Saturday, July 31, 2010

July Midnight / Amy Lowell

July Midnight

Fireflies flicker in the tops of trees,
Flicker in the lower branches,
Skim along the ground.
Over the moon-white lilies
Is a flashing and ceasing of small, lemon-green stars.
As you lean against me,
The air all about you
Is slit, and pricked, and pointed with sparkles of
lemon-green flame
Starting out of a background of vague, blue trees.

Amy Lowell
Pictures of the Floating World, 1919

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada, the United States, and the European Union]

Amy Lowell biography

Friday, July 30, 2010

shanghai / David Rutkowski


its symbol is a tower
a pot-bellied buddha
a syringe
injecting the sky
with confidence
it reminds me of chicago
if chicago had a heart
drenched blue with soy
it makes me think of the chinatown
paris dreams of having
so instead of croque-monsieur
one searches out the xiaolongbao
steamed by a storefront
no larger than a good-sized prison cell
which attracts yet another adventure capitalist

china – hateful rich aunt
maybe someday mental gymnasts
will make her smile
and she will include us in a will
she knows will never be needed
for the world will not end

David Rutkowski
Taiwan, 2010

author's note: xiaolongbao are doughy dumplings steamed in a small bamboo basket. The best can compete with anything in the world's cuisine.

[All rights reserved by the author - Used with permission]

Read David Rutkowski on usenet.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

From a Chinese Vase / Winifred Welles

From a Chinese Vase

Roaming the lonely garden, he and I
Pursue each other to the fountain's brim,
And there grow quiet  woman and butterfly 
The frail clouds beckon me, the flowers tempt him.

My thoughts are rose-like, beautiful and bright,
Folded precise as petals are, and wings
Uplift my dreaming suddenly in flight,
And fill my soul with jagged colorings.

The waters tangle like a woman's hair
Above the dim reflection of a face 
He thinks those are his own lips laughing there,
His own breasts curving under silk and lace.

How shall we know our real selves, he and I,
Which is the woman, which the butterfly?

Winifred Welles
The Hesitant Heart, 1919

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada, the United States, and the European Union]

Winifred Welles biography

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Two Ways / John V.A. Weaver

Two Ways

Oncet in the Museum
We seen a little rose
In a jar of alcohol –
You turns up your nose:
"That's the way people think
Love ought to be –
Last forever! Pickled roses!
None o' that for me!"

That night was fireworks
Out to Riverview
Gold and red and purple
Bustin' over you.
"Beautiful!" you says then,
"That's how love should be!
Burn wild and die quick –
That's the love for me!"

Now you're gone for good . . . Say,
Wasn't they no other way?

John V.A. Weaver
In American, 1921

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada, the United States, and the European Union]

John V.A. Weaver biography

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Decade / Amy Lowell

A Decade

When you came, you were like red wine and honey,
And the taste of you burnt my mouth with its sweetness.
Now you are like morning bread,
Smooth and pleasant.
I hardly taste you at all for I know your savour,
But I am completely nourished.

Amy Lowell
Pictures of the Floating World, 1919

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada, the United States, and the European Union]

Amy Lowell biography

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Free Fantasia on Japanese Themes / Amy Lowell

Free Fantasia on Japanese Themes

All the afternoon there has been a chirping of birds,
And the sun lies warm and still on the western sides of swollen branches,
There is no wind;
Even the little twigs at the ends of the branches do not move,
And the needles of the pines are solid
Bands of inarticulated blackness
Against the blue-white sky,
Still, but alert;
And my heart is still and alert,
Passive with sunshine,
Avid of adventure.

I would experience new emotions,
Submit to strange enchantments,
Bend to influences
Bizarre, exotic,
Fresh with burgeoning.
I would climb a sacred mountain,
Struggle with other pilgrims up a steep path through pine-trees,
Above to the smooth, treeless slopes,
And prostrate myself before a painted shrine,
Beating my hands upon the hot earth,
Quieting my eyes upon the distant sparkle
Of the faint spring sea.

