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The Poets

April 29, 2010

A Komunyakaa Poem


Happy birthday, Yusef Komunyakaa ... love love love the poetry, particularly this one (riddled with wonderful imagery that takes me deeply back):


The Smoke House

In the hickory scent
Among slabs of pork
Glistening with salt,
I played Indian
In a headdress of redbird feathers
& brass buttons
Off my mother's winter coat.
Smoke wove
A thread of fire through meat, into December
& January. The dead weight
Of the place hung around me,
Strung up with sweetgrass.
The hog had been sectioned,
A map scored into skin;
Opened like love,
From snout to tail,
The goodness
No longer true to each bone.
I was a wizard
In that hazy world,
& knew I could cut
Slivers of meat till my heart
Grew more human & flawed.

April 28, 2010

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening


My daughter and I recently read a great poem written by Robert Frost, entitled: Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. It's an exceedingly impressive work, to say the least: so much complexity contained in so simple a write. My daughter loved it too and essentially took it for a narrative poem. I felt as though the poem had a representative aspect that spoke of the beauty of life (the woods, the snow) and the inevitability of death (sleep), an aspect that Frost may have only inadvertently intended.

The structure of the poem is especially interesting- notice the rhyme scheme below:

Poetic Parameters:
Stanza: quatrain (4 total)
Meter: tetrameter
Rhyme Scheme: aaba bbcb ccdc dddd (similar to a Rubaiyat stanza)


Stopping by Wood on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sounds the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.


Of the Poem (One of Many Takes):

We find ourselves, as
Heidegger might suggest, thrown into an existence that's nothing less than spectacular: there are the trees, the vaulted blue sky, florescent green grass after it rains- an inexhaustible amount of beautiful things. Indeed, the very idea that one is alive- existing- is marvelous in itself. In short, we're surrounded by an incredible, incredible amount of beauty.

All too often, however, we loose ourselves in mundane worldly matters, becoming so obsorbed in sustaining existence that we tend to loose sight of its very beauty, its splendor. Aesthetic passion and attention flees- or at least seems greatly diminished- where social obligations reign. A great majority of times it seems conventional existence is structured to wage war on on the aesthetic heart- "busy, busy, busy" ... "worry, worry, worry" become its mantra, and we seem hypnotized by it to the point that we literally don't take the time out to stop and smell the roses.

On a purely superficial level it seems that Frost would at least have us aware of the conflict between our inherent desire to be one with beauty and the social constrains and obligations that tend to domesticate that desire. It's almost as if the poem has for its inner topic the conflict between freedom and necessity.

The poet's individual yields to that beauty- out of nowhere and just that moment- and takes in the "lovely, dark, and deep" which was laced with snow that was still falling. Necessity then impinged itself upon the moment and called this person's attention "back to reality" and away from beauty's transcendental sway. In the end the individual leaves that snowy encounter.

The point I derive from the poem is that, despite pressing obligations and social demands, we should step outside of our constraints occasionally and take in some of this beauty that surrounds us.

April 27, 2010

You and I There - XII

It makes me feel next.
You/Me - Not!
Him though? Yes, Him …
… and you and I There? - Joy fraught! ..

-jwm

April 26, 2010

Robert Frost*


Robert Frost (1874 - 1963)

Robert Frost was born in San Francisco on March 26, 1874. He moved to New England at the age of eleven and became interested in reading and writing poetry during his high school years in Lawrence, Massachusetts. He was enrolled at Dartmouth College in 1892, and later at Harvard, though he never earned a formal degree.

Frost drifted through a string of occupations after leaving school, working as a teacher, cobbler, and editor of the Lawrence Sentinel. His first professional poem, "My Butterfly," was published on November 8, 1894, in the New York newspaper The Independent.

In 1895, Frost married Elinor Miriam White, who became a major inspiration in his poetry until her death in 1938. The couple moved to England in 1912, after their New Hampshire farm failed, and it was abroad that Frost met and was influenced by such contemporary British poets as Edward Thomas, Rupert Brooke, and Robert Graves. While in England, Frost also established a friendship with the poet Ezra Pound, who helped to promote and publish his work.

By the time Frost returned to the United States in 1915, he had published two full-length collections, A Boy's Will and North of Boston, and his reputation was established. By the nineteen-twenties, he was the most celebrated poet in America, and with each new book—including New Hampshire (1923), A Further Range (1936), Steeple Bush (1947), and In the Clearing (1962)—his fame and honors (including four Pulitzer Prizes) increased.

