The Poets

March 30, 2011

Bums Me Out

It seems that there’s a glitch with my HTML that’s preventing me from spacing my sentences and editing potential posts appropriately. Unfortunately, what this means is that, until I reconcile the problem, I won’t be making any posts (believe me, this sucks) …

March 26, 2011

On Frost's October

Today is the birth date of two very well known poets, Robert Frost (an icon of American poetry) and Gregory Corso (one of the original- and youngest- founders of the Beat poets). I’ll post on Corso next.

I’ve mentioned this elsewhere, but Frost influenced me by his deceptively simple style, his humble employment of imagery and words, and his determination to explore many different poetic forms. It was by Frost that I came to learn of the Rubaiyat stanza (a stanza that has aaba as its rhyme scheme, a rhythm I excitingly used in some of my own works).

My favorite poem by Frost (and I believe it’s my daughter’s favorite as well) is, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. Beautiful, beautiful read (especially out loud). I also like Nature's First Green is Gold- and other elegant poem (and what still astonishes me is the density of detail in so short a poem).

I learned that Frost wrote Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening in the dead of summer. So, as a tribute to him and that favorite poem of mine, I wanted to share another poem of his on this gorgeous spring day, it’s called: October.


O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
To-morrow's wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
To-morrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow,
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know;
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away;
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes' sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes' sake along the wall.

What a beautiful poem. Personally, the poem reminds me of two things: The mystifying beauty of Indian summer, and our mortality (i.e. the coming of winter). I’d love to hear your take on it.

btw: the picture above is called, October Morning, a work created by the gifted artist, Don Reed (you should click the link and check him out).

March 24, 2011

Lawrence Ferlinghetti*

Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919 to date)

In 1919, Lawrence Ferlinghetti was born in Yonkers, New York. After spending his early childhood in France, he received his BA from the University of North Carolina, an MA from Columbia University, and a PhD from the Sorbonne.

During World War II he served in the US Naval Reserve and was sent to Nagasaki shortly after it was bombed. He married in 1951 and has one daughter and one son.

In 1953, Ferlinghetti and Peter Martin began to publish City Lights magazine. They also opened the City Lights Books Shop in San Francisco to help support the magazine. In 1955, they launched City Light Publishing, a book-publishing venture. City Lights became known as the heart of the "Beat" movement, which included writers such as Kenneth Rexroth, Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac.

Ferlinghetti is the author of more than thirty books of poetry, including Poetry as Insurgent Art (New Directions, 2007)Americus, Book I (2004), San Francisco Poems (2002), How to Paint Sunlight (2001), A Far Rockaway of the Heart (1997), These Are My Rivers: New & Selected Poems, 1955-1993 (1993), Over All the Obscene Boundaries: European Poems & Transitions (1984), Who Are We Now? (1976), The Secret Meaning of Things (1969), and A Coney Island of the Mind (1958). He has translated the work of a number of poets including Nicanor Parra, Jacques Prevert, and Pier Paolo Pasolini. Ferlinghetti is also the author more than eight plays and of the novels Love in the Days of Rage (1988) and Her (1966).

In 1994, San Francisco renamed a street in his honor. He was also named the first Poet Laureate of San Francisco in 1998. In 2000, he received the lifetime achievement award from the National Book Critics Circle.

Currently, Ferlinghetti writes a weekly column for the San Francisco Chronicle. He also continues to operate the City Lights bookstore, and he travels frequently to participate in literary conferences and poetry readings.

*Biography from

March 17, 2011

At the Water's Edge

I came across the name Sully Prudhomme after having studied French symbolism. The period of poetry within which he’s associated is the Parnassian period (a primarily French movement in poetry characterized by a departure from the sentimentalism of the Romantic poets, a return to traditional forms and meter, grand subjects, and an attitude of ‘art for art’s sake').

The first poem I read by Prudhomme is called, At the Water’s Edge. It consists of six quatrains with alternating lines of pentameter and dimeter (e.g. 10 syllables in the one, and four in the other). The rhyme scheme is simple: abab.

The poem itself is an empathetic reflection on life and all its different manifestations: watching waves within the water (lines 1 and 2), listening and enjoying the warbling of the wren (lines 11 and 12), knowing love (line 18 and line 24) … basically, enjoying the beauty of life.

