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The Poets

February 21, 2011

Beneath a Starry Gaze


There, just below the moon’s ascent,
Ethereal a figure went-
A silhouette, a dimly shade,
That moved towards him with clear intent.

Though fear in others would have weighed,
He fearless went from where he stayed
To meet that spectral figure dim
That bold approached him unafraid.

That ghostly apparition slim
Through pale-blue moonlight seem’d to swim,
Approaching now with sure design-
Intent specifically on him!

But then, behold! - a sight divine
For what those shadows did confine
Was this: his lovely lady’s sight-
Most beautiful, and yes, sublime.

The two embraced that starry night
Beneath that silver moon so bright
(In silence and in full content)
As stars gazed on them from their height.

-jwm



Of the Poem (Parameters):

Stanza: Quatrain, Rubaiyat
Meter: Tetrameter
Rhyme Scheme: aaba bbcb ccdc dded eeae

Note:

The structure of the poem is modeled off of what I consider to be one of the most gorgeous stanza types to work with, the Rubaiyat.

The Rubaiyat’s rhyme pattern is aaba which- despite the ‘off rhythm’ of the third line- produces and incredible rate of poetic flow. Where two or more stanzas are involved, that rate flow is punctuated, and is awesome.

Wherever there are two or more of these stanzas the rhyme pattern is usually interlocking, so that the ‘b’ of the first stanza (aaba) constitutes the primary rhyme pattern of the second stanza … aaba bbcb, and so on.

You’ll also notice that in this poem the rhyme pattern returns to the initial primary rhythm of the first stanza (aaba bbcb ccdc dded eeae), this was intentional and served as a sort of internal self-closure of the poem- even apart from the storyline itself.

I first came to know this stanza type by reading a Robert Frost poem called, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. It was a gorgeous, gorgeous poem, and I was compelled to try the style out.

Since my introduction to this form I’ve done a few poems that mimic it, and am working on another one right now.

Now, if you’ve come across this site and have written a poem based on the Rubaiyat structure, please … let me read it: post it in a comments area of mine or, better yet, click on my picture above and friend me on Facebook so that we might correspond over it. I’d be delighted! Meanwhile, let me know what you think of this particular poem above, Beneath a Starry Night.

W.H. Auden*

W.H. Auden (1907 – 1973)

Wystan Hugh Auden was born in York, England, in 1907. He moved to Birmingham during childhood and was educated at Christ Church, Oxford. As a young man he was influenced by the poetry of Thomas Hardy and Robert Frost, as well as William Blake, Emily Dickinson, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Old English verse. At Oxford his precocity as a poet was immediately apparent, and he formed lifelong friendships with two fellow writers, Stephen Spender and Christopher Isherwood.

In 1928, his collection Poems was privately printed, but it wasn't until 1930, when another collection titled Poems (though its contents were different) was published, that Auden was established as the leading voice of a new generation.

Ever since, he has been admired for his unsurpassed technical virtuosity and an ability to write poems in nearly every imaginable verse form; the incorporation in his work of popular culture, current events, and vernacular speech; and also for the vast range of his intellect, which drew easily from an extraordinary variety of literatures, art forms, social and political theories, and scientific and technical information. He had a remarkable wit, and often mimicked the writing styles of other poets such as Dickinson, W. B. Yeats, and Henry James. His poetry frequently recounts, literally or metaphorically, a journey or quest, and his travels provided rich material for his verse.

He visited Germany, Iceland, and China, served in the Spanish Civil war, and in 1939 moved to the United States, where he met his lover, Chester Kallman, and became an American citizen. His own beliefs changed radically between his youthful career in England, when he was an ardent advocate of socialism and Freudian psychoanalysis, and his later phase in America, when his central preoccupation became Christianity and the theology of modern Protestant theologians. A prolific writer, Auden was also a noted playwright, librettist, editor, and essayist. Generally considered the greatest English poet of the twentieth century, his work has exerted a major influence on succeeding generations of poets on both sides of the Atlantic.

W. H. Auden was a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets from 1954 to 1973, and divided most of the second half of his life between residences in New York City and Austria. He died in Vienna in 1973.

