was pretty awesome.

Style – Taylor Swift 

I’m Your Man – Leonard Cohen 

Feel like crying your eye’s out? May I suggest watching the Roger Ebert documentary Life Itselfwhich features this song in the really touching segment about how Roger met his (truly amazing) wife Chaz. Like with a lot of Cohen songs I knew a cover of this without knowing it was his song, but his voice actually works so well on this. It’s like a dream.

You Don’t Own Me – Leslie Gore 

RIP Ms. Gore.

Chainsaw – The Band Perry 

Before the Light Is Gone – Ron Sexsmith

Illinois Blues – Hozier (Skip James originally)

You knew you weren’t getting through this list without a Hozier video right?

Jesus, Etc. – Wilco

Graceland – Paul Simon 

Because, well…