Kubla Khan

Or, a vision in a dream. A Fragment.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:
And mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean;
And ’mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!
The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!

A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight ’twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

From SparkNotes:

The speaker describes the “stately pleasure-dome” built in Xanadu according to the decree of Kubla Khan, in the place where Alph, the sacred river, ran “through caverns measureless to man / Down to a sunless sea.” Walls and towers were raised around “twice five miles of fertile ground,” filled with beautiful gardens and forests. A “deep romantic chasm” slanted down a green hill, occasionally spewing forth a violent and powerful burst of water, so great that it flung boulders up with it “like rebounding hail.” The river ran five miles through the woods, finally sinking “in tumult to a lifeless ocean.” Amid that tumult, in the place “as holy and enchanted / As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted / By woman wailing to her demon-lover,” Kubla heard “ancestral voices” bringing prophesies of war. The pleasure-dome’s shadow floated on the waves, where the mingled sounds of the fountain and the caves could be heard. “It was a miracle of rare device,” the speaker says, “A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!”

The speaker says that he once saw a “damsel with a dulcimer,” an Abyssinian maid who played her dulcimer and sang “of Mount Abora.” He says that if he could revive “her symphony and song” within him, he would rebuild the pleasure-dome out of music, and all who heard him would cry “Beware!” of “His flashing eyes, his floating hair!” The hearers would circle him thrice and close their eyes with “holy dread,” knowing that he had tasted honeydew, “and drunk the milk of Paradise.”

Form

The chant-like, musical incantations of “Kubla Khan” result from Coleridge’s masterful use of iambic tetrameter and alternating rhyme schemes. The first stanza is written in tetrameter with a rhyme scheme of ABAABCCDEDE, alternating between staggered rhymes and couplets. The second stanza expands into tetrameter and follows roughly the same rhyming pattern, also expanded— ABAABCCDDFFGGHIIHJJ. The third stanza tightens into tetrameter and rhymes ABABCC. The fourth stanza continues the tetrameter of the third and rhymes ABCCBDEDEFGFFFGHHG.

Commentary

Along with “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” “Kubla Khan” is one of Coleridge’s most famous and enduring poems. The story of its composition is also one of the most famous in the history of English poetry. As the poet explains in the short preface to this poem, he had fallen asleep after taking “an anodyne” prescribed “in consequence of a slight disposition” (this is a euphemism for opium, to which Coleridge was known to be addicted). Before falling asleep, he had been reading a story in which Kubla Khan commanded the building of a new palace; Coleridge claims that while he slept, he had a fantastic vision and composed simultaneously—while sleeping—some two or three hundred lines of poetry, “if that indeed can be called composition in which all the images rose up before him as things, with a parallel production of the correspondent expressions, without any sensation or conscious effort.”

Waking after about three hours, the poet seized a pen and began writing furiously; however, after copying down the first three stanzas of his dreamt poem—the first three stanzas of the current poem as we know it—he was interrupted by a “person on business from Porlock,” who detained him for an hour. After this interruption, he was unable to recall the rest of the vision or the poetry he had composed in his opium dream. It is thought that the final stanza of the poem, thematizing the idea of the lost vision through the figure of the “damsel with a dulcimer” and the milk of Paradise, was written post-interruption. The mysterious person from Porlock is one of the most notorious and enigmatic figures in Coleridge’s biography; no one knows who he was or why he disturbed the poet or what he wanted or, indeed, whether any of Coleridge’s story is actually true. But the person from Porlock has become a metaphor for the malicious interruptions the world throws in the way of inspiration and genius, and “Kubla Khan,” strange and ambiguous as it is, has become what is perhaps the definitive statement on the obstruction and thwarting of the visionary genius.

Regrettably, the story of the poem’s composition, while thematically rich in and of itself, often overshadows the poem proper, which is one of Coleridge’s most haunting and beautiful. The first three stanzas are products of pure imagination: The pleasure-dome of Kubla Khan is not a useful metaphor for anything in particular (though in the context of the poem’s history, it becomes a metaphor for the unbuilt monument of imagination); however, it is a fantastically prodigious descriptive act. The poem becomes especially evocative when, after the second stanza, the meter suddenly tightens; the resulting lines are terse and solid, almost beating out the sound of the war drums (“The shadow of the dome of pleasure / Floated midway on the waves…”).

The fourth stanza states the theme of the poem as a whole (though “Kubla Khan” is almost impossible to consider as a unified whole, as its parts are so sharply divided). The speaker says that he once had a vision of the damsel singing of Mount Abora; this vision becomes a metaphor for Coleridge’s vision of the 300-hundred-line masterpiece he never completed. The speaker insists that if he could only “revive” within him “her symphony and song,” he would recreate the pleasure-dome out of music and words, and take on the persona of the magician or visionary. His hearers would recognize the dangerous power of the vision, which would manifest itself in his “flashing eyes” and “floating hair.” But, awestruck, they would nonetheless dutifully take part in the ritual, recognizing that “he on honey-dew hath fed, / And drunk the milk of Paradise.”

Link to the rest at SparkNotes

When PG was an undergraduate, he wrote a paper on Kubla Khan and still remembers lots of sections of the poem.

From The Poetry Foundation:

Samuel Taylor Coleridge is the premier poet-critic of modern English tradition, distinguished for the scope and influence of his thinking about literature as much as for his innovative verse. Active in the wake of the French Revolution as a dissenting pamphleteer and lay preacher, he inspired a brilliant generation of writers and attracted the patronage of progressive men of the rising middle class. As William Wordsworth’s collaborator and constant companion in the formative period of their careers as poets, Coleridge participated in the sea change in English verse associated with Lyrical Ballads (1798). His poems of this period, speculative, meditative, and strangely oracular, put off early readers but survived the doubts of Wordsworth and Robert Southey to become recognized classics of the romantic idiom.

Coleridge renounced poetic vocation in his thirtieth year and set out to define and defend the art as a practicing critic. His promotion of Wordsworth’s verse, a landmark of English literary response, proceeded in tandem with a general investigation of epistemology and metaphysics. Coleridge was preeminently responsible for importing the new German critical philosophy of Immanuel Kant and Friedrich von Schelling; his associated discussion of imagination remains a fixture of institutional criticism while his occasional notations on language proved seminal for the foundation and development of Cambridge English in the 1920s. In his distinction between culture and civilization Coleridge supplied means for a critique of the utilitarian state, which has been continued in our own time. And in his late theological writing he provided principles for reform in the Church of England. Coleridge’s various and imposing achievement, a cornerstone of modern English culture, remains an incomparable source of informed reflection on the brave new world whose birth pangs he attended.

. . . .

A reader seemingly by instinct, Coleridge grew up surrounded by books at school, at home, and in his aunt’s shop. The dreamy child’s imagination was nourished by his father’s tales of the planets and stars and enlarged by constant reading. Through this, “my mind had been habituated to the Vast—& I never regarded my senses in any way as the criteria of my belief. I regulated all my creeds by my conceptions not by my sight—even at that age.” Romances and fairy tales instilled in him a feeling of “the Great” and “the Whole.” It was a lesson he never forgot. Experience he always regarded as a matter of whole and integrated response, not of particular sensations. Resolving conflicted feelings into whole response occupies much of his best verse, and his developed philosophical synthesis represents a comparable effort of resolution.

Link to the rest at the Poetry Foundation

How to Write Perfect Love Poems

From Making a Living Writing:

Valentine’s Day is closer than you think! So, what better time to explore love poems and romantic rhythms?

Research any book of poems and you’ll find one of the most prolific themes of them all is, of course, love.

Love offers a range of emotions that can be thoroughly explored through poetry. 

But how do you crack the code of writing a love poem that doesn’t sound cliché and allows the reader to immerse themselves into the visual you’re trying to create?

This article explores what love poems are, how to write the perfect one, and our favorite contemporary examples

Time to get in touch with our feelings…

What are Love Poems? 

Love poems are written pieces that convey any form of love and the various emotions that stem from it.

