Dylan Thomas

“Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”

“And Death Has No Dominion”

“A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London”

“On the Marriage of a Virgin”

“Do You Not Father Me”

“Altarwise by Owl-Light”

“Death is all metaphors, shape in one history”

“The Force that Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower”


Archibald Macleish

A poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit,

As old medallions to the thumb,

Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges where the moss has grown—

A poem should be wordless
As the flight of birds.


A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs,

Leaving, as the moon releases
Twig by twig the night-entangled trees,

Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves,
Memory by memory the mind—

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs.


A poem should be equal to:
Not true.

For all the history of grief
An empty doorway and a maple leaf.

For love
The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea—

A poem should not mean
But be.



Wallace Stevens

“Le Monocle de Mon Oncle” as a comedic alternative to Eliot’s “The Waste Land”

From “Le Monocle”

If sex were all, then every trembling hand
Could make us squeak, like dolls, the wished-for words.
But note the unconscionable treachery of fate,
That makes us weep, laugh, grunt and groan, and shout
Doleful heroics, pinching gestures forth
From madness or delight, without regard
To that first, foremost law. Anguishing hour!
Last night, we sat beside a pool of pink,
Clippered with lilies scudding the bright chromes,
Keen to the point of starlight, while a frog
Boomed from his very belly odious chords.

In Wallace Stevens: An Introduction to the Poetry, Susan B. Weston wrote that in “Of Modern Poetry,” as with many poems in Parts of a World, “Stevens cannot say what the mind wants to hear; he must be content to write about a poetry that would express what the mind wants to hear, and to render the satisfaction that might ensue.” She added, “Stevens’s is a conditional world indeed.”

The Emperor of Ice-Cream

Call the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
As they are used to wear, and let the boys
Bring flowers in last month’s newspapers.
Let be be finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

Take from the dresser of deal,
Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
On which she embroidered fantails once
And spread it so as to cover her face.
If her horny feet protrude, they come
To show how cold she is, and dumb.
Let the lamp affix its beam.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

Of Modern Poetry

Related Poem Content Details

The poem of the mind in the act of finding
What will suffice. It has not always had
To find: the scene was set; it repeated what
Was in the script.
                               Then the theatre was changed
To something else. Its past was a souvenir.
It has to be living, to learn the speech of the place.
It has to face the men of the time and to meet
The women of the time. It has to think about war
And it has to find what will suffice. It has
To construct a new stage. It has to be on that stage
And, like an insatiable actor, slowly and
With meditation, speak words that in the ear,
In the delicatest ear of the mind, repeat,
Exactly, that which it wants to hear, at the sound
Of which, an invisible audience listens,
Not to the play, but to itself, expressed
In an emotion as of two people, as of two
Emotions becoming one. The actor is
A metaphysician in the dark, twanging
An instrument, twanging a wiry string that gives
Sounds passing through sudden rightnesses, wholly
Containing the mind, below which it cannot descend,
Beyond which it has no will to rise.
                                                      It must
Be the finding of a satisfaction, and may
Be of a man skating, a woman dancing, a woman
Combing. The poem of the act of the mind.

