Navigation Page

Subject Groups for Poetry Collections

Each subject collection contains a Youtube playlist of selections; however if some poems are drawn from epic, narrative, or sonnet cycles, they may be in the Poetry Audiobooks playlist due to their length.

(Note that you can use the Columbia Granger’s Poetry Database if your academic institution is connected to it or if you subscribe)


Cults, Conspiracies, and Paranoia
Haunted Houses

Interracial Love and Marriage
The 1960s



Unrequited Love

Don Juan

Hips & Buttocks

Shyness and Embarrassment


Poems about sexism and patriarchy

(Sexism playlist) **(Image source)

“The Rights of Women” by Anna Lætitia Barbauld (1743-1825; Kibworth Harcourt, Leicestershire, UK; political essayist, children’s book writer, editor, literary critic, Palgrave academy administrator and teacher)
– from Woman Romantic Poets, 1785-1832: An Anthology

[this is a response to Mary Wollstonecraft’s treatise “A Vindication of the Rights of Women”]

Yes, injured Woman! rise, assert thy right!
Woman! too long degraded, scorned, opprest;
O born to rule in partial Law’s despite,
Resume thy native empire o’er the breast!

Go forth arrayed in panoply divine;
That angel pureness which admits no stain;
Go, bid proud Man his boasted rule resign,
And kiss the golden sceptre of thy reign.

Go, gird thyself with grace; collect thy store
Of bright artillery glancing from afar;
Soft melting tones thy thundering cannon’s roar,
Blushes and fears thy magazine of war. (…)

“I am obnoxious to each carping tongue” from Prologue by Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672; Northampton, England / Cambridge, Massachusetts; scholar; Puritan)
– from World Poetry: an Anthology of Verse from Antiquity to Our Time

I am obnoxious to each carping tongue
Who says my hand a needle better fits.
A Poet’s Pen all scorn I should thus wrong,
For such despite they cast on female wits.
If what I do prove well, it won’t advance,
They’ll say it’s stol’n, or else it was by chance.

But sure the antique Greeks were far more mild,
Else of our Sex, why feigned they those nine
And poesy made Calliope’s own child?
So ‘mongst the rest they placed the Arts divine,
But this weak knot they will full soon untie.
The Greeks did nought but play the fools and lie.

Let Greeks be Greeks, and Women what they are.
Men have precedency and still excel;
It is but vain unjustly to wage war.
Men can do best, and Women know it well.
Preeminence in all and each is yours;
Yet grant some small acknowledgement of ours.

And oh ye high flown quills that soar the skies,
And ever with your prey still catch your praise,
If e’er you deign these lowly lines your eyes,
Give thyme or Parsley wreath, I ask no Bays.
This mean and unrefined ore of mine
Will make your glist’ring gold but more to shine.

“The Australian Emigrant” by Francis Fisher Browne (1843-1913; South Halifax, Vermont, US; literary periodical editor, literary critic, biographer, Civil War veteran)
– from Victorian Women Poets: An Anthology

(…) But, oh! the old home track,
Where our first affections rest!
Alas! no time shall give them back —
Our earliest and our best!”
Oh! MAN may grieve to sever
From the hearth or from the soil, —
For still some hope, some right, was his,
Which lived through want and toil; —
The dwellers of the forest,
THEY may mourn their leafy lair; —
But why should WOMAN weep her land?
She has no portion there.
Woe — woe for deeds of worth,
That were only paid with ill! —
For to her the homes of earth
Are the house of bondage, still!”

“Lord Walter’s Wife” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (née Moulton-Barrett) (1806-1861; Kelloe, Durham, England; letter-writer, literary critic, activist for the abolition of slavery and child labor)
– from The New Penguin Book of English Verse

“BUT why do you go?” said the lady, while both sate under the yew,
And her eyes were alive in their depth, as the kraken beneath the sea-blue.

“Because I fear you,” he answered;—“because you are far too fair,
And able to strangle my soul in a mesh of your gold-colored hair.”

“Oh, that,” she said, “is no reason! Such knots are quickly undone,
And too much beauty, I reckon, is nothing but too much sun.”

“Yet farewell so,” he answered;—“the sunstroke ’s fatal at times.
I value your husband, Lord Walter, whose gallop rings still from the limes.”

“O, that,” she said, “is no reason. You smell a rose through a fence:
If two should smell it, what matter? who grumbles, and where ’s the pretence?”  (…)

«Разговор между мною и женщинами» (Conversation between Me and the Women) by Anna Petrovna Bunina (1774-1829; Urosovo, Ryazan, Russia; honorary member of the literary societies of the time) [google translate]
– from An Anthology of Russian Women’s Writing, 1777-1992

(…) Женщины
И тут ни слова нет про нас!
Вот подлинно услуга!
Так что же нам в тебе? На что ты нам?
На что училась ты стихам?
Тебе чтоб брать из своего все круга,
А ты пустилася хвалить мужчин!
Как будто бы похвал их стоит пол один!
Изменница! Сама размысли зрело,
Твое ли это дело!
Иль нет у них хвалителей своих?
Иль добродетелей в нас меньше, чем у них!

Все правда, милые! вы их не ниже,
Но, ах!
Мужчины, а не вы присутствуют в судах,
При авторских венках,
И слава авторска у них в руках,
А всякий сам к себе невольно ближе.

And there is no word about us!
This is truly a service!
So what are we to you? What are you to us?
What are you studying poetry?
You’re taking all of his circle,
And you’re empty praise of men!
As if they should praise one floor!
Traitor! Razmyslov very mature,
Is this Your business!
Or they do not have their eulogisers?
Ile virtues in us less than they!

All true, lovely! you do not lower
But, ah!
With Men, not you, the courts of taste are manned
Where authors all must stand,
And an author’s fame is in their hands
And just to himself involuntarily closer.

“To the Ladies” by Mary Chudleigh, Lady (1656-1710; Winslade, Devon, England; letter-writer; Feminist) – from Poetry by English Women: Elizabethan to Victorian

Wife and servant are the same,
But only differ in the name:
For when that fatal knot is tied,
Which nothing, nothing can divide:
When she the word obey has said,
And man by law supreme has made,
Then all that’s kind is laid aside,
And nothing left but state and pride:
Fierce as an Eastern prince he grows,
And all his innate rigour shows:
Then but to look, to laugh, or speak,
Will the nuptial contract break.
Like mutes she signs alone must make,
And never any freedom take:
But still be governed by a nod,
And fear her husband as a God:
Him still must serve, him still obey,
And nothing act, and nothing say,
But what her haughty lord thinks fit,
Who with the power, has all the wit.
Then shun, oh! shun that wretched state,
And all the fawning flatt’rers hate:
Value your selves, and men despise,
You must be proud, if you’ll be wise.

“A Clever Woman” by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge (pseud. Anodos) (1861-1907; London, England; novelist, essayist, literary reviewer)
– from Victorian Women Poets: A New Annotated Anthology

You thought I had the strength of men,
Because with men I dared to speak,
And courted Science now and then,
And studied Latin for a week;
But woman’s woman, even when
She reads her Ethics in the Greek.

You thought me wiser than my kind;
You thought me “more than common tall;”
You thought because I had a mind,
That I could have no heart at all;
But woman’s woman you will find,
Whether she be great or small.

And then you needs must die—ah, well!
I knew you not, you loved not me.
‘Twas not because that darkness fell,
You saw not what there was to see.
But I that saw and could not tell—
O evil Angel, set me free!

“Man in Space” by William James “Billy” Collins (b. 1941; New York, US; professor, poetry consultant to government) – from Contemporary American Poetry

All you have to do is listen to the way a man
sometimes talks to his wife at a table of people
and notice how intent he is on making his point
even though her lower lip is beginning to quiver,

and you will know why the women in science
fiction movies who inhabit a planet of their own
are not pictured making a salad or reading a magazine
when the men from earth arrive in their rocket,

why they are always standing in a semicircle
with their arms folded, their bare legs set apart,
their breasts protected by hard metal disks.

https://i0.wp.com/cosmouk.cdnds.net/15/10/980x490/landscape_nrm_1425466234-sexual-harassment-photo-project-2.jpgPhoto from a series by Allaire Bartel (2015) (source)

“The Emulation” by Sarah Fyge Egerton (1670-1723; London, England; writer of heroic couplets, as a teen wrote The Female Advocate (1686) in response to a misogynist satire by Robert Gould) – from The Columbia Anthology of British Poetry

Say, Tyrant Custom, why must we obey
The impositions of thy haughty Sway;
From the first dawn of Life, unto the Grave,
Poor Womankind’s in every State, a Slave.
The Nurse, the Mistress, Parent and the Swain,
For Love she must, there’s none escape that Pain;
Then comes the last, the fatal Slavery,
The Husband with insulting Tyranny
Can have ill Manners justify’d by Law;
For Men all join to keep the Wife in awe.
Moses who first our Freedom did rebuke,
Was Marry’d when he writ the Pentateuch;
They’re Wise to keep us Slaves, for well they know,
If we were loose, we soon should make them so. (…)

“Fooling God” by Louise Erdrich (b. 1954; Little Falls, Minnesota, US; novelist, short-story writer, children’s book writer, essayist, bookseller; 20th century Native American Renaissance [Chippewa tribe] – from Reinventing the Enemy’s Language: Contemporary Native Women’s Writings of North America

I must become small and hide where he cannot reach.
I must become dull and heavy as an iron pot.
I must be tireless as rust and bold as roots
growing through the locks on doors
and crumbling the conderblocks
of the foundations of his everlasting throne.
I must be strange as pity so he’ll believe me.
I must be terrible and brush my hair
so that he finds me attractive.
Perhaps if I invoke Clare, the patron saint of television.
Perhaps if I become the images
passing through the cells of a woman’s brain. (…)

“Dear Webster” by Connie Fife (b. 1961; Saskatchewan, Canada; First Nations [Cree] writer, anthology editor) – from Reinventing the Enemy’s Language: Contemporary Native Women’s Writings of North America

savage (sav’ij) adj. without civilization; primitive; barbarous (a savage tribe) n. a member of a preliterate society having a primitive way of life; a fierce, brutal person.

i am the one who talks with the mountains
when i am not sliding down the stream of its face
i am the one who walks the streets late a
night despite the danger
believing this land is mine to roam freely
i am the one who carved a mask from a thick tree then wore it
i am the one who raises her arms to the sun
then takes flight on winds from the east
i am the one who says “no more”
then leaves the man whose fists have reconstructed my bones (…)

“Untitled” by Eli Goodwin (Cambridge, Massachusetts, US)
– from Beyond the Frontier: African American Poetry for the 21st Century

The Number 1 bus jerks to a stop at Mass. Ave.
Uncomplaining riders fight for blance,
sway in unison, anemones in a current undersea.
My mind drifts, in its own time.
The stopped bus rocks as folks file in,
drop change, find seats.
A woman squeezes her broad bottom
between blue moulded plastic and the
pole that vainly separates her space from mine;
against my arm, my side, my thigh the cool,
soft press of flesh. My reverie and I part company.
A thicket of thin black braids rounds out her dark brown face.
She turns to me apologizing, unashamed;
shifts her weight, then smiles, and says, “I’m fat”,
and I smile back and pat her on the shoulder.
Between us just her soft blue cotton shift
and this moment without guile, and ancient knowing shared.
“Hey man,” a blast from the doorway—
“what you doin’ huggin’ my wife?”
Neat trimmed beard beneath a broad brimmed hat,
an expensive tailored suit, dark mustard silk.
His tone sounds like mock anger, but it’s hard to read. (…)

“Raise girls but not too many” by “Cold Mountain” Han-shan (800s BC; China) [tr. “Red Pine” Bill Porter] – from The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature

raise girls but not too many
once born you have to train them
smack their heads and yell watch out
beat their behinds and shout shut up
and before they learn how to work a loom
they won’t touch a basket or broom
Old Lady Chang advised her young jenny
you’re big but no match for your Mother

“A Double Standard” by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825-1911; Baltimore, Maryland, US; novelist, short-story writer, essayist, activist for abolition and women’s suffrage, co-founder and vice-president of National Association of Colored Women); African-American) – from The New Anthology of American Poetry: Volume I: Traditions and Revolutions, Beginnings to 1900

Do you blame me that I loved him?
If when standing all alone
I cried for bread a careless world
Pressed to my lips a stone.

