Sunday 2 December 2012

Sunday Mornings: Coffee and Poetry

Dear all, last Sunday I asked you to take part in a game I used to play with some of my friends at uni and lo, and behold, the response was massive. I thought of splitting this post into two, but my greedy inner self decided to gorge on all your contributions in one go. Your poems appear in the order they were submitted. The images below were copied and pasted from your online profiles. And I also included the reasons why you sent me your poems. Some of them cracked me up.

First off is Brian Miller.


Brian Miller blogs at Waystation and he writes some of the most wonderful poetry I’ve read recently. One of many pleasant “discoveries” I’ve made lately. I love the fact he submitted a poem by Nikki Giovanni, an author about whose work I’ve blogged on this forum.

ha fun goes...

balances by nikki giovanni

in life
one is always

like we juggle our mothers
against our fathers

or one teacher
against another
(only to balance our grade average)

3 grains of salt
to one ounce truth

our sweet black essence
or the funky honkies down the street

and lately i've begun wondering
if you're trying to tell me something

we used to talk all night
and do things alone together

and i've begun

(as a reaction to a feeling)
to balance
the pleasure of loneliness
against the pain
of loving you
Drinking Tea in Kargill, India

Second up is poetess (am I still allowed to say “poetess”. I think so) I'll just let her introduce herself.
Karin Gustafson is a writer, lawyer, mother. Well, mainly a mother, lawyer, writer. I blog more or less daily as Manicddaily and drink a lot of good strong tea. My published books, published by my own imprint BackStroke Books, include Nose Dive, an extremely light-hearted mystery about teenagers, musicals, love, noses, New York (illustrated by Jonathan Segal); Going on Somewhere, a collection of poetry (illustrated by Diana Barco), and 1 Mississippi, a very cute counting book, heavy on elephants and gouache.

I also think a great idea. Truly, the first book that came to hand (stained on a coffee table) was my poetry book, "Going on Somewhere" by Karin Gustafson


All I can say is that
it's a good thing we have museums
hanging Courbets,
the occasional Italian,
with their depictions of swelling bellies,
dimples gathered around spines, flesh rippling
like Aphrodite's birth foam,
the creep of pubic hair juxtaposed by coy hands
whose curved digits
pudge, slightly sunken cheeks (above, below),
spidery blood vessels
rooting beneath the patina.
All I can say, as I catch
my face in the glass,
glance down at my folio
of torso, is that
it's a good thing.

My Photo
The third submission came from Catherine, a literature teacher whose blog I’ve followed for a few years now and who’s a brilliant photographer, too.

well this one sure was a surprise and certainly has the element of randomness and serendipity you are seeking - picked out in a dark room on a shadowy Sunday afternoon (fortunately it was a poetry book) in the study of the apartment in Nice, France that I am currently renting. The owner has left her whole collection of books for me to peruse (as yet they have remained unperused as my kindle has become my own personal mobile library when travelling) so this is from Book 5 of William Wordsworth's Prelude Line 426 - 441 where the book fell open.... It struck a real chord as moving to France from Mexico City has stirred up my first real experience of homesickness - maybe I am on my way home and just need to hop across the Channel to the Lake District?? 

Well do I call to mind the very week

When I was first entrusted to the care

of that sweet Valley; when its paths, its shores,

And brooks were like a dream of novelty

To my half-infant thoughts; that very week

While I was roving up and down alone,

Seeking I knew not what, I chanced to cross

One of those open fields, which, shaped like ears,

Make green peninsulas on Esthwaite's Lake:

Twilight was coming on, yet through the gloom

Appeared distinctly on the opposite shore

A heap of garments, as if left by one

Who might have been bathing. Long I watched,

But no one owned them; meanwhile the calm lake

Grew dark with all the shadows on its breast,

And, now and then, a fish up-leaping snapped

The breathless stillness.

I haven't read Wordsworth for years and had forgotten the sheer beauty of his language - indeed the poem is about serendipity itself "I chanced to cross..." best wishes with the rest of this "project"

kind regards and greetings from Nice -  
My Photo

I’ve also followed the next blogger, Dominic Rivron, for a few good years and find his posts always interesting. I’m very pleased he took part in our game.
Great game. I tried it and came up with:

Upon Julia's Clothes
When as in silks my Julia goes,
Then, then, methinks, how sweetly flows
That liquefaction of her clothes!

Next, when I cast mine eyes and see
That brave vibration each way free ;
- O how that glittering taketh me !
Robert Herrick

As for a link to what I do, people can read my poetry here:

There. I think I've followed the instructions right...
All the best,

Dominic (Rivron - "...made out of words")

My Photo

Lovely Lisa is from Malaysia, a country I’ve visited twice. I always enjoy her posts.

Hola Cuban, my fingers slide and tap and rest upon the Book of Poetry of Ed Pilolla and the page that opens up brings us:
"Breaking Ground", Ed Pilolla

 I saw a speck of yellow, way off into the rock and crust. When searching, track something worthwhile. Wait for the right season. Burrow deep into the earth and have a patient look around.
And what I saw was yellow. I sent out feelers. We did taste tests in every direction. We wanted to know where you came from because I’ve been around, and I don’t do rubbernecks often enough.

