Monday, April 28, 2008

National Poetry Month - Poem by Gerda Rovetch

For today, a fun little poem written for children. (But we think anyone can enjoy it!) It's by Gerda Rovetch.

There was a man who loved to bake.
Sometimes his bread contained a snake.
Sometimes the snake was not quite dead.
Most people did not like his bread.

This poem can be found in the book There Was a Man Who Loved a Rat, published by Philomel Books in 2008.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

National Poetry Month - The Waking

The following poem is by Theodore Roethke

The Waking

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me, so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.


This poem can be found in the book The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke, published by Anchor Books in 1974.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

National Poetry Month - December 22

The winter former U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser was recovering from cancer, he wrote a series of poems on postcards that he sent to his friend and fellow-writer, Jim Harrison. This is one of them:

December 22

Five below zero.

The cold finds its way through the wall
by riding nails, common ten-penny nails
through a wall so packed with insulation
it wouldn't admit a single quarter-note
from the wind's soprano solo. Yet you can touch
this solid wall and feel the icy spots
where the nails have carried the outside
almost into the house, nickel-sized spots
like the frosty tips of fingers, groping,
and you can imagine the face
of the cold, all wreathed in flying hair,
its long fingers spread, its thin blue lips
pressed into the indifferent ear
of the siding, whispering something
not one of us inside can hear.

This poem is from the book, Winter Morning Walks: one hundred postcards to Jim Harrison, published by Carnegie-Mellon University Press in 2000.

Friday, April 25, 2008

National Poetry Month -- Woman on the Street

Chris S. thinks that Charles Bukowski wrote sad and hilarious poetry for the lower class, for the broke and depressed, for the drunk and lonely.

"Woman on the Street"

her shoes themselves
would light my room
like many candles.

she walks like all things
shining on glass,
like all things
that make a difference.

she walks away.

This poem can be found in Pleasures of the Damned, published by Harper Collins in 2007.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

National Poetry Month -- The Jabberwocky

Mariana's favorite poem is "The Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carroll.

Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! and through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

"And has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
He chortled in his joy.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

An illustrated edition of this poem, which reimagines the Jabberwocky as a very tall basketball player, was published by Harper Collins in 2007 and can be found here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

National Poetry Month - Let Evening Come

The poet Jane Kenyon wrote so many wonderful poems. Here is one of our favorites.

Let Evening Come

Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don't
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.


This poem is from Otherwise: New And Selected Poems, published by Graywolf Press in 1996. The poem is also available in Collected Poems, published in paperback by Graywolf Press in 2007.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

National Poetry Month -- The Lanyard

One of Mary Ann's favorite poems is by Billy Collins entitled The Lanyard.

The Lanyard

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.


This poem can be found in The Trouble with Poetry: And Other Poems published in paperback by Random House in 2007.

Monday, April 21, 2008

National Poetry Month --The Charge of the Light Brigade

This poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson is one of Ryan's favorites for such a long time. It showcases bravery and heroism, but also the futility that can be found in war.

The Charge of the Light Brigade


Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
"Forward, the Light Brigade!
"Charge for the guns!" he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.


"Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Someone had blunder'd:
Their's not to make reply,
Their's not to reason why,
Their's but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.


Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.


Flash'd all their sabres bare,
Flash'd as they turn'd in air,
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wonder'd:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro' the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel'd from the sabre stroke
Shatter'd and sunder'd.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.


Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro' the jaws of Death
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.


When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honor the charge they made,
Honor the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred.


This poem appears in the book Alfred Lord Tennyson: Selected Poems published by Penguin books in 2008.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

National Poetry Month - He Asked About the Quality

One of Bookseller Joe's favorite poets is Constantine Cavafy. This poem was written in 1930, and seems daring even today:

He Asked About the Quality

He left the office where he'd been given
a trivial, poorly paid job
(something like eight pounds a month, including bonuses)-
left at the end of the dreary work
that kept him bent all afternoon,
came out at seven and walked off slowly,
idling his way down the street. Good-looking,
and interesting: showing as he did that he'd reached
his full sensual capacity.
He'd turned twenty-nine the month before.

He idled his way down the main street
and the poor side-streets that led to his home.

Passing in front of a small shop that sold
cheap and flimsy merchandise for workers,
he saw a face inside, a figure
that compelled him to go in, and he pretended
he wanted to look at some coloured handkerchiefs.

