Contemporary Poetry: A Retrospective from the

Contemporary Poetry: A Retrospective from the "Quarterly Review of Literature"


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Contemporary Poetry: A Retrospective from the "Quarterly Review of Literature" by Theodore Russell Weiss

Here in one volume is some of the most exciting poetry written during the last thirty years, culled from the pages of one of America's foremost literary magazines. The Quarterly Review of Literature has been among the first to present many significant poets of our time. In addition to publishing the work of new poets, it has made available little-known work of writers of established reputation. It has brought to the reading public both experimental and traditional verse, and foreign poetry in distinguished translations as well as poetry originally written in English. Its pages have been open, in the words of its editors, "to any work that reflects a dedication to ultimately painstaking art." This volume contains the work of 146 foreign and American poets. It is thus not only a remarkable anthology, but a valuable retrospective of the literary scene.

Originally published in 1976.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691617411
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 03/08/2015
Series: Princeton Legacy Library Series
Pages: 582
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

Read an Excerpt

Contemporary Poetry

A Retrospective from the Quarterly Review of Literature

By T. Weiss, Renée Weiss


Copyright © 1974 Quarterly Review of Literature
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-691-01324-4


    Volume I


    of all the blessings which to man
    kind progress doth impart
    one stands supreme i mean the an
    imal without a heart.

    Huge this collective pseudobeast
    (sans either pain or joy)
    does nothing except preexist
    its hoi in its polloi

    and if sometimes he's prodded forth
    to exercise her vote
    C or made by threats of something worth
    than death to change their coat

    — which something as you'll never guess
    in fifty thousand years
    equals the quote and unquote loss
    of liberty my dears —

    or even is compelled to fight
    itself from tame to teem )
    still doth our hero contemplate
    in raptures of undream

    that strictly (and how) scienti
    fic land of supernod
    where freedom is compulsory
    and only man is god.

    Without a heart the animal
    is very very kind
    so kind it wouldn't like a soul
    and couldn't use a mind

    Translated by Muna Lee

    Nothing Is Ours

    Every day the same tree surrounded
    by its murmurous green family.
    Every day the throb of an infant time
    which the pendulum rocks in the shadow.

    The river deals without haste its transparent card.
    Silence journeys toward an imminent sound.
    With its small tender fingers
    The seed tears apart its swaddlings of mud.

    Nobody knows why the birds exist
    nor your cask of wine, full moon,
    nor the poppy which burns itself alive,
    nor the woman of the harp, happy prisoner.

    And one must clothe oneself with water, with docile webs,
    with things invisible and cordial
    and adorn oneself with frail spoil of doves,
    of rainbows, and of angels.

    And must lave day's scanty gold
    counting its nuggets when the wounded sunset
    burns all its ships and night approaches
    captaining his dark tribes.

    Then you speak, sky;
    your lofty nocturnal city lights up.
    Your multitude with torches passes
    and gazes at us in silence.

    All vain terrestrial forms:
    the youth who tends a statue in his bed,
    the woman with two bird-hearts,
    clandestine death disguised as an insect.

    You cover the whole earth, dead man, fallen
    like a broken cage
    or a split shell
    or a monstrous spider's house of lime.

    The dead are monks of the Order
    of subterranean anchorites.
    Is death utmost poverty
    or the original kingdom regained?

    Man nourished on years and bodies of women:
    when god spurs you, you kneel,
    and only the memory of things
    lays a warmth now useless in your empty hands.

    Mined Zone

    Your tresses are death in the tropics, the giant ants.
    Your voracious tresses like conflagration or shipwreck
    on the shores of your countenance with fruits and cool water.
    Your throat is an arbiter
    which separates two nude athletes.
    Your arms are two shivering swimmers
    and in your hands move two patrols that escort and serve you.
    In your breast a balance trembles.
    In the roundness of your belly sleeps a backwater
    gyrating toward the whirlpool of your navel.
    There is a gazelle in your waist.
    In your hips, a horse.
    In your thighs, two swords and two stretching tigers.
    Your legs are two routes leading
    to twin plazas,
    and in your feet ten archers line up
    and there are two fish, two mosses, and two tongues.

    You bring an odor of islands
    or of monstrous flora with hairy spiders.
    Your voice draws along a river which winds among boulders
    and in your eyes howls a bitch in heat.
    Your body is disturbing as a harsh liquor
    — strong legs with fleece soft and alive,
    isthmus of your waist hung between two gulfs —
    your body modulated like a long shriek.
    From heel to forehead the tropic rises
    weighting large fruits in agile scales.
    Your clandestine presence impels me
    to the struggle of man with his ghost.

