"Speaking of Michelangelo."

a blog about poetry and . . .

Eponymous blog post.

This blog is named after a line in T.S. Eliot’s 1920 poem “The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock.”

You can read the poem on bartleby.com.


It’s Been A While

It’s been a while since I visited my own blog. I started out thinking that this time, this blog, this idea, this project, this time I would keep at it. Well,  I haven’t. Recently, going through emails that I also have not been keeping up with, I came across an email that someone liked my blog and was following it. I thought that I should take a look  for myself, again. It’s taken me a few days to get back here . . . Image

The moon will be jealous.

The moon will be jealous.  <<< – click link to read about NASA asking for haikus to send to Mars.

A haiku to Mars,
and is it any surprise? 
The moon is jealous…

©2013 mfr

Lectio Divina

I was thrilled by all the correspondence that I received about the poetry postings that I did on facebook during April (and which was the gneiss of this blog).  Among the many poems people shared with me, some publicly and some privately, this one by the  19th century Zen monk, Ryokan, delighted me most.  Perhaps it is because I have always loved the haiku form, though this poem (in its English  translation) is not haiku strictly speaking (perhaps it conforms in the original Japanese, but somehow, I imagine that Ryokan was not concerned with that) . . . despite its syllable count, I am enchanted by it silly because, in brevity, it tells so much.

Left behind by the thief
the moon
in the window.

phases of the moon

Thanks to Ken T. for sending me this poem; it led to me searching out Ryokan on-line (I love the internet as a library . . . a revolution in research which I do not think we fully comprehend as we live through it and as we sort through the vast amount of misinformation available as well.) and was how I found the this is not a poem poem I posted earlier.  In his email, Ken also told me about a living poet and a Catholic nun, Sister Mary Lou Kownacki, who used Ryokan’s poems in a lectio devina practice as the jumping off point to writing her own poetry . . . her “mighty response” to the above poem, as Ken termed it is this:

Some mistake –
This old lady’s skin I wash
Pretends it is mine.


For me, Ryokan’s  poem validates my idea of wealth and prosperity, transcendental wealth and prosperity , yes; however, for the author to to know the value of  what was left behind implies, to me (through my own experience) that knew its value before the robbery, when he had tangible possessions of value.  I suspect that it was, already his most valued “object'” for its status alone is mentioned in this “crime report,”  and that if he had valued any of  the now gone physical items, he would not be able to then convince himself of the wealth bestowed on him my this window view.

Of course, that was a long explanation of a compact poem . . . a koan even, and takes away from its beauty . . ah but then I am not a Zen monk, but an English Major . . . and so verbosity has value for me.

Sister Mary Lou’s poem, in response, is also concerned with what is left behind. Though if Ken had not told me, I may not have recognized that it was in response to Ryokan’s poem. On the surface of the poem  what is left behind is wrinkled skin, however delving deeper into the poem (and the good sister-poet, for that matter) what is left behind, after “being robbed by time,” and what remains inside is her youth, so much so that she does not recognize herself.

Goodness knows, that when I spy my reflection in the subway window, I think to myself, “Who is that white-haired man sitting in my seat?”

Marianne Moore Announces Lunch by Kay Ryan


The Blacksmith’s House, Brattle Street; Cambridge, MA

Click this link for the poem Marianne Moore Announces Lunch by Kay Ryan.

The Untied Statesian* Poet Laureate, Kay Ryan will be reading here in Cambridge on Monday, June 3, 2013 as part of Cambridge Center for Adult Education (CCAE) as part of their “Blacksmith House Poetry Series.” The Blacksmith House is the village blacksmith’s house “under the spreading Chestnut tree,” that Longfellow made famous in his poem The Village Blacksmith and just down the street from Longfellow’s home. Today, the historic blacksmith house is where I take drawing classes at CCAE. Most of the series readings take place in the “Old Smithy” on Brattle Street, though this one will be at the First Parish Church around the corner on the appropriately named Church Street.

* The term “American” so often used to describe a citizen, object, ideal that originates and/or resides in the fifty United States of America ignores the fact that there are other North American, Central American and South American countries and cultures which are also “American.” And though in the USA we are indeed American, so are Venezuelans and Canadians.  The spanish word for what we would term “american” is  “estadounidense,” which I interpret as “United Statesian.”

These poems are not poems.

Who says my poems are poems?
These poems are not poems.
When you can understand this,
then we can begin to speak of poetry. —Ryokan (1758–1831)


“A Japanese woodcut by Kamekichi Tsunajima titled ‘Ryūkō eigo zukushi’, or ‘A Fashionable Melange of English Words’. —publicdomainreview.org


Wednesday, 1 May 2013

This past April, I decided to post a poem a day to my facebook page, and I enjoyed looking up poems that I have enjoyed in the past and/or still wondered about in the present.

I have decided to continue posting poetry that I am reading and that others have shared with me over the course of the last month.I found this poem today when I was doing some research on playwright Tennessee Williams. It is from the book My Friend Tom: The Poet Playwright Tennessee Williams  by William Jay Smith (2012; U. Press of Mississippi). The title of this poem, “Odyssey,” seemed appropriate to begin this new venture . . . and so let’s begin.

I found this poem today when I was doing some research on playwright Tennessee Williams. It is from the book My Friend Tom: The Poet Playwright Tennessee Williams  by William Jay Smith (2012; U. Press of Mississippi).

The title of this poem, “Odyssey,” seemed appropriate to begin this new venture . . . and so let’s begin.

Odyssey By Tennessee Williams

It seemed infinity to him
With eagles crying in the dawn;
Importunately then he dreamed
Of lands forever leading on!

A boundless continent was this,
The early morning of the mind—
But evening heard a serpent hiss
Or moth wings fluttering the blind,

And presently the pilgrim turned
Exhausted toward the nearest gate
And as a final lesson learned
That even Death could make him wait.

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