He asked about the quality of the handkerchiefs
and how much they cost, his voice choking,
almost silenced by desire.
And the answers came back in the same mood,
distracted, the voice hushed,
offering hidden consent.

They kept on talking about the merchandise-
but the only purpose: that their hands might touch
over the handkerchiefs, that their faces, their lips,
might move close together as though by chance-
a moment's meeting of limb against limb.

Quickly, secretly, so the shop owner sitting at the back
wouldn't realize what was going on.


This poem can be found in The Canon, The Original One Hundred and Fifty-four Poems recently published by Harvard University Press in 2007.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

National Poetry Month - A Haiku from Issa

Bookseller Jeff also tells us that his wife's favorite poem is a classic from Issa:

children imitating cormorants
are even more wonderful
than cormorants.


This poem can be found in the collection The Essential Haiku, edited by Robert Haas and published by Ecco in 1994.

Friday, April 18, 2008

National Poetry Month - Listening

Jeff submitted this as one of his favorite poems. It's by William Stafford:


My father could hear a little animal step,
or a moth in the dark against the screen,
and every far sound called the listening out
into places where the rest of us had never been.

More spoke to him from the soft wild night
than came to our porch for us on the wind
we would watch him look up and his face go keen
till the walls of the world flared, widened.

My father heard so much that we still stand
inviting the quiet by turning the face,
waiting for a time when something in the night
will touch us too from that other place.

This poem is from the book The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems, published by Graywolf Press in 1999. Buy the book here.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

National Poetry Month -- Without

This poem is by Donald Hall, former Poet Laureate of the United States. Joe considers this poem one of his masterpieces. The poem is about the death of his wife, poet Jane Kenyon.

Another excellent book is The B
est Day, The Worst Day, which is a memoir of their lives, written by Donald Hall.


we lived in a small island stone nation
without color under gray clouds and wind
distant the unlimited ocean acute
lymphoblastic leukemia without seagulls
or palm trees without vegetation
or animal life only barnacles and lead
colored moss that darkened when months did

hours days weeks months weeks days hours
the year endured without punctuation
february without ice winter sleet
snow melted recovered but nothing
without thaw although cold streams hurtled
no snowdrop or crocus rose no yellow
no red leaves of maple without october

no spring no summer no autumn no winter
no rain no peony thunder no woodthrush
the book was a thousand pages without commas
without mice oak leaves windstorms
no castles no plazas no flags no parrots
without carnival or the procession of relics
intolerable without brackets or colons

silence without color sound without smell
without apples without pork to rupture gnash
unpunctuated without churches uninterrupted
no orioles ginger noses no opera no
without fingers daffodils cheekbones
the body was a nation a tribe dug into stone
assaulted white blood broken to shards

provinces invaded bombed shot shelled
artillery sniper fire helicopter gunship
grenade burning murder landmine starvation
the ceasefire lasted forty-eight hours
then a shell exploded in a market
pain vomit neuropathy morphine nightmare
confusion the rack terror the vice

vincristine ara-c cytoxan vp-16
loss of memory loss of language losses
pneumocystis carinii pneomonia bactrim
foamless unmitigated sea without sea
delirium whipmarks of petechiae
multiple blisters of herpes zoster
and how are you doing today I am doing

one afternoon say the sun came out
moss took on greenishness leaves fell
the market opened a loaf of bread a sparrow
a bony dog wandered back sniffing a lath
it might be possible to take up a pencil
unwritten stanzas taken up and touched
beautiful terrible sentences unuttered

the sea unrelenting wave gray the sea
flotsam without islands broken crates
block after block the same house the mall
no cathedral no hobo jungle the same women
and men they longed to drink hayfields no
without dog or semicolon or village square
without monkey or lily without garlic


This poem is from the book Without published by Mariner Books in 1999.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

National Poetry Month - I Am My Master's Dragon

Bookseller Jocelyn G. submitted this poem as one of her favorites for children:

I Am My Master's Dragon

I am my master's dragon,
And my master treats me well,
He calls me when he wants me,
And I answer to his bell.
He feeds me puffs of pastry
To reward me for my deeds,
And according to my master,
I have all a dragon needs.

My master fails to notice,
Though I know that he is smart,
The incalculable sadness
Deep within my dragon heart.
But I am not complaining,
I've no sorry tale to tell,
I am my master's dragon,
And my master treats me well.