An ancient runoff flavored you. I browsed your red caverns, felt my way forward, chewed on a nook, and set up shop for a while.
I took a mere cell from your body, a ball of dirt from your rock pile, a spice flake from your kitchen. The substance was darker at your center. I packed the embers in a snowfall and filled my pockets. I smithed and lathed and bathed in you.

You are sunrise underground. You are color growing out of shadow. You are a pond surfacing, an oasis becoming. I see it.
Lisa, the world as i see it

My Photo
I still page through Rachel’s poetry collection, More About the Song. I’m chuffed to bits that she took part in our challenge, even if she did cheat slightly! J Never mind, Rachel, I loved the poem.
OK... I am playing but I'm never very good at playing by rules!

I did take a book (the faber 1996 anthology "Emergency Kit" ed. by Jo Shapcott and Matthew Sweeney) and opened to a random page.

The poem it hit was "The Man who Invented Pain" by Craig Raine... a war poem. Didn't do a whole lot for me so I tried to cheat and looked at the poem that finished on that page instead of the Raine one...

It was "The Woman on the Dump" by Elizabeth Spires. I looked up some stuff about her

but nothing was winning me round. I noticed online that there was a poem with a very similar title ("A Woman on the Dump" by Debora Greger)

but no, that wasn't doing anything either. I am very fussy about poetry... like most people who write it i think.

Both of these poems refer to Wallace Stevens "The Man on the Dump"

but no, I didn't want that one either!!!

So I flicked through the original book again until I came to "The Video Box: 25" by Scottish poet Edwin Morgan (1920-2010). It's here

and that one you can have! Excellent piece and reminds me that I want to read the biography of Morgan ("Beyond the Last Dragon" by James McGonigal).

If you ask me what my favourite programme is
It has to be that strange world jigsaw final.
After the winner had defeated all his rivals
With harder and harder jigsaws, he had to prove his mettle
By completing one last absolute mind crusher
On his own, under the cameras, in less than a week.
We saw, but he did not, what the picture would be:
The mid-Atlantic, photographed from a plane.
As featureless a stretch as could be found
No weeds, no flotsam, no birds, no oil, no ships,
The surface neither stormy nor calm, but ordinary,
A light wind on a slowly rolling swell.
Hand-cut by a fiendish jigger to stimulate,
But not to have identical beaks and bays,
It seemed impossible, but the candidate –
He said he was a stateless person, called himself Smith –
Was impressive: small, dark, nimble, self-contained.
The thousands of little grey tortoises were scattered
On the floor of the studio; we saw the clock; he started.
His food was brought to him, but he hardly ate.
He had a bed, with the light only dimmed to a weird blue,
Never out. By the first day he had established
The edges, saw the picture was three metres long
And appeared to represent (dear God!) the sea.
Well, it was a man’s life, and the silence
(broken only by sighs, click of wood, plop of coffee
In paper cups) that kept me fascinated.
Even when one hand was picking the edge-pieces
I noticed his other hand was massing sets
Of distinguishing ripples or darker cross-hatchings or
Incipient wave-crests; his mind,
If not his face, worked like a sea.
It was when he suddenly rose from his bed
At two, on the third night, went straight over
To one piece and slotted it into a growing central patch,
Then back to bed, that I knew he would make it.
On the sixth day he looked haggard and slow,
With perhaps a hundred pieces left,
Of the most dreary and unmarked lifeless grey.
The camera showed the clock more frequently.
He roused himself and in a quickening burst
Of activity, with many false starts, began
To press that inhuman insolent remnant together.
He did it, on the evening of the sixth day.
People streamed onto the set. Bands played.
That was fine. But what I liked best
Was the last shot of the completed sea,
Filling the screen, then the saw-lines disappeared.
Till almost imperceptibly the surface moved
And it was again the real Atlantic, glad
To distraction to be released, raised
Above itself in growing gusts, allowed
To roar as rain drove down and darkened,
Allowed to blot, for a moment, the orderer’s hand.

All my stuff is via as ever.



My Photo
The Latin contribution comes all the way from Chile and sprinkled with cinnamon. Gracias, Gloria.
This is one of my favorites poems of Pablo Neruda

If you forget me

want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.

Pablo Neruda
OK dear here goes anything you need tell me.

My name is Gloria baker from Chile (you know)
My Photo
Sarah Laurence doesn’t just write brilliant blog posts, but also takes breathtaking photographs and is a superb artist. Visit her blog to be mesmerised by her creativity.
The Frost poem I found randomly fits the season, and it isn't one I'd readily recall. It is snowing right now. The links to my website and blog are below my signature. Robert Frost lived and wrote in New England. Looking forward to a weekend of poetry!


