Kurt Vonnegut – ‘Two Little Good Girls’

[  # 86 of My Favourite Short Poems  ]

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Known primarily as a novelist, Kurt Vonnegut (1922 – 2007) was an American writer. He published 14 novels, three short story collections, five plays, and five works of non-fiction. He is most famous for his darkly satirical, best-selling novel ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’, published in(1969.

I do like this short poem of his which I came across only recently.  Apparently it was never given a title by Vonnegut and was discovered in a letter of 1961 sent by him to a friend.  It has a delightfully simple and artless warmth which engenders such good feeling and optimism.

 

Two little good girls
Watchful and wise —
Clever little hands
And big kind eyes —
Look for signs that the world is good,
Comport themselves as good folk should.
They wonder at a father
Who is sad and funny strong,
And they wonder at a mother
Like a childhood song.
And what, and what
Do the two think of?
Of the sun
And the moon
And the earth
And love.

 

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Early 20th Century Autograph Books

[ Wednesday Replay # 1 ] 

Previously published on Roland’s Ragbag on August 6th 2016 at:
‘Early 20th Century Autograph Books’


 

Autograph books, where they exist, are now used mainly for collecting the signatures ( or at least the scribbled ciphers) of the latest popular music or sports star.

Compare this scribble below by Wimbledon Champion, Andy Murray, in 2013, with, from my own autograph collection (of 2), this perfectly legible  autograph of England and Yorkshire batsman, Len Hutton, obtained in the 1940s . . .

100 years ago Autographs Books were primarily more for the collecting and usually exchanging, of aphorisms, homilies, comments,  pithy verses, simple drawings, personal messages, with friends and relatives.

These autograph books of the first half of the 20th Century, give a clear picture of the social mores and conventions of the time.  Their contents can be clearly seen as a means of passing popular wisdom on to subsequent generations. Nowadays they may be thought of by some as schmaltzy, even maudlin, but they do present a picture of the tastes and sentiments of that time and help to remind us of a much simpler and less cynical age.

 REPRODUCE BELOW, In Slide show format) SOME OF THE SKETCHES FROM MY OWN FAMILY’S AUTOGRAPH BOOKS – THE MAJORITY OF THE ENTRIES ARE DATED 1929.

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. . . AND HERE ARE THE TEXTS OF SOME OF THE MORE DISCERNING ENTRIES . . .


Beware sweet maid when men come to thee
And say they seek their soul’s affinity
When all they want, the base espousers,
Is someone to sew buttons on their trousers.


_____________
_____________
_____________
_____________

‘Just a few lines from a would-be poet’


It’s very hard to find a friend
When your heart is full of hope.
It’s harder still to find a towel
When your eyes are full of soap.


In ascending the hill of prosperity
May you never meet a Friend


It’s not the one that knows the most
That has the most to say.
Nor yet the one that has the most
That gives the most away.


Love is like a mutton chop
Sometimes cold – Sometimes hot

Whether cold or whether hot
It’s not a thing to be forgot.


‘Taint what we have,
But what we give,
‘Taint what we are,
But how we live,
‘Taint what we do,
But how we do it,
That makes life worth
Going through it.


Make new friends but keep the old,
One is silver, the other gold;
Cheeks may wrinkle, hair grow grey,
But friendship never knows decay.


When the golden sun is sinking,
When your time from care is free,
When of others you are thinking,
Will you sometimes think of me?


Written in faltering, scratchy handwriting …

This is a damned bad pen you’ve given me!

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‘Syntax’ by Carol Ann Duffy

[  # 81 of My Favourite Short Poems  ]

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Carol Ann Duffy (1955- )

‘It is not always easy to speak of love.  The words we use to do so are often tortured and can be made incomprehensible by passion and heedlessness.  So, how then do we speak of love?  How does the poet speak of love?  Is the language of love pre-ordained?  Should it run to a formula?  The formula, perhaps, of formal English speech – syntax in other words?  The expression of love surely by-passes such strict rules, and resides in the lips, the eyes, the heart.

In short, simple precisely to-the-point words, Carol Anne Duffy, Britain’s current Poet Laureate, in this poem, unlike any other love poem I have ever read, conveys the thoughts, desires, hesitations which beset us in the search for a meaningful form of capturing such feelings.’

Syntax


I want to call you thou, the sound

of the shape of the start
of a kiss  –   like this, thou  –
and to say, after, I love,
thou, I love, thou I love, not
I love you.

Because I so do  –
as we say now  –   I want to say
thee, I adore, I adore thee,
and to know in my lips
the syntax of love resides,
and to gaze In thine eyes.

Love’s language starts, stops, starts;
the right words flowing or clotting in the heart.

