This week on the podcast, we have poems by Phillis Wheatly and Matthew Olzmann, as well as myself. And our poem of the week is ‘It Couldn’t Be Done’ by Edgar Guest.

So without further ado, let’s get started!

Phillis Wheatly was born in 1753 in Western Africa and when she was around 7 or 8 she was sold into slavery. Luckily, though, she was bought by the Wheatly family in Boston who treated her like one of their own children and even gave her an education. In 1773, Phillis Wheatly became  the first published African-American poet. She used her talent in poetry to comment on the social injustices she had experienced, as well as religion, morality, and classics.

The poem I will read today is called On imagination.

Thy various works, imperial queen, we see,
How bright their forms! how deck’d with pomp by thee!
Thy wond’rous acts in beauteous order stand,
And all attest how potent is thine hand.

    From Helicon’s refulgent heights attend,
Ye sacred choir, and my attempts befriend:
To tell her glories with a faithful tongue,
Ye blooming graces, triumph in my song.

    Now here, now there, the roving Fancy flies,
Till some lov’d object strikes her wand’ring eyes,
Whose silken fetters all the senses bind,
And soft captivity involves the mind.

    Imagination! who can sing thy force?
Or who describe the swiftness of thy course?
Soaring through air to find the bright abode,
Th’ empyreal palace of the thund’ring God,
We on thy pinions can surpass the wind,
And leave the rolling universe behind:
From star to star the mental optics rove,
Measure the skies, and range the realms above.
There in one view we grasp the mighty whole,
Or with new worlds amaze th’ unbounded soul.

    Though Winter frowns to Fancy’s raptur’d eyes
The fields may flourish, and gay scenes arise;
The frozen deeps may break their iron bands,
And bid their waters murmur o’er the sands.
Fair Flora may resume her fragrant reign,
And with her flow’ry riches deck the plain;
Sylvanus may diffuse his honours round,
And all the forest may with leaves be crown’d:
Show’rs may descend, and dews their gems disclose,
And nectar sparkle on the blooming rose.

    Such is thy pow’r, nor are thine orders vain,
O thou the leader of the mental train:
In full perfection all thy works are wrought,
And thine the sceptre o’er the realms of thought.
Before thy throne the subject-passions bow,
Of subject-passions sov’reign ruler thou;
At thy command joy rushes on the heart,
And through the glowing veins the spirits dart.

    Fancy might now her silken pinions try
To rise from earth, and sweep th’ expanse on high:
From Tithon’s bed now might Aurora rise,
Her cheeks all glowing with celestial dies,
While a pure stream of light o’erflows the skies.
The monarch of the day I might behold,
And all the mountains tipt with radiant gold,
But I reluctant leave the pleasing views,
Which Fancy dresses to delight the Muse;
Winter austere forbids me to aspire,
And northern tempests damp the rising fire;
They chill the tides of Fancy’s flowing sea,
Cease then, my song, cease the unequal lay.

 

Our next poem is by Matthew Olzmann.  Though he was born in Detroit, he earned his BA from the University of Michigan-Dearborn and MFA from the Warren Wilson College. Olzmann has two books of poetry, the first was awarded the Kundiman Poetry Prize.

The poem is called Build, Now, a Monument.

No longer satisfied by the way time slips
through his life’s work, the maker
of hourglasses yearns for a change.

He elects to construct a staircase instead.
Rather than grains of sand,
he’ll manufacture one stair after another
to lament every transient second.

Look at it now! It rockets upward, almost vertical,
beginning in his backyard, puncturing
the cloud cover, and everyone speculates
where it will end. It will end
where all ambitions end: in the ether,
where the body ceases, and a story continues.

But for now, it’s a monument.
For now: a defiance, misoneism.
A bridge between
Earth and what Earth cannot touch.

What does he think as he builds?
Mostly he contemplates the work:
the sawdust, the anger, the hammer.
But sometimes he dreams of cars, highways,
of crashes and sequestered wreckage.
Old pain. He had a friend, out there.
There was a highway, a vehicle overturned.

If his friend was here today,
she’d understand this monument.
She liked the sky, country music and caterpillars.

There are four thousand muscles in a caterpillar.
It uses every one of them
to become something other than itself.
Is the body a cocoon? the man wonders.

From the top of the staircase, the life
he left below is almost unrecognizable.
Look at the beagle, yelping in the neighbor’s yard.
The rooftops of the shrinking houses. Everything
getting smaller as his view of the world

expands. The roads marked by petite yellow lines.
Graceland and Grant’s Tomb and whatever’s left
of the Parthenon. All of it is down there.
Things end. But what he can’t comprehend
is how, around those endings, everything else
continues.

 

And that brings us to the part of the show where I recite a poem I have written myself. Today’s poem is called New Promises.

I’m going to write this poem,

As a promise to myself,

To accept where I am right now,

And to embrace my mental health.

I suffer from depression and anxiety,

And I know I’m not alone,

But despite how much “others have it worse”,

That never negates from my own.

Some days I can’t leave the house,

Sometimes I can’t even get out of bed.

So on those days I’ll remind myself,

That it’s not all in my head.

Every day I take medication,

Five pills to be exact,

It’s what I need to stay alive,

And I’m okay with that.

While my head is in an utter mess,

Don’t tell me “just don’t panic,”

No matter how hard I try,

Sometimes I can’t “just get on with it.”

Truth is, not every day is easy,

Most days I struggle quite a lot,

But I’m going to love myself regardless,

Only I can make me stop.

 

And last but by no means least, we have our poem of the week! This week’s poem is called ‘It Couldn’t Be Done’ by Edgar Guest.

 

Somebody said that it couldn’t be done,
But he with a chuckle replied
That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;
At least no one ever has done it”;
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat,
And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure;
There are thousands to point out to you one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing
That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.

The music was by Kai Engel (intro/outro) and AmoebaCrew

All my love,

Corinne

Advertisements