I would recline upon a balcony
In purple curving folds of silk,
And my dress should be silvered with a pattern
Of butterflies and swallows,
And the black band of my obi
Should flash with gold circular threads,
And glitter when I moved.
I would lean against the railing
While you sang to me of wars
Past and to come —
Sang, and played the samisen.
Perhaps I would beat a little hand drum
In time to your singing;
Perhaps I would only watch the play of light
Upon the hilt of your two swords.

I would sit in a covered boat,
Rocking slowly to the narrow waves of a river,
While above us, an arc of moving lanterns,
Curved a bridge,
A hiss of gold
Blooming out of darkness,
Rockets exploded,
And died in a soft dripping of colored stars.
We would float between the high trestles,
And drift away from other boats,
Until the rockets flared soundless,
And their falling stars hung silent in the sky,
Like wistaria clusters above the ancient entrance of a temple.

I would anything
Rather than this cold paper;
With outside, the quiet sun on the sides of burgeoning branches,
And inside, only my books.

Amy Lowell (1874-1925)
Pictures of the Floating World, 1919

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada, the United States, and the European Union]

Amy Lowell biography

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Idlers / Pauline Johnson

The Idlers

The sun's red pulses beat,
Full prodigal of heat,
Full lavish of its lustre unrepressed;
But we have drifted far
From where his kisses are,
And in this landward-lying shade we let our paddles rest.

The river, deep and still,
The maple-mantled hill,
The little yellow beach whereon we lie,
The puffs of heated breeze,
All sweetly whisper -- These
Are days that only come in a Canadian July.

So, silently we two
Lounge in our still canoe,
Nor fate, nor fortune matters to us now:
So long as we alone
May call this dream our own,
The breeze may die, the sail may droop, we care not when or how.

Against the thwart, near by,
Inactively you lie,
And all too near my arm your temple bends.
Your indolently crude,
Abandoned attitude,
Is one of ease and art, in which a perfect languor blends.

Your costume, loose and light,
Leaves unconcealed your might
Of muscle, half suspected, half defined;
And falling well aside,
Your vesture opens wide,
Above your splendid sunburnt throat that pulses unconfined.

With easy unreserve,
Across the gunwale's curve,
Your arm superb is lying, brown and bare;
Your hand just touches mine
With import firm and fine,
(I kiss the very wind that blows about your tumbled hair).

Ah! Dear, I am unwise
In echoing your eyes
Whene'er they leave their far-off gaze, and turn
To melt and blur my sight;
For every other light
Is servile to your cloud-grey eyes, wherein cloud shadows burn.

But once the silence breaks,
But once your ardour wakes
To words that humanize this lotus-land;
So perfect and complete
Those burning words and sweet,
So perfect is the single kiss your lips lay on my hand.

The paddles lie disused,
The fitful breeze abused,
Has dropped to slumber, with no after-blow;
And hearts will pay the cost,
For you and I have lost
More than the homeward blowing wind that died an hour ago.

Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake) (1861-1913)
The White Wampum, 1895

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I know I am but summer to your heart /
Edna St. Vincent Millay

I know I am but summer to your heart

I know I am but summer to your heart,
And not the full four seasons of the year;
And you must welcome from another part
Such noble moods as are not mine, my dear.
No gracious weight of golden fruits to sell
Have I, nor any wise and wintry thing;
And I have loved you all too long and well
To carry still the high sweet breast of Spring.
Wherefore I say: O love, as summer goes,
I must be gone, steal forth with silent drums,
That you may hail anew the bird and rose
When I come back to you, as summer comes.
Else will you seek, at some not distant time,
Even your summer in another clime.

Edna St. Vincent Millay
from The Harp-Weaver, and other poems, 1923

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada]

Edna St. Vincent Millay biography

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Elinor Wylie (excerpt) / Harriet Monroe

Elinor Wylie

Elinor Wylie is dead. A flame which leapt high is gone out, and the world seems colder for the lack of it. The fire has gone out, but those whom it kindled and those whom it scorched know that it burned clear and strong, pure and ruthless, toward whatever open spaces of immortality may await the spirit that sings as it soars.

