Days – Philip Larkin – Comments


What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are happy to be in:
Where can we live but days?

Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.

Philip Larkin (1922 – 1985)

Equally we can say the same for years, centuries, minutes, seconds …

A timeless question that needs no thought.

How to live inside time to the full that is the question? … while you have time … every day is a blank page awaiting your imprint colored by your mind … seize the day without needless thought … go for it

Philip Larkin on Wikipedia

An Apology – F. J. Bergmann – Comments

An Apology

Forgive me
for backing over
and smashing
your red wheelbarrow.

It was raining
and the rear wiper
does not work on
my new plum-colored SUV.

I am also sorry
about the white

F. J. Bergmann

F.J. Bergmann writes poetry and science fiction, often simultaneously. A lack of academic literary qualifications does not preclude friendship with those so encumbered. And as can be seen by this amazing poem she has a distinct humorous connection with the poetry of Wallace Stevens.

The two poems in question are ‘The Red Wheelbarrow’ and ‘This is Just to Say’. These are detailed below for reference.

Well, it is about time that red wheelbarrow had a little mishap. It has been subject to so much poetic extension along with those white chickens. Readers continue to conjure up their own imaginative thoughts on both so it is getting a little tiresome. red= ?, compared to white = ? , wheelbarrow = man made compared to nature, Dead compared to living … and what about the wheelbarrow being glazed – what does that suggest? And why is the wheelbarrow affected by the rain and the chickens ignored? Why the word glazed? …

I know it is very difficult backing in the rain and I can understand the collision … a man made object new but not coming up to scratch – if you excuse the pun.

The plums are another thing Wallace Stevens is not sorry at all! They were obviously very enjoyable. They belonged to his partner or friend and he just wanted to state how nice they were – hoping I guess that more might be coming.

I am sure that new plum-colored SUV (sports-utility-vehicle) is great fun to drive (forgetting the little accident). I’m so glad FJB didn’t explain that she actually didn’t quite own it herself and had taken it for a spin for fun! Is ‘An Apology’ really necessary as she heads off down the street?

A link to info on F. J. Bergmann

The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white

This Is Just to Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox
and which
you were probably
for breakfast
Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

Wallace Stevens (1883 – 1963)

William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) was an American poet during both the modernist and the imagist movements. Imagist poetry focuses on the objective representation of objects.

Wallace Stevens on Wikipedia

Bright Star – John Keats – Analysis

Bright Star

Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art—
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like Nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priest like task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—
No—yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath
And so live ever—or else swoon to death.

John Keats (1795 – 1821)

Eremite – a hermit one who lives alonen
Ablution – ritual washing

A sonnet with rhyming scheme ‘abac dede  fghg ii’ and the usual break in thought after eight lines.

This is probably close to his final poetic work and this sonnet is clearly in relation to his beloved Fanny Brawne. He cannot meet the requirements for marriage for he is not of that financial status necessary and in any case he is quite ill and about to travel to Italy for health reasons where he will die at the age of 25.

He wishes to be like the Bright Star in that the star will always be there looking down steadfast and permanent whereas his view of the world in the company of the much loved Fanny Brawne is going to be very brief.

The bright star only sees the priest-like waters in their continual ritual cleansing of the world and the snow tops of mountains. He doesn’t want to be remote and a hermit and devoid of personal association with the world. The soft-fallen mask of snow gives a poetic link seen later in the poem in relation to the breast of the sleeping Fanny.

The Bright Star will ‘see’ the full gamut of Fanny’s life. He would love to experience a life-long presence of Fanny emphasised in the close personal relationship of being their while she is sleeping and watching her breath. The fall and swell and not swell and fall gives a positive ending to each breath. And because he cannot do this and his life is short the only choice is to swoon to death.

From … Wikipedia …
It is unclear when Keats first drafted “Bright Star”; his biographers suggest different dates. Andrew Motion suggests it was begun in October 1819. Robert Gittings states that Keats began the poem in April 1818 – before he met his beloved Fanny Brawne – and he later revised it for her. Colvin believed it to have been in the last week of February 1819, immediately after their informal engagement.

The final version of the sonnet was copied into a volume of The Poetical Works of William Shakespeare, opposite Shakespeare’s poem, A Lover’s Complaint. The book had been given to Keats in 1819 by John Hamilton Reynolds. Joseph Severn maintained that the last draft was transcribed into the book in late September 1820 while they were aboard the ship Maria Crowther, travelling to Rome, from where the very sick Keats would never return.

Some text from Shakespeare’s A Lover’s Complaint
O, that infected moisture of his eye,
O, that false fire which in his cheek so glowed,
O, that forc’d thunder from his heart did fly,
O, that sad breath his spungy lungs bestowed,
O, all that borrowed motion seeming owed,
Would yet again betray the fore-betray’d,
And new pervert a reconciled maid!

This is a different complaint all together. A complaint by a lady who has lost her love through betrayal. But interestingly she would accept him again if he returned to woo her in similar fashion. Keats of course did woo Fanny with his poetic voice. And she was impressed with his poetry after reading a book of his work.