Do you blame me that I loved him,
That my heart beat glad and free,
When he told me in the sweetest tones
He loved but only me?

Can you blame me that I did not see
Beneath his burning kiss
The serpent’s wiles, nor even hear
The deadly adder hiss? (…)

“You Have Touched My Skin” by Shakuntala Hawoldar (Mauritius; short-story writer)
– from The Heinemann Book of African Women’s Poetry

You have touched my skin
Without entering my pores.
Do you know the sores inside
Festering in the dark womb of my mine?
But you have been content
To know me as an image
Sometimes as a caricature,
Scribbled in the corner of your newspaper
To make you laugh
You have known me
As your morning cup of tea
Without which your day could not have begun.
Or perhaps as a spoon to stir the
forgotten sugar at the bottom to sweetness.
Or just perhaps a pillow which you might use
If the nights of your past haunt you.
But the core of me, the hunger of me,
The thirst of me,
How would you have known?
For I have been losing
Myself in the smell of the kitchen steam
And the clatter of pans in the sink
Rising in the night to hush the child
While sleepless I watch for the first rays of light.

“Thân phận đàn bà” (The Condition of Women) by Ho Xuan Huong (1772-1822; Vietnam) [tr. John Balaban] – from The Poet’s Child

Hỡi chị em ơi có biết không?
Một bên con khóc một bên chồng.
Bố cu lỏm ngỏm bò trên bụng,
Thằng bé hu hơ khóc dưới hông.
Tất cả những là thu với vén,
Vội vàng nào những bống cùng bông.
Chồng con cái nợ là như thế,
Hỡi chị em ơi có biết không?

Sisters, do you know how it is? On one hand,
the bawling baby; on the other, your husband
sliding onto your stomach,
his little son still howling at your side.
Yet, everything must be put in order.
Rushing around all helter-skelter.
Husband and child, what obligations!
Sisters, do you know how it is?

“Advice to Young Ladies” by Alec Derwent (A. D.) Hope (1907-2000; Cooma, Australia; essayist, professor, editor, playwright, literary critic, reviewer, memoirist; Satirist)
– from The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry

A.U.C. 334: about this date
For a sexual misdemeanor, which she denied,
The vestal virgin Postumia was tried.
Livy records it among affairs of state.

They let her off: it seems she was perfectly pure;
The charge arose because some thought her talk
Too witty for a young girl, her eyes, her walk
Too lively, her clothes too smart to be demure.

The Pontifex Maximus, summing up the case,
Warned her in future to abstain from jokes,
To wear less modish and more pious frocks
She left the court reprieved, but in disgrace. (…)

https://i2.wp.com/touringconsortium.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Brave-New-World-155-Olivia-Morgan-Lenina-and-William-Postlethwaite-John-the-Savage-c-Manuel-Harlan.jpg Photo from the Touring Consortium Theatre Company’s 2015 adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s novel Brave New World (England) (source)

“Second Philosopher’s Song” by Aldous Huxley (1894-1963; novelist, short-story writer, philosopher, essayist, screenwriter, travel writer, playwright; Satirist, dystopian fiction)
– from The Oxford Book of Comic Verse

If, O my Lesbia, I should commit,
Not fornication, dear, but suicide,
My Thames-blown body (Pliny vouches it)
Would drift face upwards on the oily tide
With the other garbage, till it putrefied.

But you, if all your lovers’ frozen hearts
Conspired to send you, desperate, to drown –
Your maiden modesty would float face down,
And men would weep upon your hinder parts.

‘Tis the Lord’s doing. Marvellous is the plan
By which this best of worlds is wisely planned.
One law he made for women, one for man:
We bow the head and do not understand.

“Mujer” (Woman) by Juana Fernandez Morales de Ibarbourou (“Juana de América”) (Mello, Cerro Largo, Uruguay; 1892-1979; memoirist; Feminist) [tr. Sophie Cabot Black]
– from Twentieth-Century Latin American Poetry

Si yo fuera hombre, ¡qué hartzago la luna,
de sombra y silencio me había de dar!
¡Cómo, noche a noche, solo ambularía
por los campos quietos y por frente al mar!

 Si yo fuera hombre, ¡qué extraño, qué loco,
tenaz vagabundo que había de ser!
¡Amigo de todos los largos caminos
que invitan a ir lejos para no volver!

Cuando así me acosan anisas andariegas,
¡Qué pena tan honda me da ser mujer!

If I were a man, I’d have all the moonlight—
and shadow—and silence—I wanted!
How I’d walk night after night
through the quiet fields, and watch the ocean!

If I were a man, what a strange, odd,
purposeful vagabond I’d become!
Friend of all the open roads
that beckon, on and on and on!

When restless travel pesters me, tempting,
how deeply I resent I am a woman.

“Divestment of Beauty” by Laura “Riding” Jackson (1901-1991; literary critic, novelist, essayist, short-story writer)
– from American Poetry: The Twentieth Century, Vol. 2

Carnation Milk is the best in the land;
Here I sit with a can in my hand—
No tits to pull, no hay to pitch,
You just punch a hole in the son of a bitch.

“Paper Matches” by Paulette Jiles-Johnson (b. 1943; Salem, Missouri, US; novelist)
– from The Norton Introduction to Poetry

My aunts washed dishes while the uncles
squirted each other on the lawn with
garden hoses. Why are we in here,
I said, and they are out there?
That’s the way it is,
said Aunt Hetty, the shriveled-up one.
I have the rages that small animals have,
being small, being animal.
Written on me was a message,
“At Your Service,”
like a book of paper matches.
One by one we were taken out
and struck.
We come bearing supper,
our heads on fire.

“Poem About My Rights” by June Jordan (1936-2002; Harlem, New York, US; essayist, activist, memoirist; African-American, LGBT writing)
– from In Search of Color Everywhere: A Collection of African-American Poetry

Even tonight and I need to take a walk and clear
my head about this poem about why I can’t
go out without changing my clothes my shoes
my body posture my gender identity my age
my status as a woman alone in the evening/
alone on the streets/alone not being the point/
the point being that I can’t do what I want
to do with my own body because I am the wrong
sex the wrong age the wrong skin and
suppose it was not here in the city but down on the beach/
or far into the woods and I wanted to go
there by myself thinking about God/or thinking
about children or thinking about the world/all of it
disclosed by the stars and the silence: (…)

“Woman’s Future” by May Kendall (1861-1943; United Kingdom; novelist, satirist)
– from Victorian Women Poets: An Anthology

Complacent they tell us, hard hearts and derisive,
In vain is our ardour: in vain are our sighs:
Our intellects, bound by a limit decisive,
To the level of Homer’s may never arise.
We heed not the falsehood, the base innuendo,
The laws of the universe, these are our friends,
Our talents shall rise in a mighty crescendo,
We trust Evolution to make us amends!
But ah, when I ask you for food that is mental,
My sisters, you offer me ices and tea!
You cherish the fleeting, the mere accidental,
At cost of the True, the Intrinsic, the Free.
Your feelings, compressed in Society’s mangle,
Are vapid and frivolous, pallid and mean. (…)

“The Erotic Philosophers” by Carolyn Ashley Kizer (1925-2014; Spokane, Washington, US; poetry lecturer at universities, literature consultant for government, anthology editor)
– from The Oxford Book of American Poetry

It’s a spring morning; sun pours in the window
As I sit here drinking coffee, reading Augustine.
And finding him, as always, newly minted
From when I first encountered him in school.
Today I’m overcome with astonishment
At the way we girls denied all that was mean
In those revered philosophers we studied;
Who found us loathsome, loathsomely seductive;
Irrelevant, at best, to noble discourse
Among the sex, the only sex that counted.
Wounded, we pretended not to mind it
And wore tight sweaters to tease our shy professor. (…)

“Fearful Women” by Carolyn Ashley Kizer (1925-2014; Spokane, Washington, US; poetry lecturer at universities, literature consultant for government, anthology editor)
– from Extraordinary Tide: New Poetry by American Women

Arms and the girl I sing – O rare
arms that are braceleted and white and bare

arms that were lovely Helen’s, in whose name
Greek slaughtered Trojan. Helen was to blame.

Scape-nanny call her; wars for turf
and profit don’t sound glamorous enough.

Mythologize your women! None escape.
Europe was named from an act of bestial rape:

Eponymous girl on bull-back, he intent
on scattering sperm across a continent.

Old Zeus refused to take the rap.
It’s not his name in big print on the map. (…)

“I, Being Born A Woman and Distressed” by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950; Rockland, Maine, US; playwright, feminist activist)
– from Love’s Witness: Five Centuries of Love Poetry by Women

I, being born a woman and distressed
By all the needs and notions of my kind,
Am urged by your propinquity to find
Your person fair, and feel a certain zest
To bear your body’s weight upon my breast:
So subtly is the fume of life designed,
To clarify the pulse and cloud the mind,
And leave me once again undone, possessed.
Think not for this, however, the poor treason
Of my stout blood against my staggering brain,
I shall remember you with love, or season
My scorn with pity,  – let me make it plain:
I find this frenzy insufficient reason
For conversation when we meet again.

“Dick and Colin at the Salmon Nets” by Naomi Mary Margaret Mitchison, Baroness (née Haldane) (1897-1999; Edinburgh, Scotland; novel writer of historical, travel, and science fiction, memoirist, feminist essayist, playwright, short-story writer) – Modern Women Poets

Outside, in the arin, on the edge of evening,
There are men netting salmon at the mouth of the Tweed;
Two men go out of the house to watch thing thing,
Down the steep banks and field tracks to their minds’ and
bodies’ need

How can I, being a woman, write all that down?
How can I see the quiet pushing salmon against the net?
How can I see behind the sticks and pipe-smoke, the intent frown,
And the things speech cannot help with on which man’s heart is
set? (…)

“Understanding Each Other” by Linda Noel (Willits, California, US; Koungkowi tribe)
– from Reinventing the Enemy’s Language: Contemporary Native Women’s Writings of North America

“You’re too wild,
“You don’t drink
raw whiskey,
but when moon hangs
you drink from
the tilted golden cup,
when salmon season
you stand among
river willow shadow
all the time believing
fish understand
why you are there.”

