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The Poets

April 30, 2012

My Yeats Confession



Okay, I have a Yeats confession ....

The first time that I was actually introduced to Yeats and his poetry was in the mid-90s when I heard a song by, yes, the Cranberries called Yeats Grave. In the song Dolores O'Riordan repeats selected portions of one of Yeats’ poem, No Second Troy (a great poem about his fruitless pursuit of an Irish revolutionary beauty, Maud Gonne).

I didn’t have internet at home at the time, so I hit the library, pulled the lyrics, researched the quotes, and came to know of the Irish poet William Butler Yeats- all thanks to the Cranberries.

So no, I didn’t spend the summer in Ireland studying the works of our Irish poet in some revered conclave on the remote outskirts of a rustic Dublin village … I came to know Yeats (unofficially) through the music of the Cranberries.




April 25, 2012

Lethe


Good morning, peeps! Happy Poem In Your Pocket Day! The poem that I’ve selected to carry with me today is by the early 20th century Imagist poet Hilda Doolittle - one of my top five favorite poets … it’s called, Lethe
. Enjoy …

Lethe

NOR skin nor hide nor fleece
Shall cover you,
Nor curtain of crimson nor fine
Shelter of cedar-wood be over you,
Nor the fir-tree
Nor the pine.

Nor sight of whin nor gorse
Nor river-yew,
Nor fragrance of flowering bush,
Nor wailing of reed-bird to waken you,
Nor of linnet,
Nor of thrush.

Nor word nor touch nor sight
Of lover, you
Shall long through the night but for this:
The roll of the full tide to cover you
Without question,
Without kiss.

Poems & Pockets


Cool! I don’t think I’ve ever participated in Poem In Your Pocket Day. So … uh, I will.

April 23, 2012

My Dream, and Beslan



I know this isn’t ‘poetry’ in the proper sense of the word (a sense that I’m still trying to define concretely) … but I thought that, since dreams are essentially a of coalescing images, and poetry and imagery are intimately related, I thought I’d post on a dream I once had. 

Do you remember that absolutely horrible, horrible event that occurred in Beslan, Chechnya in September 2004? Terrorist took over a school full of children and, after negotiations collapsed three days later, they set off explosives in the gymnasium and began firing on the teachers and children … over 300 people were killed, 186 of them were children.

This disturbed me so deeply that, a year later, I had a dream that was heavily influenced by that awful event- the first and only dream I ever recorded. The second I woke up, I mean the very second I woke up, I wrote this down …


 
I'm afraid.

I feel like my assailant is all around me. But I have my gun, a black gun (a glock).

I think I'm in an old schoolhouse in Chechnya- everything is bluish gray... the paint on the walls are peeling.

Wait a second, there, about six yards ahead of me at the end of the hallway to the left, I feel a presence. I fire off three shots ... POP! POP! POP! It was really loud but the echo terminated quickly.

Now I hear movement upstairs, and some more down here... now I'm afraid.

Someone’s coming to get me.

Now I know for sure that I'm in a schoolhouse.

I think my assailant is trying to come down stairs (there are teenagers hiding in the hallways- I can see them through my periphery as I focus the gun where I think my assailant will emerge).

As a warning to my assailant, I fire two more shots down the corridor to my right... POP! POP! Loud thunderous echoes in the hall terminate quickly, my right ear is ringing.

I'm afraid and nervous, my assailant is closer, I know it (he- or maybe she- is tracking me from my gunshots).

There, ahead at about five feet to the right, there's a staircase leading up- I think my assailant is up there. I have to go.

How many bullets do I have in this gun?

There are people hiding.

I swing my gun around that staircase and point it up slightly- I thought my assailant was there (I almost shot another bullet … I'm glad I didn't).

The stairs zigzag to the left, I'm still going up- I swing my gun to the left now, slightly pointed up.

How many bullets do I have?

I'm almost at the top.

I see an empty room- it feels like someone is in here.

