Archives for posts with tag: Langston Hughes

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

On March 10th we met to discuss Poetry and Muses.

AnnaLee opened the circle by reading Abigail’s selection, “The Serving Maid,” by Arthur Joseph Munby, in which the author becomes entranced by his muse, a lower class working woman: “When you go out at early morn,/Your busy hands, sweet drudge, are bare;/For you must work, and none are there/To see with scorn—to feel with scorn.”

Cate chose the poet Marge Piercy’s “To be of use,” in which the poet admires those who gain fulfillment from using their skills: “The people I love the best/jump into work head first/without dallying in the shallows/and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.”

Gail chose “A Sonnet to the Noble Lady, the Lady Mary Wroth” by the 17th century poet Ben Jonson, in which he pays his muse tribute: “Since I exscribe your sonnets, am become/A better lover, and much better poet.”

Jan read Ross Gay’s “Sorrow Is Not My Name,” with these beautiful lines: “there are, on this planet alone, something like two/million naturally occurring sweet things,/some with names so generous as to kick/the steel from my knees: agave, persimmon,/stick ball, the purple okra I bought for two bucks.”

Pat read “I Hear America Singing” by Walt Whitman, in which the poet is inspired by both unum and pluribus: “Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,/The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,/Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.”

Stan followed aptly with “Dreams,” by Langston Hughes, whose poetry was inspired by Whitman, among others: “Hold fast to dreams/For if dreams die/Life is a broken-winged bird/That cannot fly.”

Daria read “Do Not Grieve Your Muse,” by K. P. Nunez, in which the poet reminds her younger self: “You have forgotten your muse./You neglected her, in the hustle and bustle/of city life, in trying to carve a niche,/driving yourself too hard -/thinking it could make you rich.”

AnnaLee brought us full circle with Meena Alexander’s “Muse,” who instructs the poet: “Write in the light/of all the languages/you know the earth contains,/you murmur in my ear./This is pure transport.”

Roger couldn’t be there, but had planned to read “The Muse Who Came to Stay” by Erica Jong: “The others began & ended with a wish,/or a glance or a kiss between stanzas;/the others strode away in the pointed boots of their fear.” Carol thought of John Lennon’s “I Sat Belonely” in which the narrator thinks he sees a lady, then realizes it is a pig, and then “To my surprise the lady,/got up – and flew away.” Kai examined seven different translations of the start of The Iliad—the idea of the muse varied in each one.

As I am sure you all know, the NYPL is closed due to the ongoing public health crisis due to Covid-19. We’ll keep you posted on their decisions going forward. For the April One Page Poetry Circle, we will ask you to send us your poems with a comment on why you chose them, so that we can share them by email and through this blog.

In the meantime, please blog with us here at

Spring 2020 Schedule for sharing poems
April 14, Poetry and Satire
May 12, Poetry and Joy

Be well and be safe

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.

The One Page Poetry Circle at St. Agnes Branch Library! met February 12th to discuss Poetry and You. We were delighted so many braved the storm to join us.

Abigail opened the circle with “Theme for English B,” Langston Hughes’s response to an assignment of writing about yourself that brings up the problem of what makes you “you.” The author writes about the racial difference between himself and the instructor, but stresses what links them, “You are white—/yet a part of me, as I am a part of you./That’s American.”

Roger read Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise” with its stirring optimism, “Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,/I am the dream and the hope of the slave./I rise/I rise/I rise.”

Gail read “It Is Later Than You Think” by Robert W. Service in which the narrator humorously reminds us of a sad truth, “Ah! the clock is always slow;/It is later than you think;/Sadly later than you think;/Far, far later than you think.”

Elizabeth read Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese” wherein the narrator tells us that no matter how sad we are, we can find beauty in the world around us, “Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again./Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,/the world offers itself to your imagination.”

Christiana read Alessandra Lynch’s “Funeral: For Us His Gold,” an ecstatic poem about a couple discovering a dead insect, “Yellow had alerted us to him, and we took care/with leaf and clover to make his bed./The insect’s gold our togetherness, its death from which we fed.”