So he left me
to marry one
whose dreams
are laced in perfume
and dishwasher suds.

“Greek History” by Olga Nolla (1938-2001; Río Piedras, Puerto Rico; novelist, short-story writer, journalist, periodical contributor)
– from These Are Not Sweet Girls: Poetry by Latin American Women

Aristotle said
that we women are mutilated men,
impure beings without souls.
As I heard him I decided to avenge myself
and I wrote on the walls of the city
in big red letters:
Aristotle, faggot
I wrote it many times
until I exhausted my anger (…)

“Barbie Doll” by Marge Piercy (b. 1936; Detroit, Michigan, US; novelist, social activist)
– from The Broadview Anthology of Poetry

This girlchild was born as usual
and presented dolls that did pee-pee
and miniature GE stoves and irons
and wee lipsticks the color of cherry candy.
Then in the magic of puberty, a classmate said:
You have a great big nose and fat legs.

She was healthy, tested intelligent,
possessed strong arms and back,
abundant sexual drive and manual dexterity.
She went to and fro apologizing.
Everyone saw a fat nose on thick legs. (…)

“The Moon Is Always Female” by Marge Piercy (b. 1936; Detroit, Michigan, US; novelist, social activist) – from The Wadsworth Anthology of Poetry

The moon is always female and so
am I although often in this vale
of razorblades I have wished I could
put on and take off my sex like a dress
and why not? Do men always wear their sex
always? The priest, the doctor, the teacher
all tell us they come to their professions
neuter as clams and the truth is
when I work I am pure as an angel
tiger and clear is my eye and hot
my brain and silent all the whining
grunting piglets of the appetites. (…)

“Lady Lazarus” by Sylvia Plath (1932-1963; Boston, Massachusetts, US; novelist, short story writer, letter-writer, diarist; Confessional poet)
– from From Totems to Hip-Hop: A Multicultural Anthology of Poetry Across the Americas 1900-2002

I have done it again.
One year in every ten
I manage it——

A sort of walking miracle, my skin
Bright as a Nazi lampshade,
My right foot

A paperweight,
My face a featureless, fine
Jew linen.

Peel off the napkin
O my enemy.
Do I terrify?——

The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?
The sour breath
Will vanish in a day.

Soon, soon the flesh
The grave cave ate will be
At home on me

And I a smiling woman.
I am only thirty.
And like the cat I have nine times to die. (…)

“The Felling of a Tree” [p. 60] by Jennifer Rahim (b. 1963; Trinidad; literature professor, short-story writer, editor of a Caribbean essay anthology)
– from A Chorus for Peace: A Global Anthology of by Women

When the air is a sharpened blade
cutting nostrils clean like cutlass steel,
the bush-planters pass the sleeping houses.

Sometimes alone, sometimes in
pairs, they lumber up the mountain road
tall-tops pounding the asphalt smooth.

Sometimes I awake and follow them,
knowing they go beyond the road’s end
into the depths of bearded trees

where tallness is not neighbours’ fences
and bigness is not the swollen houses
that swallow us all. (…)

Cartographies of Silence” by Adrienne Rich (1929-2012; Baltimore, Maryland, US; essayist, Feminist activist) – from The Wadsworth Anthology of Poetry


A conversation begins
with a lie. And each

speaker of the so-called common language feels
the ice-floe split, the drift apart

as if powerless, as if up against
a force of nature

A poem can begin
with a lie. And be torn up.

A conversation has other laws
recharges itself with its own

false energy. Cannot be torn
up Infiltrates our blood. Repeats itself.

Inscribes with its unreturning stylus
the isolation it denies. (…)

“Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law” by Adrienne Rich (1929-2012; Baltimore, Maryland, US; essayist, Feminist activist) – from Modern Women Poets

You, once a belle in Shreveport,
with henna-colored hair, skin like a peachbud,
still have your dresses copied from that time,
and play a Chopin prelude
called by Cortot: “Delicious recollections
float like perfume through the memory.”

Your mind now, moldering like wedding-cake,
heavy with useless experience, rich
with suspicion, rumor, fantasy,
crumbling to pieces under the knife-edge
of mere fact. In the prime of your life.

Nervy, glowering, your daughter
wipes the teaspoons, grows another way. (…)

{see also: From a Survivor: “The pact that we made was the ordinary pact of men & women”
– “No one’s fated or doomed to love anyone
Paula Becker to Clara Westhoff: “The autumn feels slowed down, summer still holds on here”
“Your small hands, precisely equal to my own”}

https://i0.wp.com/dctheatrescene.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/colored1.jpg?w=650Theatre Alliance’s 2016 production of Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf (Washington, DC, US)

“It’s Not So Good to be Born a Girl / Sometimes” by Ntozake Shange (playwright, novelist, children’s book writer, essayist; Black Feminist)
– from Shimmy Shimmy Shimmy Like My Sister Kate: Looking At The Harlem Renaissance Through Poems

That’s why societies usedta throw us away/ or sell us/ or play with our vaginas/ cuz that’s all girls were good for. at least women cd carry things & cook/ but to be born a girl is not good sometimes/ some places/ such abominable things cd happen to us. I wish it waz gd to be born a girl everywhere/ then I wd know for sure that no one wd be infibulated/ that’s a word no one wants us to know. infibulation is sewing our vaginas up with cat-gut or weeds or nylon thread to insure our virginity. virginity insurance equals infibulation. that can also make it impossible for us to live thru labor/ make it impossible for the baby to live thru labor (…)

“Lost Sister” by Cathy Song (b. 1955; Wahiawa, Hawaii, US; Korean and Chinese American)
– from The Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry, Vol. 2

In China,
Even the peasants
named their first daughters
the stone that in the far fields
could moisten the dry season,
could make men move mountains
for the healing green of the inner hills
glistening like slices of winter melon.

And the daughters were grateful:
They never left home.
To move freely was a luxury
stolen from them at birth.
Instead, they gathered patience;
learning to walk in shoes
the size of teacups,
without breaking—
the arc of their movements
as dormant as the rooted willow,
as redundant as the farmyard hens. (…)

“A Poet Recognizing the Echo of the Voice” by Diane Wakoski (b. 1937; Whittier, California, US; essayist, poetry instruction author; Imagist, Confessional, and Beat movements) {listen to the full poem here at 58:23} – from The Norton Introduction to Poetry

A woman wakes up
finds herself
glinting in the dark;
the earth holds her
as a precious rock
in a mine

her breath is a jumble
of sediments,
of mixed strata,
of the valuable,
of bulk.

All men are miners;
willing to work hard
and cover themselves with pit dirt;
to dig out;
to weigh;
to possess. (…)

“The Affinity” by Anna Wickham (Edith Alice Mary Harper) (1883-1947; Wimbledon, London, England / Brisbane, Australia; memoirist; Modernist, Feminist)
– from The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women: The Tradition in English

I have to thank God I’m a woman,
For in these ordered days a woman only
Is free to be very hungry, very lonely.

It is sad for Feminism, but still clear
That man, more often than woman, is pioneer.
If I would confide a new thought,
First to a man must it be brought.

Now, for our sins, it is my bitter fate
That such a man wills soon to be my mate,
And so of friendship is quick end:
When I have gained a love I lose a friend. (…)

“The Introduction” by Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea (1661-1720; Sydmonton, Hampshire, England; writer of Pindaric Odes, Satiric vignettes, and other experimental verse) – from Early Modern Women Poets (1520-1700)

Did I, my lines intend for public view,
How many censures, would their faults pursue,
Some would, because such words they do affect,
Cry they’re insipid, empty, and uncorrect.
And many have attained, dull and untaught,
The name of wit only by finding fault.
True judges might condemn their want of wit,
And all might say, they’re by a woman writ.
Alas! a woman that attempts the pen,
Such an intruder on the rights of men,
Such a presumptuous creature, is esteemed,
The fault can by no virtue be redeemed.
They tell us we mistake our sex and way;
Good breeding, fashion, dancing, dressing, play
Are the accomplishments we should desire;
To write, or read, or think, or to inquire
Would cloud our beauty, and exhaust our time,
And interrupt the conquests of our prime;
Whilst the dull manage of a servile house
Is held by some our outmost art, and use. (…)

“The Sun” [or “The Blinding Sun”] by Benjamin Zephaniah (b. 1958; Birmingham, England; adult and children’s poetry writer, novelist, playwright; Dub Poet, Rastafarian)
– from Other: British and Irish Poetry since 1970

[The Sun is a daily tabloid newspaper published in the United Kingdom and Ireland. In 1987 they released a racist tabloid in response to Benjamin Zephaniah’s being awarded an honorary doctorate]

I believe the Blacks are bad
…The Left is loony
God is Mad
The government’s the best we’ve had
So I read The SUN.
I believe Britain is great
And other countries imitate
I am friendly with The State,
Daily, I read The Sun
I am not too keen on foreign ones
But I don’t mind some foreign bombs
Jungle bunnies and play tom-toms,
But, I read The SUN
Man, I don’t like those Russian spies
But we don’t have none
I love lies,
I really do love Princess Di
I bet she reads The Sun
Black people rob
Women should cook
And every poet is a crook (…)

“Baize Queens” by Jane Holland


Poems and songs about rhythm

(Rhythm playlist) **Art: Postcard Promoting Exhibition at Tony Shafrazi Gallery (New York, NY) by Keith Haring, 1983 (source)

“Riddim an’ Hardtimes” by Lillian Allen (Spanish Town, Jamaica, US; reggae musician, creative writing professor; Dub Poet)
– from Wheel and Come Again: an Anthology of Reggae Poetry

An’ him chucks on some riddim
an’ yu hear him say
riddim an’ hardtimes
riddim an’ hardtimes

music a prance
dance inna head
drumbeat a roll
hot like lead

Mojah Rasta gone dread
natt up natt up
red (…)

drum beat drum beat
pulse beat
heart beat
riddim an’ hardtimes
riddim an’ hardtimes
riddim an’ hard

“Dubbed Out” by Jean “Binta” Breeze (b. 1957; Jamaica; director, scriptwriter, literary magazine editor, lecturer; Dub and Performance Poet)
– from Wheel and Come Again: an Anthology of Reggae Poetry

search for words

in their music




beat (…)

“Crazy Rhythm” from the musical Here’s Howe by Irving Caesar (1895-1996; New York; theatre composer), Joseph Meyer (1894-1987; California; songwriter), and Roger Wolfe Kahn (1907-1962; New Jersey, US; bandleader, composer)
– from Reading Lyrics: More than a Thousand of the Finest Lyrics from 1900 to 1975

