A Pagan's Blog

A Pagan's Blog

My Favorite Poem

It is National Poetry Month and some have suggested I offer my favorite poem on this blog.  I have a small number of favorite poems, and a strong preference for a particular type of poem, ones that meld us with Place, and the deeper meaning beyond words of that Place.  

But my favorite poem of all, one that deeply changed how I experience my world, is not like that.  Not quite.  And yet in another much more subtle way it is.

When I was a college student I found it written on the wall of the men’s room in the Bierstube in Lawrence, Kansas, next to the observation “You don’t buy beer, you rent it.”

The verse affected me deeply when I encountered it in the 60s.  It has never stopped doing so.  The whole poem was not there, only a crucial part.  Even that part was in translation from the original Russian.  I give it now, excerpted from Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s “People” in his Selected Poems


In any man who dies there dies with him
His first snow and kiss and fight.
It goes with him.

They are left books and bridges
And painted canvas and machinery.

Whose fate is to survive.
But what has gone is also not nothing:

By the rule of the game something has gone.
Not people die but worlds die in them.

It would be years still before I became a Pagan, but already I was captivated by the magic and meaning of immanence, and the deep beauty and sacredness of the concrete.

For the next week I will offer some others that are special to me – and hopefully some of my readers will do the same.  I will save explicitly Pagan poems until the last.  I am doing this in part to motivate me to return to some of my favorites, and re-read them at my leisure.

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Rowan Fairgrove

posted April 6, 2009 at 9:15 pm

I really wish I knew who wrote this. A guy gave me a copy back in the 1970’s and I’ve been looking ever since. As a librarian, I know where to look… so I’m assuming it was an SCAer or in some other unindexed sort of publication. It always makes me cry.
When rises full moon, midsummer moon
And all the forest sounds are still
Then I shall pass the Fairy Ring
And seek my love within Elf Hill
My lover is no earthly knight
From what place he comes no-one knows
Leaf-pointed are his upswept ears
Wing slanted are his crow-black brows
Last Hallows Eve I had a dream
That no-one spoke, yet one did call
My lamp dipped low, I ventured forth
Elf-struck I left my father’s hall
My Elf Lord sat upon Elf Hill
With eyes that knew no tears he cried
And said his voice, in voice of grass and bells
That he would mate, or he must die
With autumn frost the northwind blew
A cloak we shared to keep both warm
And I was drowned in elfin eyes
But harboured safe in elfin arms
He would not let me longer stay
But sent me to my home again
Nor offered false, sweet words of love
For human hearts, in time, will mend
My Lord was bound by iron bands
Of distant duty, bride and hearth
He by fire and stone and sand
I by fog and flower and earth
Upon the path to my father’s hall
My footsteps fell like cold salt tears
I left a night of silver dreams
And woke to cold, gray mortal years
It is my need, as it was his
Once more our meeting place to find
To step into the magic wood
And leave the fields we know behind
And be it granted he is there
And I shall tell him why I came
And lay his son upon his knee
And pray he give my child his name
My son shall have his right of birth
If back of the northwind he must go
To love the man I cannot have
To have the home I may not know

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Hecate Demetersdatter

posted April 6, 2009 at 11:16 pm

Rowan and Gus, those are lovely. I’ll go w Mary Oliver’s Summer Poem Touching on the Subject of Faith, which I’ve blogged many times.

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meical ab awen

posted April 7, 2009 at 11:17 am

The Peace of Wild Things
Wendell Berry
When despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

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posted April 8, 2009 at 10:23 am

A Prayer, poem by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Refuse to fall down. If you cannot refuse to fall down, refuse to stay down. If you cannot refuse to stay down, lift your heart towards Heaven and like a hungry beggar ask that it be filled, and it will be filled. You may be pushed down. You may be kept from rising. But no one can keep you from lifting your heart towards Heaven – only you. It is in the middle of misery that so much becomes clear. The one who says nothing good comes from this is not yet listening.
hope i remembered it right, i read it at my father’s funeral

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posted April 8, 2009 at 2:40 pm

I wander through each chartered street,
Near where the chartered Thames does flow,
And mark in every face I meet,
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.
In every cry of every man,
In every infant’s cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forged manacles I hear:
How the chimney-sweeper’s cry
Every blackening church appals,
And the hapless soldier’s sigh
Runs in blood down palace-walls.
But most, through midnight streets I hear
How the youthful harlot’s curse
Blasts the new-born infant’s tear,
And blights with plagues the marriage-hearse.
William Blake

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posted April 16, 2009 at 7:27 pm

Yevtushenko teaches at my alma mater, the University of Tulsa. I was never fortunate enough to have the opportunity to take his class on Russian literature, but my roommate was. I never saw him (intentionally) miss a class with Yevtushenko, which I can’t say for any other course he took.

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Matt Souza

posted June 14, 2010 at 8:23 am

Super awesome read. Really..

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