This poem is by Jack Prelutsky, and can be found in the book The Dragons Are Singing Tonight, published by Greenwillow Books in 1993. You may purchase it here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

National Poetry Month - In Blackwater Woods

Hank isn't sure if this poem by Mary Oliver is his favorite of all time, but he does think it's awfully good.

In Blackwater Woods

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

This poem can be found in American Primitive, which was published by Little, Brown & Company in 1983. It can be purchased here.

Monday, April 14, 2008

National Poetry Month -- The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo

Chris C likes this poem because Gerard Manley Hopkins kicked Victorian poetry's butt. Read this one out loud and see what he means. (Listen for the echo...)

The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo

(Maidens' song from St. Winefred's Well)


HOW to kéep -- is there ány any, is there none such, nowhere known some,
bow or brooch or braid or brace, láce, latch or catch or key to keep
Back beauty, keep it, beauty, beauty, beauty, ... from vanishing away?
Ó is there no frowning of these wrinkles, rankéd wrinkles deep,
Dówn? no waving off of these most mournful messengers, still messengers,
sad and stealing messengers of grey?
No there 's none, there 's none, O no there 's none,
Nor can you long be, what you now are, called fair,
Do what you may do, what, do what you may,
And wisdom is early to despair:
Be beginning; since, no, nothing can be done
To keep at bay
Age and age's evils, hoar hair,
Ruck and wrinkle, drooping, dying, death's worst, winding sheets, tombs
and worms and tumbling to decay;
So be beginning, be beginning to despair.
O there 's none; no no no there's none:
Be beginning to despair, to despair,
Despair, despair, despair, despair.


There ís one, yes I have one (Hush there!);
Only not within seeing of the sun,
Not within the singeing of the strong sun,
Tall sun's tingeing, or treacherous the tainting of the earth's air,
Somewhere elsewhere there is ah well where! one,
Oné. Yes I can tell such a key, I do know such a place,
Where whatever's prized and passes of us, everything that 's fresh and
fast flying of us, seems to us sweet of us and swiftly away with, done
away with, undone,
Undone, done with, soon done with, and yet dearly and dangerously sweet
Of us, the wimpled-water-dimpled, not-by-morning-matchèd face,
The flower of beauty, fleece of beauty, too too apt to, ah! to fleet,
Never fleets móre, fastened with the tenderest truth
To its own best being and its loveliness of youth: it is an
everlastingness of, O it is an all youth!
Come then, your ways and airs and looks, locks, maiden gear, gallantry and
gaiety and grace,
Winning ways, airs innocent, maiden manners, sweet looks, loose locks,
long locks, lovelocks, gaygear, going gallant, girlgrace --
Resign them, sign them, seal them, send them, motion them with breath,
And with sighs soaring, soaring síghs deliver
Them; beauty-in-the-ghost, deliver it, early now, long before death
Give beauty back, beauty, beauty, beauty, back to God, beauty's self and
beauty's giver.
See; not a hair is, not an eyelash, not the least lash lost; every hair
Is, hair of the head, numbered.
Nay, what we had lighthanded left in surly the mere mould
Will have waked and have waxed and have walked with the wind what while we
This side, that side hurling a heavyheaded hundredfold
What while we, while we slumbered.
O then, weary then why When the thing we freely fórfeit is kept with
fonder a care,
Fonder a care kept than we could have kept it, kept
Far with fonder a care (and we, we should have lost it) finer, fonder
A care kept. -- Where kept? Do but tell us where kept, where. --
Yonder. -- What high as that! We follow, now we follow. -- Yonder, yes
yonder, yonder,

This poem can be found in Hopkins: Poems, published by Random house. It can be purchased here.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

National Poetry Month - The Day Lady Died

There is an excellent new book of poems by a true American original poet, Frank O'Hara. Here is one of bookseller Joe's favorites.

The Day Lady Died

It is 12:20 in New York a Friday
three days after Bastille day, yes
it is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine
because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton
at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner
and I don't know the people who will feed me

I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun
and have a hamburger and a malted and buy
and ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what the poets
in Ghana are doing these days

I go on to the bank
and Miss Stillwagon(first name Linda I once heard)
doesn't even look up my balance for once in her life
and in the GOLDEN GRIFFIN I get a little Verlaine
for Ptsy with drawing by Bonnard although I do
think of Hesiod, trans. Richmond Lattimore or
Brendan Behan's new play or Le Balcon or Les Negres
of Genet, but I don't, I stick with the Verlaine
after practically going to sleep with quandariness

and for Mike I just stroll into the PARK LANE
Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and
then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue
and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and
casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton
of Picayunes, and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it

and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of
leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT
while she whispered a song along the keyboard
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing


This poem is the new book, Selected Poems, edited by Mark Ford and published by Knopf 2008. It can be purchased here.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

National Poetry Month -- Praying

General Manager Linda's submitted the following poem by Mary Oliver, her favorite poet:


It doesn't have to be
the blue iris, it oculd be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don't try
to make them elaborate, this isn't
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

This poem appears in Thirst published by Beacon Press in 2006.

