April 11th 2010

What better way to celebrate National Poetry Month than with an exciting story told in verse?  M. T. Anderson's The Serpent Came to Gloucester is just such a story.  It's based on a true series of events that took place in Gloucester, Massachusetts - not 40 miles from Somerville - during the summers of 1817 and 1818. Hundreds of people reported seeing a sea serpent playing in the harbor and around the shores of Cape Ann, and the author references some of the many eyewitness accounts in a... Read Post

April 9th 2010
No Matter No matter how hot-burning it is outside when you peel a long, fat cucumber or cut deep into a fresh, ripe watermelon you can feel coolness come into your hands - Lee Bennett Hopkins
April 8th 2010
The Yarn of the 'Nancy Bell' by W.S. Gilbert 'Twas on the shores that round our coast From Deal to Ramsgate span, That I found alone on a piece of stone An elderly naval man. His hair was weedy, his beard was long, And weedy and long was he, And I heard this wight on the shore recite, In a singular minor key: "Oh, I am a cook and a captain bold, And the mate of the Nancy brig, And a bo'sun tight, and a midshipmite, And the crew of the captain's gig." And he shook his fists and he tore his... Read Post
April 7th 2010
The Difference Between Pepsi and Coke by David Lehman Can't swim; uses credit cards and pills to combat intolerable feelings of inadequacy; Won't admit his dread of boredom, chief impulse behind numerous marital infidelities; Looks fat in jeans, mouths clichés with confidence, breaks mother's plates in fights; Buys when the market is too high, and panics during the inevitable descent; Still, Pop can always tell the subtle difference between Pepsi and Coke, Has defined the darkness... Read Post
April 5th 2010
And herewith, a poem: Not Ideas About the Thing But the Thing Itself by Wallace Stevens At the earliest ending of winter, In March, a scrawny cry from outside Seemed like a sound in his mind. He knew that he heard it, A bird's cry at daylight or before, In the early March wind. The sun was rising at six, No longer a battered panache above snow... It would have been outside. It was not from the vast ventriloquism Of sleep's faded papier mâché . . . The sun was coming from outside. That... Read Post
January 8th 2010
..here's a poem to send you into a leisurely weekend: The Sloth by Theodore Roethke In moving-slow he has no Peer. You ask him something in his Ear, He thinks about it for a Year; And, then, before he says a Word There, upside down (unlike a Bird), He will assume that you have Heard-- A most Ex-as-per-at-ing Lug. But should you call his manner Smug, He'll sigh and give his Branch a Hug; Then off again to Sleep he goes, Still swaying gently by his Toes, And you just know he knows he knows.
October 7th 2009
Here's a poem for you anyway, for no reason at all. I found it in One Hundred Poems from the Chinese, translated by Kenneth Rexroth. Jade Flower Palace The stream swirls. The wind moans in The pines. Grey rats scurry over Broken tiles. What prince, long ago, Built this palace, standing in Ruins beside the cliffs? There are Green ghost fires in the black rooms. The shattered pavements are all Washed away. Ten thousand organ Pipes whistle and roar. The storm Scatters the red autumn leaves... Read Post
April 27th 2009
Little poppies, little hell flames, Do you do no harm? You flicker. I cannot touch you. I put my hands among the flames. Nothing burns. And it exhausts me to watch you Flickering like that, wrinkly and clear red, like the skin of a mouth. A mouth just bloodied. Little bloody skirts! There are fumes that I cannot touch. Where are your opiates, your nauseous capsules? If I could bleed, or sleep! - If my mouth could marry a hurt like that! Or your liquors seep to me, in this glass capsule,... Read Post
April 22nd 2009
Pray To What Earth by Henry David Thoreau Pray to what earth does this sweet cold belong, Which asks no duties and no conscience? The moon goes up by leaps, her cheerful path In some far summer stratum of the sky, While stars with their cold shine bedot her way. The fields gleam mildly back upon the sky, And far and near upon the leafless shrubs The snow dust still emits a silver light. Under the hedge, where drift banks are their screen, The titmice now pursue their downy dreams, As often in... Read Post
April 20th 2009

We shouldn't let National Poetry month go by without considering the limerick. You can find the Library's limerick books by clicking here. There are also lots of very funny ones to be found online at the Limerick Database. Not all of them are good, and not all of them are clean - you have been warned! - but here's an example of one that's both. (Bonus: it's not just a limerick, it's a template for would-be poets who are metrically challenged!)

There once... Read Post

April 15th 2009
John Tenniel illustration of Father William and his son

The Old Man’s Complaints and How He Gained Them by Robert Southey (1774 - 1843)

"You are old, father William," the young man cried,

"The few locks which are left you are grey;

You are hale, father William, a hearty old man;

now tell me the reason, I pray."


"In the days of my youth," father William replied,

"I remember'd that youth would fly past,

And abus'd not my health and my vigour at first,

That I never might need... Read Post

April 14th 2009
My latest poetic post was a little too wintry for some tastes. So here's something a little more evocative (I hope) of warm weather: Enkindled Spring by D. H. Lawrence. This spring as it comes bursts up in bonfires green, Wild puffing of emerald trees, and flame-filled bushes, Thorn-blossom lifting in wreaths of smoke between Where the wood fumes up and the watery, flickering rushes. I am amazed at this spring, this conflagration Of green fires lit on the soil of the earth, this blaze... Read Post
April 10th 2009
Because You Asked about the Line Between Prose and Poetry by Howard Nemerov Sparrows were feeding in a freezing drizzle That while you watched turned to pieces of snow Riding a gradient invisible From silver aslant to random, white and slow. There came a moment that you couldn't tell. And then they clearly flew instead of fell.
April 8th 2009

If you know the name of the poem you would like to hear,

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April 6th 2009
Mary Oliver's Black Swallowtail was read at the dedication of The Center for Arts at the Armory last Friday night: Black SwallowtailThe caterpillar interesting but not exactly lovely, humped along among the parsley leaves eating, always eating. Then one night it was gone and in its place a small green confinement hung by two silk threads on a parsley stem. I think it took nothing with it except faith and patience. And then one morning it expressed itself into the most beautiful thing... Read Post