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The One Page Poetry Circle gathered on October 8 with poems related to friendship.

Abigail began the evening by reading William Makepeace Thackeray’s “The Ballad of Bouillabaisse” which tells of an older man returning to a restaurant that he frequented in his youth. He realizes how his friends and everything else have changed, “Good Lord! the world has wagged apace/Since here we sat the Claret flowing,/And drank, and ate the Bouillabaisse” and finds an answer to his sadness in a glass of wine and a meal of Bouillabaisse.

Roger read a poem his father used to recite, “Oh Lucky Jim,” about a man who envies his friend Jim. When Jim dies, he marries Jim’s widow, “Now we’re married oft I think of Jim boys/Sleeping in the churchyard peacefully./Oh Lucky Jim. How I envy him!”

Hazel read a sonnet by John Keats, “To a Friend who sent me some Roses” which describes a love for the wild rose above all others, until he receives a gift of garden roses: “Soft voice had they, that with tender plea/Whisper’d of peace, and truth, and friendliness unquell’d.”

Phil read Richard Brautigan’s “Your Catfish Friend” in which a man looks in a pond and wishes somebody loved him while the catfish thinks, “I’d love you and be your catfish/friend and drive such lonely/thoughts from your mind.” You never know where you can find love!

Karen read “The Way We Live” by the Scottish poet Kathleen Jamie who wants to “Pass the tambourine” and “bash out praises” to a world “Of chicken tandoori and reggae, loud from tenements,/commitment, driving fast and unswerving/friendship.”

Sarnia read some poetic prose from the will of Sydney Cockerell: “I have been blessed throughout my long life with a number of the dearest and kindest friends, both men and women, that ever man had. Gratefully conscious of all they have meant to me, I declare Friendship to be precious beyond all words. But it is like a plant that withers if it be not carefully tended. It must be fostered by means of visits, of letters, of little services and attentions and by constant thought, sympathy and kindness.”

AnnaLee completed the circle with Charles Simic’s “The Friends of Heraclitus” which speaks of losing a good friend with whom the narrator once enjoyed philosophical discussions. In his friend’s death he discovers, “The world we see in our heads/And the world we see daily,/So difficult to tell apart/When grief and sorrow bow us over.”

We had a delightful evening discussing poetry and friendship with old friends and new.

Mark your calendars for the remainder of Fall 2013:

November 12 Poetry and Youth
December 10 Antiquity and Modernity

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.

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OPPC_Poster_Oct2013The One Page Poetry Circle will meet on October 8 to discuss Poetry and Friendship.

Poems of friendship can celebrate the traits of the individual as well as the nature of friendshipitself. Abigail remembers singing in Girl Scouts, “Make new friends/And keep the old/One is silver/And the other gold.” Whereas love grows bright and withers, friendship lasts; as Emily Bronte wrote, “Love is like the wild rose-briar,/Friendship like the holly-tree–/The holly Is dark when the rose-briar blooms/But which will bloom most constantly?”

There is a long tradition of poets addressing poems to their friends like the ancient Roman poet Catullus whose poems read like letters to a friend. W. B. Yeats wrote in “The Spur,” “Think where man’s glory most begins and ends/And say my glory was I had such friends.” William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, as well as Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell, dedicated verses to each other and wrote about each other in poems. Pets can also be true friends who teach us loyalty and caring. David Lehman celebrates the dog Molly, “For she does not lie awake in the dark and weep for her sins, and whine about her condition, and discuss her duty to God.”

The following poem, from A.E. Housman’s A Shropshire Lad (1896), expresses the melancholic view of an older man remembering an ideal time of his youth and friendships. Ludlow itself, a town walled in by an ancient castle, had become industrialized by the time Housman wrote the poem. In these few lines, Housman evokes the memory of the past and the reality of the present:

A.E. Houseman

When I came last to Ludlow
Amidst the moonlight pale,
Two friends kept step beside me,
Two honest lads and hale.

Now Dick lies long in the churchyard,
And Ned lies long in jail,
And I come home to Ludlow
Amidst the moonlight pale.

Although the narrator retraces his steps in returning to Ludlow, everything has changed, particularly the situation of his friends. Like his two visits, the line “Amidst the moonlight pale” repeats and changes. In the first verse the line evokes a lovely, picturesque view, while in the second verse it describes a lifeless feeling, and perhaps even the narrator himself.

Tell us what you think about this poem or post another poem about friendship.