“…In the nightmare of the dark
All the dogs of Europe bark,
And the living nations wait,
Each sequestered in its hate.
Intellectual disgrace
Stares from every human face,
And the seas of pity lie
Locked and frozen in each eye.
Follow, poet, follow right
To the bottom of the night,
With your unconstraining voice
Still persuade us to rejoice.
With the farming of a verse
Make a vineyard of the curse,
Sing of human unsuccess
In a rapture of distress.
In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountains start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.

From W.H. Auden’s elegy for Yeats, 1939.

{freedom’s just another word for …}

“Freedom is not a thing you can receive as a gift. One can be free even under a dictatorship on one simple condition, that is, if one struggles against it. A man who thinks with his own mind and remains uncorrupted is a free man. A man who struggles for what he believes to be right is a free man. You can live in the most democratic country in the world, and if you are lazy, callous, servile, you are not free, in spite of the absence of violence and coercion, you are a slave.”

Ignazio Silone

{seven sisters: poetry challenge – somonka}

Another year of scribbling with the Poetry Sisters brings us to a new year – and for me, a new form. A somonka is a Japanese form combining back-to-back tankas – another older Japanese form – in two voices, to tell a story. The theme is generally love, though “love” is expressed in a variety of ways, and the 5-7-5-7-7 syllable tanka repeats for a total of ten lines. Tricia’s poem is here, Sara’s is here, Liz, who chose the form, is here, and Laura is here. Kelly is here, and Andi is working on getting well, and sitting this one out.

I never underestimate the shorter forms of poetry; for me, they’re almost always the hardest and this one was no exception. I noodled around, but the real issue I was having wasn’t the form, but the theme. Tankas are about nature or seasons or other things, but two together in the form of a somonka are meant to be a statement of love, and a discussion or description of such, in the second half.

…but my psyche complains, Love? In January, when statistically there are more deaths, and more divorces and allegedly the most depressing day of the year? When we hate the people who have passed on our ‘flu, have massive credit card debt, and are not feeling particularly compassionate toward anyone? That‘s when we’re supposed to think of love??? Right.

I guess my biggest problem is that I never think of love… just like I never think of jokes. Either life’s funny, or it’s not – I’m just not a joke-with-punchline kind of person. Either I love you, or I generally can’t stand you. Maybe I dislike love poems because of reading waaaaaay too many as an English major. Maybe grappling with love poetry is what I need to do this year. Maybe I need to widen and deepen my definition of love. I don’t know. I do know I finally managed this form, but I don’t like the results – par for the course, as usual.


a hand, extended.
sometimes that’s all love is –
choosing an outlook
that reaches beyond ourselves
sharing light with the whole world.

The sensuous slide
of fingers tangled. Palms kiss –
nerves sing. Neurons fire
Echoing the heart’s bright sparks –
s/he Loves me, s/he loves me BEST.

Don’t forget to drop by the rest of the gang’s poems. For more Poetry Friday shenanigans, drop by today’s host,Teacher Dance.