This can include romantic love, sibling love, a love for a pet, or love for the great outdoors—anything that impacts you greatly! 

Think of love poems as a window into your heart for the reader to peep through. Powerful, right? 

People take different approaches to writing love poems. Some go down a humorous route and compose limericks while others create ballads to add drama and emotion.

Freelance writers may feel like poetry is for other types of writers, but the practice is quite relevant to your craft!

. . . .

How to Write Love Poems

Love is a complex theme to explore, so love poems need to creatively communicate certain aspects of it rather than attempt to tackle the emotion or experience as a whole.

This means the poet should aim to explore feelings of being in love, feeling a lack of love, yearning for love, and so on.

Choose Your Subject Carefully 

What’s your inspiration?

Who or what is your muse?

Consider why you are writing a passionate poem. Once you’re clear on your subject and intent, it becomes a lot easier to let those  words naturally flow. 

Find Your Form

Between sonnets, free verses, haikus and all other poetry forms, you’ll want to find the form that feels right for you.

If you’re not sure how about this, let’s take a look at each form in a bit more detail: 

Sonnet

Sonnet’s are known as a daily old form of poetry used by none other than Shakespeare himself! Originating in the 13th century, sonnet comes from the Italian word for “little song,” and it is typically made up of 14 lines. Most sonnet poems center themselves on love so it could just be the perfect form for your next passionate piece of writing.

Free Verse

As a more modern, popular style of poetry, free verse gives the writer a lot of liberation in how many lines and stanzas they can work with.  Although the freedom of this poetic form seems like an easy option to choose, it actually is more tricky because of the lack of guidance!

Haiku

This ancient Japanese poetry form became globally renowned for its complete simplicity. Consisting of only three lines and only five syllables on the first and third line, Haiku form is a fun activity for anyone to try out—though it may not be your best bet for an intimate love poem.

Ballad

Evoking a dramatic and emotionally-driven story, ballads use a set form of four lines with a rhythmic scheme. You’ll find most pop songs these daycare ballads even though they originated from written poetry. 

. . . .

She Walks in Beauty by Lord Byron

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

Yours by Daniel Hoffman

I am yours as the summer air at evening is 

Possessed by the scent of linden blossoms, 

As the snowcap gleams with light 

Lent it by the brimming moon. 

Without you I’d be an unleaded tree

Blasted in a bleakness with no Spring.

For him by Rupi Kaur

no, 

it won’t 

be love at 

first sight when 

we meet it’ll be love 

at first remembrance 

‘cause i’ve recognized you 

in my mother’s eyes when she tells me, 

marry the type of man you’d want to raise your son to be like.

Link to the rest at Making a Living Writing

PG is an admitted poetry snob. He hit a bit of a speed bump when the OP included only the first stanza of Byron’s lovely piece. He didn’t bother to read the entirety of the others.

PG won’t rant, but a good poem has an enormous number of things happening at the same time – the words, the sounds of the words, the combinations of words and sounds as you go through the poem.

Most well-done classic poems come alive when you read them aloud, then reread them aloud, adjusting the tempo slightly, respecting the poet’s line breaks as something she/he did for a reason, not by happenstance or because da-dum,da-dum, da-dum means that you she/he had to end on a dum.

PG throttled himself when he realized a meter rant was on its way.

A Christmas Poem

A caald winter’s nicht
Starn heich in the lift
A lass wi a bairnie
Ahint a snaa drift.        

Come in through the byre
Step ower the straw
Draw ben tae the fire
Afore the day daw.      

The bairnie will sleep
By the peat’s puttrin flame
Oor waarmin place, lassie,
This nicht is your hame.       

Come morning the snaa
Showed nae fuitprints at aa
Tho the lass wi the bairnie
Had stolen awaa.        

An we mynded anither
A lang while afore
Wi a bairn in her airms
An the beasts roun the door.

by Josephine Neill

Old Christmastide

Heap on more wood! the wind is chill;
But let it whistle as it will,
We’ll keep our Christmas merry still.
Each age has deem’d the new-born year
The fittest time for festal cheer:
Even, heathen yet, the savage Dane
At Iol more deep the mead did drain;
High on the beach his galleys drew,
And feasted all his pirate crew;
Then in his low and pine-built hall
Where shields and axes deck’d the wall
They gorged upon the half-dress’d steer;
Caroused in seas of sable beer;
While round, in brutal jest, were thrown
The half-gnaw’d rib, and marrow-bone:
Or listen’d all, in grim delight,
While Scalds yell’d out the joys of fight.
Then forth, in frenzy, would they hie,
While wildly loose their red locks fly,
And dancing round the blazing pile,
They make such barbarous mirth the while,
As best might to the mind recall
The boisterous joys of Odin’s hall.

And well our Christian sires of old
Loved when the year its course had roll’d,
And brought blithe Christmas back again,
With all his hospitable train.
Domestic and religious rite
Gave honour to the holy night;
On Christmas Eve the bells were rung;
On Christmas Eve the mass was sung:
That only night in all the year,
Saw the stoled priest the chalice rear.
The damsel donn’d her kirtle sheen;
The hall was dress’d with holly green;
Forth to the wood did merry-men go,
To gather in the mistletoe.
Then open’d wide the Baron’s hall
To vassal, tenant, serf and all;
Power laid his rod of rule aside
And Ceremony doff’d his pride.
The heir, with roses in his shoes,
That night might village partner choose;
The Lord, underogating, share
The vulgar game of ‘post and pair’.
All hail’d, with uncontroll’d delight,
And general voice, the happy night,
That to the cottage, as the crown,
Brought tidings of salvation down.

The fire, with well-dried logs supplied,
Went roaring up the chimney wide;
The huge hall-table’s oaken face,
Scrubb’d till it shone, the day to grace,
Bore then upon its massive board
No mark to part the squire and lord.
Then was brought in the lusty brawn,
By old blue-coated serving-man;
Then the grim boar’s head frown’d on high,
Crested with bays and rosemary.
Well can the green-garb’d ranger tell,
How, when, and where, the monster fell;
What dogs before his death to tore,
And all the baiting of the boar.
The wassel round, in good brown bowls,
Garnish’d with ribbons, blithely trowls.
There the huge sirloin reek’d; hard by
Plum-porridge stood, and Christmas pie;
Nor fail’d old Scotland to produce,
At such high tide, her savoury goose.
Then came the merry makers in,
And carols roar’d with blithesome din;
If unmelodious was the song,
It was a hearty note, and strong.
Who lists may in their mumming see
Traces of ancient mystery;
White shirts supplied the masquerade,
And smutted cheeks the visors made;
But, O! what maskers, richly dight,
Can boast of bosoms half so light!
England was merry England, when
Old Christmas brought his sports again.
‘Twas Christmas broach’d the mightiest ale;
‘Twas Christmas told the merriest tale;
A Christmas gambol oft could cheer
The poor man’s heart through half the year.

Sir Walter Scott

Wintertime

Late lies the wintry sun a-bed,
A frosty, fiery sleepy-head;
Blinks but an hour or two; and then,
A blood-red orange, sets again.

Before the stars have left the skies,
At morning in the dark I rise;
And shivering in my nakedness,
By the cold candle, bathe and dress.

Close by the jolly fire I sit
To warm my frozen bones a bit;
Or with a reindeer-sled, explore
The colder countries round the door.

When to go out, my nurse doth wrap
Me in my comforter and cap;
The cold wind burns my face, and blows
Its frosty pepper up my nose.

Black are my steps on silver sod;
Thick blows my frosty breath abroad;
And tree and house, and hill and lake,
Are frosted like a wedding-cake.

Robert Louis Stevenson

Disabled

He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark,

And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey,

Legless, sewn short at elbow. Through the park

Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn,

Voices of play and pleasure after day,

Till gathering sleep had mothered them from him.

                            *        *        *        *        *

About this time Town used to swing so gay

When glow-lamps budded in the light-blue trees, 

And girls glanced lovelier as the air grew dim,—

In the old times, before he threw away his knees.

