Tag Archives: favorite poems

An Instant’s Act

I think of Emily Dickinson a bit like I do Wallace Stevens. That I ought to like her work more than I do, that perhaps I’m reading it wrong… (Similar to my take on much modern art.)

I take some pleasure in the fact that she too was a New Englander. (Good soil for apples and writers?) She’s also another reminder that the right words can cause a furor even if their writer was a recluse.

Apparently she had been quite the gardener in the odd hours when few people were about. A few years ago I met a college friend in NYC and we went to the New York Botanical Garden‘s exhibit on Emily Dickinson’s garden. It was not the best set up for photography, but it was very lovely.

This is one of my favorite pieces of hers, it speaks to me more than most of the others.


Crumbling is not an instant’s Act

by Emily Dickinson


Crumbling is not an instant’s Act

A fundamental pause

Dilapidation’s processes

Are organized Decays.


‘Tis first a Cobweb on the Soul

A Cuticle of Dust

A Borer in the Axis

An Elemental Rust—


Ruin is formal—Devil’s work

Consecutive and slow—

Fail in an instant, no man did

Slipping—is Crash’s law.

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The Albatross

Another share a favorite poem and run night…


The Albatross

by Charles Baudelaire


Often, for pastime, mariners will ensnare

The albatross, that vast sea-bird who sweeps

On high companionable pinion where

Their vessel glides upon the bitter deeps.


Torn from his native space, this captive king

Flounders upon the deck in stricken pride,

And pitiably lets his great white wing

Drag like a heavy paddle at his side.


This rider of winds, how awkward he is, and weak !

How droll he seems, who lately was all grace !

A sailor pokes a pipestem into his beak;

Another, hobbling, mocks his trammeled pace


The Poet is like this monarch of the clouds,

Familiar of storms, of stars, and of all high things;

Exiled on earth amidst its hooting crowds,

He cannot walk, borne down by his giant wings.


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I saw these cards and had to make some pendants out of them. I love the imagery of open cages, capture and freedom and the shadowy escaping birds.


It reminded me of the Hans Christian Andersen story. Here, illustrated by the wonderful Edmund Dulac. I suspect that the edition I had as a child edited out some of Andersen’s attitude towards non western culture, because I do not remember the Chinaman this and that…Sometimes rereading children’s stories is an odd experience. (Though I do remember rabidly disliking his treatment of the little mermaid!)

Through thinking of that story, once nightingale is in my head it brings me to John Keats’ Ode to a Nightingale. The main site has images of the original manuscript, complete with some corrections and false starts. I love seeing the progression of things!


From Ode to a Nightingale:


Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget

  What thou among the leaves hast never known,

The weariness, the fever, and the fret

  Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;

Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last grey hairs,

  Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;

    Where but to think is to be full of sorrow

          And leaden-eyed despairs;

  Where beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,

    Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.


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A Garden

Not really in the mood to write or research, but wanted to at least pop by. So a photo I took awhile back at a sort of local farm, Edmondson’s to illustrate one of my favorite poems. Edmondson’s also happens to be my favorite place to get pumpkins, has been since a family friend took me as a kid.


H.P. Lovecraft always brings to my mind eldritch creatures with too many tentacles, creepy seaside communities and a haunting violin. And then there’s this poem a friend introduced me to years ago. For something completely different and haunting in it’s own way.


A Garden


by H. P. Lovecraft


There’s an ancient, ancient garden that I see sometimes in dreams,
Where the very Maytime sunlight plays and glows with spectral gleams;
Where the gaudy-tinted blossoms seem to wither into grey,
And the crumbling walls and pillars waken thoughts of yesterday.
There are vines in nooks and crannies, and there’s moss about the pool,
And the tangled weedy thicket chokes the arbour dark and cool:
In the silent sunken pathways springs a herbage sparse and spare,
Where the musty scent of dead things dulls the fragrance of the air.
There is not a living creature in the lonely space around,
And the hedge~encompass’d quiet never echoes to a sound.
As I walk, and wait, and listen, I will often seek to find
When it was I knew that garden in an age long left behind;
I will oft conjure a vision of a day that is no more,
As I gaze upon the grey, grey scenes I feel I knew before.
Then a sadness settles o’er me, and a tremor seems to start –

For I know the flow’rs are shrivell’d hopes – the garden is my heart.


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