Sunday Morning

Complacencies of the peignoir, and late
Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair,
And the green freedom of a cockatoo
Upon a rug mingle to dissipate
The holy hush of ancient sacrifice.
She dreams a little, and she feels the dark
Encroachment of that old catastrophe,
As a calm darkens among water-lights.
The pungent oranges and bright, green wings
Seem things in some procession of the dead,
Winding across wide water, without sound.
The day is like wide water, without sound,
Stilled for the passing of her dreaming feet
Over the seas, to silent Palestine,
Dominion of the blood and sepulchre.
Why should she give her bounty to the dead?
What is divinity if it can come
Only in silent shadows and in dreams?
Shall she not find in comforts of the sun,
In pungent fruit and bright, green wings, or else
In any balm or beauty of the earth,
Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven?
Divinity must live within herself:
Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow;
Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued
Elations when the forest blooms; gusty
Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights;
All pleasures and all pains, remembering
The bough of summer and the winter branch.
These are the measures destined for her soul.
Jove in the clouds had his inhuman birth.
No mother suckled him, no sweet land gave
Large-mannered motions to his mythy mind.
He moved among us, as a muttering king,
Magnificent, would move among his hinds,
Until our blood, commingling, virginal,
With heaven, brought such requital to desire
The very hinds discerned it, in a star.
Shall our blood fail? Or shall it come to be
The blood of paradise? And shall the earth
Seem all of paradise that we shall know?
The sky will be much friendlier then than now,
A part of labor and a part of pain,
And next in glory to enduring love,
Not this dividing and indifferent blue.
She says, “I am content when wakened birds,
Before they fly, test the reality
Of misty fields, by their sweet questionings;
But when the birds are gone, and their warm fields
Return no more, where, then, is paradise?”
There is not any haunt of prophecy,
Nor any old chimera of the grave,
Neither the golden underground, nor isle
Melodious, where spirits gat them home,
Nor visionary south, nor cloudy palm
Remote on heaven’s hill, that has endured
As April’s green endures; or will endure
Like her remembrance of awakened birds,
Or her desire for June and evening, tipped
By the consummation of the swallow’s wings.
She says, “But in contentment I still feel
The need of some imperishable bliss.”
Death is the mother of beauty; hence from her,
Alone, shall come fulfilment to our dreams
And our desires. Although she strews the leaves
Of sure obliteration on our paths,
The path sick sorrow took, the many paths
Where triumph rang its brassy phrase, or love
Whispered a little out of tenderness,
She makes the willow shiver in the sun
For maidens who were wont to sit and gaze
Upon the grass, relinquished to their feet.
She causes boys to pile new plums and pears
On disregarded plate. The maidens taste
And stray impassioned in the littering leaves.
Is there no change of death in paradise?
Does ripe fruit never fall? Or do the boughs
Hang always heavy in that perfect sky,
Unchanging, yet so like our perishing earth,
With rivers like our own that seek for seas
They never find, the same receding shores
That never touch with inarticulate pang?
Why set the pear upon those river-banks
Or spice the shores with odors of the plum?
Alas, that they should wear our colors there,
The silken weavings of our afternoons,
And pick the strings of our insipid lutes!
Death is the mother of beauty, mystical,
Within whose burning bosom we devise
Our earthly mothers waiting, sleeplessly.
Supple and turbulent, a ring of men
Shall chant in orgy on a summer morn
Their boisterous devotion to the sun,
Not as a god, but as a god might be,
Naked among them, like a savage source.
Their chant shall be a chant of paradise,
Out of their blood, returning to the sky;
And in their chant shall enter, voice by voice,
The windy lake wherein their lord delights,
The trees, like serafin, and echoing hills,
That choir among themselves long afterward.
They shall know well the heavenly fellowship
Of men that perish and of summer morn.
And whence they came and whither they shall go
The dew upon their feet shall manifest.
She hears, upon that water without sound,
A voice that cries, “The tomb in Palestine
Is not the porch of spirits lingering.
It is the grave of Jesus, where he lay.”
We live in an old chaos of the sun,
Or old dependency of day and night,
Or island solitude, unsponsored, free,
Of that wide water, inescapable.
Deer walk upon our mountains, and the quail
Whistle about us their spontaneous cries;
Sweet berries ripen in the wilderness;
And, in the isolation of the sky,
At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make
Ambiguous undulations as they sink,
Downward to darkness, on extended wings.

Laura Riding Jackson, Anarchism Is Not Enough

Lisa Samuels’s introduction notes that Laura Riding’s and Robert Graves’s Survey of Modernist Poetry (1927) “provided William Empson with some of the close-reading tools he developed in his highly successful Seven Types of Ambiguity” (xiii).

Riding is interesting in developing a “generative indeterminacy” outside of schema, and her work “combines Surrealist unknowability (though it doesn’t mention the Surrealists) with modernist authority (though not in order to establish a system of thought)” (xvii).

Anarchism “is not enough because anarchism operates in reaction to the structures of (social and political) reality and so remains within their systematizing orbits… She resists common modernist binaries (classicism/romanticism, abstraction/experience) in favor of this “unreal,” which is a kind of synthetic shadow an invisible syllogistic avatar, of those binaries” (xviii).

Poetry is for Riding a “vaccuum, a ‘nothing,’ the closest we can come in language, our keenest intellectual medium, to Anarchism‘s ideal. Since ‘vaccuum’ and ‘nothing’ are not destinations, this ideal is unreachable, as Riding readily admits” (xxi).

“Emersonian self-reliance was not her only ideal; Whitmanesque contrariness was every bit as important” (xxxix).