*Biography from Poets.org

February 17, 2011

Preface to Lyrical Ballads - Quote

In spite of difference of soil and climate, of language and manners, of laws and customs: in spite of things silently gone out of mind, and things violently destroyed; the Poet binds together by passion and knowledge the vast empire of human society, as it is spread over the whole earth, and over all time. The objects of the Poet’s thoughts are everywhere; though the eyes and senses of man are, it is true, his favourite guides, yet he will follow wheresoever he can find an atmosphere of sensation in which to move his wings. Poetry is the first and last of all knowledge—it is as immortal as the heart of man.

~William Wordsworth, Preface to Lyrical Ballads

February 07, 2011

Out from Concord

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

~Henry David Thoreau


Out from Concord

Walden Pond is in my heart
And I feel like Thoreau
So farewell, world, I must depart
And go where wise men go

Out from Concord’s busy streets
And into Nature’s womb
The place where truth and beauty meet
And merge like bride and groom

-jwm

Dream ...

Note that the complete poem is in the comments area.

February 01, 2011

Happy Date of Birth, Hughes


It has been roughly two and a half years since I was first introduced to Langston Hughes by a friend of mine, Najin Aryan. He’s a very talented poet who I came to adore almost immediately.

It just happened to be that at the time I was introduced to Hughes I was reading Derek Alton Walcott's, A Far Cry from Africa … which is a very, very intense poem about ethnic loyalties from the perspective of a person mixed between black and white. Then, happenstancedly, I read Hughes’ poem ‘Cross’ which has similar racial overtones and concerns.

Yep, Hughes as a poet had immediate hold on me. That poem ‘Cross’ is below- let me know what you think.

Happy birthday, Mr. James Mercer Langston Hughes …


*****


Cross

My old man's a white old man
And my old mother's black.
If ever I cursed my white old man
I take my curses back.
If ever I cursed my black old mother
And wished she were in hell,

I'm sorry for that evil wish
And now I wish her well
My old man died in a fine big house.
My ma died in a shack.
I wonder were I'm going to die,
Being neither white nor black?

James Mercer Langston Hughes*


Langston Hughes (February 1902 – 1967)

James Langston Hughes was born February 1, 1902, in Joplin, Missouri. His parents divorced when he was a small child, and his father moved to Mexico. He was raised by his grandmother until he was thirteen, when he moved to Lincoln, Illinois, to live with his mother and her husband, before the family eventually settled in Cleveland, Ohio. It was in Lincoln, Illinois, that Hughes began writing poetry. Following graduation, he spent a year in Mexico and a year at Columbia University. During these years, he held odd jobs as an assistant cook, launderer, and a busboy, and travelled to Africa and Europe working as a seaman. In November 1924, he moved to Washington, D.C. Hughes's first book of poetry, The Weary Blues, was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1926. He finished his college education at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania three years later. In 1930 his first novel, Not Without Laughter, won the Harmon gold medal for literature.

Hughes, who claimed Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Carl Sandburg, and Walt Whitman as his primary influences, is particularly known for his insightful, colorful portrayals of black life in America from the twenties through the sixties. He wrote novels, short stories and plays, as well as poetry, and is also known for his engagement with the world of jazz and the influence it had on his writing, as in "Montage of a Dream Deferred." His life and work were enormously important in shaping the artistic contributions of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. Unlike other notable black poets of the period—Claude McKay, Jean Toomer, and Countee Cullen—Hughes refused to differentiate between his personal experience and the common experience of black America. He wanted to tell the stories of his people in ways that reflected their actual culture, including both their suffering and their love of music, laughter, and language itself.

Langston Hughes died of complications from prostate cancer in May 22, 1967, in New York. In his memory, his residence at 20 East 127th Street in Harlem, New York City, has been given landmark status by the New York City Preservation Commission, and East 127th Street has been renamed "Langston Hughes Place."

In addition to leaving us a large body of poetic work, Hughes wrote eleven plays and countless works of prose, including the well-known “Simple” books: Simple Speaks His Mind, Simple Stakes a Claim,Simple Takes a Wife, and Simple's Uncle Sam. He edited the anthologies The Poetry of the Negro and The Book of Negro Folklore, wrote an acclaimed autobiography (The Big Sea) and co-wrote the play Mule Bone with Zora Neale Hurston.

Biography from Poets.org

As of April 9th, 2010