How to choose?

Our Library book club has a “sort-a” December tradition of reading aloud a favorite poem or two. In the past I have read a Lady Gregory, plus several by Louis Jenkins, Mary Oliver and Yeats. This year I am at a loss, having covered many favorites.

So far, these are the books I have pulled off the shelf…

Galway Kinnell’s Body Rags, Mortal Acts Mortal Words, Selected Poems

 Lawrence Durrell’s Selected Poems

Mary Oliver’s New and Selected Poems

Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf: A New Verse Translation

 Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke translated by Robert Bly

Robert Bly’s Four Ramages

Olav Hauge’s Trusting Your Life to Water and Eternity translated by Robert Bly

Tomas Tranströmer’s 20 Poems translated by Robert Bly

Robert Bly’s My Sentence Was A Thousand Years of Joy

 A Julius Berg Baumann poem from his Fra Vidderne translated by Josh Preston

I can’t find my book of collected Yeats poems. Or the ever-so-old copy of D.H. Lawrence poems. But perhaps I have enough to sort through – though I’m afraid we might be limited to only one or two.

My favorite Rilke poem?

I live my life in growing orbits

which move out over the things of the world

Perhaps I can never achieve the last,

but that will be my attempt.

I am circling around God, around the ancient tower,

and I have been circling for a thousand years

and I still don’t know if I am a falcon, or a storm,

or a great song.


Or Robert Bly’s The Dark Autumn Nights…?


I love the tiny Bly book, Four Ramages, with illustrations & graphics by Barbara LaRue King.


Okay, my decision has been made…I’m going for all three Bly poems!

(plus the other 3 Ramages)


Who (or what) are your favorite poets (or poems)?

60 thoughts on “How to choose?”

  1. Most of my favorite poems are in books that didn’t make the trip to Port Huron. Or even the trip to Happy Valley.

    One I love is Bill Holm’s Wedding Poem for Schele and Phil. I have some personal history with that poem, but it is too complicated for this venue.

    I like Sharon Olds, too.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I forgot to mention my friend, Greg Opstad, who is also an excellent poet. He divides his time and writing between Cloquet and New Mexico. His collection is “Lake Country.” Another Duluth poet I enjoy is Connie Wanek. When Robert was doing readings in Moose Lake, he invited her to join him at least once. She was a delight.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, and Bart Sutter, Duluth’s first poet laureate. Many fine poems, but the funny ones are my favorite…for example, “The Third Use of the Penis” (and the day one of my male co-workers asked “What are the first two?”)

      Liked by 2 people

  3. My earlier comment about not having books was not clear. What I meant was that I used to have poetry books and now do not. There were many poets in those books (especially Garrison’s Good Poems books) that I loved, but I rarely paid much attention to the name of the poets. And just to save others the frustration, if you Google “Good Poems” or “Writer’s Almanac” now you hit the MPR firewall separating themselves from GK.

    Liked by 1 person

    The Wild Swans at Coole

    The trees are in their autumn beauty,
    The woodland paths are dry,
    Under the October twilight the water
    Mirrors a still sky;
    Upon the brimming water among the stones
    Are nine-and-fifty swans.

    The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
    Since I first made my count;
    I saw, before I had well finished,
    All suddenly mount
    And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
    Upon their clamorous wings.

    I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
    And now my heart is sore.
    All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,
    The first time on this shore,
    The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
    Trod with a lighter tread.

    Unwearied still, lover by lover,
    They paddle in the cold
    Companionable streams or climb the air;
    Their hearts have not grown old;
    Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
    Attend upon them still.

    But now they drift on the still water,
    Mysterious, beautiful;
    Among what rushes will they build,
    By what lake’s edge or pool
    Delight men’s eyes when I awake some day
    To find they have flown away?

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Words cannot express how glad I am to “see” you again, NorthShorer. Welcome back and I hope this is the beginning of a pattern.



    Pain has an element of blank;
    It cannot recollect
    When it began, or if there were
    A day when it was not.

