Peaches are glorious right now! Are you eating one? Happy summer.
“April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain.” — T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land
April is both National Poetry Month and contains Tax Day. The Millions has some reading suggestions for this cruelest of all months.
Through a post on I09, Walt Whitman’s “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” in Comic Form, I discovered the blog, Zen Pencils, which translates all kinds of wisdom — not just poetry — to comic form. I found #98, Alan Watts: What If Money Were No Object? to be particularly inspirational.
I am really loving these poems “found” in newspaper articles by blacking out the extraneous words: Weekly Poem: Two from ‘Newspaper Blackout’ | Art Beat | PBS NewsHour | PBS.
I’m going through one of my notebooks and saving out the good stuff. Here is a “found” poem, so to speak: a summary of The Big Lebowski, as told (mostly) by Donny’s lines of dialogue, with just a little help from Walter. Enjoy.
The Big Lebowski
(as told by Donny)
[Donny, you're out of your element.]
He peed on the Dude’s rug–
His name’s Lebwoski? That’s your name, Dude.
What’s a pedarast, Walter?
I am the Walrus.
Who has your undies, Walter?
Phone’s ringing, Dude.
We’ll be near the In-and-Out Burger.
Those are good burgers, Walter.
Are these the Nazis, Walter?
[Donny was a good bowler, and a good man.]
I was flipping channels the other night and got stuck watching the end of 2012. I can only compare it to the urge to slow down when passing a wreck on the road — the biggest wreck EVER! Whatever you want to say about 2012, no movie destroys the earth with as much maniacal glee. In fact, the first time I saw it, I wrote a poem about it, which I will share with you now.
How many ways can I destroy you?
1. Drop LA into a bottomless chasm.
2. Explode Yellowstone with a volcanic spasm.
3. Coat Vegas in a layer of ash.
4. Wipe out Washington with a big splash.
5. Decimate Europe so everyone must leave it.
6. Drown the Himalayas (though no one will believe it).
It’s my world and I’ll do what I want to,
And all I want to do is destroy you.
I have to admit that I am not a big poetry reader. I prefer the meatiness of a novel. But I do harbor fond feelings for particular poets who have really moved me.
For me, a poem has to ultimately be about an emotion, and a good poem stirs emotion in the reader. The poem is such a condensed form that it really needs to be precise, to evoke an image fully, and then connect that image to an emotion, but not in an obvious way. A good poem is truly “in the moment.”
I recently read an interesting article about ranking the best poets ever. I can’t see how a list of top 10 poets can be anything but subjective. It’s all about who moves you.
Here is my personal list of my favorite poets (I’m not numbering them because I can’t put them in hierarchical order–they are all great):
- William Butler Yeats
- William Shakespeare
- William Carlos Williams
- Walt Whitman
- T.S. Eliot
- e.e. cummings
- Emily Dickinson
- Langston Hughes
- Bob Dylan
- Fred Chappell
I’m sure I’m missing many great poets because I haven’t been exposed to them. Who are your favorite poets?
Let me leave you with this wonderful poem by William Carlos Williams:
Spring and All By the road to the contagious hospital under the surge of the blue mottled clouds driven from the northeast-a cold wind. Beyond, the waste of broad, muddy fields brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen patches of standing water the scattering of tall trees All along the road the reddish purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy stuff of bushes and small trees with dead, brown leaves under them leafless vines- Lifeless in appearance, sluggish dazed spring approaches- They enter the new world naked, cold, uncertain of all save that they enter. All about them the cold, familiar wind- Now the grass, tomorrow the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf One by one objects are defined- It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf But now the stark dignity of entrance-Still, the profound change has come upon them: rooted, they grip down and begin to awaken
I don’t read a lot of poetry, but sometimes I come across a poem that strikes such a nerve I am compelled to make it part of my personal canon. This is actually an excerpt from W. H. Auden‘s much longer poem, “September 1, 1939″:
All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.
Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.
It is just as compelling today as it was in 1939. Read more about W.H. Auden.