Re-printed from ‘The Times’,  Saturday September 3rd, 2005
First published in ‘Rapture’, Duffy’s volume of love poems, first published in 2005. 

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Here is a spoken version of the poem “Syntax” by Carol Ann Duffy (read by Tom O’Bedlam) . . .

 

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‘I Am’ by Sylvia Plath

[  # 75 of My Favourite Short Poems  ]

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‘I took a deep breath

and listened to the old brag of my heart:

I am,

I am,

I am.’


 

Today’s offering is not, strictly speaking a poem.  It is a very short, one sentence, quotation from theThe Bell Jar’, (written under the pseudonym, ‘Victoria Lucas’), the only novel ever written by the American poet, Sylvia Plath, who committed suicide, aged 30, shortly after its publication in 1963.

I am using it today as its introspection does mirror that of John Clare, whose ‘I Am’ verses I featured a week ago.  Both Clare and Plath were troubled beings, suffering for long periods of their lives from severe mood swings and depression.

In this one sentence from her novel, Sylvia Plath, cries out with similar force to that which John Clare was expressing in his poem, for the self-belief and recognition which both felt had eluded them . . .  ‘I AM! yet what I am who cares, or knows?’ 

 

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Books Do Not Die . . .

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Books, do not die

{ A paean to Books }

 

Books, do not die,
You bring me such joy;
I’ve dwelt in your pages
Since I was a boy.

Books, do not die,
You are humble yet proud,
Bringing solace and hope,
The sun through the cloud.

Books, do not die.
Your warmth and your grace,
Your wisdom and charm,
I clutch and embrace.

Books, do not die,
You have smell, you have taste.
Your very presence
Will not go to waste.

Books, do not die,
Your existence delights
You see me through
Those long dark winter nights

Books do not die,
My dreams you renew;
You offer escape,
I can’t live without you.

Books, Do not die;
Do not burn, Or expire.
Life blood of words,
Procreate and inspire.

 

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He is Gone

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A Quote from that great  English comedienne, actress, singer and songwriter, screenwriter, producer and director, Victoria Wood, who sadly passed away in 2016 at the age of 63 . . .

“In India, if a man dies, the widow flings herself onto the funeral pyre; if a man dies in this country, the woman just drags herself into the kitchen and says, ‘Seventy-two baps, Connie, you slice, I’ll spread’ “

From: ‘Great British Wit’ by Rosemary Jarski  (Ebury Press 2009)

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Pull the stops out
He is gone;
Start a new life,
Don’t dwell upon

What once was quick,
It now is dead,
Life starts afresh;
He always said,

“When I am gone
Do not be sad,
Start a new life
And be glad.

Get out the glad rags,
Have a party,
You’ll be fine now,
Hale and hearty.

Ready to start
A brand new life,
A brand new woman,
An experienced wife.

Time to sparkle,
Forget the past;
Your Prince awaits you,
Free at last.

For when I’m safely
In my box,
No need then
To stop all the clocks.”

 

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A Poetic Formula

 (Poem No.51 of my favourite short poems) 

A Poetic Formula

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A dozen, a gross and a score

Plus 3 times the square root of 4

Divided by 7

Plus 5 times 11

Is  9 squared

And not a bit more.

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This ingeniously composed equation and the accompanying verse is quoted in Gyles Brandreth’s 2015 book ‘Word Play’ (Coronet Books – Hodder and Stoughton), as a composition by the playwright, Tom Stoppard. 

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My Library, My Life

My Library

My Library, My Life

The best way to find out
About who someone is?
Examine their library –
No need for a quiz.

My library is big,
Just take a look.
What you’ll find in it
Is book after book.

My bookshelves are full
Of books of all kinds
I’ve scoured the bookshops
Made remarkable finds.

Books I have read;
Books I might read one day;
Books never read,
Just there for display.

Books bought on a whim,
Not ‘cos of need,
Some temporary fashion
My psyche to feed.

Milligan and Wodehouse,
Others quite scholastic;
Some books of value
Wrapped up in plastic.

Books from my schooldays
And courses of study
‘Duchess Of Malfi’,
Such tales that are bloody!

Books presented to me,
Complete with inscriptions;
D.I.Y books,
Complete with descriptions.

Books I have borrowed
With library covers;
Books now on loan
From other book lovers.

Dickens and Trollope,
Austen and Hardy,
Similar authors
With whose reading I’m tardy.

Histories, biographies,  
And Poets galore,
Who once I indulged in,
Like Rabindranath Tagore.

Pop-up books from childhood
And Sunday school prizes
Maps and old diaries
And other surprises.