Friday, April 11, 2008

National Poetry Month -- Boa Constrictor

Boa Constrictor

by Shel Silverstein

Oh, I'm being eaten
By a boa constrictor,
A boa constrictor,
A boa constrictor,
I'm being eaten by a boa constrictor,
And I don't like it--one bit.
Well, what do you know?
It's nibblin' my toe.
Oh, gee,
It's up to my knee.
Oh my,
It's up to my thigh
Oh, fiddle,
It's up to my middle.
Oh, heck,
It's up to my neck.
Oh, dread,
It's upmmmmmmmmmmffffffffff . . .

-This poem can be found in Where the Sidewalk Ends, published by Harper Collins.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

National Poetry Month - Rose Pome

Bookseller Jesse L. submitted the following poem from Jack Kerouac:


I'd rather be thin than famous,
I dont wanta be fat,
And a woman throws me outa bed
Callin me Gordo, & everytime
I bend
to pickup
my suspenders
from the davenport
floor I explode
loud huge grunt-o
and disgust every one
in the familio
I'd rather be thin than famous
But I'm fat

Paste that in yr. Broadway show.


This poem can be found in The Portable Jack Kerouac, published by Penguin 2007 here and Penguin in 1996 here.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

National Poetry Month -- Pretty is Hard

Bookseller Michelle B calls this her favorite poem ever. It's by five year-old poet Veronica Markey.

Pretty is Hard
Let's dress up as pretty people today
Let's start right now
It's going to take a long time
Because pretty is hard.

This poem can be found in Pretty is Hard: Poems About Shoes, Chocolate, and Best Friends, published by Arundel Books in 2004. To purchase, email

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

National Poetry Month - In Time of Silver Rain

In Time of Silver Rain

Pete S., our newsstand buyer, submitted this poem as one of his favorites:

In time of silver rain
The earth
Puts forth new life again,
Green grasses grow
And flowers lift their heads,
And over all the plain
The wonder spreads
Of life,
Of life,
Of life!

In time of silver rain
The butterflies
Lift silken wings
To catch a rainbow cry,
And trees put forth
New leaves to sing
In joy beneath the sky
As down the roadway
Passing boys and girls
Go singing, too,
In time of silver rain
When spring
And life
Are new.


This poem was written by Langston Hughes. It can be found in Selected Poems of Langston Hughes, published by Vintage Classics in 1990. It can be purchased here.

Monday, April 7, 2008

National Poetry Month -- Two Drops

Two Drops

The forests were on fire --
they however
wreathed their necks with their hands
like bouquets of roses

People ran to the shelters--
he said his wife had hair
in whose depths one could hide

Covered by one blanket
they whispered shameless words
the litany of those who love

When it got very bad
they leapt into each other's eyes
and shut them firmly

So firmly they did not feel the flames
when they came up to the eyelashes

To the end they were brave
To the end they were faithful
To the end they were similar
like two drops
struck at the edge of a face


This poem is by Zbigniew Herbert and can be found in The Collected Poems: 1956-1998, published in 2008 by Ecco. To purchase, click here.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

National Poetry Month -- Conjunction And

Conjunction And

We met on a Sunday no that's not it
We met before but that's not it
You drank your coffee through a straw and so what
Down and out, rolling stone, gun in your pocket.
You took me by the hand, took me in hand, you took me.
And the tree thick with red berries and the hills and the hills
And we laughed and listened and God knows what else
And the tree thick with red berries and the bark and the bark.
And we had each other not stopping like hunted beasts.
And though all creatures get sad after the act well we're just not any creatures.
And we grew from any old garbage and raked through garbage.
And you pressed the pearls you found into my skin. Now it's January already,
And the magnolias, here, pardon the image, have put out their dog tongues
Pink against the gray precipitation and every time I walk by
These wonders I remember the smell of your hand
Pulled from me, pulled from you.


