Archive for the ‘ Poetry ’ Category
This is not the kind of poet your mother would have liked. Quite to the contrary. And he worked hard at enhancing his shocking image. Which his mother eventually accepted as her bad boy.
I heard of him through my online history course from Wesleyan University The Modern and the Postmodern.
I never had a decent education myself – two years at a religious college, followed by two years in Engineering at the U of Illinois. And now I am busy catching up. I ordered his book Paris Spleen – full of his prose poems.
The Poetry Magazine bio is long, practically a book in itself. But my history professor should have read it. Instead of lumping him with Nietzsche in From Struggle to Intensity.
This makes sense to him – but I am sure his students can see through this easily.
To fill a Gap – Insert the Thing
That caused it – block it up
With Other – and ’twill yawn the more -
You cannot solder an Abyss
With Air -
This is one of Dickinson’s poems – #647 on page 278 of Helen Vendler’s book Dickinson.
I have used her alternate formatting. But her explanation seems to me to be inadequate – all about Death and the loss of Loved Ones.
Something is missing from all of our lives now – much more so than in Dickinson’s time. What that is – is the mystery of our time – the name of a brand of clothing – and the subject of much contemporary literature – including, of course – poems.
William Wordsworth is classified as a Romantic. A classification we cannot now understand – but (to most) seems to be a definition of poetry itself. This poem is one of the best examples of this genre.
The man himself was more complicated – and poetry magazine has an excellent bio of him also. One of his problems was finding enough money for him and his family to live on.
But he did not consider this a suitable subject for his poetry.
I am having an artistic day – quite by accident.
This morning I listened to a lecture on Modernism and Art for Art’s Sake. The lecturer was the president of Wesleyan University, who is a Francophile – something new to me. He is spending the week on Madame Bovary. And even induced me to buy it.
As he points out, Flaubert had a great deal of fun satirizing the Enlightenment and Romanticism. While throwing in enough sex to keep us all panting – and nearly got him thrown into jail. I doubt if there was a Spanish translation, but the new English one by Lydia Davis is now the standard one.
This is social satire, which the English, French, and Russians excelled at in the 19th Century. Americans (then and now) are far too serious – and wouldn’t recognize satire if it hit them in the head. Much like the Germans.
I sat down to a lunch of peanut butter and jam and opened Poetry Magazine. At the end there is a long section about Joan Mitchell, who made paintings about poetry.
There are color reproductions of her paintings (view the slide show in the Introduction). She was an Abstract Expressionist – an acquired taste that I never acquired. Possibly, in a museum with someone explaining it – as they often do – I would see the light.
Sometimes I am not sure if the text is meant to be profound – or a satire.
From page 536:
They are at once contemplative and exuberant, restless and calm, strong and fragile, defiant and tender.
Perhaps in a altered state of consciousness this makes sense. But I have to say this makes sense, as it lays there on the page:
the only thing to do is simply continue
is that simple
yes, is simple because it is the only thing to do
can you do it
yes, you can because it is the only thing to to
Nowhere in any of this is there any mention of money. She didn’t have to worry about it, since she inherited her wealth – along with nearly everything else.
Poetry Magazine has always been part of the Chicago scene. My family were country hicks from further south in Illinois – who regarded Chicago as Sin City itself. And were completely without culture.
I have written Letters to a Young Poet, which was well-received. People like to hear nice things about poetry – even it they seldom read it themselves.
From page 46 of the book:
True, sex is difficult. But such difficulties have been imposed on us, almost everything serious is difficult, and everything is serious. If you can simply recognize this and succeed in establishing an entirely individual relationship with sex (one not influenced by convention and propriety) through your own disposition and nature, then you no longer fear losing yourself and becoming unworthy of your most valuable possession.
I wish I had been able to do this for myself! But old age (and social isolation) has solved this problem for me. Now all I have is a similar problem with food (which he talks about too, in a similar way).
No one comes to Latin America for the food. It has one of the world’s least distinguished cuisines. But obesity is common – and in that way, I fit right in.
Elizabeth Bishop claimed that it took her around 20 years to finish her poem “The Moose.” Even for a poet as methodical as Bishop, that seems like an unusually long time to hold on to an idea, to sketch out the first impressions of an actual event and return to them until she was satisfied that her poem was complete.
Poetry Magazine is a valuable resource. In what other art can you find so much condensed so well? This explanation is typical of its offerings.
It can also be critical of poets and poetry – as in Ange Mlinko’s take down of Elizabeth Bishop.
These are letters from the poet Rainer Maria Rilke to the young poet Franz Kappus (translated by Mark Harman) – written from 1903 to 1908. When the Modern World, with its amazing fecundity, was ending. And would finally end with WWI.
They, as is always the case, had no idea what was going on. They could only give a voice to their times – which, for the most part was not interested in having a voice.
Our times are even worse. People not only do not want to have a voice (the function of poetry) – they do not even want to be. However, I am getting ahead of myself.
This passage is from the first letter:
Everything cannot be so easily grasped and conveyed as we are generally led to believe; most events are unconveyable and come to pass in a space that no word has penetrated;
Except for the use of the unusual (but completely understandable) word unconveyable, I can only say “Amen, brother!”
But then he adds:
more unconveyable than all else are art-works, those mysterious existences, whose lives run alongside ours, which perishes, whereas theirs endures.
How you react to this depends on your tolerance to the Romantic Sensibility. Since my writing is lucky to last a week, before I compulsively update it – and it promptly gets lost in the cloud again – I must have more moderate goals.
Poetry Magazine asked some poets to write about some ostensibly great poet they never really liked.
Michael Robbins wrote this. And he does a good job on him – even as he forgives him for his trespasses. Some of the best parts of this magazine are its prose writing about poetry.
If you want to learn how to write – read this.