Each day, The Writer's Almanac features Garrison Keillor recounting the highlights of this day in history and reading a short poem or two. The Writer's Almanac is produced by Prairie Home Productions and presented by American Public Media.
Producer Curtis Fox explores the diverse world of contemporary American poetry with readings by poets, interviews with critics, and short poetry documentaries. Nothing is off limits, and nobody is taken too seriously.
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The Poetry Channel is where you'll find the finest contemporary poets, poems and poetry. Regular broadcast-quality programmes will bring you the very best of the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival's rich audio archive plus newly recorded, specially commissioned interviews with national and international poets.
Hunting them, a man must sweat, bear the whine of a mosquito in his ear, grow thirsty, tired, despair perhaps of ever finding them, walk a long way. He must give himself over to chance, for they live beyond prediction. He must give himself over to patience, for they live beyond will. He must be led along the hill as by a prayer. If he finds them anywhere, he will find a few, paired on their stalks, at ease in the air as souls in bliss. I found them here at first without hunting, by grace, as all beauties are first found. I have hunted and not found them here. Found, unfound, they breathe their light into the mind, year after year.
Happy the man whose wish and care A few paternal acres bound, Content to breathe his native air, In his own ground. Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread, Whose flocks supply him with attire, Whose trees in summer yield him shade, In winter fire. Blest, who can unconcernedly find Hours, days, and years slide soft away, In health of body, peace of mind, Quiet by day. Sound sleep by night; study and ease, Together mixed; sweet recreation; And innocence, which most does please With meditation. Thus let me live, unseen, unknown; Thus unlamented let me die; Steal from the world, and not a stone Tell where I lie.
It was a kind of torture—waiting to be kissed. A dark car parked away from the street lamp, away from our house where my tall father would wait, his face visible at a pane high in the front door. Was my mother always asleep? A boy reached for me, I leaned eagerly into him, soon the windshield was steaming. Midnight. A neighbor’s bedroom light goes on, then off. The street is quiet… Until I married, I didn’t have my own key, that wasn’t how it worked, not at our house. You had to wake someone with the bell, or he was there, waiting. Someone let you in. Those pleasures on the front seat of a boy’s father’s car were “guilty,” yet my body knew they were the only right thing to do, my body hated the cage it had become. One of those boys died in a car crash; one is a mechanic; one’s a musician. They were young and soft, and, mostly, dumb. I loved their lips, their eyebrows, the bones of their cheeks, cheeks that scraped mine raw, so I’d turn away from the parent who let me angrily in. An ...
Thirty years and more go by In the blinking of an eye, And you are still the same As when first you took my name. Much the same blush now as then Glimmers through the peach-pale skin. Time (but as with a glove) Lightly touches you, my love. Stand with me a minute still While night climbs our little hill. Below, the lights of cars Move, and overhead the stars. The estranging years that come, Come and go, and we are home. Time joins us as a friend, And the evening has no end.
When my father met my mother at a dinner party in a garden of very old roses on Beacon Hill one hot evening in early June, he said to his friend, F. Morton Smith, that night, “Morton, I have met the girl I’m going to marry!” (We have Uncle Morton’s testimony for that, the certified word of a Boston lawyer.) My mother said my father had looked handsome, yes, and talked delightfully, but what she remembered were the mosquitoes. “If you stopped slapping at them, even for a second, you were eaten up alive.” My father courted her for the next ten years, whenever they found themselves in the same place. It was the twenties then, heyday of ocean liners, and she might be in Paris, or maybe off getting run away with by a hairy, two-humped camel in the Gobi Desert, while he was crossing the Pyrenees on foot; but, at last, on another steamy hot day in Massachusetts, as she, still wet from the bath, lay naked upstairs on her sister’s bed, she heard the wedding march start up on the grand piano ...
