Sunday, September 18, 2011

Off the Shelf Archive ~September

In preparation for changing out selections for the Archive, I was browsing poetry sites a bit earlier today and saw that there is a Wallace Stevens Award for Poetry, given by The Academy of American Poets. I was immensely saddened to find out I'd never heard of it, (or hardly any of the poets who've received it since it was established in 1994, except for W.S. Merwin and Adrienne Rich.)

Naturally, with my Wallace Stevens issues, I had to check it out, and found the 2011 recipient is contemporary poet Yusef Komunyakaa, born in 1947 in Bogalusa, LA, whose work is totally new to me, though he's been around and published for quite awhile. Since I hardly ever pick living poets, and rarely ones I haven't read extensively, I thought I'd make this next Off The Shelf page his poem:

Here's his biography for those who'd like to know more about him:

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And to make room for this new piece, we have below the last selection , moved here to the Archive, an excerpt from Four Quartets 1:Burnt Norton, by T.S. Eliot. Feel free to comment on either poem here as comments are disabled off the main page.

Four Quartets 1: Burnt Norton


Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know.
Other echoes
Inhabit the garden. Shall we follow?
Quick, said the bird, find them, find them,
Round the corner. Through the first gate,
Into our first world, shall we follow
The deception of the thrush? Into our first world.
There they were, dignified, invisible,
Moving without pressure, over the dead leaves,
In the autumn heat, through the vibrant air,
And the bird called, in response to
The unheard music hidden in the shrubbery,
And the unseen eyebeam crossed, for the roses
Had the look of flowers that are looked at.
There they were as our guests, accepted and accepting.
So we moved, and they, in a formal pattern,
Along the empty alley, into the box circle,
To look down into the drained pool.
Dry the pool, dry concrete, brown edged,
And the pool was filled with water out of sunlight,
And the lotos rose, quietly, quietly,
The surface glittered out of heart of light,
And they were behind us, reflected in the pool.
Then a cloud passed, and the pool was empty.
Go, said the bird, for the leaves were full of children,
Hidden excitedly, containing laughter.
Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.
Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.


Garlic and sapphires in the mud
Clot the bedded axle-tree.
The trilling wire in the blood
Sings below inveterate scars
Appeasing long forgotten wars.
The dance along the artery
The circulation of the lymph
Are figured in the drift of stars
Ascend to summer in the tree
We move above the moving tree
In light upon the figured leaf
And hear upon the sodden floor
Below, the boarhound and the boar
Pursue their pattern as before
But reconciled among the stars.

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance....

by T.S. Eliot

You can read the remainder of the poem here.

Photo:  'Pat Austin' English Rose, by joy ann jones


  1. nice find on yusef...enjoyed the verse on the shelf...and will look him up for a closer inspect...

  2. stillness in the dance is a lovely image, perhaps it is an integral breath, like silence in music.

  3. Happiness. I had read Yusef's work, wonderful. I have Wallace Stevens issues too, and also Burnt Norton issues! Would you believe if I said I felt myself shift after reading ...

    for the roses
    Had the look of flowers that are looked at


    just the line Garlic and sapphires in the mud


    Truly, Four Quartets is one of those thin volumes you need through a life entire.

  4. (I meant when I first read those lines . . . something shifted, and that was just maybe last year when I finally got around to reading it through!)

  5. @Brian: I liked the four or five poems I read by him, also--they have a modern voice without being pushy about it. The poem I put up introduced me to another interesting poet as well, the West Indian Derek Walcott, a Nobel Prize winner who wrote a whole book length poem about the Caribbean in terza rima. Have to check him out, too.

    @lucychili: I agree. Thanks for reading.

    @Ruth: I know what you mean--this was not a poem I digested at all when I first read it in my twenties--it's dense and full of layers of image, and like peeling an onion, I got a sharp piercing of the tear ducts going back and re-reading it now--the whole concept of time is different, and even the roses aren't quite the same.


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats

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