    It has no future but itself,
    Its infinite realms contain
    Its past, enlightened to perceive
    New periods of pain.

    Liked by 4 people


    Out through the fields and the woods
    And over the walls I have wended;
    I have climbed the hills of view
    And looked at the world, and descended;
    I have come by the highway home,
    And lo, it is ended.

    The leaves are all dead on the ground,
    Save those that the oak is keeping
    To ravel them one by one
    And let them go scraping and creeping
    Out over the crusted snow,
    When others are sleeping.

    And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
    No longer blown hither and thither;
    The last lone aster is gone;
    The flowers of the witch hazel wither;
    The heart is still aching to seek,
    But the feet question ‘Whither?’

    Ah, when to the heart of man
    Was it ever less than a treason
    To go with the drift of things,
    To yield with a grace to reason,
    And bow and accept the end
    Of a love or a season?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. One of the poems I ran across whilst looking for the right poem was one by Galway Kinnell about talking to Robert Frost…it was too long, however…and something about Frost talking too much or being tired of talking.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. has that always been a favorite or is it now positioned such with the years feeling like a trees whose growing season has passed?

      love the yeats…


  7. These days when I’m at work I only have either my little pad or my phone for the Trail. And this is way too big of a topic for me for voice recognition. So I’ll check in when I get home and can type to my heart’s content.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I am not going to have anything to contribute today so I’ll go OT.

    A bit of a rough trip to Golden Valley yesterday. I didn’t have any trouble, just slower than normal and some snow covered roads. And some people going 40 MPH and some going 70 MPH. Lots of evidence of former accidents and even a couple still in process of being resolved.

    Today I got the snow machines hung up and wouldn’t you know it, my DMX dip switch calculator is trying to fool me. Evidently I can’t be trusted to follow simple directions. now I’m waiting for the band to finish rehearsal so I can go look again.
    Who remembers what I dip shit is? I mean Dip Switch? (Favorite joke with an Uncle. Us both stumbling over the words and getting the giggles over the dip switches).

    Liked by 2 people

  9. As is obvious from the responses, picking just one favorite poet or poem is impossible for most baboons. I’m no exception. I share the appreciation of many of the poets mentioned above and many others, too. I’m offering this poem by Maxine Kumin in honor of all the gardeners in this group.


    Gassing the woodchucks didn’t turn out right.
    The knockout bomb from the Feed and Grain Exchange
    was featured as merciful, quick at the bone
    and the case we had against them was airtight,
    both exits shoehorned shut with puddingstone,
    but they had a sub-sub-basement out of range.

    Next morning they turned up again, no worse
    for the cyanide than we for our cigarettes
    and state-store Scotch, all of us up to scratch.
    They brought down the marigolds as a matter of course
    and then took over the vegetable patch
    nipping the broccoli shoots, beheading the carrots.

    The food from our mouths, I said, righteously thrilling
    to the feel of the .22, the bullets’ neat noses.
    I, a lapsed pacifist fallen from grace
    puffed with Darwinian pieties for killing,
    now drew a bead on the little woodchuck’s face.
    He died down in the everbearing roses.

    Ten minutes later I dropped the mother.She
    flipflopped in the air and fell, her needle teeth
    still hooked in a leaf of early Swiss chard.
    Another baby next.O one-two-three
    the murderer inside me rose up hard,
    the hawkeye killer came on stage forthwith.

    There’s one chuck left. Old wily fellow, he keeps
    me cocked and ready day after day after day.
    All night I hunt his humped-up form.I dream
    I sight along the barrel in my sleep.
    If only they’d all consented to die unseen
    gassed underground the quiet Nazi way.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I love how she so gradually justifies the escalation of violence. The last two lines slay me, just turns the whole thing political.


  10. Me, too, PJ – a lot of my favorite poets are already mentioned – Collins, Oliver, Frost, Cummings… So I’ll relate one from the same Barbara McAfee I mentioned yesterday.
    On Being a Carrot in God’s Garden

    You can be sure the hand will pull you from the ground.
    You can be sure.
    No matter how longlingly the earth presses against you,
    No matter how sweet the mineral sips at the tips of your roots,
    No matter how comfortable your somnolent, unchanging days,
    When you are ripe, you will be taken.