Now he will never feel again how slim

Girls’ waists are, or how warm their subtle hands,

All of them touch him like some queer disease.

                            *        *        *        *        *

There was an artist silly for his face,

For it was younger than his youth, last year.

Now, he is old; his back will never brace;

He’s lost his colour very far from here,

Poured it down shell-holes till the veins ran dry,

And half his lifetime lapsed in the hot race 

And leap of purple spurted from his thigh.

                            *        *        *        *        *

One time he liked a blood-smear down his leg,

After the matches carried shoulder-high.

It was after football, when he’d drunk a peg,

He thought he’d better join. He wonders why.

Someone had said he’d look a god in kilts.

That’s why; and maybe, too, to please his Meg,

Aye, that was it, to please the giddy jilts,

He asked to join. He didn’t have to beg;

Smiling they wrote his lie: aged nineteen years.

Germans he scarcely thought of, all their guilt,

And Austria’s, did not move him. And no fears

Of Fear came yet. He thought of jewelled hilts

For daggers in plaid socks; of smart salutes;

And care of arms; and leave; and pay arrears;

Esprit de corps; and hints for young recruits.

And soon, he was drafted out with drums and cheers.

                            *        *        *        *        *

Some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer Goal.

Only a solemn man who brought him fruits

Thanked him; and then inquired about his soul.

                            *        *        *        *        *

Now, he will spend a few sick years in institutes,

And do what things the rules consider wise,

And take whatever pity they may dole.

Tonight he noticed how the women’s eyes

Passed from him to the strong men that were whole.

How cold and late it is! Why don’t they come

And put him into bed? Why don’t they come?

Wilfred Owen

The Soldier

If I should die, think only this of me:

      That there’s some corner of a foreign field

That is for ever England. There shall be

      In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;

A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,

      Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam;

A body of England’s, breathing English air,

      Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,

      A pulse in the eternal mind, no less

            Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;

Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;

      And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,

            In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

Rupert Brooke

Requiescat

by Oscar Wilde, 1881

Tread lightly, she is near
Under the snow,
Speak gently, she can hear
The daisies grow.

All her bright golden hair
Tarnished with rust,
She that was young and fair
Fallen to dust.

Lily-like, white as snow,
She hardly knew
She was a woman, so
Sweetly she grew.

Coffin-board, heavy stone,
Lie on her breast,
I vex my heart alone
She is at rest.

Peace, Peace, she cannot hear
Lyre or sonnet,
All my life’s buried here,
Heap earth upon it.

From Interesting Literature

‘Requiescat’ is from the Latin for ‘(may he or she) rest in peace.’ The poem was written for Wilde’s own sister. Isola Wilde was just nine years old when she died, while recovering from a fever, during a visit to Edgeworthstown Rectory, in Ireland. According to their mother, Lady Jane Wilde, the cause of Isola’s death was ‘a sudden effusion on the brain’.

John Anderson my Jo

by Robert Burns, 1789

From The Scottish Poetry Library:

John Anderson my jo, John,
When we were first acquent;
Your locks were like the raven,
Your bony brow was brent;
But now your brow is beld, John,
Your locks are like the snaw;
But blessings on your frosty pow,
John Anderson my Jo.

John Anderson my jo, John,
We clamb the hill the gither;
And mony a canty day, John,
We’ve had wi’ ane anither:
Now we maun totter down, John,
And hand in hand we’ll go;
And sleep the gither at the foot,
John Anderson my Jo.

Link to the rest at The Scottish Poetry Library

An Excerpt from our Art of Poetry Interview with Louise Glück

From The Paris Review:

In early March of 2021, Louise Glück visited Claremont McKenna College in Southern California, where I teach. Because of COVID, she was afraid to fly on a small plane to our regional airport, so I drove her myself from Berkeley, where, for some years, she rented a house during the winters. She packed pumpernickel bagels, apples, and cheese for our six-hour road trip, and she brought CDs of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Rigoletto, Bertolt Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera, and the songs of Jacques Brel, a Belgian master of the modern chanson. Long ago Glück and her former husband had listened to operas on road trips, but this was her first car trip in many years. She knew the musical works backward and forward, pointing out Maria Callas’s vocal strengths and clapping her hands while singing along with Brel. The magnificent almond orchards of central California had just begun to blossom and gleam beside the rolling highway. At the farmers’ market in Claremont, she bought nasturtiums and two baskets of strawberries while talking openly about her girlhood and how she’d weighed only seventy pounds at the worst moment of her anorexia. “But you love food, like a gourmand, Louise,” I said, and she replied, “All anorexics love food.” The hotel where she was staying seemed dingy, but she did not complain. Sitting on the bed cover, she propped herself up with pillows and responded to the endless emails arriving on her mobile phone.

Some months earlier, Glück had won the Nobel Prize in Literature. When the Swedish Academy phoned her quite early in the morning with the marvelous news, she was told that she had twenty-five minutes before the world would know. She immediately called her son, Noah, on the West Coast, and he was joyful after overcoming his panic at hearing the phone ring in the night. Then she called her dearest friend, Kathryn Davis, and her beloved editor, Jonathan Galassi. Reporters quickly appeared on her little dead-end street in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Soon she was exhausted from replying to the journalists’ questions, like “Why do you write so frequently about death?” Because of the lockdown, her Nobel medal was presented in the backyard of her condominium. Gray clouds blocked the sun. A light snow and frost covered the yard. The wind gusted. A small folding table was set up in the grass with an ivory cloth that made the gold medal shimmer. I watched the ceremony from Glück’s back patio, on the second floor. She wore black boots, black slacks, a black blouse, a black leather coat with big shearling lapels, and fingerless gloves. A cameraman asked her several times to pick up her medal, and she obeyed, as the wind blew her freshly cut hair across her face. The Swedish consul general explained that normally Glück would have received her medal from the king of Sweden, but that she was standing in for him. The consulate had sent a large bouquet of white amaryllis, but Glück thought they looked wrong in the austere winter scene, so they were removed from the little table. The ceremony took no longer than five minutes, and she shivered silently until she finally asked if she could go inside to warm up.

From the beginning, Glück cited the influence of Blake, Keats, Yeats, and Eliot—poets whose work “craves a listener.” For her, a poem is like a message in a shell held to an ear, confidentially communicating some universal experience: adolescent struggles, marital love, widowhood, separation, the stasis of middle age, aging, and death. There is a porous barrier between the states of life and death and between body and soul. Her signature style, which includes demotic language and a hypnotic pace of utterance, has captured the attention of generations of poets, as it did mine as a nascent poet of twenty-two. In her oeuvre, the poem of language never eclipses the poem of emotion. Like the great poets she admired, she is absorbed by “time which breeds loss, desire, the world’s beauty.”

Link to the rest at The Paris Review

Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College

From The Poetry Foundation:

Ye distant spires, ye antique tow’rs,

         That crown the wat’ry glade,

Where grateful Science still adores

         Her Henry’s holy Shade;

And ye, that from the stately brow

Of Windsor’s heights th’ expanse below

         Of grove, of lawn, of mead survey,

Whose turf, whose shade, whose flowr’s among

Wanders the hoary Thames along

         His silver-winding way.

Ah, happy hills, ah, pleasing shade,

         Ah, fields belov’d in vain,

Where once my careless childhood stray’d,

         A stranger yet to pain!

I feel the gales, that from ye blow,

A momentary bliss bestow,

         As waving fresh their gladsome wing,

My weary soul they seem to soothe,

And, redolent of joy and youth,

         To breathe a second spring.

Say, Father Thames, for thou hast seen

         Full many a sprightly race

Disporting on thy margent green

         The paths of pleasure trace,

Who foremost now delight to cleave

With pliant arm thy glassy wave?

         The captive linnet which enthrall?

What idle progeny succeed

To chase the rolling circle’s speed,

         Or urge the flying ball?

While some on earnest business bent

         Their murm’ring labours ply

‘Gainst graver hours, that bring constraint

         To sweeten liberty:

Some bold adventurers disdain

The limits of their little reign,

         And unknown regions dare descry:

Still as they run they look behind,

They hear a voice in ev’ry wind,

         And snatch a fearful joy.

