Poem of the Week: “Keeping Quiet” by Pablo Neruda

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

—from Extravagaria (translated by Alastair Reid, pp. 27-29, 1974)

Via On Being

Grand Rapids poet joins Center for Poetry for writing workshop

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By Kelsey Block

“Even if there was a tornado outside, nothing could keep me from sharing the work of Lisel Mueller.”

Linda Nemec Foster, Grand Rapids poet, joined the Center for Poetry during the annual Read a Poet, Write a Poem workshop. Foster studied under German-born Poet Lisel Mueller as a master’s student at Goddard College in Vermont in the 1970s. Since then, Foster has published several books of poetry; her most recent is Talking Diamonds: Poems.

Participants in the workshop read excerpts from Mueller’s book and composed poems emulating her style.

Center for Poetry Director Anita Skeen said she loves to teach Mueller’s work.

“You can explain everything you need to know about poetry using Lisel Mueller,” she said.

Haeja K. Chung, a regular participant in Center for Poetry events, feels the beauty of Mueller’s work lies in its accessibility. “She speaks to me, she speaks for me, she inspires me to write,” Chung said.

The title poem of Mueller’s book, “Alive Together,” captures her unique humanitarian consciousness, Chung added, saying that “Mueller is a poet without borders of any kind.”

Poem of the Week: “Belle Isle, 1949″ by Philip Levine

Former U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Philip Levine recently passed away. Born and raised in Detroit, much of his work centers around the reality of blue-collar work and workers, and he was dedicated to “find[ing] a voice for the voiceless.” Today, we celebrate this exemplary Michigan poet and present “Belle Isle, 1949″ as our Poem of the Week.

Belle Isle, 1949
by Philip Levine

We stripped in the first warm spring night
and ran down into the Detroit River
to baptize ourselves in the brine
of car parts, dead fish, stolen bicycles,
melted snow. I remember going under
hand in hand with a Polish highschool girl
I’d never seen before, and the cries
our breath made caught at the same time
on the cold, and rising through the layers
of darkness into the final moonless atmosphere
that was this world, the girl breaking
the surface after me and swimming out
on the starless waters towards the lights
of Jefferson Ave. and the stacks
of the old stove factory unwinking.
Turning at last to see no island at all
but a perfect calm dark as far
as there was sight, and then a light
and another riding low out ahead
to bring us home, ore boats maybe, or smokers
walking alone. Back panting
to the gray coarse beach we didn’t dare
fall on, the damp piles of clothes,
and dressing side by side in silence
to go back where we came from.

Via Poetry Foundation

MSU Composition project “Voicing Poetry” featured on local NPR

Originally posted on Music at Mt. Parnassus:

Philip Rice (center) and Cindy Hunter Morgan (right), with Current State host Mark Bashore
Credit Scott Pohl/WKAR

Current State host Mark Bashore talks with two of the artists who worked on the project. Philip Rice is a student in composition at MSU, and Cindy Hunter Morgan is a local poet and lecturer in the English department. See the full story and listen to the broadcast here.

View original

Poetry Potluck: Easy Veggie Balls with Mushrooms and Carrots

Food and poetry have long been a perfect pairing. In this section of our newsletter, we share a recipe and poem duo to feed all the senses. To submit your own pairing, e-mail cpoetry@msu.edu and include the recipe, poem, and a brief introduction as to why they are meaningful to you. This week’s pair is brought to you by Center for Poetry intern alumna Grace Pappalardo.

While I’m not the most skilled cook in the kitchen, I do particularly enjoy coming home after a long day and letting my thoughts wander while I absent-mindedly chop vegetables for dinner. There’s something very therapeutic about carefully separating each ingredient on the cutting board after dicing, chopping, and slivering, and then letting each pile tumble avalanche-style into a hot pan dancing with oil. A recent favorite of mine are these delicious and extremely easy to make veggie “meatballs” that I discovered on a vegetarian-friendly food blog. They are tasty over pasta or with a little mustard as a snack. Making these always transports me back to my parents’ kitchen, where my dad would let me assist in making his famous pasta sauce. I remember my hands always being freezing cold after shaping the heaping bowl of chilled ground beef into spaghetti-perfect meatballs. I chose Billy Collins’s poem as a pairing because it always reminds me of my own habits of getting lost in the moment and entertaining a number of fictive scenarios and musings while cooking. His poems have such a striking way of interpreting and relaying aspects of the human condition, no matter how minute or seemingly banal. His words always remind me of the significance in the average moments in life that typically go unrecognized, like taking time to meditate on the fates of three unfortunate mice while mincing herbs and listening to jazz. (Image and recipe courtesy of Wishful Chef.)
Easy Veggie Balls with Mushrooms and Carrots
1 1/2 cups crimini mushrooms, finely minced
1/2 cup carrots, shredded or finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3/4 cup bread crumbs
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 eggs
2-3 tablespoons dried herbs (parsley, oregano, thyme)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with Silpat or foil and set aside.Finely mince vegetables and place into a bowl. Mix the rest of the ingredients together. Roll into balls and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve warm with tomato sauce or with preferred dipping sauce.Total Time: 40 minutes
Yield: makes about 25 meatballs

I Chop Some Parsley While Listening To Art Blakey’s Version Of “Three Blind Mice”
by Billy CollinsAnd I start wondering how they came to be blind.
If it was congenital, they could be brothers and sister,
and I think of the poor mother
brooding over her sightless young triplets.Or was it a common accident, all three caught
in a searing explosion, a firework perhaps?
If not,
if each came to his or her blindness separately,

how did they ever manage to find one another?
Would it not be difficult for a blind mouse
to locate even one fellow mouse with vision
let alone two other blind ones?

And how, in their tiny darkness,
could they possibly have run after a farmer’s wife
or anyone else’s wife for that matter?
Not to mention why.

Just so she could cut off their tails
with a carving knife, is the cynic’s answer,
but the thought of them without eyes
and now without tails to trail through the moist grass

or slip around the corner of a baseboard
has the cynic who always lounges within me
up off his couch and at the window
trying to hide the rising softness that he feels.

By now I am on to dicing an onion
which might account for the wet stinging
in my own eyes, though Freddie Hubbard’s
mournful trumpet on “Blue Moon,”

which happens to be the next cut,
cannot be said to be making matters any better.