A reference to the 2009 movie ‘Bright Star’ 

John Keats on Wikipedia

Moon – Janette Pieloor – Analysis


My mother comes to me
with a smile and an egg in her hand;
places it in my palm, shows me how
to crack its orange shell, unfold
its rubbery overcoat, reveal
a tiny soft ball we name Moon.

In a soft voice, just for me,
my Mother explains how Moon
and I will always be
part of each other, in a shared journey
to womanhood: a rhythm
Moon controls.

Janette Pieloor
from Then and Now’

The poem is all about communication between mother and daughter. It is centred on one object ‘the moon’ which has significant personal meaning and obviously it centres on motherhood and the shared journey of life through on-going birth.

The first stanza gives instruction on how to crack an egg. I’ve forgotten how I learnt to crack an egg on the side of a cup and open up the shell to pour it into a container without breaking the yoke. I can imagine mother and daughter together in the kitchen and the spontaneous thought on the naming of the yoke as moon.

And in the second stanza Jeanette’s mother softly takes the opportunity to state that always connection not only the birth link and physical DNA connection but you get a reinforcement of the latent mother-daughter bond – ‘always be part of each other’.  It is one of those wonderful moments in life when each are fully receptive to one another and her mother shares on a very personal one to one basis – ‘just for me (her)’.

The moon is often seen as a symbol for mother and in this peom a reference to control; life and the on-going future of humanity in her hands.

I think we all can find a moment where an object, or perhaps a few words, have indelible significance from our childhood experience in communing with our parents on an intimate level.

And as would be expected the then becomes more precious with the differential from the now as we cherish memories from the past with age.

Janette gave me permission to share this poem on this Site. She is in our U3A Poetry Appreciation Group. The poem comes from her latest book recently launched in Canberra.


The Gods – Victor Daley – Analysis

The Gods

Last night, as one who hears a tragic jest,
I woke from dreams, half-laughing, half in tears;
Methought that I had journeyed in the spheres
And stood upon the Planet of the Blest
And found thereon a folk who prayed with zest
Exceeding, and through all their painful years
Like strong souls struggled on ‘mid hopes and fears;
“Where dwell the gods,” they said, “we shall find rest.”

The gods? What gods, I thought, are those who so
Inspire their worshippers with faith that flowers
Immortal? and who make them keep aglow
The flames forever on their altar-towers?
“Where dwell these gods of yours?” I asked–and lo!
They pointed upwards to this earth of ours!

Victor James Daley (1858 -1905)

This is a sonnet with rhyming scheme abba for the two quatrains with a clear turning point in the last six lines with rhyming scheme ababab.

How do ‘The Gods’ inspire faith immortal in their worshippers? The question asked in the last two lines is where these gods dwell and the last line gives that unexpected twist?

The ‘Gods on Earth’ inspire the worshippers – the Church or Churches implied. Well, the home of ‘The Gods’ is reversed and brought to ground in contrary to the opening lines which suggest the worshippers inhabit the heavens – the Planet of the blest.

I like a poem that makes you think in a different direction. How much is faith kept alive by fellow faith-holders on Earth rather than from above the skies? And for what purpose – I could be synical, there could be self-preservation involved. Consider the first line as one who hears a tragic jest.

Victor Daley was an Australian poet. His contemporaries were the bush ballad poets Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson.

Victor Daley on Wikipedia

Stillborn – Sylvia Plath – Analysis


These poems do not live: it’s a sad diagnosis.
They grew their toes and fingers well enough,
Their little foreheads bulged with concentration.
If they missed out on walking about like people
It wasn’t for any lack of mother-love.

O I cannot understand what happened to them!
They are proper in shape and number and every part.
They sit so nicely in the pickling fluid!
They smile and smile and smile at me.
And still the lungs won’t fill and the heart won’t start.

They are not pigs, they are not even fish,
Though they have a piggy and a fishy air –
It would be better if they were alive, and that’s what they were.
But they are not dead, and their mother near dead with distraction,
And they stupidly stare, and do not speak of her.

Sylvia Plath (1932 – 1963)

This is an appropriate poem on her birthday seeing most remember her death day more than her birthday; and nice to be on the brighter side of life.

This is a poem all about the creation process, the giving of birth to a poem. For SP her poems were always her special babies. This is in contrast to Ted Hughes who regarded his poems as animals.

A poem has to live and the irony is that this is a poem that actually lives. We must assume she is talking about all her other poems, all those poems that never quite made it to her own requirement. Interestingly, at least according to TH, she never threw anything away so she would have had a workshop of pickled poems so in that sense they are not dead. They are still alive within the poet even if not breathing.

She does state there was a birth but perhaps it only lived in her mind. The thing is, it is all to do with the transfer of mind thought to actual physical words. Quite often the poet has a marvellous Aha at night but when recalled in the hard light of day finds it is not quite right and it goes in the waste paper bin.

