Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Week 14--Poetry Day!

Anne Dalke's picture

We want to conduct an experiment.

We want poems about women, men, gender, feminism, the feminine, the masculine, sexism, sex.

Since the personal is political, we'd also like poems with strong personae: poems that show people.

Please pick a poem you'd like us to discuss, and post it here by noon on Monday, December 8th.

If you don't know where to begin, ask around.

Or ask Becky; she has quite few names she could give you.

--Becky and Anne

anorton's picture

The poet and the poem

When I was able to read a gender onto a not-explicitly-gendered speaker, I know that it was just based on my stereotypes and assumptions. I also fully assert the belief that the gender of the poet (or writer in general) does not have to be directly related to the gender of the speaker/narrator/presumed voice of the poem/story/text. But is it really not useful to gender the voice? I guess what I'm thinking is that it isn't useful to try to ascertain any information about the poet from the poetry; but, on the other hand, if we know some things about the poet—gender, time period, class, race, political affiliation, etc.—it allows us to read the poem in different ways. The poem doesn't have to depend on the poet for context and meaning. When I make my interpretations—especially of poetry—I do not care exclusively about the author's intent: Once a piece of writing is subjected to the public, it is each individual's to interpret as he or she can and will. At the same time, I have found it useful and exciting to consider what the author was trying to accomplish given his or her background. The poem cannot necessarily tell us about the poet, only about his or her created, artistic personality; but knowing something about the poet can open up (and close!) interpretations of the poem.
jlustick's picture

As mentioned in class, I was

As mentioned in class, I was troubled by our search for "gendered language" in poetry. I found myself asking the "so what" question. So I will ask it again. So what if poetry contains gendered language? So what if poetry does not contain gendered langauge? What was the purpose in our employing stereotypes? Did we learn anything valuable from our discussion? I'm honestly not sure. It seems like it might have been more worthwhile to consider why/how gender was used in the poetry. To what extent do poems depend on gender? Why might some poems depend more than others? What does this tell us about gender in society? Also, if we are to argue that poetic langauge is gendered, then is verbal language also gendered? I would argue that it isn't. Language seems to be more a product of our personality and social environment than our gender. I'm starting to feel like this post, similar to Tuesday's discussion, is going in circles- does that signify a dead end or a complex, important matter that my brain isn't yet ready to decode?
EG's picture

I found a lot of these poems

I found a lot of these poems and the commentary that followed to be interesting.  But I wasn't sure what we were trying to get at.

 Even at the top of this thread, the "experiment" isn't explained.  We have instructions, but nothing to be looking for, except for skumar's hypothesis, which I sort of felt that we, as a class, at least partially rejected or found flawed.   I was struck by a hypothesis being present at all; how can a hypothesis be supported or not by all poetry, or even most, when it's such a personal art?  Shouldn't we leave general hypotheses to science, and more personal findings to writing?  Because while this hypothesis may have been "proven true" for some of the class, it could have done the opposite for the rest.

 I'm not claiming that there isn't value in exploring personal hypotheses in poetry.  But I DO feel uncomfortable treating this as an experiment, giving it a hypothesis, and emerge with blanket truths or falsehoods that we should all walk away with, especially when we looking at such a small fraction of poetry.

That said, I appreciate Anne's posting here because it gives us the freedom to walk away with whatever insights we feel best describe the poetry we encountered in class.

Anne Dalke's picture

Un-gendering Poetry

Quite the rich question-asking session today, for which thanks (to Becky, for the idea, and to all, for interested participation). Most striking to me--as the finale for a feminist studies course--was the challenge to the question: the assertion that "looking for gendered language" was NOT a useful exercise.

For the archive, here's what was written on the board, in response to Sonal's hypothesis regarding the contrast between the short, direct "male" and the complex, "invaginated" "female" language of poetry:

  • interpretation of gender is based on the historical contect of poem and authorship--what would be ambiguous authorship now wasn't during the "second wave"
  • gender arises in form and content
    --Is this true of people as well?
  • Poets can create speakers of any gender. If they're convincing enough, we can't tell their genders from their speakers!
  • "Phenomenal Woman"
    --direct, flowing, long, not really invaginated
    --more male
  • What abouty "inner mystery"? That part seems envaginated....
  • "Men": short direct sentences, but still folds of meaning.
  • "Stepping Westward":
    --assertive--"ebb and flow"
    --striding-- "steady in the black sky"
    --ripening" on her own terms
  • We feel that our poems definitely take on a more masculine style--short sentences, to the point--but we don't know whether that's also because their main audience is children.
  • One poem can mix sentence lengths, challenging the hypothesis. The two poems seemed either descriptive or not, and also fit the hypothesis.
  • What kinds/levels of invagination are there?
  • Ideas can be "invaginated" without the language being very complex.
  • Direct, non-invaginated writing can feel very feminine.
  • Is a poem genderless if neutral? Or two extremes?
  • Is the gender of the poem dictated by the gender of the poet?
  • Q: what influence might identity (including race & ethnicity) have on poems?
  • We realized that the content of poems is more telling than form/length.
  • Can't group writing into two categories. Also, we thought poems were written by women that written by men. Maybe we women we are more likely to assume authors are.
hpolak's picture

Peanut Butter Sandwich

Peanut-Butter Sandwich
by Shel Silverstein (1932-1999)

I’ll sing you a story of a silly young king
Who played with the world at the end of a string,
But he only loved one single thing --
And that was just a peanut-butter sandwich.