Daria read Shanel Marion’s “Be You,” which reminds us that we are all unique, “No One can change You/not one or two/people can change You.”

Lenny thought of “Church Going” by Philip Larkin which questions the attraction of religious institutions, “A serious house on serious earth it is,/In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,/Are recognized, and robed as destinies./And that much never can be obsolete.”

Cate read Philip Levine’s “The Search for Lorca’s Shadow” an examination of the site of Federico Lorca’s assassination and its meaning for the narrator, “First forgive the ants/or we’ll get nowhere in this useless search/for the darkness he was and the darkness/he became.”

AnnaLee closed the circle with Pablo Neruda’s beloved poem “Your Laughter”: “deny me bread, air,/light, spring,/but never your laughter/for I would die.”

Jane could not be there but blogged about “Standing Up” a three-line poem by Erica Funkhouser:

Like a tree that has been chosen
for the owl’s home
I stand up differently today

We’re looking forward to seeing you at the March 5th One Page Poetry Circle. Whether a poem reminds you of food, or starvation, or cooking, choose a poem that has meaning to you. And if you can, come with copies for others to share. Can’t locate a poem you want to bring? Browse the poetry section at the library or check out Poetry Foundation or

In the meantime, please blog with us about poetry, here at

Spring 2019 Season

Tuesday, March 5, Poetry about Food
Tuesday, April 2, Poetry and Mystery
Tuesday, May 7, Poetry and Longing

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 (OPPC) blog.

We met on April 17th to talk about Poetry and Timing. The poems people brought were diverse in their interpretation, prompting everyone to agree that every poem written would fit the subject.

Abigail opened the circle by reading “Shadow March” by Robert Louis Stevenson, in which a child in bed describes the terrors of the night with lines that create a unique timing by alternating meters and rhymes, “The shadow of the balusters, the shadow of the lamp,/The shadow of the child that goes to bed — /All the wicked shadows coming tramp, tramp, tramp,/With the black night overhead.”

Roger read “Time and Life” by Algernon Charles Swinburne with its contrasting views of time, “Girt about with shadow, blind and lame,/Ghosts of things that smite and thoughts that sicken/Hunt and hound thee down to death and shame,” followed by the thought that “rest is born of me for healing.”

Hazel read Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Sunset” from Queen Mab, an intoxicating view of a particular time of day, “Whilst suns their mingling beamings darted/Through clouds of circumambient darkness,/And pearly battlements around/Looked o’er the immense of heaven.”

Gail read Robin Chapman’s “Time” in which the narrator’s 87 year-old neighbor rings the doorbell and proceeds to give an update on her life, “her car and driver’s license/are missing though she can drive perfectly/well, just memory problems, and her son/is coming this morning to take her up/to Sheboygan, where she was born.” The poem is also a wonderful example of Enjambment, which was last month’s theme.

Terry read Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 49” on the unreliability of love and the law of human nature, which begins, “Against that time, if ever that time come,/When I shall see thee frown on my defects,” and ends, “To leave poor me thou hast the strength of laws,/Since why to love I can allege no cause.”

Christiana read “The Listeners” by Walter de la Mare, with its enigmatic sense of bad timing, “But only a host of phantom listeners/That dwelt in the lone house then/Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight/To that voice from the world of men.”

Cate read Carolyn Kizer’s “Reunion” in which the narrator describes meeting a man she knew thirty years before, who had taught her, “inadvertently” that “The finest intellect can be a bore”…“I nod, I sip my wine, I praise your view,/Grateful, my dear, that I escaped from you.”

AnnaLee closed the circle with Edith Sitwell’s raucous “Sir Beelzebub” which begins “When/Sir/Beelzebub called for his syllabub in the hotel in Hell/Where Proserpine first fell” and ends “None of them come!” The poem was set to music by William Walton and recited by Barbara Hannigan.

