A man’s reach should exceed his grasp: Browning

Andrea del Sarto
Andrea del Sarto

Poor Andrea del Sarto. A successful Italian painter who was overshadowed by his contemporaries, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael. We admire the works of Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael while Andrea del Sarto is almost forgotten.  Yet that is what makes him more like most of us.

We may not be remembered outside our own circle of family and friends, but that does not take the edge off the desire and zeal with which you pursue your dreams and aspirations. We may not always get what we want, and we may want more if we do, but that is life. A constant yearning. Continue reading “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp: Browning”

The art of Billy Collins

Billy Collins, who turned 72 yesterday (March 22), was once called the most popular poet in America by the New York Times. I love some of his poems that speak to me like a friend, telling stories in intimate, picturesque detail; I listen, completely spellbound, unable to interrupt, and the words linger in my mind long after the conversation is over.

He describes books, beaches, houses, the last cigarette he had, incidents from childhood, memory slipping away, in a quiet, intimate voice that makes a deep impression on you. He can be witty, but you are drawn to him because he sounds so personal, so intimate, as he mixes memories with ruminations – and, always, there is the beauty of his word pictures, so vivid, so memorable.

That’s the only way I can describe his poems, by the effect they have on me; I can’t dissect them, analyze them, evaluate them like a literary critic. Nor, do I think, does he want me to. A professor of English, this is how he described that particular attempt at understanding poetry in this poem: Continue reading “The art of Billy Collins”

A love poem with shades of Donne

I read this love poem a few days ago on The Writer’s Almanac run by Garrison Keillor and it reminded me of John Donne. It is witty and playful like Donne’s love poems.


By Ramon Montaigne

The Mississippi at its mouth
Joins the Gulf of Mexico,
The west wind mixes with the south,
High pressure with the low.

Nothing in nature stands apart,
All things rendezvous—
I’d like to mingle with you.
Intermingled, intertwined,
This is what I have in mind.
I just feel a sudden urge
To merge.

The compound that is chlorophyll
Formed as the light increases
Makes every little flower thrill
With photosynthesis.
The morning glory mingles
With the honeysuckle vine,
Come wrap your little tendrils around mine.

I’ve been lonely as a cloud,
Drifting miserable and proud,
Lonely as a limestone butte—
Handsome, noble, destitute,
But I need you, I confess
Let’s coalesce.

Donne, of course, is far more witty and the analogies he draws are clever and unexpected. Take The Flea, for example. Here the lover wants to consummate his love, but look at his ingenious argument to justify his plea. The flea has already sucked his blood and hers, he tells his love. “And in this flea our two bloods mingled be,” he says. “And this, alas! is more than we would do.” Here’s the complete poem, a clever, playful plea for lovemaking. Continue reading “A love poem with shades of Donne”

Life Cycle of Common Man: Howard Nemerov

Howard Nemerov

The American poet Howard Nemerov was born in New York on this day (February 29) in 1920. He  died on July 5, 1991.

This poem of his reminds me of Auden’s The Unknown Citizen. This is what the poet himself said about his poem: “Life Cycle of Common Man is probably a bad joke about how we see ourselves treated:  in the large, in the mass, as statistical particles. It didn’t turn out really to be a satiric poem, I developed quite a lot of sympathy for myself on the way through.”

Continue reading “Life Cycle of Common Man: Howard Nemerov”

Auden: Poem on a painting

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus
Landscape with the Fall of Icarus

It was Auden’s birth anniversary yesterday. He was born  in York on Feb 21, 1907,  and he died in Vienna on Sept 29, 1973. I love many of his poems, and when I saw this picture of a painting which inspired one of his famous poems, I could not resist having it here. So here is Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, by the Flemish Renaissance painter Pieter Breughel, with Auden’s poems, Musee des Beaux Arts. Continue reading “Auden: Poem on a painting”