Poets on Poets Blog

Kevin McFadden reads "To a Mouse" by Robert Burns

In this installment Kevin McFadden reads "To a Mouse" by Robert Burns. McFadden's first volume of poems, Hardscrabble (University of Georgia Press, 2008), won the George Garrett Award for poetry from the Fellowship of Southern Writers and the Great Lakes Colleges Association New Poetry Award. His poems have appeared in The Seattle Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, and The Kenyon Review. He works for the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and lives in Charlottesville.

Robert Burns, "To a Mouse"

Wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie,
O, what a panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty
Wi bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee,
Wi' murdering pattle.

I'm truly sorry man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
An' justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth born companion
An' fellow mortal!

I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
'S a sma' request;
I'll get a blessin wi' the lave,
An' never miss't.

Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It's silly wa's the win's are strewin!
An' naething, now, to big a new ane,
O' foggage green!
An' bleak December's win's ensuin,
Baith snell an' keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an' waste,
An' weary winter comin fast,
An' cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro' thy cell.

That wee bit heap o' leaves an' stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou's turned out, for a' thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the winter's sleety dribble,
An' cranreuch cauld.

But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!

Still thou are blest, compared wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But och! I backward cast my e'e,
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear!

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Leevi Lehto reads “Bright star!” by John Keats

In this installment Leevi Lehto reads "Bright star!" by John Keats. Lehto (born in 1951 and living in Helsinki), is a Finnish poet, translator, and programmer. Since he made his poetic debut in 1967, he has published six volumes of poetry, a novel, Janajevin unet (Yanayev's Dreams, 1991), and an experimental prose work, P„iv„ (Day, 2004). He has been active in leftist politics (during the 70s) and worked as a corporate executive in the communications industry (during the 90s). He is also known for his experiments in digital writing, such as the Google Poem Generator. His translations, some forty books in all, range from mystery writing to philosophy, sociology, and poety. He is currently working on a new Finnish translation of Ulysses by James Joyce and his collection, Lake Oneja, is available online at www.leevilehto.net. You can listen to the other two poems in Lehto's "half homophonic" suite (in English and Finnish) by following the supplemental readings links below.

John Keats, "Bright star"

Bright star! would I be steadfast as thou art—
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night,
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like Nature’s patient sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—
Yet—No—yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever—or else swoon to death.

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Angie Hogan reads “Lines Written in Early Spring” by William Wordsworth

In this installment Angie Hogan reads "Lines Written in Early Spring" by William Wordsworth. Hogan's poems have appeared in The Antioch Review, Bellingham Review, Ploughshares, Third Coast, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Willow Springs, and elsewhere. Originally from a small town in East Tennessee, she currently lives near Charlottesville and works at the University of Virginia Press.

William Wordsworth, "Lines Written in Early Spring"

I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.

Through primrose tufts, in that sweet bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.

The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure:–
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.

From heaven if this belief be sent,
If such be Nature’s holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?

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John Casteen reads “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey” by William Wordsworth

In this installment John Casteen reads "Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey" by William Wordsworth. Casteen's poems have appeared in Ploughshares, The Paris Review, Lo-Ball, and other magazines; his first book, Free Union, appeared from the University of Georgia Press in 2009. He teaches at Sweet Briar College, and serves on the editorial staff of The Virginia Quarterly Review. The poems here are from his forthcoming collection, For the Mountain Laurel.

William Wordsworth, "Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey"

FIVE years have past; five summers, with the length
Of five long winters! and again I hear
These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs
With a soft inland murmur.--Once again
Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
That on a wild secluded scene impress
Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect
The landscape with the quiet of the sky.
The day is come when I again repose
Here, under this dark sycamore, and view

These plots of cottage-ground, these orchard-tufts,
Which at this season, with their unripe fruits,
Are clad in one green hue, and lose themselves
'Mid groves and copses. Once again I see
These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines
Of sportive wood run wild: these pastoral farms,
Green to the very door; and wreaths of smoke
Sent up, in silence, from among the trees!
With some uncertain notice, as might seem
Of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods,

Or of some Hermit's cave, where by his fire
The Hermit sits alone.
These beauteous forms,
Through a long absence, have not been to me
As is a landscape to a blind man's eye:
But oft, in lonely rooms, and 'mid the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;
And passing even into my purer mind,
With tranquil restoration:--feelings too

Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps,
As have no slight or trivial influence
On that best portion of a good man's life,
His little, nameless, unremembered, acts
Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust,
To them I may have owed another gift,
Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,
In which the burthen of the mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world,

