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Pure poets think poetic thoughts,
and never write them down,
subjecting them to poet courts
to bury with a frown,
but I write nearly all of mine
in verses all the world
can read, and do not wilt or whine
when some abuse is hurled,
because the purpose of my writing
poetic thoughts is not
to be regarded as exciting,
sensitive and hot,
but to engage with my own mind,
and what is overheard
are shades of thoughts I leave behind
to bury, word by word.
Dana Goodyear writes in the New Yorker (“The Moneyed Muse: What can two hundred million dollars do for poetry? ” February 19 and 26,2007) , about Ruth Lilly’s two hundred million dollar bequest to Poetry, and the problems facing the boar in its quest to promote poetry to the general audience rather than to people within the poetic academy:
The Wayfarers’ Club, a century-old organization that John Barr joined when he moved to Chicago, meets in a formidable stone building with a large awning across from the Art Institute. The Wayfarers’ membership typically includes the presidents of both the University of Chicago and Northwestern, the director of the Art Institute, business leaders, and, in the past, according to David Hilliard, the club’s secretary and treasurer, “real moguls.” The smell of cigar smoke lingers in the halls. On a foggy, chilly night late last year, Barr was scheduled to make a twenty-minute PowerPoint presentation about the foundation and the Lilly gift. Hilliard’s wife, Celia, a Chicago historian, has been on the board of Poetry for nearly thirty years and is on the committee to select an architect for the new building. “The magazine was always a very important anchor for poetry in Chicago—with Carl Sandburg and the hog butchers and all that, and Gwendolyn Brooks and Bronzeville, ” she said. “It was a headquarters for poets, even if they didn’t come from Chicago. There used to be a little restaurant called Le Petit Gourmet, on Michigan Avenue. Harriet Monroe would have readings, with Sandburg playing his guitar.”
A server hit a glockenspiel to signal that dinner was prepared, and the Wayfarers and their guests adjourned to a panelled room with casement windows and heavy upholstered valances. Barr arrived in a crisp white shirt, navy blazer, and striped tie, and sat at a table with Penny—petite, blond, coral lipstick, gold watch—the Hilliards, and a couple of other board members and foundation employees. Conversation turned to the controversy over Barr’s essay. Celia politely said that she still hadn’t read the latest letters to the editor. “Make sure you’re sitting down, ” John said. “We got a lot of mail—it was one of the higher mail-drawers yet.”
Ethel Kaplan, the chair of the board, said, “It’s exciting to me that people are excited about it. Whether they’re for us or against us. They feel passionate about it and are talking passionately about it. I’ve been on the board for thirty years. For so many of those years, Poetry was a quaint little oddity. If we’ve been part of stimulating this debate and starting the conversation, that’s wonderful.”
As dinner was served, David Hilliard went up to a podium and began an introduction. He joked that the foundation, seeing as it was so flush, might dedicate a new award to “Pure Poets”—those who think poetic thoughts but never write them down. “Nothing lavish—say, fifty thousand dollars to the Pure Poet of the year.” Then he asked for some investment tips, perhaps something in natural gas. Barr rose and stood before the room. “Thank you for a unique introduction, ” he said. “I have been called the world’s largest supply of natural gas in the past.” Chuckle.
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The Great Chicago Fire
The great Chicago Fire, friends,
Will never be forgot;
In the history of Chicago
It will remain a darken spot.
It was a dreadful horrid sight
To see that City in flames;
But no human aid could save it,
For all skill was tried in vain.
In the year of 1871,
In October on the 8th,
The people in that City, then
Was full of life, and great.
Less than four days it lay in ruins,
That garden City, so great
Lay smouldering in ashes,
In a sad and pitiful state.
It was a sad, sad scene indeed,
To see the fire arise,
And hear the crackling of the flames
As it almost reached the skies,
And sadder still, to hear the moans,
Of people in the flames
Cry for help, and none could get,
Ah, die where they remained.
To see the people run for life;
Up and down the blazing streets,
To find then, their escape cut off
By the fiery flaming sheets,
And others hunting for some friend
That perhaps they never found,
Such weeping, wailing, never was known,
For a thousands miles around.
Some people were very wealthy
On the morning of the 10th.
