Timothy Steele

Today I am pleased to present some samples of poetry by Timothy Steel, author of All the Fun’s in How You Say a Thing and Missing Measures, which are two books I recommend to everybody with an interest in learning about and writing poetry in traditional English meter. All the Fun’s introduces readers to the form and craft of English meter, using samples of poetry from a wide range of topics and eras, and providing readers with important tools for understanding, appreciating, and creating poetry. Missing Measures then gives you the history and context for the change in English poetry, so that readers can have a better understanding of why things happened, and what things were forgotten. If you are interested in writing poetry, or even just in learning more about it, these books are a must for your library.

In the meantime, here are a few examples of Steele’s own creative productions which I have a particular liking for. Enjoy!

Chanson Philosophique

The nominalist in me invents
A life devoid of precedents.
The realist takes a different view:
He claims that all I feel and do
Billions of others felt and did
In history’s Pre-me period.

Arguing thus, both voices speak
A partial truth.  I am unique,
Yet the unceasing self-distress
Of desire buffets me no less
Than it has other sons of man
Who’ve come and gone since time began.

The meaning, then, of this dispute?
My life’s a nominal/real pursuit,
Which leave identity clear and blurred,
In which what happens has occurred
Often and never—which is to say,
Never to me, or quite this way.


I bring Fae flowers. When I cross the street,
She meets and gives me lemons from her tree.
As if competitors in a Grand Prix,
The cars that speed past threaten to defeat
The sharing of our gardens and our labors.
Their automotive moral seems to be
That hell-for-leather traffic makes good neighbors.

Ten years a widow, standing at her gate,
She speaks of friends, her cat’s trip to the vet,
A grandchild’s struggle with the alphabet.
I conversationally reciprocate
With talk of work at school, not deep, not meaty.
Before I leave we study and regret
Her alley’s newest samples of graffiti.

Then back across with caution: to enjoy
Fae’s lemons, it’s essential I survive
Lemons that fellow-Angelenos drive.
She’s eighty-two; at forty, I’m a boy.
She waves goodbye to me with her bouquet.
This place was beanfields back in ’35
When she moved with her husband to L.A.


The basketball you walk around the court
Produces a hard, stinging, clean report.
You pause and crouch and, after feinting, swoop
Around a ghost defender to the hoop
And rise and lay the ball in off the board.
Solitude, plainly, is its own reward.

The game that you’ve conceived engrosses you.
The ball rolls off; you chase it down, renew
The dribble to the level of your waist.
Insuring that a sneaker’s tightly laced,
You kneel—then, up again, weave easily
Through obstacles that you alone can see.

And so I drop the hands I’d just now cupped
To call you home. Why should I interrupt?
Can I be sure that dinner’s ready yet?
A jumpshot settles, snapping, through the net;
The backboard’s stanchion keeps the ball in play
Returning it to you on the ricochet.


If you like Timothy Steele, check out his Sapphics and Uncertainties for more.


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