This week’s poem is by Mohan Rana from India. The poem is read first in English translation by Bernard O'Donoghue and then in Hindi by Mohan Rana. If you enjoy this poem and would like to find out more about Mohan Rana and all the other poets we’ve translated, please visit our website www.poetrytranslation.org. Please follow us on Twitter and Facebook or leave us a review on iTunes https://twitter.com/PoetryTranslate https://www.facebook.com/poetrytranslation https://itunes.apple.com/sg/podcast/poem-podcast-from-poetry-translation/id392269965?mt=2
From you have I been absent in the spring, When proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim, Hath put a spirit of youth in everything, That heavy Saturn laughed and leapt with him. Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell Of different flow’rs in odor and in hue, Could make me any summer’s story tell, Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew. Nor did I wonder at the lily’s white, Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose; They were but sweet, but figures of delight, Drawn after you, you pattern of all those. Yet seemed it winter still, and, you away, As with your shadow I with these did play.
My father lives by the ocean and drinks his morning coffee in the full sun on his deck, talking to anyone who walks by on the beach. And in the afternoons he works part-time at the golf course— sailing the fairways like sea captain in a white golf cart. My father must talk to a hundred people a day, yet we haven’t spoken in weeks. As I get older, we hardly speak at all. It’s as if he were a stranger and we had never met. I wonder, if I were a tourist on the beach or a golfer lost in woods and met him now for the very first time, what we’d say to each other, how his hand would feel in mine as we introduced ourselves, and if, as is the case with certain people, I’d feel, when I looked him in the eye, I’d known him all my life.
All through the day I hear or overhear their clear, light voices calling from desk to desk, young women whose fingers play casually over their documents, setting the incoming checks to one side, the thick computer reports to the other, tapping the correspondence into stacks while they sing to each other, not intending to sing nor knowing how beautiful their voices are as they call back and forth, singing their troubled marriage ballads, their day-care, car-park, landlord songs. Even their anger with one another is lovely: the color rising in their throats, their white fists clenched in their laps, the quiet between them that follows. And their sadness—how deep and full of love is their sadness when one among them is hurt, and they hear her calling and gather about her to cry.
There are landscapes one can own, bright rooms which look out to the sea, tall houses where beyond the window day after day the same dark river turns slowly through the hills, and there are homesteads perched on mountaintops whose cool white caps outlast the spring. And there are other places which, although we did not stay for long, stick in the mind and call us back— a valley visited one spring where walking through an apple orchard we breathed its blossom with the air. Return seems like a sacrament. Then there are landscapes one has lost— the brown hills circling a wide bay I watched each afternoon one summer talking to friends who now are dead. I like to think I could go back again and stand out on the balcony, dizzy with a sense of déjà vu. But coming up these steps to you at just that moment when the moon, magnificently full and bright behind the lattice-work of clouds, seems almost set upon the rooftops it illuminates, how shall I ever summon it again?
Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediments. Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds, Or bends with the remover to remove. O no, it is an ever-fixed mark That looks on tempests and is never shaken; It is the star to every wand’ring bark, Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken. Love’s not time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks Within his bending sickle’s compass come. Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, But bears it out ev’n to the edge of doom. If this be error and upon me proved, I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
Your mother complains about my snoring, Father said, but she forgets to mention the times I was awakened in the middle of the night by the sound celery makes when you bite into it. At first I thought it was a tree falling on the house. I almost jumped out of bed, but when I saw her munching on celery I knew I was safe. Crackers are just as loud. They sound like a chainsaw cutting wood. My snoring is a form of self-defense— it drowns out the other noises.
This week’s poem is by Reza Mohammadi from Afghanistan. The poem is read first in English translation by Sarah Maguire and then in Dari by Reza. If you enjoy this recording and would like to find out more about Reza Mohammadi and all the other poets we’ve translated, please visit our websitewww.poetrytranslation.org. Please follow us on Twitter and Facebook or leave us a review on iTunes https://twitter.com/PoetryTranslate https://www.facebook.com/poetrytranslation https://itunes.apple.com/sg/podcast/poem-podcast-from-poetry-translation/id392269965?mt=2
Because of the menace your father opened like a black umbrella and held high over your childhood blocking the light, your life now seems to you exceptional in its simplicities. You speak of this, throwing the window open on a plain spring day, dazzling after such a winter.