Though his work is principally associated with the life and landscape of New England, and though he was a poet of traditional verse forms and metrics who remained steadfastly aloof from the poetic movements and fashions of his time, Frost is anything but a merely regional or minor poet. The author of searching and often dark meditations on universal themes, he is a quintessentially modern poet in his adherence to language as it is actually spoken, in the psychological complexity of his portraits, and in the degree to which his work is infused with layers of ambiguity and irony.

In a 1970 review of The Poetry of Robert Frost, the poet Daniel Hoffman describes Frost's early work as "the Puritan ethic turned astonishingly lyrical and enabled to say out loud the sources of its own delight in the world," and comments on Frost's career as The American Bard: "He became a national celebrity, our nearly official Poet Laureate, and a great performer in the tradition of that earlier master of the literary vernacular, Mark Twain."

About Frost, President John f. Kennedy said, "He has bequeathed his nation a body of imperishable verse from which Americans will forever gain joy and understanding."

Robert Frost lived and taught for many years in Massachusetts and Vermont, and died in Boston on January 29, 1963.


*Biography from Poets.org

April 22, 2010

Colorado Reigns

It's raining in Colorado today, and it's utterly mystifying. Her gray skies can hardly produce a feeling of depression in me. In fact, the depth of my rapture before her raining skies can't be articulated, and it chases away every notion or prospect of gloom. Rain is, without qualification, my favorite weather of all- world without end ...


Their Version:

Rain, rain, go away
Come again some other
day
We want to go outside and play
Come again some other day

My Version:

Rain, rain, come my way
Saturate this sunny day
Mystic is thy color gray
Saturate this sunny day

April 20, 2010

Eyjafjallajokull*


Eyjafjallajokull

What quarrel can I have with her
Who blackens all those lovely skies? --
Let all her heated belly quake,
And let her plumes the world surprise!
She's violent, yes, I understand,
But she's to me creative strife:
That molten heart that molds our world
Contributes to my very life.

So let her fill the ocean sky
With chalky pitch and billows grey,
For all it is to me is art
Displayed on Iceland's darkened day.

-jwm


*pronounced: aye - ya - fyah - dla - jow - kudl

April 17, 2010

Green Trees- Short Poem by my Daughter



Green, green trees
So, so beautiful
So much as the world is beautiful

I think trees are the best


- chelle -

April 14, 2010

The Lilies

What marvelous symbols there be
Of heaven and its Highest Jewel-
A living ode to Yahweh's rule
Inscribed on every thing we see.

See, Nature's but a shadow cast-
A cloak, a shroud, a second light-
A medium for inner sight
That speaks of all His kingdom vast.

Her objects to His realm are wed,
And we can see her nuptial band:
That signature upon her hand
That speaks to every vow He said.

So stroll, dear poet, cheerfully
Amidst the lilies of the field,
And where He shows His symbols yield,
And contemplate them carefully.

-jwm

April 13, 2010

Kierkegaard Parable: The Poet

What is a poet? An unhappy man who in his heart harbors a deep anguish, but whose lips are so fashioned that the moans and cries which pass over them are transformed into ravishing music. His fate is like that of the unfortunate victims whom the tyrant Phalaris imprisoned in a brazen bull, and slowly tortured over a steady fire; their cries could not reach the tyrant's ears so as to strike terror into his heart; when they reached his ears they sounded like sweet music. And men crowd around the poet and say to him, "Sing for us soon again"—which is as much as to say, "May new sufferings torment your soul, but may your lips be fashioned as before; for the cries would only distress us, but the music, the music, is delightful.

Any thoughts ....

Selected from one of Kierkegaard's more well known works, Either/Or.

April 12, 2010

'Til Jesus Leads


He wishes he could break his curse
And shake the sins his passions nurse;
But here he lay- mere broken reed-
Iniquitous and full of need.

And even as I write this verse
His sins it seems are growing worse;
Its growth- by leaps and massive speeds-
Will ruthless come ’til Jesus leads.


April 09, 2010

Charles Baudelaire- Quotes & Frag


It was on this day in 1821 that French poet Charles Baudelaire was born. I came to know of him roughly a year ago while discovering that he was heavily influenced by seer-theologian, Emanual Swedenborg. I came to like him immediately.

