Dancing with Joy: 99 Poems


In his collection Risking Everything, Housden addressed love’s many aspects. Now, in Dancing with Joy, he assembles 99 poems from 69 poets that celebrate the many colors of joy. Anything can be a catalyst for joy, these poems reveal.

For Wislawa Szymborska, the catalyst is a dream; for Robert Bly, being in the company of his ten-year-old son; for Gerald Stern, it is a grapefruit at breakfast; for Billy Collins, a cigarette. Dancing with Joy includes English and Italian classical...

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Dancing with Joy: 99 Poems

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In his collection Risking Everything, Housden addressed love’s many aspects. Now, in Dancing with Joy, he assembles 99 poems from 69 poets that celebrate the many colors of joy. Anything can be a catalyst for joy, these poems reveal.

For Wislawa Szymborska, the catalyst is a dream; for Robert Bly, being in the company of his ten-year-old son; for Gerald Stern, it is a grapefruit at breakfast; for Billy Collins, a cigarette. Dancing with Joy includes English and Italian classical and romantic works; early Chinese and Persian verse; and poets from Chile, France, Sweden, Poland, Russia, Turkey, and India, plus a range of contemporary American and English poets.

Whether inspiration is what you need, or an affirmation of what is already joyful in life, Dancing with Joy is a welcome treat for Housden’s numerous fans, as well as anyone looking for sheer happiness, marvelously expressed.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307341952
  • Publisher: Potter/TenSpeed/Harmony
  • Publication date: 3/13/2007
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 490,173
  • Product dimensions: 5.75 (w) x 8.54 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author

ROGER HOUSDEN is the author of 17 books on cultural and creative themes, including Seven Sins for a Life Worth Living and the bestselling Ten Poems series. You can reach him at tenpoems@gmail.com.
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Read an Excerpt


Jack Gilbert

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies

are not starving someplace, they are starving

somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.

But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants.

Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not

be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not

be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women

at the fountain are laughing together between

the suffering they have known and the awfulness

in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody

in the village is very sick. There is laughter

every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,

and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.

If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,

we lessen the importance of their deprivation.

We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,

but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have

the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless

furnace of this world. To make injustice the only

measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.

If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,

we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.

We must admit there will be music despite everything.

We stand at the prow again of a small ship

anchored late at night in the tiny port

looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront

is three shuttered cafes and one naked light burning.

To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat

comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth

all the years of sorrow that are to come.


Mary Oliver

Every day

I see or I hear


that more or less

kills me

with delight,

that leaves me

like a needle

in a haystack

of light.

It is what I was born for--

to look, to listen,

to lose myself

inside this soft world--

to instruct myself

over and over

in joy,

and acclamation.

Nor am I talking

about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,

the very extravagant--

but of the ordinary,

the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.

Oh, good scholar,

I say to myself,

how can you help

but grow wise

with such teachings

as these--

the untrimmable light

of the world,

the ocean's shine,

the prayers that are made

out of grass?


Stephen Dunn

A state you dare not enter

with hopes of staying,

quicksand in the marshes, and all

the roads leading to a castle

that doesn't exist.

But there it is, as promised,

with its perfect bridge above

the crocodiles,

and its doors forever open.


Tony Hoagland

Maxine, back from a weekend with her boyfriend,

smiles like a big cat and says

that she's a conjugated verb.

She's been doing the direct object

with a second person pronoun named Phil,

and when she walks into the room,

everybody turns:

some kind of light is coming from her head.

Even the geraniums look curious,

and the bees, if they were here, would buzz

suspiciously around her hair, looking

for the door in her corona.

We're all attracted to the perfume

of fermenting joy,

we've all tried to start a fire,

and one day maybe it will blaze up on its own.

In the meantime, she is the one today among us

most able to bear the idea of her own beauty,

and when we see it, what we do is natural:

we take our burned hands

out of our pockets,

and clap.



Petronius Arbiter

Good God, what a night that was,

The bed was so soft, and how we clung,

Burning together, lying this way and that,

Our uncontrollable passions

Flowing through our mouths.

If only I could die that way,

I'd say goodbye to the business of living.

Translated by Kenneth Rexroth


Hayden Carruth

For years it was in sex and I thought

This was the most of it

so brief

a moment

or two of transport out of oneself


in music which lasted longer and filled me

with the exquisite wrenching agony

of the blues

and now it is equally

transitory and obscure as I sit in my broken

chair that cats have shredded

by the stove on a winter night with wind and snow

howling outside and I imagine

the whole world at peace

at peace

and everyone comfortable and warm

the great pain assuaged

a moment

of the most shining and singular gratification.