Too bad you weren’t here six months ago, was a lament I heard on my visit to Nebraska. You could have seen the astonishing spectacle of the sandhill cranes, thousands of them feeding and even dancing on the shores of the Platte River. There was no point in pointing out the impossibility of my being there then because I happened to be somewhere else, so I nodded and put on a look of mild disappointment if only to be part of the commiseration. It was the same look I remember wearing about six months ago in Georgia when I was told that I had just missed the spectacular annual outburst of azaleas, brilliant against the green backdrop of spring and the same in Vermont six months before that when I arrived shortly after the magnificent foliage had gloriously peaked, Mother Nature, as she is called, having touched the hills with her many-colored brush, a phenomenon that occurs, like the others, around the same time every year when I am apparently off in another state, stuck in a motel lob ...
I will make you brooches and toys for your delight Of bird-song at morning and star-shine at night. I will make a palace fit for you and me Of green days in forests and blue days at sea. I will make my kitchen, and you shall keep your room, Where white flows the river and bright blows the broom, And you shall wash your linen and keep your body white In rainfall at morning and dewfall at night. And this shall be for music when no one else is near, The fine song for singing, the rare song to hear! That only I remember, that only you admire, Of the broad road that stretches and the roadside fire.
In Baton Rouge, there was a DJ on the soul station who was always urging his listeners to “take it on home to Jerome.” No one knew who Jerome was. And nobody cared. So it didn’t matter. I was, what, ten, twelve? I didn’t have anything to take home to anyone. Parents and teachers told us that all we needed to do in this world were three things: be happy, do good, and find work that fulfills you. But I also wanted to learn that trick where you grab your left ankle in your right hand and then jump through with your other leg. Everything else was to come, everything about love: the sadness of it, knowing it can’t last, that all lives must end, all hearts are broken. Sometimes when I’m writing a poem, I feel as though I’m operating that crusher that turns a full-size car into a metal cube the size of a suitcase. At other times, I’m just a secretary: the world has so much to say, and I’m writing it down. This great tenderness.
The summer of my mother’s illness, a season so hot and dry it might have erupted in flames, we discovered the dog liked television. She barked if we left her alone in the dim silence of the bedroom but was cheerful if we provided a documentary about whales. She learned why prehistoric wolves were likely to care for their sick and injured while we drove my mother, fasting, to the operating room and kicked the broken dishwasher and forgot garbage day for so many weeks the utility room became an odor. The dog watched Billy the Exterminator capture raccoons and alligators and restore them to their natural habitats; she watched The Civil War, learned about our national parks, considered the troubles facing our oceans. My mother wept and raged and drank clear liquids and worried that none of us loved her enough, and the dog settled her narrow head on a pillow, her black eyes wise.
The young service manager comes round to explain, as if someone were dying, what will have to be done. “It’s more,” he says, “than we thought.” I want to tell him it’s all right, I’ve heard worse; we’re all orphans here. Live long enough, you might as well be a spider in a corner of the basement, year in, year out, marvelously disguised. But I like this young man trying to help me understand that the car is on its last breath. “Another hour or so, Ma’am,” he says. ”I’m sorry for the wait.” It’s all right; I’ll be home soon, perhaps to find you unpacking, the cat murmuring to himself like a contented chicken, the radio waffling through its noise, the replenished Pontiac exhaling slowly in the drive.
This week’s poem is by Azita Ghahreman from Iran. The poem is read first in English translation by Maura Dooley and then in Farsi by Azita. If you enjoy this recording and would like to find out more about Azita Ghahreman and all the other poets we’ve translated, please visit our website www.poetrytranslation.org. Please follow us on Twitter and Facebook or leave us a review on iTunes https://twitter.com/PoetryTranslate https://www.facebook.com/poetrytranslation https://itunes.apple.com/sg/podcast/poem-podcast-from-poetry-translation/id392269965?mt=2
It starts with the climbing in, nerved-up enough for that defiance of gravity, the slow-grind rackety-clack one-inch cog at a time—the mystery of machinery, the sane and safe weightedness of stiff-starched values, wondering if there were sins we’d committed since our last confession, then at the top, out on the edge, beyond the solid-ground world parents live in, test life, theirs and our own, up where we are a hole in the sky, wholly abandoned in the eyes- shut, heart-stopped drop, like lawlessness on falling’s crisp speed, the first curve, a blur, the world’s suddenness, metal, air and a prayer half-mouthed, spun, flung into another plunge, a curve swerving, a tiny boat in a tempest— and isn’t this how we want to live, live higher up, hungry to leave the ground, flinging sparks, the lights brighter, the dark darker, bodies at war with mere air, but still obedient to the tracks laid down to keep us on track.
