Monthly Archives

February 2017

Elizabeth Bishop: THE BIGHT

February 8, 2017

No greater master.

 

THE BIGHT

on my birthday

Elizabeth Bishop

 

At low tide like this how sheer the water is.
White, crumbling ribs of marl protrude and glare
and the boats are dry, the pilings dry as matches.
Absorbing, rather than being absorbed,
the water in the bight doesn’t wet anything,
the color of the gas flame turned as low as possible.
One can smell it turning to gas; if one were Baudelaire
one could probably hear it turning to marimba music.
The little ocher dredge at work off the end of the dock
already plays the dry perfectly off-beat claves.
The birds are outsize. Pelicans crash
into this peculiar gas unnecessarily hard,
it seems to me, like pickaxes,
rarely coming up with anything to show for it,
and going off with humorous elbowings.
Black-and-white man-of-war birds soar
on impalpable drafts
and open their tails like scissors on the curves
or tense them like wishbones, till they tremble.
The frowsy sponge boats keep coming in
with the obliging air of retrievers,
bristling with jackstraw gaffs and hooks
and decorated with bobbles of sponges.
There is a fence of chicken wire along the dock
where, glinting like little plowshares,
the blue-gray shark tails are hung up to dry
for the Chinese-restaurant trade.
Some of the little white boats are still piled up
against each other, or lie on their sides, stove in,
and not yet salvaged, if they ever will be, from the last bad storm,
like torn-open, unanswered letters.
The bight is littered with old correspondences.
Click. Click. Goes the dredge,
and brings up a dripping jawful of marl.
All the untidy activity continues,
awful but cheerful.

I Hear America Singing: The Poetry of American Identity

February 5, 2017

As I’ve been thinking about ongoing posts that speak to American identity, I came across a wonderful site, The Poetry of American Identity.  It’s provided by the Library of Congress and is “a collection of field recordings by a wide range of award-winning contemporary poets. Each poet reads a singular American poem of his or her choosing, and also speaks to how the poem connects, deepens, or re-imagines our sense of the nation. The feature includes a print version of the poem to complement the recording, as well as a piece by the participating poet.”  So you can read and listen to this wide ranging sense of what America is, and what it is to be American.  I think there are 19 poems, and I’m going to start with Ed Hirsch’s reading and discussion of William Carlos Williams’ “To Elsie.”  I think.   Doesn’t matter, I’m going to listen to all of them.  I hope you’ll share your reactions right here.  I’m imagining all of us gathered in someone’s big comfy living room, listening and talking.