Category Archives: Poems and Poets

We still need Aesop

birds of a feather

photo from amazon

I did love Aesop as a kid, but there are droll modern Aesops redux that entertain and still do the job.

These Aesops are better attuned to today’s tastes. Birds of a Feather is a delight. The illustrations by Robert Rayevsky are a visual feast, witty and beautifully matched with the brief rhymed fables by Tom Paxton. We need this wisdom more than ever. If you’re sharing with a little one, they get a laugh and a lesson before they even know it.

“All vultures’ hope of dinner ends When enemies become great friends.” – Peace Breaks Out

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Filed under children's poetry, illustrated, quotable, reviews, social currents

All the Love Poems of Shakespeare Eric Gill Engravings

All the Love Poems of Shakespeare Eric Gill Engravings Sylvan Press 1947



All the Love Poems of Shakespeare Eric Gill Engravings Sylvan Press 1947


Near fine / Good. “Privately Printed for Sylvan Press” but no numbering or edition statement. Gold stripes at edge of protective clear plastic jacket are beginning to pull away a little at the edges, and the jacket is brittle and scratched. Black leather finish boards with faded gilt or green engraving design. End papers are quite yellowed but pages are only lightly yellowed, clean and unmarked. Top of text block is dyed wine red. Other surfaces of text block are yellowed with dust / time. Engravings in the fashion of the era; please contact seller for additional photos.


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Filed under 1940s, illustrated, love poems, Poems and Poets, Shakespeare

A poem for our time – Children kept from the sun


New Poems Dylan Thomas winecountrybooksnapa at gmail

New Poems Dylan Thomas 1943  winecountrybooksnapa at gmail


Some books I just can’t let go. This one… nope.  When I opened this book, as I usually do before I list something interesting, the first poem hit me right in the chest. This beauty is mine for now.




There was a saviour
Rarer than radium,
Commoner than water, crueller than truth;
Children kept from the sun
Assembled at his tongue
To hear the golden note turn in a groove,
Prisoners of wishes locked their eyes
In the jails and studies of his keyless smiles.

The voice of children says
From a lost wilderness
There was calm to be done in his safe unrest,
When hindering man hurt
Man, animal, or bird
We hid our fears in that murdering breath,
Silence, silence to do, when earth grew loud,
In lairs and asylums of the tremendous shout.

There was glory to hear
In the churches of his tears,
Under his downy arm you sighed as he struck,
O you who could not cry
On to the ground when a man died
Put a tear for joy in the unearthly flood
And laid your cheek against a cloud-formed shell:
Now in the dark there is only yourself and myself.

Two proud, blacked brothers cry,
Winter-locked side by side,
To this inhospitable hollow year,
O we who could not stir
One lean sigh when we heard
Greed on man beating near and fire neighbour
But wailed and nested in the sky-blue wall
Now break a giant tear for the little known fall,

For the drooping of homes
That did not nurse our bones,
Brave deaths of only ones but never found,
Now see, alone in us,
Our own true strangers’ dust
Ride through the doors of our unentered house.
Exiled in us we arouse the soft,
Unclenched, armless, silk and rough love that breaks all rocks.

I didn’t find much in the way of scholarly analysis and that’s fine because to me this is very clearly about US, Americans.

We are dead because we are numb and disconnected.

We have attached ourselves to processed substitutes and intermediaries for our joy, our wellness, our communication and connection with others, our society’s laws and values.

Not all substitutes and intermediaries are always inherently bad, no more than a piece of art is somehow not as good as the item or concept it was created to reflect. They are just what they are- they do what they do, they offer what they offer.  Art, Media, Facebook, and other substitutes and intermediaries allow us to share, express, preserve, learn, coordinate.

Some, though, are death wearing a handy benign mask provided by the greed and fear that we allow to pervade our society from within our own hearts to the highest halls of learning and government.  Sometimes they are inherently evil; sometimes they are only killing us because we allow them to because it is easier to find something to numb us than to just connect.

We have been lulled by benign and evil substitutes and intermediaries into letting go of real contact, connection, nourishment, education, competence, and skill.

We are are silent when murder is done and our earth cries out and we ignore the pain of other humans and we cannot cry when we see death. The anger pain and prurient pleasure constantly whipped up by our media, portrayed for ‘entertainment’ and substituted for news by our journalists, keep us complacent and unquestioning of what is really going on and how we really need to engage.