Is lightened:--that serene and blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on,--
Until, the breath of this corporeal frame
And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul:
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.
If this
Be but a vain belief, yet, oh! how oft--

In darkness and amid the many shapes
Of joyless daylight; when the fretful stir
Unprofitable, and the fever of the world,
Have hung upon the beatings of my heart--
How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee,
O sylvan Wye! thou wanderer thro' the woods,
How often has my spirit turned to thee!
And now, with gleams of half-extinguished thought,
With many recognitions dim and faint,
And somewhat of a sad perplexity,

The picture of the mind revives again:
While here I stand, not only with the sense
Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts
That in this moment there is life and food
For future years. And so I dare to hope,
Though changed, no doubt, from what I was when first
I came among these hills; when like a roe
I bounded o'er the mountains, by the sides
Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams,
Wherever nature led: more like a man

Flying from something that he dreads, than one
Who sought the thing he loved. For nature then
(The coarser pleasures of my boyish days,
And their glad animal movements all gone by)
To me was all in all.--I cannot paint
What then I was. The sounding cataract
Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock,
The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,
Their colours and their forms, were then to me
An appetite; a feeling and a love,

That had no need of a remoter charm,
By thought supplied, nor any interest
Unborrowed from the eye.--That time is past,
And all its aching joys are now no more,
And all its dizzy raptures. Not for this
Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur, other gifts
Have followed; for such loss, I would believe,
Abundant recompence. For I have learned
To look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes

The still, sad music of humanity,
Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
A motion and a spirit, that impels

All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods,
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth; of all the mighty world
Of eye, and ear,--both what they half create,
And what perceive; well pleased to recognise
In nature and the language of the sense,
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul

Of all my moral being.
Nor perchance,
If I were not thus thought, should I the more
Suffer my genial spirits to decay:
For thou art with me here upon the banks
Of this fair river; thou my dearest Friend,
My dear, dear Friend; and in thy voice I catch
The language of my former heart, and read
My former pleasures in the shooting lights
Of thy wild eyes. Oh! yet a little while
May I behold in thee what I was once,

My dear, dear Sister! and this prayer I make,
Knowing that Nature never did betray
The heart that loved her; 'tis her privilege,
Through all the years of this our life, to lead
From joy to joy: for she can so inform
The mind that is within us, so impress
With quietness and beauty, and so feed
With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues,
Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men,
Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all

The dreary intercourse of daily life,
Shall e'er prevail against us, or disturb
Our cheerful faith, that all which we behold
Is full of blessings. Therefore let the moon
Shine on thee in thy solitary walk;
And let the misty mountain-winds be free
To blow against thee: and, in after years,
When these wild ecstasies shall be matured
Into a sober pleasure; when thy mind
Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms,

Thy memory be as a dwelling-place
For all sweet sounds and harmonies; oh! then,
If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief,
Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts
Of tender joy wilt thou remember me,
And these my exhortations! Nor, perchance--
If I should be where I no more can hear
Thy voice, nor catch from thy wild eyes these gleams
Of past existence--wilt thou then forget
That on the banks of this delightful stream

We stood together; and that I, so long
A worshipper of Nature, hither came
Unwearied in that service: rather say
With warmer love--oh! with far deeper zeal
Of holier love. Nor wilt thou then forget,
That after many wanderings, many years
Of absence, these steep woods and lofty cliffs,
And this green pastoral landscape, were to me
More dear, both for themselves and for thy sake!

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Lisa Steinman reads “To Wordsworth” by Percy Bysshe Shelley

In this installment Lisa Steinman reads "To Wordsworth" by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Steinman teaches at Reed College in Portland. Her sixth book is Masters of Repetition (St. Martin's). Her most recent books of poetry include the chapbook Ordinary Songs (26 Books), which was an Oregon Book Award nominee, and A Book of Other Days (Arrowood), which won the Oregon Book Award in 1993. Her work has received recognition from the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Percy Bysshe Shelley, "To Wordsworth"

Poet of Nature, thou hast wept to know
That things depart which never may return:
Childhood and youth, friendship, and love's first glow,
Have fled like sweet dreams, leaving thee to mourn.
These common woes I feel. One loss is mine
Which thou too feel'st, yet I alone deplore.
Thou wert as a lone star whose light did shine
On some frail bark in winter's midnight roar:
Thou hast like to a rock-built refuge stood
Above the blind and battling multitude:
In honoured poverty thy voice did weave
Songs consecrate to truth and liberty.
Deserting these, thou leavest me to grieve,
Thus having been, that thou shouldst cease to be.

