Success

S
Jail Poems by Bob Kaufman
Bob Kaufman
1
I am sitting in a cell with a view of evil parallels,
Waiting thunder to splinter me into a thousand me's.
It is not enough to be in one cage with one self;
I want to sit opposite every prisoner in every hole.
Doors roll and bang, every slam a finality, bang!
The junkie disappeared into a red noise, stoning out his hell.
The odored wino congratulates himself on not smoking,
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Reflections of an Old Man on Writing by C. P. Cavafy
C. P. Cavafy
The author has grown old. He is eighty now. He is a little surprised by the success of his prose and his poems, but as much by his longevity. Though his many stubborn beliefs—together with the approval of his readership—aid in the decline of his faculties. They have not yet failed completely, however. He recognizes that alongside the welcoming applause of the majority, there is the mild chill of the minority. The young are not interested in his work. Their movement is not his movement, their style not his style. They think and above all write differently. The old writer reads and studies their works open-mindedly but finds them inferior to his own. He considers the new school much less important—or at least not better—than his own. He believes that if he could, he would write in this new way. Though not now, obviously. It would take him eight to ten years to absorb the spirit of the new style—and it is almost time for him to go.

There are moments when he grows frustrated with their ideas. Why are they so important? A handful of young people who for some reason do not like his work? Millions admire him. But this makes him feel like he is going round in circles. He started this way, after all. He was one of fifty or so young people who developed a new idea, wrote in a different style, helped change the opinions of millions who revered a handful of the older generation and one or two out-of-fashion artists. (The deaths of the latter aided his cause greatly.) Thinking in this way, the old writer concludes that art must be a thing of vanity if fashions can change so quickly. Indeed, the work of these young people will be as ephemeral as his own—though this does not comfort him.

Reflecting further afield, he notes bitterly that from the age of forty or fifty the enthusiasms and artistry of any author begin to appear eccentric or risible. Maybe—it is one of his hopes—they will cease to be eccentric or risible aged one hundred and fifty or even two hundred. At that point, instead of  appearing démodé, they are classic.

He also has doubts about the brazen and sometimes conceptual assessments he made in much of his criticism. Those writers he criticized when he was young and later replaced—maybe he wrote what he did because he could not sympathize with them—not owing to their lack of genius, but because the act of criticism is probably corrupted by contemporary concerns—fashion again. Superficially, his criticism resembles that which the young people of today write about him. His opinions have not changed—at least the major ones. Most of those old writers he would criticize today as he did sixty years ago. But this is not any great proof that his criticism is well-founded. It is only proof that, mentally, he is still the same young man.Translated from the Modern Greek
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To My Honor'd Kinsman, John Driden by John Dryden
John Dryden
Of Chesterton, In the County of Huntingdon, Esquire How blessed is he, who leads a Country Life,
Unvex’d with anxious Cares, and void of Strife!
Who studying Peace, and shunning Civil Rage,
Enjoy’d his Youth, and now enjoys his Age:
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Paradise Lost: Book  2 (1674 version) by John Milton
John Milton
HIgh on a Throne of Royal State, which far
Outshon the wealth of Ormus and of Ind,
Or where the gorgeous East with richest hand
Showrs on her Kings Barbaric Pearl and Gold,
Satan exalted sat, by merit rais'd
To that bad eminence; and from despair
Thus high uplifted beyond hope, aspires
Beyond thus high, insatiate to pursue
Vain Warr with Heav'n, and by success untaught
His proud imaginations thus displaid.