I feel like the Emperor Nero when Rome was a very hot town
Father Knickerbocker, forgive me, I play while your city burns down
Through all its night life I fiddle away
It’s not the right life, but think of the pay
Someday I will bid it goodbye, I’ll put my fiddle away and I’ll say

Crazy rhythm here’s the doorway
I’ll go my way, you’ll go your way
Crazy rhythm from now on we’re through
Here is where we have a showdown
I’m too high-hat, you’re too low-down
Crazy rhythm here’s goodbye to you

They say that when a high-brow meets a low-brow walking along Broadway
Soon the high-brow, he has no brow
Ain’t it a shame, and you’re to blame
What’s the use of Prohibition?
You produce the same condition
Crazy rhythm I’ve gone crazy, too (…)

“Batouque” (Dual-Language) by Aimé Césaire (1913-2008; Basse-Pointe, Martinique, France [island of]; playwright, essayist, politician) [tr. Clayton Eshleman and Annette Smith Rice] – from 100 Great Poems of the Twentieth Century

Les rizières de mégots de crachat sur l’étrange sommation
de ma simplicité se tatouent de pitons.
Les mots perforés dans ma salive resurgissent en villes
d’écluse ouverte, plus pâle sur les faubourgs
O les villes transparentes montées sur yaks
sang lent pissant aux feuilles de filigrane le dernier souvenir
le boulevard comète meurtrie brusque oiseau traversé
se frappe en plein ciel
noyé de flèches
C’est la nuit comme je l’aime très creuse et très nulle
éventail de doigts de boussole effondrés au rire blanc des sommeils.

quand le monde sera nu et roux
comme une matrice calcinée par les grands soleils de
l’amour batouque
quand le monde sera sans enquête
un coeur merveilleux où s’imprime le décor
des regards brisés en éclats
pour la première fois

quand les attirances prendront au piège les étoiles
quand l’amour et la mort seront
un même serpent corail ressoudé autour d’un bras sans joyau
sans suie
sans defense (…)

The rice fields of cigarette butts of spit on the strange summons
of my simplicity are tattooing themselves with sharp peaks.
Floodgate open, the words perforate in my saliva
paler above the cities, resurface as cities
O transparent cities mounted on yaks
slow blood pissing the last memory into filigreed leaves
the boulevard bruised comet brusque crossed bird
strikes itself right in the sky
drowned in arrows
It’s my kind of night most hollow and most null
a fan of compass fingers collapsed into the white laughter of slumbers.

once the world is naked and russet
like a womb burned to a cinder by the great suns of love
once the world is without inquest
a wondrous heart where the scenery of glances
splintered to bits is embossed
for the first time

once the attraction entrap the stars
once love and death are
a single coral snake resoldered around a gemless arm
without soot
without defense (…)

“Stepping Out: II” by Allen Fisher (b. 1944; London, England; painter, publisher, teacher, performer, essayist) – from Other: British and Irish Poetry since 1970

Deliberation and flow blend
The emergent post-transformation
Molecular common to utterance
Explicit derivations
Thankfully spacetime becoming discontinuous
Waves of dense clusters
Become more deliberate than personality
The smallest detail relates functionally to design
To share the conviction that limits can be overstepped.

{see also “Stepping Out: I”}

“Fascinating Rhythm”  by Ira Gershwin (1896-1983; lyricist) and George Gershwin (1898-1937; New York, US; composer, pianist) [used in the musicals Lady Be Good and Nice Work If You Can Get It]
– from Reading Lyrics: More than a Thousand of the Finest Lyrics from 1900 to 1975

Got a little rhythm, a rhythm, a rhythm
That pit-a-pats through my brain;
So darn persistent,
The day isn’t distant
When it’ll drive me insane.
Comes in the morning
Without any warning,
And hangs around me all day.
I’ll have to sneak up to it
Someday, and speak up to it.
I hope it listens when I say:

Fascinating Rhythm,
You’ve got me on the go!
Fascinating Rhythm,
I’m all a-quiver.

What a mess you’re making!
The neighbors want to know
Why I’m always shaking
Just like a flivver. (…)

“All God’s Chillun Got Rhythm” by Gus Kahn (1886-1941; Germany / Chicago, Illinois; lyricist), Walter Jurmann (1903-1971; Austria / Germany / Los Angeles, California; film composer), and Bronislaw Kaper (1902-1983; Poland / Germany / Los Angeles, California, US) composer for theater and film)
– from Reading Lyrics: More than a Thousand of the Finest Lyrics from 1900 to 1975

I got a frown, you got a frown
All God’s chillun got a frown on their face
Take no chance with that frown
A song and a dance, turn it upside down

Ah, ah-ah-ah-ah, zazoo, zazoo
All God’s chillun got rhythm, all God’s chillun got swing
Maybe haven’t got money, maybe haven’t got shoes
All God’s chillun got rhythm for to push away their blues

All God’s chillun got trouble, troubles do-on’t mean a thing
When they start to go ho-ho-ho
The old troubles bound to go ‘way, say
All God’s chillun got swing

All God’s children got rhythm
Da-da-do-day, ra-do-day, ra-do-da-do, da-da, da-da-day…
Doh-da-do-day, ra-do-day, ra-do, da-do, da-do-day (…)

https://i1.wp.com/www.longwharf.org/sites/default/files/u3/AM%20006hi.jpg Production photo of Ain’t Misbehavin’, a musical revue of Harlem musicians of the ‘20s and ‘30s; produced by Long Wharf Theatre (New Haven, Connecticut, US), 2011 (source)

“Spreadin’ Rhythm Around” by Ted L. Koehler (1894-1973; Washington, D.C., US; lyricist) and Jimmy McHugh (1894-1969; Boston, Massachusetts, US; composer) [used in the musical Ain’t Misbehavin’]
– from Reading Lyrics: More than a Thousand of the Finest Lyrics from 1900 to 1975

Music everywhere, feet are pattin’,
Puttin tempo in old Manhattan,
Everybody is out high-hattin’,
Spreadin’ rhythm around.

Everwhere you go, trumpets blarin’,
Drums and saxophones rippin’, tearin’,
Everybody you meet is rarin’,
Spreadin’ rhythm around.

Up in Harlem, in any flat,
They give it that thing,
which, accordin’ to one and all,
Is what they call swing!

Those who can’t afford silk and satin
Dance with gigolos who are Latin,
Come from Yonkers, The Bronx and Staten,
Spreadin’ rhythm around.

“Meciendo” by Gabriela Mistral (Lucila Godoy y Alcayaga) (1889-1957; Vicuña, Chile; diplomat, teacher) [tr. Maria Giachetti]
– from These Are Not Sweet Girls: Poetry by Latin American Women

El mar sus millares de olas
mece, divino.
Oyendo a los mares amantes,
mezo a mi niño.

El viento errabundo en la noche
mece los trigos.
Oyendo a los vientos amantes,
mezo a mi niño.

Dios Padre sus miles de mundos
mece sin ruido.
Sintiendo su mano en la sombra
mezo a mi niño.

Rocking / The sea with its thousands of waves
rocks, divinely.
Listening to the loving seas,
I rock my child.

The wandering wind in the night
rocks the wheat.
Listening to the loving winds,
I rock my child.

The Lord God with his thousands of worlds
rocks them without a sound.
Feeling his hand in the shadow,
I rock my child.

“Poetry Makes Rhythm in Philosophy” by Ishmael Scott Reed (b. 1938; Chattanooga, Tennessee, US; novelist, essayist, songwriter, playwright, anthology editor, publisher, jazz pianist)
– from Every Goodbye Ain’t Gone: An Anthology of Innovative Poetry by African Americans

Maybe it was the Bichot
Beaujolais, 1970
But in the a.m. upstairs on
Crescent Ave. I had a conversation
With K.C. Bird

We were discussing
Rhythm and I said
“Rhythm makes everything move
The seasons swing
It backs up the elements
Like walking Paul-Chambers fingers (…)

“it must be that in the midst” by Ed Roberson (b. 1939; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, US; English professor, artist-in-residence at Northwestern University)
– from Every Goodbye Ain’t Gone: An Anthology of Innovative Poetry by African Americans

it must be that in the midst
of any tonal language there is a constant huddle
of all substance’s matters

where any accident of sound
could speak and
the sound of people’s walk
talk        chicken with your head pecked

is their baldhead heels
in the midst of a song another
song       and any doing sing its work
song (…)

“Now the Two Are One” by Frederick D’Aguiar

The 1960s

Poems about the 1960s, Hippies, and Woodstock

Image: (source)

“Courageousness” by (Imamu) Amiri Baraka (born Everett LeRoi Jones) (1934-2014; Newark, New Jersey, US; actor, teacher, theater director, theater producer, writer, activist)
– from Every Shut Eye Ain’t Asleep: An Anthology of of Poetry by African Americans since 1945

In the 60’s, there was emotion to go around
barreling explosions, at and against, waves
of running, the world itself was feeling, all
feeling. I felt that.
Those shadows haunt us now in various ways.
Women’s mouths at odd angles like laughing.
People we know can reappear carrying shadows
which seem to fall from their hands, but musically.
If we wanted to we could locate boxes packed tight
with skulls and odors, murmurs of some distant
hysteria. (…)

“Vacation, 1969” by Dorothy Barresi (b. 1957; Buffalo, New York, US; English professor)
– from Sweet Nothings: An Anthology of Rock and Roll in American Poetry

(…) I think it was just outside Turlock, California
that I grew too sullen
for togetherness.
Rocking my new breasts in my arms,
I was conked out by hormones and Mick Jagger,
my face held in acne’s blue siege.
So I pulled up oars early that August,
slept while the boys knocked heads
and my iron-eyed parents took turns
lashed to the wheel,
America, by God, filling the car windows.

“No, No, Nostalgia!” by Stephanie Brown (b. 1961; Pasadena, California, US; reference librarian, essayist) – from The Body Electric: America’s Best Poetry from The American Poetry Review

I thought I’d end up a Hippie American Gothic
Those people who nod their heads and listen carefully
And hug one another from arms inside of overalls
Round eyes in round glasses
But I never liked the kitchens they had
Overrun with jars full of saved things
And bins full of grains gotten from bins full of grains
which were gotten on all-day-long shopping-expedition-type
shopping trips.
The car, the van rode very slow… (…)

“Very True Confessions” by Sidney Johnson Burris (b. 1953; Danville, Virginia, US; essayist, literary critic, Buddhist organization manager)
– from Sweet Nothings: An Anthology of Rock and Roll in American Poetry

Once, I grew long hair
in a town with a Howitzer
parked in the town square.
I didn’t want to want to belong.

Not that I was odd.
I shot up gangly
and light-headed
as milkweed and pod,

saw Vietnam in black and white
at six o’clock on eight
(with highlights at eleven),
stayed home a lot (…)

“I Wanna be Black” by Michelle T. Clinton (Los Angeles, California, US; anthology editor)
– from In the Tradition: An Anthology of Young Black Writers

It was a time, that summer ’66
when it always be some brother on the corner
in a beret, a leather jacket, green army pants,
wantin’ to know what was a young child like me
doin’ out in the night,
didn’t I know it was dangerous,
why, what would your momma say?

