Archives for category: One Page Poetry Circle

Welcome to the One Page Poetry Circle at St. Agnes Branch Library! On Tuesday, May 9, we’ll be reading and discussing the work of established poets on the theme of Poetry and Theft (see particulars below).

Stop thief! Whether someone steals your heart, your belongings, or your poetry, there is a lot of theft out there. While theft and losing things can be bad, poetic theft borrows from other poets to add to the conversation and that’s valuable — unless too much is stolen from one poet and then it’s piracy!

In the poetic form cento (collage), which goes back to Virgil and Homer, every part of a poem must be filched from a different poet. Simone Muench’s “Wolf Cento” begins with words from Anne Sexton’s “Frenzy” and ends with a line from Carl Sandburg’s “Wilderness.”

Very quick. Very intense, like a wolf
at a live heart, the sun breaks down.
What is important is to avoid
the time allotted for disavowels
as the livid wound
leaves a trace    leaves an abscess
takes its contraction for those clouds
that dip thunder & vanish
like rose leaves in closed jars.
Age approaches, slowly. But it cannot
crystal bone into thin air.
The small hours open their wounds for me.
This is a woman’s confession:
I keep this wolf because the wilderness gave it to me.

In Shakespeare’s Othello, Iago, a character who intends to ruin Desdemona and Othello, states something that is true, but his truthfulness disguises his intentions: 

Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing;
’twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.

In “Song of Fairies Robbing an Orchard” Leigh Hunt wrote of the rewards of theft:

Stolen sweets are always sweeter,
Stolen kisses much completer,
Stolen looks are nice in chapels,
Stolen, stolen, be your apples.

If you can’t make our free library event let’s hear from you anyway by telling us what poem you would have brought or commenting. To do so, click on the small gray speech balloon next to the date.

Abigail Burnham Bloom and AnnaLee Wilson

Poetry and Theft
Tuesday, May 9, 5:30 – 6:30 pm, St. Agnes Branch Library, 444 Amsterdam Avenue (near 81st Street), 3rd Floor

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.

Welcome to the One Page Poetry Circle at St. Agnes Branch Library!

We met on November 1 to discuss Prose Poems. We loved discussing the difference between poetry and prose and found it to be a thin line indeed.

Abigail opened the circle by reading the first paragraph of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita which begins, “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth.” Nabokov incorporates the images, meter, alliteration, and density of poetry into his prose.

Roger read the words of two great presidents: Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “Pearl Harbor Speech” telling the nation about “a date which will live in infamy” and Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address.” We found Lincoln’s words to be more like poetry, more evocative with more rhythms and figures of speech as he contrasts the living with “these honored dead.”

Hazel read Antony’s famous funeral oration from William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, “My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,/And I must pause till it come back to me.” Clearly written in poetic lines with an iambic pentameter rhythm the words have the sentence structure of a prose speech.

Phil read the beautiful conclusion of Molly Bloom’s soliloquy in James Joyce’s Ulysses: “then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.” Like Nabokov, Joyce was also a poet whose prose is as rich and beautiful as his poetry.

Gail read “Allegory of the Cave” by Stephen Dunn based on Plato’s vision. A man attempts to tell his fellow prisoners what he has learned in the twentieth century but finds himself unable to communicate effectively and eventually, “He just stood here,/confused, a man who had moved/to larger errors, without a prayer.”

Elizabeth read a review from Poetry Magazine by Frederick Seidel of a book of poems by Jonathan Galassi that approached poetry itself, “In the middle of Galassi’s life’s journey, in the middle of the dark woods, the road forked. Galassi had no choice —and chose—and wrote these poems. You have here the music of civilized decency superintending a heart raving and roaring like a lion.”

Eileen read Grace Paley’s “Here” which states with lovely simplicity what life is like for her, “Here I am in the garden laughing/an old woman with heavy breasts/and a nicely mapped face.”

AnnaLee closed the circle by singing a ballad, “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” a true story of racial injustice, written in the Civil Rights era by Bob Dylan, winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature. In the final twist of the refrain, “Oh, but you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears/Bury the rag deep in your face/For now’s the time for your tears,” Dylan gives America permission to cry.

Between prose that reads like poetry and poetry that reads like prose, we found the two delightfully intertwined and inseparable. As Peter Johnson explains, “Just as black humor straddles the fine line between comedy and tragedy, so the prose poem plants one foot in prose, the other in poetry, both heels resting precariously on banana peels.”

We look forward to seeing the works you select for Poetry and Endings and to discussing them with you on December 13. Bring a poem of a known poet. Bring a friend. Show up! And widen the circle! Without your support the library may find other uses for the spacious room they’ve given us.

Blog with us here at

Fall Schedule:
December 13, Poetry and Endings

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.


Welcome to the One Page Poetry Circle at St. Agnes Branch Library

Date: Tuesday, October 13: Poetry and Ghosts and Zombies
Time: 5:30 – 6:30 pm
Place: St. Agnes Branch Library, 444 Amsterdam Ave. (near 81st) 3rd Fl.
Theme: Poetry and Ghosts and Zombies

Find a poem! Read a poem! Discuss a poem!

