The Poets

December 09, 2012

None with Eden Can Strive

John Milton (1608-1674), a total genius, was the very first poet I began to study deliberately. I often wonder if my interest and dedication to poetry would have been different had I not come across, what I believe to be, one of the most awesome references to the Garden of Eden. It was while reading a book written by Edward O. Wilson titled, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge. Within just 8 lines of verse Milton captured my attention permanently. Concerning those lines, I wrote in a blog post a few years back that ...

"There were no extravagant words employed, and as far as I can remember, Milton almost never even mentioned the Garden. But within 8 lines, and by means of images taken from mythology, Milton expresses what in other words would simply require pages to attain."

Here are those 8 lines below (what do you think):

Not that fair field
Of Enna, where Proserpine gathering flowers,
Herself a fairer flower by gloomy Dis
Was gathered, which cost Ceres all that pain
To seek her through the world; nor that sweet grove
Of Daphne by Orontes, and the inspired
Castalian spring, might with this Paradise
Of Eden strive...

Paradise Lost, Book IV 268 - 275

If it were not for Milton I sometimes wonder whether I would have ever engaged poetry at all. I'm in utter debt to him.

December 05, 2012

Fyodor Ivanovich Tyutchev

I first learned of the Russian Symbolist/Romantic poet Fyodor Ivanovich Tyutchev and of his incredible works this previous June.

The imagery he employs is vivid, intense, full of vitality, and ruthlessly mesmerizing- very much the same way that Hilda Doolittle's works are. I love how he toys with and fills traditional forms (ballads, metronomes, rhyme schemes, etc) with these incredibly powerful and incredibly wooing images. The scope and depth of Tyutchev’s talent as a writer and a poet are remarkable.

If you haven’t read his works, especially if you enjoy poetry and good writing, you seriously don’t know the state of deprivation you’re in.

Along with another awesome poet, Christina Rossetti, Tyutchev was born on this day (Rossetti in 1830, Tyutchev in 1803).

This work of Tyutchev’s, translated by Vladimir Nabokov, is a little dark, but impressive to say the least. Please, let me know what you think of it …


Now the ashen shadows mingle,
tints faded, sounds remote.
Life has dwindled to a single
vague reverberating note.
In the dusk I hear the humming
of a moth I cannot see.
Whence is this oppression coming?
I’m in all, and all’s in me.

Gloom so dreamy, so lulling,
flow into my deepest deep,
flow, ambrosial and dulling,
steeping everything in sleep.
With oblivion’s obscuration
fill my senses to the brim,
make me taste obliteration,
in this dimness let me dim.


Please, for the love of God ... let me know what you think.

December 04, 2012

Rilke's 9th Elegy

Unthinkingly, as I’m leaving for work this morning, I grab a book: The Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke. What I forgot, until just a few seconds ago, was that he was born on this day (1875).

I’ve known this poet for a long time, and appreciate the sincere depth of his melancholic insight. His works wreak of existential despair, and bare the same oppressive mark of despondency that plagued Confessional poets such as Plath and Sexton and Berryman.

I would warn anyone who would read Rilke’s works to do so in small doses. His poetic darkness isn’t the kind of darkness we see reflected in works such as Bauldelaire's Les Fleurs du mal (Flowers of Evil). No … Rilke’s darkness is dangerously close to suicidal reflection and flirts with despair’s menacing onslaught (Baudelaire’s darkness is merely that of audacity).

With that said, I will say that I love this poet. In July I composed a list of my top 20 favorite poets, Rilke was my fifth. The poem below (Duino Elegy #9) I carry in my wallet …

Duino Elegy #9

Why, when this span of life might be fleeted away
as laurel, a little darker than all
the surrounding green, with tiny waves on the border
of every leaf (like the smile of a wind): - oh, why
have to be human, and shunning Destiny,
long for Destiny?...
                      Not because happiness really
exists, that precipitate profit of imminent loss.
Not out of curiosity, not just to practise the heart,
that could still be there in laurel...
But because being here is much, and because all this
that's here, so fleeting, seems to require us and strangely
concerns us. Us the most fleeting of all. Just once,
everything, only for once. Once and no more. And we, too,
once. And never again. But this
having been once on earth - can it ever be cancelled?

