Poem of the Week: “The Chairs That No One Sits In” by Billy Collins

Poem of the Week: “The Chairs That No One Sits In” by Billy Collins

You see them on porches and on lawns
down by the lakeside,
usually arranged in pairs implying a couple

who might sit there and look out
at the water or the big shade trees.
The trouble is you never see anyone

sitting in these forlorn chairs
though at one time it must have seemed
a good place to stop and do nothing for a while.

Sometimes there is a little table
between the chairs where no one
is resting a glass or placing a book facedown.

It might be none of my business,
but it might be a good idea one day
for everyone who placed those vacant chairs

on a veranda or a dock to sit down in them
for the sake of remembering
whatever it was they thought deserved

to be viewed from two chairs
side by side with a table in between.
The clouds are high and massive that day.

The woman looks up from her book.
The man takes a sip of his drink.
Then there is nothing but the sound of their looking,

the lapping of lake water, and a call of one bird
then another, cries of joy or warning—
it passes the time to wonder which.

Via Poetry Foundation

Voicing Poetry featured on UCLA’s online journal, “Echo”

cpoetrymsu:

Composer Philip Rice talks about the process of creating musical pieces based on original poems in the Voicing Poetry collaboration at MSU. Great article, Philip!

Originally posted on Music at Mt. Parnassus:

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This week, UCLA’s online journal, “Echo,” featured a story about our recent collaboration with the Center for Poetry at MSU, Voicing Poetry. The blog is edited by recent MSU graduate in musicology, Patrick Bonczyk. Check it out via the link below!

http://www.echo.ucla.edu/voicing-poetry/

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Poem of the Week: “Digging” by Seamus Heaney

Poem of the Week: “Digging” by Seamus Heaney

In the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day, we present this poem by Irish poet Seamus Heaney (1939-2013).

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

Via Poetry Foundation

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.”