Pablo Neruda

Take bread away from me, if you wish,

take air away, but

do not take from me your laughter.

Do not take away the rose,

the lanceflower that you pluck,

the water that suddenly

bursts forth in your joy,

the sudden wave

of silver born in you.

My struggle is harsh and I come back

with eyes tired

at times from having seen

the unchanging earth,

but when your laughter enters

it rises to the sky seeking me

and it opens for me all

the doors of life.

My love, in the darkest

hour your laughter

opens, and if suddenly

you see my blood staining

the stones of the street,

laugh, because your laughter

will be for my hands

like a fresh sword.

Next to the sea in the autumn,

your laughter must raise

its foamy cascade,

and in the spring, love,

I want your laughter like

the flower I was waiting for,

the blue flower, the rose

of my echoing country.

Laugh at the night,

at the day, at the moon,

laugh at the twisted

streets of the island,

laugh at this clumsy

boy who loves you,

but when I open

my eyes and close them,

when my steps go,

when my steps return,

deny me bread, air,

light, spring,

but never your laughter

for I would die.

Translated by Donald Walsh


Kim Addonizio

I want a red dress.

I want it flimsy and cheap,

I want it too tight, I want to wear it

until someone tears it off me.

I want it sleeveless and backless,

this dress, so no one has to guess

what's underneath. I want to walk down

the street past Thrifty's and the hardware store

with all those keys glittering in the window,

past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old

donuts in their cafe, past the Guerra brothers

slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,

hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.

I want to walk like I'm the only

woman on earth and I can have my pick.

I want that red dress bad.

I want it to confirm

your worst fears about me,

to show you how little I care about you

or anything except what

I want. When I find it, I'll pull that garment

from its hanger like I'm choosing a body

to carry me into this world, through

the birth-cries and the love-cries too,

and I'll wear it like bones, like skin,

it'll be the goddamned

dress they bury me in.


Li-Young Lee

From blossoms comes

this brown paper bag of peaches

we bought from the boy

at the bend in the road where we turned toward

signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,

from sweet fellowship in the bins,

comes nectar at the roadside, succulent

peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,

comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O, to take what we love inside,

to carry within us an orchard, to eat

not only the skin, but the shade,

not only the sugar, but the days, to hold

the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into

the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live

as if death were nowhere

in the background; from joy

to joy to joy, from wing to wing,

from blossom to blossom to

impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.


Lucille Clifton

my grandsons

spinning in their joy


keep them turning turning

black blurs against the window

of the world

for they are beautiful

and there is trouble coming

round and round and round


Billy Collins

There are many that I miss,

having sent my last one out of a car window

sparking along the road one night, years ago.

The heralded ones, of course:

after sex, the two glowing tips

now the lights of a single ship;

at the end of a long dinner

with more wine to come

and a smoke ring coasting into the chandelier;

or on a white beach,

holding one with fingers still wet from a swim.

How bittersweet these punctuations

of flame and gesture;

but the best were on those mornings

when I would have a little something going

in the typewriter,

the sun bright in the windows,

maybe some Berlioz on in the background.

I would go into the kitchen for coffee

and on the way back to the page,

curled in its roller,

I would light one up and feel

its dry rush mix with the dark taste of coffee.

Then I would be my own locomotive,

trailing behind me as I returned to work

little puffs of smoke,

indicators of progress,

signs of industry and thought,

the signal that told the nineteenth century

it was moving forward.

That was the best cigarette,

when I would steam into the study

full of vaporous hope

and stand there,

the big headlamp of my face

pointed down at all the words in parallel lines.



Rainer Maria Rilke

Only the man who has raised his strings

among the dark ghosts also

should feel his way toward

the endless praise.

Only he who has eaten poppy

with the dead, from their poppy,

will never lose even

his most delicate sound.

Even though images in the pool

seem so blurry:

grasp the main thing.

Only in the double kingdom, there

alone, will voices become

undying and tender.

Translated by Robert Bly


Mary Oliver

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean--

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down--

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?


William Stafford

Now has come, an easy time. I let it

roll. There is a lake somewhere

so blue and far nobody owns it.

A wind comes by and a willow listens


I hear all this, every summer. I laugh

and cry for every turn of the world,

its terribly cold, innocent spin.

That lake stays blue and free; it goes

on and on.