His scepter and his royal gowns,
His regal throne and golden crowns
Were brown and sticky from the mounds
And drippings from each peanut-butter sandwich.

His subjects all were silly fools
For he had passed a royal rule
That all that they could learn in school
Was how to make a peanut-butter sandwich.

He would not eat his sovereign steak,
He scorned his soup and kingly cake,
And told his courtly cook to bake
An extra-sticky peanut-butter sandwich.

And then one day he took a bite
And started chewing with delight,
But found his mouth was stuck quite tight
From that last bite of peanut-butter sandwich.

His brother pulled, his sister pried,
The wizard pushed, his mother cried,
“My boy’s committed suicide
From eating his last peanut-butter sandwich!”

The dentist came, and the royal doc.
The royal plumber banged and knocked,
But still those jaws stayed tightly locked.
Oh darn that sticky peanut-butter sandwich!

The carpenter, he tried with pliers,
The telephone man tried with wires,
The firemen, they tried with fire,
But couldn’t melt that peanut-butter sandwich.

With ropes and pulleys, drills and coil,
With steam and lubricating oil --
For twenty years of tears and toil --
They fought that awful peanut-butter sandwich.

Then all his royal subjects came.
They hooked his jaws with grapplin’ chains
And pulled both ways with might and main
Against that stubborn peanut-butter sandwich.

Each man and woman, girl and boy
Put down their ploughs and pots and toys
And pulled until kerack! Oh, joy --
They broke right through that peanut-butter sandwich.

A puff of dust, a screech, a squeak --
The king’s jaw opened with a creak.
And then in voice so faint and weak --
The first words that they heard him speak
Were, “How about a peanut-butter sandwich?”

jzarate's picture

When considering the

When considering the poems, I found my initial urge was to respond in a poetic form
myself. I decided to experiment with the limerick form.
First a more traditional style…
There once were some feminist chicks
Who’s beliefs were not against dicks
They said we are not non-haters
We’re against gender dictators
Those stereotypes are for pricks
Now something more appropriate…
There once was a western feminist
She didn’t want oppression to exist
Interventions she hosted 
Of freedoms she boasted
The pride of an ethnocentrist 
I wonder if conforming to a style effects the expression of gender?  
rfindlay's picture

Parker and Jarrell

Two poems in light of Sonal's hypothesis...

Words of Comfort to Be Scratched on a Mirror

Helen of Troy had a wandering glance;
Sappho's restriction was only the sky;
Ninon was ever the chatter of France;
But oh, what a good girl am I!

Dorothy Parker


Next Day

Moving from Cheer to Joy, from Joy to All,
I take a box
And add it to my wild rice, my Cornish game hens.
The slacked or shorted, basketed, identical
Food-gathering flocks
Are selves I overlook. Wisdom, said William James,

Is learning what to overlook. And I am wise
If that is wisdom.
Yet somehow, as I buy All from these shelves
And the boy takes it to my station wagon,
What I've become
Troubles me even if I shut my eyes.

When I was young and miserable and pretty
And poor, I'd wish
What all girls wish: to have a husband,
A house and children. Now that I'm old, my wish
Is womanish:
That the boy putting groceries in my car

See me. It bewilders me he doesn't see me.
For so many years
I was good enough to eat: the world looked at me
And its mouth watered. How often they have undressed me,
The eyes of strangers!
And, holding their flesh within my flesh, their vile

Imaginings within my imagining,
I too have taken
The chance of life. Now the boy pats my dog
And we start home. Now I am good.
The last mistaken,
Ecstatic, accidental bliss, the blind

Happiness that, bursting, leaves upon the palm
Some soap and water--
It was so long ago, back in some Gay
Twenties, Nineties, I don't know . . . Today I miss
My lovely daughter
Away at school, my sons away at school,

My husband away at work--I wish for them.
The dog, the maid,
And I go through the sure unvarying days
At home in them. As I look at my life,
I am afraid
Only that it will change, as I am changing:

I am afraid, this morning, of my face.
It looks at me
From the rear-view mirror, with the eyes I hate,
The smile I hate. Its plain, lined look
Of gray discovery
Repeats to me: "You're old." That's all, I'm old.