And so we keep pressing on and trying to perform it,
trying to contain it within our simple hands,
in the more and more crowded gaze, in the speechless heart.
Trying to become it. To give it to whom? We'd rather
hold on to it all for ever... But into the other relation,
what, alas! do we carry across? Not the beholding we've here
slowly acquired, and no here occurrence. Not one.
Sufferings, then. Above all, the hardness of life,
the long experience of love; in fact,
purely untellable things. But later,
under the stars, what use? the more deeply untellable stars?
Yet the wanderer too doesn't bring from mountain to valley
a handful of earth; of for all untellable earth, but only
a word he has won, pure, the yellow and blue
gentian. Are we, perhaps, here just for saying: House,
Bridge, Fountain, Gate, Jug, Fruit tree, Window, -
possibly: Pillar, Tower?... but for saying, remember,
oh, for such saying as never the things themselves
hoped so intensely to be. Is not the secret purpose
of this sly Earth, in urging a pair of lovers,
just to make everything leap with ecstasy in them?
Threshold: what does it mean
to a pair of lovers, that they should be wearing their own
worn threshold a little, they too, after the many before,
before the many to come,... as a matter of course!

Here is the time for the Tellable, here is its home.
Speak and proclaim. More than ever
things we can live with are falling away, for that
which is oustingly taking their place is an imageless act.
Act under crusts, that will readily split as soon
as the doing within outgrows them and takes a new outline.
Between the hammers lives on
our heart, as between the teeth
the tongue, which, in spite of all,
still continues to praise.

Praise this world to the Angel, not the untellable: you
can't impress him with the splendour you've felt; in the cosmos
where he more feelingly feels you're only a novice. So show him
some simple thing, refashioned by age after age,
till it lives in our hands and eyes as a part of ourselves.
Tell him things. He'll stand more astonished: as you did
beside the roper in Rome or the potter in Egypt.
Show him how happy a thing can be, how guileless and ours;
how even the moaning of grief purely determines on form,
serves as a thing, or dies into a thing, - to escape
to a bliss beyond the fiddle. These things that live on departure
understand when you praise them: fleeting, they look for
rescue through something in us, the most fleeting of all.
Want us to change them entirely, within our invisible hearts
into - oh, endlessly - into ourselves! Whosoever we are.

Earth, is it not just this that you want: to arise
invisibly in us? Is not your dream
to be one day invisible? Earth! invisible!
What is your urgent command, if not transformation?
Earth, you darling, I will! Oh, believe me, you need
no more of your spring-times to win me over: a single one,
ah, one, is already more than my blood can endure.
Beyond all names I am yours, and have been for ages.
You were always right, and your holiest inspiration
is Death, that friendly Death.
Look, I am living. On what? Neither childhood nor future
are growing less.... Supernumerous existence
wells up in my heart.

November 16, 2012

Blok on the Muse

I mentioned recently how impressive a breed of poets these Russian symbolists were, and named a few. Among those named was Aleksandr Blok, a poet that I’ve now known for some time, and the first Russian symbolist I came to study.

Now although I consider Tyutchev
the best of these symbolists- indeed, one of the best poets ever- Blok and his incredibly imaginative works hold a high and privileged place with me. His poetry seems, at times, irrationally defiant and recklessly counterintuitive (To the Muse); and yet at other times his poems gleam of loftiness and holiness and divinity (I Seek Salvation).

Take the poem below … it’s about the Muse- that mythological deity who inspires within the human spirit passionate movements of creativity and the apperception of the sublime and beautiful. This poem depicts her as an irresistible addiction that, once consumed by, causes one to trample on and desecrate sacred traditions and holy things (not at all the idea of her that the Greeks held).

Check it …

To the Muse 

In your hidden memories
There are fatal tidings of doom...
A curse on sacred traditions,
A desecration of happiness;

And a power so alluring
That I am ready to repeat the rumour
That you have brought angels down from heaven,
Enticing them with your beauty...

And when you mock at faith,
That pale, greyish-purple halo
Which I once saw before
Suddenly begins to shine above you.

Are you evil or good? You are altogether from another world
They say strange things about you
For some you are the Muse and a miracle.
For me you are torment and hell.

I do not know why in the hour of dawn,
When no strength was left to me,
I did not perish, but caught sight of your face
And begged you to comfort me.

I wanted us to be enemies;
Why then did you make me a present
Of a flowery meadow and of the starry firmament --
The whole curse of your beauty?

Your fearful caresses were more treacherous
Than the northern night,
More intoxicating than the golden champagne of Aï,
Briefer than a gypsy woman's love...

And there was a fatal pleasure
In trampling on cherished and holy things;
And this passion, bitter as wormwood,
Was a frenzied delight for the heart!

November 12, 2012

Advice from a Poet

Yes! By far the best- and I mean BEST- advice one could ever give to a poet (and in the form of verse!). The advice comes from
American Romantic poet William Cullen Bryant (1794 – 1878), and I highly recommend any poet to read through the whole of this poem.

Thank you, Bryant ...

The Poet

Thou, who wouldst wear the name
Of poet mid thy brethren of mankind,
And clothe in words of flame
Thoughts that shall live within the general mind!
Deem not the framing of a deathless lay
The pastime of a drowsy summer day.