Below are a couple pretty good quotes by him. I'll be posting more on him soon. Meanwhile, enjoy.

*****

There exist only three beings worthy of respect: the priest, the soldier, the poet. To know, to kill, to create.

Always be a poet, even in prose.

The Poet is a kinsman in the clouds
Who scoffs at archers, loves a stormy day;
But on the ground, among the hooting crowds,
He cannot walk, his wings are in the way.*

*From his poem, L'Albatros; the French version of this stanza is in the comments area ...

April 05, 2010

A Mystic as a Soldier- A Sassoon Poem


A Mystic as a Soldier
 
I lived my days apart,
Dreaming fair songs for God;
By the glory in my heart
Covered and crowned and shod.

Now God is in the strife,
And I must seek Him there,
Where death outnumbers life,
And fury smites the air.

I walk the secret way
With anger in my brain.
O music through my clay,
When will you sound again?



Of the Poem:

 
The poem is essentially about the destruction of internal bliss as a result of exernal brutality- especially where warfare is concerned. We have three stages, therefore, to the poem:

1st stanza: an internal state bliss
2nd stanza: violence done to that bliss
3rd stanza: and, lastly, bliss in a crippled state


I lived my days apart
 
The idea of the consecrated life is immediately established in line 1, particularly with the word apart- a word that quite literally can be taken to mean sanctification (i.e. set apart by God).

Dreaming fair songs for God

 
Line 2 establishes the mystical depth of the poem by showing a desire to reach Deity by fair songs- songs, of course, being one of the highest and most internal displays of worship one can express.


By the glory in my heart* / Covered and crowned and shod
 
The poet, with lines 3 and 4, wishes to show the extent of the mystic's spiritual life- indicated by the phrase glory in my heart (which signifies the beauty of the mystic's internal life). The poet then uses polysyndeton
in line 4 to reinforce the idea that this glory permeates the mystic's life in every area: Covered and crowned and shod ... 

Now God is in the strife
 
Suddenly the mystic finds himself in the midst of war, a situation far removed from the rosy world spoken of in the previous stanza- in fact, the blatant transition from bliss to bleak most certainly depicts Sassoon’s poetic intention here: despite ethereal existence, world is utterly brutal.

Line 5 therefore seems to indicate that, though a soldier now in warfare, the mystic's center of reflection is still God- even in the trenches: I must seek Him there, he says in line 6.

But warfare's no joke:
death outnumbers life / fury smites the air

The third stanza speaks of the aftermath, the residual psychological condition within which the mystic finds himself- and it's not pretty.

I walk the secret way

Our mystic, despite the trauma of war and the hideous events thereof, still remains a devotee to that which is Transcendental, he's still among the ranks of the initiate (i.e. the secret way).


With anger in my brain
 
He hasn't, however, emerged unscathed. War's brutal aspect has robbed his peace of mind (line 9), and though he walks the secret way, he does so with a pain- an anger- that's foreign to him. His song, that aforementioned state of joyful worship, has diminished.


Poetic Parameters:

Stanza: quatrain
Meter: trimeter (
i.e. three metric feet, or six syllables)*
Rhyme Scheme: a.b.a.b.

*Line 3 of the poem actually has a seven syllable count, so technically the poem isn't entirely done in trimeter. I'd like to fancy poetic intent here and think, considering the number 7 is said to signify holiness, that the poet wanted to convey the depth of the mystic's spiritual state of sanctification.

War Poet- Siegfried Sassoon*


Siegfried Loraine Sassoon (1886 - 1967)

Siegfried Loraine Sassoon (September 8, 1886 - September 1, 1967) was an English poet and author. He became known as a writer of satirical anti-war verse during World War I, but later won acclaim for his prose work.

Sassoon was born in Matfield, Kent, to a Jewish father and English mother. His father, Alfred, one of the wealthy Sassoon merchant family, was disinherited for marrying outside the faith. His mother, Teresa, belonged to the Thornycroft family, sculptors responsible for many of the best-known statues in London -- her brother was Sir Hamo Thornycroft. There was no German blood in Siegfried's family; he owed his unusual first name to his mother's predilection for the operas of Wagner. His middle name was taken from the surname of a clergyman with whom she was friendly.

