About Me

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As the resident poet at EcoHealth Alliance, my verse finds inspiration these days in the spectre of global pandemics. At LMU Munich's Amerika-Institut, where I tutor composition and poetics, I'm anatomizing the sonnets of E. A. Robinson for my dissertation. I also teach at M√ľnchner Volkshochschule and Amerikahaus.

20170512

Sonnet

by John Keats


After dark vapours have oppress’d our plains
   For a long dreary season, comes a day
   Born of the gentle South, and clears away
From the sick heavens all unseemly stains.
The anxious month, relieved of its pains,
   Takes as a long-lost right the feel of May;
   The eyelids with the passing coolness play
Like rose leaves with the drip of Summer rains.
The calmest thoughts came round us; as of leaves
   Budding—fruit ripening in stillness—Autumn suns
Smiling at eve upon the quiet sheaves—
Sweet Sappho’s cheek—a smiling infant’s breath— 
   The gradual sand that through an hour-glass runs—
A woodland rivulet—a Poet’s death.

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.

20170511

LXXV, Amoretti

by Edmund Spencer


One day I wrote her name upon the strand, 
But came the waves and washed it away: 
Again I wrote it with a second hand, 
But came the tide, and made my pains his prey. 
"Vain man," said she, "that dost in vain assay, 
A mortal thing so to immortalize; 
For I myself shall like to this decay, 
And eke my name be wiped out likewise." 
"Not so," (quod I) "let baser things devise 
To die in dust, but you shall live by fame: 
My verse your vertues rare shall eternize, 
And in the heavens write your glorious name: 
Where whenas death shall all the world subdue, 
Our love shall live, and later life renew." 

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.

20170509

The Orchid Flower

by Sam Hamill


Just as I wonder 
whether it’s going to die, 
the orchid blossoms 

and I can’t explain why it 
moves my heart, why such pleasure 

comes from one small bud 
on a long spindly stem, one 
blood red gold flower 

opening at mid-summer, 
tiny, perfect in its hour. 

Even to a white-
haired craggy poet, it’s 
purely erotic, 

pistil and stamen, pollen, 
dew of the world, a spoonful 

of earth, and water. 
Erotic because there’s death 
at the heart of birth, 

drama in those old sunrise 
prisms in wet cedar boughs, 

deepest mystery 
in washing evening dishes 
or teasing my wife, 

who grows, yes, more beautiful 
because one of us will die.

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.

20170507

Afterthoughts

by E. A. Robinson

We parted where the old gas-lamp still burned
Under the wayside maple and walked on,
Into the dark, as we had always done;
And I, no doubt, if he had not returned,
Might yet be unaware that he had earned       
More than earth gives to many who have won
More than it has to give when they are gone—
As duly and indelibly I learned.
 
The sum of all that he came back to say
Was little then, and would be less today:       
With him there were no Delphic heights to climb,
Yet his were somehow nearer the sublime.
He spoke, and went again by the old way—
Not knowing it would be for the last time.

Note: a recitation can be heard here.