Month: June 2014

WestWords Perfect Pair 30.06.2014

Probably one of the best loved American poets the world over is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Born in Portland, Maine in 1807, he was one of the five Fireside Poets whose easy rhyme made their work popular and suited to memorisation. His collections include Voices of the Night; Birds Of Passage and from 1850 The Seaside And The Fireside.  This is:


By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I stood upon the hills, when heaven’s wide arch
Was glorious with the sun’s returning march,
And woods were brightened, and soft gales
Went forth to kiss the sun-clad vales.
The clouds were far beneath me; bathed in light,
They gathered mid-way round the wooded height,
And, in their fading glory, shone
Like hosts in battle overthrown.

As many a pinnacle, with shifting glance.
Through the gray mist thrust up its shattered lance,
And rocking on the cliff was left
The dark pine blasted, bare, and cleft.
The veil of cloud was lifted, and below
Glowed the rich valley, and the river’s flow
Was darkened by the forest’s shade,
Or glistened in the white cascade;
Where upward, in the mellow blush of day,
The noisy bittern wheeled his spiral way.

I heard the distant waters dash,
I saw the current whirl and flash,
And richly, by the blue lake’s silver beach,
The woods were bending with a silent reach.
Then o’er the vale, with gentle swell,
The music of the village bell
Came sweetly to the echo-giving hills;
And the wild horn, whose voice the woodland fills,
Was ringing to the merry shout,
That faint and far the glen sent out,
Where, answering to the sudden shot, thin smoke,
Through thick-leaved branches, from the dingle broke.

If thou art worn and hard beset
With sorrows, that thou wouldst forget,
If thou wouldst read a lesson, that will keep
Thy heart from fainting and thy soul from sleep,
Go to the woods and hills! No tears
Dim the sweet look that Nature wears.



WestWords Perfect Pair 29.06.2014

US poet May Swenson, was born to Swedish immigrant parents in Utah in 1913.  Her first collection of poems Another Animal, was published by Scribner in 1954. Other collections include A Cage of Spines (1958) and Half Sun Half Sleep (1967). She is also the author of three collections of poems for younger readers, a collection of essays, and a one-act play titled The Floor, produced in New York in the 1960s. This is:

By May Swenson

Beneath heaven’s vault
remember always walking
through halls of cloud
down aisles of sunlight
or through high hedges
of the green rain

walk in the world
highheeled with swirl of cape
hand at the swordhilt
of your pride
Keep a tall throat
Remain aghast at life

Enter each day
as upon a stage
lighted and waiting
for your step
Crave upward as flame
have keenness in the nostril
Give your eyes
to agony or rapture

Train your hands
as birds to be
brooding or nimble
Move your body
as the horses
sweeping on slender hooves
over crag and prairie
with fleeing manes
and aloofness of their limbs

Take earth for your own large room
and the floor of earth
carpeted with sunlight
and hung round with silver wind
for your dancing place


WestWords Perfect Pair 28.06.2014

Scottish born poet, prose writer, translator, and traveller, Alastair Reid has been a travelling correspondent for the New Yorker magazine since the 1950’s. He has published over 40 books including essays, poetry, children’s books and translations of many distinguished poets, such as Chile’s Pablo Neruda. His own publications include an early selected poems entitled Weathering in 1978 and the more recent 2008 selection, Inside Out, from which this poem is taken, it’s:

By Alastair Reid


Oddments, as when
You see through skin,
When flowers appear
To be eavesdropping,
Or music somewhere
Declares your mood;
When sleep fulfils
A feel of dying
Or fear makes ghosts
Of clothes on a chair.

Inklings, as when
Some room rhymes
With a lost time,
Or a book reads
Like a well-known dream;
When a smell recalls
Portraits, funerals,
When a wish happens
Or a mirror sees
Through distances.

Omens, as when
A shadow from nowhere
Falls on a wall,
When a bird seems
To mimic your name,
When a cat eyes you
As though it knew
Or, heavy with augury,
A crow caws
Cras cras from a tree.

Moments, as when
The air’s awareness
Makes guesses true,
When a hand’s touch
Speaks past a speech
Or when, in poise,
Two sympathies
Lighten each other,
And love occurs
Like song, like weather.



WestWords Perfect Pair 26.06.2014

Writer and attorney Max Ehrmann(1872-1945) is widely known for the following prose-poem Desiderata or Desired Things. It was wrongly attributed for years.  However as recently as 2010 Ehrman’s home city of Terre Haute, Indiana, honoured him with a life-size bronze statue, Desiderata is engraved on an adjoining plaque and lines from the poem are embedded in the walkway. 

Along with pop/folk duo The Weepies, this is:

(desired things)
By Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labours and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.


WestWords Perfect Pair 25.06.2014

Robert Adamson is one of Australia’s leading poets and a successful writer, editor and publisher.  Some of his collections include   Canticles On The Skin and more recently The Goldfinches Of Baghdad. Along with Fleetwood Mac Albatross, this is:



By Robert Adamson


I am writing this inside the head
Of a bush stone curlew,
We have been travelling for days

Moving over the earth
Flying when necessary.
I am not the bird itself, only its passenger

Looking through its eyes.
The world rocks slightly, as we move
Over the stubble grass of the dunes,

At night shooting stars draw lines
Across the velvet dark
As I hang in a sling of light

Between the bird’s nocturnal eyes.
The heavens make sense, seeing this way
Makes me want to believe

Words have meanings,
That Australia is no longer a wound
In the side of the earth.

