The Clerilhew

I learned the name of this four-line from an excellent review of Sylvia Plath and Seamus Heaney in the Hudson Review, by David Mason.  You can find this online. He quoted this one (by Edna Longley, Michael’s wife):

Michael Longley
Is inclined to feel strongly
About being less famous
Than Seamus.

As you see, the first line contains a name, and the lines rhyme AABB. I hadn’t known the name of the form, and most of them seem to hardly rise above the limerick. But I’ve long enjoyed this one by J.V. Cunningham:

Lip was a man who used his head.
He used it when he went to bed.
With his friend’s wife or with his friend,
With either sex at either end.

In that same issue of the Hudson Review, you can find my review of The Selected Letters of John Berryman, but that’s only in the print issue, not online.

So many love poems

The American Academy of poets sent me a link to “Poems for Valentine’s Day.” I chose this one to share:

I Loved You Before I Was Born

I loved you before I was born.
It doesn’t make sense, I know.

I saw your eyes before I had eyes to see.
And I’ve lived longing 
for your ever look ever since.
That longing entered time as this body. 
And the longing grew as this body waxed.
And the longing grows as the body wanes.
The longing will outlive this body.

I loved you before I was born.
It doesn’t make sense, I know.

Long before eternity, I caught a glimpse
of your neck and shoulders, your ankles and toes.
And I’ve been lonely for you from that instant.
That loneliness appeared on earth as this body. 
And my share of time has been nothing 
but your name outrunning my ever saying it clearly. 
Your face fleeing my ever
kissing it firmly once on the mouth.

In longing, I am most myself, rapt,
my lamp mortal, my light 
hidden and singing. 

I give you my blank heart.
Please write on it
what you wish. 

Lee-Young Li

Reprise

Today in my email was the Atlantic Gallery of Owls, including this stock photo by Liu Guoxing, from Getty. It reminded me of a poem I posted in 2013 by M. Wyrebeck. It’s the opening poem in her book Be Properly Scared, and I think the best one. She died in 2003, from the cancer she had been battling most of her adult life. This photo made me think of the poem, and it’s worth reprinting here.

Night Owl

.                         You are nearing the land that is life
.                         You will recognize it by its seriousness.
.                                                                  Rainer Maria Rilke
Driving my bad news the back way home
I know I’m in the land that is life
when I reach my favorite stretch of road—fields
flat and wide where corn appears soon after
planting the soil tilled, night-soaked
and crumbled into fists.
Ferguson’s barn is somewhere
at the end of this long arm of tar
and as I near it, something grazes the back
passenger-side door, luffs parallel to my car—
a huge owl on headlight spray floating,
holding night over the hood to see
if this moving thing is real, alive,
something to kill—then gliding in
close as if to taste glass.
The road levitates, buffeted on a surf
of light, the fog-eaten farm disappearing
as I ride into starlessness, cells conspiring
so I am bright-flecked and uplifted—is this
what it feels like to be chosen—to be taken
under the wing of something vast
that knows its way blindly?

M. Wyrebek

 

Icarus

So many wonderful poems about Icarus–probably my two favorites are Jack Gilbert’s Failing and Flying and Auden’s Musee des Beaux Arts.  I love Muriel Rukeyser’s Waiting for Icarus  too.  This one by Robert Cording (from Poetry Daily) adds something new to the assemblage. It takes flight from a stark opening:

Icarus

After our son died, my wife found him
in coincidences—sightings of hawks, mostly,
at the oddest of times and places, and then
in a pair of redtails that took up residence,
nesting in a larch above our barn, and how
their low, frequent sweeps just a few feet above us
before rising over our kitchen roof
made it seem as if they were looking in on us.
In a way, it all made sense, our son so at home
in high places—the edges of mountain trails,
walking on a roof, or later, after he became
a house painter, at the top of a forty-foot ladder.
So many mornings we woke to the redtails’
jolting screeches and, even if I was a casual believer,
their presence multiplied my love
for the ordinary more every day. We never thought,
of course, any of those hawks was our son—
who would ever want that?—but, once,
watching one rise and rise on a draft of air,
I thought of Icarus soaring toward the sun—
as if an old story could provide the distance
I needed—waxed and feathered, his arms winged,
and remembered a babysitter’s frantic call
to come home, immediately, after she’d found
our ten-year-old nearly forty feet up
in an oak tree. I can almost hear him again, laughing
high up in the sky, throned on a branch,
his feet dangling, knowing nothing but the promise
of heights as he waved to me—
and I must have looked very small
calling up to him, staying calm
so falsely as I pleaded with him
to come down, to come down now.

Robert Cording