Before the red devils & bennies
I got ten for a dollar, before
I turned to Smokey Robinson & ripple wine,
or gettin’ finger fucked in some garage
by some body with a dick,

all that summer, at night time walkin’
I got schooled by miscellaneous black nigguhs
gone caring & literate
breakin’ down the community party line (…)

“Forgetting the Sixties” by Mark Defoe (b. 1942; Oklahoma / Kansas; professor, former editor of The Laurel Review) – from Sweet Nothings: An Anthology of Rock and Roll in American Poetry

Recall how she lolly-gagged beneath
kite-spangled skies at the big be-in,
then gave herself because naked kids
tossed frisbees and sunbeams lingered on
amber waves of hair. Sweetly stoned, she
gave herself to this really decent guy
who had planted daisies in rifles,
had smiled when the pigs wailed on his head.

Remember the clenched fist and shaken fist
Remember flames eating flags eating flesh.
Remember Willie Peter dining
on palm-thatch. And slogan on slogan
and shouting until words surrendered
and what mattered limped on ahead—alone. (…)

“Barrio Beateo” by Jesse F. Garcia (Devine, Texas, US)
– from Unsettling America: An Anthology of Contemporary Multicultural Poetry

Woke up to one of those cold
burnt tamales left on the
skillet mornings
Opening the plain window of my
so empty mind to the Mersey Beat
Brought to me long distance by
Murray the K
The Barrio was quiet I was not
Murray the K was not British
he just was
What Every Fabian bored teenager wanted
It was “I Want to Hold Your Hand”
or “I Saw Her Standing There”
excellent sounds good dancing (…)

“The Counterfeit Earth!” by Albert Goldbarth (b. 1948; Chicago, Illinois, US; professor of humanities and creative writing)
– from Real Things: An Anthology of Popular Culture in American Poetry

it’s 1963. I close that comic book. I’m 15: there
are realer pressures. I’m in a men’s room stall and scrawling
ballpoint cocks and cunts (these loopy doodles are miles
away from being “penises” or “vaginas”) on the already
much-cocked sheetrock. Is it criminal
defacing? is it primal confrontation with The Great
and Sacred Mysteries? etc.—I’ll get to that. For
now it’s one more 15-year-old man/boy overbrimmed
with the whelm of daily life, and venting it, quickly, in language
as old as the first flame-licked cave walls. It’s (…)

“How I See Things” by Yusef Komunyakaa (b. 1941; Bogalusa, Louisiana, US; professor, veteran of the Vietnam war)
– from The Oxford Anthology of African American Poetry

I hear you were
sprawled on the cover of Newsweek
with freedom marchers, those years
when blood tinted the photographs,
when fire leaped into the trees.
Negatives of nightriders
develop in the brain.
The Strawberry Festival Queen
waves her silk handkerchief,
executing a fancy high kick
flashback through the heart.
Pickups with plastic Jesuses
on dashboards head for hoedowns.
Men run twelve miles into wet cypress
swinging bellropes. Ignis fatuus can’t be blamed
for the charred Johnson grass. (…)

“Why I Choose Black Men for My Lovers” by “La Loca” Pamala Karol (b. 1950; Hollywood, California, US) {listen to a rendition here}
– from City Lights Pocket Poets Anthology

Acid today
is trendy entertainment
but in 1967
Eating it was Eucharistic
and made us fully visionary

My girlfriend and I used to get cranked up
and we’d land in
The Haight
and oh yeah
The Black Guys Knew Who We Were
But the white boys
were stupid

I started out in San Fernando
My unmarried mother did not abort me
because Tijuana was unaffordable
They stuffed me in a crib of invisibility
I was bottle-fed germicides and aspirin
My nannies were cathode tubes
I reached adolescence, anyway
Thanks to Bandini and sprinklers (…)

“April ‘68” [p. 159] by Elouise Loftin
– from Every Goodbye Ain’t Gone: An Anthology of Innovative Poetry by African Americans

the ball bearings fell out
of my roller skates,
I sat close to the tv
my 7 month baby in my arms
the veil I wore to her father’s
funeral in her mouth and hands
behind me my mother blue roses
on a faded house dress growing
up in her lap watered with her
tears running from her eyes
like beads on a necklace falling
in a bowl of collards

amerikkk amerikka reach out
and touch your tv sets high
school graduation is just around
the conor

https://i2.wp.com/www.somuchviral.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Photos-of-Life-at-Woodstock-1969-53.jpg A photo from the music festival in Woodstock, New York, 1969 (source)

“What’s So Funny ‘bout Peace, Love and Understanding” by Robert Hill Long (Raleigh, North Carolina, US; flash fiction and prose poetry writer)
– from Sweet Nothings: An Anthology of Rock and Roll in American Poetry

[the title of this poem is taken from a song by Nick Lowe, later covered by Elvis Costello & The Attractions]

(…) I remember adolescence.
It went by in a blur of hallucinogens,
Peace signs, and speechlessness: days,
Hot beach, then the beach at night:
That perfect sleep sound,
And the stars,
Like pushpins in really lovely material.

“In 1969” by Katharyn Howd Machan (neé Aal) (b. 1952; Woodbury, Connecticut, US; professor of humanities and gender studies, professional belly dancer, writing workshop leader, essayist, anthology editor) – from Sweet Nothings: An Anthology of Rock and Roll in American Poetry

What were the secrets that we didn’t tell?
Bold lyrics blared, drums throbbed a rhythm full
of wanting, cry of organ rose and fell,
and always the guitars wailed out to pull
us sweating through our adolescent fears. (…)

“Learning Experience” by Marge Piercy (b. 1936; Detroit, Michigan, US; novelist, short-story writer, feminist activist, essayist)
– from The Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry, Vol. 2

The boy sits in the classroom
in Gary, in the United States, in NATO, in SEATO
in the thing-gorged belly of the sociobeast
in fluorescent light in slowly moving time
in boredom thick and greasy as vegetable shortening.
The classroom has green boards and ivory blinds,
the desks are new and the teachers not so old.
I have come out on the train from Chicago to talk
about dangling participles. I am supposed
to teach him to think a little on demand. (…)

“Why Young Men Wore Their Hair Long in the Sixties” by Bruce “Jeff” Poniewaz (1946-2015; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, US; literature professor, ecological activist, musician)
– from Red, White, and Blues: Poets on the Promise of America

Because they could feel the deforestation of the Amazon
breathing down their necks even then,
Because half of the world’s trees have been cut down
since 1950,
Because even as kids in the ’50s they could feel
the wilds dwindling, and were given crewcuts
soon as school let out for the summer,
Because they didn’t care if some bigot
thought they looked like girls–
they were unmistakable male to themselves
and weren’t afraid to accept the female
half of their soul and love the Mother Earth,
rejecting the macho Earth-rape of civilization,
Because they had to become long-haired Indians
to expiate the genocide of the Indians
by their European-invasion
boatpeople greatgrandparents, (…)

“Travel North: The Rules” by Jan Epton Seale (Pilot Point, Texas, US; creative writing professor and workshop teacher, short story writer, writing instruction author, essayist, editor) – from Texas in Poetry 2

Mile 49: Ladies and gentleman,
UnitedStatesImmigrationCheckpoint coming
up! Please have your documentation ready.
Damas y caballeros tambien!

Now there must be a neatening—
all things vertical, horizontal, squared:
hats removed, hair smoothed, hats replaced;
pant legs worked back down the thighs;
boot toes polished on backs of opposing calves;
lipstick checked; long hair slung-brushed;
babies taken off breast; blouses closed;
waking of older children, Sit up! (…)

“Woodstock” by Jan-Mitchell Sherrill (North Carolina; short-story writer, social science researcher) – from Real Things: An Anthology of Popular Culture in American Poetry

That summer I went to Woodstock,
not for drugs or rock’n’roll; though
the constant rain was cleansing
and my wet jeans fit me like my soul,
I was there for Willy, to sleep with him
wrapped in the blanked I had brought
to cover us from home. I knew almost
nothing about him; what did I need to know?
A flat belly, tar-bright eyes, forearms
with one perfect crescent scar. I wanted him,
whatever name it meant I was. (…)

“TV in Black and White” by Gary Soto (novelist, memoirist, children’s book writer, anthology editor, playwright, screenwriter)
– from Red, White, and Blues: Poets on the Promise of America

In the mid-sixties
We were sentenced to watch
the rich on TV–Donna Reed
High-heeled in the kitchen,
Ozzie nelson bending
In his eighth season, over golf.
while he swung, we hoed
Fields flagged with cotton
Because we understood a sock
Should have foot,
A cuff a wrist,
And a cup was always
Smaller than the thirst.
When Donna turned
The steak and onions,
We turned grape trays
In a vineyard
That we worked like an abacus,
A row at a time. (…)

{see also“Dizzy Girls in the Sixties”

https://jazzinphoto.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/the-supremes-original-lineup-from-left-diana-ross-florence-ballard-and-mary-wilson-1965.jpg?w=450&h=445The Supremes in 1965; from left: Diana Ross, Florence Ballard, and Mary Wilson (source)

“Meet the Supremes” by David Trinidad (b. 1953; Los Angeles, California, US; anthology editor, poetry book collaborator, youth ambassador for Chicano organizations)
– from Sweet Nothings: An Anthology of Rock and Roll in American Poetry

When Petula Clark sang “Downtown,” I wished I
could go there with her. I wanted to be free
to have fun and fall in love, but from suburbia
the city appeared more distant and dangerous
than it actually was. I withdrew and stayed
in my room, listened to Jackie DeShannon sing
“What The World Needs Now Is Love.” I agreed,
but being somewhat morose considered the song
a hopeless plea. I listened to Skeeter Davis’
“The End Of The World” and decided that was
what it would be when I broke up with my first
boyfriend. My head spun as fast as the singles
I saved pennies to buy: “It’s My Party,” “Give
Him a Great Big Kiss,” “(I Want to Be) Bobby’s
Girl,” “My Guy”—the list goes on. (…)

“A Christmas Card, After the Assassinations” by Mona Van Duyn (1921-2004; Waterloo, Iowa, US; university English department administrator, professor, lecturer, poet laureate to Library of Congress) – from Christmas Poems

What is to be born already fidgets in the stem,
near where the old leaves loosened, resembling them,
or burns in the cell, ready to be blue-eyed,
or, in the gassy heavens, gathers toward a solid,
except for that baby mutant, Christ or beast,
who forms himself from a wish, our best or last.

{see also “What the Motorcycle Said”}

“The Statue” by Luz Maria “Luzma” Umpierre-Herrera (b. 1947; Santurce, Puerto Rico (US territories); languages and literature professor, literary critic, scholar, human rights activist; Queer writer) – from Puerto Rican Writers at Home in the USA: An Anthology

Eh eh
Au eh eh
Flower child
around a yellow full moon.
Trinkets crowning her long mess hair,
glossy bead droplets encircling her neck,
magma, chalazas,
metal links as insignias,
imprisoning rings.