But at the close of the evening,
Was poor, but felt content,
Glad to escape from harm with life
With friends they loved so well,
Some will try to gain more wisdom,
By the sad sight they beheld.
Five thousand people were homeless,
Sad wanderers in the streets,
With no shelter to cover them,
And no food had they to eat.
They wandered down by the lake side,
Lay down on the cold damp ground,
So tired and weary and homeless,
So the rich, the poor, was found.
Mothers with dear little infants,
Some clinging to the breast.
People of every description
All laid down there to rest,
With the sky as their covering,
Ah, pillows they had none.
Sad, oh sad, it must have been,
For those poor homeless ones.
Neighboring Cities sent comfort,
To the poor lone helpless ones,
And God will not forget them
In all the years to come.
Now the City of Chicago
Is built up anew once more,
And may it never be visited
With such a great fire no more.
Julia A Moore
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Read more: sad poems, city poems, people poems, october poems, hunting poems, fire poems, history poems, food poems, friend poems, sky poems, life poems, god poems, running poems
Hiraeth and Chewing Gum: Tropical botanist Llewelyn Williams 1901-1980
The clans are splintered
Evans Williams Griffiths Price
title bearers of half-dark past,
side by side, alike
yet individual as the trees
We crossed roads not to meet
sweet hidden goosegogs,
illicit pleasures of the boys
while our sisters learned sewing,
décor and decorum.
Ach y fi! In the docks
the lame, the beggars
grimy from engine coke,
Welsh speaking, Portuguese speaking.
Llewelyn went to Assam.
Already scholar, already
naturalist. Those goosegogs,
Assam to Wales, Chicago to Wales,
Venezuela to Wales,
from Thailand to Chicago.
His life fills these 56 boxes,
76.2 linear feet of shelves.
A poet of the camera,
in pages of threescore years
he photographed lush plants,
jasmines, coffees, exotics
of doubtful spread.
He strode, sailed, flew
with greatcoat and briefcase,
trunks of equipment,
at the zenith of industry
of leaves through a pinprick,
vistas in the plantations,
These Welsh words are simples.
No names for tropical trees
in our hemmed-in language
Of the heart and hearth.
English the passport.
(which is often Turkish)
set over the poetry
of our lives, their secrets
Oh she met him, she'd have loved
Chicago Taffs, the Venezuelans,
Patagonians, inroads in Thailand.
She'd have breathed in
the excitement of the tropics.
This love affair of the tree-juice,
latex, the warm sun-sap
that sets all elastic.
There's money and honour
in this kind of drug-running.
Chile, chile, gutter percha,
set against hallucinogens,
white wicked milk
of sleep-bearing poppies.
But Welsh is for poetry,
for tradition and goodness
from Dafydd ap Gwylim
to englyn, cynganedd
and the bawdy penillion.
Travel letters to Mary,
stay-at-home wife like a sister,
paper pulped from pine,
commercial tree products.
A life-work's demands.
Chewing gum. Long riding, hard
dancing, the youth cult.
Mucky and sweet, gum arabic
with spearmint, the sharp plant,
We cannot eat grass.
There is need for this substance,
grey in spittle, imported.
There is need for the scientist,
Welsh world patriot.
I believe this puzzled world
that begins in the valleys
and stretches out everyway.
The same at seventy-five
as at twenty-five.
Da Iawn, Pob Hwyl.
In Time's trapped classroom
Llewelyn of the chewing gum
still sips his Assam, as he
nods to his friends,
Welsh still on his tongue,
in his archive, his own forest
waiting, the trees named
in their order, surviving
careless and confident.
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The Fisk Street turbine power station in Chicago
The invisible wheels go softly round and round—
Light is the tread of brazen-footed Power.
Spirits of air, caged in the iron tower,
Sing as they labor with a purring sound.
The abysmal fires, grated and chained and bound,
Burn white and still, in swift obedience cower;
While far and wide the myriad lamps, aflower,
Glow like star-gardens and the night confound.
This we have done for thee, almighty Lord;
Yea, even as they who built at thy command
The pillared temple, or in marble made
Thine image, or who sang thy deathless word.
We take the weapons of thy dread right hand,
And wield them in thy service unafraid.
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