The Poetry Friday roundup is over at The Poem Farm today. Our host, Amy, shares a poem about diving. I myself have been thinking a lot about swimming lately, and researching the Total Immersion method and my own options for pool membership. So I thought I’d look for a swim-related poem myself.

NPR obliged me with the beautiful “Swim Your Own Race” by Mbali Vilakazi. I’m just going to share some lines from the opening. Head over to NPR to read the whole poem.

Beneath the surface tension
of shattered
bones, dreams and splintered muscles
things broken
and those that may never be replaced.

Pulling the weight of it,
you do not tread the water wounded
and in retreat

By the determined strokes of fate
you swim your own race

My husband has a cat that he generously shares with me. Or perhaps it would be better to say the cat has him.

We confuse people because we regularly call him “The Kitty,” but his name is actually Laertes.

I explain this by saying that “The Kitty” is the name that the family use daily, but “Laertes” is his name that’s particular, peculiar, and more dignified. Of course, we’ll never know his deep and inscrutable singular name.

The Naming of Cats

by T. S. Eliot

The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn’t just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
First of all, there’s the name that the family use daily,
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo, or James,
Such as Victor or Jonathan, George or Bill Bailey —
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter —
But all of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that’s particular,
A name that’s peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkstrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum —
Names that never belong to more than one cat.
But above and beyond there’s still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover —
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.

We read this poem in my YA Lit class the other day, and it’s phenomenal.

I can’t believe it.

Whoever made it up is pulling my foot

so it’ll fit that shoe.

I’ll go along with martyrdom:

she swept and wept; she mended, stoked the fire,

slaved while her three stepsisters,

who just happened to oblige their meanness

by being ugly, dressed themselves.

I’ll swallow that there was a Singer godmother,

who magically could sew a pattern up

and hem it in an hour,

that Cinderella got to be a debutante

and lost her head and later lost her shoe.

But there I stop.

To read the rest of the poem, go to the Calyx Publishing page and find the excerpts from A Fierce Brightness.

My two favorite parts are these:
“who just happened to blige their meanness/by being ugly” – I love the notion that the stepsisters have a responsibility to be ugly, because that is what their meanness requires of them.  It makes a good point about the nature of many stories – the good people are beautiful and the bad people are ugly, and the physical body makes easily apparent the character’s spiritual nature.

“…there was a Singer godmother,/who magically could sew a pattern up” – Because Singer is a brand of sewing machine.  One other person in the class recognized this and chose it as her favorite part, and I was so excited she did.  But it’s an excellent pun of sorts as well, of course, if you imagine that the godmother did, in fact, sing.

Poetry is so good when it’s good.

Rain has been setting the mood here the past couple of days, creating a pleasant sort of gloom.  In honor of that, I present you with:

Rain by Edward Thomas
Rain, midnight rain, nothing but the wild rain
On this bleak hut, and solitude, and me
Remembering again that I shall die
And neither hear the rain nor give it thanks
For washing me cleaner than I have been
Since I was born into solitude.

For the rest of the poem, go here.

I’m currently working on a production called I Hate Shakespeare.  It runs through quite a few of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, and then some of the lesser known ones as well, poking fun at them (and at people who claim to hate Shakespeare, actually).

My favorite part of the show is the "Zombie Theatre Presents…" segments, when zombies interrupt famous soliloquies.

The first of these is from Richard III, and I present it to you here, with some zombie stuff added at the end so you can get a feel for it.

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this son of York;
And all the clouds that lowered upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths,
Our bruisèd arms hung up for monuments,
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.


Photo by JayT47.

LATIN (from The Latin Library):

Id metuens, veterisque memor Saturnia belli,
prima quod ad Troiam pro caris gesserat Argis—
necdum etiam causae irarum saevique dolores 25
exciderant animo: manet alta mente repostum
iudicium Paridis spretaeque iniuria formae,
et genus invisum, et rapti Ganymedis honores.
His accensa super, iactatos aequore toto
Troas, reliquias Danaum atque immitis Achilli, 30
arcebat longe Latio, multosque per annos
errabant, acti fatis, maria omnia circum.
Tantae molis erat Romanam condere gentem!