Yeah, I like this Prudhomme dude (here’s that poem) …

At the Water's Edge

To sit and watch the wavelets as they flow
Two - side by side;
To see the gliding clouds that come and
And mark them glide;

If from low roofs the smoke is wreathing pale,
To watch it wreath;
If flowers around breathe perfume on the gale,
To feel them breathe;

If the bee sips the honeyed fruit that glistens,
To sip the dew;
If the bird warbles while the forest listens,
To listen too;

Beneath the willow where the brook is singing,
To hear its song;
Nor feel, while round us that sweet dream is clinging
The hours too long;

To know one only deep over mastering passion -
The love we share;
To let the world go worrying in its fashion
Without one care -

We only, while around all weary grow,
Unwearied stand,
And midst the fickle changes others knows,
Love - hand in hand

March 16, 2011

Sully Prudhomme*

Sully Prudhomme 1839 - 1907

Rene Francois Armand Prudhomme, the son of a French shopkeeper. He also went by the name of René François Armand Sully-Prudhomme and Sully Prudhomme. An eye disease terminated his training at a polytechnic institute where he hoped to become an engineer. Instead, his studies concentrated on literature. His first job was as a clerk in a factory office, which he left in 1860 to study law. Sully Prudhomme was a member of the Conference La Bruyere, a distinguished student society, and the favourable reaction from his fellow members encouraged him to go on writing poetry.

His first volume, Stances et Poemes (Stanzas and Poems) (1865), was well reviewed by Sainte-Beuve and established his reputation. The volume was filled with fluent and melancholic verse inspired by an unhappy love affair. He was a leading member of the Parnassian movement, which sought to restore elegance, balance, and aesthetic standards to poetry, in reaction to the excesses of Romanticism.

Sully Prudhomme combined perfection and elegance with philosophic and scientific interests, which are revealed, for instance, in his translation of the first book of Lucretius' De Rerum Natura (1878-79). Some of his other poetic works are: Croquis Italiens (Italian Notebook) (1866-68); Solitudes (1869); Impressions de la guerre (Impressions of War) (1870); Les Destins (Destinies) (1872); La Révolte des fleurs (Revolt of the Flowers) (1872); La France (1874); Les Vaines Tendresses (Vain Endearments)(1875); La Justice (1878); and Le Bonheur(Happiness) (1888). Les Epaves (Flotsam) (1908), published posthumously, was a collection of miscellaneous poems. A collected edition of his writings in five volumes appeared in 1900-01. He also wrote essays and a book on Pascal, La Vraie Religion selon Pascal (Pascal on true Religion) (1905). He was awarded the first Nobel Prize for Literature in 1901.

Sully Prudhomme was a member of the French Academy from 1881 until his deah in 1907.

*Biography from

March 10, 2011

Hanks, Poe and Helen

I love how poetry weaves herself into my life without my having to do anything, as if she seeks me.

I was visiting my neighbor’s one day and, because they’re both avid readers, there were books strewn everywhere throughout their house. While I was sitting in their dining area I happen to look down and this little grey book caught my attention- it was the collected works of Edgar Allan Poe (and it was gorgeous looking- tiny and fragile and old, almost like brittle papyrus found tucked away in some forgotten cave).

I picked it up and read the first few lines of the very first poem and I immediately knew I had heard these lines before- but where? Ah ha! It was the poem that Tom Hanks' character recited throughout the movie Ladykillers- the poem is called, To Helen.

To Helen

Helen, thy beauty is to me
Like those Nicean barks of yore
That gently, o'er a perfumed sea,
The weary, way-worn wanderer bore
To his own native shore.

On desperate seas long wont to roam,
Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face,
Thy Naiad airs have brought me home
To the glory that was Greece,
And the grandeur that was Rome.

Lo, in yon brilliant window-niche
How statue-like I see thee stand,
The agate lamp within thy hand,
Ah! Psyche, from the regions which
Are Holy Land!

The poem is an anomaly. It’s a gorgeous read and it flows perfectly- this despite the fact that its parameters seem jumbled. Just look at the way the rhyme scheme is laid out:

ababb ababa abbab (thoroughly inconsistent)

Then there’s the anomaly of the poem’s meter: 88886 (syllables) for the first stanza, 89877 for the second, and 88884 for the final stanza. Huh? And yet, again, it contributes directly to the beauty and rhythm of the work itself.

What’s awesome is that this poem was composed while Poe was roughly 14 years old (it was dedicated to the mother of Poe’s best friend, Jane Stith Stanard, his “first real love”).*

The original composition (published in 1831) is slightly different from the revised 1845 version most of us are familiar with. Here’s the original composition (the areas highlighted are where Poe made revisions):

To Helen

Helen, thy beauty is to me
Like those Nicean barks of yore,
That gently, o'er a perfum'd sea,
The weary way-worn wanderer bore
To his own native shore.