The paint on the walls are peeling. I am in a Chechen school.

I'm at the top.

I'm afraid.

I'm going to fire a warning shot somewhere.

Someone’s here.

I pull the trigger... 'click.' I'm out of bullets.

There's someone here-

I'm vulnerable...


... I wake up.

April 16, 2012

Mina Loy*

Mina Loy (1882 – 1966)

In 1921 Ezra Pound wrote to Marianne Moore: "... is there anyone in America except you, Bill [William Carlos Williams] and Mina Loy who can write anything of interest in verse?" But for decades, the avant-garde poet Mina Loy was virtually invisible next to many of her fellow modernists. While she makes colorful appearances in the biographies of many other writers and artists, including those of Djuna Barnes, Marcel Duchamp, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Marianne Moore, and Gertrude Stein, Mina Loy had no biography of her own until 1996, when Becoming Modern: The Life of Mina Loy (by Carolyn Burke, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1996) was released along with a new edition of her poems, The Lost Lunar Baedeker.

Mina Loy was born in London on December 27, 1882. She attended a conservative art school and was influenced early on by Impressionism. She achieved some success as a painter, and her paintings were included in the prestigious Salon d'Automne show in Paris, 1905. After several years in the heart of Parisian literary and arts society, Loy moved to the United States in 1916, although her reputation preceded her. While hailed as representing the New Woman and the last word in modern verse, Loy's poetry disturbed a few of her more conservative contemporaries. Marianne Moore found herself uneasy in Loy's company, and Amy Lowell was so incensed by the publication of Loy's "Love Songs" in Others magazine that she refused to submit any more work to the periodical. Conrad Aiken encouraged readers to "pass lightly over the . . . tentacular quiverings of Mina Loy," and John Collier cited Loy's verse as an example of "the need for objective standards." Still, Loy had many admirers, among them William Carlos Williams, Marcel Duchamp, and the members of the New York Dada group--including the poet/boxer Arthur Cravan, whom she married in 1918. In 1921, Pound extolled the virtues of her work to his closest friends, and in 1926, Yvor Winters compared her to Emily Dickinson.

Also an artist, Loy has been labelled a Futurist, Dadaist, Surrealist, feminist, conceptualist, modernist, and post-modernist. Experimenting with media in her artwork, she moved from oil to ink by World War I, then lighting fixtures in the late 1920s, and finally to sculptures featuring items collected from the streets and garbage cans of Manhattan. She allied herself with her visual art more than her writing, claiming at the end of her life that she "never was a poet."

Loy became reclusive in her later years, and lacked any interest in building a reputation for herself. Mina Loy died September 29, 1966, in Aspen, Colorado, leaving behind an unfinished biography of Isadora Duncan and an unpublished collection of poems she had written during the 1940s.

*Biography from Poets.org

April 12, 2012

To Rebel or Not to Rebel

I'll be reciting the poem below tonight ...


Those Evil Few

With wealth, the likes of Helen's Troy,
There are these few that think they're coy
They seem so modest- but I warn,
Their modesty is but a ploy

They hung two 'thieves' the other morn-
In fact, the day my son was born.
Their crime: some stolen fruit, some grain ...
Two homeless, hungry men forlorn.

I felt indignant, bitter pain,
As I stood watching through the rain:
"If I were starving, like these two,
Would I steal food ... and thus be slain?

Who knows how many men they slew-
But here is this, and this is true:
That if they touched my starving son
I'd grab a sword and run them through!

For by their greed their wealth was won ...
My wherewithal? - it's next to none.
Those evil few, so fatly fed,
Impoverished me ... and everyone!"

And still the hungry hang there dead,
Condemned by laws those few have said.
And now my hunger has me torn:
Obey their laws ... or steal their bread?