Riding “wants to set up what we might call subjective correlatives, matrices of words that evoke for each person– writer and reader–an experience of the individual-unreal, the shared but never duplicable sense of a languaged self” (xli).

“Riding’s famous difficulty stems partly from the fact that her ‘correlatives’ are not ‘objective’ in Eliot’s sense. Her poems, and much of Anarchism‘s prose, are instead constructs for entering into events that are linguistically and epistemologically unstable. They cannot feel the same to all readers precisely because their language and syntax refuse fixed meaning-ratios… They make the reader experience that instability rather than indulging int he comfort of an ‘objective’ human representation” (xlii).

If Riding’s work sounds like a set up for logical failure, that’s because it makes no attempt to succeed at logic. She writes that “we are all in an impossible position; which you handle by making less, myself more impossible (xlvii).

Riding says in First Awakenings, “if this voyage reveals a futility, it is a futility worth facing” (lx).

She starts her chapter about “The Myth” with a confused reproductive scenario: “When the baby is born there is no place to put it: it is born, it will in time die, therefore there is no sense in enlarging the world by so many miles and minutes for its accommodation” (9).

“Words have three historical levels. They may be true words, that is, of an intrinsic sense; they may be logical words, that is, of an applied sense; or they may be poetical words, of a misapplied sense, untrue and illogical in themselves, but of supposed suggestive power” (12).

“Language is a form of laziness; the word is a compromise between what it is possible to express and what it is not possible to express” (13).

“Poetry is an attempt to make language do more than express; to make it work; to redistribute intelligence by means o the word… Poetry always faces, and generally meets with, failure. But even if it fails, it is at least at the heart of the difficulty…” (14).

“What is a poem? A poem is nothing” (16). (AD: later, she says “nothing is enough”) Not only is the poem nothing to see, but it refuses to serve as a mirror

“The only productive design is designed waste” (18). Creation results in nothing “but the destruction of the designer” (18).

There is designed happiness, undesigned unhappiness, and designed unhappiness. Poetry is “anticipated unhappiness, which, because it has design, foreknowledge, is the nearest approach to happiness” (19). (AD: we suppose undesigned happiness is ridiculous?)

“The Corpus” (feminine body, maternal body, literary body, corpse) 27

“The first condition was chaos. The logical consequence of chaos was order… order yielded to the individual by allowing him to call it a universe, but triumphed over him since, by naming it, the individual made the universe his society and therefore his religion. Order is the natural enemy of the individual mind” (27). (AD: order masters the human because he becomes a slave to it, re Hegel)

“We live on the circumference of a hollow circle. We draw the circumference, like spiders out of ourselves: it is all criticism of criticism” (31).

“The making of poems, dreams and children is difficult to explain because they all somehow happen and go on until the poem comes to an end and the sleeper wakes up and the child comes out into the air. As for children, there are so many other ways of looking at the matter that poetry is generally not asked to provide a creative parallel” (39).

Hierarchy: Poetry (“canniest intelligence”) –> awakeness/mediocrity –> sleep/dream “canniest imbecility” (40)

society is “historical romance” and nature is “nonhistorical romance” (43)

“The Collective-real is man in touch with man. The individual-real is man in touch with the natural in him… the individual-unreal” (44).

“The right (the unreal) remains (as it should) categorically non-existent” (54).

Things become real by symbolization (59), which leads to bad art.

“The only position relevant to the individual is the unreal, and it is relevant because it is not a position but the individual himself… To put it simply, the unreal to me is poetry. The individual-real is a sensuous enactment of the unreal, opposing a sort of personally cultivated physical collectivity to the metaphysical mass-cultivated collectivity of the collective-real. So the individual-real is a plagiarizing of the unreal which makes the opposition between itself and the collective-real seem that of poetic to realistic instead of (as it really is) that of superior to inferior realistic” (69).

“Poetry is a stolen word, and in using it one must remain conscious of its perverted sense in the service of realism, or one suddenly finds oneself discussing not poetry but realism; and this is equally painful. But if poetry is a stolen word, so is reality: reality is stolen from the self, which is thus in its integrity forced to call itself unreal” (80).

“Reason is socialized reality” (86).

She calls Eliot “a poetical yogi” (89)

“Words in their pure use, which I assume to be their poetic use, are denials rather than affirmations of reality. The word hat, say, does not create a real hat: it isolates some element in the real hat which is not hat, which is unreal, the hat’s self” (99).

