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The Poets

January 26, 2011

Ballad of a Buddhist Boy


Ballad of a Buddhist Boy

Siddhartha is my guide, my sage
He shows me lasting joy
He teaches me despite my age
To be a humble boy

I practice every Noble Truth
And meditate and pray
I learn from other Buddhist youth
The best and righteous way

Enlightenment I will attain
From sufferings be free
And when I part this temporal plain
Nirvana waits for me

But meditation’s almost through
My mantras I have said
And when I leave this place renewed
I’m going back to bed

-jwm

January 25, 2011

Birth Date of a Scottish Poet


Robert Burns (1759 – 1796)

I’ve known this poet for some time now. Robert Burns has got to be the most popular Scottish poet there ever was. Indeed, many Americans are totally unaware of his influence even on our own culture … for example, do these words sound familiar?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!

Auld Lang Syne, the song we utter every New Years, is a lyrical piece written by Burns (I posted on this awhile back).

Anyhow, we honor your date of birth, Poet of Scotland …

This poem below is the first poem I read by Burns- utterly gorgeous!



Ae Fond Kiss

Ae fond kiss, and then we sever;
Ae fareweel, alas, for ever!
Deep in heart-wrung tears I'll pledge thee,
Warring sighs and groans I'll wage thee.
Who shall say that Fortune grieves him,
While the star of hope she leaves him?
Me, nae cheerful twinkle lights me;
Dark despair around benights me.

I'll ne'er blame my partial fancy,
Naething could resist my Nancy:
But to see her was to love her;
Love but her, and love for ever.
Had we never lov'd sae kindly,
Had we never lov'd sae blindly,
Never met--or never parted,
We had ne'er been broken-hearted.

Fare-thee-weel, thou first and fairest!
Fare-thee-weel, thou best and dearest!
Thine be ilka joy and treasure,
Peace, Enjoyment, Love and Pleasure!
Ae fond kiss, and then we sever!
Ae fareweeli alas, for ever!
Deep in heart-wrung tears I'll pledge thee,
Warring sighs and groans I'll wage thee.

January 23, 2011

Happy Birthday, Walcott


"Poetry, which is perfection's sweat but which must seem as fresh as the raindrops on a statue's brow, combines the natural and the marmoreal; it conjugates both tenses simultaneously: the past and the present, if the past is the sculpture and the present the beads of dew or rain on the forehead of the past. There is the buried language and there is the individual vocabulary, and the process of poetry is one of excavation and of self-discovery."

Derek Alton Walcott

*****


Here’s what bums me out: Derek Walcott is one of the best contemporary poets that exists, one of the first poets I was introduced to early on, a poet who lives in this tiny planet of ours, a poet I suspect I’ll never meet in the flesh (that’s what bums me out).

That aside, I love love love this man … his votary extends across many disciplines: poet, playwright, writer, visual artist, and so on. His poem, A Far Cry from Africa, is one of the most intense poem’s I’ve ever posted on, a poem that hits close to home with me because of my own mixed ethnic background.

Like I told my Facebook friends, you should check it out if you can, tell me what you think (or better yet, tell Walcott!) … and Mr. Walcott, you should come out to Aurora, Colorado and visit me, your humble fan …

January 22, 2011

George Gordon Lord Byron


Lord Byron (1788 - 1824)

Byron, you da man! Happy birth date, most famous of poets …

This poem below was written by Byron in 1814 in dedication to his young cousin’s marriage, Anne Wilmot. It’s said that Anne wore a black wedding dress that was covered in glittering spangles (hence the dark/light dichotomy riddled throughout the poem). ...

The poem’s structure is below:

Stanza: Sestet (i.e. 6 lines per stanza)
Meter: Tetrameter (i.e. eight syllables per line)
Rhyme Scheme: ababab (per stanza)



She Waks in Beauty

She walks in beauty like the night
of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
meets in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
had half impair'd the nameless grace
which waves in every raven tress,
or softly lightens o'er her face -
where thoughts serenely sweet express
how pure, how dear their dwelling - place.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
so soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
the smiles that win, the tints that glow,
but tells in days of goodness spent,
a mind at peace with all below,
a heart whose love is innocent.