Sassoon was educated at Marlborough College in Wiltshire, and at Clare College, Cambridge, where he studied both law and history from 1905 to 1907. However, he dropped out of university without a degree, and spent the next few years hunting, playing cricket, and privately publishing a few volumes of not very highly acclaimed poetry. His income was just enough to prevent his having to seek work, but not enough to live extravagantly. His first real success was The Daffodil Murderer, a parody of a work by John Masefield. At the beginning of the war, Sassoon rushed into service with the Sussex Yeomanry, but was injured and put out of action before even leaving England. In 1916, he joined the Royal Welch Fusiliers as a commissioned officer, and was thus brought into contact with Robert Graves. He soon became horrified by the realities of war, and the tone of his writing changed completely, partly under Graves' influence.

Sassoon's brief periods of duty on the Western Front were marked by recklessly courageous actions, including the single-handed capture of a German trench. Despite having been decorated for bravery, he decided, in 1917, to make a stand against the conduct of the war. One of the reasons for his violent anti-war feeling was the death of his friend, David Cuthbert Thomas (called "Dick Tiltwood" in the Sherston trilogy). Sassoon's close relationship with Thomas was a tacit admission of his own homosexuality, which he would spend several years attempting to overcome.

Having thrown his Military Cross into the river Mersey at the end of a spell of convalescent leave, Sassoon declined to return to duty. Instead, encouraged by pacifist friends such as Bertrand Russell and Lady Ottoline Morrell, he sent a letter to his commanding officer, which was forwarded to the press and read out in Parliament by a sympathetic MP. Rather than court-martial Sassoon, the military authorities decided that he was unfit for service, and sent him to Craiglockhart War Hospital near Edinburgh, where he was treated for war "neurosis" by psychiatrists.

The novel, Regeneration, by Pat Barker, is a fictionalised account of this period in Sassoon's life, and was made into a film starring Jonathan Pryce as W. H. R. Rivers, the psychiatrist responsible for Sassoon's recovery. Rivers became a kind of surrogate father to the troubled young man, and his sudden death in 1922 was a major blow to Sassoon.

At Craiglockhart, Sassoon met Wilfred Owen, another poet who was eventually to exceed him in fame. It was thanks to Sassoon that Owen persevered in his ambition to write better poetry. A manuscript copy of Owen's "Anthem for Doomed Youth", containing Sassoon's handwritten amendments, survives as testimony to the extent of his influence. Both men returned to active service in France, but Owen was killed in 1918. Sassoon, having spent some time out of danger in Palestine, eventually returned to the Front, was almost immediately wounded again - by friendly fire, this time in the head - and spent the remainder of the war in Britain. After the war, Sassoon was instrumental in bringing Owen's work to the attention of a wider audience. Their friendship is the subject of Stephen MacDonald's play, Not About Heroes.

Sassoon was a great admirer of the Welsh poet, Henry Vaughan. On a visit to Wales in 1923, he paid a pilgrimage to Vaughan's grave at Llansanffraid, Powys, and there wrote one of his best-known peacetime poems, "At the Grave of Henry Vaughan". The deaths of three of his closest friends, Edmund Gosse, Thomas Hardy and Frankie Schuster (the publisher), within a short space of time, came as another serious setback to his personal happiness.

Sassoon, having matured greatly as a result of his military service, continued to seek emotional fulfilment, which he at first attempted to find in a succession of love affairs with men, including the actor Ivor Novello; Novello's former lover, the actor Glen Byam Shaw; German aristocrat Prince Philipp of Hesse; the writer Beverley Nichols; and the effete aristocrat the Hon. Stephen Tennant. Unfortunately, Sassoon was wont to become disenchanted with his lovers once the first flush of romance had faded. In 1933, to many people's surprise, he married Hester Gatty, who was many years his junior; this action eventually brought him the status of parent which he had long craved. Their only child, George, was born in 1936. However, the marriage broke down after World War II. Separated from his wife in 1945, Sassoon lived in seclusion at Heytesbury in Wiltshire. Towards the end of his long life, he was converted to Roman Catholicism, and was admitted to the faith at Downside Abbey, close to his home. He also paid regular visits to the nuns at Stanbrook Abbey, and the abbey press printed commemorative editions of some of his poems. He is buried at Mells in Somerset, close to Ronald Knox, whom he admired.


*Biography from Humanities Web

April 01, 2010

Heart of a Poet ;-)


Have a humorous April Fools ...

As of April 9th, 2010