Welcome to the Virtual One Page Poetry Circle!
Our theme for February was Poetry and Isolation.

Abigail thought of Emily Brontë’s “The Caged Bird” in which she compares herself to the bird, “like myself lone, wholly lone.” Both seek freedom, “But let me think that if to-day/It pines in cold captivity,/To-morrow both shall soar away/Eternally, entirely Free.” Emily chose to live her life alone, taking comfort in her family and pets, and sought freedom from earthly bounds.

Roger found a short poem by Samuel Hoffenstein, the favorite poet of Ogden Nash, that made him laugh:

When you’re away, I’m restless, lonely,
Wretched, bored, dejected; only
Here’s the rub, my darling dear,
I feel the same when you are here.

Victoria sent six translations of “Cold Mountain” a poem by Han-Shan a 6th or 7th century Chinese hermit/poet/monk. She wrote, “This is a poem about accomplishing a life of isolation in nature as a manifesto about strength of character as well as physical strength. The spirit of the original poem resonates with power and beauty in each translation. Each translator uses different words and different phrasing, yet the essence of the original is equally present and equally vivid in all translations.”

Scott enjoyed “Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden, a heavily anthologized poem, that “describes a universal experience” of a son’s response to his father, “Speaking indifferently to him,/who had driven out the cold/and polished my good shoes as well./What did I know, what did I know/of love’s austere and lonely offices?”

Gail chose Sonnet VII by John Keats, which begins, “O Solitude! If I just with thee dwell,/Let it not be among the jumbled heap/Of murky buildings.” Gail wrote, “Unfortunately, ‘among the jumbled heap of murky buildings’ is exactly where I have spent almost all my time since March 2020! Yet, in the same poem, he also captures the moments of joy I have experienced communing in nature with a friend or family member”: “it sure must be/Almost the highest bliss of human-kind,/When to thy [Solitude’s] haunts two kindred spirits flee.”

Hazel sent “The Last Rose of Summer” by Thomas Moore, “This poem was introduced to me by my father when I was very young. I knew then that it was beautiful but I don’t think that I got the full meaning at that time. Now I do”: “‘Tis the last rose of summer,/Left blooming alone;/All her lovely companions/Are faded and gone.”

Christiana found “What You Missed That Day You Were Absent from Fourth Grade,” which “kindled the sense of a long ago childhood time when a rare day home from school brought welcome isolation. I like the way poet Brad Aaron Modlin spotlights the power of claiming the enormity of one’s own thoughts that inklings tug out of ordinariness.” The poem begins:

Mrs. Nelson explained how to stand still and listen
to the wind, how to find meaning in pumping gas,

how peeling potatoes can be a form of prayer. She took
questions on how not to feel lost in the dark

After lunch she distributed worksheets
that covered ways to remember your grandfather’s

voice. Then the class discussed falling asleep
without feeling you had forgotten to do something else—

Carol responded to “Isolation,” a brief, intense poem by Shari Marie Robinson, “as we enter the third year of Covid isolation. I am impacted deeply by the loss of time with friends, some of whom have passed on, and find my sense of worth and purpose faltering.” Robinson describes feeling “Dismembered, like being held captive in a prison/I created for myself.”

Jane sent Eve L. Ewing’s “Testify,” saying she “loves reading the poem aloud.” The words speed along in all lower case reminding us of the little things to be grateful for during our isolation: “i stand before you to say/that today i walked home/& caught the light through/the fence & it was so golden/i wanted to cry & i lifted/my right hand to say thank/you god for the sun thank/you god for a chain link fence.”

Vincent sent “Music Ambles Drunk with Sorrow,” from a scene he witnessed at Mount Saint Mary’s Cemetery in Queens: “A lone man stands, dressed in a Scotch kilt,/playing bagpipes, pouring whiskey over a grave./A moon casts shadows of dancing clouds,/music ambles drunk with sorrow.”

Ellen loves “The Best Moment of the Night.” “Tony Hoagland always finds a unique and unexpected way to express an emotion. Here he compares his own sense of isolation and loneliness to that of the dog sitting under the table at the party. His everyday details are part of what makes the poem so alive”: “He lives down there, among the high heels/and the cowboy boots, below the human roar/rising to its boil up above. Like his, your evening/is just beginning—but you/are lonelier than him. You think/that if you disappeared tonight,/you would not be missed for years.”

Cate sent “Mountain Lion” by Linda Hogan from The Book of Medicines, writing that “being afraid of the ‘other,’ even when clearly perceived, can generate an immense feeling of aloneness. In its opening lines, the poem’s imagery represents the primordial aspect of this feeling”: “She lives on the dangerous side/of the clearing/in the yellow-eyed shadow of a darker fear./We have seen each other/inside mortal dusk,/and what passed between us/was the road/ghosts travel/when they cannot rest/in the land of the terrible other.”

AnnaLee closed the circle with a “renga,” a Japanese form of syllabic poetry between two poets. One poet begins, the second picks up a word in the last line of the preceding stanza and starts with a line that includes that word. For 367 days during the Covid lockdown in Paris, poets Marilyn Hacker and Karthika Nair took turns chronicling their daily lives: illness, friends lost to pandemic, activism, even what they ate. They lived five miles apart, yet only met three times. The result was A Different Distance, a book of daily poems:

Her sixth-floor dormer,
a cigarette, the much-loved
view of our skyline:
Claire—critical-care intern—
sighs for one, after twenty
hours on breathless feet.
evening applause is sweet, but
she’d choose PPE
over the President’s praise—
and eggs on grocery shelves.
—(KN, 1 May 2020)

Shelves in the G20
are still filled with coffee, cheese,
brown eggs, garriguettes, Greek yogurt, milk, wine—but I
hurry, forget tomatoes,
get out of harm’s way
(masked, gloved) as fast as I can.
Food shopping once was
community, communion.
Poison is the chalice now.
—(MH, 2 May 2020)

Our next theme is Poetry and Shoes. Send us a published poem you find on the subject of Shoes by March 8, 2022, and include a comment about why you chose it.

Can’t locate a poem you want to send on the subject of shoes? Check out Poetry Foundation or poets.org.

In the meantime, please blog with us here at onepagepoetrycircle.wordpress.com.

Spring 2022 Schedule
March 8: Shoes
April 12: Slant Rhymes
May 10: Clouds

Abigail Burnham Bloom, abigailburnhambloom@gmail.com
AnnaLee Wilson, annalee@kaeserwilson.com