January 20, 2011

The Morning Moon


The moon this morn hung like a bulb
She hung in purple dawn
And though I crept through traffic thick
To her my eyes were drawn

No scars were there that I perceived
Nor pits, nor jaded face
Just one bright light whose majesty
Hung there in utter grace

-jwm

January 19, 2011

Sarah Helen Whitman


Sarah Helen Whitman was a romantic interest of Poe's. Coincidentally, not only is she a poet, she also shares Poe’s date of birth (January 19th, 1803).

They both met later in life when they were both widowed- he was 39, she was 45. Poe desperately wanted to marry her, and even though he had at one point convinced her to do so, she had the engagement broken off.

It is said by some that Poe’s Poem, To Helen*, was inspired by the infatuation he had for her. I personally don’t believe this to be the case, and I’ll explain my position perhaps tomorrow or the next day in a post.

Now whether Whitman inspired Poe’s Helen or not, what cannot be denied is this- that Poe inspired Whitman to compose a poem that she would openly dedicate to him. Here’s that poem below:


To Edgar Allan Poe

IF thy sad heart, pining for human love,
In its earth solitude grew dark with fear,
Lest the high Sun of Heaven itself should prove
Powerless to save from that phantasmal sphere
Wherein thy spirit wandered, -- if the flowers
That pressed around thy feet, seemed but to bloom
In lone Gethsemanes, through starless hours,
When all who loved had left thee to thy doom,--
Oh, yet believe that in that hollow vale
Where thy soul lingers, waiting to attain
So much of Heaven's sweet grace as shall avail
To lift its burden of remorseful pain,
My soul shall meet thee, and its Heaven forego
Till God's great love, on both, one hope, one Heaven bestow.


*You’ll notice if you click the link to this poem a picture of Whitman pops up with the poem beneath it- indicating that the poem was composed for her … again, I doubt this assertion (I’ll explain myself soon).

Edgar Allan Poe*


Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849)

Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on January 19, 1809. Poe's father and mother, both professional actors, died before the poet was three and John and Frances Allan raised him as a foster child in Richmond, Virginia. John Allan, a prosperous tobacco exporter, sent Poe to the best boarding schools and later to the University of Virginia, where Poe excelled academically. After less than one year of school, however, he was forced to leave the University when Allan refused to pay his gambling debts.

Poe returned briefly to Richmond, but his relationship with Allan deteriorated. In 1827, he moved to Boston and enlisted in the United States Army. His first collection of poems, Tamerlane, and Other Poems, was published that year. In 1829, he published a second collection entitled Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems. Neither volume received significant critical or public attention. Following his Army service, Poe was admitted to the United States Military Academy, but he was again forced to leave for lack of financial support. He then moved into the home of his aunt, Mrs. Maria Clemm and her daughter Virginia, in Baltimore, Maryland.

Poe began to sell short stories to magazines at around this time, and, in 1835, he became the editor of the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond. He brought his aunt and twelve-year-old cousin, Virginia Clemm, with him to Richmond. He married Virginia in 1836. Over the next ten years, Poe would edit a number of literary journals including the Burton's Gentleman's Magazine and Graham's Magazine in Philadelphia and the Broadway Journal in New York City. It was during these years that he established himself as a poet, a short-story writer, and an editor. He published some of his best-known stories and poems including "The Fall of the House of Usher," "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," and "The Raven." After Virginia's death from tuberculosis in 1847, Poe's life-long struggle with depression and alcoholism worsened. He returned briefly to Richmond in 1849 and then set out for an editing job in Philadelphia. For unknown reasons, he stopped in Baltimore. On October 3, 1849, he was found in a state of semi-consciousness. Poe died four days later of "acute congestion of the brain."