“Peace,” she says;
“Love,” the victoria sign on her hands.
Flowered blazer from Saks on her back;
loafer shoes mold her feet;
Calvin Klein faded jeans
with the brand name torn out—
Flower child.

At the the core of her fabric and emblems:
economics, gastronomics,
the computer,
the lag of the jet,
quintessential histrionics
flower child. (…)

“Some Sixties” by Ray Gonzalez
“El Buen Samaritano keeps reappearing” by Iwan Llwyd
“Allen” by Joe Lothamer
“Test 1 How to design freedom. How fine does the” by Bernadette Mayer
“Eighties Meditation” by Kay Murphy

Don Juan

Poems about Don Juan

(Don Juan playlist) **Art: Don Juan and Haydee by Alfred Roll, depicting a scene from Byron’s poem where Don Juan has washed up on the beach of Cyclades (a Greek Island) after a shipwreck, and is ministered to by Haidée and her maid Zoe (source)

“Toujours” (Always) by Guillaume Apollinaire (Wilhelm Albert Włodzimierz Apolinary Kostrowicki) (1880-1918; Rome, Italy / Paris, France; playwright, short-story writer, novelist, art-critic; Surrealism) [tr. Donald Revell]
– from The Yale Anthology of Twentieth Century French Poetry

Nous irons plus loin sans advancer jamais

 Et de planète en planète
De nébuleuse en nébuleuse
Le don Juan des mille et rois comètes
Même sans bouger de la terre
Cherche les forces neuves
Et prend au sérieux les fantômes (…)

We’ll go even further never advancing

From planet to planet
Nebula to nebula
Never leaving the ground
The Don Juan of 1003 comets
Seeks new forces
Takes spooks seriously (…)

“Don Juan’s Spaniel” from Don Juan: Canto II (LVIII; LXX-LXXII) (1823-1824) by George Gordon Byron, Lord (1788-1824; London, England; politician, soldier, epic poet)
– from The Dog in British Poetry

A small old spaniel,—which had been Don Jose’s,
His father’s, whom he loved, as ye may think,
For on such things the memory reposes
With tenderness — stood howling on the brink,
Knowing (dogs have such intellectual noses!),
No doubt, the vessel was about to sink;
And Juan caught him up, and ere he stepp’d
Off, threw him in, then after him he leap’d.
*             *               *            *
The fourth day came, but not a breath of air,
And Ocean slumber’d like an unwean’d child:
The fifth day, and their boat lay floating there,
The sea and sky were blue, and clear, and mild–
With their one oar (I wish they had had a pair)
What could they do? and Hunger’s rage grew wild:
So Juan’s spaniel, spite of his entreating,
Was kill’d, and portion’d out for present eating.

On the sixth day they fed upon his hide,
And Juan, who had still refus’d, because
The creature was his father’s dog that died,
Now feeling all the vulture in his jaws,
With some remorse receiv’d (though first denied)
As a great favour one of the fore-paws,
Which he divided with Pedrillo, who
Devour’d it, longing for the other too.

“Alas, they were so young, so beautiful” (full text) [the story of Don Juan and Haidee runs through Cantos II-IV] from Don Juan: Canto II (1823-1824) by George Gordon Byron, Lord (1788-1824; London, England; politican, soldier, epic poet)
– from Erotic Literature: Twenty-Four Centuries of Sensual Writing

Alas! they were so young, so beautiful,
So lonely, loving, helpless, and the hour
Was that in which the heart is always full,
And, having o’er itself no further power,
Prompts deeds eternity cannot annul,
But pays off moments in an endless shower
Of hell-fire—all prepared for people giving
Pleasure or pain to one another living.

Alas! for Juan and Haidée! they were
So loving and so lovely—till then never,
Excepting our first parents, such a pair
Had run the risk of being damned for ever;
And Haidée, being devout as well as fair,
Had, doubtless, heard about the Stygian river,
And hell and purgatory—but forgot
Just in the very crisis she should not.

They look upon each other, and their eyes
Gleam in the moonlight; and her white arm clasps
Round Juan’s head, and his around her lies
Half buried in the tresses which it grasps;
She sits upon his knee, and drinks his sighs,
He hers, until they end in broken gasps;
And thus they form a group that ’s quite antique,
Half naked, loving, natural, and Greek.

And when those deep and burning moments pass’d,
And Juan sunk to sleep within her arms,
She slept not, but all tenderly, though fast,
Sustain’d his head upon her bosom’s charms;
And now and then her eye to heaven is cast,
And then on the pale cheek her breast now warms,
Pillow’d on her o’erflowing heart, which pants
With all it granted, and with all it grants. (…)

“De plus en plus femme” (More and More Woman) by Pierre-Jean Jouve (1887-1976; Arras, France; writer, novelist) [tr. Mary Ann Caws]
– from The Yale Anthology of Twentieth Century French Poetry

Oui féminine et grasse et vermeille
Je me suis vu sur le sommier écartelé
Pour recevoir l’hôte de pierre
Lèvres! celui que je suis et que je hais

J’étais cave et j’étais mouillée
De bonheurs montant plus laves que le lait
Que retiennent les étoiles de ma gorge
Et j’arrivais disais-je à cette mort exquise

Je me relevais fécondé.

Yes feminine and fat and scarlet
I saw myself spread on the mattress
To receive the stone guest
Lips! The one I am and hate

I was hollow and I was wet
With rising joy more lava than milk
Retaining the stars of my breast
And I reached I said this exquisite death

Fecund I stood up once more.

“Don Juan (After He’d Consumed Tons of Lipstick)” by Marin Sorescu (1936-1997; Bulzești, Dolj County, Romania; playwright, prose writer, essayist, translator) [tr. Adam J. Sorkin]
– from The Poetry of Men’s Lives: An International Anthology

După ce le-a mâncat tone de ruj,
Înşelate în aşteptările lor cele mai sfinte,
Au găsit mijlocul să se răzbune
Pe Don Juan.

În fiecare dimineaţă,
În faţa oglinzii,
După ce îşi creionează sprâncenele,
Îşi fac buzele
Cu şoricioaică,
Pun şoricioaică în păr,
Pe umerii albi, în ochi, pe gânduri,
Pe sâni,
Şi aşteaptă.

Ies albe în balcoane,
Îl caută prin parcuri,
Dar Don Juan, cuprins parcă de-o presimţire,
S-a făcut şoarece de bibliotecă.

After he’d consumed tons of lipstick,
The women,
Cheated of their holiest expectations,
Discovered a means of revenging themselves
On Don Juan.

Each morning,
Before the mirror,
When they’ve penciled on their eyebrows,
They paint their lips
With rat poison,
They daub rat poison on their hair,
On white shoulders, on eyes, on thoughts,
On breasts,
And they wait.

They show themselves white on balconies,
They search through parks,
But Don Juan, as though forewarned,
Has turned into a bookworm in the library. (…)


Poems about marijuana and hashish

 (Chase Twichell reciting her poem “Sayonara Marijuana, Mon Amour”) **Image: (source)

“Ethiopia Unda a Jamaican Mango Tree” by Opal Palmer Adisa (b. 1954; near Kingston, Jamaica; novelist, performance artist, literature professor, short-story writer, children’s book writer, anthologist) – from Wheel and Come Again: an Anthology of Reggae Poetry

‘Me nah wuk fi
nuh babylon. Babylon will
meet fire. I man is
son of Jah. I man is Jah.
I man a guh satter and
meditate and plough de land
and I man a guh eat fresh
vegetable, no deadas. I man
a guh make disyah mango tree
I temple. I man a guh hook
yah till Jah come fi I’. (…)

“Hazing (for tony new and albee)” by Brian Gilmore (Washington, D.C.; writer, columnist)
– from Beyond the Frontier: African American Poetry for the 21st Century

I once pledged
my father’s fraternity.
the day he came
home from work
and caught me and my
friends getting
high in the basement.

through the thick
smoky haze of the best
panama red I had ever tasted
my father happened to see his
red and white kappa alpha psi
paddle sitting in the corner.
gripping his paddle tightly
dad immediately placed me on line
despite the fact that I never
expressed any desire to join his
or any other fraternity (…)

“Gauge” by Langston Hughes (1902-1967; Missouri; New York, US; social activist, columnist, playwright, essayist, novelist, short story writer, children’s book writer; Harlem Renaissance)
– from American Poetry since 1950: Innovators and Outsiders

A stick…
A roach…

“Blunts” by Major L. Jackson (Vermont, US; poetry professor)
– from Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century

The first time I got high I stood in a circle
of boys at 23rd & Ridge tucked inside
a doorway that smelled of piss. It was
March, the cold rains all but blurred
our sight as we feigned sophistication
passing a bullet-shaped bottle of malt.
Johnny Cash had a love for transcendental
numbers & explained between puffs resembling
little gasps of air the link to all creation was
the mathematician. Malik, the smartest
of the crew, counterargued & cited the holy life
of prayer as a gateway to the Islamic faith
that was for all intents the true path
for the righteous black man. No one disputed. (…)

https://i0.wp.com/cct.vi/wp-content/gallery/smile-orange/IMG_5937-crop.jpgImage from the play Smile Orange written by Trevor Rhone and directed by Opal Palmer Adisia [first poem], about a tourist-trap hotel in Jamaica. Produced by Caribbean Community Theatre, Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, 2016 (source)

“Poem” by Frank O’Hara (1926-1966; Baltimore, Maryland, US; art curator)
– from The Poetry Anthology, 1912-2002

Green things are flowers too
and we desire them more than
George Sand’s blue rose not
that we don’t shun poison oak

but if it’s a question of loco
weed or marijuana why how
can we not rush glad and wild
eyes rolling nostrils flaring

towards ourselves in an unknown
pasture of public garden? it’s
not the blue arc we achieve
nor the nervous orange poppy at

the base of Huysmans’ neck
but the secret chlorophyll
and the celluloid ladder hid-
den beneath the idea of skin.

“Discoveries, Trade Names, Genitals, and Ancient Instruments” by Carl Rakosi (1903-2004; Berlin, Germany / Hungary / US; social worker; Objectivist poet)
– from American Poetry: The Twentieth Century, Vol. 2

If there is no connection between the wild
hemp of Kashmir
and the plectrum on a Persian lute,
the mind
will make one before the mallet comes down
on the cymbalo
As the young people have discovered,
it can also make a Pax American
out of genitals and meditation (…)

“Massive Stoner” by Michael Savitz (Chicago, Illinois, US)
– from Free Radicals: American Poets Before Their First Books

Though it all floods back to you
and an ascendance to grace is almost like an ascendance to sleep
and the chameleons will still stick purring to your walls,
this suit may have to be settled and worn elsewhere for a while,
the mental exercise sedimenting, the apple crisping in your hand, (…)

“Sayonora Marijuana, Mon Amour” by Chase Twichell (b. 1950; New Haven, Connecticut, US; anthology editor, Bengali translator)
– from The Wisdom Anthology of North American Buddhist Poetry

The first time I got high, we gathered
at the monument in East Rock Park.
I read the plaque to the Union Dead.
Moving from one mind to another
was familiar to me, as was the sensation
of watching myself, as if the dead and I
were the audience, and my friends
were real, and in the world.
As a kid I believed that the dead
lay inside the monuments,
that each monument was a tomb,
proof of death one old stone wall away,
the same distance as the friends. (…)

“The Haschish” by John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892; Haverhill, Massachusetts, US; prose writer, newspaper editor, advocate for abolition of slavery; Fireside Poet, narrative poet) – from Nineteenth Century American Poetry

OF all that Orient lands can vaunt
Of marvels with our own competing,
The strangest is the Haschish plant,
And what will follow on its eating.