    You are profound as weeping or conflagration,
    or the body of a beef skinned alive;
    or the defenseless back of the crazed traveller
    devoured by ants,
    or fever, or beasts that couple amid cactus,
    or blood racing in hot tumult,
    or the breathing of the carnation crushed
    by a huge bare foot.

    I fulfill the secret
    will of the earth,
    forever shut within your sealed prison
    where dwell together guileless birds, a panther,
    and some hairy, secret beings
    that with wild herbs of the islands prepare
    the sweats and thistles
    of my thirsty daily death.



    All through the blazing afternoon
    The hand drums talk together like locusts;
    The flute pours out its endless, thin stream,
    Threading it in and out the clatter of sticks upon wood-blocks.
    Drums and bells exchange handfuls of bright coins,
    Drums and bells scatter their music, like pennies, all over the air,
    And see, the lutanist's thin hand
    Rapidly picks the spangling notes off from his wires
    And throws them about like drops of water.

    Behind the bamboo blinds,
    Behind the palms,
    In the green, sundappled apartments of her palace
    Redslippered Ariadne, with a tiny yawn,
    Tosses a ball upon her roulette wheel.

    Suddenly, dead north,
    A Greek ship leaps over the horizon, skips like a colt, paws the foam.
    The ship courses through the pasture of bright amethysts
    And whinnies at the jetty.
    The whole city runs to see:
    Quick as closing your hand
    The racing sail's down.
    Then the drums are stunned, and the crowd, exalted, cries:
    O Theseus! O Grecian hero!

    Like a thought through the mind
    Ariadne moves to the window.
    Arrows of light, in every direction,
    Leap from the armor of the black-eyed captain.
    Arrows of light
    Resound within her like the strings of a guitar.

    The Greek Women

    The ladies in red capes and golden bracelets
    Walk like reeds and talk like rivers,
    And sigh like Vichy water in the doorways;

    And looks run down the land like colts,
    Race with the wind, (the mares', their mothers', lover)
    Down to the empty harbor.

    All spine and sandal stand the willow women;
    They shake their silver bangles
    In the olive light of clouds and windows,
    Talking, among themselves, like violins;

    And, opening their eyes wide as horizons,
    Seem to await the navy home from Troy.

    No longer stand together, widow women!
    Give your glad ornaments to the poor,
    Make run the waterspeech of beads between your fingers:
    For Troy is burned, and Greece is cursed,
    The plague comes like a cloud,
    And all your men are sleeping in the alien earth
    But one.

    And Clytemnestra, walking like a sleeper, stares.
    Beads and bracelets gently knifeclash all about her,
    Because the conqueror, the homecome hero,
    The soldier, Agamemnon,
    Bleeds in her conscience, twisting like a root.

    Some Bloody Mutiny

    Some bloody mutiny opens up our earth
    With bitten furrow, and the share's deep drive;
    And in the breezy glitter of the sod,
    We're sown, like snapshots, by the sun.

    Tackle of nerve and vein
    Sews tight the soul to our experimental flesh:
    Blood and lymph, the body's tailors,
    Display their zebra natures in our zoo of skin.

    See where the pretty children curse the sea,
    Trading their pennies for the sun,
    Ripping the rind of Eden, monkey-handed!

    Grown murderers rewind
    The manners of the firmament to fit
    Tricks of our clockwork treachery.
    We time our Easters by the rumpus
    In our dancehall arteries.

    "The world's my photograph.
    The tick in my heart is not my brother's keeper."
    Says the radio in the throat:
    "The war's my mirror, and there's no Good Friday."

    Yet heaven is given
    To ingrow in this flimsy cage of structures,
    Battle the ravage of our ordinary marrow,
    And flower for us
    Upon the bonebranch we made dead.

    The Regret

    When cold November sits among the reeds like an unlucky fisher
    And ducks drum up as sudden as the wind
    Out of the rushy river,
    We slowly come, robbed of our rod and gun,
    Walking amid the stricken cages of the trees.

    The stormy weeks have all gone home like drunken hunters,
    Leaving the gates of the grey world wide open to December.
    But now there is no speech of branches in these broken jails.
    Acorns lie over the earth, no less neglected
    Than our unrecognisable regret:
    And here we stand as senseless as the oaks,
    As dumb as elms.
    And though we seem as grave as jailers, yet we did not come to
    Who picked the locks of the past days, and stole our summer.
    (We are no longer listeners for curious saws, and secret keys!)
    We are indifferent to seasons,
    And stand like hills, deaf.
    And never hear the last of the escaping year
    Go ducking through the bended branches like a leaf.


