Emily Brontë’s Faith Poem: “No Coward Soul is Mine”

I’ve always admired Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights as a supreme literary achievement. In teaching it over the years, its structural complexity, thematic depth, and passionate intensity never failed to astound me. Putting it another way, Wuthering Heights has haunted me, much like Catherine’s ghost at Heathcliff’s window. Years ago, I had the good fortune to visit the parsonage where she lived out her brief life … Continue reading Emily Brontë’s Faith Poem: “No Coward Soul is Mine”

Rupi Kaur: Pop Poetry Phenom

Just read New Republic’s glowing assessment of Canadian Instapoet Rupi Kaur, reflected in its swollen title, “Rupi Kaur is the Writer of the Decade.” (New Republic) Not even thirty, she’s published two poetry volumes, Milk and Honey (2015) and The Sun and Her Flowers (2017). Poet luminary of Instagram, she’s gathered 3.8 million followers. Milk and Honey, translated into 25 languages, has sold 1.4 million … Continue reading Rupi Kaur: Pop Poetry Phenom

William Carlos Williams’ “Willow Poem”: Defying Temporality

“Willow Poem” It is a willow when summer is over, a willow by the river from which no leaf has fallen nor bitten by the sun turned orange or crimson. The leaves cling and grow paler, swing and grow paler over the swirling waters of the river as if loath to let go, they are so cool, so drunk with the swirl of the wind … Continue reading William Carlos Williams’ “Willow Poem”: Defying Temporality

An Upstart Poet I Like a Lot

I’ve had this love affair with poetry since my earliest days, relishing metaphors that translate life from prose to camera, the sheer musicality of it, the crossword deliberation it compels, the tension of its paradoxes capturing life’s myriad, inherent subtleties; above all, its ability to mine deep, probing shafts of sub-subterranean memory and feeling I had thought beyond retrieve. It follows then that I’m always … Continue reading An Upstart Poet I Like a Lot

Love for All Seasons

  “I hope that I will be the last victim in China’s long record of treating words as crime.” Liu Xiaobo (1955-2017) China isn’t usually a quotidian staple of the Westerner’s mindset. Let’s face it: our culture operates in Eurocentric mode, which may ultimately hint of a latent bias unrecognized in ourselves, a sense of smugness that they’ve little to offer us, save maybe for … Continue reading Love for All Seasons

Reflections on the 2017 Philip Larkin Exhibition at Hull

The Guardian (July 4, 2017) features a review of a favorite poet of mine, Philip Larkin, in connection with a current exhibit of Larkin artifacts at Hull’s Brynmore Jones Library, where he was a librarian for many years. It notes his tortured sexual life, indulgence in pornography, racist asides, and complex relationships the writer terms “despicable” with several women, whom he allegedly treated unfairly, particularly … Continue reading Reflections on the 2017 Philip Larkin Exhibition at Hull

America’s Unofficial Poet Laureate: Mary Oliver

Judging by her phenomenal sales, Mary Oliver surely rates as America’s unofficial poet laureate, and yet the anomaly that she’s never held the office since its inception in 1937. I have to confess that I hadn’t heard of her, despite teaching modern poetry for some thirty-five years, probably because the Modernists held sway when I was in graduate school and during much of my tenure. … Continue reading America’s Unofficial Poet Laureate: Mary Oliver

Teach me to measure all my days

Another year, now one of many for me, is about to pass. Life flows incessantly forward. More than ever, I’m thankful for every moment in the present, wanting to indulge, pamper, and exhaust it for its sensory fullness, or like a bowl of chocolate ice cream topped with fresh strawberries, swirling its sweet coldness slowly in my mouth, titillating my tastebuds, in vain effort to … Continue reading Teach me to measure all my days

Solace for the Hard Places: Jeffers, “Shine, Perishing Republic”

I suppose every generation thinks it’s in crisis and, you know, they’re probably right, given the volatility of history; our time, no less so, as we make the transition to a new Washington regime that appears menacing to many of us seeking an America that fulfills its promise to promote the welfare of all its citizenry and not the interests of the privileged few, often … Continue reading Solace for the Hard Places: Jeffers, “Shine, Perishing Republic”

Happiness that Money Can’t Buy

I think we’ve all read E. A. Robinson’s masterful “Richard Cory” poem about a wealthy man, much admired, perhaps envied for his living the good life, who commits suicide. Whenever Richard Cory went down town, We people on the pavement looked at him: He was a gentleman from sole to crown, Clean favored, and imperially slim. And he was always quietly arrayed, And he was … Continue reading Happiness that Money Can’t Buy