Linda couldn’t attend the poetry circle but had chosen Langston Hughes’s “What Happens to a Dream Deferred”:

What happens to a dream deferred?
 Does it dry up
 Like a raisin in the sun?
 Or fester like a sore—
 And then run?
 Does it stink like rotten meat?
 Or crust and sugar over—
 like a syrupy sweet?
 Maybe it just sags
 like a heavy load.
 Or does it explode? 

We look forward to seeing you for Poetry and Choice, Tuesday May 8 at St. Agnes Branch Library in Manhattan. Choice will conclude the Spring Season of the One Page Poetry Circle. Look back here in the coming weeks for the Fall schedule and poetry themes.

In the meantime, please blog with us here at

See you soon —
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, April 12
Time: 5:30 – 6:30 pm
Place: St. Agnes Branch Library, 444 Amsterdam Ave (81st St.), 3rd Fl
Theme: Poetry and Identity

Find a poem! Show up! Read a poem! Discuss a poem!

Masquerade_MardisGrasWe’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 879 poems and have read countless others in pursuit of poetry that speaks to them.

Come to St. Agnes on Tuesday, April 12 to discuss Poetry and Identity, a subject that’s sure to provoke lively discussions. The question of who we are is basic to existence. Do we define ourselves in relation to others? John Clare, during his 22 years in Northampton’s General Lunatic Asylum, begins his poem “I Am!” with these words: “I am—yet what I am none cares or knows;/My friends forsake me like a memory lost.” And who are the others? When Alice in Wonderland cannot answer the caterpillar’s question of who she is, she asks him, “Who are you?”

Edward Lear describes himself as others see him,

How pleasant to know Mr. Lear,
Who has written such volumes of stuff!
Some think him ill-tempered and queer,
But a few think him pleasant enough.

As Alice learned, identity is not fixed and rigid, but can change. Langston Hughes, in “Theme for English B,” states the facts of himself but wonders if that defines him, “It’s not easy to know what is true for you or me/at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I’m what/I feel and see and hear.” And in Auden’s poem “In Memory of W.B. Yeats,” identity evolves from the living to the dead and beyond to a sort of resurrection:

But for him it was his last afternoon as himself,
An afternoon of nurses and rumours;
The provinces of his body revolted,
The squares of his mind were empty,
Silence invaded the suburbs,
The current of his feeling failed; he became his admirers.

Now he is scattered among a hundred cities
And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections;
To find his happiness in another kind of wood
And be punished under a foreign code of conscience.
The words of a dead man
Are modified in the guts of the living.

…Post your thoughts here on Poetry and Identity. And join the circle if you can on April 12. See the particulars, above.



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 December 9 One Page Poetry Circle met to discuss Poetry and Drink. We were grateful that a small but lively band braved the nor’easter and headed to the library with poems in hand.

BourbonBottleFrustrationAbigail began by reading Jon Loomis’ “Deer Hit” which describes a night when a drunk seventeen year-old hits a deer, puts it in the back of his father’s car, and drives home. The teen’s father, waiting up and watching tv, having had a few drinks himself, drags the deer out of the car and kills it. The poem concludes, “Some things stay with you. Dumping the body/deep in the woods, like a gangster. The dent/in your nose. All your life, the trail of ruin you leave”, leaving us to ponder how too much drink can lead to unintended consequences.

Roger read “The Demon Drink” by William McGonagall, who is often cited as the worst poet in the history of English literature although he developed a cult following during the Victorian era. McGonagall sought prohibition rather than just advising men to limit their drinking: “But no matter what he thinks, I say nay,/For by taking it he helps to lead his brother astray,/Whereas, if he didn’t drink, he would help to reform society,/And we would soon do away with all inebriety.” We all laughed at McGonagall’s flailing rhythms, forced rhymes and simplistic ideas.

