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poetry circle

One Page Poetry Circle Archive


Welcome to the One Page Poetry Circle at St. Agnes Branch Library!
Date: Tuesday, February 11
Time: 5:30 - 6:30 pm
Place: St. Agnes Branch Library, 444 Amsterdam Avenue (near 81st Street), 3rd Floor
Theme: Poetry and the Law (pdf)

Please come for an hour of conversation about poetry through the examination of works of established poets. While there is no instructor and this is not a workshop for personal writing, once a month OPPC gives everyone a place to become teachers and learners to explore the form, content, language and meaning of poetry.

Join the circle on February 11 to discuss Poetry and the Law. Poetry and the Law would at first appear to be disparate entities. The editors of a recent collection of poetry, Poetry of the Law: From Chaucer to the Present, assert in their introduction that there is a place for poetry in legal studies, a place for legal themes in poetry, and that lawyers would benefit from such exposure.

When the distinguished eighteenth-century jurist Sir William Blackstone retired from the law, he began "The Lawyer's Farewell to His Muse," with these words:

  • As by some tyrant’s stern command,
  • A wretch forsakes his native land,
  • In foreign climes condemn’d to roam
  • An endless exile from his home;
  • Pensive he treads the destined way,
  • And dreads to go; nor dares to stay;
  • Till on some neighbouring mountains’ brow
  • He stops, and turns his eyes below;
  • There, melting at the well-known view,
  • Drops a last tear, and bids adieu:
  • so I, thus doom’d from thee to part,
  • Gay queen of Fancy, and of art,
  • Reluctant move, with doubtful mind,
  • Oft stop, and often look behind.

Others have not looked at the legal system so fondly. In "Justice," Langston Hughes describes a completely different view:

  • That Justice is a blind goddess
  • Is a thing to which we black are wise:
  • Her bandage hides two festering sores
  • That once perhaps were eyes.

Aside from our judicial system there are other kinds of laws as well: Rudyard Kipling explored the Law of the Jungle:

  • Now this is the Law of the Jungle -- as old and as true as the sky;
  • And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf that shall break it must die.
  • As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk the Law runneth forward and back --
  • For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.

EVERYONE'S WELCOME to bring a single page of poetry by a known author related to the subject of Poetry and the Law-with copies for others, if you can. To get started on your search, try poetryfoundation.org or poets.org.

And in between meetings please visit our blog to discuss these poems or anything about poetry: onepagepoetrycircle.wordpress.com

After another early snow on December 10th, OPPC attendees gathered to read and discuss poems about Antiquity and Modernity.

Abigail started us off with Pamela Spiro Wagner's "My Mother Was Medea." From the point of view of Medea's child, the narrator describes being complicit in her own murder, "When the blade struck bone/my hand guided her hand." Discussion brought out the idea that in modern divorces, as in ancient, children are often used by the parents as weapons against each other, and that children may even knowingly be complicit.

Roger read "Ulysses" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Written just after the death of Tennyson's best friend, the narrator encourages himself, as well as subsequent readers, to move forward in its famous last lines, "Though much is taken, much abides; and though/We are not now that strength which in old days/Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are-/One equal temper of heroic hearts,/Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will/To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

Hazel read "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer" in which John Keats describes his experience of reading a modern translation of Homer: "Then felt I like some watcher of the skies/When a new planet swims into his ken." Keats' metaphors reflect the world-changing nature of his experience.

Betsy read Czeslaw Milosz's "What Once Was Great" which reflects on the changing nature of the world as the narrator recalls the perceptions of his youth. The poem is quoted in its entirety:

  • What once was great, now appeared small.
  • Kingdoms were fading like snow-covered bronze.
  • What once could smite, now smites no more,
  • Celestial earths roll on and shine.
  • Stretched on the grass by the bank of a river,
  • As long, long ago, I launch my boats of bark.

Mady read Yehuda Amichai's "Tourists" which contrasts the sites of Israel's precious antiquity with the importance of the people who live there. He then juxtaposes poetry with a poetic prose account of tourists examining a Roman arch behind a man sitting on the ground. "I said to myself: redemption will come only when they are told: You see over there the arch from the Roman period? Never mind: but next to it, a bit to the left and lower, sits a man who bought fruit and vegetables for his home."

AnnaLee completed the circle with Constantine P. Cavafy's "Ithaka," which describes life as a journey towards Ithaka, "And if you find her poor, Ithaka won't have fooled you./Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,/you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean." In this poem the reader is reminded that while the goal of Ulysses' famous journey was to reach the destination, the journey itself is always more important.

We look forward to seeing old faces and new on February 11 to discuss Poetry and the Law. Mark your calendars for spring 2014:

February 11: Poetry and the Law
March 11: Poetry and Hunger and Thirst
April 8: Poetry and Journeys
May 6: Poetry and Birds

Bring a friend and widen the circle.

Happy Holidays!

Abigail Burnham Bloom and
AnnaLee Wilson

The One Page Poetry Circle is sponsored by the New York Public Library and is open to all. St. Agnes Branch Library is handicap accessible.


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