What pictures to the taster rise,
Of Dervish or of Almeh dances!
Of Eblis, or of Paradise,
Set all aglow with Houri glances!

The poppy visions of Cathay,
The heavy beer-trance of the Suabian;
The wizard lights and demon play
Of nights Walpurgis and Arabian!

The Mollah and the Christian dog
Change place in mad metempsychosis;
The Muezzin climbs the synagogue,
The Rabbi shakes his beard at Moses! (…)

“Playing the Messiah” by Breeze
“Seeds” by Katie Degentesh
“Of Marilyn, and Marijuana” by Kenneth Rosen


Poems about pornography

Still from Videodrome (1983), directed and written by David Cronenberg (source)

“Ode to Pornography” by Jack Anderson (b. 1935; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, US; dance critic and historian) (a recitation) – from The Poetry Anthology, 1912-2002

Hail mer-
ry, tricky, and clandestine
art! the schoolboy’s peek at what might follow
first pubic hairs and acne, toy
for the worldly, secret vice
for the prim and proper, scorned

by priest,
proscribed by censor, you still
bear a socially redeeming message:
through photos, drawings, films, and books
you show jocund multitudes
eager, active (and passive), (…)

“Baz and the Freedom of the Press” by Kevin Cadwallender (Edinburgh, Scotland, US; poetry event manager, commissioning editor for Red Squirrel Press) (Listen to this poem here at 14:09) – from Red Sky at Night: Socialist Poetry

Full of Hell,
Baz gatecrashes the chip-shop,
bringing down on the counter a greasy
newspaper, bearing a colour image
of a topless model.

“It’s a fucking disgrace, you should
watch what you’re selling,
I bought them chips for my little girl”

The chip-shop owner
is caught somewhere between
bemused and terrified and
pours two lots of vinegar
on some wifie’s tail-end

He stutters meekly,
“But.. but.. I only sell chips!” (…)

“Being Aware” by Dennis Cooper (b. 1953; Pasadena, California, US; novelist, critic, editor, blogger, performance artist, experimental theatre writer)
– from Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology

Men are drawn to my ass by
my death-trance blue eyes
and black hair, tiny outfit
while my father is home with
a girl, moved by things
I could never think clearly.

Men smudge me onto a bed,
drug me stupid, gossip and
photograph me till I’m famous
in alleys, like one of those
jerk offs who stare from
the porno I sort of admire (…)

british-theatre-problemsImage of “Weaklings” a performance art piece inspired by and loosely based on the notorious blog of Dennis Cooper, produced by Chris Goode and Company at the Warwick Art Centre in Coventry, England (source)

“The Pornographer” by Robert Hass (b. 1941; California, US; essayist, translator of Polish poetry) – from The Yale Younger Poets Anthology

He has finished a day’s work.
Placing his pencil in a marmalade jar
which is colored the soft grey
of a crumbling Chinese wall
in a Sierra meadow, he walks
from his shed into the afternoon
where orioles rise aflame from the orchard.
He likes the sun and he is tired
of the art he has spent on the brown starfish
anus of his heroine, the wet duck’s-feather tufts
of armpit and thigh, tender and roseate enfoldings
of labia within labia, the pressure and darkness
and long sudden falls from slippery stone
in the minds of the men with anonymous tongues
in his book. (…)

“Pastoral with Internet Porn” by Jennifer L. Knox (b. 1968; Lancaster, California, US; poetry writing professor) – from Free Radicals: American Poets Before Their First Books

“Dad, we paid a lot a money
for this house and that grass your chair’s sitting on for
Christ’s sake! These nice girls just want to wash
some donkeys at $100 bucks a pop for their cheer-
leading squad so try and relax and enjoy it!” (…)

“Like Pornography” by Rob A. MacKenzie (Glasgow, Scotland; poetry magazine editor for Magma, literary critic) – from Other: British and Irish Poetry since 1970

get put gat                                           eisnin monocotyledon
stapled strong words panties        her burnished machair cunt (…)

“Reading Pornography in Old Age” by Howard Nemerov (1920-1991; New York, US; prose writer, literary essayist) – from The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry

Unbridled licentiousness with no holds barred,
Immediate and mutual lust, satisfiable
In the heat, upon demand, aroused again
And satisfied again, lechery unlimited.

Till space runs out at the bottom of the page
And another pair of lovers, forever young,
Prepotent, endlessly receptive, renews
The daylong, nightlong, interminable grind.

How decent it is, and how unlike our lives
Where “**** you” is a term of vengeful scorn
And the murmur of “sorry, partner” as often heard
As ever in mixed doubles or at bridge. (…)

“Trovato ho il mio angioletto” (I have found my little angel) by Sandro Penna (1906-1977; Rome, Italy) – from The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature

Trovato ho il mio angioletto
fra una losca platea.
Fumava un sigaretto
e gli occhi lustri avea…

I have found my little angel
amid a shady audience.
Smoking a small cigar
and with shining eyes…

“Now it’s in all the novels, what’s pornography to do?” by Peter Porter (1929-2010; Brisbane, Queensland, Australia; essayist, editor, translator) – from The Oxford Book of Comic Verse

Now it’s all the novels, what’s pornography to do?
Stay home where it’s always been—in the mind.
It’s always been easier to wank than to grind,
yet love is possible, palpable and happens to you.

It’s nice to have someone say thank you afterwards
goes the old joke. But are the manual writers
right, are masturbators nail biters?
(Even the Freudians are anti, albeit in long words.)

Don’t burn Office Frolics and I’ve a Whip in my Valise;
in other disciplines the paradis artificiel
is considered high art and not mental disease

and if your mind arranges tableaux with girls—
e.g. strip poker with big-breasted Annabel—
it’s a sign the world’s imperfect and needs miracles.

“Pornography” by Angela Shaw (New Jersey / West Virginia; creative writing professor)
– from The Pushcart Prize XXIII Best of the Small Presses

Painted, perfect, patient, I couch myself
in lace peignoir.  I author the slouching hours
after dusk, bidding the sun go down
over Tucson or Memphis, conjuring love-
rooms from a little perfume, a little blues,
a little bourbon.  Every romance opens
at the neckline.  Every night a voluptuous
story line is teasingly unveiled, stocking
by stocking, exquisitely unfastened
at its climax.  There are infinite methods
of table setting, of letting backdrop foretell
the spread, the dizzying lick of the graceful
fellatrix.  A neatly banked fire is both action
and circumstance. (…)

“Thirteen” by Ronald Wallace (b. 1945; Cedar Rapids, Iowa / Saint Louis, Missouri, US; literary critic, short-story writer, English professor)
– from The Pittsburgh Book of Contemporary American Poetry

Gent, Nugget, Swank, and Dude:
the names themselves were lusty, crude,
as I took my small detour from school,
my breath erect, my manner cool.
In Kranson’s Drugstore, furtive, alert,
stiff in my khakis I’d sneak to the back,
unrip the new issue from its thick stack,
and stick it in my quick shirt.
Oh, I was a thief for love,
accompliced by guilt and thrill,
mystery and wonder my only motive.
Oh, that old Kranson could be there still!
I’d slip in and out, liquid, unseen,
out of my mind again, thirteen.

“My Father’s Pornography” by David Wojahn (b. 1935; St. Paul, Minnesota, US; creative writing professor, essayist, editor)
– from Real Things: An Anthology of Popular Culture in American Poetry

The semiotics not of sex but of concealment, the lessons,
the legacy of dark.
It’s a strongbox in the basement, a corner in his woodworking shop.
Inside, a prostitute of
forty years ago is swallowing a massive, blue-veined cock.
The man is wearing
boxer shorts around his knees, white socks. Another man,
a black man, enters her

from behind. Her expression? Bogus pleasure, eyes
histrionically wide.
The photographer, I suppose, is demanding she look horny.
A few of the shots
are four-color glossy, most a grainy black and white. I’ve already
said too much. What next?
The damp smell of the basement he so carefully panelled.
No dialogue:

the father always silent as the men within these pages. (…)

“Zen 101” by Nin Andrews
“Legacy” by Siobhan Campbell
“No God” by Dennis Cooper
“Pieta” by Christopher Davis, C
X: “If not for Uncle Li” by Daniel Hall
“God made the sex-shop keeper” by Fiona Pitt-Kethley
“As one young guy screwed another young guy” by David Trinidad

Cults, Conspiracies, and Paranoia

Poems about cults, conspiracies, and paranoia

(Cults, Conspiracies, and Paranoia playlist) **Art: Inventions of the Monsters by Salvador Dali, 1937 (source)

“Charisma: A Fiction” by Ai Ogawa (Florence Anthony) (1947-2010; Albany, Texas, US; professor) – from Extraordinary Tide: New Poetry by American Women

I didn’t just read the Bible, I lived it.
I told my people, this is revolution.
I said, I interpret this attack
on my constitutional rights
with a gun and a guitar
to mean we are in trouble.
I held up a hand grenade, pulling the pin
and told them, “This one’s for Jesus.”
I prayed, “Lord, take me to heaven, take me today
and I won’t falter on the way.”
Did my people desert me,
did they say this man is crazy?
No, they didn’t.
They prayed with me.
They lay facedown in Waco, Texas,
to await death and resurrection,
as it came from all directions, all in flames. (…)

“A Poe Story” by Anthony Butts (b. 1969; Detroit, Michigan; professor)
– from American Poetry: The Next Generation

[This poem may be referencing Edgar Allan Poe’s “Sonnet to Science”]

Three a.m smoke rises from underground
gas lines, the hissing louder than the murmurs
of pigeons, louder than the white winter
clouds passing, heavy with the burden of snow,
nothing released here in Kalamazoo,
neither snow, nor rain, nor any item
dropped from the clenched purse of a woman walking
to her car, footsteps growing louder, quickening
as she spots me walking toward her, toward
the computer center, open twenty-four hours
for people like me, her car between us, gun metal
gray (…)

“Thinking American” by Hayan Charara (b. 1972; Detroit, Michigan; anthologist, essayist, literary editor, children’s book writer, professor) – from Present/Tense: Poets in the World

Take Detroit, where boys
are manufactured into men, where
you learn to think in American.
You speak to no one unless someone
speaks to you. Everyone is suspect:
baldheaded carriers from the post office;
old Polish ladies who swear
to Jesus, Joseph, and Mary;
your brother, especially your brother,
waiting in a long line for work.
There’s always a flip side.
No matter what happens,
tomorrow is a day away,
or a gin bottle if you can’t sleep,
and if you stopped drinking,
a pack of cigarettes. (…)

“The Boy and the Girl” by Todd Colby (Austin, Minnesota; poetry workshop teacher, anthology editor, musician) – from Heights of the Marvelous: a New York Anthology

1. The boy and the girl loved each other very much. They saw the world in a very similar way so they didn’t have to do too much extraneous translating or explaining to each other about what they saw or felt. They could take certain things for granted because they spoke the same language. They were not morons. They loved each other so much that they quit their jobs and hired people to do the things that they could no longer be bothered to do. They paid their bills on time and took great pleasure in watching the workers do the jobs that they had done under great duress, only months before. At the orientation meeting for the workers the boy and girl instructed them to clap together on the count of three. They called this the “We’re-All-One-Clap” because they didn’t want any of the workers to be alienated by the exclusivity of their love for each other. (…)

“The Dishonest Mailmen” by Robert Creeley (1926-2005; Arlington, Massachusetts, US; poetry professor; Black Mountain poets, Modernist / Post-Modernist)
– from The Oxford Book of American Poetry

They are taking all my letters, and they put them into a fire.
I see the flames, etc.
But do not care, etc.
They burn everything I have, or what little
I have. I don’t care, etc.
The poem supreme, addressed to
emptiness—this is the courage
necessary. This is something
quite different.