And I know where it is.




I sit in the streets with the homeless

My clothes stained with the wine

From the vineyards the saints tend.

Light has painted all acts

The same color

So I sit around and laugh all day

With my friends.

At night if I feel a divine loneliness

I tear the doors off Love's mansion

And wrestle God onto the floor.

He becomes so pleased with Hafiz

And says,

"Our hearts should do this more."

Translated by Daniel Ladinsky



Swan, I'd like you to tell me your whole story!

Where you first appeared, and what dark sand you are going toward,

and where you sleep at night, and what you are looking for. . . .

It's morning, swan, wake up, climb in the air, follow me!

I know of a country that spiritual flatness does not control, nor constant depression,

and those alive are not afraid to die.

There wildflowers come up through the leafy floor,

and the fragrance of "I am he" floats on the wind.

There the bee of the heart stays deep inside the flower,

and cares for no other thing.

Translated by Robert Bly


John Milton

Both turned, and under the open sky adored

The God that made both sky, air, earth, and heaven,

Which they beheld, the moon's resplendent globe,

And starry pole: "Thou also mad'st the night,

Maker Omnipotent, and thou the day

Which we, in our appointed work employed,

Have finished, happy in our mutual help

And mutual love, the crown of all our bliss."

. . . .

This said unanimous, and other rites

Observing none, but adoration pure,

Which God likes best, into their inmost bower

Handed they went: and, eased the putting off

These troublesome disguises which we wear,

Straight side by side were laid: nor turned, I ween,

Adam from his fair spouse, nor Eve the rites

Mysterious of connubial love refused.

. . . .

Hail, wedded Love, mysterious law, true source

Of human offspring, sole propriety

In Paradise of all things common else!

By thee adulterous Lust was driven from men

Among the bestial herds to range; by thee,

Founded in reason, loyal, just, and pure,

Relations dear, and all the charities

Of father, son, and brother, first were known.

Far be it that I should write thee sin or blame,

Or think thee unbefitting holiest place,

Perpetual fountain of domestick sweets,

Whose bed is undefiled and chaste pronounced,

Present, or past, as saints and patriarchs used.

Here Love his golden shafts employs, here lights

His constant lamp, and waves his purple wings.

. . . .

These, lulled by nightingales, embracing slept,

And on their naked limbs the flowery roof

Showered roses, which the morn repaired. Sleep on,

Blest pair, and O! yet happiest, if ye seek

No happier state, and know to know no more.

From Paradise Lost Book IV



Wendell Berry

(Jayber Crow in old age)

To think of gathering all

the sorrows of Port William

into myself, and so

sparing the others:

What freedom! What joy!


