Sunday, June 28, 2009

Ars Poetica, Modern Sorcery and Song of the Builders---Poems I Love

I share with you three of my photographs and three of my favorite poems by Archibald MacLeish, Charles Simic and Mary Oliver. It's a lazy, hot Sunday here in drought-ridden, scorching Louisiana.

Even the exotic, black and yellow grasshopper came out for a drink of hose water this morning as I watered the drooping, brown flora and fauna, and I captured a photo of him! Wishing you cooling summer showers, peace, blessings, health and happiness. ~Marion~


By Archibald MacLeish

A poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit,

As old medallions to the thumb,

Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges where the moss has grown -

A poem should be wordless
As the flight of birds.

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs,

Leaving, as the moon releases,
twig by twig the night-entangled trees,

Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves,
memory by memory the mind -

A poem should be motionless in time
as the moon climbs.


A poem should be equal to:
not true.

For all the history of grief
an empty doorway and a maple leaf

For love
the leaning grasses and two lights above the sea -

A poem should not mean
but be.

Modern Sorcery

By Charles Simic

You could have been just another maggot
squirming over history's roadkill.
Instead a witch took pity on you, lucky fellow,
made you say abracadabra, and much else
you didn't understand
while you held on to the hem of her skirt.
You know neither the place nor the hour
of your transfiguration.
A kitten lapping a drop of milk
fallen from the Blessed Virgin's breast
in a church at dawn. That's how it felt:
the two of you kneeling there.
Outside, there was a flash of lightning
like a tongue passed over a bloody knife,
but you were safe.
Hexed once and for all in her open arms,
giddy and tickled pink with her sorcery.

From: "Staying Alive, Real Poems for Unreal Times" edited by Neil Astley

Song of the Builders

By Mary Oliver

On a summer morning
I sat down
on a hillside
to think about God -
a worthy pastime.
Near me, I saw
a single cricket;
it was moving the grains of the hillside
this way and that way.
How great was its energy,
how humble its effort.
Let us hope
it will always be like this,
each of us going on
in our inexplicable ways
building the universe.

from: "Why I Wake Early" (2004)


Peaches said...

Very nice, thank you. Good stuff to think about today... Aren't we all building the universe on our own hillside.

Kelly said...

I've read others by Mary Oliver and like her.

Loved that first picture!!

Hot, hot, hot in south Arkansas, too.

Marion said...

Thanks for visiting, Peaches. Come again, soon!

Kelly, I know you love Mary Oliver. Her writing always reminds me of you because it's so nature oriented. I was happy to find this poem of hers in one of my books to go with my grasshopper photo!! I hope we get to cool off soon---a 40% chance of rain tomorrow!! Hooray! Maybe we should all go outside and do a rain dance, ya think it'd help??? :-)

Woman in a Window said...

The irony of the first is especially poignant today.

The second is a treat beyond treat. "You know neither the place nor the hour of your transfiguration." This is absolute. You never see it coming.

The last is interesting, slightly hopeful, and slightly perverse. I'm not sure of the glory I can take in being an ant but I do understand. Provocative one.

Linda S. Socha said...

Love the selection....particularly the first and the second Marion...
I especially like the input that is so you in your posts I believe

Marion said...

Glad they made you think, Erin. I'm so in love with poetry I wish I could have just married it and been done with men. :-) Another poet understands this remark. It's SO FABULOUS to have so many amazing poets around to talk to. I really appreciate you coming by regularly. It means the world to me, really. Hugs!!

Marion said...

Thank you Linda! I so appreciate your comments. I hope you're staying cool up there in Tennessee. My daughter told me they're getting lots of rain in her part of the state. Blessings, and come back soon!

Margaret Pangert said...

We finally got a hot day up here in New Jersey! A lot of watering of potted plants, but no dragonflies or hummingbirds!
I loved all three of these poems, for different reasons and in different ways. I zeroed in on MacLeish's sense of the waxing and waning moon and how the light falls leaf by leaf, and how a poem should always be out of the way as a silent, motionless observer: a poem should not mean but be. That is a lot of food for thought. I once had an English professor who often said, "Don't tell, show." The storyteller shouldn't explain as much as describe.
There is something kind and good about "Modern Sorcery" so that you imagine a child being rescued and given love and safety. That same spirit is what makes Catholicism kind and good: the two overlap here, nothing evil.
Mary Oliver's poem made me think right away of Sisyphus's myth of pushing the same rock up a steep mountainside over and over. It's just the opposite here: she's giving meaning to our humble efforts because in a way we're helping ourselves, each other, and the earth.
Marion, thanks for the info on dragonflies--I feel sad the adults only live a few weeks. I love the beauty in their long bodies and double sets of colored wings.

Rikkij said...

Marion- I love that first poem. It shows what fools we really are to think ourselves supreme. The pics are always great. Thanks! ~rick

Renee said...

Marion of all the poetry on this post. This one is my favourite.

'Even the exotic, black and yellow grasshopper came out for a drink of hose water this morning as I watered the drooping, brown flora and fauna.'

That is stunning and I hope that you will write that down in your journal somewhere and mark it with *Renee's favourite.

Love Renee xoxo

Marion said...

Consider it done, Ms. Renee! I love you!! Blessings and Hugs---