But gather all thy powers,
And wreak them on the verse that thou dust weave,
And in thy lonely hours,
At silent morning or at wakeful eve,
While the warm current tingles through thy veins,
Set forth the burning words in fluent strains.

No smooth array of phrase,
Artfully sought and ordered though it be,
Which the cold rhymer lays
Upon his page with languid industry,
Can wake the listless pulse to livelier speed,
Or fill with sudden tears the eyes that read.

The secret wouldst thou know
To touch the heart or fire the blood at will?
Let thine own eyes o'erflow;
Let thy lips quiver with the passionate thrill;
Seize the great thought, ere yet its power be past,
And bind, in words, the fleet emotion fast.

Then, should thy verse appear
Halting and harsh, and all unaptly wrought,
Touch the crude line with fear,
Save in the moment of impassioned thought;
Then summon back the original glow, and mend
The strain with rapture that with fire was penned.

Yet let no empty gust
Of passion find an utterance in thy lay,
A blast that whirls the dust
Along the howling street and dies away;
But feelings of calm power and mighty sweep,
Like currents journeying through the windless deep.

Seek'st thou, in living lays,
To limn the beauty of the earth and sky?
Before thine inner gaze
Let all that beauty in clear vision lie;
Look on it with exceeding love, and write
The words inspired by wonder and delight.

Of tempests wouldst thou sing,
Or tell of battles--make thyself a part
Of the great tumult; cling
To the tossed wreck with terror in thy heart;
Scale, with the assaulting host, the rampart's height,
And strike and struggle in the thickest fight.

So shalt thou frame a lay
That haply may endure from age to age,
And they who read shall say
"What witchery hangs upon this poet's page!
What art is his the written spells to find
That sway from mood to mood the willing mind!"

November 09, 2012

The Truth the Dead Know- A Sexton Poem

The Truth the Dead Know

    For my Mother, born March 1902, died March 1959
    and my Father, born February 1900, died June 1959

Gone, I say and walk from church,
refusing the stiff procession to the grave,
letting the dead ride alone in the hearse.
It is June.  I am tired of being brave.

We drive to the Cape.  I cultivate
myself where the sun gutters from the sky,
where the sea swings in like an iron gate
and we touch.  In another country people die.

My darling, the wind falls in like stones
from the whitehearted water and when we touch
we enter touch entirely.  No one's alone.
Men kill for this, or for as much.

And what of the dead?  They lie without shoes
in the stone boats.  They are more like stone
than the sea would be if it stopped.  They refuse
to be blessed, throat, eye and knucklebone.

Beautiful Anne Sexton

Beautiful Anne Sexton … incredible poet, tragic soul. Happy date of birth, lady …
(Nov. 9th 1928 – Oct. 4th 1974)

October 26, 2012

The Maple

When times of desperation greet me
With tempest and with livid storm
And violent winds wish to defeat me 
And swallow me within their swarm

I will remember where I’m rooted
And there with courage will abide
And though the winds my leaves have looted
Maintain my faith though it be tried

So let the darkest storm clouds thunder
Let rain and wind their havocs wreak
The world around me wide will wonder
How I am strong, yet seem so meek


Of the Poem:

Meter: Nine syllables with lines 1 and 3, tetrameter with 2 and 4
Rhyme Scheme: abab per stanza

The idea came from a parable Arthur Schopenhauer (I think it was Schopenhauer) told about a pine tree- the point of the parable being that pines, though they're not the most becoming of trees, are nobler because they're less susceptible to change unlike other, more beautiful, deciduous trees.

The reason for the poem, unfortunately, is a tough time I'm going through (a sort of reminder to myself to be strong) .

October 24, 2012

A Very Cool Poet

Denise Levertov, born this day in 1923,  is the first female Beat poet that I began to read and study … I love her- her style is cool, the way she employs imagery is cool, her chosen subjects are cool, and I’ll go as far as to say that she’s among the coolest of the Beat poets.

This poem, St. Peter and the Angel, is an awesome story about deliverance and the curious mixture of dread and jubilance that comes with the realization of it. Check it out, you’ll enjoy her storytelling, I promise …

St. Peter and the Angel
by Denise Levertov (1923 – 1997)

Delivered out of raw continual pain,
smell of darkness, groans of those others
to whom he was chained--

unchained, and led
past the sleepers,
door after door silently opening--
    And along a long street's
majestic emptiness under the moon:

one hand on the angel's shoulder, one
feeling the air before him,
eyes open but fixed . . .

