oppc_poster_0207Welcome to the One Page Poetry Circle at St. Agnes Branch Library!

Date: Tuesday, February 7
Time: 5:30 – 6:30 pm
Place: St. Agnes Branch Library, 444 Amsterdam Ave. (81st St.), 3rd Fl.
Theme: Poetry and Snakes

We’re back for the ninth 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 955 poems and have read countless others in pursuit of poetry that speaks to them.

Snakes! Yikes! It’s hard not to respond strongly to them and admire them for their mythic appearances in the Garden of Eden, the works of Dr. Freud, the flag of Mexico, the “don’t tread on me” sign, in the grass, and on the campaign trail of Donald Trump where he recited the lyrics of “The Snake,” an Al Wilson song written by Oscar Brown, suggesting the cold bloodedness of snakes and refugees. Because of their ability to shed their skin snakes are also a symbol of rebirth, transformation, and healing, fitting for the start of a new year.

AnnaLee loves “Snake” by D. H. Lawrence who had a great influence on his era’s views on sex, religion, and nature. In a humanist alternative to the Adam and Eve story, Lawrence’s 18-stanza poem opens with a man’s chance meeting with a poisonous snake:

A snake came to my water-trough 
On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat, 
To drink there.

Through alliteration, repetition, enjambment, and more, Lawrence evokes the snake’s slithery slow movements, the darting tongue, and how the creature slakes his thirst. Mr. Snake seems to own his world, until:

The voice of my education said to me 
He must be killed, 
For in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, the gold are 

The man wrestles with the familiar lessons: that he should fear the evil snake, that to like the creepy guy is perverse, and that not to kill him would be cowardly. The voices within him prevail, and he strikes the creature when its back is turned.

I looked round, I put down my pitcher, 
I picked up a clumsy log 
And threw it at the water-trough with a clatter.

When the poem ends, the man recognizes he has made a mistake. He regrets his sin of narrow-mindedness and must atone.

For he seemed to me again like a king, 
Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld, 
Now due to be crowned again.

And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords 
Of life. 
And I have something to expiate: 
A pettiness.

One of Abigail’s favorite snake poems is Shel Silverstein’s “Boa Constrictor”:

Oh, I’m being eaten 
By a boa constrictor,
A boa constrictor,
A boa constrictor,
I’m being eaten by a boa constrictor,
And I don’t like it–one bit.
Well, what do you know?
It’s nibblin’ my toe.
Oh, gee,
It’s up to my knee.
Oh my,
It’s up to my thigh.
Oh, fiddle,
It’s up to my middle.
Oh, heck,
It’s up to my neck.
Oh, dread,
It’s upmmmmmmmmmmffffffffff . . .

What are your thoughts on the subject of snakes in poetry? Please blog with us here by clicking on the small speech balloon near the title of this post. Our url is

Spring 2017 Schedule:
February 7, Poetry and Snakes
March 7, Poetry and Anaphora
April 18, Poetry and Silence
May 9, Poetry and Theft

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.