    In this slumbering time,
    in this tiny, dark cradle,
    you cannot imagine sky
    or the clouds who splatter the surface above,
    or even the green lace of your own intricate leaves.

    When the hand comes,
    may your flesh be sweet in surrender.
    When the soil falls away from your snapping roots,
    may you slide easy into the light.
    When you lie naked in the basket,
    may the hand rub the last soil from your skin
    and carry you — singing and fresh —
    straight to the mouth of God.

    © Barbara McAfee

    Liked by 4 people

  11. When I was a junior in high school, my favorite teacher formed a small band of us who went around to elementary schools and read poetry. We called ourselves Poetry Circus. This was one of my favorites:

    The One That Got Away (by Gary Miranda)

    Man, you got a bird where your brain
    should be, he says, talking to me.
    I say: Perhaps you’d like to exp]ain
    that figure of speech for the whole class.

    He says: A bird, man, a bird–thass
    one o’ them things with wings what flies
    around. You, you jes sits on your ass,
    but your brain it flies around, goes

    flap an’ flap–like this. He shows
    me then with his arms, doing flap-an-flaps
    between the aisles like a trained crow’s
    bad imitation of a little black

    boy flying. Then he flaps to the back
    of the room and out the door, free:
    free of the class, that doesn’t crack a smile;
    free of the teacher, who sits

    on his ass, a bird where his brain should be.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. My favorite poem to read to children is Little Orphant Annie by James Whitcomb Riley.

      Little Orphant Annie’s come to our house to stay,
      An’ wash the cups an’ saucers up, an’ brush the crumbs away,
      An’ shoo the chickens off the porch, an’ dust the hearth, an’ sweep,
      An’ make the fire, an’ bake the bread, an’ earn her board-an’-keep;
      An’ all us other childern, when the supper-things is done,
      We set around the kitchen fire an’ has the mostest fun
      A-list’nin’ to the witch-tales ‘at Annie tells about,
      An’ the Gobble-uns ‘at gits you
      Ef you

      Wunst they wuz a little boy wouldn’t say his prayers,–
      An’ when he went to bed at night, away up-stairs,
      His Mammy heerd him holler, an’ his Daddy heerd him bawl,
      An’ when they turn’t the kivvers down, he wuzn’t there at all!
      An’ they seeked him in the rafter-room, an’ cubby-hole, an’ press,
      An’ seeked him up the chimbly-flue, an’ ever’-wheres, I guess;
      But all they ever found wuz thist his pants an’ roundabout:–
      An’ the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you
      Ef you

      An’ one time a little girl ‘ud allus laugh an’ grin,
      An’ make fun of ever’ one, an’ all her blood-an’-kin;
      An’ wunst, when they was ‘company,’ an’ ole folks wuz there,
      She mocked ’em an’ shocked ’em, an’ said she didn’t care!
      An’ thist as she kicked her heels, an’ turn’t to run an’ hide,
      They wuz two great big Black Things a-standin’ by her side,
      An’ they snatched her through the ceilin’ ‘fore she knowed what she’s about!
      An’ the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you
      Ef you

      An’ little Orphant Annie says, when the blaze is blue,
      An’ the lamp-wick sputters, an’ the wind goes woo-oo!
      An’ you hear the crickets quit, an’ the moon is gray,
      An’ the lightnin’-bugs in dew is all squenched away,–
      You better mind yer parunts, an’ yer teachurs fond an’ dear,
      An’ churish them ‘at loves you, an’ dry the orphant’s tear,
      An’ he’p the pore an’ needy ones ‘at clusters all about,
      Er the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you
      Ef you
      James Whitcomb Riley

      Oh, just reminds me I also read a lot of A A Milne to the kids…

      Liked by 4 people

  12. Nikki Giovanni, Maya Angelou, Edna St Vincent Millay, Carl Sandberg, Billy Collins, Joyce Sutphen, Jack Ridl, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Tennyson, Dickenson, Li Po, Whitman. Guess for me poets are like Lay’s Potato Chips – can’t have just one!

