Catherine Chandler's Poetry Blog

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

2012 Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award - Finalist

I'm thrilled to announce that my sonnet, "Composure", has been chosen by Rhina P. Espaillat as one of twelve finalists for the 2012 Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award. I won the award in 2010 and was a finalist in 2008 and 2009.

Gail White's sonnet, "Old Photographs" was chosen as the winner.

The winning sonnet and all finalists' poems will be published in an upcoming issue of Measure.

The Dawning

Waves breaking on Playa Brava. Photo by Catherine Chandler

The Dawning

The sea, relentless in her give-and-take,
her rising, falling waves that seem to make
amends in silence just before they break
ashore, reflects the instant I awake —

a moment of reprieve, when every snake
I realize is fantasy or fake;
when life’s a bowl of cherries. Piece of cake.
(There must have been some terrible mistake . . .)

And then the crash. The undertow. The ache.

"The Dawning" by Catherine Chandler. First published in Angle Poetry Journal, Issue #1, 2012, as part of "Two Poems of the Sea".

Monday, January 28, 2013

To a Minor Goddess

The South Atlantic, Uruguay. Photo by Catherine Chandler, January 2013

To a Minor Goddess

Wave on wave all heaving and arch and spillage;
blue and green and grey overlaid with silver.
Christmas Day — my saviour the South Atlantic.
            Triumph. Surrender.
All my gods have failed me, yet Achelois,
you have watched me wavering in the billows;
you have heard me weeping the wail of seagulls,
            and you have answered:

Do not look for eyes in the dancing diamonds;
do not long for lullabies in the breakers;
do not lend  more tears to the salt of oceans’
             flotsam and jetsam.

Listen for the crash. See the string of seafoam
lace that hems the sand with a hush and whisper.
Silence. Nothing. Everything. Constellations.
            Guardian angels.        

"To a Minor Goddess" by Catherine Chandler. First published in Angle Poetry Journal, Issue 1, 2012


Friday, January 25, 2013

Say "Cheese"!!!

Bleu de Gex, from Wikipedia

More good news!

My Housman parody, "Loveliest of Cheese" will be published in LightenUp Online, a U.K. quarterly online site for humorous poetry, this coming March.

Another parody, my "Another Art" (after Elizabeth Bishop), appears in the webzine's December 2012 issue HERE

Saturday, January 19, 2013

In Uruguay

Dear Readers,

I'm currently in Uruguay (my husband's homeland). Will be posting again soon.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Journey poem by Catherine Chandler

Catherine Chandler, trekking in Patagonia, January 2004











I'm leaving today for South America, so I'll wind up my "journey"-themed poem sequence with one of my own, a villanelle, published in Lines of Flight (Able Muse Press, 2011).

¡ Hasta pronto !

by Catherine Chandler

We love the things we love for what they are. – Robert Frost, “Hyla Brook”

From Pennsylvania she has traveled far,
yet home is in the valley and the hills.
She loves the things she loves for what they are.

The watchful moon once tracked a Pullman car
past dingy culm banks and the linen mills
of Pennsylvania. She has traveled far

into the sunset, toward the evening star,
spent lavish pesos, pink two-dollar bills,
and loved. Some things she loves for where they are,

yearning, like dyads on a steel guitar,
for rivers, be they Canada’s, Brazil’s
or Pennsylvania’s. Though she’s traveled far,

she’s always thought in terms of au revoir,
a promise that (if dreams count) she fulfills.
Those souls she loved and loves know who they are,

and leaving them behind has left a scar,
a tolerance for pain and sleeping pills.
From Pennsylvania she has traveled far
and wide. She weeps, but loves things as they are.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Journey Poem by Robert Frost

Photo by Richard P. Gibbs





The Road Not Taken

by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Journey Poem by Emily Dickinson

Dried Forest from

Poem #615
by Emily Dickinson

Our journey had advanced —
Our feet were almost come
To that odd Fork in Being's Road —
Eternity — by Term —

Our pace took sudden awe —
Our feet — reluctant — led —
Before — were Cities — but Between —
The Forest of the Dead —