We keep our children out of the sun, literally. They have no time to play outside, and they must not learn for themselves. They have lost the wilderness of childhood, both literally in the sense that children do not get to play outside and in the sense that we pound their joy out of them in favor of conformity, grades, good behavior, shake it off and suck it up and drive on.

We are lost but never found and there is no redemption and we are fine with that.

I have pretty much ignored John Cale, but he did set it to music if you like that sort of thing.  I am sick at heart but thankful for the message. Although, as I read it, I do wonder if, in fact, things truly are all according to plan, all good, all Maya and not worth worrying about because Heaven is always right here, within and all around us, simultaneously with the suffering and evil I, we, choose and prefer to see in every little movement, shadow, difference or change. Is my perception, or lack of it, the real problem here?

In any case, I am off to go really connect with my family in the sunshine.


“Poem” from 

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Filed under Antiquarian, Poems and Poets, quotable, social currents

Read a little James Dickey, shed a little tear, do a little dance

James Dickey: Poems 1957 – 1967. Wesleyan University Press. First Edition.


Photo of James Dickey’s Poems 1957-1967 from Wesleyan University Press

I almost always crack each book I list, unless it is just a numerous and easily available edition of a well known title.

Today I took a minute to randomly read a James Dickey Poem. It was Buck Dancer’s Choice, from the section of the same name.

Then I had to go listen to the song, in several varying styles by several artists. Then I had to go look at videos of buck dancing, which according to Emmylou Harris’ teacher is NOT the same as clogging.

Then I had to wipe a tear.

And now I need some tap shoes. I want to wear them all day all around the house.

The poem and links to some of what I found in my explorations below.

Buckdancer’s Choice


So I would hear out those lungs,
The air split into nine levels,
Some gift of tongues of the whistler
In the invalid’s bed: my mother,
Warbling all day to herself
The thousand variations of one song;
It is called Buckdancer’s Choice.
For years, they have all been dying
Out, the classic buck-and-wing men
Of traveling minstrel shows;
With them also an old woman
Was dying of breathless angina,
Yet still found breath enough
To whistle up in my head
A sight like a one-man band,
Freed black, with cymbals at heel,
An ex-slave who thrivingly danced
To the ring of his own clashing light
Through the thousand variations of one song
All day to my mother’s prone music,
The invalid’s warbler’s note,
While I crept close to the wall
Sock-footed, to hear the sounds alter,
Her tongue like a mockingbird’s break
Through stratum after stratum of a tone
Proclaiming what choices there are
For the last dancers of their kind,
For ill women and for all slaves
Of death, and children enchanted at walls
With a brass-beating glow underfoot,
Not dancing but nearly risen
Through barnlike, theatrelike houses
On the wings of the buck and wing.

James Dickey, “Buckdancer’s Choice” from The Whole Motion: Collected Poems 1945-1992. Copyright © 1992 by James Dickey. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press,

Source: James Dickey: The Selected Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 1998)

A variation of the tune by the great Taj Mahal
Emmylou and Bill Monroe buck dancing to Scotland
 The Meaning of Buck Dance sponsored by The Kennedy Center
Directed by D.C. choreographer Emily Oleson, this work features Urban Artistry with Good Foot Dance Company and Baakari Wilder. The piece investigates the origins behind the term “buck dance,” which in tap dance history is used to describe an early American percussive dance style. Drawing on a short video of buck dance taken by Thomas Edison in 1894, the dancers use the technique of freestyling to compare different dance styles in conversation. Part of Local Dance Commissioning Project.
And this is how cataloging and listing a single book can take up my entire morning.
Off to buy me some cowboy boots with taps.

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Filed under Appalachiana, Poems and Poets, Southern

Two figs


I am digging through my books this morning. I often find the sweetest things.

I found these and loved them.

First Fig
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends–
It gives a lovely light!

Second Fig

Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!

For some time I have been wanting certain friends to ‘play hooky’ with me and spend a day sipping fine spirits and reading poetry. I put play hooky in quotes because with our lives and obligations we will have to plan hooky ahead.

A while back we were listening to M read one of her father’s poems and I mentioned this again. Then H reminded me of Bloomsday. I wrote papers on Joyce in school and I am ashamed to say that I could not name Leopold Bloom and had forgotten about Bloomsday. What kind of literature lover, Kate Bush fan and librarian am I, anyway?