In a sense, the work of Elinor Wylie was complete, was finished. Though she died at forty-two, she had perfected her style and delivered her message. Death merely rounded the circle, gave her career a wholeness, a symmetry, as when a thoroughbred racer wins his trophy at the goal which was his starting-point a few moments before.

Harriet Monroe
Poetry, Vol. 33, No. 5 (Feb., 1929), pp. 266-272
Published by: Poetry Foundation
Stable URL:

August / Elinor Wylie


Why should this Negro insolently stride
Down the red noonday on such noiseless feet?
Piled in his barrow, tawnier than wheat,
Lie heaps of smouldering daisies, sombre-eyed,
Their copper petals shriveled up with pride,
Hot with a superfluity of heat,
Like a great brazier borne along the street
By captive leopards, black and burning pied.
Are there no water-lilies, smooth as cream,
With long stems dripping crystal? Are there none
Like those white lilies, luminous and cool,
Plucked from some hemlock-darkened northern stream
By fair-haired swimmers, diving where the sun
Scarce warms the surface of the deepest pool?

Elinor Wylie (1885-1928)
from Nets to Catch the Wind, 1921

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada, the United States, and the European Union]

Elinor Wylie biography

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Book of Wisdom / Stephen Crane


I met a seer.
He held in his hands
The book of wisdom.
"Sir," I addressed him,
"Let me read."
"Child — " he began.
"Sir," I said,
"Think not that I am a child,
For already I know much
Of that which you hold.
Aye, much."

He smiled.
Then he opened the book
And held it before me. — 
Strange that I should have grown so suddenly blind.

Stephen Crane (1871-1900)
 The Black Riders, and other lines, 1895

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Stephen Crane biography

Enhanced "Betty's OS" coming in August

A new version of "Betty's OS" (which was published on TBB in June) will be here in August. To be titled "Betty's OS 2.0" (BOS2.0), it is the first Enhanced Edition of a Bettywork. (Enhanced Editions are planned for all past and future Bettyworks).

The work has been significantly lengthened. I've added 326 lines to the original 770, to bring the total over 1,000 lines. Those changes, though, do not justify a second posting; in fact, I've already edited the June postings to add the new lines (just as I did with the later revisions to "Betty's Hat" in the December archives).

The change in BOS2.0 is that the software names are now all live-linked: Clicking on a name brings one to a page on the net (most often a Wikipedia page) with information on that operating system.

Just as "Betty's Hat" was seen, by some, as not a poem or anti-poem but a list of colours; so "Betty's OS" has been seen by some as not a poem or anti-poem but a list of operating systems. BOS2.0 is an attempt to popularize the work among that demographic. It is already the longest list of operating systems (that I know of) on the net: its 2,185 entries dwarf the 1,187 currently listed at the Operating Systems Documentation Project, and the notes will make it even more valuable to those interested in such things.

I hope that, even for those uninterested in OS lists, the enhancements will add value to the work; they'll be a reason to come back and rummage around in it (the way it's intended to be read).

90-95% of the names are already linked; a few more may get done, but (due to diminishing returns) I do not plan to go for 100%. Whatever is linked Aug. 1, is what gets blogged that month.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Only until this cigarette is ended /
Edna St. Vincent Millay

Only until this cigarette is ended

Only until this cigarette is ended
A little moment at the end of all,
While on the floor the quiet ashes fall,
And in the firelight to a lance extended,
Bizarrely with the jazzing music blended,
The broken shadow dances on the wall,
I will permit my memory to recall
The vision of you, by all my dreams attended.
And then adieu, — farewell! — the dream is done.
Yours is a face of which I can forget
The colour and the features, every one.
The words not ever, and the smile not yet;
But in your day this moment is the sun
Upon a hill, after the sun has set.