    Repetitions of a Young Captain


    A tempest cracked on the theatre. Quickly,
    The wind beat in the roof and half the walls.
    The ruin stood still in an external world.

    It had been real. It was something overseas
    That I remembered, something that I remembered
    Overseas, that stood in an external world.

    It had been real. It was not now. The rip
    Of the wind and the glittering were real now,
    In the spectacle of a new reality.


    The people sat in the theatre, in the ruin,
    As if nothing had happened. The dim actor spoke.
    His hands became his feelings. His thick shape

    Issued thin seconds glibly gapering.
    Then faintly encrusted, a tissue of the moon
    Walked toward him on the stage and they embraced.

    They polished the embracings of a pair
    Born old, familiar with the depths of the heart,
    Like a machine left running, and running down.

    It was a blue scene washing white in the rain,
    Like something I remembered overseas.
    It was something overseas that I remembered.


    Millions of major men against their like
    Make more than thunder's rural rumbling. They make
    The giants that each one of them becomes

    In a calculated chaos: he that takes form
    From the others, being larger than he was,
    Accoutred in a little of the strength

    That sweats the sun up on its morning way
    To giant red, sweats up a giant sense
    To the make-matter, matter-nothing mind,

    Until this matter-makes in years of war,
    This being in a reality beyond
    The finikin spectres in the memory,

    This elevation, in which he seems to be tall,
    Makes him rise above the houses, looking down.
    His route lies through an image in his mind:

    My route lies through an image in my mind,
    It is the route that milky millions find,
    An image that leaves nothing much behind.


    If these were only words that I am speaking
    IndifFerent sounds and not the heraldic-ho
    Of the clear sovereign that is reality,

    Of the clearest reality that is sovereign,
    How should I repeat them, keep repeating them,
    As if they were desperate with a know-and-know,

    Central responses to a central fear,
    The abode of the angels? Constantly,
    At the railway station, a soldier steps away,

    Sees a familiar building drenched in cloud
    And goes to an external world, having
    Nothing of place. There is no change of place

    Nor of time. The departing soldier is as he is,
    Yet in that form will not return. But does
    He find another? The giant of sense remains

    A giant without a body. If, as giant,
    He shares a gigantic life, it is because
    The gigantic has a reality of its own.


    On a few words of what is real in the world
    I nourish myself. I defend myself against
    Whatever remains. Of what is real I say,

    Is it the old, the roseate parent or
    The bride come jingling, kissed and cupped, or else
    The spirit and all ensigns of the self?

    A few words, a memorandum voluble
    Of the giant sense, the enormous harnesses
    And writhing wheels of this world's business,

    The drivers in the wind-blows cracking whips,
    The pulling into the sky and the setting there
    Of the expanses that are mountainous rock and sea;

    And beyond the days, beyond the slow-foot litters
    Of the nights, the actual, universal strength,
    Without a word of rhetoric-there it is.

    A memorandum of the people sprung
    From that strength, whose armies set their own expanses.
    A few words of what is real or may be

    Or of glistening reference to what is real,
    The universe that supplements the manque,
    The soldier seeking his point between the two,

    The organic consolation, the complete
    Society of the spirit when it is
    Alone, the half-arc hanging in mid-air

    Composed, appropriate to the incomplete,
    Supported by a half-arc in mid-earth.
    Millions of instances of which I am one.


    And if it be theatre for theatre,
    The powdered personals against the giants' rage,
    Blue and its deep inversions in the moon

    Against gold whipped reddened in big-shadowed black,
    Her vague "Secrete me from reality",
    His "That reality secret itself",

    The choice is made. Green is the orator
    Of our passionate height. He wears a tufted green,
    And tosses green for those for whom green speaks.

    Secrete us in reality. It is there
    My orator. Let this giantness fall down
    And come to nothing. Let the rainy arcs

    And pathetic magnificences dry in the sky.
    Secrete us in reality. Discover
    A civil nakedness in which to be,

    In which to bear with the exactest force
    The precisions of fate, nothing fobbed off, nor changed
    In a beau language without a drop of blood.


    Old Haven

    Directions that you left
    Which told me how I could
    Amid those cultured streets describe
    My rude impulse to you,
    Now turn within my head,
    Signs tangled while I sought
    Good milkmen who could set me straight.

    As those on bicycles
    Who asked me was I lost
    And moldy houses that concurred
    With cornices to bless,
    All proved such lesson of
    Love's reassuring depths.