    Liked by 3 people

  13. The Gift (by Frederick Smock)

    The blueberry season has ended.
    Soon it will be time for pumpkins
    to arrive at the market stalls.

    It is all a gift, no?
    And the giver unknown.

    The less you want
    the more bounteous the world becomes,
    when you pass that tipping point.

    Liked by 4 people

  14. Jarring Honey (by Nick Norwood)

    Decanting from bucket to pot,
    jug to jar, air bubbles suspend
    themselves in galaxies:

    sucrose solar systems, each
    glinting orb a perfect
    pearl reflecting light.

    The little giants are first
    to rise, stately as moons,
    toward the surface. They

    catch and form a necklace
    at the throat, or continue
    upward, guickening in that

    last few millimeters to bob
    in silence on the top, collect
    in planetary clusters,

    molecular models. Super-
    novas erupting in their own
    sweet time. Later, a day

    or more, even the tiniest
    have risen. Some will remain
    like distant nebulas, faint

    milky pockets of deep space
    abuzz with stars humming
    with some new kind of being.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. And from a poet close to my heart:

    Rubber Gloves & Onions (written in college)

    here we are again. Saturday night
    & he watches me chop onions,
    while stirring tomato sauce,

    releasing that sweet pungent juice;
    the tearful smell stings.

    salty raindrops down my face onto
    onion-soaked fingers.
    “ah, my kingdom for rubber gloves.”
    he laughs.

    Liked by 4 people

  16. A silence slipping around like death,
    Yet chased by a whisper, a sigh, a breath;
    One group of trees, lean, naked and cold,
    Inking their cress ‘gainst a sky green-gold;

    One path that knows where the corn flowers were;
    Lonely, apart, unyielding, one fir;
    And over it softly leaning down,
    One star that I loved ere the fields went brown.

    – Angelina Weld Grimké

    Liked by 5 people

  17. What a marvelous treat, these unfamiliar little gems. Thanks everyone for serving them up without reservation or apology. Such unexpected flights of fancy on a gloomy, cold day.

    Liked by 3 people

  18. Sweet, so would I:
    Yet I should kill thee with much cherishing.
    Good night, good night! parting is such
    sweet sorrow,
    That I shall say good night till it be morrow.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. God Says Yes to Me
    – by Kaylin Haught

    I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
    and she said yes
    I asked her if it was okay to be short
    and she said it sure is
    I asked her if I could wear nail polish
    or not wear nail polish
    and she said honey
    she calls me that sometimes
    she said you can do just exactly
    what you want to
    Thanks God I said
    And is it even okay if I don’t paragraph
    my letters
    Sweetcakes God said
    who knows where she picked that up
    what I’m telling you is
    Yes Yes Yes

    Liked by 4 people

  20. How Not to Have to Dry the Dishes

    If you have to dry the dishes
    (Such an awful boring chore)
    If you have to dry the dishes
    (‘Stead of going to the store)
    If you have to dry the dishes
    And you drop one on the floor
    Maybe they won’t let you
    Dry the dishes anymore

    – Shel Silverstein

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Sarah Sylvia Cynthia Stout Would Not Take The Garbage Out by Silverstein…frequently quoted to myself…early on the LGMS I heard a musical version but somehow it disappeared. Anyone else remember it?

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the AA Milne, BIR,…inspired me to search out my copy of Now We Are Six…and found it! And my Yeats. So. Change of plan: Wheezles and Sneezles by Milne, Wandering Aengus by Yeats plus “He Bids His Beloved Be at Peace” and maybe “Down by the Sally Gardens” if my friend Mary will bring her harp to play along. It came down to the ones I enjoyed out loud the most. Thanks, every one for a delightful read on Tuesday….and always.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.