Gay hope is theirs by fancy fed,

         Less pleasing when possest;

The tear forgot as soon as shed,

         The sunshine of the breast:

Theirs buxom health of rosy hue,

Wild wit, invention ever-new,

         And lively cheer of vigour born;

The thoughtless day, the easy night,

The spirits pure, the slumbers light,

         That fly th’ approach of morn.

Alas, regardless of their doom,

         The little victims play!

No sense have they of ills to come,

         Nor care beyond to-day:

Yet see how all around ’em wait

The ministers of human fate,

         And black Misfortune’s baleful train!

Ah, show them where in ambush stand

To seize their prey the murth’rous band!

         Ah, tell them they are men!

These shall the fury Passions tear,

         The vultures of the mind

Disdainful Anger, pallid Fear,

         And Shame that skulks behind;

Or pining Love shall waste their youth,

Or Jealousy with rankling tooth,

         That inly gnaws the secret heart,

And Envy wan, and faded Care,

Grim-visag’d comfortless Despair,

         And Sorrow’s piercing dart.

Ambition this shall tempt to rise,

         Then whirl the wretch from high,

To bitter Scorn a sacrifice,

         And grinning Infamy.

The stings of Falsehood those shall try,

And hard Unkindness’ alter’d eye,

         That mocks the tear it forc’d to flow;

And keen Remorse with blood defil’d,

And moody Madness laughing wild

         Amid severest woe.

Lo, in the vale of years beneath

         A griesly troop are seen,

The painful family of Death,

         More hideous than their Queen:

This racks the joints, this fires the veins,

That ev’ry labouring sinew strains,

         Those in the deeper vitals rage:

Lo, Poverty, to fill the band,

That numbs the soul with icy hand,

         And slow-consuming Age.

To each his suff’rings: all are men,

         Condemn’d alike to groan,

The tender for another’s pain;

         Th’ unfeeling for his own.

Yet ah! why should they know their fate?

Since sorrow never comes too late,

         And happiness too swiftly flies.

Thought would destroy their paradise.

No more; where ignorance is bliss,

       ‘Tis folly to be wise.

Thomas Gray – 1716–1771

Gray’s best-known poem is Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard

Link to the rest at The Poetry Foundation

Kahlil Gibran: Godfather of the “New Age”

From JSTOR Daily:

In September 1923, Alfred A. Knopf brought out a slim, hundred-odd page volume. The publisher did little to promote it, yet its first print run (some twelve hundred copies) sold out within a month—unheard-of for a poetry volume, then and now.

Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet was a slow but steadily growing burn, one that has continued, year on year, for ten decades.

Interspersing twenty-six short prose-poetic pieces with original illustrations, The Prophet has made Gibran the third-bestselling poet in history—behind Shakespeare and Lao Tzu. To date, The Prophet has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide (over 10 million in the United States alone) and has been translated into more than a hundred languages.

Yet The Prophet has always been and remains uniquely troublesome, and to call it the bestselling “poetry book” of its century might be misleading. Is it poetry? Or is it (in today’s language) Inspirational Fiction, wisdom text, a spiritual guide of New Age wellbeing or self-help? Perhaps (to deploy a paradox, Gibran’s favorite device) it is all these things and none of them.

Gibran wrote once of his desire “to write a book that heals the world.” The Prophet was that dream’s fruition. Yet his other work—eight English language collections and more books, poems, and other writings in his native Arabic—is largely ignored in the Anglosphere. The Prophet is thus a bestseller with an almost anonymous author. Gibran’s book has outlived him in more than one sense. Though it has had the kind of afterlife of which he himself can only have dreamed, there is in this a strange irony. Gibran was so successful in his likely aim—absorbed into the figure of “The Prophet,” imitating the unknown authors of scripture—that, for many readers and lovers of his book, he remains irrelevant.

Link to the rest at JSTOR Daily

Sunday Morning

From The Wall Street Journal:

Sundays aren’t what they used to be, but then again when were they? The Christian sabbath was already losing primacy a century ago when an insurance lawyer by the name of Wallace Stevens published “Harmonium,” his first book of poems, and thereby unleashed on the world a set of eight extravagant stanzas titled “Sunday Morning.”

It’s hard to believe that anybody reading them in 1923 could ever look at Sunday mornings in the same light afterward. Stevens’s gorgeous meditation on the nature of divinity—and the human longing for “some imperishable bliss” in the face of mortality—is, among other things, a worldly rejection of the stringent Protestant sabbath of the poet’s youth.

Against the voluptuous sonorities and tropical paganism of Stevens’s iambs, the hard pews and tedious Sunday dinners of the 19th century never stood a chance. And the passage of time has done nothing to even out an unfair fight, or to blunt the unequivocal judgment of poet and critic Yvor Winters. “Sunday Morning,” he declared in 1943, “is probably the greatest American poem of the twentieth century and is certainly one of the greatest contemplative poems in English.”

By the time Stevens first published some of the stanzas, in 1915, it wasn’t altogether news that God was dead, for so Nietzsche had said. Born in 1879 and raised a Protestant, the poet himself shed his faith early. “I am not in the least religious,” he wrote in 1907. But the loss left him feeling “dispossessed,” and though he rarely attended services, he persisted in visiting churches, assuring a correspondent that “no one believes in the church as an institution more than I do.”

Like its author, “Sunday Morning” is suffused with paganism yet rooted in familiar Christian traditions—starting with the title, which describes a time when most Americans were presumed to be in church. But the poem’s nameless female protagonist, in the opening lines, greets the sabbath more in the manner of sybarite than supplicant:

Complacencies of the peignoir, and late

Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair,

And the green freedom of a cockatoo

Upon a rug mingle to dissipate

The holy hush of ancient sacrifice.

The long-ago sacrifice is the crucifixion, and “that old catastrophe” darkens her dreams and raises discomfiting questions in one so full of vitality and awake to life’s pleasures.

Why should she give her bounty to the dead?

What is divinity if it can come

Only in silent shadows and in dreams?

On this Sunday morning, the old-time religion will no longer cut it. “Divinity,” she realizes, “must live within herself,” manifest in the passions of her nature, and of the nature of which she is a part. In the rest of the poem she and her creator—the poet, himself a kind of god in this respect—explore what shape our powerful spiritual yearnings can take in the absence of traditional faith and the persistence of human finitude.

Content with her life in the here and now, our heroine nonetheless longs for the lost sense of permanence once offered by the reassuring notion of an afterlife. The problem is that the beauty and passion of divinity depend on our evanescence for their force.

She says, “But in contentment I still feel

The need of some imperishable bliss.”

Death is the mother of beauty; hence from her,

Alone, shall come fulfilment to our dreams

Although permeated with Christian imagery, “Sunday Morning” is riotously sensuous, and Stevens himself said flatly that it was about paganism, as in the penultimate stanza, which opens with a scene of ecstatic veneration:

Supple and turbulent, a ring of men

Shall chant in orgy on a summer morn

Their boisterous devotion to the sun,

Not as a god, but as a god might be

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

PG hadn’t thought of Wallace Stevens for quite a long time. He thought highly of him when he was in college and afterwards.

Stevens was not a typical poet. A Harvard and New York Law School graduate, his day job was as a vice-president of the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company, now just The Hartford, a very large insurance company.

For those who believe that a successful poet must follow a particular career path that has little to do with business affairs and numbers, Stevens demonstrates that an atypical day job has little to do with artistic talent.

5 Best (and Worst) AI Poem Generators

From TweetSpeak:

These days, Artificial Intelligence (AI) can do just about anything! It can even draw pictures.

What AI has a little more trouble with, however, is creating poems. Still, that doesn’t stop the AI writers of the world from making their valiant attempts. Here are the best (and worst) AI poem generators.