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Jericho Brown reads “Love's Philosophy” by Percy Bysshe Shelley

In this installment, Jericho Brown reads “Love's Philosophy” by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Brown worked as the speechwriter for the Mayor of New Orleans before receiving his Ph.D. in creative writing and literature from the University of Houston. He also holds an MFA from the University of New Orleans and a BA from Dillard University. The recipient of the Whiting Writers Award, the Bunting Fellowship from the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University, and two travel fellowships to the Krakow Poetry Seminar in Poland, Brown teaches creative writing as an Assistant Professor of English at the University of San Diego. His poems have appeared in The Iowa Review, jubilat, New England Review, Oxford American, and several other journals and anthologies. Brown teaches creative writing as an Assistant Professor of English at the University of San Diego. His first book, Please (New Issues, 2008), won the 2009 American Book Award.

Percy Bysshe Shelley, "Love's Philosophy"

The fountains mingle with the river
And the rivers with the ocean,
The winds of heaven mix for ever
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
All things by a law divine
In one another’s being and mingle.
Why not I with thine?—

See the mountains kiss high heaven
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister-flower would be forgiven
If it disdained its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth
And the moonbeams kiss the sea:
What is all this sweet work worth
If thou kiss not me?

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Nickole Brown reads “Imitation of Spenser” by John Keats

In this installment, Nickole Brown reads “Imitation of Spenser” by John Keats. Brown is the author of Sister, a novel-in-poems published by Red Hen Press (2007). She graduated from the M.F.A. Program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts and has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Kentucky Foundation for Women, and the Kentucky Arts Council. She has served as the National Publicity Consultant for the Palm Beach Poetry Festival, as well as the Program Coordinator for the VCFA writing residency in Slovenia. She currently lives in Louisville, Kentucky, where she is a Lecturer at Bellarmine University and the University of Louisville. She is also on the faculty at the low-residency MFA program at Murray State, is the co-editor for the Marie Alexander Poetry Series at White Pine Press, and works as the National Publicity Consultant for Arktoi Books

John Keats, "Imitation of Spenser"

Now Morning from her orient chamber came,
And her first footsteps touch’d a verdant hill;
Crowning its lawny chest with amber flame,
Silv’ring the untainted gushes of its rill;
Which, pure from mossy beds, did down distill,
And after parting beds of simple flowers,
By many streams a little lake did fill,
Which round its marge reflected woven bowers,
And, in its middle space, a sky that never lowers.

There the king-fisher saw his plumage bright
Vieing with fish of brilliant dye below;
Whose silken fins, and golden scales’ light
Cast upward, through the waves, a ruby glow:
There saw the swan his neck of arched snow,
And oar’d himself along with majesty;
Sparkled his jetty eyes; his feet did show
Beneath the waves like Afric’s ebony,
And on his back a fay reclined volumptuously.

Ah! could I tell the wonders of an isle
That in that fairest lake had placed been,
I could e’en Dido of her grief beguile;
Or rob from aged Lear his bitter teen:
For sure so fair a place was never seen,
Of all that ever charm’d romantic eye:
It seem’d an emerald in the silver sheen
Of the bright waters; or as when on high,
Through clouds of fleecy white, laughs the coerulean sky.

And all around it dipp’d luxuriously
Slopings of verdure through the glossy tide,
Which, as it were in gentle amnity,
Rippled delighted up the flowery side;
As if to glean the ruddy tears, it tried,
Which fell profusely from the rose-tree stem!
Happily it was the workings of its pride,
In strife to throw upon the shore a gem
Outvieing all the buds in Flora’s diadem.

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Steve McCaffrey reads “Signs of Winter” by John Clare

In this installment, Steve McCaffrey reads “Signs of Winter” by John Clare. Experimental Canadian poet Steve McCaffrey is the author of over a dozen volumes of poetry and has twice received the Gertrude Stein Award for Innovative American Poetry.  He was one of the co-founders of the Toronto Research Group and is also the author or editor of several important books of criticism, including Rational Geomancy: The Kids of the Book Machine, North of Intention, and Prior to Meaning.