Games, chess and bridge,
Whole sections you’ll find
On Yorkshire and China
First editions – unsigned!

A few spaces for books
which I’ve lent out to others,
Awaiting return
With or without covers.

Look close and you’ll find
What once filled my mind;
Many are mystery now,
Since my memory declined.

But, never-the-less,
I still love them all,
Or perhaps I just keep them
To decorate the wall.

My Books

ROUTE 66 … Open Road For Promiseland – VEGAS

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I include below a section reproduced from the jacket cover of the book.  It may help to put John Powls’ current work into perspective.  Today, below that, I give one more poem from John’s ‘ROUTE 66’ Odyssey.

VEGAS

 Las Vegas, Nevada

 

Kitsch and culture
Fries and fine
Dining
Aircon chill and
Burning strip
Daylight and daynight
Huge inside
Reduced outside
Rational and rash

What more
Can I tell you
About Vegas

Except
A little
Light headed at
Last leg looming
It was where
I cashed in
The faithful
Grey SUV

My prairie rolling
Forest forging
Canyon crawling
Covered wagon
And put it all
On red

The colour
Of Lady Luck
Lipstick and Louboutins
Cliché but not cheap
A carmine
Chevy Camaro
Convertible
And the top down
High rolling
Desert scorch
Dragging Main
To California

Says it all
Really

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Images … Carol Ballenger/Google Earth

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The full title of the book is ‘ROUTE 66 : OPEN ROAD FOR PROMISELAND’ … ISBN 978 1 906690 64 7

Copyright      John Powls – Poems 2016
Copyright      Carol Ballenger – Images 2016

Published by Halstar (Halsgrove.com)

The book is available for purchase from Amazon.com (USA); Amazon.co.uk (UK) or ordered via a bookshop who would get it from the publisher at Halsgrove.com    wavylines-blue-longest

 

ROUTE 66 … Open Road For Promiseland – DRIVING

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‘The essence of ROUTE 66’ … This is a phrase used to describe a collection of poems by John Powls, with accompanying Images by Carol Ballenger/Google Earth.   ‘ROUTE 66: Open Road to Promiseland’ has recently been published in a volume of this British poet’s journey along this iconic North American road.route66c

I quote from the introduction to this book of poems . . .

Steinbeck, the ultimate writer on travel across America’s vastness, gets nearest to answering the question that many ask those of us afflicted with wanderlust – Why?

 We journey to fulfil a longing that our imagination alone cannot satisfy. it is essential to have seen the shimmering heat rising from the endless blacktop, to have smelt the sage as evening draws shadows across distant peaks, to have heard the ticking motor as it cools.

This is the stuff of John Powls’ poems, glimpses from the corner of the poet’s eye woven into an odyssey as ancient as Homer’s, yet as immediate as Carol Ballenger’s photographs grabbed from Google’s eye. Together these contain the essence of Route 66, a journey fulfilled not through reaching its end but through memories of what was, what might have been.

I have previously quoted one of John Powls’ poems in an article on the ‘The Touchstone’ (q.v.), erected near Princeton on Dartmoor in millennium year. 

Over the next two days, I am, with John’s permission, presenting two of his poems from ‘ROUTE 66’ to give a taste of his experience as he journeyed, an Englishman abroad, fulfilling a lifelong ambition, along America’s ROUTE 66.

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Driving

Navajo Nation, Arizona and Utah

Driving
The Navajo Nation
From Chelly Canyon
To Monument Valley
Across Arizona
Clipping Utah

It is  not pretty
But my word
It is beautiful
And burns
Its insistent way
Onto memory
Imagination
And by heart

Riding the road
Rolling ridges
Horizon to horizon
To Vanishing Point
Silver skylinings
Shining through
The play of light
Show and shadow
Sets aside
Even concrete highway
Designs on
Uniformity

Pulsing with longing
The tyres
Kerouac kerouac
Kerouac kerouac
The blacktop beat
Repeated
Until the words
Lose meaning
For new notes
Written without
Stops

Radio silence
Solo shoutsinging
An unaccompanied scatsong
Time signature by
Broken yellow median

A non-routine routine
Its a driving
Rhythm
I inhabit
Day in
Day out
Without doubt

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The full title of the book is ‘ROUTE 66 : OPEN ROAD FOR PROMISELAND’
. . . ISBN 978 1 906690 64 7

Copyright      John Powls – Poems 2016
Copyright      Carol Ballenger – Images 2016
Published by Halstar (Halsgrove.com).   The book is available for purchase from Amazon.com (USA); Amazon.co.uk (UK) or ordered via a bookshop who would get it from the publisher at Halsgrove.com  

 
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