We’re back for the eighth season of the One Page Poetry Circle where people gather to examine the works of established poets. While there’s no instructor and this is not a workshop for personal writing, once a month OPPC gives everyone a place to become teachers and learners to explore the form, content, language and meaning of poetry. Since the circle started, participants have selected and discussed 837 poems and have read countless others in pursuit of poetry that speaks to them.

Poetry of ghosts and zombies should be a good prelude to Halloween! An always popular theme on television and in the movies, it may seem an odd combination with poetry. Many excellent examples of the genre are available in the collection Poems Dead and Undead (ed. Tony Barstone, Everyman’s Library, 2014).

As children we repeated the traditional Scottish prayer to keep us from harm:

From ghoulies and ghosties 
And long-leggedy beasties 
And things that go bump in the night, 
Good Lord, deliver us!

Yet we all have things in common with ghosts and zombies, as Christopher Kennedy relates in the prose poem, “Ghost in the Land of Skeletons”:

If not for flesh’s pretty paint, we’re just a bunch of skeletons, working hard to deny the fact of bones. Teeth remind me that we die. That’s why I never smile, except when looking at a picture of a ghost, captured by a camera lens, in a book about the paranormal. When someone takes a picture of a spirit, it gives me hope. I admire the ones who refuse to go away. Lovers scorned and criminals burned. I love the dead little girl who plays in her yard, a spectral game of hide and seek. It’s the fact they don’t know they’re dead that appeals to me most. Like a man once said to me, Do you ever feel like you’re a ghost? Sure, I answered, every day. He laughed at that and disappeared. All I could think was he beat me to it.

What’s your favorite poem about the undead?

~Abigail Burnham Bloom and AnnaLee Wilson

The One Page Poetry Circle opened its fall season on September 8 with a favorite poem. Everyone seemed to find this assignment difficult. Most of us could point to many poems we’d loved since childhood, some reflecting a significant period of time in our lives or a connection with a particular person.

Abigail began with “I wandered Lonely as a Cloud,” in which William Wordsworth describes his double joy, first of happening upon a scene, “When all at once I saw a crowd,/A host, of golden daffodils,” then in his ability to later recollect it, “And then my heart with pleasure fills,/And dances with the daffodils.”

Roger read William Ernest Henley’s “Invictus” which was important to him when he faced cancer, “It matters not how strait the gate,/How charged with punishments the scroll,/I am the master of my fate,/I am the captain of my soul.”

Hazel read Robert Burns’s “Afton Water,” “Flow gently, sweet Afton, among thy green braes,/Flow gently, sweet river, the theme of my lays” which she chose because it was her father’s favorite and because it was a love poem and not depressing, unlike so many of the poems she considered.

Phil read Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art,” as he fears he is at the age where he is losing everything, “It’s evident/the art of losing’s not too hard to master/though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.”

Gale read “To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell, with its description of slow seduction and final account of what should transpire between the couple, “Now let us sport us while we may,/And now, like amorous birds of prey.”

Terry read Edwin Markham’s “The Right Kind of People” a fable in which a wise man tells each traveler what kind of people to expect in the city ahead. He bases his answers on the traveler’s own account of the people in the city he just left: “Gone is the city, gone is the day,/Yet still the story and the meaning stay.”

Karen read Li-Young Lee’s “From Blossoms,” with its description of where peaches originate, “There are days we live/as if death were nowhere/in the background; from joy/to joy, from wing to wing,/from blossom to blossom to/impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.”

AnnaLee read “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” by Wallace Stevens and of the myriad possible ways, AnnaLee stated the fifth was her favorite: “I do not know which to prefer,/The beauty of inflections/Or the beauty of innuendoes,/The blackbird whistling/Or just after.”

Ralda read “Pied Beauty” by Gerard Manley Hopkins with its beautiful descriptions of the complicated and imperfect: “Landscape plotted and pieced — fold, fallow, and plough;/And all trades, their gear ad tackle trim.”

We look forward to our next OPPC on October 13: Poetry and Ghosts and Zombies. Bring a friend and widen the circle!

Fall Schedule:

October 13: Poetry and Ghosts and Zombies
November 10: Poetry and Clothes
December 8: Poetry and Marriage

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.

Welcome to the One Page Poetry Circle at St. Agnes Branch Library!
Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015, 5:30 – 6:30 pm at St. Agnes Branch Library, 444 Amsterdam Ave. (near 81st St.), 3rd Fl. Theme—A Favorite Poem

A favorite poem seems such an easy topic, simply a poem that you like, but it may be hard to settle on just one. Perhaps this would be a poem you read when you were young that has continued to resonate through your life. You may respond because it reflects your feelings of celebration or loss. It could even be a poem you stumbled upon that touched you in the moment.

When Robert Pinsky was the American Poet Laureate, he started the Favorite Poem Project asking people for their favorite poems and short statements about why they chose them. The first year 18,000 Americans volunteered their favorites. Pinsky has since edited an anthology, Amercans’ Favorite Poems.

