Only Poetry

I’ve just been thinking it would be nice to have a thread dedicated to poetry that is moving, delighting, troubling, perplexing, or informing us at any particular moment in time. To start things off, here is one I recently came across via a post on Mastodon, and I just felt it was exquisite.

Wallace Stevens Comes Back to Read His Poems at the 92nd Street Y

By Mark Strand

It was a willfulness, an exertion, which verged
At once on fluency, that I should appear, as I did
Today, out of light-blue air, in a dark-blue suit.

In the time that I have been gone, I never outgrew
The sensation of being, nor for a moment forgot
Which world was mine. I clung to the merest whispers,

The faintest echoes that rose from below. For years,
I lay on a down-filled sofa, alone with my passions.
Bright refrains of endless azure circled

The hours, and filled me with pleasure, but the poems
I wrote were dulled by the sort of calm one feels
In the downward drift of sleep. They never became

The relics of light I wished them to be. In the days
When it could be said I was one of you, I loved
The beyond as somebody only can who is bound

By the earth. All that I wrote was a hymn to desire,
To the semblances and stages of bliss. My poems
Bore only a passing likeness to the life

Of which they were the miraculous part. But when
I was borne among the erasures of heaven I began
To believe that whatever was distant or puzzling could never

Be made too obvious. Of course I was wrong.
I’d allowed myself to be swayed by a vision of plainness
That would have all things turn into one idea.

So much for the past. May the worst of it fall by the wayside
Tonight. May other more intricate powers convene.
May the words that I speak be the ones you hear.

via The New Yorker

My comments

Poetry is so often a conversation with the dead. I love how this poem acts as a conjuration—as it were, a channeling—as if it was always more natural for Stevens to speak to us from the “other side” than from this one.

I especially love the phrase “relics of light” to describe the poems Wallace would wish to write from his empyrean abode. The last line is perfection: “May the words that I speak be the ones you hear.”

Because of course, there are always issues of translation, interpretation, and signal-fidelity when transmitting between worlds, dimensions, or minds. Are the words (we think) we speak ever the ones that others hear?

Wonderful irony that Strand’s poem itself had to come back to us from the dead.


I read the Poem Out Loud, Sound of Voice brings the words Vibrations
into different Receptivity ( Not Better,for the silent reading there is a
Voice of different Heart Station Moving Within!)…

Here is a song that is a Poem & I also went Out Loud with my Own Voice; the Felt Difference was a Metanoia-shift in Depth.


Roadsinger came to town, long cape and hat
People stood and stared then closed their doors as he passed
He strolled the empty street, kids banged on tin cans
Then the panting dogs began to bark as the Roadsinger sang

Where do you go, where do you go, when hearts are closed?
When a friend becomes a stranger, nobody wants to know

Where do you go, where do you go, when the world turns dark?
And the light of truth is blown out and the roads are blocked?

He stopped by a stall, between the barrels and sacks
A child’s face peeped out and gave a smile and ran back
Behind a misty glass, on a windowpane
A little finger drew a perfect heart and a name

Where do you go, where do you go, in a world filled with fright?
Only a song to warm you through the night

Where do you go, where do you go, after lies are told?
And the light of truth is blown out and the night is cold?

Roadsinger rode on to another land
Though the people spoke a different tongue it understand
They showed him how to share and took him by the hand
Showed him the path to Heaven through the desert sand

Where do you go, where do you go, to find happiness
In a world filled with hatred, cheers?
Where do you go, where do you go, if no one cares?
And everybody’s lost looking for theirs?



I love that idea and would love it even more if we could start a reading group where we read poems to each other, reading each one twice and then sit with them and reflect…


@Michael_Stumpf, beautiful lyrics. They sound just like the Blues… and I can relate.

And @andreavdl, you read my mind… I have been thinking that after Savitri, and after we’ve gotten some of the cooperative structures that I’m needing in place, when I have a little more room in my schedule, I would love to do just that.

Here’s another (choose your own adventure) by one of my favorite contemporary poets:

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I love Laili Long Soldier. Are you familiar with Whereas…

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I am! And I have been reading it, off an on. It would be nice to read some of her poems together.

Here’s a stunning piece, exquisitely rendered and performed, which I came across recently and keep wanting to re-listen to.

This was composed nearly 4000 years ago! Surely, the translation makes it accessible to us moderns, but the shape of the dialogue between the man and his soul might as well be timeless…

Talking with the Soul: A Dialogue about Life and Death

In this Ancient Egyptian poem, a man talks with his own soul about whether it is better to live or die. Read by Barbara Ewing. Translated by Richard Bruce Parkinson.

The poem is known from a single copy, c. 1800 BC, whose beginning is lost. It is a dialogue between a man and his own soul, about the nature of death: the man despairs at life and longs for death, while his soul urges him to remember death’s horror. As they quarrel, life and death are interwoven, and the dialogue moves to a lyrical compromise. The poem ends as they agree to face life and death together.

An annotated translation is in The Tale of Sinuhe and Other Ancient Egyptian Poems 1940–1640 BC (Oxford World’s Classics 1998).

via the Oxford University podcast series on Ancient Egyptian Poetry

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