How countlessly they congregate
O'er our tumultuous snow,
Which flows in shapes as tall as trees
When wintry winds do blow!--

As if with keenness for our fate,
Our faltering few steps on
To white rest, and a place of rest
Invisible at dawn,--

And yet with neither love nor hate,
Those stars like some snow-white
Minerva's snow-white marble eyes
Without the gift of sight.

Robert Frost 1913


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I came across Ygraine’s blog recently and became a regular visitor immediately. Go to her page and you’ll see why.


These poems do not live: it's a sad diagnosis.
They grow their toes and fingers well enough,
Their little foreheads bulged with concentration.
If they missed out on walking about like people
It wasn't for any lack of mother-love.

O I cannot understand what happened to them!
They are proper in shape and number in every part.
They sit so nicely in the pickling fluid!
They smile and smile and smile and smile at me.
And still the lungs won't fill and the heart won't start.

They are not pigs, they are not even fish,
Though they have a piggy and fishy air-
It would be better if they were alive, and that's what they were.
But they are dead, and their mother near dead with distraction,
And they stupidly stare, and do not speak of her.

By Sylvia Plath (June, 1960)

Ygraine Barrow
Poems & Perceptions
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Sara is the Cracker Jack Poet who’s married to a Cuban. But I swear to you all that that was not the reason why she’s featured here today! J I just love the warmth and camaraderie her blog conveys.

I love this idea--and funny thing, this is one of my favorite poems, probably why the book opened to this page :-) The collection of poems is called "Reflections on the Gift of a Watermelon Pickle"

This is Just to Say

by William Carlos Williams 

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox
and which
you were probably
for breakfast
Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold
Thank you for sharing this delicious poem (que rico!) (the Cracker Jack Poet)
All the best,


No music today. Who needs music when we have the melodic incantations of this wild array of poems still playing in our ears? Many thanks to all the participants. I had a lot of fun reading your entries and learning about poets I knew nothing about.

© 2012

Next Post: “Living In a Bilingual World”, to be published on Wednesday 5th December at 11:59pm (GMT)


  1. I enjoyed reading the poems chosen by my own most favorite poets!

    Hola Cuban, thank you for putting this together, for I too learned about poets I knew nothing about. Happy Sunday morning to you.

  2. This has been a truly amazing experience. I so enjoyed reading everyone's poetry choices here - some by poets I have never read before.
    Many many thanks for organizing this. It has been very interesting.
    Happy Weekend :)

  3. what amazing and lovely post and what nice idea thanks to you for make this!

  4. Thanks Brian, Karin, Catherine, Dominic, Lisa, Rachel, Gloria, Ygraine and Sara (WCW's plum was a favorite from my childhood) for sharing poetry both familiar and fresh.

    Thanks, ACIL, for hosting! It was so nice to start my Sunday with poetry and a cup of tea.

  5. Many thanks to you all for participating. It was a very rich learning experience for me, too.

    Greetings from London.

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  7. smiles...nice collection...enjoyed reading through the different contributions..also cool to find one of ed's poems among the entries...nice

  8. What a wonderful meme (how did I miss it) and a wonderful collection of poets and poems. Some I knew, and others I will have to hunt for more of. Many thanks - to you and to all your contributors.

  9. smiles....thanks for the morning or i guess evening read for me now...was fun to see what each chose for theirs...and some great verse in there as well....much enjoyed the trip around hte poetry world...and great to see many a friend had contributed as well...

  10. So much fun and so much beautiful poetry!! I loved this :-)
    Thank you for the wonderful compliment--that is my goal to return the warmth and friendship that I receive from all these talented people.
    Hope we do this again sometime. Felicidades!

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  12. I loved this, too -- what a treasure box here of poetry, many of which I'd never heard before! Thank you, Cuban, for hosting.

  13. What a brilliant idea! Load of new things for me here, and some old favourites. Thanks.

  14. Oh, what a delicious range of poetry!

  15. Wow. Floored. Absolutely! That's a lot to take in at one sitting, but I did!

    How wonderful that so many responded! I feel a wee bit guilty for enjoying these without having really contributed.

    Well, if you play again, I'll not let it pass twice!

  16. Gorged indeed! I don't have the time at the moment to have done justice to them all, but I shall be back to do just that! You have got yourself a treasure chest here and it needs careful working through. I have just skimmed, but even skimming i can see the magnificence.

  17. Lovely. Thanks for posting these, ACIL.

  18. Many thanks for your kind comments.

    Greetings from London.

  19. Darn, I had intended to participate..but didn't. Sigh. Next time. I love Cuban food, by the way. Especially as it is served in Miami.

  20. You are a constant in an unconstant world, CiL. I think I need to begin visiting your page more often once again, if for no other reason than to keep my feet firmly planted on the planet.

  21. Hey Cubano--this was such a sweet post of yours. Thank you so much. I am very bad at snail mail, though I could probably send on amazon, but I would love to send you a copy of one or more of other books I have out. If you'd like that--and please feel no obligation as it may take me forever to do, send me your address via my Thanks so much. k.

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