Robert Okaji (6 Poems)

As Blue Fades Which defines you best, a creaking lid or the light-turned flower? The coffee’s steam or smoke wafting from your hand. Your bowls color my shelves; I touch them daily. Sound fills their bodies with memory. The lighter’s click invokes your name. And the stepping stones to nowhere, your current address. If the…

Allen Ginsberg’s “Kaddish” (Forerunners)

While I’d like to say that after Four Quartets, I don’t know of another long poem from the last century that’s meant as much to me as Allen Ginsberg’s elegy for his mother, Kaddish for Naomi Ginsberg, 1894-1956. But it’s so powerful that even describing it as a poem seems silly: it really doesn’t matter…

Tim Miller (Bog Poems)

LAST MEAL Their stomachs a bestiary only of grain during a time of feasting and boasting and meat, bellies a mush with the barely digested gruel of barley and rye and buttercup, goosefoot and hawksbeard, linseed and clover and knotweed, with spelt and yarrow all a last gnarl or bit of weight above the waist,…

Heaney’s Bog Poems (Forerunners)

Here’s Seamus Heaney, first talking about his poems on the bog bodies of Iron Age Europe, in Dennis O’Driscoll’s Stepping Stones, and then the bog poems themselves, spanning three of his collections: Wintering Out, North, and District and Circle. Also, since I hope to do a post on the bog bodies at some point, interested…

Virginia Slachman (Eden Park Meditation)

Eden Park Meditation i How odd that the days lengthen; the hours braced against a brittle sun that sears the lip of ice at the base of the black oak.                                          The ice and the sun are opaque and impenetrable, a sealed world. This world. The days don’t dwindle into twilight but linger so silently…

Prufrock & Other Observations (Forerunners)

A hundred years ago, in June of 1917, the small Egoist Press in Bloomsbury, London, issued a book of poems by the American expatriate, T. S. Eliot, Prufrock and Other Observations. Much like trying to read the Bible after a religious upbringing, it is almost impossible now to read especially the first four poems—“The Love…

Kitty Coles (6 Poems)

Black Moon Season for walking out into white frost under the black moon. Feeling the grass bend, the cold enfold flesh, the dark draw closer. Scenting the wet earth, lying fallow: ice has its own smell. Tasting night on the tongue, cobwebby, thin, and the mouth’s own heat. Watching the breath steam, cloudy, abundant, twining…

The Song of the Sea (Forerunners)

“The Song of the Sea,” which comprises Exodus 15:1-18 and tells of the Israelites’ escape from Egypt via the Red Sea, is one of the oldest parts of the Bible. Explaining the early form of Hebrew in which it was written, James Kugel notes that the Hebrew prefix ha- (a definite article corresponding to our…

Michael McGill (5 Poems)

Documentary A woman in a documentary is frozen in my mind. She stands behind an asylum window and whispers in a foreign language. The subtitle below her reads, “Please let me out of here.” She is framed by the subtitle; framed by the edit of her portrayal. Finally, she is framed by the asylum itself….

Anglo-Saxon Poetry (Forerunners)

Many thanks to David Cooke for contributing this week’s Forerunner, and it’s quite a treat. Below he has recorded a good portion of two Anglo-Saxon poems, “The Ruin” and “The Seafarer” in the original Old English. Also included is the original text, an English translation and, following “The Ruin,” David Cooke’s response to the poem,…

J. S. Belote (5 Poems)

Boriska Snowmelt mangles gray potato fields, oxcarts rot & sink by dung heaps, & month after month the heaps rise—   I don’t care. Again the sky is opaque. &, still, wizened, Andrei goes on painting icons. In one he gives Christ a cloak the color of earth. He hangs it nonchalantly over His left…

Robinson Jeffers (Forerunners)

Remember when poets made the cover of Time? It’s too bad the reputation of Robinson Jeffers has pretty much disappeared; but read any of the following poems aloud and see if you don’t hear something brutal, beautiful, and essential. While he seems to have staked his reputation on the longer narratives that pretty well fill his Collected…