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)
Second April, 1921

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada and the United States]

Edna St. Vincent Millay biography

Thursday, July 15, 2010

"Desolation is a Delicate Thing" / Elinor Wylie

"Desolation is a Delicate Thing"

Sorrow lay upon my breast more heavily than winter clay
Lying imponderable upon the unmoving bosom of the dead;
Yet it was dissolved like a thin snowfall; it was softly withered away;
Presently like a single drop of dew it had trembled and fled.

This sorrow, which seemed heavier than a shovelful of loam,
Was gone like water, like a web of delicate frost;
It was silent and vanishing like smoke; it was scattered like foam;
Though my mind should desire to preserve it, nevertheless it is lost.

Elinor Wylie (1889-1928)
from Trivial Breath, 1928

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada and the European Union]

Elinor Wylie biography

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

If I should learn, in some quite casual way / Edna St. Vincent Millay

If I should learn, in some quite casual way

If I should learn, in some quite casual way,
That you were gone, not to return again —
Read from the back-page of a paper, say,
Held by a neighbor in a subway train,
How at the corner of this avenue
And such a street (so are the papers filled)
A hurrying man, who happened to be you,
At noon today had happened to be killed —
I should not cry aloud,— I could not cry
Aloud, or wring my hands in such a place —
I should but watch the station lights rush by
With a more careful interest on my face;
Or raise my eyes and read with greater care
Where to store furs or how to treat the hair.

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)
from Renascence, and other poems, 1917

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada and the United States]

Edna St. Vincent Millay biography

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sanctuary / Elinor Wylie


This is the bricklayer; hear the thud
Of his heavy load dumped down on stone.
His lustrous bricks are brighter than blood,
His smoking mortar whiter than bone.
Set each sharp-edged, fire-bitten brick
Straight by the plumb-line's shivering length;
Make my marvelous wall so thick
Dead nor living may shake its strength.
Full as a crystal cup with drink
Is my cell with dreams, and quiet, and cool. . . .
Stop, old man! You must leave a chink;
How can I breathe? You can't, you fool!

Elinor Wylie (1885-1928)
from Nets to Catch the Wind, 1921

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada, the United States, and the European Union]

Elinor Wylie biography

Monday, July 12, 2010

After Soufrière / Michael Field

After Soufrière

It is not grief or pain;
But like the even dropping of the rain,
That thou art gone.
It is not like a grave
To weep upon;
But like the rise and falling of a wave
When the vessel's gone.
It is like the sudden void
When the city is destroyed,
Where the sun shone;
There is neither grief nor pain
But the wide waste come again.

Michael Field

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Michael Field biography

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Let No Charitable Hope / Elinor Wylie

Let No Charitable Hope

Now let no charitable hope
Confuse my mind with images
Of eagle and of antelope:
I am in nature none of these.

I was, being human, born alone;
I am, being woman, hard beset;
I live by squeezing from a stone
The little nourishment I get.

In masks outrageous and austere
The years go by in single file;
But none has merited my fear,
And none has quite escaped my smile.

Elinor Wylie (1885-1928)
from Black Armour, 1923

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada and the European Union]

Elinor Wylie biography

From Betty to Léonie and Elinor

Sometimes it feels as if Betty is taking over more and more of my life. Last month I blogged the newest Bettywork, "Betty's OS". As soon as that was done, I began serial daily posting of it on usenet, with the idea of attracting readers to TBB. (With some success: I estimate that's responsible for 10-15% of recent visits.) Before that was half finished, I got the idea of a live-linked "Betty's OS" -- one with information on each software linked in. Rather than replace the text-only version -- because I consider the linked text an enhancement of the original, not a rewrite -- I decided I'd have to post that , which will have to be in its own month (probably next month). Considering I began writing "Betty's OS" in May, that will make four months devoted to it.

As if that weren't enough, I've begun yet another Bettywork: working title, "Betty's favourite band." Unlike "Betty's OS," which was mid-size -- only one-tenth the length of the original Betty, "Betty's Hat" -- this new one will be huge, even larger than the original; and I'm allowing an entire year to complete it.

