Sunday, January 22, 2012

Off the Shelf Archive~January

I've been most remiss (as usual) at refreshing the Off the Shelf selection,  but again as usual, my excuse is I've had many poems and new-to-me poets to choose from recently and its been hard to pick. What I've chosen this month is a bit of a departure for me, a poem spoken by the author. Myself, I'm a visual person, and poetry spoken is almost always poetry that has less impact for me, and which I frequently misconstrue, but this piece works fine for me in this medium and comes through loud and clear.  Punishment, by the Irish poet Seamus Heaney, is an intriguing piece of writing to me, juxtaposing the distant past and the present for a dubious squint at the progress, or lack of it, we've made as a species.  

If you'd like to know more about Heaney, born in 1939 in County Derry, Northern Ireland, winner of the Nobel prize among many others, there's a short but detailed biography here at the Poetry Foundation.


In order to make room for the current piece, the former selection, two poems by American poet Wallace Stevens, are moved here for a final perusal. Feel free to comment on either selection here, as comments are disabled off the main page. Suggestions of poems or poets for next time are always welcome.

Two Poems by Wallace Stevens

Disillusionment of Ten O’Clock

The houses are haunted
By white night-gowns.
None are green,
Or purple with green rings,
Or green with yellow rings,
Or yellow with blue rings.
None of them are strange,
With socks of lace
And beaded ceintures.
People are not going
To dream of baboons and periwinkles.
Only, here and there, an old sailor,
Drunk and asleep in his boots,
Catches tigers
In red weather. 

~by Wallace Stevens

The Snow Man

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is. 

~by Wallace Stevens

Header image: Winter Coats, by Jose Clemente Orozco, Oil on canvas, 1932
Bottom image:  Woodland Stream in a Winter Landscape, John Henry Twachtman, Oil on canvas 
Both images courtesy of


  1. i love the sound of snow...a hush that is indeed the second appeals to me...but i appreciate the first as well, the imagery, nice use of color and of course the close.

  2. Top hero of mine, Wallace Stevens. Thanks for these.

  3. One must keep a careful and watchful eye on those Irish poets. Particularly one with a name like Seamus! (Shay-mus)

  4. I was so tired when I posted this last night that I didn't do Seamus justice--he's worth more than just a few words, and his bio is interesting in and of itself, even if he didn't write so evocatively and with the kind of personal voice tied to a sort of traditional free verse framing that makes it almost function as a form. I also like his poems The Otter
    and of course, The Guttural Muse, which I can't find online but has been anthologized quite a bit, but ended up posting this one because of its connection to prehistory, and a personal fascination with the bog people.

  5. The Snow Man one of my most favorite poems. So beautiful (chilling). I was very lucky to take some classes with Harold Bloom, who is kind of a nut, but knows his poetry, who introduced me to it. Can still him reading it reverently, deep authoritative voice as if it were a holy text/exhortation. Kind of is.

    The other poem I didn't know but is very fun. K.


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

Comment Moderation Has Been Enabled