And yet I'm afraid, as I was at the funeral
I went to yesterday.
My friend's cold made-up face, granite among its flowers,
Her undressed, operated-on, dressed body
Were my face and body.
As I think of her and I hear her telling me

How young I seem; I am exceptional;
I think of all I have.
But really no one is exceptional,
No one has anything, I'm anybody,
I stand beside my grave
Confused with my life, that is commonplace and solitary.

Randall Jarrell

sarahk's picture

(No subject)

Briar Rose (Sleeping Beauty)
a girl who keeps slipping off, 
arms limp as old carrots, 
into the hypnotist's trance, 
into a spirit world
speaking with the gift of tongues.
She is stuck in the time machine, 
suddenly two years old sucking her thumb, 
as inward as a snail, 
learning to talk again.
She's on a voyage.
She is swimming further and further back, 
up like a salmon, 
struggling into her mother's pocketbook.
Little doll child, 
come here to Papa.
Sit on my knee.
I have kisses for the back of your neck.
A penny for your thoughts, Princess.
I will hunt them like an emerald.

Come be my snooky
and I will give you a root.
That kind of voyage, 
rank as a honeysuckle.
a king had a christening
for his daughter Briar Rose
and because he had only twelve gold plates
he asked only twelve fairies
to the grand event.
The thirteenth fairy, 
her fingers as long and thing as straws, 
her eyes burnt by cigarettes, 
her uterus an empty teacup, 
arrived with an evil gift.
She made this prophecy: 
The princess shall prick herself
on a spinning wheel in her fifteenth year
and then fall down dead.
The court fell silent.
The king looked like Munch's Scream
Fairies' prophecies, 
in times like those, 
held water.
However the twelfth fairy
had a certain kind of eraser
and thus she mitigated the curse
changing that death
into a hundred-year sleep.

The king ordered every spinning wheel
exterminated and exorcised.
Briar Rose grew to be a goddess
and each night the king
bit the hem of her gown
to keep her safe.
He fastened the moon up
with a safety pin
to give her perpetual light
He forced every male in the court
to scour his tongue with Bab-o
lest they poison the air she dwelt in.
Thus she dwelt in his odor.
Rank as honeysuckle.

On her fifteenth birthday
she pricked her finger
on a charred spinning wheel
and the clocks stopped.
Yes indeed. She went to sleep.
The king and queen went to sleep, 
the courtiers, the flies on the wall.
The fire in the hearth grew still
and the roast meat stopped crackling.
The trees turned into metal
and the dog became china.
They all lay in a trance, 
each a catatonic
stuck in a time machine.
Even the frogs were zombies.
Only a bunch of briar roses grew
forming a great wall of tacks
around the castle.
Many princes
tried to get through the brambles
for they had heard much of Briar Rose
but they had not scoured their tongues
so they were held by the thorns
and thus were crucified.
In due time
a hundred years passed
and a prince got through.
The briars parted as if for Moses
and the prince found the tableau intact.
He kissed Briar Rose
and she woke up crying: 
Daddy! Daddy! 
Presto! She's out of prison! 
She married the prince
and all went well
except for the fear -
the fear of sleep.

Briar Rose
was an insomniac...
She could not nap
or lie in sleep
without the court chemist
mixing her some knock-out drops
and never in the prince's presence.
If if is to come, she said, 
sleep must take me unawares
while I am laughing or dancing
so that I do not know that brutal place
where I lie down with cattle prods, 
the hole in my cheek open.
Further, I must not dream
for when I do I see the table set
and a faltering crone at my place, 
her eyes burnt by cigarettes
as she eats betrayal like a slice of meat.

I must not sleep
for while I'm asleep I'm ninety
and think I'm dying.
Death rattles in my throat
like a marble.
I wear tubes like earrings.
I lie as still as a bar of iron.
You can stick a needle
through my kneecap and I won't flinch.
I'm all shot up with Novocain.
This trance girl
is yours to do with.
You could lay her in a grave, 
an awful package, 
and shovel dirt on her face
and she'd never call back: Hello there! 
But if you kissed her on the mouth
her eyes would spring open
and she'd call out: Daddy! Daddy! 
She's out of prison.

There was a theft.
That much I am told.
I was abandoned.
That much I know.
I was forced backward.
I was forced forward.
I was passed hand to hand
like a bowl of fruit.
Each night I am nailed into place
and forget who I am.
That's another kind of prison.
It's not the prince at all, 
but my father
drunkeningly bends over my bed, 
circling the abyss like a shark, 
my father thick upon me
like some sleeping jellyfish.
What voyage is this, little girl? 
This coming out of prison? 
God help -
this life after death? 