Poe's work as an editor, a poet, and a critic had a profound impact on American and international literature. His stories mark him as one of the originators of both horror and detective fiction. Many anthologies credit him as the "architect" of the modern short story. He was also one of the first critics to focus primarily on the effect of the style and of the structure in a literary work; as such, he has been seen as a forerunner to the "art for art's sake" movement. French Symbolists such as Mallarme and Rimbaud claimed him as a literary precursor. Baudelaire spent nearly fourteen years translating Poe into French. Today, Poe is remembered as one of the first American writers to become a major figure in world literature.

*Biography from Poets.org

January 14, 2011

The Poet


In yon holy nave,
With chalice on high,
This blessing he gave
To all who were by:

May God never part,
The Muse never fail,
May Love lead the heart
And poetry tell.


-jwm

January 07, 2011

A Ballad of Birth

Birth

I.

I knew before I came to be
The planet I would tread,
But angels who were prepping me
Put sleep within my head-

They gathered Lethe’s velvet soup
And I (with willing heart)
Drank down the dregs before the group
And from them did depart.

With hard obliteration rife
I slipped into a shade-
Nor death I gained, nor lost I life,
But memory did fade.

II.

I entered through a temporal night
Toward light I can’t explain;
A death of sorts, devoid of fright,
Brought sleep devoid of strain.

My slumber’s dreams? - I cannot say -
I pray I wish I could ..
But I within a deluge lay-
I thought I’d lay for good.

Then amniotic fluids blew
And imminent was birth-
That planet that I former knew
Was fast approaching: Earth!

III.

There came a drumming in my chest
As slowly I awoke-
Those mortal tappings at my breast
Did thoughts of life evoke.

I drew in earthly vapors deep-
Exhaling them with ease-
And as my eyes awoke from sleep
I felt the Vital Breeze ..

Benevolence of Life I felt
The more I was aware;
And though I knew not where I dwelt,
I knew that Home was here.

-jwm



Of the Poem (Poetic Parameters):

Parameters:

Stanza: : Ballad, Common Measure, Quatrain
Meter: Alternates between a tetrameter (8 syllables per line), and a trimeter (6 syllables)
Rhyme Scheme: abab per stanza (9 total stanzas)


Note:

This poem was influenced by the very last chapter of Emanuel Swedenborg's book, Divine Love and Wisdom, where he talks about the coming into being of a human being. Some of the images, like that of Lethe, were inspired by other sources (e.g. Greek mythology).

The structure was based on the common measure and divided into sections similar to Roethke's poem, The Lost Son. I felt, as I have with a few other poems I’ve written in the past, influenced by Dickinson here.

The sections correspond- roughly and indeed symbolically- to departure from the old (section I), the process of that departure (section II), and the arrival of the new (final section).

Hope you enjoy ...

January 06, 2011

Gibran to the Poet


I’m willing to bet that 99.9% of you know (and maybe even read) this poet: Khalil Gibran.

I was a very young kid when I first came across him- my mom owned some of his works because, and correct me if I’m wrong, it was considered ‘hip’ if you did. Anyhow- devoid of the desire for ‘hipness’- I came to like him.

The Prophet, his most widely read work, is an incredible book containing incredible imagery … if you don’t own a copy (which you probably do) I highly recommend getting one.

Here’s a sample of the beauty that comes forth from the pen of this poet, enjoy (especially if you’re a poet):



The Poet VIII

He is a link between this and the coming world.
He is
A pure spring from which all thirsty souls may drink.


He is a tree watered by the River of Beauty, bearing
Fruit which the hungry heart craves;
He is a nightingale, soothing the depressed
Spirit with his beautiful melodies;
He is a white cloud appearing over the horizon,
Ascending and growing until it fills the face of the sky.
Then it falls on the flows in the field of Life,
Opening their petals to admit the light.
He is an angel, send by the goddess to
Preach the Deity's gospel;
He is a brilliant lamp, unconquered by darkness
And inextinguishable by the wind. It is filled with
Oil by Istar of Love, and lighted by Apollon of Music.


