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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, October 8, 2013
Time: 5:30 – 6:30 pm
Place: St. Agnes Branch Library, 444 Amsterdam Avenue (near 81st Street), 3rd Floor
Theme: Poetry and Friendship (pdf)

Please join us for an hour of authentic 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.

We will meet on October 8 to discuss Poetry and Friendship. Poems of friendship can celebrate the traits of the individual as well as the nature of friendship itself. I remember singing in Girl Scouts, “Make new friends/And keep the old/One is silver/And the other gold.” Whereas love grows bright and withers, friendship lasts; as Emily Bronte wrote, “Love is like the wild rose-briar,/Friendship like the holly-tree--/The holly Is dark when the rose-briar blooms/But which will bloom most constantly?”

There is a long tradition of poets addressing poems to their friends like the ancient Roman poet Catullus whose poems read like letters to a friend. W. B. Yeats wrote in “The Spur,” “Think where man’s glory most begins and ends/And say my glory was I had such friends.” William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, as well as Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell, dedicated verses to each other and wrote about each other in poems. Pets can also be true friends who teach us loyalty and caring. David Lehman celebrates the dog Molly, “For she does not lie awake in the dark and weep for her sins, and whine about her condition, and discuss her duty to God.”

The following poem, from A.E. Housman’s A Shropshire Lad (1896), expresses the melancholic view of an older man remembering an ideal time of his youth and friendships. Ludlow itself, a town walled in by an ancient castle, had become industrialized by the time Housman wrote the poem. In these few lines, Housman evokes the memory of the past and the reality of the present:

  • When I came last to Ludlow
  • Amidst the moonlight pale,
  • Two friends kept step beside me,
  • Two honest lads and hale.
  • Now Dick lies long in the churchyard,
  • And Ned lies long in jail,
  • And I come home to Ludlow
  • Amidst the moonlight pale.

Although the narrator retraces his steps in returning to Ludlow, everything has changed, particularly the situation of his friends. Like his two visits, the line “Amidst the moonlight pale” repeats and changes. In the first verse the line evokes a lovely, picturesque view, while in the second verse it describes a lifeless feeling, and perhaps even the narrator himself. Join us on our blog to discuss this poem or anything about poetry: onepagepoetrycircle.wordpress.com

We invite you to bring a single page of poetry by a known author related to the subject of Poetry and Friendship — with copies for others, if you can. To get started on your search, try poetryfoundation.org or poets.org.

We're eager to see what you find.

We gathered on September 10 with poems related to gardening.

Abigail began the evening by reading Michael Field’s “Cyclamens” which ends, “Yet I, who have all these things in ken, Am struck to the heart by the chiselled white/Of this handful of cyclamen.”

Roger read Rudyard Kipling’s “The Glory of the Garden.” While “Cyclamens” is a personal and private poem, Kipling’s poem celebrates the country of England and extols all to work for the common good, “Our England is a garden, and such gardens are not made/By singing: - ‘Oh, how beautiful,’ and sitting in the shade.”

Hazel read “The Wild Honeysuckle” by Philip Freneau, a sweet but sad poem that celebrates the short life of the honeysuckle and of all of us, “The space between is but an hour,/The frail duration of a flower.”

Noel read Paisley Rekdal’s “Happiness” which defends the gardener against offended and angry neighbors, “I want to take my neighbors into the garden/and show them: Here is consolation.”

Jaye read from Charles Tomlinson’s “The Garden,” a poem filled with ideas discovered while touring a stately garden in England, “One must smile/At the irritability of critics, who/Impotent to produce, secrete over what they see/their dislike or semi-assent.”

Ellen read “Roses” by Billy Collins, with its lovely depiction of midsummer roses and their response to “this stranger staring over the wall/his hair disheveled, a scarf loose around his neck, writing in a notebook, writing about us no doubt.”

Betsy read Amy Uyematsu’s “Deliberate” about a group of young people seeking to be cool who come home and take off their “sassy black high heels/or two inch zippered boots/stack them by the door at night/next to Daddy’s muddy gardening shoes.” A lovely contrast occurs between the impractical shoes of the young and the traditional shoes of the father, whose energy has gone into his own plot, whether he’s cultivating flowers, vegetables, or children.

Karen read W. S. Merwin’s “What is a garden” which describes, without punctuation, the palm trees the poet planted in a Nature Conservancy in Maui, “The wet bamboo clacking in the night rain/crying in the darkness whimpering softly as the hollow columns touch/and slide along each other swaying with the empty air/these are sounds from before there were voices.”

AnnaLee brought the circle to a close by reading “Remaking a Neglected Orchard” by Nathaniel Perry which begins, It was a good idea, cutting away/the vines and ivy, trimming back/the chest-high thicket lazy years/had let grow here.”

We loved the range of the poems read and discussed! They took a diverse look at gardens and gardening, exploring the relationship between man and plants as simple delight, symbolically, and even giving a voice to the plants and allowing them to talk to us.

Mark your calendars for Fall 2013:

October 8 Poetry and Friendship
November 12 Poetry and Youth
December 10 Antiquity and Modernity


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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