    The churches of the place
    And dear pastured squares
    Like museum objects borrowed
    An ancient air to please
    And dim old gentlemen
    Like robin goodmen winked
    Till unicorns were sprightly dogs.

    Now absent from you, dear,
    My fatuous joy declares
    How love may change a city, give
    Glee to horses pulling
    Loads, to gutters virtue
    And to salesmen, grace.

    For smile so sweetly those
    Tottering cupolas, old
    Curbs in my enamoured thought (where
    Spongy Florida steals
    The stale New England air),
    I ponder on love's strength,

    So cunning when direct,
    So roguish when sincere!
    If dogs may charm because you're there,
    Drugstores infatuate,
    And meanest citizens
    Like saints from niches step
    To guide me to your goodness and to luck.


Excerpted from Contemporary Poetry by T. Weiss, Renée Weiss. Copyright © 1974 Quarterly Review of Literature. Excerpted by permission of PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

  • Frontmatter, pg. i
  • In Retrospect, pg. v
  • Contents, pg. xi
  • Poem, pg. 1
  • Nothing Is Ours, pg. 2
  • Ariadne, pg. 5
  • Repetitions Of A Young Captain, pg. 9
  • Old Haven, pg. 13
  • Among Old Letters, pg. 15
  • Chaplin's Sad Speech, pg. 17
  • The Words Lying Idle, pg. 20
  • Two Poems, pg. 31
  • Remembrance Of The Szeks, Paris, 1932, pg. 34
  • Victory, pg. 35
  • Poems, pg. 36
  • 1913-1946, pg. 40
  • Ode To The Chinese Paper Snake, pg. 47
  • More Poems For Liadoff, pg. 51
  • An Answer Questioned, pg. 60
  • Palm, pg. 62
  • Chatterly Comments, pg. 65
  • The Swarming Bees, pg. 66
  • Canto LXXXIV, pg. 68
  • Charles The Fifth And The Peasant, pg. 72
  • Listen. Put On Morning, pg. 73
  • Moving, By Iroads Moved..., pg. 77
  • Eighth Air Force, pg. 80
  • By "Disposition Of Angels, pg. 82
  • For Μ. M., pg. 85
  • Question In red Ink, pg. 87
  • A Lost Poem, pg. 88
  • Dirge For The New Sunrise, pg. 90
  • The Cave-Drawing, pg. 92
  • Huckleberry Finn, pg. 94
  • The Hero, pg. 96
  • Chi E questa, pg. 100
  • The Good Servant, pg. 102
  • Theory Of The Pathetic, pg. 105
  • Mad Song, pg. 113
  • Luis De Camoes, pg. 115
  • Backgrounds To Italian Paintings: 15Th Century, pg. 116
  • The Skeleton In The Closet, pg. 117
  • Blind William 9S Song, pg. 122
  • Experimental & Formal Verse, pg. 124
  • The Pleasures Of Formal Poetry, pg. 128
  • The Bottles Become New, Too, pg. 138
  • Five Poems, pg. 145
  • Dactyls - - From Theocritus, pg. 149
  • September, pg. 155
  • Poem After Solstice, pg. 158
  • One Day's Rain, pg. 159
  • Glazunoviana, pg. 160
  • A Speech by Wallace Stevens, pg. 164
  • The Damaged Crop, pg. 167
  • Thought By Rembrandt's Wife And Model During The Painting Of 'Flora', pg. 172
  • All Of December Toward New Year's, pg. 176
  • The Fourth Echo, pg. 180
  • Brainstorm, pg. 182
  • Aus Einer Kindheit, pg. 188
  • Arete's Speech To Odysseus, pg. 191
  • The Doodler, pg. 192
  • Lauderdale, pg. 194
  • A Vanished House, pg. 195
  • Old Lady With A Rosary On The Bus To Puebla, pg. 196
  • Temptation, pg. 199
  • A Tombstone Carved From Speech, pg. 200
  • Poem, pg. 202
  • A Flat One, pg. 204
  • Microcosm, pg. 210
  • Wrapping, pg. 211
  • Near Darien, pg. 212
  • Art Of The Sonnet: LXIX, pg. 216
  • Arsenio, pg. 217
  • The Air Of November, pg. 219
  • Some Places In America Are Anonymous, pg. 222
  • Keen To Leaky Flowers, pg. 224
  • Now Name The Season Blackberry, pg. 225
  • From The Mabinogion, pg. 232