Powers and Dominions, Deities of Heav'n,
For since no deep within her gulf can hold
Immortal vigor, though opprest and fall'n,
I give not Heav'n for lost.From this descent
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Paradise Lost: Book 10 (1674 version) by John Milton
John Milton
MEanwhile the hainous and despightfull act
Of Satan done in Paradise, and how
Hee in the Serpent, had perverted Eve,
Her Husband shee, to taste the fatall fruit,
Was known in Heav'n; for what can scape the Eye
Of God All-seeing, or deceave his Heart
Omniscient, who in all things wise and just,
Hinder'd not Satan to attempt the minde
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Paradise Lost: Book  3 (1674 version) by John Milton
John Milton
HAil holy Light, ofspring of Heav'n first-born,
Or of th' Eternal Coeternal beam
May I express thee unblam'd? since God is light,
And never but in unapproached light
Dwelt from Eternitie, dwelt then in thee,
Bright effluence of bright essence increate.
Or hear'st thou rather pure Ethereal stream,
Whose Fountain who shall tell? before the Sun,
Before the Heavens thou wert, and at the voice
Of God, as with a Mantle didst invest
The rising world of waters dark and deep,
Won from the void and formless infinite.
Thee I re-visit now with bolder wing,
Escap't the Stygian Pool, though long detain'd
In that obscure sojourn, while in my flight
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Paradise Lost: Book  6 (1674 version) by John Milton
John Milton
ALL night the dreadless Angel unpursu'd
Through Heav'ns wide Champain held his way, till Morn,
Wak't by the circling Hours, with rosie hand
Unbarr'd the gates of Light.There is a Cave
Within the Mount of God, fast by his Throne,
Where light and darkness in perpetual round
Lodge and dislodge by turns, which makes through Heav'n
Grateful vicissitude, like Day and Night;
Light issues forth, and at the other dore
Obsequious darkness enters, till her houre
To veile the Heav'n, though darkness there might well
Seem twilight here; and now went forth the Morn
Such as in highest Heav'n, arrayd in Gold
Empyreal, from before her vanisht Night,
Shot through with orient Beams: when all the Plain
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Tell all the truth but tell it slant — (1263) by Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson
Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —
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Darwin by Lorine Niedecker
Lorine Niedecker

I
His holy
slowly
mulled over
matter

not all “delirium
of delight”
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148
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Oedipal Strivings by Frederick Seidel
Frederick Seidel
A dinosaur egg opens in a lab
And out steps my paternal grandfather, Sam,
Already taller than a man,
And on his way to becoming a stomping mile-high predator, so I ran.
I never knew my mother’s father, who may have been a suicide.
He was buried in a pauper’s grave my mother tried
To find, without success. Jews grab
The thing they love unless it’s ham,
And hold it tightly to them lest it die—
Or like my mother try
To find the ham they couldn’t hold.
A hot ham does get cold.
Grampa, monster of malevolence,
I’m told was actually a rare old-fashioned gentleman of courtly benevolence.

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To her Sister Mistress A. B. by Isabella Whitney
Isabella Whitney
Because I to my brethern wrote
and to my sisters two:
Good sister Anne, you this might wote,
if so I should not do
To you, or ere I parted hence,
You vainly had bestowed expence.

Yet is it not for that I write,
for nature did you bind
To do me good, and to requite
hath nature me inclined:
Wherefore good sister take in gree
These simple lines that come from me.

Wherein I wish you Nestor's days,
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Supplication by John Wieners
John Wieners
O poetry, visit this house often,
imbue my life with success,
leave me not alone,
give me a wife and home.

Take this curse off
of early death and drugs,
make me a friend among peers,
lend me love, and timeliness.
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Advances by Keith Waldrop
Keith Waldrop
seventy wingbeats
per second

vagaries of vegetation, rosy
anticipation I
turn the page without
reading

essence of
accident
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Arguing with Something Plato Said by Jack Collom
Jack Collom
(for Phil Garrison and Peter Lamborn Wilson)
As ashes are the shadow of smoke,
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Fresh Air by Kenneth Koch
Kenneth Koch
I

At the Poem Society a black-haired man stands up to say
“You make me sick with all your talk about restraint and mature talent!
Haven’t you ever looked out the window at a painting by Matisse,
Or did you always stay in hotels where there were too many spiders crawling on your visages?
Did you ever glance inside a bottle of sparkling pop,
Or see a citizen split in two by the lightning?
I am afraid you have never smiled at the hibernation
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from The Task, Book IV: The Winter Evening by William Cowper
William Cowper
(excerpt) Hark! ’tis the twanging horn! o’er yonder bridge,
That with its wearisome but needful length
Bestrides the wintry flood, in which the moon
Sees her unwrinkled face reflected bright;
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Sophia Nichols, by Robin Blaser
Robin Blaser
the wind hits and returns it is easy to personify
a new place and language, but the new body stings

these men with green eyelids, drawing their worth,
it was rumoured, from Egypt, knew

the work is part of it a power arrived at the
same thirst

he borrowed a head for a day

but which head the phrases tremble in the other
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For My People by Margaret Walker
Margaret Walker
For my people everywhere singing their slave songs
repeatedly: their dirges and their ditties and their blues
and jubilees, praying their prayers nightly to an
unknown god, bending their knees humbly to an
unseen power;

For my people lending their strength to the years, to the
gone years and the now years and the maybe years,
washing ironing cooking scrubbing sewing mending
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Success is counted sweetest (112) by Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson
Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne'er succeed.
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.

