The Poets

March 30, 2012

Verlaine, the Symbolist

Of the French symbolists, Paul Verlaine (1844 – 1896) is probably one of my least most studied and read of the poets … but what I have read, what I have studied and learned about him, is utterly inspiring- at times darkly inspiring. His poetry almost lends a sort of ‘blueprint’ on how a poet becomes poetic. He inspires on a practical level.

His poetry, like
Baudelaire's who influenced him, takes on some of the most unnoticed aspects of common human experience and makes them poetically eloquent, endowing them with a sort of sacred superiority unseen by the blind masses.

Of the little I know about this poet and his turbulent existence, what I appreciate about him the most is that he has the poet’s eye: the thorough inability to see anything in reality superficially.

Here an example of Verlaine’s work (translated from French by
Louis Simpson) …

The Young Fools (Les Ingénus)

High-heels were struggling with a full-length dress
So that, between the wind and the terrain,
At times a shining stocking would be seen,
And gone too soon. We liked that foolishness.

Also, at times a jealous insect's dart
Bothered out beauties. Suddenly a white
Nape flashed beneath the branches, and this sight
Was a delicate feast for a young fool's heart.

Evening fell, equivocal, dissembling,
The women who hung dreaming on our arms
Spoke in low voices, words that had such charms
That ever since our stunned soul has been trembling.

March 26, 2012



Kanaalaq came and bore me kisses
From bright blue skies where heaven’s bliss is …
To me, a loveless, lonely mortal,
Descended she from heaven’s portal!

She passed my flesh to reach my spirit-
Bestowing love as she drew near it;
And merging, merging like the mystic,
Grew one with me unhedonistic.

In passions steeped we intermingled-
Our souls with one another tingled-
Til we were one, and we were captured
In deep elation, deeply raptured.

The bliss brought existential numbing-
And climax rapidly was coming:
Nirvana’s otherworldly feeling
Consumed my being and had me reeling!

All hint of night had fled off frightened,
And I, within this bliss, enlightened
Felt truly happy with this creature:
“O never leave” I did beseech her.

She dwells here still (my heart is grateful),
This goddess- loving, gorgeous, faithful.
She fills me too with true renewal …
Kanaalaq, ah, my lovely jewel.


March 21, 2012

Happy Birthday Bach!

Today is the 327th birthday of one of the most popular and most talented Baroque composers known, Johann Sebastian Bach. The Baroque period is by far my favorite period in classical music (Vivaldi being my all time favorite composer).

Anyhow, although very familiar with Bach and his works, I was quite surprised to find out from my cousin that- apart from being a great classicalist- he was also a great writer of poetry. Wow! I had no idea.

My cousin, Chris May, posted one of Bach’s poems to me on Facebook- I loved it! Bach’s definitely a good writer of verse- no question about it. He just went up a notch in my Book of Creative Minds (… I don’t literally own such a book).

Here’s that poem, let me know what you think …


Edifying Thoughts of a Tobacco Smoker

Whene'er I take my pipe and stuff it
And smoke to pass the time away
My thoughts, as I sit there and puff it,
Dwell on a picture sad and grey:
It teaches me that very like
Am I myself unto my pipe.

Like me this pipe, so fragrant burning,
Is made of naught but earthen clay;
To earth I too shall be returning,
And cannot halt my slow decay.
My well used pipe, now cracked and broken,
Of mortal life is but a token.

No stain, the pipe's hue yet doth darken;
It remains white. Thus do I know
That when to death's call I must harken
My body, too, all pale will grow.
To black beneath the sod 'twill turn,
Likewise the pipe, if oft it burn.

Or when the pipe is fairly glowing,
Behold then instantaneously,
The smoke off into thin air going,
'Til naught but ash is left to see.
Man's fame likewise away will burn
And unto dust his body turn.

How oft it happens when one's smoking,
The tamper's missing from it's shelf,
And one goes with one's finger poking
Into the bowl and burns oneself.
If in the pipe such pain doth dwell
How hot must be the pains of Hell!

Thus o'er my pipe in contemplation
Of such things - I can constantly
Indulge in fruitful meditation,
And so, puffing contentedly,
On land, at sea, at home, abroad,
I smoke my pipe and worship God.

-J.S. Bach

Of the Poem (Poetic Parameters):

Stanza: Sestet (in this case, a quatrain with a couplet).
Meter: apart from lines 1 and 3, all of the lines are done in tetrameter (i.e. eight syllables); lines 1 and 3 are a nine syllable count.
The rhyme scheme is pretty obvious: a.b.a.b.c.c.

Notice that Bach extends lines 1 and 3 by ending, what would otherwise be a tetrameter, the lines with multi-syllable words. Cool stuff … and the content of the poem- wow.

March 12, 2012

On Jagged Heights

On Jagged Heights

When black infernal smoke ascends
To amber skies ablaze
And thousands fall by warfare cruel
And death brings crueler days

When bombs fall hard upon the earth
Obliterating life
When winter from the fallout comes
And suffering is rife

To craggy cliffs and jagged heights
Determined I will flee
And live, persist, on mountain tops
Alone, alive, and free


As of April 9th, 2010