I have to be doing other things; not just non-Betty non-blog things, but also non-Betty blog things. I get a lot of enjoyment, and I hope am learning something, from the techniques involved in writing Betty -- poetry based solely on words, sometimes only on letters and numbers, rather than on ideas or events; lines based on alliteration rathet than sense, rhyme, meter, etc. -- but it's obviously not all there is to poetry. If I can't be writing other poetry right now, at least I can be reading it, and blogging some of it for the other blog readers.

In that light, I recently purchased an interesting anthology: the combined 4th (1930) editions of the Louis Untermeyer-edited Modern American Poetry and Modern British Poetry. There are a lot of familiar poems there, but also much that is new to me. And much of the latter, being public domain here in Canada (a work enters the p.d. here 50 years after its author's death), can be put on TBB.

Judged from the short term, it looks like the canon never changes; however, survey a few years and it's surprising how reputations can grow or shrink in a matter of decades. When Untermeyer notes in the American Foreword how "the new edition, more than previous ones, emphasizes the fifteen or twenty poets who may well be considered outstanding.... The space devoted to Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Edwin Arlington Robinson, Edna St.Vincent Millay, Carl Sandburg, Léonie Adams, Elinor Wylie, T.S. Eliot (to name the most obvious) almost doubles that of preceding editions" -- he not only notes that phenomenon but illustrates it.

Of those 8, 3 still fall into the "most obviously outstanding" category: Dickinson, Frost, Eliot. All 3 are still read today and if anything their reputation has only been increasing since 1930. I would not have put Sandburg, Millay, or Robinsonin that category; certainly not at the expense of Pound, Stevens, WCW, or eecummings; I'd consider those to be far more obvious choices for outstanding  American poets of the time .

As for Adams and Wylie, I'd never heard of either. Not only do my 3 Modern anthologies published this century not rank either among the outstanding; none mentions Adams at all, while only one -- Penguin's -- has even one poem by Wylie. Why? Perhaps because they wrote in traditional forms. But, still ...

So those last two look like the obvious two poets to start reading and blogging with. Betty's a great gal and all; but I think it's time for us both (not Betty and me, the reader and me) to see other people. And Léonie and Elinor look like 2 good candidates for that.

Update, July 12: Reading up on Adams today, I read that she lived till 1988. Which means that her poetry is still copyrighted in Canada, so I won't be blogging any of it.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

July / George J. Dance


Children gasp
as the sky comes alive
with friendly fire.

George J. Dance, 2009
from Doggerel, and other doggerel, 2015

Alex Sims, "Skyshow Adelaide 2006"
licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 Generic license 

Creative Commons License
July by George Dance is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada License.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Penny's Top 20 - June 2010

The 20 most-visited poems on  The Betty Blog during June, 2010, ranked in order:

1.   Penny (or Penny's Hat), George Dance
2.   Penny's OS, George Dance
3.   Mars & Avril, George Dance
4.   Bird Cage /Cage d'oiseau, Hector de Saint-Denys Garneau
5.   Large Red Man Reading, Wallace Stevens

6.   Romance Novel, Arthur Rimbaud
7.   Ganesha Girl on Rankin, Will Dockery
8.   God is Good. It is a Beautiful Night.Wallace Stevens
9.   Fuji-san, George Dance
10. The Weary Man, Crystal Matteau

11. Always There, George Dance
12. Orbison, George Dance
13. May, George Dance  
14. A Sonnet of the Moon, Charles Best 
15. A Love Song, Duncan Campbell Scott    

16. The Dwarf , Wallace Stevens
17. March, George Dance
18. Of Modern Poetry  Wallace Stevens                    
19.  baguette David Rutkowski
20. The Flute of Spring, Bliss Carman

Source: The Best Links. Web. July 3, 2010.

