My Poetry Pick for This Month

Socratic by Jacqueline Jones Lamon 

Poetry Magazine has so much poetry, it’s hard to make a pick, but this one is extra good!


Wordsworth’s Dislike of the England of His Time

Wordsworth went to Cambridge for two years, before dropping out.

The following is from page 59 of The Prelude:

Feuds, Factions, Flatteries, Enmity, and Guile;
Murmuring Submission, and bald Government:
The Idol as weak as the Idolater;
And Decency and Custom starving Truth;
And blind Authority, beating with his Staff
The child that might have led him, Emptiness
Followed, as of good omen; and meek Worth
Left to itself unheard-of, and unknown.

How to Understand Elizabeth Bishop’s Poetry

The Illusion of Utter Transparency

“Great artists must have suffered greatly.” The imagery is clearly that of Christ – his suffering and redemption. And perhaps this is why Bishop’s reputation has increased lately, when she is dead and gone. People are delighted that she suffered so much.

And she did suffer. She was an alcoholic, who never had a successful relationship – and she had many of them (she was a lesbian) – her longest, in Brazil, ended with the suicide of the other woman in NYC.

I did not understand, or appreciate her poetry – and it took a careful reading of this review – to let me appreciate her.

She is not a fun read.

Wordsworth on the Creative Power of Nature

Points have we all of us within our souls
Where all stand single, this I feel, and make
Breathings for incommunicable powers.
Yet each man is a memory to himself;
And therefore, now that I must quit this theme,
I am not heartless, for there’s not a man
That lives that hath not his god-like hours.
And knows not majestic sway we have,
As natural beings, in the strength of nature.

The Prelude: Newly Edited from the Manuscripts and Fully Illustrated in Color, p 45

Notes from Auden Land

Poetry Foundation

This a a prose article about Poetry. It shows off both to good advantage.

Auden moved to the States in 1939 – as part of the Brain Drain, where England’s smartest and brightest, moved to greener pastures.

I knew a woman once, who as a young English woman in WWII, seduced a GI, made him marry her, moved to the States – and then got rid of the husband. Her daughter was my live-in girlfriend in the Seventies, and continued the family tradition – give them sex, take what they got – and leave them abruptly.

Is This Poetry?

NY Review – The Two Robert Lowells

Helen Vendler, the writer of this review – is such an authority, I hesitate to add my own words.

But I must, for two reasons.

(1) I once had a beautiful, but crazy wife – who thought she could write poetry. She thought she could do anything, in fact – but her poetry was garbage.

(2) I once lived with a family whose husband was manic-depressive (the same as Robert Lowell). He wouldn’t take his lithium, that keep his condition under control – because being normal was too boring. I left the family on an extended backpacking trip. When I returned, the husband had crashed. But he was lucky, his employer was the city we lived in – and they gave him time off to recover. But they lost their house and all their belongings.

All the wife had to do was report his refusal to take his medicine to the VA  hospital he was with – but she did not! Their little girl would suffer because of this.

There is nothing artistic in mental illness. And I can see little in his poetry – that I downloaded as a Kindle book.

How to Appreciate Poetry

Previously, I wrote about Hatred of Poetry.

Now I want to clarify that – by quoting from the same article by Charles Simic:

In the late 1960s, I participated in the Poets in the Schools program in New York City. It involved going to different high schools, visiting one or more classes per day, and being paid as little as fifty dollars. Since I was always broke, I went. I’d get there at the appointed time, find the principal’s office where someone would escort me through noisy hallways to some classroom where equal pandemonium reigned and where I would be introduced to a teacher who would then quiet down the students by shouting: “We have a poet with us today!” It was news received with incredulity, with kids asking each other and the teacher if they heard it right. Once I got a chance to say something, I asked the class if they liked poetry, a question that made many shake their heads, some pretend to gag, and one or two even spit in disgust.

Since that was the answer I had learned to expect, I asked them next if they ever wrote love letters. Their embarrassed silence told me that of course they did. Now that I had their full attention, I asked them whether they would like to hear a love poem. They said nothing, so I’d read them poems by E.E. Cummings, Dickinson, Millay, and a few others, asking after each one whether they wanted to hear more. And they did. After I was done with love, I read them poems on other subjects and they not only paid attention, but started making perceptive remarks.

This guy is walking his talk. By showing he is a real person.