Friday, August 5, 2011

Poetry Friday: Poems That Go Nowhere in Particular

The idea of wandering appeals to me. Strolling. Heading nowhere. Keeping my eyes open, yes; observing, yes; but with no real "goal." Indulging in the art of the flaneur - the art of "attentive wandering."

Some poems enjoy doing the same thing - they're not headed anywhere. They stroll. They often become my favorites, and today, I want to share one with you. It's written by Edna St. Vincent Millay, whose reputation as a fine poet declined during WWII when she turned to "propaganda poetry" for the War Board. Such a shame, because she was a stunningly good poet at her best, and I think her work is too often overlooked now, made to stay in the shadow of Modernists like Pound, Eliot and Auden.  Here, she wanders and plays with language, but you can feel the heart and the intelligence behind the play.

Counting-Out Rhyme

Silver bark of beech, and sallow
Bark of yellow birch and yellow
Twig of willow.

Stripe of green in moosewood maple,
Colour seen in leaf of apple,
Bark of popple.

Wood of popple pale as moonbeam,
Wood of oak for yoke and barn-beam,
Wood of hornbeam.

Silver bark of beech, and hollow
Stem of elder, tall and yellow
Twig of willow.

                     Edna St. Vincent Millay

"...sallow bark of yellow birch...."

"...and yellow twig of willow....."
The round-up for Poetry Friday this week is over at A Year of Literacy Coaching. Head over there to see what other people have posted!


  1. I haven't been here in quite a while, so first I should tell you how much I like the new "look."

    I found a volume of Millay's poems in a used bookstore a few years back. It's full of treasures! I didn't realize that she wrote war propaganda, but I can understand how that overshadowed her work. I do love the piece you've shared.

  2. in high school my AP english teacher managed to infect us with the playful notion that edna st. vincent millay's lilting, poetic name was incomplete: he insisted whenever her name was said -- and always in full -- that we pound our desks twice to finish the meter.

    edna st. vincent millay boom-boom!,

    to this day, certain of my fellow classmates can be counted on to pound out the boom-boom as if by reflex.

    after that, it always felt as if you could recognize a millay poem by the quality of her loping rhythms, as if her name had forced upon her a sort of lyrical limp she couldn't escape.

    and this is a fine example. thanks!

  3. Thanks for this, Julie. I hadn't read that particular Millay before. Dave's comment was very interesting! Boom boom!