only when he was nervous about fixing something, anything. It was an aptitude he lacked. He worked as a weaver in a silk mill, then as a chauffeur, and then he fell into his life’s work, at which he excelled: he drove a truck filled with clinking milk bottles, and deposited them on doorsteps, front and back, and some even in the fridge. I called it whistling, but there was little or no sound: he’d make the whistle-lips and blow a song of air, of breath, hitting the muffled higher notes when the nut did not fit the bolt, when a belt needed an extra hole… He put the snow chains on himself. He’d usually get it done. He never asked for help, and was given none.
I sound so much like my mother that when people called our house for help, I’d have to stop them halfway through their stories. Hold on, I’d say, I’m not her. When I went with her on calls, I hovered in doorways, holding her equipment, watched her walk to the center of what was wrong. I knew I could memorize facts, anatomy, the math of giving oxygen or shock, but I needed her to teach me what the body wanted. What I learned was common sense: Apply pressure to bleeding. Stay as calm as you can. I’ll never have her hands, the power I saw her wield, but sometimes I feel her voice in my mouth: Get some ice and you’ll be fine. It doesn’t need stitches, it’s only a scratch. Even when I’m the one speaking, my mother’s voice knows what to do.
Those nights lit by the moon and the moon’s nimbus, the bones of the wrecked pier rose crooked in air and the sea wore a tarnished coat of silver. The black pines waited. The cold air smelled of fishheads rotting under the pier at low tide. The moon kept shedding its silver clothes over the bogs and pockets of bracken. Those nights I would gaze at the bay road, at the cottages clustered under the moon’s immaculate stare, nothing hinted that I would suffer so late this turning away, this longing to be there.
The mental pictures I have of my parents and grandparents and my childhood are beginning to break up into small fragments and get blown away from me into empty space, and the same wind is sucking me toward it ever so gently, so gently as not even to raise a hair on my head (though the truth is that there are very few of them to be raised). I’m starting to take the idea of death as the end of life somewhat harder than before. I used to wonder why people seemed to think that life is tragic or sad. Isn’t it also comic and funny? And beyond all that, isn’t it amazing and marvelous? Yes, but only if you have it. And I am starting not to have it. The pictures are disintegrating, as if their molecules were saying, “I’ve had enough,” ready to go somewhere else and form a new configuration. They betray us, those molecules, we who have loved them. They treat us like dirt.
I read that the men, on their way to Gettysburg, stopped along the road to pick and eat ripe cherries. That the fruit should not go to waste. That they should take such pleasure before battle. That the oldest among them should shake the trees and the youngest gather the fallen fruit. That they should aim rifles with the taste of cherries against their teeth.
driving out of Pittsburgh Brandenburg #6 on FM Bach sent it to the Margrave with his job application that was turned down the music lost for 100 years so much sweetness hidden I heard it first at 18 in the Cornell music room I’d never listened much to “classical” and now scribbling this on the porch that overlooks the meadow Veryl mowed for hay (before his early death, crushed by machine) I watch the hills rising, wooded, and beyond them mountain upon mountain and miles and years away the ocean below the surf anemones and whelks—hidden, waving— “on the shores of darkness there is light”
This week’s poem is by from Tajikistan. The poem is read first in English translation by Jo Shapcott and then in Tajik by Farzaneh Khojandi. If you enjoy this poem and would like to find out more about Farzaneh Khojandi and all the other poets we’ve translated, please visit our website www.poetrytranslation.org. Please follow us on Twitter and Facebook or leave us a review on iTunes https://twitter.com/PoetryTranslate https://www.facebook.com/poetrytranslation https://itunes.apple.com/sg/podcast/poem-podcast-from-poetry-translation/id392269965?mt=2
I have thoughts that are fed by the sun: The things which I see Are welcome to me, Welcome every one – I do not wish to lie Dead, dead, Dead, without any company. Here alone on my bed With thoughts that are fed by the sun, And hopes that are welcome every one, Happy am I. Oh life there is about thee A deep delicious peace; I would not be without thee, Stay, oh stay! Yet be thou ever as now – Sweetness and breath, with the quiet of death – Be but thou ever as now, Peace, peace, peace.