  • Summer's End, pg. 239
  • In And Out Museums, pg. 242
  • Lines For My Grandmother's Grave, pg. 243
  • Poems On The Voyage, pg. 245
  • Love Letter, pg. 250
  • Moving The Walls, pg. 251
  • Two Voices, pg. 255
  • To The Poor, pg. 257
  • The Constant, pg. 261
  • Fox Blood, pg. 264
  • Confessions of a Peeping Tom, pg. 267
  • Note In Lieu Of A Suicide, pg. 268
  • "And Can Ye Sing Baluloo When The Bairn Greets", pg. 269
  • Bats, pg. 273
  • The Voyager, pg. 276
  • The Earth Worm, pg. 280
  • Poem Written After Contemplating The Adverb "Primarily", pg. 282
  • Skin, pg. 286
  • The Matchmaker In Flight, pg. 287
  • Three Conversations, pg. 288
  • For Job At Forty, pg. 291
  • My Varents Were Simple Folk, pg. 293
  • In Memoriam, pg. 296
  • A Midsummer Nightmare, pg. 297
  • Dead Language, pg. 300
  • The Crucified Swimmer, pg. 305
  • Nocturne, pg. 306
  • Reading A Poem By Walt Whitman I Discover We Are Surrounded By Companions, pg. 310
  • Days Of 1964, pg. 313
  • The Neighbor's Son, pg. 316
  • A Reckoning With Fall, pg. 318
  • The Old Nostalgia, pg. 320
  • Leda Reconsidered, pg. 321
  • Xenia, pg. 325
  • Developments, pg. 330
  • St. Ann's Gut, pg. 332
  • Again, Again, pg. 333
  • Definition, pg. 334
  • Unencumbered, pg. 335
  • Suite By The River, pg. 338
  • Friends, pg. 341
  • S. Miniato: One By Aretino, pg. 344
  • Traveller, pg. 347
  • Montana, pg. 350
  • Lines For Michael In The Picture, pg. 354
  • Rain, pg. 359
  • Old Dreams, pg. 360
  • Letting Him Go, pg. 361
  • As For The World, pg. 367
  • Three Travelogues, pg. 370
  • 1966: The Stone Mason's Funeral, pg. 374
  • The Far-Removed Mountain Men, pg. 378
  • The Drunkard's Prayer, pg. 382
  • The Midget, pg. 383
  • In Memory Of William Carlos Williams, pg. 384
  • Achilles And Penthesileia, pg. 386
  • The Stonecutter's Resignation, pg. 387
  • Man With Birds, pg. 391
  • ... & Testament, pg. 392
  • We Assume, pg. 396
  • Going The Rounds: A Sort Of Love Poem, pg. 398
  • Pastoral Remains (Hitherto Unpublished) From The Rectory, pg. 401
  • Crow Lore CROW'S FIRST Lesson, pg. 406
  • Reversals, pg. 410
  • Reading Cavafy In Translation, pg. 412
  • Why We Are Truly A Nation, pg. 414
  • Kostas Tympakianakis, pg. 416
  • Lark, pg. 418
  • Conversation With Marianne Moore, pg. 425
  • Scratching Bites, pg. 443
  • Poem For Valery Larbaud, pg. 445
  • From Three Women, A Radio-Play, pg. 447
  • Gabriel, pg. 449
  • Tuesday, pg. 453
  • Song For A Red Nightgown, pg. 456
  • Into Mexico, pg. 460
  • The Agent, pg. 466
  • A First Epistle To Eva Hesse, pg. 469
  • Family Scenes, pg. 477
  • The Night Calling, pg. 481
  • The ANTI-LIFE : A Fantasty, pg. 483
  • That Train, pg. 486
  • Poem, pg. 488
  • At E. 'S Home In Vresice, pg. 490
  • Hunting Near A Strip Mine, pg. 493
  • At The Jewish Museum, pg. 495
  • Night, pg. 497
  • Some Canvases That Will Retain Their Calm even in the Catastrophe, pg. 501
  • The Old Man's Hornpipe, pg. 503
  • A Campfire And Ants, pg. 504
  • Stirring, pg. 507
  • Impressions, pg. 509
  • The Last Thing, pg. 510
  • To Harvey, Who Traced The Circulation, pg. 512
  • Poems, pg. 514
  • Waiting For The Barbarians, pg. 520
  • Leap-Centuries, pg. 525
  • Studies For An Actress, pg. 528
  • An Encounter, pg. 535
  • Subversion, pg. 539
  • Increasing Night, pg. 540
  • ASH, pg. 544
  • Dark On Dark, pg. 546
  • Rendezvous, pg. 554
  • Hard Times, pg. 555
  • Life And Death Jean Garrigue (1914-1972), pg. 556

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