He is a solitary figure, robed in simplicity and
Kindness; He sits upon the lap of Nature to draw his
Inspiration, and stays up in the silence of the night,
Awaiting the descending of the spirit.


He is a sower who sows the seeds of his heart in the
Prairies of affection, and humanity reaps the
Harvest for her nourishment.


This is the poet -- whom the people ignore in this life,
And who is recognized only when he bids the earthly
World farewell and returns to his arbor in heaven.


This is the poet -- who asks naught of
Humanity but a smile.
This is the poet -- whose spirit ascends and
Fills the firmament with beautiful sayings;
Yet the people deny themselves his radiance.


Until when shall the people remain asleep?
Until when shall they continue to glorify those
Who attain greatness by moments of advantage?
How long shall they ignore those who enable
Them to see the beauty of their spirit,
Symbol of peace and love?
Until when shall human beings honor the dead
And forget the living, who spend their lives
Encircled in misery, and who consume themselves
Like burning candles to illuminate the way
For the ignorant and lead them into the path of light?


Poet, you are the life of this life, and you have
Triumphed over the ages of despite their severity.


Poet, you will one day rule the hearts, and
Therefore, your kingdom has no ending.


Poet, examine your crown of thorns; you will
Find concealed in it a budding wreath of laurel.

Khalil Gibran*


Khalil Gibran (1883 – 1931)

Gibran Khalil Gibran was born on January 6, 1883, to the Maronite family of Gibran in Bsharri, a mountainous area in Northern Lebanon [Lebanon was a Turkish province part of Greater Syria (Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine) and subjugated to Ottoman dominion]. His mother Kamila Rahmeh was thirty when she begot Gibran from her third husband Khalil Gibran, who proved to be an irresponsible husband leading the family to poverty. Gibran had a half-brother six years older than him called Peter and two younger sisters, Mariana and Sultana, whom he was deeply attached to throughout his life, along with his mother. Kamila's family came from a prestigious religious background, which imbued the uneducated mother with a strong will and later on helped her raise up the family on her own in the U.S. Growing up in the lush region of Bsharri, Gibran proved to be a solitary and pensive child who relished the natural surroundings of the cascading falls, the rugged cliffs and the neighboring green cedars, the beauty of which emerged as a dramatic and symbolic influence to his drawings and writings. Being laden with poverty, he did not receive any formal education or learning, which was limited to regular visits to a village priest who doctrined him with the essentials of religion and the Bible, alongside Syriac and Arabic languages. Recognizing Gibran's inquisitive and alert nature, the priest began teaching him the rudiments of alphabet and language, opening up to Gibran the world of history, science, and language. At the age of ten, Gibran fell off a cliff, wounding his left shoulder, which remained weak for the rest of his life ever since this incident. To relocate the shoulder, his family strapped it to a cross and wrapped it up for forty days, a symbolic incident reminiscent of Christ's wanderings in the wilderness and which remained etched in Gibran's memory.

At the age of eight, Khalil Gibran, Gibran's father, was accused of tax evasion and was sent to prison as the Ottomon authorities confiscated the Gibrans' property and left them homeless. The family went to live with relatives for a while; however, the strong-willed mother decided that the family should immigrate to the U.S., seeking a better life and following in suit to Gibran's uncle who immigrated earlier. The father was released in 1894, but being an irresponsible head of the family he was undecided about immigration and remained behind in Lebanon.

On June 25, 1895, the Gibrans embarked on a voyage to the American shores of New York.