ENGLISH (my translation):
Fearing this and remembering the war, Juno Saturnia,
because she had foremost waged war against Troy for her beloved Argives
(indeed the causes of her anger and cruel passions
had not yet fallen from her spirit; the stored up judgement
of Paris and the injury to her rejected beauty and the hated race
and the stolen honors of Ganymede remain at the top of her mind) —
inflamed by these things also she was keeping the Trojans
tossed on the whole sea, the leavings of the Danaids and of fierce Achilles,
far from Latium, and they kept wandering for many years
driven by the fates around all the seas.
So great a burden it was to establish the Roman race.

While I love all of the Aeneid, there are specific lines that pop out as being just perfect. Tantae molis erat Romanam condere gentem! is one such line. I just love it. If I ever get a proper microphone (and I suspect I will soonish), maybe I’ll start adding an audio component to my poetry Friday posts so you can hear this stuff read aloud in the Latin. It is just so beautiful.

Other Vergil posts:
Aeneid I.1-7
Aeneid I.8-11
Aeneid I.8-11
Aeneid I.12-18
Aeneid I.19-22

If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to my feed so you will get my other translation/poetry posts.

LATIN (from The Latin Library):
Progeniem sed enim Troiano a sanguine duci
audierat, Tyrias olim quae verteret arces; 20
hinc populum late regem belloque superbum
venturum excidio Libyae: sic volvere Parcas.

ENGLISH (my translation):
But she had heard indeed that a race to be led
from Trojan blood would at some time overturn those Tyrian citadels;
this people ruling widely and proud in war
was going to come for the destruction of Libya: thus the Fates unrolled.

Poetry Friday Roundup is at Under the Covers today.

Other Vergil posts:
Aeneid I.1-7
Aeneid I.8-11
Aeneid I.8-11
Aeneid I.12-18

If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to my feed so you will get my other translation/poetry posts.

LATIN (from The Latin Library):
Urbs antiqua fuit, Tyrii tenuere coloni,
Karthago, Italiam contra Tiberinaque longe
ostia, dives opum studiisque asperrima belli;
quam Iuno fertur terris magis omnibus unam
posthabita coluisse Samo; hic illius arma,
hic currus fuit; hoc regnum dea gentibus esse,
si qua fata sinant, iam tum tenditque fovetque.

ENGLISH (my translation):
There was an ancient city (the Tyrian settlers held it)
Carthage, far away facing Italy and the Tiber’s
mouth, rich in resources and very fierce in the pursuits of war;
the only city which Juno is said to have cherished
more than all the other lands, with Samo estemmed less: here were her arms,
here was her chariot; now already the goddess
aimed for and cherished this city
to be the ruling power for the races, if some fate would allow it.

Poetry Friday Roundup is at Becky’s Book Reviews today.

Other Vergil posts:
Aeneid I.1-7
Aeneid I.8-11

If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to my feed so you will get my other translation/poetry posts.

I love a good love poem. I wish I could express what my criteria for that is.

So, here, abbreviated, "The Bait" by John Donne.

Come live with me, and be my love,
And we will some new pleasures prove
Of golden sands, and crystal brooks,
With silken lines, and silver hooks.

For thee, thou need’st no such deceit,
For thou thyself art thine own bait:
That fish, that is not catch’d thereby,
Alas, is wiser far than I.

Go here for the full poem.

The first stanza reminds me of Catullus’s Poem 5:
Vivamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemus
Rumoresque senum severiorum
Omnes unius aestimemus assis

Let us live, my Lesbia, and let us love,
And let us value the gossip of all
The too-severe old men at only a single coin.  

(That’s my loose translation.  Adapted for modern readers, because they aren’t familiar with ancient currency, generally.)

by Betty Comden and Adolph Green

I have a place where dreams are born,
And time is never planned.
It’s not on any chart,
You must find it with your heart.
Never Never Land.

It might be miles beyond the moon,
Or right there where you stand.
Just keep an open mind,
And then suddenly you’ll find
Never Never Land.

Before we get to the poetry, first:
1. I have a review in the new issue of The Edge of the Forest.
2. This quiz result makes me very happy:
Your results:
You are Spider-Man

Wonder Woman
Green Lantern
Iron Man
The Flash
You are intelligent, witty, a bit geeky and have great power and responsibility.

