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the girl with violets in her lap [userpic]

October 8th, 2009 (11:10 pm)
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So today is apparently National Poetry Day -- at least, it will be for twenty more minutes. I was sort of half-conscious of that all day and I sort of meant to post some of my favorite poems but I never got around to it. Then I realized that there were twenty more minutes in the day and, instead of just doing this a day late and posting a really thoughtful selection, got stubborn and posted the first few poems that came to mind. BUT I DID IT WITH SEVENTEEN MINUTES LEFT ON THE CLOCK, FOLKS

Anyway, I can tell you right off that this list demonstrates an obvious lack of sophistication and also a prejudice towards lesbians. That's okay by me. It's my list.

Fragment -- Sappho, tr. Anne Carson:

Eros shook my
mind like a mountain wind falling on oak trees

This little fragment demonstrates two things to me: a.) how much power you can pack into just a couple of lines of poetry, and b.) how much a specific translation can make or break a poem. I think it's the Mary Barnard version of that that takes what Carson translates as "Eros shook my mind" and renders it as "Love shook my heart". Blecch.

* * *

Elizabeth Bishop: One Art

This is kind of a "Duh." choice. But I have to include it anyway. Because it is amazing.

One Art

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

* * *

Amy Lowell: A Tree of Scarlet Berries

I like this one mostly just because I like trees with red berries. But I really like Amy Lowell in general. As previously noted, it's a dyke thing.

The Tree of Scarlet Berries

The rain gullies the garden paths
And tinkles on the broad sides of grass blades.
A tree, at the end of my arm, is hazy with mist.
Even so, I can see that it has red berries,
A scarlet fruit,
Filmed over with moisture.
It seems as though the rain,
Dripping from it,
Should be tinged with colour.
I desire the berries,
But, in the mist, I only scratch my hand on the thorns.
Probably, too, they are bitter.

* * *

Edna St. Vincent Millay: Sonnet V, Renascence

There are much better Millay poems than this, I'm sure, and probably even ones that I like better than this. This is the one that currently has the most meaning for me, though, as I used it in the Jane book.

"If I should learn, in some quite casual way"

If I should learn, in some quite casual way,
That you were gone, not to return again--
Read from the back-page of a paper, say,
Held by a neighbor in a subway train,
How at the corner of this avenue
And such a street (so are the papers filled)
A hurrying man--who happened to be you--
At noon to-day had happened to be killed,
I should not cry aloud--I could not cry
Aloud, or wring my hands in such a place--
I should but watch the station lights rush by
With a more careful interest on my face,
Or raise my eyes and read with greater care
Where to store furs and how to treat the hair.

* * *

Alfred Lord Tennyson: Crossing the Bar

I honestly don't know why this poem has always stuck in my mind so. On an objective reread it doesn't seem like a super-standout Tennyson poem, even if it is an inevitable part of the canon. But it just gets me, somehow. Something about the gentle rhythms of it, the way the lines seem to echo the rise and fall of the waves -- and I've always loved poetry about the sea, anyway. At any rate, I had to include something by Tennyson. I've had a real affinity for him ever since college.

Crossing the Bar

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.

* * *

A final one I continue to love dearly is Federico Garcia Lorca's La balada del agua del mar, but all I've got is the Spanish and my own shitty translation, so I'll link to that but not repost it.

Happy National Poetry Day. You can consider the comments an open share space for your own favorite poems if you like.

Comments

Posted by: my tongue freezes. (velvet_tipping)
Posted at: October 9th, 2009 03:55 am (UTC)

your list? is my list.

Posted by: the girl with violets in her lap (slammerkinbabe)
Posted at: October 9th, 2009 03:56 am (UTC)

Really? Oh yay! :-D

Posted by: Justine (devifemme)
Posted at: October 9th, 2009 04:55 am (UTC)

"The intent to be lost..." is a fine bit of phrasing. From Elizabeth Bishop, as you said.

The Lowell was good, as well. (Embarrassed to admit I didn't know she was gay! But, yay for our side!) Liked the re-cast "sour grapes" idea.

Hugs, Justine

Posted by: lady of the summer, princess of the morning (diana_hawthorne)
Posted at: October 9th, 2009 05:27 am (UTC)
maggie smith: reading

"One Art" is one of my most favourite poems ever.

Posted by: jarethrake (jarethrake)
Posted at: October 9th, 2009 11:21 am (UTC)
Definitely

A fragment of For Mary, by John Clare;

I sleep with thee and wake with thee, and yet thou art not there.
I fill my arms with thoughts of thee and press the common air.

Philip Larkin;

They fuck you up, your mom and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They give you all the faults they had,
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn,
By men in old style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man,
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.

Another fragment, this time from the Garden of Proserpine by Swinburne.

From too much love of living,
From hope and fear set free
We thank with brief thanksgiving
Whatever gods may be.
That no man lives forever,
That dead men rise up never,
That even the weariest river
Winds somewhere safe to sea.

Posted by: B (goblinpaladin)
Posted at: October 9th, 2009 12:20 pm (UTC)
writing

Hunh, I didn't know this, but then I'm not in your nation.

If you like, I now have a 'poetry' tag, wherein are some poems I've been translatin'. There'll be more to come when I start posting again.

So far, it's all in dead languages.

Posted by: Doc Manhattan (docmanhattan)
Posted at: October 9th, 2009 01:28 pm (UTC)
sanger

If there's one thing we can learn from your list, it's the Vassar poets rock!

Posted by: Doc Manhattan (docmanhattan)
Posted at: October 9th, 2009 02:14 pm (UTC)
papa

Also, here's some lovely verse from D. Nurkse, my thesis advisor / awesome poet and translator / human rights activist / all-around superstar.

From the Cortland Review.

Posted by: Damian (fanboy_of_zeus)
Posted at: October 9th, 2009 02:48 pm (UTC)

I think I need a new favorite poet/favorite poem. From when I first read it in 11th grade English through most of college, it was Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale" - somewhat depressing, especially when you consider that my favorite stanza was the sixth:

Darkling I listen, and for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death;
Called him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath.
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy;
Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain,
To thy high requiem become a sod.


(Typed from memory, I'm sure I got the punctuation wrong.)

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