Let’s see how each one does on the perennial topic of Hades and Persephone…

1. Sonnet Generator

This sonnet generator claims to “take the ‘I’ out of iambic pentameter!” All you have to do is fill in a couple of boxes with words, and the generator will do the rest. (The same site can also generate haiku, villanelles, didactic cinquains, rhyming couplets, limericks, acrostics, tanka, narrative poems, and concrete poems).

Ode to the Hades
A Sonnet by Anonymous

The Yellow Wall-Paper Graphic Novel cropped cover

My wonder hades, you inspire me to write.
How I hate the way you gaze, throne and dash,
Invading my mind day and through the night,
Always dreaming about the whisper pash.

Let me compare you to a sere clover?
You are more quiet, create and serene.
Lead storms whip the twiglets of October,
And autumntime has the whispering lean.

How do I hate you? Let me count the ways.
I hate your cthonic, shroud and narcissus.
Thinking of your crafting shroud fills my days.
My hate for you is the paper electrophoresis.

Now I must away with an under heart,
Remember my red words whilst we’re apart.

2. Verse by Verse

Next on the list of artificial intelligence that would love to rule the world is Google! Pick up to three poets’ styles for it to emulate, create a rhyme scheme and syllable count and write a first line, and watch it come up with suggestions for the rest.

Self-described as “an experimental AI-powered muse that helps you compose poetry inspired by classic American poets,” how does the best search engine around fare on its foray into AI poetry generators? You decide.

Hades, deep in the Shadowed Underneath
Filled with alabaster air,
Drowning the voice of the rain,
Laid my hand around my chair.

Saw a dawn, his golden beam,
Hold me now! A single clause!
Pale gold on a naked moon,
Pale gold on a throne of gold.

—Google, inspired by Emily Dickinson, Sara Teasdale, and Edgar Allan Poe

Link to the rest at TweetSpeak

Making of a Poem: Leopoldine Core on “Ex-Stewardess”

From The Paris Review:

How did this poem start for you? Was it with an image, an idea, a phrase, or something else?

Often a poem begins wordlessly. It’s as if the text is a reply to some cryptic spot in the back of my brain that I have become attracted to. I’m alerted to the presence of something that isn’t solid. It has more to do with feeling, tempo, scale, and temperature. I’m so focused on that emanating region that, even though I’m using words, my experience—the start of it—is wordless and meditative.

How did writing the first draft feel to you? Did it come easily, or was it difficult to write? (Are there hard and easy poems?)

Some poems come quick and others take a while. But maybe the one that took years was easier in the end—I don’t know. Certain poems require many rounds of rewording. When this happens I will rewrite one line forty or more times, then narrow it down to thirty, then fifteen, then five, then choose.

But this poem was realized fairly quickly and required zero rewording. That happens sometimes. I tried rewording certain parts at different points but always wound up reverting to the original. The editing I did consisted of deleting maybe seventy percent of what was there, changing the order, capitalizing certain letters, and adding line breaks. I might have added a comma but I don’t think so.

Were you thinking of any other poems or works of art while you wrote it?

Occasionally my friend Jane Corrigan will send me pictures of her paintings and drawings. There are two she showed me around that time—one is a pen drawing and the other is a Xerox of that same drawing that she drew over with pen and colored in with pencil. Jane’s images are infused with such narrative possibility—I like to stare at them for a long time, putting order to the plot. This one seems like a scene from some lost Jane Bowles story.

I wasn’t thinking consciously of these drawings while writing the poem, but there’s something so joyful and stimulating about discourse with friends. I like talking about art that isn’t mine.

What else were you listening to / reading / watching while you were writing this poem?

I was reading a collection of interviews with the filmmaker Claude Chabrol. I underlined this sentence—“I like mirrors, because they are a way of crossing through appearances.” He was talking about manipulating space but I was drawn to a conceptual meaning of the statement—how something solid that reflects the surface of things can also function as an entryway, a portal.

I was listening to Tangerine Dream, Ryuichi Sakamoto, “Dance II” by Discovery Zone, and this mournful song “Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms,” performed by Mia Farrow in The Muppets Valentine Show in 1974. I love how sincerely she sings to that puppet. She sounds a little like Nico. And there’s something about the confluence of optimism and despair in her voice that might have influenced me.

It also seems relevant to mention that I had gotten an aura photo taken around that time—I kept looking at it. The aura photo I had taken a few years before was mostly red with a cloud of yellow and orange. I was told at the time that the color red implies a closeness to Earth.

But this one was so blue. I kept wondering what that meant. Where was my spirit in relation to Earth? Was it farther from Earth now? I was—am still—grieving the loss of someone I love dearly, and looking at the photo made me think of a sky within.

Link to the rest at The Paris Review

PG admits he is a poetry snob.

“Often a poem begins wordlessly. It’s as if the text is a reply to some cryptic spot in the back of my brain” doesn’t sound like how the 20th century greats wrote poetry and the the beginning of the poem below doesn’t indicate (for PG at least) that the author is someone who really knows his art or his craft.

I used to be a lock
gold-looking

I used to be a dog
part malamute
part pointer
part bluetick hound

Never what will be
as banjo in hand

The Bible and Poetry

From The Paris Review:

We do not read the Bible as it is meant to be read. Theology always risks leading us astray by elaborating its own discourse, with the biblical texts merely as a point of departure. The presence of poetry in the Bible is the key to a more pertinent and more faithful reading.

There are many poems found in the Bible. We know this, vaguely and without giving it too much thought, but shouldn’t we be rather astonished by the role of poetry in a collection of books with such a pressing and salutary Word to express? And shouldn’t we ask ourselves if the presence of this writing—so much more self-conscious and desirous than is prose of a form it can make vibrate—affects the biblical “message” and changes its nature?

It is unsurprising that the Psalms are poems, given their liturgical purpose and the abyss of individual and collective emotion that they explore. At the heart of the Bible and yet also apart from it, they lay out, we might suppose, for both the individual and the community, the lived experience of religion that other biblical books have the task of defining. We can accept the Song of Songs as a love poem, Jeremiah’s Lamentations as a sequence of elegies, Job as a verse drama, and we discover without too much surprise a considerable number of poems in the historical books: the song of Moses and Miriam, for example, in Exodus 15; the canticle of Deborah and Barak in Judges 5; the lament of David for Saul and Jonathan in 2 Samuel 1. And yet when we think about the presence of all these poetic books in a work in which we expect to find doctrines, and about the turn to poetry in so many of the historical books of the Bible, it gives us reason to think again. And how should we react to Proverbs, in which wisdom itself is taught in a poetic form? Or to the prophetic books, where poetry is sovereign, where warnings of the greatest urgency, for us as well as for the writers’ contemporaries, come forth in verse?

Isn’t this curious? And poetry appears from the beginning. In the second chapter of Genesis (verse 23), Adam welcomes the creation of woman in this way:

Here at last the bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh.
This one shall be called woman, for she was drawn forth from man.

These are the very first human words reported; it is tempting and perhaps legitimate to draw some conclusions. By this point Adam has already named the animals, but the author only indicates this, without recording the spoken words; in the world of the beginning, from which the author knows himself as well as his readers to be excluded, he probably recognized that there must have existed an intimate relationship between language and the real, between words and things, that we are incapable of regaining. But when Adam does speak for the first time, he is given an “Edenic” language, one which our fallen languages can still attain in certain moments: thus Adam literally draws woman, ishah, from man, ’ish. Hebrew, thanks to the pleasure it takes in wordplay—in the ludic and deeply serious harmonies between the sounds of words and the beings, objects, ideas, and emotions to which they open themselves—is a language particularly and providentially skillful at suggesting what would be a cordial relation between our language and our world, and a meaningful relation among the presences of the real. It is skillful in affirming the gravity of the lightest among the figures of rhetoric: the pun. Most importantly, as soon as the first man opens his mouth, he speaks in verse. Did the author think that in the world of primitive wonder language was naturally poetic? Is this why Adam, immediately after eating the forbidden fruit, responds to God in prose: “I heard your steps in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself” (Genesis 3:10)? We cannot know, but that first brief, spontaneous poem of Adam, which we seem to hear from so far away and from so close, solicits our attention and calls for our thought. If language before the Fall was poetic, or produced poems at moments charged with meaning, does poetry represent for us the apogee of our fallen speaking—its beginning and its end, its nostalgia and its hope?