Never mind. Now we know. June 16 2014, 110 years later- Hooky, poetry and fine spirits on Bloomsday it is.

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Filed under Poems and Poets, quotable, Women writers

What else is there to say?

My relationship advice for the year!

From Wendy Watson's A Valentine for You, Available at Wine Country Books winecountrybooksnapa at gmail

From Wendy Watson’s A Valentine for You, Available at Wine Country Books winecountrybooksnapa at gmail

Help each other keep things nice. Don’t leave a mess for someone else to clean up.  It works for the family, it works for the nation and the world when we think of our environment or poverty and other painful social ills. When in doubt, kiss your sweetheart.

It’s a great theme for our family -er, Wine Country Books- because we moved in December, enjoyed the holidays, half of us took a long vacation in January, and we are now picking up the pieces- stacks of moving boxes, missing inventory, remembering how to make the coffee, finding a joyful and productive routine.

Will you be our Valentine?


A Valentine for You by Wendy Watson, 1991, charming traditional rhymes and drawings. Available in Very Good condition at winecountrybooksnapa at gmail $15

A Valentine for You by Wendy Watson, 1991, charming traditional rhymes and drawings. Available in Very Good condition at winecountrybooksnapa at gmail $15

This book is available from us in Very Good condition, very slight signs of wear and rubbing, for $17 plus shipping from our  Amazon Storefront and ABE.

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Filed under children's poetry, love poems, nursery rhymes, Poems and Poets, Valentine's Day

Epiphany and the Magi

I love TS Eliot’s beautiful language and weary tone. As I read it  feels as if I am perpetually struggling home in a foul, foggy, freezing winter twilight, breathing air choked with coal smoke and auto exhaust, longing for hot tea and warm lamplight.

You can hear Eliot reading his Journey of the Magi here, a rare treat.*

It is wonderful to listen to the question the wise man asks, and ponder the double edge of The Holidays.  Be happy,  be gracious, enjoy OR ELSE!! This is a time of mass stress and guilt and acute consciousness of loss and lack in our personal lives and our world, right alongside the dictatorial mandate to celebrate the hope and beauty of various religious and natural events.

In the natural order of things, this should be a time of natural ‘death’- hunkering down, resting, feeling a little melancholy, to make way for spring’s rebirth. Instead we work twice as hard to ‘get ready’ for the season and find it is over before we even enjoyed it.

We are left with regrets-  why did I allow myself to be taken in by obligation, guilt trips and marketing when I KNEW I wouldn’t enjoy myself and that nobody else cared about those details that left me chasing my tail when I should have been just enjoying? Why didn’t I follow my instinct to do less and love and enjoy more?

Instead of hibernating, getting the rest and communion and connection we crave, NEED, to sustain us until spring, our entire nation is not just fighting to be super productive as always, but taking on the obligations and dreams of The Holidays on top- no wonder we are all so dang depressed in January!

A little like the exhausted, wondering narrator, I have doggedly pursued the joy of this season, telling myself that it ain’t over til Epiphany. I just ordered babies for the King cake.

But a voice says ‘Doesn’t the tree look sad, standing there well beyond its season? Take it down. Get on with your life. It’s over now. You know you’re tired. You didn’t start early enough, you didn’t enjoy enough, and now it is over.’  Get thee behind me!

I have worked hard. I have done the right thing, sometimes for not much reward. And yes, I am tired. I am glad to ponder the double edge with the wise man.

One gift that will never be beyond this season is The Books! The holiday has given us time and resolve to stop frantically trying to force the new home into shape and just enjoy. So what do I do when I have a few quiet moments? I work on the books, of course! I’ve been going through the collection yet again as we move it into our new digs, and came across this sweet little book.

The Star of Bethlehem Jeanne K. Hanson $10

The Star of Bethlehem Jeanne K. Hanson $10

The author discusses the astronomical possibilities and the mysteries of symbolism and prophecy surrounding the Star of Bethlehem that led the Three Kings on their journey.  The drawings by Glenn Wolff are very sweet, but what I loved most about it was the snippets of medieval ballads, plays, poetry and scripture throughout, including Eliot’s Journey.

I truly enjoyed stopping to ponder, in a way I should have been pondering since Thanksgiving. Because we were moving, I did give myself some freedom from the world of endlessly stressful holiday to-do lists… but I still didn’t ponder enough or enjoy enough. We were moving, packing, unpacking, rushing, buying, running here and there. Perhaps next year I will do better… Meanwhile, I have dear weary Eliot** and it ain’t over til Epiphany.