The Gibrans settled in Boston's South End, which at the time hosted the second largest Syrian community in the U.S. following New York. The culturally diverse area felt familiar to Kamila, who was comforted by the familiar spoken Arabic, and the widespread Arab customs. Kamila, now the bread-earner of the family, began to work as a peddler on the impoverished streets of South End Boston. At the time, peddling was the major source of income for most Syrian immigrants, who were negatively portrayed due to their unconventional Arab ways and their supposed idleness.

In the school, a registration mistake altered his name forever by shortening it to Kahlil Gibran, which remained unchanged till the rest of his life despite repeated attempts at restoring his full name. Gibran entered school on September 30, 1895, merely two months after his arrival in the U.S. Having no formal education, he was placed in an ungraded class reserved for immigrant children, who had to learn English from scratch. Gibran caught the eye of his teachers with his sketches and drawings, a hobby he had started during his childhood in Lebanon.

Gibran's curiosity led him to the cultural side of Boston, which exposed him to the rich world of the theatre, Opera and artistic Galleries. Prodded by the cultural scenes around him and through his artistic drawings, Gibran caught the attention of his teachers at the public school, who saw an artistic future for the boy. They contacted Fred Holland Day, an artist and a supporter of artists who opened up Gibran's cultural world and set him on the road to artistic fame...

Lebanese-American philosophical essayist, novelist, mystical poet, and artist.

Gibran's works were especially influential in the American popular culture in the 1960s. In 1904 Gibran had his first art exhibition in Boston. From 1908 to 1910 he studied art in Paris with August Rodin. In 1912 he settled in New York, where he devoted himself to writing and painting. Gibran's early works were written in Arabic, and from 1918 he published mostly in English. In 1920 he founded a society for Arab writers, Mahgar (al-Mahgar). Among its members were Mikha'il Na'ima (1889-1988), Iliya Abu Madi (1889-1957), Nasib Arida (1887-1946), Nadra Haddad (1881-1950), and Ilyas Abu Sabaka (1903-47). Gibran died in New York on April 10, 1931. Among his best-known works is The Prophet, a book of 26 poetic essays, which has been translated into over 20 languages. The Prophet, who has lived in a foreign city 12 years, is about to board a ship that will take him home. He is stopped by a group of people, whom he teaches the mysteries of life.

*Bio from Library.Cornell.Edu

January 02, 2011

The Nihilist - A Creedal Poem


There are no Absolutes I see
Eternal Truths can hardly be
Nor can I think there is a Law
That governs heavy over me

Self-interest legislates my all
My mind to no man’s rule will fall
For I determine I am free
And will to power is my call

-jwm


Of the Poem (Poetic Parameters and Notes):

Parameters:

Stanza: Quatrain
Meter: Tetrameter (i.e. 8 syllables per line)
Rhyme Scheme: aaba bbab (based on the gorgeously interlocking Rubaiyat stanza)

Note:

News flash! I’m not a nihilist, nor do I subscribe to the doctrines they espouse. I thought it would be interesting to ‘step’ into a perspective not my own and elaborate briefly, accurately, poetically, what that perspective endorses.

The idea came to me months ago after having read these lines, written to Thomas Wentworth Higginson in July of 1862, by Emily Dickinson:

When I state myself, as the Representative of the Verse - it does not mean - me - but a supposed person …
~ Dickinson (L, 2:412) ~


I thought to myself that it would be interesting to adopt a hypothetical perspective and bring it out in verse. Dickinson did this with astonishing beauty and creativity … and so I thought, inspired by her, I’d create poems based on particular creeds (whether philosophical, theological, and or whatever).

Beauty and Truth are always what I aim at while writing poetry- and always will. Notwithstanding, I thought that this kind of writing would strengthen the sinews of my imagination where poetry writing was concerned. And so, intermittently at any rate, I intend to script out what from now on I’ll call creedal poems (poems which may or may not emerge from what I personally believe- something akin to a good man acting out the role of a tyrant in a play).

I’m excited to see where this takes me. Hope you hang out …

As of April 9th, 2010