Oprah asked twenty-four celebrities about their favorite poem, and Demi Moore chose Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “Flower in the Crannied Wall” as it projects the major questions of life through the smallest flower:

Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower—but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.

AnnaLee: In Kindergarten, I loved Christina Rossetti’s “Who Has Seen the Wind” especially when I got to recite and pantomime it for the class. Today, the poem I return to again and again is Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach,” which begins with these achingly beautiful lines,

The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!

Sounds lovely, right? But immediately Arnold spools out his vision of the world on the brink of war. As tragic as this poem seems, when it ends I feel the opposite. My favorite lines fall in the last of the poem’s four stanzas, which show me that hope can be found through love, intimacy, poetry and truth.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Abigail: On a lighter note, one of my favorite poems is Langston Hughes’s “Theme for English B” which begins,

The instructor said,

Go home and write
a page tonight.
And let that page come out of you—
Then, it will be true.

Although Hughes wonders “if it’s that simple,” he manages to reveal something of himself on one page that everyone can relate to.

We look forward to the favorite poems that you bring for discussion at the September 8th One Page Poetry Circle. Bring a friend and widen the circle!

Fall Schedule:
September 8: A Favorite Poem
October 13: Poetry and Ghosts and Zombies
November 10: Poetry and Clothes
December 8: Poetry and Marriage

~Abigail Burnham Bloom and AnnaLee Wilson
“Post a comment. Don’t be shy!”

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.

On September 9 we met to discuss Poetry and Cats and Dogs. We had a nice turnout after our hiatus over the summer.

 Stan couldn’t join us but emailed to say that if he could have come he would have brought “The Song of Quoodle” by G.K. Chesterton. This fun poem is written from the point of view of the dog who laments man’s inability to smell, “And goodness only knowses/The Noselessness of Man.”

 Abigail began with “The Duel” by Eugene Field. She remembered this poem from her childhood and enjoyed that the cat and the dog were equals. Although the rumor is that burglars had stolen the gingham dog and the calico cat from the table, “the truth about the cat and pup/Is this: they ate each other up!” As one member remarked, it’s an anti-war message.

 Roger read E.B. White’s “Fashions in Dogs” humorously describing different breeds of dogs and ending, “Lots of people have a rug./Very few have a pug.”

 Phil brought William Blake’s “The Tiger,” which he had memorized in grammar school, “Tiger, tiger, burning bright/In the forests of the night,/What immortal hand or eye/Could frame thy fearful symmetry?” This led to a delightful conversation on the advantages of students memorizing poetry, which we fear they no longer do.

 Ellen brought Tony Hoagland’s “The Best Moment of the Night” in which the narrator attends a party where he has an encounter with a dog and wonders why no one notices that he, like the dog, is “still panting, and alive, and seeking love.”

 Terry read “A Cat, A Kid, and A Mom” by Shel Silverstein which questions why we want anyone to change: “‘Why can’t you see I’m a cat,’ said the cat,/‘And that’s all I ever will be?’” We laughed at this lovely evocation of how a cat, a kid and a mom can all misbehave.

 Gail read “A Dog’s Life” by Daniel Groves consisting of beautiful couplets and puns that tell of the day the dog was put down, “the very dog who, once would fight to keep/from putting down, despite our shouts, a shoe.” A discussion of how we have turned our dogs into slaves who are dependent on us followed. The expression “it’s a dog’s life” originally referred to how difficult a dog’s life was since the dog worked hard, ate scraps, and died young — unlike our dogs today.

 Mady brought Pablo Neruda’s “Ode to the Dog” in which a man and dog roaming the countryside until they are fused “in a single beast/that pads along on/six feet,/wagging/its dew-wet tail.” She could bring this poem next month as well!

 Hazel read “Little Puppy” from a Navajo American Indian relating the life of the Navajo woman and the little dog who shares her life of tending a flock and seeing, “The tall cliffs, the straight cliffs,/The fluted cliffs,/ Where the eagles live.” We all enjoyed this surprising and poem that in its simplicity painted such an evocative picture of the region.

 Karen read Bruce Dawe’s “Dogs in the Morning Light” relating to us the process of waiting for the bus each morning and seeing the same dogs, “They swirl about in bright-eyed bortices,/Whirl-pools of snap and sniff and pink-tongued grin.”

 Merrie read a poem AnnaLee had brought, “Myself with Cats” by Henri Cole, which describes both a relationship between humans and one between cats, “withholding his affection, he made me stronger. ” We were delighted to have more attention paid to cats who seemed to get short shrift during the evening.

 AnnaLee closed the Circle with Cathryn Essinger’s “My Dog Practices Geometry” which examines the personification of animals by poets, “Nor do I like the mathematicians who tell me/I cannot say, ‘The zinnias are counting on their/fingers,’ or ‘The dog is practicing her geometry.’” We discussed our tendency to personify animals and whether it is wrong.

 We look forward to reading and discussing your selects for our next program, Poetry and the Ode.

Here’s the remaining fall lineup:

October 14: Poetry and the Ode 
November 4: Poetry and Politics
December 9: Poetry and Drink

Bring a friend and widen the circle! And remember to blog with us at Don’t be shy.

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.