*Yes, I know about his racism, his misogyny, his anti-semitism and I absolutely do not approve. But I fell in love with these works before I knew, and we share a culture (sort of) in the Episcopal church. In spite of his airs and snobbery, please, please let me enjoy Prufrock and Journey and Wasteland on their own sad and cynical terms?

** See *

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Filed under Christmas, History, Poems and Poets, the holidays, winter


It isn’t that I am bloody minded.  I am- I did, after all, just advise a friend whose husband was dropping dramatic hints that he might be starting the flu YET AGAIN to just smother him with a pillow. But that is a useful thought any time of the year, yes?

And I love the original dark and violent Grimm’s fairy tales, Disney will never compare, and I love Angela Carter’s fairy tale collection The Bloody Chamber, and… and…

But no, it isn’t the pain, gore, fear, Freddy, Jason, murder, mayhem, angry spirits back to exact revenge recently brought to Halloween.

I love Halloween for its sense of possibility. The light is changing, the weather is changing, the dark folds its arms around us for longer and longer each night… there’s a funny energy of ‘not quite the same’ or perhaps even ‘not quite right’ (of course, ‘right’ isn’t always good…) Who knows what one might see or dream up and be able to create and share if one were only paying attention, or what dear departed soul might touch us gently and remind us just how much they love us if we were just paying attention?

Every year Halloween sneaks up on me. This year I had fun appreciating the season, and had time to watch my beloved Nightmare Before Christmas- although strictly speaking, NMBC takes place in the days AFTER Halloween, but you know, Christmas season cannot last too long.

But why didn’t I take the time all month long, starting the very day the light began to slant and the shadows to lengthen as autumn came on, to let my imagination run wild over the emotional and visual landscape of the possible? So many wonderful literary works are available to light up the dark corners of our imagination in the most delicious ways.

What are some of your favorite Halloween time reads?

Sister, can you spare a shiver?

These are some that come to mind for me, off the top of my head.

Goblin Market, with its sense of being trapped by our own desires- try illustrating that in your mind!  

The intertwining of fate, romance, and a shiver of the supernatural of  Halloween by Robert Burns, the sober observations of Poe’s Spirits of the Dead and the lovely dramatic longing and grief of his Lenore,  even the Princess books by Mac Donald – The Princess and Curdie are available free on Project Gutenberg, hurrah!!

One of the Cottingly Fairy Photos

One of the Cottingly Fairy Photos

A. Conan Doyle’s fairy books, and other Victorian era books on magic or spiritualism- Aleister Crowley, Edgar Cayce anyone?



Or let’s get crazy and  move on to the tricky, angry demons and other wonderful beings of world religions and mythology, or perhaps the fantastical scientific and biological alternate history / almost true landscape of the most wonderful series I have ever read, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials  trilogy. The possible, the possible, the possible…  don’t shy away from the darker works. They  invite us into the closet of our imagination, where we hide our creative vision and sense of wonder.

What about the doors Neil Gaiman’s books or Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits (lightweight compared to, say, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, yes, but soulful!) open to how these many creatures and spirits must look? Why didn’t I read more carefully that copy of Vampires, Burial and Death I sold a few weeks ago?

Never mind.

I will re post this next year, with the same question- what, to you, is the most delicious read you can think of, related to other worlds, unknown creatures or beings, magic? Inquiring minds want to know. Today, next year, share a delicious shiver, would you?

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Filed under halloween, Poems and Poets

Birthday (For L_____, October First) by Jean Starr Untermeyer


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September 30, 2013 · 10:10 pm

They love indeed who quake to say they love.

Astrophel And Stella—Sonnet LIV

Sir Philip Sidney

Because I breathe not love to every one,
Nor do not use set colours for to wear,
Nor nourish special locks of vowed hair,
Nor give each speech a full point of a groan,
The courtly nymphs, acquainted with the moan
Of them who in their lips Love’s standard bear,
“What, he!” say they of me, “now I dare swear
He cannot love. No, no, let him alone.”—
And think so still, so Stella know my mind!
Profess indeed I do not Cupid’s art;
But you, fair maids, at length this true shall find,
That his right badge is worn but in the heart.
Dumb swans, not chattering pies, do lovers prove:
They love indeed who quake to say they love.

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