The Flowers of York: The 911 Poems

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One of her favourite adjectives was "perfect," and rarely did she apply it to people.


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Her muses were owls and butterflies, frogs and geese, the changes of the seasons, the sun and the stars. There she is, still scribbling in her notebook,"' Oliver wrote in "Long Life," a book of essays published in Like her hero Walt Whitman, whom she would call the brother she never had, Oliver didn't only observe mushrooms growing in a rainstorm or an owl calling from a black branch; she longed to know and become one with what she saw.

She might be awed by the singing of goldfinches or, as in the poem "White Flowers," overcome by a long nap in a field. Her poetry books included "White Pine," "West Wind" and the anthology "Devotions," which came out in Oliver was a native of Maple Heights in suburban Cleveland, and endured what she called a "dysfunctional" family in part by writing poems and building huts of sticks and grass in the nearby woods.

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Edna St. Vincent Millay was an early influence and, while in high school, Oliver wrote to the late poet's sister, Norma, asking if she could visit Millay's house in Austerlitz, New York. Norma Millay agreed and Oliver ended up spending several years there, organizing Edna St.

Vincent Millay's papers. While in Austerlitz, she also met the photographer Molly Malone Cook -- "I took one look and fell, hook and tumble," Oliver later wrote -- and the two were partners until Cook's death, in Much of Oliver's work was dedicated to Cook. Oliver studied at Ohio State University and Vassar College, but never graduated and later scorned much of her education as "a pre-established collection of certainties. It's already greatly changed.

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And I like the word Well, I just figure jam and jelly, they are words, but the words represent concepts, and the concepts have a kind of a halo around them. I mean, when you talk about jelly, you're implicitly talking about bread and things that you spread it on. No bread needed. JAD: Feeling like he hadn't quite nailed it, Doug sent the poem to one of the guys that translated his first book into French. And Bob was Quit this place, its dark halls and dank walls.

In soft stealth, regain health. JAD: He got the pale face in there. He got the jam. The tone is much more ancient. JAD: Which you could argue well, it's an ancient poem. But Doug says no, no. There's a bigger problem. So extra long. And 28 was a sacrosanct number. That is, the message was get well. JAD: Which is pretty simple, but Doug would argue no, it was the form. That's what made the thing funny and charming. And so the question for him was, who could get the feel but nail the form. And to make a long story short, he ended up sending the poem out to, like, 60 people.

One regard. Oh 'tis hard, dear recluse. Anybody want to give it a translation? I am a person of binges. This began a binge, you might say. JAD: And that binge ended up becoming a page book filled with translations of this poem. This is the best one. No, this is not the best one.

Manual The Flowers of York: The 911 Poems

Okay, here we go. Hug from Doug. Some dumb bug dragged you down. Zap that frown. Feel the urge, bugs to purge. From the scourge, you'll emerge in a trice.

Sound advice from -- ahem -- Doug slash Clem. So smash flu.

You Are OK (A poem by John John O'Callaghan)

Come you who live to chew. Sheets eschew. Sweets let's chew. Pop a tart. Make your heart palpitate.

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Clem's mandate. Sure hope God cures your bod head to feet.


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Pal petite. I must admit it's humorous. Where was it?


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Where in the world was it? This book is long and complicated and JAD: This one from his mom he says, came along years after he started. Get well. Hospital's prison and prison's hell. Flee your cell. Go pig out. Open wide your mouth. Keep those sweetmeats going south. Unless you're hail, you'll turn pale.

Lose ooh-la-la that wiggles your tail. God restore good health to you my little flower, mon petite shoe. She doesn't have 28 lines. She has maybe about 16 lines. She doesn't pay any attention to syllable count. My first reaction was, "Oh, Mom. No, Mom. Come on! What do you -- come on! Didn't you pay any attention to the form? This is my feeling, you know, just that's what I did. It has some kind of pizzazz that no other one ever had. JAD: But if she didn't respect the form, she didn't do the syllables, she didn't rhyme it the way it's supposed to rhyme, she didn't give you 28 lines, she even, like, halved that, practically, is that a translation then or is that just a mom?

I don't -- what is that? As I got more and more deeply into this poem, my philosophy started to become Chairman Mao's statement, "Let one hundred flowers bloom. LYNN: All right, but you can't read a hundred versions of every poem that you want to read. I agree. You're right. JAD: It does make me question though, the rules of engagement in a way.

There are no rules. It's all informal. JAD: Okay, but there's jam in one of the translations and ham in the other. And they're -- like, they're factually different food substances. Somehow like the facts of the poem shouldn't be negotiable, should they? I mean, a fact about the poem is that it was written by somebody in French.

It's not in French anymore. ROBERT: Wait, but now here's what Jad I think was really wondering, is the mission we thought was what was he saying, not what do we make of what he's saying?