Poems always say something about the poet, just as a child carries DNA from parents. The strong link between mother and baby or poet and poem is emphasised by the repetition of ‘smile’ in the line ‘they smile and smile and smile at me’. This may indicate that the poem is near completion. And the last line is quite appropriate as SP is left frustrated and unsung – they do not speak. A strong sense of wanting to achieve and be recognised as a poet and be heard.

So what makes a good birth … maybe assistance is needed … a midwife perhaps … or a nurse to bring the baby to the breathing state. It is important to share poetry before finalisation, but to what extent and who to share with?

Anyway SP babies live on in abundance breathing their existence, even if some have a depressive tint.

To end on a bright note here is a link to her poem ‘Morning Song, the first poem of her Ariel collection – a different birth!

In Passing – Stanley Plumly – Analysis

In Passing

On the Canadian side, we’re standing far enough away
the Falls look like photography, the roar a radio.

In the real rain, so vertical it fuses with the air,
the boat below us is starting for the caves.

Everyone on deck is dressed in black, braced for weather
and crossing against the current of the river.

They seem lost in the gorge dimensions of the place,
then, in fog, in a moment, gone.

In the Chekhov story,
the lovers live in a cloud, above the sheer witness of a valley.

They call it circumstance. They look up at the open wing
of the sky, or they look down into the future.

Death is a power like any other pull of the earth.
The people in the raingear with the cameras want to see it

from the inside, from behind, from the dark looking into the light.
They want to take its picture, give it size—

how much easier to get lost in the gradations of a large
and yellow leaf drifting its good-bye down one side of the gorge.

There is almost nothing that does not signal loneliness,
then loveliness, then something connecting all we will become.

All around us the luminous passage of the air,
the flat, wet gold of the leaves. I will never love you

more than at this moment, here in October,
the new rain rising slowly from the river.

Stanley Plumly (1939 – 2019)

Stanley Plumly was an American academic who taught creative writing and died at the age of 79 in April this year. John Keats was his spiritual guide in writing poetry. Also he is a poet who wrote about polio which affected his classmates when he was growing up.

The above poem appears to be from a visit to Niagara Falls and viewing the water from a distance on the Canadian side. There are two aspects of this passing encounter which feature in his words. A boat below the Falls which is crossing the fast flowing water, and a leaf drifting down one side of the gorge.

The boat appears a speck in the gorge and it disappears in fog. He is reminded of lovers on a cloud above a valley in a Chekov story. The lovers in this story can look up and be taken away in the open wing of the sky or can look down into their future, perhaps coming down to earth. The downside appropriate to Chekov.

This brings his thought to death as gravity. The people in the boat want to approach the Falls for photographs from many directions, but in doing so they tempt death by the swamping of the boat from the power of gravity in bringing the water over the falls.

But Stanley Plumly now turns attention to his second subject that of the leaf and the natural death of the leaf as it falls. It is much easier for him to get lost in this subject. At first this leaf is lonely by itself as it descends, then watching it further loveliness unfolds. It is representative or connects to what we will become. Death being natural.

He becomes absorbed by the beauty of wet gold leaves and the luminous passage of air penetrating the spray. And this moment becomes a love highpoint. I will never love you more. It is left to the reader to define the you whether nature, life or a person.

In summary, this is a poem about an intense emotional experience generated when visiting Niagara Falls; those moments in life that are held precious to the memory. However, like coming down out of the clouds of love they fall away in passing.

A link to some obituary detail on Stanley Plumly.

And Stanley Plumly on Wikipedia.


Leisure – William Henry Davies – Analysis


What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?—

No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

William Henry Davies (1871 – 1940)

This fourteen line poem can be regarded as a sonnet comprising of seven rhyming couplets. It is a simple poem to memorise and people of a certain vintage may have come across this poem in their school days.

This is a poem about time and the use of time that use being defined as ‘Leisure’. Leisure implies taking time out from being busy. The iambic rhythm has been likened to a heartbeat and heartbeats are a measure of time. Also the repetition of the two syllables ‘no time’ in each line reinforces the passage of time.

The first couplet has become memorable to the extent that William Henry Davies is mainly known for this one poem. Each of these lines comprise of eight single syllable words (iambic tetrameter). Single syllable words have more strength in immediate mind absorption because they stand alone and start and finish quickly. This couplet poses the question on the use of time. What is life if we don’t stand and stare? And full of care has implications of self-absorption encouraging us to look outside ourselves.

The next three couplets tell us to appreciate nature advocating that the way to do this is to take time out from what we are usually doing and be still and thus recognise the beauty that abounds in the natural environment. It is more relevant to those that live in rural settings with an obvious English setting as there are no squirrels in Australia.

Unfortunately for me stare has connotations of something not to do so although I fully understand the implications of the use of this word in the context of stopping for a moment to absorb and be aware of surroundings. But I can’t avoid the childhood admonition in respect of people. In the fifth and sixth couplets we are encouraged to appreciate the beauty in another person and maybe the use of glance in these lines encourages some discretion in how this is done to gain appreciation.

The last couplet answers the question posed in the opening lines. Life is diminished if we don’t take time out, or is it putting time in, to appreciate our surrounds and to stop and just absorb.

William Henry Davies on Wikipedia