Thursday, 17 January 2019

From “Contr’Amours (Counter Loves)” by Étienne Jodelle

O you who have the head of Jove
For father and mother, who as you please
Can wage a war or keep the peace,
If I be yours and praise you alone

And if I distress for you the goddess
Who bore false Love, he whose arrows
Of peace and war, charms and sorrows,
Are plunging your poet into madnes,

Then come, come help avenge your suitor.
Bring me the writhing locks of the Gorgons,
Squeeze the filthy paunch of your dragons,

Get me so drunk on Stygian water
That I puke such ordure on the lady
As she hoards in her soul and body.


Date: c1570 (original in French); 2000 (translation in English)

By: Étienne Jodelle (1532-1573)

Translated by: Geoffrey Brock (1964- )

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

A.N. to Niccolò de Facina of Vicenza, who suspected that she had not composed the poem she sent to him, but had borrowed it from elsewhere by Angela Nogarola

It does not please me to place others’ clothes
On my limbs and to circle my arms with another’s
Light feathers: I know the story of the painted crow.
Nor do I care to mount the praises for virtue
and to ascribe the laurels of the ancient poets to myself.
I have modesty and love of virtue and decorum of thought.
But no wonder moves my mind, that (the lines)
are not thought by anyone (?) to have been forged by my bellows
and are denied to have been made in my ancestral…
For the cohorts of women begin their practice,
because in modern times it is said no women has tasted
the Gorgons’ waters and heard the learned sisters,
But Nature, creator of all with equal reason,
you are said to form the male and female soul equally
and are accustomed to infuse them with equal minds.
Therefore, you do not need, O woman, to call on the ancient poets.
Nature’s gift has endowed both sexes.

From: Parker, Holt N., “Angela Nogarola (ca. 1400) and Isotta Nogarola (1418-1466): Thieves of Language” in Churchill, Laurie J., Brown, Phyllis R. and Jeffrey, Jane E., Women Writing Latin: From Roman Antiquity to Early Modern Europe, Volume 3, Early Modern Women Writing Latin, 2002, Routledge: New York, p. 25.

Date: c1400 (original in Latin); 2002 (translation in English)

By: Angela Nogarola (1380-1436)

Translated by: Holt N. Parker (1956- )

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

In My Garden by Ōtomo no Tabito

In my garden
plum blossoms fall—
or is not rain
but snow, cast down
from the sky?

From: Addiss, Stephen, The Art of Haiku: Its History Through Poems and Paintings by Japanese Masters, 2012, Shambhala Publications: Boston, p. 17.

Date: c8th century (original in Japanese); 1995 (translation in English)

By: Ōtomo no Tabito (665-731)

Translated by: Edwin Augustus Cranston (1932- )

Monday, 14 January 2019

To My Wife by Qin Jian

Mindful that I had soon to leave on service,
Farther and farther away from you every day,
I sent a carriage to bring you back;
But it went empty, and empty it returned.
I read your letter with feelings of distress;
At meals I cannot eat;
And I sit alone in this desolate chamber.
Who is there to solace and encourage me?
Through the long nights I cannot sleep,
And solitary I lie prostrate on my pillow, tossing and turning.
Sorrow comes as in a circle
And cannot be rolled up like a mat.


Date: 1st century (original); 1962 (translation)

By: Qin Jia (1st century)

Translated by: Albert Richard Davis (1924-1983)

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Your Humble Wife is Unwell by Xu Shu

Your humble wife is unwell,
Sickness prevents her from returning.
Lingering disease keeps her indoors,
Her health situation is not stable.
Imperial attendance is not worthy,
Respect goes to the wrong people.
You are on an official mission,
Going afar to the capital.
You will depart for long,
But we cannot meet.
Expectation and longing is intense,
Waiting only makes one restless.
I am missing my husband,
Your looks appear in dreams.

From: Peterson, Barbara Bennett (ed.), Notable Women of China: Shang Dynasty to the Early Twentieth Century, 2000, Routledge: Oxon, pp. [unnumbered].

Date: 1st century (original); 2000 (translation)

By: Xu Shu (1st century)

Translated by: Zhu Zhongliang (19??- )

Saturday, 12 January 2019

The Magnolia by Lee Rossi

O . . . great-rooted blossomer
are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
— W.B. Yeats

“I hate this tree”—the first words from my new neighbor
bending over the ground cover beneath her magnolia,

Belle of the Old South, “sweet and fresh,”
subtropical exile to our fertile desert.

She was 80 or 85, the tree half her age
and tall as a three-story house,

still dropping leaves and seed pods
like a teenager with a bad case of dandruff.