“Perhaps the rain on the roof is some hyper-phrenetic code from Shadowland” by Skip Fox (Louisiana, US) – from Another South: Experimental Writing in the South

Perhaps the rain on the roof is some hyper-phrenetic code from Shadowland, Morse on windowpane cut with belladonna, my beautiful woman in weeds where the rain also sings lightly or does it pour. Be with me now and in the hour or morning which seems so dissimilar, estranged, from any other hour, sotto voce, looking out the sides where edges in, the vast proportion of everything other wise when the rain so comes or does it end (…)

“Fragging” by Yusef Komunyakaa (b. 1941; Bogalusa, Louisiana, US; professor, veteran of the Vietnam war) – from American Alphabets: 25 Contemporary Poets

Five men pull straws
under a tree on a hillside.
Damp smoke & mist halo them
as they single out each other,
pretending they’re not there.
“We won’t be wasting a real man.
That lieutenant’s too gung-ho.
Think, man ‘bout how Turk
got blown away; next time
it’s you or me. Hell
the truth is the truth.” (…)

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/564x/70/b2/e8/70b2e8a3a119a639082b8d1b4dd7e7fb.jpgIan Mckellen and Robert Eddison in The Prospect Theatre Company’s 1970 adaptation of Edward II, written by Christopher Marlowe (Cambridge, England) (source)

“My father is deceas’d. Come Gaveston” from the play Edward II by Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593; Canterbury, England; playwright) – from The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature

Act I, Sc. 1: Enter GAVESTON, reading a letter that was brought him from the KING

GAVESTON:  “My father is deceas’d! Come, Gaveston,
And share the kingdom with thy dearest friend,”
Ah! words that make me surfeit with delight!
What greater bliss can hap to Gaveston
Than live and be the favourite of a king!
Sweet prince, I come; these, these thy amorous lines
Might have enforc’d me to have swum from France,
And, like Leander, gasp’d upon the sand,
So thou would’st smile, and take me in thine arms.
The sight of London to my exil’d eyes
Is as Elysium to a new-come soul;
Not that I love the city, or the men,
But that it harbours him I hold so dear—
The king, upon whose bosom let me die,
And with the world be still at enmity.
What need the arctic people love starlight,
To whom the sun shines both by day and night?
Farewell base stooping to the lordly peers!
My knee shall bow to none but to the king.
As for the multitude, that are but sparks,
Rak’d up in embers of their poverty;—
Tanti; I’ll fawn first on the wind
That glanceth at my lips, and flieth away.

{see also: “Ah, wicked King! Accursed Gaveston”
“Here is the form of Gaveston’s exile”

“I Am Not a Conspiracy Everything Is Not Paranoid The Drug Enforcement Administration Is Not Everywhere” by Susan Musgrave (b. 1951; Santa Cruz, California, US; novelist, memoirist, children’s book-writer, anthologist) – from The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry

Paul comes from Toronto on Sunday
to photograph me here in my
new image. We drive to a cornfield
where I stand looking uncomfortable.
The corn-god has an Irish accent—
I can hear him whispering, “Whiskey!”

And the cows. They, too, are in the
corn, entranced like figures in effigy.
Last summer in Mexico I saw purses at the
market made from unborn calfskin—
I’ve been wondering where they came from
ever since, the soft skins I ran my hands
down over, that made me feel like shuddering.

I was wrong. The corn-god is whispering
“Cocaine!” He is not Irish, after all,
but D.E.A. wanting to do business. He
demands to know the names of all my friends,
wants me to tell him who’s dealing. (…)

“Paranoia” by Leonard Nolens (Leon Helena Sylvain Nolens) (1947; Bree, Belgium; diarist) [tr. Michael O’Loughlin]
– from Turning Tides: Modern Dutch and Flemish Verse in English Versions by Irish Poets

Ze zeggen dat dichters hun tong in bedwang moeten houden.
Zij, dat zijn die modejournalisten die mijn kleren kraken
En morgen mijn ontwerpen dragen. Dat zijn die keukenmeesters
Die souperen van mijn vlees en in mijn pannen spuwen.
Dat zijn die onkruidverdelgers en dode dokters van de poëzie.
Maar wie heeft de naakten gekleed, de hongerigen gespijsd?

Nee, mijn door de wol geverfde tong van jullie is ook van mij
En wat ze doet is nu eenmaal vaak pathetisch gedacht.
Jullie metrische colbertjes en rijmbroeken, daar pas ik voor.
Jullie zoutloze sonnettenfoto’s, nee, pardon, merci.

They say that poets should keep their tongue in check.
They, they are the fashion journalists who slate my clothes
And tomorrow wear my designs. They are the kitchen inspectors
Who sup on my flesh and spit in my pans.
They are the weed killers and dead doctors of poetry.
But who has clothed the naked and fed the hungry?

No, the tongue you have stained on your slides is also mine
And what is you is actually pretty pathetic.
Your metrical jackets and rhyming britches, count me out.
Your salt-free sonnet snapshots, excuse me, no, merci. (…)

“Children of the Future” by Jalaluddin Mansur Nuriddin (b. 1944; Brooklyn, New York, US; spoken word and hip-hop artist; The Last Poets group)
– from Spirit & Flame: An Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry

Now the children of the future tried to come to terms
with the industrialized nations and their corporate firms

To decontaminate the planet and meet their demands
detoxify the oceans, rivers, lakes, and lands

Purify the air, get rid of nuclear waste
put it on a rocket ship and send it into space

Tone down, bone down, hone down hatred
‘til love for the Most High’s creation was sacred

Rectify, recompense, reevaluation
clarify, satisfy the present situation

Spiritualize, realize, crystallize aspirations
recognize, stabilize the unity of nations (…)

“Noon Walk on the Asylum Lawn” by Anne Sexton (1928-1974; Newton, Massachusetts, US; fiction and children’s book writer; confessional verse)
– from The Oxford Book of Garden Verse

The summer sun ray
shifts through a suspicious tree.
though I walk through the valley of the shadow
It sucks the air
and looks around for me.

The grass speaks.
I hear green chanting all day.
I will fear no evil, fear no evil
The blades extend
and reach my way.

The sky breaks.
It sags and breathes upon my face.
In the presence of mine enemies, mine enemies
The world is full of enemies.
There is no safe place.

“Conspiracy” by Jack Spicer (1925-1965; Los Angeles, California, US; linguist researcher, lecturer, poetry workshop teacher; San Francisco Renaissance, Avant-Garde)
– from California Poetry: From the Gold Rush to the Present

A violin which is following me

In how many distant cities are they listening
To its slack-jawed music? This
Slack-jawed music?
Each of ten thousand people playing it.

It follows me like someone that hates me. (…)

“The Tunnel” by Mark Strand (1934-2014; Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Canada; novelist, essayist, latin languages translator, anthologist)
– from The Heath Introduction to Poetry

A man has been standing
in front of my house
for days. I peek at him
from the living room
window and at night,
unable to sleep,
I shine my flashlight
down on the lawn.
He is always there.

After a while
I open the front door
just a crack and order
him out of my yard.
He narrows his eyes
and moans. I slam
the door and dash back
to the kitchen, then up
to the bedroom, then down. (…)

“Hang up a yellow shirt—you cause joy” from Blackout by John Ernest Tranter (b. 1943; radio programmer, literary magazine publisher and editor, anthologist)
– from Vanishing Points: New Modernist Poems

Hang up a yellow shirt – you cause joy;
our escape is common; every day, some wife
masters our theme of preservation,
millions speak like us.

The visitor, he will strike the entertainer.
A dollar comes to him, you have taken his tongue,
the old laughter, though
that tawny eye of green misses

the truth totally, it was crazy, a kind of power. (…)

“What We Believe” by Charles Harper Webb (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US; professor, psychotherapist, anthologist)
– from Vespers: Contemporary American Poems of Religion and Spirituality

Jesus was not the Son of God. He was a yogi
who tranced out on the cross – a fanatic like Jim
Jones or David Koresh, with better publicity.

President Kennedy was killed by the Cubans,
the Russians, the C.I.A.; Lee Harvey Oswald
was paid to take the fall. A group of evil

scientists created AIDS to wipe out Blacks,
dope addicts, homosexuals. Drug companies
quash cures to keep their profits high. (…)

“Sybil” by Rebecca Wolff (b. 1967; New York, US; editor and creator of Fence Magazine, novelist) – from Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century

1. These are the vague demands you make on me

2. (that I) assemble
(to) recollect
(to) decode
( ) associate

3. that I admit, fraught with difficulty, reintegration
is no day at the beach in eggshell tints
“The inmates start to get grave and a little crazy”
when they hear that friendly voice—the matron. (…)

“I Was Very Prolific” by Suzanne Wise (b. 1965; Rutland, Vermont, US; creative writing professor, events planner for Small Press Distribution)
– from American Poetry: The Next Generation

Legislators say they want women to have second thoughts.
—headline from The New York Times, January 28, 1998
I was very prolific in my generating qualities.
I was sprouting here and there.
They said I was developing.
They said my heterosexual adjustment
was quantitatively well above average.
Of course, they said, there is always the possibility
she won’t cooperate. But I did my best to acclimate.
I said to them: Just don’t rip my nylons.
I said to myself: This is not my self.
Afterward, no matter how much I gargled
or apologized, I couldn’t get that force field
out of my head: it sucked and dragged.
It depleted most of the memory banks,
then installed my functions in the outskirts
of a category called unknown or other. (…)

“I Eat Lunch with a Schizophrenic” by Laurel Ann Bogen
“In the Compound” by Albert Huffstickler
“A Paranoid Egotist” by Dan Nielsen