Gerald Stern

In all these rotten shops, in all this broken furniture

and wrinkled ties and baseball trophies and coffee pots

I have never seen a postwar Philco

with the automatic eye

nor heard Ravel's "Bolero" the way I did

in 1945 in that tiny living room

on Beechwood Boulevard, nor danced as I did

then, my knives all flashing, my hair all streaming,

my mother red with laughter, my father cupping

his left hand under his armpit, doing the dance

of old Ukraine, the sound of his skin half drum

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Table of Contents

Introduction     13
"A Brief for the Defense"   Jack Gilbert     23
"Mindful"   Mary Oliver     25
"Happiness"   Stephen Dunn     27
"Grammar"   Tony Hoagland     28
"Good God, What a Night That Was"   Petronius Arbiter     30
"Ecstasy"   Hayden Carruth     31
"Your Laughter"   Pablo Neruda     32
"What Do Women Want?"   Kim Addonizio     35
"From Blossoms"   Li-Young Lee     37
"Photograph"   Lucille Clifton     39
"The Best Cigarette"   Billy Collins     40
"Sonnets to Orpheus: IX"   Rainer Maria Rilke     42
"The Summer Day"   Mary Oliver     43
"Why I Am Happy"   William Stafford     44
"Our Hearts Should Do This More"   Hafiz     45
"The Swan"   Kabir     46
"Adam and Eve in the Garden"   John Milton     47
"Sabbaths 2004: IV"   Wendell Berry     49
"The Dancing"   Gerald Stern     50
"Sabbaths 1999: II"   Wendell Berry     51
"Happiness"   Jane Kenyon     52
"The Swan"   Mary Oliver     54
"Thank You, My Fate"   Anna Swir     56
"Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey" (Excerpt)   William Wordsworth     57
"Lines Composed over Three Thousand Miles from Tintern Abbey"   Billy Collins     58
"Eating Poetry"   Mark Strand     61
"That City That I Have Loved"   Anna Akhmatova     63
"For Angela"   Margaret Menges     65
"For My Son, Noah, Ten Years Old"   Robert Bly     66
"Welcome Morning"   Anne Sexton     68
"All the Earth, All the Air"   Theodore Roethke     70
"Magnificent the Morning Was" (Excerpt)   William Wordsworth     72
"I Sing the Body Electric" (Excerpt)   Walt Whitman     73
"Sea-Fever"   John Masefield     74
"The Joys That Sting"   C. S. Lewis     75
"Surprised by Joy" (Excerpt)   William Wordsworth     76
"A Dialogue of Self and Soul" (Excerpt)   W. B. Yeats     77
"My True Home Is Cold Mountain" (Excerpt)   Han Shan      78
"The Enquiry" (Excerpt)   Anne Finch     79
"Bathing the New Born"   Sharon Olds     81
"I Taste a Liquor Never Brewed"   Emily Dickinson     83
"Taking Off Emily Dickinson's Clothes"   Billy Collins     84
"'Tis So Much Joy!"   Emily Dickinson     87
"Mind Wanting More"   Holly Hughes     88
"But You Who Are So Happy Here" (Excerpt)   Dante Alighieri     90
"The Joy of Writing" (Excerpt)   Wislawa Szymborska     92
"Happiness"   Raymond Carver     93
"To Sadness"   Pablo Neruda     95
"Salt Heart"   Jane Hirshfield     98
"Kissing Again"   Dorianne Laux     100
"Dance in Your Blood"   Rumi     103
"Late Self-Portrait Rembrandt"   Jane Hirshfield     104
"A Birthday Poem"   Ted Kooser     105
"The Orgasms of Organisms"   Dorianne Laux     106
"Variation on a Theme by Rilke" (The Book of Hours, Book I, Poem I, Stanza I)   Denise Levertov     107
"Full Summer"   Sharon Olds     108
"Poem in October"   Dylan Thomas      110
"A Thing of Beauty Is a Joy For Ever" (Excerpt)   John Keats     113
"The Source of Joy"   Rumi     116
"Written in a Carefree Mood"   Lu Yu     118
"New Shining Worlds"   Irving Layton     119
"Sonnets to Orpheus: X"   Rainer Maria Rilke     120
"I Am Really Just a Tambourine"   Hafiz     121
"A Wild Peculiar Joy"   Irving Layton     122
"Cutting Loose"   William Stafford     124
"Plucking the Rushes"   Anonymous     125
"Eternity"   William Blake     126
"Your little voice"   E. E. Cummings     127
"When the Violin"   Hafiz     129
"Visitation"   Mark Doty     131
"When I Was Young"   Erica Ehrenberg     135
"The White Lilies"   Louise Gluck     137
"Upon Julia's Clothes"   Robert Herrick     138
"I like my body when it is with your body"   E. E. Cummings     139
"It's This Way"   Nazim Hikmet     140
"The Widening Sky"   Edward Hirsch     141
"Only When I Am Quiet and Do Not Speak"   Jane Hirshfield     142
"Pied Beauty"   Gerard Manley Hopkins     144
"I Want Something Without a Name"   Erica Ehrenberg     145
"Even If I Don't See It Again"   Marie Howe     146
"Sitting Up with My Wife on New Year's Eve"   Hsu Chun-Ch'ien     147
"Cow Worship"   Gerald Stern     148
"Blackberry Eating"   Galway Kinnell     149
"The Round"   Stanley Kunitz     150
"A Summer Day"   Li Po     152
"First Thanksgiving"   Sharon Olds     153
"Here"   Grace Paley     155
"The Pleasures of the Door"   Francis Ponge     157
"Grapefruit"   Gerald Stern     158
"In Praise of Dreams"   Wislawa Szymborska     161
"Allegro"   Tomas Transtromer     163
"The Great Sea"   Uvavnuk     164
"This Is Just to Say"   William Carlos Williams     165
"A Blessing"   James Wright     166
"The Lake Isle of Innisfree"   W. B. Yeats     168
"Matins" (Excerpt)   Denise Levertov      169
"I Come Home Wanting to Touch Everyone"   Stephen Dunn     171
"Snow Geese"   Mary Oliver     173
"Why"   Wendell Berry     175
About the Poets     177
Permissions Acknowledgments     197
Index of First Lines     203
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