Click here to take the “Which Superhero am I?” quiz…
And now, poetry.  This week I am in Baltimore, which was the home of Edgar Allan Poe for many years.  I love Edgar Allan Poe.  Unfortunately, I will be visiting neither his grave nor his house here, because of other plans and my brother’s distaste for visiting graves.

I’m here with my sister, whose name is Mary Elisabeth.  This poem by Poe, dedicated to his cousin Elizabeth and presumed to  be written in the Baltimore Poe House, reminds me of her:

To Elizabeth

Would’st thou be loved? then let thy heart
From its present pathway part not —
Be every thing which now thou art
And nothing which thou art not:

So with the world thy gentle ways,
And unassuming beauty
Shall be a constant theme of praise,
And love — a duty.

E A P.

The associations our brain makes are funny things.  I went looking for a poem about sisters, because I love mine.  Instead I found The Mermaid in the Hospital which did make me think of my sister, because it’s 2 years tomorrow since I went to the hospital to have my gall bladder removed and she was with me for a long time there, and while there I found some shell-shaped hair clips and some glittery lip stuff in my purse, and I put them all on and insisted that I was a mermaid.  So you see, I myself was The Mermaid in the Hospital.

The Mermaid in the Hospital

by Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill 

She awoke
to find her fishtail
clean gone
but in the bed with her
were two long, cold thingammies.
You’d have thought they were tangles of kelp

Tomorrow is March 15, which on the Roman calendar was known as the Ides of
March. Now, the Ides are only on the 15th in March, May, July and
October. The rest of the year, they are on the 13th. But in March, they
are the 15, and it was on March 15, 44 B. C. (709 AUC, for those of you
using the Roman calendar) that Gaius Julius Caesar was stabbed 23 times at
the foot of the statue of Pompey, his rival in the Civil War.

William Shakespeare was a Latin teacher before he was an actor or
playwright, and as such he was no doubt well-educated in Roman history. So
he had a lot of knowledge to draw on when he wrote his play, *Julius Caesar*.
Today, in honor/mourning of the death of a man who was at least very smart,
if not very nice, I give you selections from Shakespeare’s play.

Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of
death but once. Of all the wonders that I yet have heard, It seems to me
most strange that men should fear; * * Seeing that death, a necessary end,

Will come when it will come.

– Act II, Scene 2.

I could be well mov’d if I were as you; If I could pray to move, prayers
would move me; But I am constant as the northern star, * * Of whose
true-fix’d and resting quality There is no fellow in the firmament. The
skies are painted with unnumber’d sparks, They are all fire and every one
doth shine, * * But there’s but one in all doth hold his place: So, in the
world; ’tis furnish’d well with men, And men are flesh and blood, and
apprehensive; Yet in the number I do know but one * * That unassailable
holds on his rank, Unshak’d of motion: and that I am he, Let me a little
show it, even in this, That I was constant Cimber should be banish’d, * *

And constant do remain to keep him so.

– Act III, Scene 1

I would be a mermaid fair;
I would sing to myself the whole of the day;
With a comb of pearl I would comb my hair;
And still as I comb’d I would sing and say,
Who is it loves me? who loves not me?

-Alfred Lord Tennyson

To read the whole poem, go here.

The round up is at Writing and Ruminating

I found this through a quick googling:

There weren’t any chimneys, but that caused no gloom,
for Santa came in through the Florida room.
He stopped at each house….stayed only a minute,
emptying his sack of stuff that was in it.

Before he departed, he treated himself
to a glass of papaya juice upon the shelf.
He turned with a jerk and bounced to the car,
remembering he still had to go very far.

You can read the whole poem here

Most people think Christmas requires cold and snow, but for me a temperature of no lower than 60 degrees seems just about right.

One year, the thing I wanted the very most for Christmas was a navel orange.  Santa brought me one, and it was the most beautiful orange ever.  I refused to eat it, it was so beautiful.

It molded.  That was less pretty.

Still, I fondly recall my Christmas orange.

It’s a Theatrey weekend for me. Tonight I’m going to see The Little Prince, and then tomorrow it’s Damn Yankees. I thought in honor of the festivities I’d post some theatre-related poetry. I googled “theatre poetry,” and it gave me Poetry Theatre:

Our mission is to continue the oral tradition utilizing modern technology. Poetry Theatre presents actors performing their favorite poems, a glossary of terms and a biography of the poet. Its website gives poetry to everyone to inspire, to enjoy and to learn. 

