Archives for category: Odes

On October 15 the One Page Poetry Circle met to discuss Poetry and the Ode.

Abigail began the evening with a poem by Mark Twain, who is known more for his fiction than his poetry. The work of a thirteen-year-old character in the novel Huckleberry Finn, “Ode to Stephen Dowling Bots, Dec’d” records a death: “O no. Then list with tearful eye,/Whilst I his fate do tell./His soul did from this cold world fly,/By falling down a well.” Twain’s parody of obituary poetry is also a parody of the ode. The poet expresses no personal emotions, she simply delights in writing about strange deaths.

Roger read John Keats’ famous “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” a poem that has raised a lot of controversy over its final lines, “‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all/Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.’” While the poem was familiar to all of us, we admired its phrases without reaching a consensus on its meaning. As we continued around the room and other poems were read we found many that referenced Keats’ poem in one way or another.

Gail read C. Dale Young’s, “Ode to a Yellow Onion” which begins, “And what if I had simply passed you by,/your false skins gathering light in a basket,/those skins of unpolished copper,/would you have lived more greatly?” By the end of the poem Young has infused the common onion with myth and greatness.

Karen read “Ode to Apples” by Pablo Neruda, which concludes, “I want to see/The whole/population/of the World/united, reunited,/in the simplest act of the land:/biting an apple.” We loved how Neruda combines the fall from Paradise through eating an apple and the possibility of reuniting the world through the same act.

Neruda was definitely the poet of the evening. AnnaLee read his “Ode to my Socks,” which concludes with the moral, “beauty is twice beauty/and what is good is doubly good/when it is a matter of wool in winter.” The ordinary becomes the beautiful and the sublime with a final nod to Keats’ Grecian Urn. AnnaLee gave us a link to Sharon Olds’ “Ode to a Composting Toilet,” a poem that takes Neruda’s odes on ordinary objects to an extreme.

Merrie closed the Circle with “Curiosity” by Alastair Reid, an ode to his own life, “Only the curious/have, if they live, a tale/worth telling at all.” Certainly all the poets we discussed had a tale worth the telling and we enjoyed hearing the tales together.

Mady couldn’t join us but emailed to say that if she had attended she would have brought Pablo Neruda’s “Ode to the Table” which begins with the process of creation:: “I work out my odes/on a four-legged table/laying before me bread and wine/and roast meat” and ends with “The world/is a table,” and “let’s eat!” Using the everyday Neruda sets his ode in motion to show us we can come together at the common table, if we choose to partake.

Larry entered two odes on our blog, both about birds. Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Paraphrase on Anacreon: Ode to the Swallow” compares the swallow building his nest with the love that “builds his nest in my heart.” In W. H. Auden’s “Short Ode to a Cuckoo” the narrator mentions his diary, “where I normally enter nothing but social/engagements and, lately, the death of friends, I/scribble year after year when I first hear you,/of a holy moment.”

Mark November 4th in your diary and remember to join us then. We look forward to reading and discussing your selections for our next program, Poetry and Politics.

Here’s the remaining fall lineup:
November 4: Poetry and Politics
December 9: Poetry and Drink

Try our blog. Click the little speech balloon next to the title of this notice and post your thoughts about the poems we discussed on October 15.

Abigail Burnham Bloom and 
AnnaLee Wilson

The One Page Poetry Circle is sponsored by the New York Public Library and is open to all. St. Agnes Branch Library is handicap accessible.


Date: Tuesday, October 14
Time: 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. 

Place: St. Agnes Branch Library, 444 Amsterdam Avenue (near 81st Street), 3rd Floor 
Theme: Poetry and the Ode

Join the One Page Poetry Circle on October 14 to discuss Poetry and the Ode.

What is an ode? Basically it is a poem that expresses personal emotions while Pedestalreflecting on a being or thing of significance to the poet. The ode is one of the oldest forms of poetry, and was originally a poem with a complex stanza form accompanied by music. Odes of the ancient Greeks contained a strophe, antistrophe, and epode which refer to the rhythmical patterns of the text. The strophe and the antistrophe were sung by the chorus on opposites sides of the stage, and the antistrophe provided a conclusion somewhere in the middle. The Pindaric ode consists of three sections with irregular line lengths and rhyme patterns and celebrated gods or events such as the Olympics. The Romans wrote odes as lyrical poems of a more personal nature. The Horatian ode is calmer and less formal than the Greek and not written for a stage performance. The more modern English or Irregular ode, written in a freer style, makes no attempt to follow the traditional form although it sometimes retains the three-part structure.

The ode was popular among British Romantic poets, who looked at the world and saw themselves. William Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” contrasts his state of mind as a child with his current depression. Where once the world appeared to him with “the glory and the freshness of a dream,” he finds that those visions have fled and concludes:

Though nothing can bring back the hour 
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower; 
We will grieve not, rather find Strength in what remains behind

Although Wordsworth’s subject matter is modern in that he examines his own beliefs, he keeps the traditional structure of a contrast of two viewpoints and a resolution. More recent odes are often a celebration of an object, such as Max Mendelsohn’s “Ode to Marbles”:

I love the sound of marbles
scattered on the worn wooden floor,
like children running away in a game of hide-and-seek.
I love the sight of white marbles,
blue marbles,
green marbles, black,
new marbles, old marbles,
iridescent marbles,
with glass-ribboned swirls,
dancing round and round.
I love the feel of marbles,
cool, smooth,
rolling freely in my palm,
like smooth-sided stars
that light up the worn world.

In Mendelsohn’s ode the three-part structure celebrates the sound, sight, and feel of marbles.

To add a comment about odes, or post one you like, click the small speech balloon next to this blog post headline and follow the prompts. We look forward to your thoughts.