17 by Witter Bynner
A leader is best
When people barely know that he exists,
Not so good when people obey and acclaim him,
Worst when they despise him.
‘Fail to honor people,
They fail to honor you’;
But of a good leader, who talks little,
When his work is done, his aim fulfilled,
They will say, ‘We did this ourselves.’
by Witter Bynner, reprinted from The Chinese Translations: The Works of Witter Bynner (F.S.G. New York, 1978) with permission of The Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry
Witter Bynner was born in Brooklyn, New York. He attended Harvard University, where he was invited by Wallace Stevens to join the Harvard Advocate. After college he edited McClure’s in New York for four years. His collections of poetry include An Ode to Harvard (1907), The Beloved Stranger(1919), Pins for Wings(1921), Indian Earth (1929), and New Poems (1960).
In 1916 Bynner and Arthur Davison Ficke co-authored Spectra: A Book of Poetic Experiments, which they published under pen names. The book was a spoof on the literary movement known as Imagism—the poems in the book were allegedly written by “Spectrists.” The hoax was uncovered in 1917, and soon after, Bynner and Ficke traveled to Japan.
The style of Bynner’s early poetry is comparable to that of A.E. Housman. His later poetry reflects his familiarity with Japanese and Chinese poetry, becoming less traditionally structured in form. Bynner translated The Jade Mountain: A Chinese Anthology: Being Three Hundred Poems of the T’ang Dynasty 618–906 (1929) from the texts of Kian Kang-Hu. He also translated a version of the Tao Te Ching—The Way of Life According to Laotse (1949).
Bynner was a professor of Oral English for the Students’ Army Training Corps at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1918. When World War I ended, he taught a course in poetry writing. In 1922 he moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he and his partner, Robert Hunt, entertained artists and literary figures such as D.H. Lawrence, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Carl Sandburg at their home.
The birds wake when they sense
a sliver of light slide
open the sealed envelope.
What unfurls, they welcome
with a burst of birdsong.
They sing till the dwindling
dark no longer names
the growing daylight, first light.
My sleep annoyed, I wonder
why the birds never tire
of this rigmarole
dawn in, dawn out.
Do not go back to sleep,
Rumi reminds me,
the dawn wants to tell you something.
Much later, at a time I prefer,
an app awakens me
with a bird band playing
Mani G. Iyer is a deaf-blind poet, born and raised in Bombay, living in the United States. He earned a master’s degree in computer science and pursued a career in software engineering. He recently earned an MFA in poetry from Lesley University. His poems have appeared in The Helikon Poetry Journal (translated to Hebrew) and Poems2Go.
I want to ask
but the little boat
in my heart
lifts its anchor
and sets out;
I mean everything:
I float in
The life vest
just out of reach.
from Works&Days (Truman State University Press, 2010)
Dean Rader has published widely in the fields of poetry, American Indian studies, and popular culture. His debut collection of poems, Works & Days, won the 2010 T. S. Eliot Poetry Prize, was a finalist for the Bob Bush Memorial Award for a First Book of Poems, and won the 2010 Writer’s League of Texas Poetry Prize. In 2012, “Self Portrait as Dido to Aeneas” was selected by Mark Doty for Best American Poetry. His recent chapbook, Landscape Portrait Figure Form (Omnidawn), was named by the Barnes & Noble Review as one of the Best Poetry Books of 2013. His newest collection of poems, Self-Portrait as Wikipedia Entry, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in 2017.
Rat by Heather Sellers
The great grey rat tonight fast-walking
up Park Avenue towards the Americas
Society with a lilt and a lit cigarette, backpack,
more rat pack than rat rat, wants to marry me!
He’s a visionary with a hedge fund, struts right
into the hedge. Good to be you! The next
morning I see my first dead rat (not the working
glamorous future husband rat), but a humungous cat-
style rat dead-grinning on a drain on 59th Street
across from Bloomingdale’s. His warm soft
fur in the silver rain, his gloved fingers,
great joy face. You’re dead, Rat! He isn’t facing
facts. A quality much admired in the dead.
Walking home alone I come to the bridge,
bicycles scattered like great silverware on
the narrow sidewalk, boys with
fishing poles glinting in the streetlight,
mansions great flat shadows behind us—some
Gerswhin soars from a black terrace under tooth-slice
of moon. Shovelhead shark on the concrete,
one trout, and crabs, crabs like clothespins
on the edges of the buckets. Dying.
Poor fish. Poor boys. Poor old
lonely us who’ve swum, drunk,
in these waters, mistaking fish for boy, thigh for
love, love for home and home for tonight.
I walk slowly now under the fishing lines
like floss—careful, my hair. Hey. Hey. Happy to live
so near such cool dark water.
Heather Sellers‘ award-winning memoir, You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know, has been featured by O, the Oprah Magazine, where it was a book of the month pick, Good Morning America, Rachel Ray, NPR, The New York Times, Dick Gordon’s The Story, Good Housekeeping, More, Elle, and many others.
Heather Sellers was born and raised in Orlando, Florida. Her PhD in English/Creative Writing is from Florida State University. A professor of English at the University of South Florida in the creative writing program, she’s teaches poetry, nonfiction, and writing for children. Awarded an NEA Fellowship for fiction, she published a short story collection, Georgia Under Water, a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers selection. She’s published a children’s book, Spike and Cubby’s Ice Cream Island Adventure, three volumes of poetry, and three books on the craft of writing. Her popular textbook for writers in any genre, The Practice of Creative Writing, is out in its second edition from Bedford/St. Martins . She’s taught at the University of Texas—San Antonio and St. Lawrence University, and, for 18 years, at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. She’s currently at work on a novel for young readers, essays, and a new memoir.