“It killed my lawn,” she said,
a violation twenty years in the past, which she held onto

as if it were last year, or last week. It soothed
and fueled her anger, I imagined, to pluck the brown

papery leaves from their hiding place in ivy
and stuff them in a green bin. I wondered if Sisyphus

hated his rock as much as she hated that tree.
I knew how much I hated my job, eight or nine

hours every day trying to lift the world another inch.
And every night more leaves would fall, leaves

and pods, those sexual hand grenades, those
pregnant cluster bombs. And yet she could no more live

without the tree than she could without her anger.
They were like an old couple, so deformed

by their love that they couldn’t want anything else.
Every day after work I’d come home and find her,

bowed or kneeling, or toward the end just sitting in the ivy—
city of beetles, city of mice—and see the tree,

blazoned with sunset’s gilt, its orange
and ruby ornaments a flaming candelabra.


Date: 2018

By: Lee Rossi (19??- )

Friday, 11 January 2019

Crows by Hailey Leithauser

Because they are clever, we believe they are wise.
Because they are wise, we conclude they are good,

or evil, or good and evil, but never muddied
in between. Because they are arrant and utter black,

we assume them to be downright chummy with death,
and so in England once a woman was pressed between stones

for owning a pillow made from crow feathers.
This, the people said, gave her the power to dream affliction

like moonlight into the lives of their children,
and even though during her trial, records show

that the streets rang with the din of fat and ruddy
lineage, there was still a principle involved

and the city was cheered when no crows arrived at her grave,
which was hurriedly and spotlessly dissembled by snow.


Date: 2008

By: Hailey Leithauser (1954- )

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Needlework by Michael Donaghy

tattoos commissioned for the
1999 ‘Last Words’ poetry festival, Salisbury

Copy this across your heart,
Whisper what your eyes have heard,
To summon me when we’re apart,
This word made flesh, this flesh made word.

The serpent sheds her skin and yet
The pattern she’d as soon forget
Recalls itself. By this I swear
I am the sentence that I bare.

From: Donaghy, Michael, Conjure, 2000, Picador: London, p. [unnumbered].

Date: 1999

By: Michael Donaghy (1954-2004)

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Two Boys by Doug Anderson

They take the new machine gun out of its wrap
in pieces, the flat black barrel, the other
parts, delicate in their oil, plastic stock
like a toy until snapped onto the rest,
pressed against the shoulder of the corporal
with almost white blond hair. He looks around
for something to sight in on. With a grin
the other, darker one points to three
children dawdling to school along a paddy dike.
The first rounds are high and the gunner adjusts,
fires again, the children running now,
the rounds pluming in the wet paddies,
another click and all but one child has made
the safety of the treeline, the other splashing
into the new rice, and as the gunner sights in
on him, this eight year old, with wisdom perhaps
from the dead, yanks off his red shirt, becomes
the same color as the fields, the gunner lowering
the muzzle now, whispering a wistful, damn.


Date: 1994

By: Doug Anderson (1943- )

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

The Bat—A Simile by Elizabeth Knipe Cobbold (Carolina Petty Pasty)

Frail child of earth! to whom is given
To soar with habitants of heaven,
And court, in air, the still serene
Of twilight’s deep and soften’d scene;
When purple pomps the clouds invest,
From rays that linger in the west,
And massy shadows, dark and vast,
Their veil sublime, o’er nature cast;
What time, from pale and timid flow’rs,
Sabæan ordors scent the bow’rs,
O then ’tis thine, with rapid flight,
To mock the quick and anxious sight,
Whose speculation seeks to trace
Thy arrowy path, thy flitting grace,
That, like the meteor of the sky,
Scarce paints a form upon the eye;
Now seen, now lost, with magic pow’r,
The spirit of the mystic hour!
But placed with those of equal birth,
To walk the common track of earth,
Poor feeble thing of cumbrous form,
Thou crawlst more helpless than the worm,
The blisses thy congeners try,
Scarce given to taste, much less enjoy!
How oft has fancy smil’d to see,
Some son of genius shewn in thee!
His flight, unsearchable as thine,
Eludes the glance of vulgar eyne,
As rais’d from earth, on pinion sure
He cleaves the palpable obscure;
Or flitting through the dusky glade
Enjoys sublimity in shade;
Breathes odors richer far than those
That day elicits from the rose,
And peoples all the shadowy space
With visions of immortal grace.
But check his stretch’d and soaring wing;
His pow’rs to common habits bring;
Place him on earth, and bid him then
Associate with his fellow men;
You’ll find him, spite of all his boast,
So awkward, helpless, poor and lost,
That, if possest of mere good nature,
In pity to the dubious creature,
With flattery’s aid you’ll kindly try
To help him, once again, to fly.
Here let no scornful eagle cry,
“Avaunt! Intruder on the sky;”
Nor fellow quadruped, with spite,
Deride the short, and hasty flight;
Lest, driv’n from earth, expell’d from air,
Of mousing owl, with critic stare,
That shrinks from candor’s steady ray,
The BAT become the midnight prey.

From: Cobbold, Elizabeth, Poems: With a Memoir of the Author, 1825, J. Raw: Ipswich, UK, pp. 163-165.

Date: 1823

By: Elizabeth Knipe Cobbold (Carolina Petty Pasty) (1765-1824)