Not one of all the purple Host
Who took the Flag today
Can tell the definition
So clear of victory
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The Battle of Omdurman by Knight of the White Elephant of Burmah William McGonagall
Knight of the White Elephant of Burmah William McGonagall
Ye Sons of Great Britain! come join with me
And sing in praise of the gallant British Armie,
That behaved right manfully in the Soudan,
At the great battle of Omdurman.

’Twas in the year of 1898, and on the 2nd of September,
Which the Khalifa and his surviving followers will long remember,
Because Sir Herbert Kitchener has annihilated them outright,
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Chomei at Toyama by Basil Bunting
Basil Bunting
(Kamo-no-Chomei, born at Kamo 1154, died at Toyama on Mount Hino, 24th June 1216)
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Forgotten of the Foot by Anne Stevenson
Anne Stevenson
Equisetum, horsetail, railway weed
Laid down in the unconscious of the hills;
Three hundred million years still buried

In this hair-soft surviving growth that kills
Everything in the glorious garden except itself,
That thrives on starvation, and distils

Black diamonds, the carboniferous shelf —
That was life before our animals,
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The Imperfect Enjoyment by John Wilmot Earl of Rochester
John Wilmot Earl of Rochester
Naked she lay, clasped in my longing arms,
I filled with love, and she all over charms;
Both equally inspired with eager fire,
Melting through kindness, flaming in desire.
With arms, legs, lips close clinging to embrace,
She clips me to her breast, and sucks me to her face.
Her nimble tongue, love’s lesser lightning, played
Within my mouth, and to my thoughts conveyed
Swift orders that I should prepare to throw
The all-dissolving thunderbolt below.
My fluttering soul, sprung with the pointed kiss,
Hangs hovering o’er her balmy brinks of bliss.
But whilst her busy hand would guide that part
Which should convey my soul up to her heart,
In liquid raptures I dissolve all o’er,
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On the Welsh Language by Katherine Philips
Katherine Philips
If honor to an ancient name be due,
Or riches challenge it for one that’s new,
The British language claims in either sense
Both for its age, and for its opulence.
But all great things must be from us removed,
To be with higher reverence beloved.
So landskips which in prospects distant lie,
With greater wonder draw the pleasèd eye.
Is not great Troy to one dark ruin hurled?
Once the fam’d scene of all fighting world.
Where’s Athens now, to whom Rome learning owes,
And the safe laurels that adorned her brows?
A strange reverse of fate she did endure,
Never once greater, than she’s now obscure.
Even Rome her self can but some footsteps show
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Song of the Open Road by Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman
1
Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
Strong and content I travel the open road.

The earth, that is sufficient,
I do not want the constellations any nearer,
I know they are very well where they are,
I know they suffice for those who belong to them.

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The Whitsun Weddings by Philip Larkin
Philip Larkin
That Whitsun, I was late getting away:
Not till about
One-twenty on the sunlit Saturday
Did my three-quarters-empty train pull out,
All windows down, all cushions hot, all sense
Of being in a hurry gone. We ran
Behind the backs of houses, crossed a street
Of blinding windscreens, smelt the fish-dock; thence
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Ballade of Modest Confession by Hilaire Belloc
Hilaire Belloc
My reading is extremely deep and wide;
And as our modern education goes—
Unique I think, and skilfully applied
To Art and Industry and Autres Choses
Through many years of scholarly repose.
But there is one thing where I disappoint
My numerous admirers (and my foes).
Painting on Vellum is my weakest point.