On desperate seas long wont to roam,
Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face,
Thy Naiad airs have brought me home
To the beauty of fair Greece,
And the grandeur of old Rome.

Lo ! in that little window-niche
How statue-like I see thee stand
The folded scroll within thy hand —
A Psyche from the regions which
Are Holy land !

It’s strange to say this, I know, but I gives me comfort to know that even a great poet like Poe will go back- years later- and feel the impulse to edit his own works (this occurs with me often).

I suppose the reason for this post- aside from Poe’s lovely poem- is that it seems that no matter where I’m at or what I’m doing, there’s always something referring me to poetry. I thank God for that.

Although Ladykillers is a dark comedy, and although Tom Hanks’ character is a goofy, scholarly type, I thought that the delivery of Poe’s poem was beautifully done. Here’s the poem as it was recited throughout the movie (forgive me for the subtitles) …

*It is said- and it makes sense- that the catalysis for Poe’s revised version was a new love, Sarah Helen Whitman. Some think the original poem was actually dedicated to her, and not Jane Stith Stanard (I’m sure this has to do with the curious coincidence of her middle name and the poem’s title), but that doesn’t add up at all. The first time Whitman and Poe met was in 1842 (long after the poem’s original scripting). What happened- and this is purely my take on it … what happened is that Poe met this lovely lady in 1842, became infatuated with her, and three years later re-edited and re-dedicated the poem to her. Seems like simple psychology to me. Still, the plain truth is Stanard was the inspiration of the poem, not Whitman.

Pauline Johnson

Emily Pauline Johnson is the only Native North American poet that I’ve ever read and studied. She’s one of the first poets I started reading to my daughter (the other being Emily Dickinson).

She has a beautiful style- I love how she creates awkward looking stanzas and combines them with meter and rhythm in such a way as to make the perfectly flowing poems. Her subject are always sublime, and her passion is always felt.

Happy 150th birthday, Emily. You’re an inspiring poet. Thanks for teaching me to be a better, more creative thinker and writer.


A Prodical

My heart forgot its God for love of you,
And you forgot me, other loves to learn;
Now through a wilderness of thorn and rue
... Back to my God I turn.

And just because my God forgets the past,
And in forgetting does not ask to know
Why I once left His arms for yours, at last
Back to my God I go.

March 06, 2011

Søren’s Counsel

Søren’s Counsel

The Advice of a Danish Existentialist

Tis not death the young man fears
No, what he fears, and this is true:
Staunch rejection of his peers,
And independence from their view.

May I offer this to you-
If you, young man, a man would be:
Know thyself and faith accrue,
And shun the faceless Crowd, like me.

Stroll the Jutland dells as free,
And be what God intends you to;
Wait in peace and you will see
Your peers will fear and follow you!


Of the Poem (Poetic Parameters and a Brief Note):

Stanza: Quatrain
Meter: The first line of each stanza has a seven syllable count, the remaining lines are in tetrameter (eight syllables)
Rhyme Scheme: abab baba abab (notice how the end-rhyme of last line of the first stanza becomes the end-rhyme of the first line of the second stanza, and so on … I thought this offered a beautiful cadence to the poem)

Note: Søren Aabye Kierkegaard was born on May 5th, 1813, in Copenhagen, Denmark. He’s the father of a branch of philosophy that would come to be known as existentialism.

In general, he’s an individualist who praises Socrates and his quest for self-knowledge; and a man who, through a leap of faith, threw himself into the arms of God.

Jutland is the name for a peninsula that forms the continental portion of Denmark. Kierkegaard journeyed there to visit Sæding, the place where his father (recently passed) grew up as a child.

In the last line of the last stanza the word fear is to be understood as fear in the sense of awe, or reverence, like the Hebrew word יִרְאָה (yirah).

March 05, 2011

Poetic Terms: Apheresis

Inasmuch as poetry is concerned, an apheresis is where one or more letters are omitted from the beginning of a word without diminishing the word’s actual meaning. Here’s a few examples:

- 'til from until
- 'round from around
- 'bout from about
- 'long from along
- 't was (twas) from
it was
- 't is (tis) from it is

For the most part, these words are employed in poetry in order to shape the meter. If a poet needs to lose a syllable an apheresis is one way to do that. Here’s an example from Paul Laurence Dunbar's poem, Opportunity (keep in mind this particular poem is done in dialect):

GRANNY'S gone a-visitin',
Seen huh git huh shawl
W'en I was a-hidin' down
Hime de gyahden wall.
Seen huh put her bonnet on,
Seen huh tie de strings,
An' I'se gone to dreamin' now
'Bout dem cakes an' t'ings.

As of April 9th, 2010