This poem is by Russian poet Polina Barskova and is included in the Dalkey Archive Press's Contemporary Russian Poetry: An Anthology edited by Evgeny Bunimovich and published in 2008. To purchase, click here.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

National Poetry Month -- Sonnet 130

Bookseller Mindy is fond of this particular Shakespearean sonnet because "it both makes fun of being in love and the courtly love tradition and yet expresses tender love all at at the same time."

Shakespeare's Sonnet 130

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask'd, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.


Don't forget the Colorado Shakespeare Festival is arriving soon. From June 20 to August 16, be a part of one of the top three Shakespeare festivals in the nation! It is always great fun.

"Sonnet 130" can be found in many books, including
Shakespeare's Sonnets and Poems published by Washington Square Press in 2006. To purchase, click here.

Friday, April 4, 2008

National Poetry Month -- The Raven

In celebration of National Poetry Month, we asked our staff to tell us their favorite poems. We'll post one a day for the rest of the month!

Dave E.'s favorite poem is "The Raven" by Edgar Allen Poe, and about it he says:

I don't care if everyone has to memorize the damn thing in middle school or it has turned into the perpetual motion-machine of cliches, for my money it's still the best poem ever written. Poe once said that the only thing worth writing about was a lost love. Or in this case, one that hurt so completely that it causes you to be delusional (or was it the opium/absinthe?) Amen! This is also why "Ligeia" is the best short-story ever written, because Poe knows what's up.


The Raven

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore —
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some visiter," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door —
Only this and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; — vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow — sorrow for the lost Lenore —
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore —
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me — filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
"'Tis some visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door —
Some late visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door; —
This it is and nothing more."

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you" — here I opened wide the door; ——
Darkness there and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore?"
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!" —
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
"Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore —
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—
'Tis the wind and nothing more!"

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door —
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door —
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
"Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore —
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!"
Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning — little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door —
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as "Nevermore."

But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing farther then he uttered — not a feather then he fluttered —
Till I scarcely more than muttered "Other friends have flown before —
On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before."
Then the bird said "Nevermore."

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore —
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of 'Never — nevermore'."

But the Raven still beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore —
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking "Nevermore."

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose velvet-violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
"Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee — by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite — respite and nepenthe, from thy memories of Lenore;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!"
Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil! — prophet still, if bird or devil! —
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted —
On this home by Horror haunted — tell me truly, I implore —
Is there — is there balm in Gilead? — tell me — tell me, I implore!"
Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil! — prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us — by that God we both adore —
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore —
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore."
Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

"Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!" I shrieked, upstarting —
"Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! — quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!"
Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted — nevermore!


"The Raven" can be found in many books, including Complete Tales and Poems Edgar Allen Poe published by Vintage Books USA in 1975. To purchase, click here.


April is National Poetry Month. It seems that there is not much emphasis placed on my favorite type of poetry, haiku. Haikus are, by their nature, short & sweet. They're little nuggets of poetry. They're easy to remember, and most of all, fun to write.

If you haven't read haiku in a while, or ever, let me suggest one of my favorite books on the subject, "The Haiku Apprentice", by Abigail Friedman. Yes, it's a memoir. But it is not your common story: the author has served many years in the United States Foreign Service. While working in Japan, and with little prior experience in poetry, she joins a haiku group. The book is her memoir of falling in love with this type of poetry. In Japan, haiku is very popular: written by many thousands of people, and read by millions. It is most definitely the poetry of a people, and Friedman takes us on a brief history of the craft, and answers many questions about writing haiku in English. At the end of the book, she outlines the steps to take to start your own haiku group.

Friedman believes, as do I, that haiku is an everyday poetry. Traditionally, it is seventeen syllables long and contains a season word. But there are really no hard and fast rules for writing them in English. This book is an excellent starting point for a lifelong love affair with haiku. After reading this, let me suggest a few more books of poetry:

The Narrow Road to the Interior
by Basho. If there is required reading in haiku, this book is it. Written in the 17th century, it is a combination of travel journal and haiku.

Haiku: This Other World
by Richard Wright. The author of "Native Son" was an avid haiku writer. His poems capture life in Chicago, full of its joy and pathos.

Book of Haikus by Jack Kerouac. Kerouac wrote beautiful haiku. Some of my favorite of his writing.

If you're interested in this book, click here

-Joe Eichman, bookseller