I ride superbly. When I say I 'ride'
The word's too feeble. I am one of those
That dominate a horse. It is my pride
To tame the fiercest with tremendous blows
Of heel and knee. The while my handling shows
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The Beasts' Confession by Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift
To the Priest, on Observing how most Men mistake their own Talents When beasts could speak (the learned say,
They still can do so ev'ry day),
It seems, they had religion then,
As much as now we find in men.
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Boy Breaking Glass by Gwendolyn Brooks
Gwendolyn Brooks
To Marc Crawford
from whom the commission Whose broken window is a cry of art
(success, that winks aware
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Cleon by Robert Browning
Robert Browning
"As certain also of your own poets have said"—
(Acts 17.28)
Cleon the poet (from the sprinkled isles,
Lily on lily, that o'erlace the sea
And laugh their pride when the light wave lisps "Greece")—
To Protus in his Tyranny: much health!
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Discrimination by Kenneth Rexroth
Kenneth Rexroth
I don’t mind the human race.
I’ve got pretty used to them
In these past twenty-five years.
I don’t mind if they sit next
To me on streetcars, or eat
In the same restaurants, if
It’s not at the same table.
However, I don’t approve
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Fate by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson
That you are fair or wise is vain,
Or strong, or rich, or generous;
You must have also the untaught strain
That sheds beauty on the rose.
There is a melody born of melody,
Which melts the world into a sea:
Toil could never compass it;
Art its height could never hit;
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The Goose Fish by Howard Nemerov
Howard Nemerov
On the long shore, lit by the moon
To show them properly alone,
Two lovers suddenly embraced
So that their shadows were as one.
The ordinary night was graced
For them by the swift tide of blood
That silently they took at flood,
And for a little time they prized
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A Grammarian's Funeral by Robert Browning
Robert Browning
Shortly after the Revival of Learning in Europe Let us begin and carry up this corpse,
Singing together.
Leave we the common crofts, the vulgar thorpes
Each in its tether
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40
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I Am an Atheist Who Says His Prayers by Karl Shapiro
Karl Shapiro
I am an atheist who says his prayers.

I am an anarchist, and a full professor at that. I take the loyalty oath.

I am a deviate. I fondle and contribute, backscuttle and brown, father of three.

I stand high in the community. My name is in Who’s Who. People argue about my modesty.

I drink my share and yours and never have enough. I free-load officially and unofficially.

A physical coward, I take on all intellectuals, established poets, popes, rabbis, chiefs of staff.

I am a mystic. I will take an oath that I have seen the Virgin. Under the dry pandanus, to the scratching of kangaroo rats, I achieve psychic onanism. My tree of nerves electrocutes itself.

I uphold the image of America and force my luck. I write my own ticket to oblivion.
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The Rape of the Lock: Canto 2 by Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope
Not with more glories, in th' etherial plain,
The sun first rises o'er the purpled main,
Than, issuing forth, the rival of his beams
Launch'd on the bosom of the silver Thames.
Fair nymphs, and well-dress'd youths around her shone,
But ev'ry eye was fix'd on her alone.
On her white breast a sparkling cross she wore,
Which Jews might kiss, and infidels adore.
Her lively looks a sprightly mind disclose,
Quick as her eyes, and as unfix'd as those:
Favours to none, to all she smiles extends;
Oft she rejects, but never once offends.
Bright as the sun, her eyes the gazers strike,
And, like the sun, they shine on all alike.
Yet graceful ease, and sweetness void of pride,
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Sohrab and Rustum by Matthew Arnold
Matthew Arnold
An Episode AND the first grey of morning fill'd the east,
And the fog rose out of the Oxus stream.
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Town Eclogues: Saturday; The Small-Pox by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
FLAVIA. THE wretched FLAVIA on her couch reclin'd,
Thus breath'd the anguish of a wounded mind ;
A glass revers'd in her right hand she bore,
For now she shun'd the face she sought before.

' How am I chang'd ! alas ! how am I grown
' A frightful spectre, to myself unknown !
' Where's my Complexion ? where the radiant Bloom,
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Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift, D.S.P.D. by Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift
Dans l'adversité de nos meilleurs amis nous trouvons quelque chose, qui ne nous déplaît pas.
["In the hard times of our best friends we find something that doesn't displease us."]
As Rochefoucauld his maxims drew
From Nature, I believe 'em true:
They argue no corrupted mind
In him; the fault is in mankind.
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77
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Wildflowers by Richard Howard
Richard Howard
for Joseph Cady

Camden, 1882 Is it raining, Mary, can you see?
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To My Father's Business by Kenneth Koch
Kenneth Koch
Leo bends over his desk
Gazing at a memorandum
While Stuart stands beside him
With a smile, saying,
"Leo, the order for those desks
Came in today
From Youngstown Needle and Thread!"
C. Loth Inc., there you are
Like Balboa the conqueror
Of those who want to buy office furniture
Or bar fixtures
In nineteen forty in Cincinnati, Ohio!
Secretaries pound out
Invoices on antique typewriters—
Dactyllographs
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