Anne Sexton
kgbrown's picture

Spontaneous Me

Spontaneous me, Nature,
The loving day, the mounting sun, the friend I am happy with,
The arm of my friend hanging idly over my shoulder,
The hillside whiten'd with blossoms of the mountain ash,
The same late in autumn, the hues of red, yellow, drab, purple, and
light and dark green,
The rich coverlet of the grass, animals and birds, the private
untrimm'd bank, the primitive apples, the pebble-stones,
Beautiful dripping fragments, the negligent list of one after
another as I happen to call them to me or think of them,
The real poems, (what we call poems being merely pictures,)
The poems of the privacy of the night, and of men like me,
This poem drooping shy and unseen that I always carry, and that all
men carry,
(Know once for all, avow'd on purpose, wherever are men like me, are
our lusty lurking masculine poems,)
Love-thoughts, love-juice, love-odor, love-yielding, love-climbers,
and the climbing sap,
Arms and hands of love, lips of love, phallic thumb of love, breasts
of love, bellies press'd and glued together with love,
Earth of chaste love, life that is only life after love,
The body of my love, the body of the woman I love, the body of the
man, the body of the earth,
Soft forenoon airs that blow from the south-west,
The hairy wild-bee that murmurs and hankers up and down, that gripes the
full-grown lady-flower, curves upon her with amorous firm legs, takes
his will of her, and holds himself tremulous and tight till he is
The wet of woods through the early hours,
Two sleepers at night lying close together as they sleep, one with
an arm slanting down across and below the waist of the other,
The smell of apples, aromas from crush'd sage-plant, mint, birch-bark,
The boy's longings, the glow and pressure as he confides to me what
he was dreaming,
The dead leaf whirling its spiral whirl and falling still and
content to the ground,
The no-form'd stings that sights, people, objects, sting me with,
The hubb'd sting of myself, stinging me as much as it ever can any
The sensitive, orbic, underlapp'd brothers, that only privileged
feelers may be intimate where they are,
The curious roamer the hand roaming all over the body, the bashful
withdrawing of flesh where the fingers soothingly pause and
edge themselves,
The limpid liquid within the young man,
The vex'd corrosion so pensive and so painful,
The torment, the irritable tide that will not be at rest,
The like of the same I feel, the like of the same in others,
The young man that flushes and flushes, and the young woman that
flushes and flushes,
The young man that wakes deep at night, the hot hand seeking to
repress what would master him,
The mystic amorous night, the strange half-welcome pangs, visions, sweats,
The pulse pounding through palms and trembling encircling fingers,
the young man all color'd, red, ashamed, angry;
The souse upon me of my lover the sea, as I lie willing and naked,
The merriment of the twin babes that crawl over the grass in the
sun, the mother never turning her vigilant eyes from them,
The walnut-trunk, the walnut-husks, and the ripening or ripen'd
long-round walnuts,
The continence of vegetables, birds, animals,
The consequent meanness of me should I skulk or find myself indecent,
while birds and animals never once skulk or find themselves indecent,
The great chastity of paternity, to match the great chastity of maternity,
The oath of procreation I have sworn, my Adamic and fresh daughters,
The greed that eats me day and night with hungry gnaw, till I saturate
what shall produce boys to fill my place when I am through,
The wholesome relief, repose, content,
And this bunch pluck'd at random from myself,
It has done its work--I toss it carelessly to fall where it may.
Anne Dalke's picture

Tuesday's assignment

Please look over all the poems that have been posted. Choose one from the set (could be yours or another's) and print off a copy to bring to class. Come ready to talk about how well that poem fits/refuses/complicates Sonal's hypothesis about the gendering of language.

Anne and Becky


skumar's picture

My Hypothesis...

Oh gosh, this should be interesting!
jzarate's picture

My Name Is Judith

My name is Judith, meaning
She Who Is Praised
I do not want to be called praised
I want to be called The Power of Love.

if Love means protect then whenever I do not
defend you
I cannot call my name Love.
if Love means rebirth then when I see us
dead on our feet
I cannot call my name Love.
if Love means provide & I cannot
provide for you
why would you call my name Love?

do not mistake my breasts
for mounds of potatoes
or my belly for a great roast duck.
do not take my lips for a streak of luck
nor my neck for an appletree,
do not believe my eyes are a warm swarm of bees;
do not get Love mixed up with me.

Don't misunderstand my hands
for a church with a steeple,
open the fingers out come the people
nor take my feet to be acres of solid brown earth,
or anything else of infinite worth
to you, my brawny turtledove;
do not get me mixed up with Love.

not until we have ground we call our own
to stand on
& weapons of our own in hand
& some kind of friends around us
will anyone ever call our name Love,
& then when we do we will all call ourselves
grand, muscley names:
the Protection of Love,
the Provision of Love & the
Power of Love.
until then, my sweethearts,
let us speak simply of
romance, which is so much
easier and so much less
than any of us deserve.
hope's picture

"Have You Ever Felt like a

"Have You Ever Felt like a Wounded Cow"
Have you ever felt like a wounded cow
halfway between an oven and a pasture?
walking in a trance toward a pregnant
seventeen-year-old housewife's
two-day-old cookbook?
rchauhan's picture