Penny's Top 40 - May 2010

The 40 most-visited poems on  The Betty Blog during May 2010, ranked in order:

1.   The Cup, Duncan Campbell Scott                            
2.   Mars & Avril, George Dance
3.   Penny, George Dance
4.   Large Red Man Reading, Wallace Stevens
5.   Bird Cage /Cage d'oiseau, Hector de Saint-Denys Garneau

6.   April magazine
7.   Ganesha Girl on Rankin, Will Dockery
8.   Nebula, Desi DiNardo                                                
9.   May, George Dance
10. The Dying Philosopher to his Fiddler, John Drinkwater

11. May Garden, John Drinkwater
12. News, AE Reiff                                                  
13. Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction, Wallace Stevens
14. March, George Dance
15. Knowing, David W. Lewry

16. The Gravedigger, Bliss Carman  
17. Boy Remembers in the Field, Raymond Knister
18. Men Made Out of Words, Wallace Stevens
19. Meditations in Time of Civil War, W.B. Yeats                    
20. Poem with Rhythms, Wallace Stevens        

21. In the Garden, George Dance
22. A Sonnet of the Moon, Charles Best   
23. How soon will all my lovely days be over, Bliss Carman
24. 4 poems, Tom Hendricks  
25. Romance Novel, Arthur Rimbaud  

26. Spring Breaks in Foam, Charles G.D. Roberts  
27. Midnight Cry, R.K. Singh                          
28. A Meadow in Spring, Tom Bishop
29. A Love Song, Duncan Campbell Scott      
30. The May Magnificat, Gerard Manley Hopkins

31. Tichborne's Elegy, Chidiock Tichborne
32. The Masterpiece of Dawn, Leslie Moon    
33. Phillida and Coridon, Nicholas Breton    
34. White Sands Meet the Blue/Green Sea, Jeanne Ames
35. Fuji-san, George Dance

36. concrete, ray heinrich                      
37. Sticky Sweaty, rickthecockroach
38. Threat, R.K. Singh                    
39. United Dames of America ,Wallace Stevens
40. Of Modern Poetry  Wallace Stevens     

Source: The Best Links. Web. June 5, 2010.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Morning on the Shore / William Wilfred Campbell

Morning on the Shore 

The lake is blue with morning; and the sky
      Sweet, clear, and burnished as an orient pearl.
      High in its vastness, scream and skim and whirl
White gull-flocks where the gleaming beaches die
Into dim distance, where great marshes lie.
      The dew-wet road in ruddy sunlight gleams,
      The sweet, cool earth, the clear blue heaven on high.
Across the morn a carolling school-boy goes,
Filling the world with youth to heaven’s stair;
      Some chattering squirrel answers from his tree;
But down beyond the headland, where ice-floes
Are great in winter, pleading in mute prayer,
      A dead, drowned face stares up immutably.

William Wilfred Campbell
from The Dread Voyage Poems, 1893

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada, the United States, and the European Union]

William Wilfred Campbell biography

Happy Canada Day!

A Happy Canada Day to one and all, and a happy midsummer. Note the Canadian flag in the left-hand column; it marks the fact  we're now in the Canadian search directory, Canadian Planet; but it also makes a nice touch for the day and month.

I was in a bit of a dilemma over what to post today (the first day that, "Betty's OS" being completed, I could go back to posting whatever poetry I wanted). The problem was there were two good candidates, both of which deserved to go on for extrinsic as well as intrinsic reasons.

On usenet I got into the habit of posting a Great Canadian Poem every year: a famous Canadian nature poem, usually by one of our Confederation Poets That's a tradition I was looking forward to bringing to TBB. I was also hoping to build on it a bit: there are many great Canadian nature poems, and I was thinking about devoting the month to them, in the main.

 OTOH, I had the latest in my monthly series of tercets, "July", to post as well. I'd had to skip "June," due to reserving that entire month for "Betty's OS," and I didn't want to skip two months in a row; nor did I want to crowd two different poems into today.

Last night I decided. "July" involves fireworks, and today is our day for fireworks; but the USAmerican day is Sunday the 4. So I'll publish that one on that day. That'll be a nice touch, to involve a second country and its readers. (A third, really, since the poem's to be illustrated with a fireworks scene from Australia.) That leaves today free for a Great Canadian Poem -- so on to it without more ado.