Poem of the Day: ‘An Ordinary Morning’ by Philip Levine

An Ordinary Morning by Philip Levine

A man is singing on the bus
coming in from Toledo.
His voice floats over the heads
that bow and sway with each
turn, jolt, and sudden slowing.
A hoarse, quiet voice, it tells
of love that it true, of love
that endures a whole weekend.
The driver answers in a tenor
frayed from cigarettes, coffee,
and original curses thrown
down from his seat of command.
He answers that he has time
on his hands and it’s heavy.
O heavy hangs the head, he
improvises, and the man
back in the very last row,
bouncing now on the cobbles
as we bump down the boulevard,
affirms that it is hanging,
yes, and that it is heavy.
This is what I waken to.
One by one my near neighbors
open their watering eyes
and close their mouths to accept
this bright, sung conversation
on the theme of their morning.
The sun enters from a cloud
and shatters the wide windshield
into seventeen distinct shades
of yellow and fire, the brakes
gasp and take hold, and we are
the living, newly arrived
in Detroit, city of dreams,
each on his own black throne.

Poem of the Day: ‘The Hay-Carrier’ by Paul Durcan

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The Hay-Carrier by Paul Durcan

Have you ever saved hay in Mayo in the rain?
Have you ever saved hay in Mayo in the sun?
Have you ever carried above your head a haycock on a pitchfork:
Have you ever slept in a haybarn on the road from mayo to Egypt?
I am a hay-carrier.
My father was a hay-carrier.
My mother was a hay-carrier.
My brothers were hay-carriers.
My sisters were hay-carriers.
My wife is a hay-carrrier.
My son is a hay-carrier.
His sons are hay-carriers.
His daughters are hay-carriers.
We were always all hay-carriers.
We will always be hay-carriers.
For the great gate of night stands painted red—
And all of heaven lies waiting to be fed.

London Magazine Poetry Prize 2017

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Last month brought one of the best pieces of news I’ve received all year: my poem ‘Aroi’ winning second place in The London Magazine Poetry Prize 2017.

Writers who have appeared over the centuries within its pages include William Wordsworth, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Paul Muldoon, but what really excites me is that Sylvia Plath had poems published in The London Magazine both during and after her lifetime.

Plath has been one of the greatest influences on my own work, so to appear in the same publication that featured her poetry is a huge honour.

Sarah Westcott is the winner of The London Magazine Poetry Prize 2017, with third place going to Andrew Henry James.

I’ll conclude this post with a poem of Plath’s–probably her most famous one. ‘Ariel’ has never made as strong an impact on me as some of her others (such as ‘The Colossus’, ‘Daddy’, ‘Lady Lazarus’) but nevertheless I find myself returning to it again and again, eternally intrigued.

 

Ariel by Sylvia Plath

Stasis in darkness.
Then the substanceless blue
Pour of tor and distances.

God’s lioness,
How one we grow,
Pivot of heels and knees!—The furrow

Splits and passes, sister to
The brown arc
Of the neck I cannot catch,

Nigger-eye
Berries cast dark
Hooks—

Black sweet blood mouthfuls,
Shadows.
Something else

Hauls me through air—
Thighs, hair;
Flakes from my heels.

White
Godiva, I unpeel—
Dead hands, dead stringencies.

And now I
Foam to wheat, a glitter of seas.
The child’s cry

Melts in the wall.
And I
Am the arrow,

The dew that flies
Suicidal, at one with the drive
Into the red

Eye, the cauldron of morning.

 

 

 

New Poem in Poetry Ireland Review

 

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I’m very happy to have my poem ‘Sacred Heart’ published in the latest issue of Poetry Ireland Review, edited by Eavan Boland.

You can by Poetry Ireland Review Issue 122 here, and in the meantime here’s one of my favourite Eavan Boland poems, ‘Quarantine.’

Quarantine by Eavan Boland

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Poem of the Day: ‘Self Portrait as Cavelady’ by Amy Gerstler

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Self Portrait as Cavelady by Amy Gerstler

Nameless volcanos vomit rock.
Can’t keep cave clean. Swarms
of striped flies invade at dusk, bats
catch too few. Tender feeling for
baby mammoth as we eat him.
Sudden juice-leak from my eyes.
I pet baby mammoth’s roasted
hide, unfold hairy ear-flap still
stuck to skull and whisper into it.
Later, take chips of burnt sticks,
spit, plus mammoth fat, mix
in cup of hand and use paste I
make to sketch young mammoth
on shadow wall. Make black hand-
prints too. Rub mammoth fat
on my old, cracked feet. Rub some
on scars. Gather fresh dry leaves
for sleep. Give baby chunk of tusk
to suck so he’ll shut up. His yowls
rile wolves, who pace and whine
just beyond the all-night fires.

from B O D Y

Poem of the Day: ‘Punishment’ by Seamus Heaney

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Punishment by Seamus Heaney

I can feel the tug
of the halter at the nape
of her neck, the wind
on her naked front.

It blows her nipples
to amber beads,
it shakes the frail rigging
of her ribs.

I can see her drowned
body in the bog,
the weighing stone,
the floating rods and boughs.

Under which at first
she was a barked sapling
that is dug up
oak-bone, brain-firkin:

her shaved head
like a stubble of black corn,
her blindfold a soiled bandage,
her noose a ring

to store
the memories of love.
Little adulteress,
before they punished you

you were flaxen-haired,
undernourished, and your
tar-black face was beautiful.
My poor scapegoat,

I almost love you
but would have cast, I know,
the stones of silence.
I am the artful voyeuur

of your brain’s exposed
and darkened combs,
your muscles’ webbing
and all your numbered bones:

I who have stood dumb
when your betraying sisters,
cauled in tar,
wept by the railings,

who would connive
in civilized outrage
yet understand the exact
and tribal, intimate revenge.

Poem of the Day: ‘The Blue Booby’ by James Tate

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The Blue Booby by James Tate

The blue booby lives
on the bare rocks of Galápagos
and fears nothing.
It is a simple life:
they live on fish,
and there are few predators.
Also, the males do not
make fools of themselves
chasing after the young
ladies. Rather,
they gather the blue
objects of the world
and construct from them

a nest—an occasional
Gaulois package,
a string of beads,
a piece of cloth from
a sailor’s suit. This
replaces the need for
dazzling plumage;
in fact, in the past
fifty million years
the male has grown
considerably duller,
nor can he sing well.
The female, though,

asks little of him—
the blue satisfies her
completely, has
a magical effect
on her. When she returns
from her day of
gossip and shopping,
she sees he has found her
a new shred of blue foil:
for this she rewards him
with her dark body,
the stars turn slowly
in the blue foil beside them
like the eyes of a mild savior.