They Outlawed Touch They

They Outlawed Touch

They outlawed touch between those of the same body,
no twins, no sisters, no friends, no neighbors
an oddity, the way I wash my hair, the way
I bare my teeth?

get used to that word, perverse
you might as well get used
to spit in your face
and know pacific as an ocean
just some innocent ocean

get used to flaunting
your fists
reach across wall, ice, lock, myth
across lies we don't exist
while a candidate swears on a Bible he's no queer

I never knew what I was till I knew my name.
Lesbiana, the young girls jeer
and I know there must be one among them
swinging her skirts brashly
hearing her own name,
seeing herself
in me,
and I have loud names for this,
burnt kiss, singe
risk, pride
stronger tendon
fist hand human natural animal hand.

anorton's picture

"Sonnet 42"

(from "33")


Sometimes the words are so close I am

more who I am when I'm down on paper

than anywhere else as if my life were

practising for the real me I become

unbuttoned from the anecdotal and

unnecessary and undressed down

to the figure of the poem, line by line,

the real text a child could understand.

Why do I get confused living it through?

Those of you, lost and yearning to be free,

who hear these words, take heart from me.

I once was in as many drafts as you.

But briefly, essentially, here I am...

Who touches this poem touches a woman.

skumar's picture

My thoughts on a conglomerate mess that is poetry

Reading the poems that have been posted thus far, I find myself completely awestruck at how difficult it is to associate language with a gender. Since we are experimenting, here, let me present you my hypothesis. I hypothesized that court and less descriptive sentences would posit a male poet whereas long and complex, flowy/sinuous, or "invaginated" writing would make for a female poet.

Some questions:

1. What constitutes genderless poetry? I don't mean using gender neutral pronouns...because that present a solution that would be too easy.

2. Is there a way to assign gender to language and writing style without reverting back to gender binary (masculine vs. feminine tone, voice, words etc)?

3. Is it more feminist to know & acknowledge or not know & mysteriously admire the gender of the creator?

ssherman's picture

A Boy Named Sue by Shel

A Boy Named Sue by Shel Silverstein
Well, my daddy left home when I was three,
and he didn't leave much to Ma and me,
just this old guitar and a bottle of booze.
Now I don't blame him because he run and hid,
but the meanest thing that he ever did was
before he left he went and named me Sue.

Well, he must have thought it was quite a joke,
and it got lots of laughs from a lot of folks,
it seems I had to fight my whole life through.
Some gal would giggle and I'd get red
and some guy would laugh and I'd bust his head,
I tell you, life ain't easy for a boy named Sue.

Well, I grew up quick and I grew up mean.
My fist got hard and my wits got keen.
Roamed from town to town to hide my shame,
but I made me a vow to the moon and the stars,
I'd search the honky tonks and bars and kill
that man that gave me that awful name.

But it was Gatlinburg in mid July and I had
just hit town and my throat was dry.
I'd thought i'd stop and have myself a brew.
At an old saloon in a street of mud
and at a table dealing stud sat the dirty,
mangy dog that named me Sue.

Well, I knew that snake was my own sweet dad
from a worn-out picture that my mother had
and I knew the scar on his cheek and his evil eye.
He was big and bent and gray and old
and I looked at him and my blood ran cold,
and I said, "My name is Sue. How do you do?
Now you're gonna die." Yeah, that's what I told him.

Well, I hit him right between the eyes and he went down
but to my surprise he came up with a knife
and cut off a piece of my ear. But I busted a chair
right across his teeth. And we crashed through
the wall and into the street kicking and a-gouging
in the mud and the blood and the beer.

I tell you I've fought tougher men but I really can't remember when.
He kicked like a mule and bit like a crocodile.
I heard him laughin' and then I heard him cussin',
he went for his gun and I pulled mine first.
He stood there looking at me and I saw him smile.

And he said, "Son, this world is rough and if
a man's gonna make it, he's gotta be tough
and I knew I wouldn't be there to help you along.
So I gave you that name and I said 'Goodbye'.
I knew you'd have to get tough or die. And it's
that name that helped to make you strong."

Yeah, he said, "Now you have just fought one
helluva fight, and I know you hate me and you've
got the right to kill me now and I wouldn't blame you
if you do. But you ought to thank me
before I die for the gravel in your guts and the spit
in your eye because I'm the nut that named you Sue."
Yeah, what could I do? What could I do?

I got all choked up and I threw down my gun,
called him pa and he called me a son,
and I came away with a different point of view
and I think about him now and then.
Every time I tried, every time I win and if I
ever have a son I think I am gonna name him
Bill or George - anything but Sue.
mpottash's picture

I Am In Need of Music

I am in need of music that would flow
Over my fretful, feeling fingertips,
Over my bitter-tainted, trembling lips,
With melody, deep, clear, and liquid-slow.
Oh, for the healing swaying, old and low,
Of some song sung to rest the tired dead,
A song to fall like water on my head,
And over quivering limbs, dream flushed to glow!