In paging through Genesis, a book of history and not a collection of poetry, we encounter an impressive number of poems. It is in poetry that God gives the law on murder and its punishment (Genesis 9:6), that Rebecca’s family blesses her (24:60), that Isaac prophesies the future of Esau (27:39–40), and that Jacob blesses the twelve tribes of Israel (49:2–27). Given the occasional difficulty of identifying which passages are in verse, it may be that others will be discovered. The Bible de Jérusalem (I am reading from a 2009 edition) presents God as speaking in poetry several times in the first three chapters, beginning with the creation of man, as the Word of God gives birth to the only creature endowed with speech:

God created man in his image,
in the image of God he created him,
man and woman he created them.

In approaching the Bible’s beginning, we must often change our listening, our rhythm, our mode of attention and of being, in order to understand and receive a different language.

There are fewer poems in the New Testament, but they give even more food for thought. The Gospel of Luke introduces, from its first chapters, three poems: the canticles of Mary, Zachariah, and Simeon. Thus the Savior’s life begins under the sign of poetry. The book of Revelation, at the end of the Bible, contains additional canticles, as well as lamentations on Babylon, in poetry that appeals to the visionary imagination. In the name of Christianity, it returns to the extravagant poetry of the prophets. The first letter of John develops its thought with such felicity of rhythmic phrasing and close-crafted form that the Jerusalem Bible translates it completely in verse. These same translators have Paul’s letter to the Romans begin and end in verse, thus using poetry to frame a doctrinal exposition animated by an inflamed but in principle “prosaic” process of reflection, analysis, and synthesis.

Link to the rest at The Paris Review

PG opines that the King James edition of the Bible is where you’ll find the best poetry.

In Flanders fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae, Canadian poet, soldier, and physician

11 Types of Poetry to Know, With Examples

From The Grammarly Blog:

Poetry is a broad literary category that covers a variety of writing, including bawdy limericks, unforgettable song lyrics, and even the sentimental couplets inside greeting cards. Some kinds of poetry have few rules, while others have a rigid structure. That can make poetry feel hard to define, but the variety is also what makes it enjoyable. Through poetry, writers can express themselves in ways they can’t always through prose.

There are more than 150 types of poetry from cultures all over the world. Here, we’ll look at some of the key types of poetry to know, explain how they’re structured, and give plenty of examples.

. . . .

Key poetry terms

To better understand the differences between types of poetry, it’s important to know the following poetry terms:

Rhyme: Repeated sounds in two or more words. Usually, rhyming sounds are at the ends of words, but this is not always the case. A poem’s rhyme scheme is the pattern its rhymes follow.

Meter: A poem’s meter is its rhythmic structure. The number of syllables in a line and their emphasis compose a poem’s meter.

Form: The overall structure of a poem is known as its form. A poem’s form can determine its meter and rhyme scheme.

Stanza: A stanza is a section of a poem. Think of it like a verse in a song or a paragraph in an essay. Stanzas compose a poem’s form. In a poem, the stanzas can all fit the same meter, or they can vary.

Not all poems have a rhyme scheme, a form, or a meter. A poem might have one or two of these, or it could have all three. Many types of poetry are defined by a specific form, rhyme scheme, or meter. When you set out to write a poem, think about which form—if any—best suits your subject matter. Generally, poetic forms don’t include rules for using punctuation, such as periods and quotation marks, so you have some wiggle room with these.

. . . .

11 types of poems to know

1 Acrostic

You might remember writing acrostic poems in elementary school. In an acrostic poem, the lines are arranged so the first letter in each line helps to spell out a word. Here’s an example:

Perfect tool for writing on the fly Evolution from quills to fountains, ballpoints to rollerballs No touchscreen or keyboard can replicate the satisfaction of writing by hand

The lines in an acrostic poem can be full lines or single words. There is no required meter or rhyme scheme for acrostic poems; the only requirement is to form a word using the first letter of each line.

2 Ballad

There’s a reason so many songs are also called ballads—ballads are narrative poems characterized by their melodious rhyme scheme. A ballad can be any length, but it must be a series of rhyming quatrains. These quatrains, four-line stanzas, can follow any rhyme scheme. Commonly, the quatrains in a ballad follow an ABCB pattern, like this quatrain from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”:

And through the drifts the snowy clifts 
Did send a dismal sheen 
Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken— 
The ice was all between

An ABCB rhyme scheme refers to the order of the repeated sounds at the end of each line. Here’s a quick example:

A: I write every day B: Someday, I’ll finish my book C: But sometimes I get so immersed B: That I forget to cook!

ABCB isn’t the only acceptable rhyme scheme for ballads. Some follow an ABAB scheme, which means the first and third lines rhyme, and the second and fourth lines rhyme. Whichever rhyme scheme a ballad follows, the rhyme and meter give the poem a feeling of musicality.

3 Elegy

Unlike our previous entries, there are no length or form rules for elegies. However, there is a content requirement: Elegies are about death.

Generally, elegies are reflective and written to mourn an individual or group. They also frequently end with lines about hope and redemption. Elegies originated in ancient Greece, and over time, they morphed into the mourning poems we know them as today.

“Dirge Without Music” by Edna St. Vincent Millay is a well-known elegy. Take a look at this excerpt:

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground. So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind: Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

4 Epic

There’s a reason the adjective epic refers to things that are huge, complex, and/or over-the-top: Epics are long, detailed poems that tell fantastical stories of larger-than-life characters. These stories can be fictional, historical, or historical with a generous helping of fiction and drama to heighten the emotion.

Epics have a long history. In fact, The Epic of Gilgamesh, considered by many to be the oldest surviving piece of literature, is an epic poem. Here is a snippet from the epic’s more than 2,000 words:

When the gods created Gilgamesh they gave him a perfect body. Shamash the glorious sun endowed him with beauty, Adad the god of the storm endowed him with courage, the great gods made his beauty perfect, surpassing all others, terrifying like a great wild bull. Two thirds they made him god and one third man.

5 Free verse

Free verse poetry explicitly does away with a consistent rhyme scheme and meter. A free verse poem can be long or short, and it can cover any subject matter—as long as it doesn’t have a consistent rhyme scheme or meter, it’s a free verse poem!

“Autumn” by T.E. Hulme is example of a short free verse poem:

A touch of cold in the Autumn night— I walked abroad, 
And saw the ruddy moon lean over a hedge Like a red-faced farmer. 
I did not stop to speak, but nodded, 
And round about were the wistful stars With white faces like town children.

Free verse vs. blank verse

While their names are similar, free verse poetry is quite different from blank verse poetry. Blank verse poetry is poetry with a specific meter, but no rhyme scheme. Although many blank verse poems are written in iambic pentameter, this is not a requirement. The only requirements for blank verse poetry are that the poem not rhyme and that it adheres to a consistent meter.

Link to the rest at The Grammarly Blog

To a Wreath of Snow

by Emily Brontë

O transient voyager of heaven!
O silent sign of winter skies!
What adverse wind thy sail has driven
To dungeons where a prisoner lies?

Methinks the hands that shut the sun
So sternly from this morning’s brow
Might still their rebel task have done
And checked a thing so frail as thou.

They would have done it had they known
The talisman that dwelt in thee,
For all the suns that ever shone
Have never been so kind to me!

For many a week, and many a day
My heart was weighed with sinking gloom
When morning rose in mourning grey
And faintly lit my prison room

But angel like, when I awoke,
Thy silvery form so soft and fair
Shining through darkness, sweetly spoke
Of cloudy skies and mountains bare;

The dearest to a mountaineer
Who, all life long has loved the snow
That crowned her native summits drear,
Better, than greenest plains below.

