Archive for December, 2009

Just like last year–the 10 most popular poems of the year. Happy Holidays and Happy New YEAR!

1. Ithaca

2. I Walked a Mile with Pleasure

3. Love Me Like You Never Loved Me Before

4. After a While

5. The Lost Son

6. Dirty Poem

7. The Unicorn

8. Deathless Aphrodite…

9. Wish for a Young Wife

10. Sonnet


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What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts to-night, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply;
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain,
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.

Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone;
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

-E. S.V Millay

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Before You Know What Kindness Really Is

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

-Naomi Shihab Nye

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Burning, he walks in the stream of flickering letters, clarinets,
machines throbbing quicker than the heart, lopped-off heads, silk
canvases, and he stops under the sky

and raises toward it his joined clenched fists.

Believers fall on their bellies, they suppose it is a monstrance that

but those are knuckles, sharp knuckles shine that way, my friends.

He cuts the glowing, yellow buildings in two, breaks the walls into
motley halves;
pensive, he looks at the honey seeping from those huge honeycombs:
throbs of pianos, children’s cries, the thud of a head banging against
the floor.
This is the only landscape able to make him feel.

He wonders at his brother’s skull shaped like an egg,
every day he shoves back his black hair from his brow,
then one day he plants a big load of dynamite
and is surprised that afterward everything spouts up in the explosion.
Agape, he observes the clouds and what is hanging in them:
globes, penal codes, dead cats floating on their backs, locomotives.
They turn in the skeins of white clouds like trash in a puddle.
While below on the earth a banner, the color of a romantic rose,
and a long row of military trains crawls on the weed-covered tracks.

Wilno, 1931

-Czeslaw Milosz

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Almost a year ago, I posted this call to support literature. I’m once again celebrating Words Without Borders. Read blow. At very least, give them a click at Facebook. We lovers of literature gotta stick together.

WWB Logo

Dear Friends,I wanted to let you know that right now there are two ways you can help Words without Borders remain a strong and vital organization.

The first takes no effort at all. If you’re a Facebook user, simply vote for us in the Chase Community Giving project at http://apps.facebook.com/chasecommunitygiving/charities/199589 and then ask your friends to do the same. Tweet it, post it to your wall, spread the word however you like.

The second, a guaranteed win, is to make a tax-deductible contribution before December 31.

Donations from our supporters make it possible for us to publish authors like Stanisław Lem and Liu Cixin, to introduce a dramatic relaunch of our Web site–scheduled for early 2010–that will better showcase our extensive archive, to build a strong education program that actively works to bring contemporary international literature into high school and college classrooms and to edit and promote anthologies like The Wall in My Head: Words and Images from the Fall of the Iron Curtain and our two upcoming titles The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry and Tablet & Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Middle East, edited by Reza Aslan and published by W.W. Norton.

These projects would not be possible without the support of our donors. Please make a donation today. As a token of our thanks we’ll send supporters who make a gift of $100 or more a copy of The Wall in My Head.

Please both vote and donate today and help us translate, publish, and promote the best international literature.


Joshua Mandelbaum
Managing Director
Words without Borders 

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