There is a magic made by melody:
A spell of rest, and quiet breath, and cool
Heart, that sinks through fading colors deep
To the subaqueous stillness of the sea,
And floats forever in a moon-green pool,
Held in the arms of rhythm and of sleep. 
Dawn's picture

Final Performances

On another note, anyone need someone else for their group?
ebock's picture

"Lovers are like Children" -- Adrienne Rich

Chagall's sweet lovers mounting into blue

Remind me that discovery by two

Of any world the mind can wander through


Is like the time when young and left alone,

We touched the secret fringe of being one,

Back of the playground full of Everyone.


Love is like childhood, caught in trust and fear.

The statues point to omens in the air,

And yet the fountains bubble bright and clear.


Lost in the garden rank with contradiction,

We see the fences sprout for our affliction,

And the red-rose-tree curtly labelled Fiction.


Nothing to tell us whether what they mean

Is true of this or any other scene.

We only know the summer leaves are green,


Alive and dense for two to penetrate--

An exploration difficult and great

As when one day beside the schoolyard gate,


Straggling behind to glean a sunlight stone,

One first perceived and knew itself as one.

Now add this pebble to that early one.



aaclh's picture

Portraits in Contradiction by V.G.

Since I cannot speak of fields

and broken fences where the

winds howl, I speak instead of

how we did not speak and went 

our separate ways across the 

plains; the cow grass whipped under 

the rims of our cast iron wheels,

you up the hill, and I straight 

ahead towards the Big Bottom,

four clear lines in opposite 

direction. You chose the sun

in a western window, I 

the spectre moon, you built of 

bricks, I of reeds and cattails, 

and we endured thirty years

each in our own ways of not

talking. You hired men, bought

cattle, started a ranch. I 

cleared the land, kept a bird, rocked 

on the porch. You worked numbers 

expanded, I grew into

myself. You made money, joined 

the club, became mayor, I 

worked the loom, sending shuttle 

over warp and woof, stick and 

fiber. While you threw parties 

and danced in a circle, I 

threw my carpet on the dirt

floor and walked the tree of life.

sarina's picture

Lady Lazarus  I have

Lady Lazarus 

I have done it again.
One year in every ten
I manage it--

A sort of walking miracle, my skin
Bright as a Nazi lampshade,
My right foot

A paperweight,
My face a featureless, fine
Jew linen.

Peel off the napkin
O my enemy.
Do I terrify?--

The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?
The sour breath
Will vanish in a day.

Soon, soon the flesh
The grave cave ate will be
At home on me

And I a smiling woman.
I am only thirty.
And like the cat I have nine times to die.

This is Number Three.
What a trash
To annihilate each decade.

What a million filaments.
The peanut-crunching crowd
Shoves in to see

Them unwrap me hand and foot--
The big strip tease.
Gentlemen, ladies

These are my hands
My knees.
I may be skin and bone,

Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.
The first time it happened I was ten.
It was an accident.

The second time I meant
To last it out and not come back at all.
I rocked shut

As a seashell.
They had to call and call
And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.

Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.

I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I've a call.

It's easy enough to do it in a cell.
It's easy enough to do it and stay put.
It's the theatrical

Comeback in broad day
To the same place, the same face, the same brute
Amused shout:

'A miracle!'
That knocks me out.
There is a charge

For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge
For the hearing of my heart--
It really goes.

And there is a charge, a very large charge
For a word or a touch
Or a bit of blood

Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.
So, so, Herr Doktor.
So, Herr Enemy.

I am your opus,
I am your valuable,
The pure gold baby

That melts to a shriek.
I turn and burn.
Do not think I underestimate your great concern.

Ash, ash--
You poke and stir.
Flesh, bone, there is nothing there--

A cake of soap,
A wedding ring,
A gold filling.

Herr God, Herr Lucifer

Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.

Slyvia Plath

jlustick's picture


I'm purposefully leaving out the title. Poet: Maya Angelou

When I was young, I used to
Watch behind the curtains
As men walked up and down the street. Wino men, old men.
Young men sharp as mustard.
See them. Men are always
Going somewhere.
They knew I was there. Fifteen
Years old and starving for them.
Under my window, they would pauses,
Their shoulders high like the
Breasts of a young girl,
Jacket tails slapping over
Those behinds,

One day they hold you in the
Palms of their hands, gentle, as if you
Were the last raw egg in the world. Then
They tighten up. Just a little. The
First squeeze is nice. A quick hug.
Soft into your defenselessness. A little
More. The hurt begins. Wrench out a
Smile that slides around the fear. When the
Air disappears,
Your mind pops, exploding fiercely, briefly,
Like the head of a kitchen match. Shattered.
It is your juice
That runs down their legs. Staining their shoes.
When the earth rights itself again,
And taste tries to return to the tongue,
Your body has slammed shut. Forever.
No keys exist.