Retreat — was out of Hope —
Behind — a Sealed Route —
Eternity's White Flag — Before —
And God — at every Gate —

Monday, January 7, 2013

Journey Poem by Mary Oliver

Christmas Tree Cluster (NASA files)

The Journey  
by Mary Oliver
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Journey Poem by T. S. Eliot

Les rois mages en voyage by James Tissot


The Journey of the Magi
by T. S. Eliot

'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Journey Poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay

"Grass in a Field" by Jeremy C. Schultz

I will be leaving for South America on January 10 (God willing), so I thought I'd reprint some journey-themed poems on my blog.

by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Ah, could I lay me down in this long grass
And close my eyes, and let the quiet wind
Blow over me—I am so tired, so tired
Of passing pleasant places! All my life,
Following Care along the dusty road,
Have I looked back at loveliness and sighed;
Yet at my hand an unrelenting hand
Tugged ever, and I passed. All my life long
Over my shoulder have I looked at peace;
And now I fain would lie in this long grass
And close my eyes.
Yet onward!
Cat birds call
Through the long afternoon, and creeks at dusk
Are guttural. Whip-poor-wills wake and cry,
Drawing the twilight close about their throats.
Only my heart makes answer. Eager vines
Go up the rocks and wait; flushed apple-trees
Pause in their dance and break the ring for me;
And bayberry, that through sweet bevies thread
Of round-faced roses, pink and petulant,
Look back and beckon ere they disappear.
Only my heart, only my heart responds.
Yet, ah, my path is sweet on either side
All through the dragging day,—sharp underfoot
And hot, and like dead mist the dry dust hangs—
But far, oh, far as passionate eye can reach,
And long, ah, long as rapturous eye can cling,
The world is mine: blue hill, still silver lake,
Broad field, bright flower, and the long white road
A gateless garden, and an open path:
My feet to follow, and my heart to hold.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Austere Snow

Catherine Chandler, February 1952

Poem 942 by Emily Dickinson

Snow beneath whose chilly softness
Some that never lay
Make their first Repose this Winter
I admonish Thee

Blanket Wealthier the Neighbor
We so new bestow
Than thine acclimated Creature
Wilt Thou, Austere Snow?

Miss you, Dad . . .

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


I have received many comments from readers referring to how my poetry, with its "orderly", "contained" and "controlled" language, nevertheless communicates strong emotions and touches them deeply.

Most recently I've received these comments on my poems "Coming to Terms" (a sonnet) "Gia Dinh" (a rondeau), "Journey" (a villanelle), "Wing-stroke" (ballad stanza), "Shadow Fish (Sapphic stanzas), "Eleven" (a list poem), and "Edward Hopper's Automat" (an ekphrastic poem in English sestets).

I appreciate these comments because they are witnesses to why I write: out of compassion and with the hope of (to paraphrase Millay) somehow putting chaos into fourteen lines, without spitting it out or spelling it out.

In my poem, "Sonnet Love" (which, of course, is a play on the term "love sonnet" -- as I "count the ways" I love sonnets), I express this philosophy in the first four lines:

I love the way its rhythm and its rhymes
provide us with a promise, a belief
familiar voices at specific times
may modulate unmanageable grief.

At times the emotional source of the poems is so great that distances of decades are required before an attempt at writing a poem is possible. For example, it took me thirty-two years to write "Coming to Terms" (which won the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award in 2010), thirty-five to write "Gia Dinh", forty to write "Journey" and forty-five to write "The Flying Moment".

The Shakespearean sonnet I submitted to this year's Nemerov competition (I can't name it here, since the poems are still being judged), directly addresses the concept of metriopatheia, that is, the tactic for dealing with intense emotions through moderation. Though there is a moment of radiant ignition in the sestet, the final couplet turns the volta upon itself, in heartbreakingly simple terms.

This link to Howard Nemerov's poem "Poetics"  HERE will answer your nagging question as to why the image of a Steelers helmet appears above ;-)  .