John Clare, "Signs of Winter"

Tis winter plain the images around
Protentious tell us of the closing year
Short grows the stupid day  the moping fowl
Go roost at noon—upon the mossy barn
The thatcher hangs and lays the frequent yaum
Nudged close to stop the rain that drizzling falls
With scarce one interval of sunny sky
For weeks still leeking on that sulky gloom
Muggy and close a doubt twixt night and day
The sparrow rarely chirps the thresher pale
Twanks with sharp measured raps the weary frail
Thump after thump right tiresome to the ear
The hedger lonesome brustles at his toil
And shepherds trudge the fields without a song
The cat runs races with her tail—the dog
Leaps oer the orchard hedge and knarls the grass
The swine run round and grunt and play with straw
Snatching out hasty mouthfuls from the snack
Sudden upon the elm tree tops the crows
Uncerimonious visit pays and croaks
Then swops away—from mossy barn the owl
Bobs hasty out—wheels round and scared as soon
As hastily retires—the ducks grow wild
And from the muddy pond fly up and wheel
A circle round the village and soon tired
Plunge in the pond again—the maids in haste
Snatch from the orchard hedge the mizled cloaths
And laughing hurry in to keep them dry

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Alexander Long reads “To John Clare” by John Clare

In this installment, Alexander Long reads “To John Clare” by John Clare. Long's first two books are Vigil (New Issues Poetry & Prose, 2006) and Light Here, Light There (C & R Press, 2009). With Christopher Buckley, he is co-editor of A Condition of the Spirit: The Life & Work of Larry Levis (Eastern Washington University Press, 2004). His work has appeared or is forthcoming in AGNI, The American Poetry Review, American Writers, Blackbird, Callaloo, and The Southern Review, among others. An assistant professor of English at John Jay College, Long also plays bass and writes songs with the band Redhead Betty Takeout.

John Clare, "To John Clare"

Well, honest John, how fare you now at home?
The spring is come, and birds are building nests;
The old cock-robin to the sty is come,
With olive feathers and its ruddy breast;
And the old cock, with wattles and red comb,
Struts with the hens, and seems to like some best,
Then crows, and looks about for little crumbs,
Swept out by little folks an hour ago;
The pigs sleep in the sty; the bookman comes-
The little boys lets home-closing nesting go,
And pockets tops and taws, where daisies bloom,
To look at the new number just laid down,
With lots of pictures, and good stories too,
And Jack the Giant-killer's high renown.

Long's first two books are Vigil (New Issues Poetry & Prose, 2006) and Light Here, Light There (C & R Press, 2009). With Christopher Buckley, he is co-editor of A Condition of the Spirit: the Life & Work of Larry Levis (Eastern Washington University Press, 2004). His work has appeared or is forthcoming in AGNI, The American Poetry Review, American Writers (Charles Scriber's Sons), Blackbird, Callaloo, and The Southern Review, among others. An assistant professor of English at John Jay College, Long also plays bass and writes songs with the band Redhead Betty Takeout.

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Aracelis Girmay reads "Dream-Pedlary" by Thomas Lovell Beddoes

In this installment, Aracelis Girmay reads “Dream-Pedlary” by Thomas Lovell Beddoes. Girmay is the author of Teeth, a collection of poems published by Curbstone Press in 2007. Her poems have also been published in Ploughshares, Bellevue Literary Review, Indiana Review, Callaloo, and MiPOesias, among other journals. A Cave Canem fellow, Girmay teaches writing workshops in New York & California.

Thomas Lovell Beddoes, "Dream-Pedlary"

If there were dreams to sell,
What would you buy?
Some cost a passing bell;
Some a light sigh,
That shakes from Life's fresh crown
Only a rose-leaf down.
If there were dreams to sell,
Merry and sad to tell,
And the crier rang the bell,
What would you buy?

A cottage lone and still,
With bowers nigh,
Shadowy, my woes to still,
Until I die.
Such pearls from Life's fresh crown
Fain would I shake me down.
Were dreams to have at will,
This would best heal my ill,
This would I buy.

But there were dreams to sell
Ill didst thou buy;
Life is a dream, they tell,
Waking, to die.
Dreaming a dream to prize,
Is wishing ghosts to rise;
And, if I had the spell
To call the buried well,
Which one should I?

If there are ghosts to raise,
What shall I call
Out of hell’s murky haze,
Heaven’s blue pall?
Raise my lov’d long-lost boy
To lead me to his joy.
There are no ghosts to raise;
Out of death lead no ways;
Vain is the call.

Know’st thou not ghosts to sue?
No love thou hast.
Else lie, as I will do,
And breathe thy last.
So out of Life’s fresh crown
Fall like a rose-leaf down.
Thus are the ghosts to woo;
Thus are all dreams made true,
Ever to last!

Girmay is the author of <a href="http://www.curbstone.org/bookdetail.cfm?BookID=197" target="blank"><em>Teeth</em></a>, a collection of poems published by Curbstone Press in 2007. Her poems have also been published in <em>Ploughshares</em>, <em>Bellevue Literary Review</em>, <em>Indiana Review</em>, <em>Callaloo</em>, and <em>MiPOesias</em>, among other journals. A Cave Canem fellow, Girmay teaches writing workshops in New York & California.

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