And voiceless, soulless, messenger
Thy presence waked a thrilling tone
That comforts me while thou art here
And will sustain when thou art gone

The Lawyers Know Too Much

The Lawyers Know Too Much, by Carl Sandburg:

The lawyers, Bob, know too much.
They are chums of the books of the old John Marshall.
They know it all, what a dead hand wrote,
A stiff dead hand and its knuckles crumbling,
The bones of the fingers a thin white ash.
       The lawyers know
       a dead man’s thoughts too well.

In the heels of the higgling lawyers, Bob,
Too many slippery ifs and buts and howevers,
Too much hereinbefore provided whereas,
Too many doors to go in and out of.

       When the lawyers are through
       What is there left, Bob?
       Can a mouse nibble at it
       And find enough to fasten a tooth in?

Link to the rest at Poets.org

Carver wins Moth Nature Writing Prize for ‘deeply funny’ work combining science and poetry

FromThe Bookseller:

Genevieve Carver has won The Moth’s Nature Writing Prize for “Postcards from a Fulmar”, a “deeply funny” hybrid of science writing and poetry.

The prize, run by the Moth magazine, is in its third year, and was judged by author Max Porter. It awards writing of the highest quality that reflects the writer’s relationship with the natural world.

Commenting on Carver’s work, Porter said: “It’s such an interesting and surprising hybrid, which manages to be deeply funny and very sad at the same time, an unusual feat in both science writing and poetry, even more unusual when the two are blended. The ironic and the tender are perfectly fused, and formal innovations are cleverly tethered to meaning. Both the birds and the language were thrillingly – and in unexpected ways – alive in this piece.”

Carver, whose poetry has been published in journals such as Mslexia, the White Review and the North, is currently Poet in Residence with the University of Aberdeen’s School of Biological Sciences, where she’s observing and writing in response to their work studying bottlenose dolphin, porpoise and harbour seals in the Moray Firth, as well as the fulmar colony on the uninhabited island of Eynhallow in Orkney.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

PG didn’t know Schools of Biological Sciences had poets in residence. Let it be known that PG is available to be a poet in residence at a law school.

 Where Poems Begin

From Women Writers, Women’s Books:

Creativity emerges from a vast, wordless reality that is hidden in plain sight. Radiant, beautiful, benevolent, and infinite, it is the source of all ideas and inspiration. Contrary to popular myth, you do not have to suffer to create. There is a gentle path to creativity, one that does not involve alcohol, drugs, or a life lived in chaos and torment. Creativity: Where Poems Begin is not just about how poets get ideas for poems. It is about how moments of inspiration come to all of us.

. . . .

In 1971, I wrote over a hundred poems, but the price was high. Suffering, grief, loss, sadness, and despair shattered the barrier between my rational consciousness and the emotional, non-rational sources of my creativity. After I put those troubles behind me, I wanted to go on writing poetry, but I didn’t want to go on suffering. I had come to believe there might be another path to the source of my creativity, a gentle path that I would be able to follow without harming myself. Many things encouraged me to believe that such a path existed, so I examined accounts of how other people had contacted their sources of creativity. 

The first writer I looked at was Marcel Proust, a man who seemed to contact his source primarily by accident. I was fascinated with Proust’s involuntary memories; but I wanted to be able to sit down in the morning, access the source of my creativity, and start writing. 

The second group of people I considered were poets who used more aggressive methods. What I found was not the gentle path I was looking for, but what I came to call, for lack of any better name, “the path of intoxication.” So many great poets had lived miserable lives, ultimately drinking themselves to death or committing suicide. It was hard to think of another literary genre with so many victims. 

Why had writing poetry taken such a toll? I suspected I knew at least part of the answer. In college, I had come across Rimbaud’s letter to Paul Demeny. “The poet,” Rimbaud argued, “transforms himself into a visionary by a . . .  systematic derangement of all the senses. He seeks out all forms suffering, and folly . .”

Link to the rest at Women Writers, Women’s Books

Several centuries ago, PG thought of himself as a poet. Perhaps that’s the source of his systemic derangement.

He thought law school choked all the systemic derangement out of him, but maybe there’s still some hanging around.

Emily’s Rhythms

The thing PG really enjoys about doing TPV are some of the amazing comments that visitors post to provide additional information.

Yesterday’s post, It’s Always Time for Meter and Rhyme which brought PG back to Emily Dickinson’s poetry generated two world-class comments from Karen Myers and allynh, each a long-time denizens of the TPV world.

Each of the comments discussed the meter and rhyme of Emily’s poems, but in very different ways.

Karen provided this illustration of iambic tetrameter from Emily’s poem, Because I Could Not Stop for Death:

BeCAUSE I COULD not STOP for DEATH/he KINDly STOPPED for ME

The lower and upper cases are the unstressed and stressed syllables in this line.

Iambic refers to an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable – daDUM.

Tetrameter refers to how many iambs there are in the line of poetry – six.

Iambic pentameter (five iambs per line) is more frequently found in poetry written in the English language, but Karen’s comment argues that iambic tetrameter (six iambs per line) is a better fit for the way people speak using English.

This is important because in PG’s opinion (and the opinion of many other students of poetry who are smarter/have deeper knowledge than PG), while poetry can be enjoyed by reading it silently, classically, poetry is meant to be spoken aloud and hearing a poem is a better way of enjoying/understanding the poem than just reading it silently.

Music (at least in the Western tradition) is also meant to be played and/or sung and hearing is a better way of enjoying/understanding music than simply reading the words and notes on paper. Western music also has stressed and unstressed notes and often repeats its musical patterns with small or large differences.

Think of the opening sounds of Beethoven’s 5th symphony – da-da-da-DA – repeated thereafter in varying speeds and tonal variations.

allynh pointed out Dickinson’s iambic tetrameter in Because I Could Not Stop for Death meter works with the tune of a long-time favorite song (at least in Texas), The Yellow Rose of Texas.

Here’s an illustration (PG couldn’t get the YouTube video to embed).

It’s Always the Time for Meter and Rhyme

From The Wall Street Journal:

When my sister was in the sixth grade, she had to memorize the poem “Crossing the Bar” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. It was the 1950s and my mother, quite modern, was dismayed. To her, rote memorization wasn’t education. The poem was terribly old-fashioned, and it was about death. My mother’s views back then are now standard.

In ancient times, poetry was part of ritual, not only to placate the gods but as to pass history along. Meter and rhyme made it easy to learn.

Now that we have books and electronics, we can remember without meter and rhyme. But they’re still part of us. An echo of the early uses of poetry can be found in nursery rhymes and in such children’s stories as “The Cat in the Hat.” Parents quickly learn that toddlers love rhymes and can readily repeat them.

But poetry has mostly narrowed to small, constrained passages in intellectual magazines like the New Yorker or the Atlantic. It isn’t for the masses. Shakespeare is mostly ignored. The beguiling rhythms of Amanda Gorman’s poetry are available on special occasions only.

A valiant effort to bring back poetry was Garrison Keillor’s “Writer’s Almanac.” For many years he read a poem on National Public Radio each morning. Another current effort is Poetry Magazine’s poem sent daily by email at no charge. The featured verse is by a contemporary writer on weekdays, a past one on weekends. The magazine has been especially valuable in bringing back little-known poetry by early-20th-century African-American poets.

But a poem sent by email that’s not read aloud must have a small audience. And I don’t know of any poetry clubs comparable to the book clubs that meet monthly around the country.

In an interview with Minnesota Public Radio, Mr. Keillor put some of the blame on T.S. Eliot—perhaps as a stand-in for many modern poets: “Eliot was in a lousy marriage. He was so unhappy, so he took it out on the rest of us. But that doesn’t give you an excuse to be dreary.”

So what can help us when someone does cross the bar? Can poetry soothe? One attraction of funerals is that they are public rituals, and there is the poetic writing of the Bible along with sacred music.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (PG apologizes for the paywall, but hasn’t figured out a way around it.)

Over the Brazier

Robert Graves was the son of a Gaelic scholar and poet and a mother who was related to an influential German historian of those times.