Then the window draws full upon
Your mind. There, just beyond
The sway of curtains, men walk.
Knowing something.
Going someplace.
But this time, I will simply
Stand and watch.


Dawn's picture

Language of love in an unconventional context

One of my favorite poems by one of my favorite poets!


A Two-legged Falls for Trees


I’m in love with white pine,

not just the guardian who hails


me on Rt. 17 by the old exit

river to Mooselookmeguntic


but every blessed pine I hear,

those beside the grocery,


the offices of Stony Batter

the Carry Road from Oquossoc


to Mooselook, those further

south above the Connecticut’s


floodplain: Every tree loves

in return, returning the care


and thought I give, my dreams

at night of spirits holding


steady holding me: limbs

and flesh an abiding body.

stephanie2's picture

Phenomenal Woman Maya Angelou

Phenomenal Woman
  Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Maya Angelou

Serendip Visitor's picture

Phenomenal Woman

I have always loved this poem and the writer! I was fortunate enough to meet this beautiful woman during the Employee of the Year event at Treasure Island when Steve Wynn stilled owned Mirage Resorts. She was an amazing speaker and talked about her 'prodigal son'. We have one as well and she said she would pray for us and she stayed at our table awhile. Honestly by the time she had left I felt as though I'd been to a service at church! She is/was very spiritual and so gracious. What a great and very sad loss to us!

lrperry's picture

The Poetry of Sarah Palin

A preview: 

"You Can't Blink"

You can't blink.
You have to be wired
In a way of being
So committed to the mission,

The mission that we're on,
Reform of this country,
And victory in the war,
You can't blink.

So I didn't blink.

(To C. Gibson, ABC News, Sept. 11, 2008)



ssherman's picture

thanks for putting this

thanks for putting this up!  its very interesting, i went to slate to look at more.

i really enjoy this one as well:


"Challenge to a Cynic"

You are a cynic.
Because show me where
I have ever said
That there's absolute proof
That nothing that man
Has ever conducted
Or engaged in,
Has had any effect,
Or no effect,
On climate change.

(To C. Gibson, ABC News, Sept. 11, 2008)


betsy's picture

a poem

From the 2006 Dodge Poetry Festival: I would write it out but it is worth listening to the author read and the translation that follows....enjoy.

Anne Dalke's picture

A Narrow Fellow in the Grass

A narrow Fellow in the Grass
Occasionally rides -
You may have met Him? Did you not
His notice instant is-

The Grass divides as with a Comb -
A spotted shaft is seen,
And then it closes at your Feet
And opens further on -

He likes a Boggy Acre -
A Floor too cool for Corn -
But when a Boy and Barefoot
I more than once at Noon

Have passed I thought a Whip Lash
Unbraiding in the Sun
When stooping to secure it
It wrinkled And was gone -

Several of Nature's People
I know, and they know me
I feel for them a transport
Of cordiality

But never met this Fellow,
Attended or alone
Without a tighter Breathing
And Zero at the Bone.
EG's picture

(No subject)

Crazy love of things. 
I like pliars,
and scisssors.
I love
and bowls -
not to speak, of course,
of hats.
I love
all thing,
not just
the grandest,
the infinite
and flower vases.

Oh yes.

rfindlay's picture

For everyone who's hesitant

For everyone who's hesitant about poetry in general:


I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all this fiddle.
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers in
it after all, a place for the genuine. 

Marianne Moore

lrperry's picture

Stepping Westward

Denise Levertov, Stepping Westward

What is green in me

darkens, muscadine.


If woman is inconstant,

good, I am faithful to


ebb and flow, I fall

in season and now


is a time of ripening.

If her part


is to be true,

a north star,


good, I hold steady

in the black sky


and vanish by day,

yet burn there


in blue or above

quilts of cloud.


There is no savor

more sweet, more salt


than to be glad to be

what, woman,


and who, myself,

I am, a shadow


that grows longer as the sun

moves, drawn out


on a thread of wonder.

If I bear burdens


they begin to be remembered

as gifts, goods, a basket


of bread that hurts

my shoulders but closes me


in fragrance. I can

eat as I go.