I don’t have time to explore the site now, but it’s exciting, isn’t it?  And Tandy Cronyn is the artistic director.  I had the privilege of seeing her star in Wit.  She was phenomenal.  (And brought Hume Cronyn around the theatre; the boyf got to meet him but had no sense of the magnitude of the event.)

From their selections, I chose one by one of my favorite poets, John Donne.  (I’m actually in the process of writing a John Donne cento as a gift for aforementioned boyfriend.)

GO and catch a falling star
by John Donne

GO and catch a falling star,
   Get with child a mandrake root,
Tell me where all past years are,
   Or who cleft the devil’s foot,
Teach me to hear mermaids singing,
   Or to keep off envy’s stinging,
            And find
            What wind
Serves to advance an honest mind.

If thou be’st born to strange sights,
   Things invisible to see,
Ride ten thousand days and nights,
   Till age snow white hairs on thee,
Thou, when thou return’st, wilt tell me,
All strange wonders that befell thee,
            And swear,
            No where
Lives a woman true and fair.

If thou find’st one, let me know,
   Such a pilgrimage were sweet;
Yet do not, I would not go,
   Though at next door we might meet,
Though she were true, when you met her,
And last, till you write your letter,
            Yet she
            Will be
False, ere I come, to two, or three.

I’ve seen a lot of folks posting Thanksgiving poems today, which makes sense as it is the last Friday before Thanksgiving.  So I am going to post my own, here.

Now, this is not a proper haiku: it contains no reference to the seasons and it is distinctly lacking in nature-metaphor.  But it fits the syllable scheme, so we’ll call it a Haiku anyway.

Thanksgiving Haiku
by Kimberly aka lectitans reading

My little sister,
Oh do not fear the turkey:
I will eat him.  Yum.

(My sister has an intense fear of turkeys.  At the NC Museum of Life and Science they used to let their turkey wander free all over the farm, and when she was about 3 or so, it chased her all over the farmyard.  It was bigger than she was.  Apparently, being the mean and evil sister I am, I was too busy paying attention to my 4-H lambs, Scooter and Skeeter, to help her out.  So now I am spending the rest of my life making up for this betrayal of her.  Making up for it BY EATING TURKEY.  Is there a better way to pay back a debt?  I think not.  Also, now they keep the turkey penned up, so I guess it scared some other kids, too.  Probably a different turkey these 18 years later, now that I think about it.)

In case you didn’t hear, Madeleine L’Engle has died.  I felt a quick pang of pain at this, and have found some poetry of hers to share with you.

Here’s my favorite bit from there:

 You are still new, my love. I do not know you.
Stranger beside me in the dark of bed,
Dreaming the dreams I cannot ever enter,
Eyes closed in that unknown, familiar head.

and all the rest of part iv of “To a Long-Loved Love.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about feminism of late, and so today I chose a poem that relates to the subject.

From On the Equality of the Sexes Part I by Judith Sargent Murray

Yet cannot I their sentiments imbibe
Who this distinction to the sex ascribe,
As if a woman’s form must needs enroll
A weak, a servile, an inferior soul;
And that the guise of man must still proclaim
Greatness of mind, and him, to be the same.
Yet as the hours revolve fair proofs arise
Which the bright wreath of growing fame supplies,
And in past times some men have sunk so low,
That female records nothing less can show.
But imbecility is still confined,
And by the lordly sex to us consigned.
They rob us of the power t’improve,
And then declare we only trifles love.
Yet haste the era when the world shall know
That such distinctions only dwell below.
The soul unfettered to no sex confined,
Was for the abodes of cloudless day designed.

Read more here.

I’m currently stage managing a production of the musical Rags, which is about Jewish immigrants coming to America in the early 1900s.  At the beginning of the play, as they approach Ellis Island, the immigrants see “a giant lady wearing a funny hat and holding something that look[s] like a broom.”  In honor of the production’s closing weekend I give you one of the most famous poems in America, though people don’t realize it:

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Emma Lazarus, 1883

You can actually see the poem written in Emma Lazarus’s own handwriting at the Library of Congress website here.