Archives for posts with tag: Impressionism

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WILDFLOWER
by Stanley Plumly

Some—the ones with fish names—grow so north
they last a month, six weeks at most.
Some others, named for the fields they look like,
last longer, smaller.

And these, in particular, whether trout or corn lily,
onion or bellwort, just cut
this morning and standing open in tapwater in the kitchen,
will close with the sun.

It is June, wildflowers on the table.
They are fresh an hour ago, like sliced lemons,
with the whole day ahead of them.
They could be common mayflower lilies of the valley,

day lilies, or the clustering Canada, large, gold,
long-stemmed as pasture roses, belled out over the vase–
or maybe Solomon’s seal, the petals
ranged in small toy pairs

or starry, tipped at the head like weeds.
They could be anonymous as weeds.
They are, in fact, the several names of the same thing,
lilies of the field, butter-and-eggs,

toadflax almost, the way the whites and yellows juxtapose,
and have “the look of flowers that are looked at,”
rooted as they are in water, glass, and air.
I remember the summer I picked everything,

flower and wildflower, singled them out in jars
with a name attached. And when they had dried as stubborn
as paper I put them on pages and named them again.
They were all lilies, even the hyacinth,

even the great pale flower in the hand of the dead.
I picked it, kept it in the book for years
before I knew who she was,
her face lily-white, kissed and dry and cold.

plumly ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stanley Plumly was born in Barnesville, Ohio, in 1939, and grew up in the lumber and farming regions of Virginia and Ohio. His work has been honored with the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award and nominations for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the William Carlos Williams Award, and the Academy of Amerian Poets’ Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. He is currently a Distinguished University Professor and Professor of English at the University of Maryland. His poetry appeared in the Silver Birch Press Summer Anthology (2013).

PAINTING: “In the Meadow” by Claude Monet (1876)

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MAY
by Hilaire Belloc

This is the laughing-eyed amongst them all:
My lady’s month. A season of young things.
She rules the light with harmony, and brings
The year’s first green upon the beeches tall.
How often, where long creepers wind and fall
Through the deep woods in noonday wanderings,
I’ve heard the month, when she to echo sings,
I’ve heard the month make merry madrigal.

How often, bosomed in the breathing strong
Of mosses and young flowerets, have I lain
And watched the clouds, and caught the sheltered song —
Which it were more than life to hear again —
Of those small birds that pipe it all day long
Not far from Marly by the memoried Seine.

PAINTING: “The Seine at Port Marly” by Camille Pissarro (1872).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joseph Hilaire Pierre René Belloc (1870–1953), born in France and raised in England, was a writer, orator, poet, satirist, and political activist. He has been called one of the Big Four of Edwardian Letters, along with H.G.Wells, George Bernard Shaw, and G. K. Chesterton. Belloc observed that “the first job of letters is to get a canon,” that is, to identify those works which a writer looks upon as exemplary of the best of prose and verse. For his own prose style, he claimed to aspire to be as clear and concise as “Mary had a little lamb.” (Source: wikipedia.org.)

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MONET REFUSES THE OPERATION
by Lisel Mueller

Doctor, you say there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don’t see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen cathedral is built
of parallel shafts of sun,
and now you want to restore
my youthful errors: fixed
notions of top and bottom,
the illusion of three-dimensional space,
wisteria separate
from the bridge it covers.
What can I say to convince you
the Houses of Parliament dissolve
night after night to become
the fluid dream of the Thames?
I will not return to a universe
of objects that don’t know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent.  The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair
inside my brush to catch it.
To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and change our bones, skin, clothes
to gases.  Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.
***
“Monet Refuses the Operation” appears in Lisel Mueller’s collection Second Language (Louisiana State University Press, 1996).

Painting: “Claude Monet, Self-Portrait” (1917)

Note: French Impressionist painter Claude Monet (1840-1926) developed the first signs of cataracts in 1914, but waited nine years before undergoing surgery for the condition. Some art critics believe that Monet painted his greatest work while suffering from cataracts, because his obscured vision caused him to see in new ways — a phenomenon that Lisel Mueller explores in her poem “Monet Refuses the Operation.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR Lisel Mueller was born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1924 and immigrated to America at the age of 15. She graduated from the University of Evansville (Indiana) in 1944 and has taught at the University of Chicago, Elmhurst College in Illinois, and Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont. Mueller currently resides in a retirement community in Chicago. (Read more at wikipedia.org.)

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THE WIND
by Robert Louis Stevenson

I saw you toss the kites on high

And blow the birds about the sky;
And all around I heard you pass,

Like ladies’ skirts across the grass


 
Oh wind, a blowing all day long,

Oh wind, that sings so loud a song!
 
I saw the different things you did,

But always you yourself you hid.

I felt you push, I heard you call,

I could not see yourself at all


 
Oh wind, a blowing all day long!

Oh wind, that sings so loud a song!


 
O you that are so strong and cold,

O blower, are you young or old?

Are you a beast of field and tree,

Or just a stronger child than me?


 
O wind, a blowing all day long,

O wind, that sings so loud a song!
***
Painting by Claude Monet (1840-1926). Prints available at allposters.com.

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THE WIND
by Robert Louis Stevenson

I saw you toss the kites on high

And blow the birds about the sky;
And all around I heard you pass,

Like ladies’ skirts across the grass


 
Oh wind, a blowing all day long,

Oh wind, that sings so loud a song!
 
I saw the different things you did,

But always you yourself you hid.

I felt you push, I heard you call,

I could not see yourself at all


 
Oh wind, a blowing all day long!

Oh wind, that sings so loud a song!


 
O you that are so strong and cold,

O blower, are you young or old?

Are you a beast of field and tree,

Or just a stronger child than me?


 
O wind, a blowing all day long,

O wind, that sings so loud a song!
***
Painting by Claude Monet (1840-1926). Prints available at allposters.com.

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We’d like to wish a very happy Mother’s Day to all the materfamiliases in the world — with a special tip of the hat to women who take time to read to their children.

You may have tangible wealth untold

Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold

Richer than I you can never be

I had a mother who read to me.

From “The Reading Mother” by STRICKLAND GILLILAN

Painting: “August Reading to Her Daughter” (1910) by Mary Cassat