Sep. 13, 2007

Found Poems

by Robert Phillips

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Poem: "Found Poems" by Robert Phillips, from Spinach Days. © The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Found Poems


     (from a letter by Emily Dickinson)

When you wrote
you would come in November
it would please me
it was November then-but the time
has moved. You went
with the coming of the birds-they will go
with your coming,
but to see you is so much sweeter than birds,
I could excuse the spring. . .
Will you come in November, and will November
come, or is this the hope that opens
and shuts like the eyes of the wax doll?


    (from a letter by Gerard Manley Hopkins)

The only just judge,
the only just literary critic,
is Christ,

who prizes, is proud of,
and admires, more than
any man,

more than the receiver himself
can, the gifts of
his own making.


    (from a letter by Katherine Mansfield)

Dear Princess Bibesco,
I am afraid you must stop
writing these little love letters
to my husband while he and I
live together. It is one of the things
which is not done in our world.

You are very young. Won't you
ask your husband to explain to you
the impossibility of such a situation?
Please do not make me write to you
again. I do not like scolding people
and hate having to teach them manners.


    (from a letter by Vincent Van Gogh)

I think that I still have it
in my heart someday
to paint a bookshop
with the front yellow and pink,
in the evening, and the black
passerby like a light
in the midst of darkness.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of Sherwood Anderson, (books by this author) born in Camden, Ohio (1876). He was a manager at a mail-order paint company in Elyria, Ohio. But one day, out of the blue, he stood up from his desk and walked out of the office, ignoring everyone who asked where he was going. He was missing for several days, during which his wife received a bizarre letter from him that said, "There is a bridge over a river with cross-ties before it. When I come to that I'll be all right. I'll write all day in the sun and the wind will blow through my hair."

He was found four days later, wandering around in nearby Cleveland. He was diagnosed as having had a nervous breakdown, but he later claimed that he'd only pretended to be crazy so that the paint company wouldn't take him back. And he never did go back. He left his job and he and his wife moved to Chicago to join what became known as the Chicago Renaissance.

Anderson began writing every day, and one rainy night he got out of bed without any clothes on and began to write, as if in a trance, what became the first story for his collection Winesburg, Ohio (1919). He never wrote another book as successful as Winesburg, Ohio, but his simple prose style had a great influence on other writers, including Ernest Hemingway. In fact, a few years after Winesburg, Ohio came out, Anderson met the young Hemingway and wrote him letters of introduction so that he could go to Paris and meet writers like Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound. He also encouraged the young William Faulkner, whom he met in New Orleans. He inspired Faulkner to write his first novel and helped him get published.

Sherwood Anderson said, "I go about looking at horses and cattle. They eat grass, make love, work when they have to, bear their young. I am sick with envy of them."

It's the birthday of Roald Dahl, (books by this author) born in Llandaff, South Wales (1916). He was known for his dark short stories for adults, published in collections such as Someone Like You (1953) and Kiss, Kiss (1959). But he eventually switched to writing books for children, including James and the Giant Peach (1961), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964), and Matilda (1988).

Roald Dahl said, "A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom."

It's the birthday of English man of letters J(ohn) B(oynton) Priestley, (books by this author) born in Bradford, England (1894). He wrote more than a hundred books of fiction, essays, and drama. His favorite of his own novels was Bright Day (1946), about his hometown before World War I. He wrote, "We plan, we toil, we suffer — in the hope of what? ... The title deeds of Radio City? ... A trip to the moon? No, no, no, no. Simply to wake just in time to smell coffee and bacon and eggs."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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