Poetry needs to be non-purposive (116)

“The end of poetry is to leave everything as pure and bare as possible after its operation. It is therefore important that its tools of destruction should be as frugal, economical as possible… they are the pure residue, and the meaning if there is any…” (117).

“What is enough? Nothing is enough” (132).

“I am not discussing creation. Personally, I do not believe in creation. Creation is stealing one thing to turn it into another. What i am discussing is existence, uncorrupted by art” (133)

Laura Riding Jackson, “Eve’s Side of It”

“Lilith is no longer bodiless… yet she has not become Eve, nor have I become Lilith. She, too, has ceased to exist, yet still is. We have both become a new one, who is neither Lilith nor myself, yet no one else” (159).

“I have sometimes thought of Lilith as my mother. This, of course, is a foolish way of thinking about her. It is true that Lilith made me, but I had no father. I was entirely her own idea” (160).

“Where is it?” they asked. “What is it? Who is it?” Naturally Lilith was not the sort of person to answer: “It is here, it is this, it is I. Lilith was everything, but she was also nothing in particular…. she could not honestly have used the word ‘I’ about herself, or in any other way refer to herself” (161). …”and so it happened that she let herself by treated as nothing by what was actually nothing itself” (161). (don’t accept the I on male terms.)

“It must not be thought that I was tempted by the Serpent. The Serpent was Lilith’s way of encouraging me to do what I would have done in any case. I was fully aware that the fruit was unripe and therefore not good for the health. But things could not go on being lovely for ever when they were going to be very difficult… Things had to begin somewhere to be somewhat as they were going to be. …I have had a point of view of my own about things; my side of the story is not merely that I have been unlucky in love… I should not like it thought that I expected men to have my point of view about things. They are bound to feel that I led them on. Of course I led them on” (165).


Laura Riding Jackson, The Word ‘Woman’

Begins with a poem that Riding wrote; makes me think of Robert Graves and his poem on the “White Goddess”

Unlike Graves’s White Goddess, the woman of “The Lady of the Apple”:

“When future has them all unburdened of manfulness and all acquitted

Of destinies, the vision that was foretold

To darkness will be lovely with a promise

And pledge renewal from discovered lips

Quick with the certain need and pain of speech.”

Introduction by Elizabeth Friedman

“Feminists sometimes attempted to incorporate Laura (Riding) Jackson’s writing into their official canon, but she resisted, assiduously maintaining that women writers should not be seen as constituting a separate professional category, nor should their work be treated as a separate subject of literary or artistic interest” (3). (AD: feminism is, for Riding, “schematizing,” which is the primary sin)


“The question of the essential, or the cosmic, nature and functionality of woman identity, in human identity. I labor in this piece through the accumulated historical trappings with which the subject ‘woman’ is perforce associated. Later I preoccupied myself less and less with them, more and more with essential significances, the essential ‘story’” (9).

[on Robert Graves]
Until our association began, the subject woman did not exist for him. Nor had he any instinctive feelings on the subject… [it] was as a subject for professional literary treatment. From treating of the subject in his writings during our association with the air of supporter of my thinking on it, he graduated himself into the identity of writer holding boldly independent and importantly novel ideas on it. Everything he has put forth in this guise of male pioneer in new thinking on Woman and Women is derived appropriatively from my thinking as he had direct personal contact with it, and from the varied manifestations of my experiences of feeling and thought on the subject to be found in my writings, poetic and general” (10).

“I believe that a close reading of the text of The Word ‘Woman’ may strip literature of its mythologies of ludicrous pieties–whether of the Italo Calvino order or of hypocrisies of the Graves order of upper-notch Anglo-Saxon romanticism” (13).

“The Word Woman”

Riding begins with a section entitled “Definitions and Generalizations,” in which she notes that the etymology of woman is grounded in man. “female” derives from the Latin “femina,” she notes, which is “associated with fecundus, fertile” (17). The anglo-Saxon “wif” is, Riding argues, a “convenience-name rather than a definition, as ‘cat’ is a convenience-name rather than a definition” (17).

“‘Woman’ and ‘God’ are the two notions which resist absorption in the meanings with which man enlarges his nature” (18-19).

