The One Hundred Poem Project

You might remember, if you’ve been around here for a bit and you’re the remembering sort, that there was a time when I was posting my favorite hundred poems. I think I did five of them, and then … well, I got busy making jam and writing about my couch.

So, I’ve got 95 to go and I thought that, instead of posting entire poems, I’d post the lines that stick in my mind and see if anybody knows the poem, or wants to go and look for it or would just like me to post a link to the damned thing.

So, I’ll begin with this lot:

95. There are too many waterfalls here

Okay, okay, I’ll just tell you. Click on the number for the entire Elizabeth Bishop poem. I love the question she asks in the end — would it have been better to have stayed home? Sometimes, I think that is the best question you can ask about your life, and the hardest to answer.

94. We are things of dry hours and the involuntary plan/Grayed in, and gray

I wrote a lot about Gwendolyn Brooks when I was in graduate school. And I heard her read once in Chicago. She is a remarkable poet, a great poet. Another poem, The Mother (#93), is also on my list of best poems of all time. (It is at the bottom on the link.)

92. Complacencies of the peignoir, and late/Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair,

Wallace Stevens. A poem everyone should read on Easter morning.

91. But what could we know, tanned white boys,

Wiping sugar and salt from our mouths,

And leaning forward to feel their song?Not much, except to feel it

Ravel us up like a wave

In the silk of white water,

Simply, sweetly, repeatedly,

And just as quickly let go.

I read this poem in the New Yorker when I lived in Los Angeles a long time ago. I love “ravel us up like a wave in the silk of white water /simply sweetly repeatedly and just as quickly let go.”

So, there you have it. A bunch of really good poems.


13 thoughts on “The One Hundred Poem Project

  1. I love the deadpan “She must remember that summer//Somewhat differently” from No. 91. And I just read the whole of Sunday Morning. Promise I’ll read it again tomorrow! I really must read Elizabeth Bishop. (Oh boy, another one for the list…)

  2. Yes, that’s a wonderful line. I’ve been remembering and searching for that poem for years and years. And then yesterday at work I put “ravel it up like a wave” and Jarman and there it was. Of the many great things about this time in which we live, the fact that you can get your hands on a remembered poem like this one is among the greatest.

  3. Pingback: Outta Me, Onto You

  4. That’s a great blog idea to give a few lines of poems you like. I was at a workshop today and guoted your Wallace Stevens line as a test for whether one is enjoying writing (anything), but I forget where “It must give pleasure” comes from. And too lazy to check. But I know it’s on the tip of you tongue and fingers, or more likely in the very ink of your pen, if you don’t mind.

  5. A voice that cries: “The tomb in Palestine /
    Is not the porch of spirits lingering; /
    It is the grave of Jesus, where he lay.”
    has been repeating in my mind since I first read your post yesterday. The porch of lingering spirits — what a concept — and its antithesis: the empty tomb. Just wow!

  6. Hello (and welcome!) Terrilyn, I do love that poem. It’s very evocative of both its own time and place, and the time and place in which I first encountered it. Most poems are like that, in fact.

    My dear Smokey, It comes from Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction — the three parts of which are titled “it must change” “it must be abstract” and “it must give pleasure.” But not in the order, I think, although I haven’t checked lately. In his letters, Stevens would sometimes tell another, younger poet how much pleasure their work gave him. And you knew, from his work, that this was the highest of praise.

    Fencer, For Bishop, finding both love and tragedy in Brazil, the answer to that is not so clear. And that’s why people write, I think — to figure out how they feel about things like that.

    Dear Cam, It’s such a great poem. There are some lines in there about death being the mother of beauty that I particularly like — Stevens was very interested in what you do in a world where it’s not possible for god to exist anymore, and one answer is the life-affirming notion that when we know that there is a final ending to things, we live our lives differently, more richly.

  7. I love “Sunday Morning”. It was a poem I had to recite from memory as part of my final exam for a “poetry & religion” class in university. I only really recall the first two sections these days, but especially the lines in the second stanza – up to “these are the measures destined for her soul” – are some of my favourite lines of poetry ever. I’m so glad you find it as striking.

  8. In the fall I wrote a review of a book about Elizabeth Bishop and so got to study her in a way I had never done before. But this poem had escaped my notice. So thanks.

  9. I love reading the poems other people love. Why do you love these particularly? Do you have good memories associated with them, or do you simply think that as works of poetry they are outstanding in form or depiction? I can’t wait to see what else makes your top 100 poems.

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