Hazel read Edward Arlington Robinson’s “Miniver Cheevy” which ends: “Miniver Cheevy, born too late,/Scratched his head and kept on thinking;/Miniver coughed, and called it fate,/And kept on drinking.” His drinking isn’t mentioned until the last word of the poem, but that twists our perception of everything that has gone before. Cheevy romanticizes the past and drinks away his future.

Gail read “The Café Filtre” by Paul Blackburn in which the narrator takes his time to eat a meal, sip his wine, feed and pet his cat. With the same persistence, he punctuates the meal by tamping down the lid of his filter-coffee maker to push the water through the grains. At the end of the meal and the poem “The coffee goes down at a gulp, it/is black/& lukewarm”, we are left with disappointment. Perhaps the poet is speaking of everyday life.

Mady read Emily Dickinson’s “I taste a liquor never brewed,” in which the narrator is drunk, not from alcohol, but from nature, “Inebriate of air—am I—/And Debauchee of Dew—/Reeling—thro’ endless summer days—/From inns of molten Blue—”.

Marilyn read “Autumn Note” by Langston Hughes which ends, “The cold of winter comes apace/And you have gone away.” This reminder of autumn’s melancholy definitely matched the weather outside.

AnnaLee completed our circle with Evelyn Duncan’s “Picking Up” in which the author recalls being surprised by her teetotaler mother, who, rather than waste food during the Depression, distills brandy from overripe pears to store in the basement. When her father finds an out-of-town job, and the family is packing to go, her mother, again not wanting to waste, gives the brew to the movers who become inebriated. Driving down the highway the family discovers, “lying in the road or ditch: first/the chamber pot and dress; next,/a chair, a bucket, and a box of sheets./But drunk with hope, we praised our luck,/sang ‘Bringing in the Sheaves’/as we collected what the truck had dropped.”

Merrie couldn’t join us, but emailed these familiar lines from the self-styled “Worsifier,” Ogden Nash:

Is dandy

But liquor
Is quicker.

… and Larry (an OPPC regular before he moved) posted a few poems on our blog, one “The Winos on Potrero Hill” from the 60s author Richard Brautigan.

You’ll find Brautigan’s poem as well as commentary and all things having to do with poetry on our blog at .

Enjoy the holidays! We look forward to seeing you in 2015.

Spring 2015 Line Up:
February 10: Poems about every day things
March 10: Poetry and red
April 14: Lyric poetry
May 12: Poetry and health

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.

OPPC_Nov04_PoliticsJoin the One Page Poetry Circle on Election Day, November 4 to discuss Poetry and Politics.

Even when poems are not directly about politics, they are imbued with it as a poem expresses the author’s view of the world and how it should be. In the poems that follow, two great poets present their visions of America. In Walt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing,” the poet celebrates the people of our country through the glorification of labor:

I HEAR America singing, the varied carols I hear;
Those of mechanics—each one singing his, as it should be, blithe and
The carpenter singing his, as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his, as he makes ready for work, or leaves off
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat—the deckhand
        singing on the steamboat deck;
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench—the hatter singing as
        he stands;
The wood-cutter’s song—the ploughboy’s, on his way in the morning,
        or at the noon intermission, or at sundown;
The delicious singing of the mother—or of the young wife at work—or
        of the girl sewing or washing—Each singing what belongs to
        her, and to none else;
The day what belongs to the day—At night, the party of young
        fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing, with open mouths, their strong melodious songs.

In response to Whitman’s view, Langston Hughes wrote “I, Too” in which he reminds the reader of those America left out:

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”

They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—

I, too, am America

Although we may be disgusted with our politicians, we are proud of our democracy in which all can contribute to the solving of our problems.

Click on the speech balloon next to the subject of this blog post and send us your own thoughts or poems on the subject of Poetry and Politics. Or any another other poetry subject!

While you are thinking, mark November 4th on your calendars for the next One Page Poetry Circle. 

Date: Tuesday, November 4
Time: 5:30 – 6:30 pm
Place: St. Agnes Branch Library, 444 Amsterdam Avenue (near 81st Street), 3rd Floor
Theme: Poetry and Politics