“‘God’ seems to have difference, ‘woman’ merely differences. So the courtesy of being, roughly speaking, man, is extended to woman: as, when strangers come to some country and settle down in it peaceably and co-operatively, they are in time regarded as fellow-citizens. …. Women are strangers in the country of man: they are, that is, immediate manifestations of the existence of something else besides man” (19). (re: Woolf on woman having no country in Three Guineas)

“The word ‘woman’ is included in the word ‘man,’ and its meanings do no more than supplement and liberalize the meanings of ‘man'” (20).

However, while experiences with God is, “by definition, a ‘different’ experience,” experience of woman is “an actual experience: it happens” (20). (AD: the physical presence of woman forces man to deal with the word woman in ways they are able to defer with God)

“Women” are distinct from the word “woman” – “woman” is a word, “women” are actual experiences (21).

“[man] assumes that she is some mechanical extension of himself, an outer atmosphere as it were breathed by himself which becomes as fantastic as bad weather when it behaves with distinct personality” (22). (AD: re: CPG that man is woman’s “environment” because he is her economic situation)

Men “are not really interested in determining what man is as against what woman is, only in not being bothered by women” (24).

There remains even in modern man an “involuntary primitive recognition of woman as something different; and, along with it, a persistent consciousness of himself as something different, in spite of his efforts to generalize all difference under the titular identity ‘man’. There remains an untranslatable residue, which he regards, nevertheless, as ideally translatable into himself…” (27).

“The language in which the Lord is addressed is indistinguishable from the language in which an adored woman might be addressed; and the emotions professed suggest that the divine is really a female notion in male disguise” (34). (aD: sounds like Gerard Manley Hopkins.)

Riding is interested in discovering a feminine “principle” as against all the “meanings” described on the feminine through the word “woman” (37).

“The meanings attributed to woman represent merely what man would like woman to mean” (37).

“…woman, in her relations with man, operates differently. She applies herself so directly, so immediately, to these relations that she cannot be said to think, or even perceive, in the same way that man does. The result to her of these relations is not a set of opinions, or even a set of sensations; the result is, at any moment, the relations themselves…. man ‘registers’ woman, but woman registers man and woman” (40). (AD: she’s exactly describing DuBoisian double consciousness. Woman has no space to ‘think’ reactions; she lives them daily)

“We cannot get truth because his consciousness records only difference; he is an egocentric, not universal-minded, being. We can get truth–how things are as a whole–only from woman: man operates through the sense of difference, woman through the sense of unity” (40).

“conceived as a notion, she discredits the reality of other notions; she is more real than God, more real than man” (46). (“real” in the sense of the individual collective ‘real’ vs. ‘unreal’?)

“Woman is the major incident in man’s life. She is man’s most different experience–the most unselflike material of perception that confronts his consciousness” (47). Riding is concerned with considering “what it is to be this experience – what it feels like to be a woman” (47). She has to consider what it is like to be a woman in terms of male experience because that is woman’s lived reality.

“‘Woman’ thus comes to represent, as a word, man’s power over his own fortuitousness; woman is the symbol for the conquered, or conquerable enemy. He resists understanding woman in any other sense because he fears to go beyond the momentary reality: that he lives” (50).

“Woman has two works to perform: a work of differentiation, of man form herself, and a work of unification, of man with herself” (53).

Odd claim that her “difference is erased in the magic word ‘equality'” and that “man himself invented feminism, not woman” (53). Because feminism schematizes women’s difference into the masculine neutral

“Independence from woman has been the object of all the so-called ‘creative’ activity of man: the very notion of ‘creation’ implies the disappearance of the separate phenomenon ‘woman’ in male activity” (57).

“consciousness is a waste of self” for women since it is unrelated to the “communicating” between consciousness that they were doing (59).

The sense that man has of woman is the difference between the universal and particular – as long as woman is just a particular instance of the greater ‘man’ “there is no resultant whole, only a large outdoor abstraction” (63)

Women cannot fulfil themselves as women merely by extracting concessions from men which improve their social, their human, standing. They can only be women fully through an internal realization of their meaning as woman. The standing does not matter, for standing does not last… Not a respectable human standing, but an active consciousness of themselves, should be the object of women’s endeavor on their own behalf. Justice cannot be done women by men, only by themselves” (73).

“She remains a curiosity: always something above and beyond the immediate role. She exhausts the role, but the role does not exhaust her” (89).