And not till he saw the angel had left him,
alone and free to resume
the ecstatic, dangerous, wearisome roads of
what he had still to do,
not till then did he recognize
this was no dream. More frightening
than arrest, than being chained to his warders:
he could hear his own footsteps suddenly.
Had the angel's feet
made any sound? He could not recall.
No one had missed him, no one was in pursuit.
He himself must be
the key, now, to the next door,         

October 09, 2012

An Elegy to Heather Tripler

This poem is a repost that I dedicate to the memory of Heather Tripler, a young homeless lady who died in a small park in Grand Junction this day in October of 2008. We’ll never forget you, Heather.


Emerson Park
An Elegy on the Passing of Heather Tripler

There’s snow there now where once she lay
Alone that Autumn eve
And though that day seems far away
I still lamenting grieve

For she- a daughter, mother, friend
She pined, I’m sure, in grief
For hard distraught there came her end
By Death, that surly thief

She roamed, she roamed through deepest dark
Alone, no friend to guide
And when she came upon that park
There on a bench she died

No tear went forth, nor word was said
To her who lay asleep
Til angels by her bed were led
In solace ever deep

“Awake, dear child, slumber’s past”
They said in one accord
“Come to the warmth and light at last
For therein is the Lord”


Of the Poem

It was 2008, October 10th, when I was home from work and the news was on. A young lady, it was reported, was found dead on a park bench in Grand Junction. She was 34 years old, homeless, and apparently died there as a result of alcohol poisoning. I was utterly grieved by the news of this.

Words elude me. What can I say that might articulate the emotions that are stirred up in me even at this moment? How can I articulate the content of so tragic an event as Heather’s?

Perhaps these words, written to Heather’s mother, might express them the best …

"As I mentioned to your sister and your daughter, I’m so sorry for your loss. My daughter is 9 years old, and it would wreck my world if I lost her. This is honestly the closest to empathy that I can reach with regard to the emotional pain I’m certain you feel. I’m truly sorry that you and your family are without Heather. Any attempt to console you I imagine is fruitless, yet I have no doubt that you’ll see Heather again in the hereafter.

I don’t know Heather, but the first time I heard of her plight it grieved me so heavily that I still have difficulty articulating it. It was shortly after she died that the first snowfall of the year occurred, and as I was standing at my doorway looking at this beautiful sight I couldn’t stop thinking about her and that dreadful event. It was then that I felt, deep in the inner reaches of my heart, that I had to memorialize her in the form of a poem; that I had to say ‘something’ in honor of her.

I didn’t know what I would write, but there were two simple rules that I knew I had to follow … first, let the poem come to me rather than forcing too many ideas onto it; and second- and perhaps most importantly- to write it as if Heather were standing right there watching me write it (so as to get a sense of her approval, I think).

Those were the hardest 20 lines that I’ve ever written in a poem, but when I completed them I felt a beautiful sense of connection with Heather.

In the end I feel my point was to express (in the first stanza) the anguish I felt when I first heard of her death; to express (in the second and third stanza) her humanity in the midst of that lonely night- which the media seemed to entirely ignore; and to express (in the last two stanzas), the best way I knew how, her reception into the arms of the Lord.

The truth is, I wanted to express to Heather herself that I was listening. My original intention was to keep the poem to myself, but the second I finished it my conscience compelled me to try and contact her family and share it with them- and I did.

I’ve thought about Heather so much over the last two years. And though I’ve never met her, I’ll never be able to forget her."

September 25, 2012

Shel Silverstein

I’ve heard lots and lots about you, and have not read one thing you’ve written … this, will, change. 

September 24, 2012

No Longer Mute

Wow … after a grueling 3 months of Muselessness, out of nowhere Calliope appears! 

Of a Mute 

He walks- in speechlessness he lulling strolls
Investigating gnarly twigs that fell
And fall'n autumn leaves that languish, lacking souls
Is he within a heaven, or he a hell 

The world around him-animated- threats
And he, a foreigner to it doth shy
As too the loneliness that in me frets
I know his state removed from all, but why

Is he, like me, in dreadful mystic state
Is worldly beauty too much for him to bear
Receiving it with joy, but too with fear

Or, and God forbid I ask, is his fate
A curse? Or even worse- does Life not care
That he's caught between the Now and Nowhere


Of the Poem (Parameters) 

Stanza: A hybrid between an English sonnet and a French sonnet
Meter: Pentameter (line 10, however, has ten and a half syllables)
Rhyme Scheme: abab cdcd eff eff

Side Note

I promise I’m not exaggerating when I say that I thought I was suffering Rimbaud's fate (a very famous French Symbolist poet who, at the age of 19, abruptly ceased to write poetry for the rest of his life).

The poem, done within 30 minutes after a 3 month dry spell, was inspired by a neighbor boy who is autistic (I think) and very quiet and very, very standoffish. It’s not about him, but definitely influenced by him.

As of April 9th, 2010