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Personal anthology: Osip Mandelstam

Take from my palms, to soothe your heart,a little honey, a little sun,in obedience to Persephone’s bees. You can’t untie a boat that was never moored,nor hear a shadow in its furs,nor move through thick life without fear. For us, all that’s left is kissestattered as the little beesthat die when they leave the hive. […]

Personal anthology: Rainer Maria Rilke

In honor of the leaves finally turning, and because it’s been in my head lately: Autumn Day Lord: it is time. The huge summer has gone by.Now overlap the sundials with your shadows,and on the meadows let the wind go free. Command the fruits to swell on tree and vine;grant them a few more warm […]

On not being an island

Who casts not up his eye to the sun when it rises? but who takes off his eye from a comet when that breaks out? Who bends not his ear to any bell which upon any occasion rings? but who can remove it from that bell which is passing a piece of himself out of […]

Personal anthology: Paul Verlaine

Fall semester starts here next week (yes, even though it’s before Labor Day, and even though it’s still August). It’s been one of those workweeks where my planner has been pretty much solidly filled with appointments and meetings. And this weekend, I’ve got to work on an article I promised to contribute to an essay […]

Personal anthology: Anne Carson

Bane’s adaptation of the newly-discovered Sappho poem (and her earlier post about translating Horace’s Soracte ode) has made me think about both classical Greek and Latin poetry and the practice of free translation.* While thinking, I remembered Anne Carson’s adaptation of Catullus 50 in Men in the Off Hours: Hesterno Licini Die Otiosi (Yesterday Licinius […]

Personal anthology: Wislawa Szymborska

Because it’s been ages since I posted anything from the commonplace-book… Four A.M. The hour between night and day. The hour between toss and turn. The hour of thirty-year-olds. The hour swept clean for rooster’s crowing. The hour when the earth takes back its warm embrace. The hour of cool drafts from extinguished stars. The […]

Personal anthology: Stuart Dybek

For once, a prose passage for the commonplace book. This is the beginning of Stuart Dybek’s wonderful short story "Pet Milk," in The Coast of Chicago (New York: Vintage, 1991): Today I’ve been drinking instant coffee and Pet milk, and watching it snow. It’s not that I enjoy the taste especially, but I like the […]


I’m back, at least for the time being. Things are still very far from all right, but the outlook is a little less dire than I initially feared. I’d still rather not talk about the situation; it’s in the category of "things that are too personal to share with the entire internet." I don’t want […]

Readings for a snowy Saturday

It snowed this morning, the kind of big heavy flakes that make audible contact with the ground when they fall. It feels like the snow days of my youth. I’ve been having a decadently late lunch of classic cold-weather food (grilled cheese sandwiches) and listening to the Met’s broadcast of their 1967 Aida with Leontyne […]

The sopping Friday

It rained all day today, a cold damp drizzly day with most of the leaves off the trees. In the morning there was heavy fog; I always measure fogginess by whether I can see the hill off to the west of the Alderman Library as I head up the steps each morning, and today it […]