-jwm



Poetic Parameters:

Stanza
: seven quatrains
Meter: tetrameter (e.g. four metric feet, or eight syllables per line)
Rhyme Scheme: aaba bbcb ccdc dded eefe ffgf gghg

Note:

The poem’s overall structure was inspired by a Robert Frost poem I read sometime ago, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening (a poem whose style was in turn modeled on an even older form known as a Rubaiyat stanza).

April 11, 2012

Poetry, Science, and Dirac

In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. But in poetry, it's the exact opposite.

Paul Dirac

April 09, 2012

A Charles Baudelaire Poem: The Owls

The Owls

Under the overhanging yews,
The dark owls sit in solemn state,
Like stranger gods; by twos and twos
Their red eyes gleam. They meditate.

Motionless thus they sit and dream
Until that melancholy hour
When, with the sun's last fading gleam,
The nightly shades assume their power.

From their still attitude the wise
Will learn with terror to despise
All tumult, movement, and unrest;

For he who follows every shade,
Carries the memory in his breast,
Of each unhappy journey made.

Charles Baudelaire

Joyeux Anniversaire!

By far- and I mean by far!- the most coolest, the most darkest, and most kick ass French poet there is … Charles Baudelaire was born this day in 1821. He’s said to be the leading poet of the French Symbolist period (even though, as far as I know, he never actually hung out with the acknowledged circle of Symbolists: Arthur Rimbaud, Paul Valery, Paul Verlaine, and Stéphane Mallarmé).

There’s a bleak existential anxiety that’s woven throughout every one of his works- but it’s not too overwhelming or depressive (just close to it). He’s dark, make no mistakes about it; and his poems, when they appear lighthearted and upbeat, are really just delightful masks on the face of sarcasm. Baudelaire is a poet that every poet must know.

His poem, The Sky (which if you haven’t read you must), was the first poem of his that I read- I thought to myself, after that read: What a jerk! Then I continued to read everything else he ever wrote! He’s a good poet, really good. He writes good prose, as well.

I've said elsewhere of Baudelaire:

"Bleak and oblique are many of the poems that have emerged from the pen of this French writer, and in many ways Baudelaire reminds me of a hip, coffee-drinking existentialist just waiting for a reason to rebel. Make no mistakes, I respect Baudelaire as a man and as a poet, and think much of his poetry cleverly written and interesting ... I'm just saying, he's different- but perhaps that's where his poetic genius lies."

Joyeux Anniversaire à vous mon cher ami!

April 04, 2012

The Caged Bird

I know Why the Caged Bird Sings

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.


Maya Angelou

Your influence is dear to the world, and dear to the world of poetry ... happy birthday, lady.




April 02, 2012

To a Demon

To a Demon
I affirm, by the boasting in you which I
have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.

It told me that I had to bow,
That God was gone, and gone was light-
That Legion ruled my spirit now,
That I was but a slave.
I laughed intrepid: Bow to whom?
To wicked fiends the like of you?
Let this my flesh be Legion’s tomb!
I serve the Lord Most High.
It furrowed angrily its brow
And, like a madman drunk with spite,
It staggered close and made a vow:
Tonight you’ll meet the grave.
I fear not dark, I mocked, nor gloom;
Nor do I fear the lies you spew.
I'm saved from your eternal doom,
For daily do I die!

-jwm




Of the Poem (Poetic Parameters):

Stanza
: The poem is essentially four quatrains combined into a single stanza.

Meter
: Every fourth line consists of a six syllable count, or a dimeter; the remaining lines are done in tetrameter (i.e. eight syllables per line).

Rhyme Scheme
: abac dedf abac dedf (notice that the rhythmic structure of stanzas 1 and 3 correspond to one another, as does stanza 2 and 4).

Poetry Month, 2012

Happy National Poetry Month, all! What will you be doing? Me, myself: I intend on reading the history and works of at least four poets that I've never read before; listening to and reciting some poetry at some local places; maybe do a reading on the radio; trying a few different poetic forms; and sharing, sharing, sharing the beauty and history and reason for poetry with any who will listen ... and more.

As of April 9th, 2010