I think of the white settlers
Who compared the curlew’s song
To the cries of women being strangled,

And remember the poets who wrote
anthropomorphically as I sing softly
From the jelly of the stone curlew’s brain.



WestWords Perfect Pair 24.06.2014

Well known Irish language poet, teacher and editor, Louis De Paor was born in Cork in 1961. He was awarded a PhD in Modern Irish from the National University of Ireland in 1986, before emigrating to Melbourne, Australia where he wrote, gave poetry readings and broadcast in Irish on the Special Broadcasting Service (a network set up for speakers of ethnic languages). He returned to Ireland in 1996, and is now the Director of the Centre for Irish Studies at the National University of Ireland, Galway. If you’ve ever wondered where you got those long toes or short legs from, its:

By Louis De Paor

There’s no denying
the blood that goes through me
from my mother’s side,
leaving one snarled tooth
in the roof of my mouth,
an itching-post in the field
of my thoughts, an ogham stone
that shouts me down
with its unintelligible alphabet.

I put my swollen thumb
under the tooth of knowledge,
and the stone speaks up
from the underworld of my thoughts:
You were always a black sheep
like all belonging to you,
hard words like grains of sand
in the corner of an eyelid
shut tight as an oyster.

When a blade of light
prises it open,
there’s a tooth askew
in my son’s mouth.
It shines like a pearl
in his perfectly crooked smile.


The unmistakeable voice of French singer/songwriter Vanessa Paradis, Jackadi is from her 2007 album Divinidylle,

WestWords Perfect Pair 22.06.2014


North Carolina, birthplace of poet and writer Tony Hoagland.  His collections include What Narcissism Means to Me, 2003 and Donkey Gospel, which received the James Laughlin Award. Followed by Love Itself from Canadian musician and poet Leonard Cohen, this is:

By Tony Hoagland

She goes out to hang the wind chime
in her nightie and her work boots.

It’s six-thirty in the morning
and she’s standing on the plastic ice chest
tiptoe to reach the crossbeam of the porch,
wind chime in her left hand,
hammer in her right, the nail
gripped tight between her teeth
but nothing happens next because
she’s trying to figure out
how to switch #1 with #3.
She must have been standing in the kitchen,
coffee in her hand, asleep,
when she heard it—the wind blowing
through the sound the wind chime
wasn’t making
because it wasn’t there.

No one, including me, especially anymore believes
till death do us part,
but I can see what I would miss in leaving—
the way her ankles go into the work boots
as she stands upon the ice chest;
the problem scrunched into her forehead;
the little kissable mouth
with the nail in it.


WestWords Perfect Pair 21.06.2014

American poet, short-story writer and translator Ruth Fainlight was born in New York but has lived most of her life in the UK. In addition to her own works, she has also provided criticism for BBC Radio, The Guardian, and numerous other publications. Her New & Collected Poems was published by Bloodaxe Books in 2010 and covers work written over 50 years.

Faraway Voice from Georgian born British jazz and blues singer Katie Melua accompanies: 


By Ruth Fainlight

My mother’s old leather handbag,
Crowded with letters she carried
All through the war. The smell
Of my mother’s handbag: mints
And lipstick and Coty powder.
The look of those letters, softened
And worn at the edges, opened,
Read, and refolded so often.
Letters from my father. Odour
Of leather and powder, which ever
Since then has meant womanliness,
And love, and anguish, and war.



WestWords Perfect Pair 20.06.2014

The poet, professor and critic Brendan Kennelly was born in Ballylongford Co. Kerry in 1936.  He has more than thirty books of poems to his credit including My Dark Fathers, 1964, The Voices, 1973 and The House That Jack Didn’t Build, 1982.  His novels include The Crooked Cross 1963 and The Florentines 1967.  Accompanied by White Night from the Italian pianist and composer Ludovico Einaudi, here is:


By Brendan Kennelly

No dream that I remember
Can touch it.
Not even my childspicture of Christ’s cloak

On Easter morning was white as this.
It surpassed
The white bounce of the waterfall

And the secret of wheat,
It put to shame
The names of girls

And the frosty breath of old men,
Fingers of women who have lost blood
In their sickness

And seem hardly able to contain
Bursting through their skin.

It was whiter than the whitest part of my mind
Or a sheet of paper lying on the table
Undefiled by words.

Though I could not look at it
It enveloped me.
I drowned in the whiteness,

Felt it filtering through every gross bone
Cold and impeccable.
I was in a country where sin was unknown

And error did not exist.
It was simply that because of the whiteness
Ice and rain and mist

Could not be thought of.
In the whiteness there seemed no need
Even of love.

Which, I believe, was why
I closed my eyes to find the darkness,
To try to banish the whiteness.

And I did.
And I found
A scatter of ants on the ground

And though they blundered hither and thither
Like drunken guests at a wedding
They did not maul each other

But did what they had to do at my feet
Before my eyes
From which the whiteness is vanishing still
Though it never dies.