“Poetry is what gets lost in translation.” -Robert Frost

April is National Poetry Month here in the United States. To honor the most distilled form of literature, I am sharing some of my favorite poems. I hope you’ll share some of yours too.

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

The Laughing Heart – Charles Bukowski

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]  e.e. cummings

there are so many tictoc
clocks everywhere telling people
what toctic time it is for
tictic instance five toc minutes toc
past six tic

Spring is not regulated and does
not get out of order nor do
its hands a little jerking move
over numbers slowly

we do not
wind it up it has no weights
springs wheels inside of
its slender self no indeed dear
nothing of the kind.

(So,when kiss Spring comes
we’ll kiss each kiss other on kiss the kiss
lips because tic clocks toc don’t make
a toctic difference
to kisskiss you and to
Kiss me)

9e.e. cummings

I count each day a little life,
With birth and death complete;
I cloister it from care and strife
And keep it sane and sweet.

With eager eyes I greet the morn,
Exultant as a boy,
Knowing that I am newly born
To wonder and to joy.

And when the sunset splendours wane
And ripe for rest am I,
Knowing that I will live again,
Exultantly I die.

O that all Life were but a Day
Sunny and sweet and sane!
And that at Even I might say:
“I sleep to wake again.”

Each Day A LifeRobert William Service

And lastly, this gem from Shel Silverstein:


24 thoughts on ““Poetry is what gets lost in translation.” -Robert Frost

  1. I’m not normally a fan of written poetry, but I do enjoy spoken word poetry, which I was first introduced to by my son, who is a big fan of Sarah Kay. I enjoyed the clips in this post and even the written poems. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I love Sarah Kay!

      I think poetry is meant to be said aloud, to be lived. It loses so much when read inside a head. The transformation of words when I read a poem out loud is astounding. Thanks for stopping by, Doob.

  2. (Sorry for the length! Apparently I have a lot of feelings about poetry.)

    I’d never read “The Laughing Heart” before. It’s absolutely gorgeous; thank you so much for introducing me to that. I really like e.e. cummings – I’ve been a big fan of his for a long time. His stuff trips off the tongue so well, and it’s so playful and fun to read aloud that it makes you forget your self-consciousness. I love Walt Whitman and Maya Angelou, too, and speaking of Silverstein, I’ve always liked:

    She had blue skin,
    And so did he.
    He kept it hid
    And so did she.
    They searched for blue
    Their whole life through,
    Then passed right by –
    And never knew.

    As Frost himself put it: “A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness.” While many are written for cheerier reasons, I think he’s got it right. I love how poems are so often the purest expression of “I was so moved by this I had to write something”. They’re immediate and so emotional. (Makes me wish I could write them, but alas, I’m an awful poet.)

    One of my favourite poems (probably my favourite), and the poem that got me into poetry, is “Dulce Et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen. I first read it at six years old, and it stuck with me. I also love bits of Leonard Cohen, Philip Larkin (“An Arundel Tomb” is one of my favourites of his, but it’s a bit long to quote here) and Christopher Reid and Siegfried Sassoon, but none of them are particularly cheery.

    I also love Simon Armitage; he comes from the same county and kind of background as most of my family, and he writes about working-class, Northern culture in Britain so well. His stuff feels like home to me. He has an immense social conscience, too, and quite a lot of his work is about how badly Britain treats its poor and its homeless. His best-known poem is “Kid”:

    Batman, big shot, when you gave the order
    to grow up, then let me loose to wander
    leeward, freely through the wild blue yonder
    as you liked to say, or ditched me, rather,
    in the gutter … well, I turned the corner.
    Now I’ve scotched that ‘he was like a father
    to me’ rumour, sacked it, blown the cover
    on that ‘he was like an elder brother’
    story, let the cat out on that caper
    with the married woman, how you took her
    downtown on expenses in the motor.
    Holy robin-redbreast-nest-egg-shocker!
    Holy roll-me-over-in the-clover,
    I’m not playing ball boy any longer
    Batman, now I’ve doffed that off-the-shoulder
    Sherwood-Forest-green and scarlet number
    for a pair of jeans and crew-neck jumper;
    now I’m taller, harder, stronger, older.
    Batman, it makes a marvellous picture:
    you without a shadow, stewing over
    chicken giblets in the pressure cooker,
    next to nothing in the walk-in larder
    punching the palm of your hand all winter,
    you baby, now I’m the real boy wonder.

    Another favourite is Derek Walcott, and I think my favourite poem of his is “Love After Love”:

    The time will come
    when, with elation
    you will greet yourself arriving
    at your own door, in your own mirror
    and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

    and say, sit here. Eat.
    You will love again the stranger who was your self.
    Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
    to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

    all your life, whom you ignored
    for another, who knows you by heart.
    Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

    the photographs, the desperate notes,
    peel your own image from the mirror.
    Sit. Feast on your life.

    Though I think possibly the most unbridled, joyous thing I’ve ever read is “High Flight” by Gillespie McGee:

    Oh! I have breached the surly bonds of Earth
    And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
    Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
    Of sun-split clouds – and done a hundred things
    You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
    High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
    I’ve chased the shouting winds along, and flung
    My eager craft through footless halls of air.
    Up, up, the long, delirious, burning blue
    I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,
    Where never lark, or even eagle flew –
    And while, with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
    The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
    Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

    1. Never too long when poetry is the subject!
      I LOVE ‘Masks’ by Silverstein! I almost put it on here and I considered the Frost quote as the title. We’re on the same poetry brain wave. 🙂
      I hadn’t read Walcott or Armitage, but now I think I must.
      Thank you so much for sharing.

  3. Loved the poem, Madalyn. Seems the only time I could write poetry, if you want to call it that, was when I was going through very difficult times. When I’m happy, content, feeling at peace, it just doesn’t flow.

  4. I just want to say that I love your blog. It never shows up in my reader but I try to come here at least once a week to get my fix of a little bit of everything. You have so many posts that I’ve so enjoyed. Thank you so much for all of them. Including this one.

    One of my favorite poems:

    The Lesson by Maya Angelou

    I keep on dying again.
    Veins collapse, opening like the
    Small fists of sleeping
    Memory of old tombs,
    Rotting flesh and worms do
    Not convince me against
    The challenge. The years
    And cold defeat live deep in
    Lines along my face.
    They dull my eyes, yet
    I keep on dying,
    Because I love to live

    1. Thank you, Geek. Blogging loses its shine when it’s one-sided. Knowing that others enjoy my posts keeps me going. 🙂
      (Can I call you Geek? Is there something better?)

      I hadn’t come across that poem before. Or perhaps I did and I wasn’t yet receptive to its impact. “I keep on dying, Because I love to live.” That line will stay with me. Thank you so very much for sharing.

      1. Yeah, Geek or Amy – though I’m sure my name isn’t on the blog. It’s supposed to be a shared blog with my hubbie, but he never posts.
        And I do, I love your blog. You always have a fresh spin on a topic and your writing is refreshing in that you never dumb it down.
        As for the poem, I agree that’s the line that haunts/stays. 🙂

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