Against all probability our bulbs have blossomed, opened their white rooms, given their assent. I pull myself from your breathing to take a closer look. It happened overnight. Outside a flock of birds folds and unfolds its single body. I start the coffee. Light comes from impossible directions. You are still asleep. I cup the curve of your skull with my hand. Alive, sleeping. Light rises on the flame-colored bricks.
my daughter, who turns twenty tomorrow, has become truly independent. she doesn’t need her father to help her deal with the bureaucracies of schools, hmo’s, insurance, the dmv. she is quite capable of handling landlords, bosses, and auto repair shops. also boyfriends and roommates. and her mother. frankly it’s been a big relief. the teenage years were often stressful. sometimes, though, i feel a little useless. but when she drove down from northern California to visit us for a couple of days, she came through the door with the biggest, warmest hug in the world for me. and when we all went out for lunch, she said, affecting a little girl’s voice, “i’m going to sit next to my daddy,” and she did, and slid over close to me so i could put my arm around her shoulder until the food arrived. i’ve been keeping busy since she’s been gone, mainly with my teaching and writing, a little travel connected with both, but i realized now how long it had been since i had felt deep emotion. when she ...
She’s been in the hospital a week, this time with no improvement, and I’ve come home to shower, change clothes, and feed the dog. As I’m about to get back in the car, the boy next door, whose dad left years ago, asks if I’ll play catch, and I agree because it’s something I can do. We toss a tennis ball back and forth in the driveway; after awhile his mother comes out with two beers and a juicebox. She watches, without speaking, because we have known each other a long time, and, as it gets darker, the ball seems to become lighter, floating through the gloaming. Maybe I should say it looks meaningful, like a radioisotope or a pill, but I’m not thinking anything like that or about how we probably look like a family to passersby. I’m not thinking at all. I’m just swinging my arm, grabbing and releasing yellow, slowly becoming indistinct.
The mares go down for their evening feed into the meadow grass. Two pine trees sway the invisible wind some sway, some don’t sway. The heart of the world lies open, leached and ticking with sunlight For just a minute or so. The mares have their heads on the ground, the trees have their heads on the blue sky. Two ravens circle and twist. On the borders of heaven, the river flows clear a bit longer.
The city squats on my back. I am heart-sore, stiff-necked, exasperated. That’s why I slammed the door, that’s why I tell you now, in every house of marriage there’s room for an interpreter. Let’s jump into the car, honey, and head straight for the Cape, where the cock on our housetop crows that the weather’s fair, and my garden waits for me to coax it into bloom. As for those passions left that flare past understanding, like bundles of dead letters out of our previous lives that amaze us with their fevers, we can stow them in the rear along with ziggurats of luggage and Celia, our transcendental cat, past-mistress of all languages, including Hottentot and silence. We’ll drive non-stop till dawn, and if I grow sleepy at the wheel, you’ll keep me awake by singing in your bravura Chicago style Ruth Etting’s smoky song, ‘Love Me or Leave Me,’ belting out the choices. Light glazes the eastern sky Over Buzzards Bay. Celia gyrates upward like a performing seal, her glistening nostrils aqu ...
The days are cold and brown, Brown fields, no sign of green, Brown twigs, not even swelling, And dirty snow in the woods. But as the dark flows in The tree frogs begin Their shrill sweet singing, And we lie on our beds Through the ecstatic night, Wide awake, cracked open. There will be no going back.