Graves turned down a scholarship to St. John’s College, Oxford, to join the British Army. While serving, he published his first book of poetry in 1916. The title was Over the Brazier.

Over the Brazier

What life to lead and where to go
After the War, after the War?
We’d often talked this way before.
But I still see the brazier glow
That April night, still feel the smoke
And stifling pungency of burning coke.

I’d thought: ‘A cottage in the hills,
North Wales, a cottage full of books,
Pictures and brass and cosy nooks
And comfortable broad window-sills,
Flowers in the garden, walls all white.
I’d live there peacefully and dream and write.’

But Willie said: ‘No, Home’s no good:
Old England’s quite a hopeless place,
I’ve lost all feeling for my race:
But France has given my heart and blood
Enough to last me all my life,
I’m off to Canada with my wee wife.

‘Come with us, Mac, old thing,’ but Mac
Drawled: ‘No, a Coral Isle for me,
A warm green jewel in the South Sea.
There’s merit in a lumber shack,
And labour is a grand thing…but—
Give me my hot beach and my cocoanut.’

So then we built and stocked for Willie
His log-hut, and for Mac a calm
Rock-a-bye cradle on a palm—
Idyllic dwellings—but this silly
Mad War has now wrecked both, and what
Better hopes has my little cottage got?

Memorial Day

PG wrote about Memorial Day a day or two ago.

Today is celebrated as Memorial Day in the United States. Other nations also have similar traditions.

PG understands that the United Kingdom celebrates Remembrance Day on November 11, the day on which the armistice between the Allies and Germany was signed, ending World War I. He also understands that Australia and New Zealand recognize Anzac Day on April 25, as the day of the first military action by Australian and Kiwi forces in World War I.

Rupert Brooke was one of the leading English poets of World War I.

His most well-known poem had two somewhat different titles, “The Soldier” and “Nineteen-Fourteen: The Soldier”

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam;
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

Rupert Brook

Brooke saw his only action of World War I during the defense of Antwerp, Belgium, against German invasion in early October 1914. Although aided by a stiff resistance from Antwerp’s inhabitants, British troops suffered a decisive defeat in that conflict and were forced to retreat through a devastated Belgian countryside.

In 1915, Brooke was serving as an officer in the British Royal Navy. He died of blood poisoning on a hospital ship anchored off the Greek island of Skyros, while awaiting deployment in the Allied invasion of the Gallipoli Peninsula.

In Flanders Fields

Canadian physician John McCrae volunteered for World War I in 1914 and served as a brigade surgeon for an artillery unit. He was involved in Second Battle of Ypres, where the Germans launched an assault that included the war’s first use of poisonous chlorine gas. He cared for many wounded, including a close friend who died.

In the aftermath, McCrae wrote a poem about those he and others could not save.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

God Has a Beautiful Mansion for Me Elsewhere

From Lapham’s Quarterly:

On December 10, 1825, the fifty-year-old English lawyer Henry Crabb Robinson attended a dinner at the home of his friend Charles Aders, a London businessman. Eliza, Aders’ wife, was a painter and printmaker, and she had invited a few artist and engraver friends to the party. Over the course of the evening Robinson became increasingly fascinated by one of the guests—an elderly, relatively unknown poet and painter by the name of William Blake, whose conversation casually roamed from the polite and mundane to the beatific and fantastic.

Blake was short, pale, and a little overweight, with the accent of a lifelong Londoner. He was dressed in old-fashioned, threadbare clothes and his gray trousers were shiny at the front through wear. His large, strong eyes didn’t seem to fit with his soft, round face. Robinson noted in his diary that he had “an expression of great sweetness, but bordering on weakness—except when his features are animated by expression, and then he has an air of inspiration about him.”

For all his wild notions and heretical statements, Blake was pleasant company and easy to like. The aggressive and hectoring voice of his writings was not the Blake those who met him recall. Many years later, another guest at that party, Maria Denman, remarked, “One remembers even in age the kindness of such a man.”

What made Blake so fascinating was the casual way in which he talked about his relationship with the spirit world. Blake, Robinson wrote, “spoke of his paintings as being what he had seen in his visions—and when he said ‘my visions’ it was in the ordinary unemphatic tone in which we speak of trivial matters that everyone understands and cares nothing about.” Blake peppered his conversation with remarks about his relationship with various angels, the nature of the devil, and his visionary meetings with historical figures such as Socrates, Milton, and Jesus Christ. Somehow, he did this in a way that people found endearing rather than disturbing. As Robinson wrote, “There is a natural sweetness and gentility about Blake which are delightful. And when he is not referring to his visions he talks sensibly and acutely.”

Robinson walked home with Blake that night and was so struck by the conversation that he spent the evening transcribing as much of it as he could remember. The two men became friends, and Robinson’s diary is an invaluable record of how Blake acted and thought during the last two years of his life. “Shall I call him Artist or Genius—or Mystic—or Madman?” Robinson mused that first night. He spent the rest of their relationship attempting to come up with a definite answer. “Probably he is all” was the best he could find.

. . . .

A week after the party, Robinson made his first visit to Blake’s home at Fountain Court in the Strand, where he lived with his wife, Catherine. The building itself has long since gone, but it was roughly where the Savoy Hotel now stands. Robinson was unprepared for the level of poverty in which the couple were living. “I found him in a small room, which seems to be both a working room and a bedroom,” he wrote. “Nothing could exceed the squalid air both of the apartment and his dress, but in spite of dirt—I might say filth—an air of natural gentility is diffused over him.”

This was the second of the two rooms that the Blakes rented on the first floor of the building. The first was a wood-paneled reception room, which doubled as an unofficial gallery for Blake’s drawings and paintings. The second, at the rear, was reserved for everything else. In one corner was the bed, and in the other was the fire on which Catherine Blake cooked. There was one table for meals, and another on which Blake worked. From here he looked out of the southern-facing window, where a glimpse of the Thames could be seen between the buildings and streets that ran down to the river. This sliver of water would often catch the sun and appear golden. Behind it, the Surrey Hills stretched into the distance. For all the evident poverty, visitors spoke of the rooms as enchanted. As one later recalled, “There was a strange expansion and sensation of freedom in those two rooms very seldom felt elsewhere.”

Blake, Robinson remembered, was “quite unembarrassed when he begged me to sit down, as if he were in a palace. There was but one chair in the room besides that on which he sat. On my putting my hand to it, I found that it would have fallen to pieces if I had lifted it, so, as if I had been a sybarite, I said with a smile, ‘Will you let me indulge myself?’ and I sat on the bed, and near him, and during my short stay there was nothing in him that betrayed that he was aware of what to other persons might have been even offensive, not in his person, but in all about him.”

“I live in a hole here, but God has a beautiful mansion for me elsewhere,” Blake once said. He knew that he was pitied by the occasional prosperous artist who visited, but he thought that it was he who should be pitying them. “I possess my visions and peace,” he argued. “They have bartered their birthright for a mess of pottage.” Robinson was struck on that first visit by how at ease the Blakes seemed with their poverty. “I should be sorry if I had any earthly fame, for whatever natural glory a man has is so much detracted from his spiritual glory,” Blake told him. Despite how the world had treated him he was quite happy, he insisted, because he wanted nothing other than to live for art and had no desire to do anything for profit. But as Robinson also noted, “Though he spoke of his happiness, he spoke of past sufferings, and of sufferings as necessary. ‘There is suffering in heaven, for where there is the capacity of enjoyment, there is the capacity of pain.’ ”

Link to the rest at Lapham’s Quarterly

When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

William Blake, The Tyger, 1794
Blake’s Ancient of Days, 1794

But at my back I always hear Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near

Had we but world enough and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down, and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love’s day.
Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the flood,
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires and more slow;
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.

       But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found;
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long-preserved virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust;
The grave’s a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.

       Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapped power.
Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Through the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

Andrew Marvel, To His Coy Mistress

PG’s Note: In 1641, two years after Marvel completed his BA at Cambridge, his father drowned in “the Tide of Humber”—the estuary at Hull made famous by To his Coy Mistress.