anorton's picture

Laura, you stole my poem

Laura, you stole my poem idea!  Good thinking. 
kscire's picture

Parturition By: Mina Loy


By: Mina Loy  


I am the centre 

Of a circle of pain 

Exceeding it’s boundaries in every direction 



The business of the bland sun 

Has no affair with me 

In my congested cosmos of agony 

From which there is no escape 

On infinitely prolonged nerve vibrations 

Or in contraction 

To the pin-point nucleus of being 


Locate an irritation  without 

It is                           within 


It is without 

The sensitized area 

Is identical                with the extensity 

Of intension 


I am the false quantity 

In the harmony of physiological potentiality 

To which 

Gaining self-control 

I should be consonant 

In time 


Pain is no stronger than the resisting force 

Pain calls up in me 

The struggle is equal 


The open window is full of a voice 

A fashionable portrait-painter 

Running up-stairs to a woman’s apartment


      “All the girls are tid’ly did’ly 

       All the girls are nice 

       Whether they wear their hair in curls


At the back of the thoughts to which i permit crystallization 

The conception                        Brute 


The irresponsibility of the male 

Leaves woman her superior Inferiority 

He is running up-stairs 


I am climbing a distorted mountain of agony 

Incidentally with the exhaustion of control 

I reach the summit 

And gradually subside into anticipation of 


Which never comes

For another mountain is growing up 

Which             goaded by the unavoidable 

I must traverse 

Traversing myself 


Something in the delirium of night-hours 

Confuses while intensifying sensibility 

Blurring spatial contours 

So aiding elusion of the circumscribed 

That the gurgling of a crucified wild beast 

Comes from so far away 

And the foam on the stretched muscles of a mouth 

I no part of myself 

There is no climax in sensibility 

When pain surpassing itself 

Becomes exotic 


And the ego succeeds in unifying the positive and negative 

poles of sensation 

Uniting the opposing and resisting forces 

In lascivious relaxation 



Negation of myself as a unit 

          Vacuum interlude 

I should have been emptied of life 

Giving life 

for consciousness in crises    races 

Through the subliminal deposits of evolutionary processes 

Have I not 


A dead white feathered mouth 

Laying eggs? 

A moment 

Being realization 


Vitalized by cosmic intuition 

Furnish an adequate apology 

For the objective 

Agglomeration of activities 

Of a life. 


A leap with nature 

Into the essence 

Of unpredicted Maternity 

Against my thigh 

Touch of infinitesimal motion 

Scarcely perceptible 


Warmth     moisture 

Stir of incipient life 

Precipitating into me 

The contents of the universe  


Mother I am 


With infinite Maternity 



     I am absorbed 


The was-is-ever-shall-be 

Of cosmic reproductivity 


Rises from the subconscious 

Impression of a cat 

With blind kittens 

Among her legs 

Same undulating life-stir 

I am that cat 



Rises from the sub-conscious 

Impression of small animal carcass 

Covered with blue-bottles 


And through the insects 

Waves that same undulation of living 



I am knowing 

All about 


The next morning 

Each woman-of-the-people 

Tip-toeing the red pile of the carpet 

Doing hushed service 

Each woman-of-the-people 

Wearing a halo 

A ludicrous little halo 

Of which she is sublimely   unaware 


I once heard in a church 

-Man and woman God made them- 

                                         Thank God. 


skumar's picture

Translated from French, A Poem on Sex

(Translated from French)

My wife with the hair of a wood fire
With the thoughts of heat lightning
With the waist of an hourglass
With the waist of an otter in the teeth of a tiger
My wife with the lips of a cockade and of a bunch of stars of the last magnitude
With the teeth of tracks of white mice on the white earth
With the tongue of rubbed amber and glass
My wife with the tongue of a stabbed host
With the tongue of a doll that opens and closes its eyes
With the tongue of an unbelievable stone
My wife with the eyelashes of strokes of a child's writing
With brows of the edge of a swallow's nest
My wife with the brow of slates of a hothouse roof
And of steam on the panes
My wife with shoulders of champagne
And of a fountain with dolphin-heads beneath the ice
My wife with wrists of matches
My wife with fingers of luck and ace of hearts
With fingers of mown hay
My wife with armpits of marten and of beechnut
And of Midsummer Night
Of privet and of an angelfish nest
With arms of seafoam and of riverlocks
And of a mingling of the wheat and the mill
My wife with legs of flares
With the movements of clockwork and despair
My wife with calves of eldertree pith
My wife with feet of initials
With feet of rings of keys and Java sparrows drinking
My wife with a neck of unpearled barley
My wife with a throat of the valley of gold
Of a tryst in the very bed of the torrent
With breasts of night
My wife with breasts of a marine molehill
My wife with breasts of the ruby's crucible
With breasts of the rose's spectre beneath the dew
My wife with the belly of an unfolding of the fan of days
With the belly of a gigantic claw
My wife with the back of a bird fleeing vertically
With a back of quicksilver
With a back of light
With a nape of rolled stone and wet chalk
And of the drop of a glass where one has just been drinking
My wife with hips of a skiff
With hips of a chandelier and of arrow-feathers
And of shafts of white peacock plumes
Of an insensible pendulum
My wife with buttocks of sandstone and asbestos
My wife with buttocks of swans' backs
My wife with buttocks of spring
With the sex of an iris
My wife with the sex of a mining-placer and of a platypus
My wife with a sex of seaweed and ancient sweetmeat
My wife with a sex of mirror
My wife with eyes full of tears
With eyes of purple panoply and of a magnetic needle
My wife with savanna eyes
My wife with eyes of water to he drunk in prison
My wife with eyes of wood always under the axe
My wife with eyes of water-level of level of air earth and fire