A summary of poems I posted everyday last April in celebration of #PoetryMonth:
Well, I have survived, and I think that’s enough. History, you know, is one thing and our lives are something else. Our century has been terrible—one of the saddest in universal history—but our lives have always been more or less the same. … people live, work, fall in love, die, get sick, have friends, moments of illumination or sadness, and that has nothing to do with history. Or very little to do with it.
Day 2: “The Burning Kite” by Ouyang Jianghe (trans. Austin Woerner)
What a thing it would be, if we all could fly.
But to rise on air does not make you a bird.
I’m sick of the hiss of champagne bubbles.
It’s spring, and everyone’s got something to puke.
Day 3: “This Ecstasy” by Chard Deniord
… All night I hear
so many echoes in the forest I’m tempted
to look back, to save myself in hindsight,
where all I see is the absence of me.
Day 4: “Maybe Madness” by Osip Mandelstam (trans. Christian Wiman)
Maybe madness too has meaning here.
Maybe conscience, knotted like a cyst,
Knowing and being known by sun and air —
Maybe life unties and we exist.
Day 5: from “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” by William Wordsworth
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar
Day 6: “The Guest” by Anna Akhmatova
Oh, I see: his game is that he knows
there’s nothing from me he wants,
I have nothing to refuse.
Day 7: “Food of Love” by Carolyn Kizer
I’m going to murder you with love;
I’m going to suffocate you with embraces;
I’m going to hug you, bone by bone
Till you’re dead all over.
Then I will dine on your delectable marrow.
Day 8: “I Am!” by John Clare
I long for scenes where man hath never trod
A place where woman never smiled or wept
There to abide with my Creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept,
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie
The grass below—above the vaulted sky.
Day 9: “Staking a Claim” by Erika Meitner
I am writing this to tell you something less
than neutral, which is to say I’m sorry.
It was never you. It was always you:
your unutterable name, this growl in my throat.
Day 10: “XXVII” by Emily Dickinson
How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!
Day 11: “The Telephone Number of the Muse” by Donald Justice
Sleepily, the muse to me: “Let us be friends.
Good friends, but only friends. You understand.”
And yawned. And kissed, for the last time, my ear.
Who earlier, weeping at my touch, had whispered:
“I loved you once.”
Day 12: “Variation on the Word Sleep” by Margaret Atwood
I would like to watch you,
sleeping. I would like to sleep
with you, to enter
your sleep as its smooth dark wave
slides over my head
and walk with you
Day 13: from “Two English Poems” by Jorge Luis Borges
What can I hold you with?
I offer you lean streets, desperate sunsets, the
moon of the jagged suburbs. …
I can give you my loneliness, my darkness, the
hunger of my heart;
Day 14: “The Journey” by Mary Oliver
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
Day 15: “And Then It Was Less Bleak Because We Said So” by Wendy Xu
It is hard
to pack for the rest of your life. …
A lot can go wrong
if you sleep or think, but the trees go on waving
their broken little hands.
Day 16: from “Extracts From Addresses to the Academy of Fine Ideas” by Wallace Stevens
There is nothing more and that it is enough
To believe in the weather and in the things and men
Of the weather and in one’s self, as part of that
And nothing more.
Day 17: “Poetry Is a Sickness” by Ed Bok Lee
But Poet, Sucker, Fool
It’s your job
to find meaning in all this because
you are delusional enough to believe
that, yes, poetry is a sickness,
but somehow if you can just scrape together enough beauty and truth …
maybe these scales
really will one day tip
to find each flaw that made us
Day 18: “Bad Year Anthem” by Matthew Nienow
A man can hold a secret between his teeth,
and it will never leave his mouth, for who would listen
to his wavering tune of so sad and how hard and hear
anything original? He is that he is — the errand and the fool
Day 19: “Enough” by Suzanne Buffam
The more words a person knows
To describe her private sufferings
The more distantly she can perceive them.
I repeat the names of all the cities I’ve known
And watch an ant drag its crooked shadow home.
Day 20: “Mayakovsky” by Frank O’Hara
Now I am quietly waiting for
the catastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again,
and interesting, and modern.
Day 21: “Elm” by Sylvia Plath
I have suffered the atrocity of sunsets.
Scorched to the root
My red filaments burn and stand, a hand of wires.
Now I break up in pieces that fly about like clubs.
Day 22: “[Sonnet to Orpheus] XIII” by Rainer Maria Rilke (trans. Stephen Mitchell)
Be ahead of all parting, as though it already were
behind you, like the winter that has just gone by.
For among these winters there is one so endlessly winter
that only by wintering through it all will your heart survive.
Day 23: “Drift” by Brenda Shaughnessy
I’ll go anywhere to leave you but come with me.
All the cities are like you anyway. Windows
darken when I get close enough to see.
Any place we want to stay’s polluted
Day 24: “You Will Hear Thunder” by Anna Akhmatova (trans D.M. Thomas)
You will hear thunder and remember me,
And think: she wanted storms. The rim
Of the sky will be the colour of hard crimson,
And your heart, as it was then, will be on fire.
Day 25: “Past One O’Clock…” by Vladimir Mayakovsky (trans. Max Hayward and George Reavey)
I have no cause to wake or trouble you.
And, as they say, the incident is closed.
Love’s boat has smashed against the daily grind.
Now you and I are quits. Why bother then
Day 26: “Meditation Denying Everything” by Katie Peterson
The trick to renunciation is starting now.
The secret of detachment
is having already given up,
a transcript of speech whose cadences are lost
Day 27: “A Large Number” by Wislawa Szymborska (trans. Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak)
Yet am I fully alive, and is that enough?
It never has been, and even less so now.
I select by rejecting, for there’s no other way,
but what I reject, is more numerous,
more dense, more intrusive than ever.
Day 28: “Happiness” by Paisley Rekdal
I can stand for hours among the sweet
narcissus, silent as a point of bone.
I can wait longer than sadness. I can wait longer
than your grief. … Should I, too, not be loved?
Day 29: “Dividend of the Social Opt Out” by Jennifer Moxley
You indulge in a moment of sadness, make
a frown at the notion you won’t be missed.
This is what it is. You have opted to be
forgotten so that your thoughts might live.
Day 30: “Breath” by Mark Strand
When you see them
tell them that I am still here,
that I stand on one leg while the other one dreams,
that this is the only way