December 14, 2005

Things Being Various [Filed under: MacNeice, Louis]

Snow

The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.

And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes –
On the tongue on the eyes on the ears in the palms of one’s hands –
There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.

I have nothing to say about this poem at the moment, but it’s by MacNeice, I like it, and it’s been snowing here in Minneapolis today. The plows are going past as I write. There are great phrases, great sounds in the verses. It gets, I think, at the incompleteness of the analytical without doing something silly like being all analytical about it.

November 20, 2005

Though it is not Spring [Filed under: MacNeice, Louis]

I am a huge fan of MacNeice now. Read this poem out loud. He is a poet who has such a mastery over sounds that I often care very little about his themes – though they are nothing to sneeze at, either. (It is almost embarrasing to love a poem so much that has “sunshine” in the title.)

Spring Sunshine

In a between world, a world of amber,
The old cat, on the sand-warm window-sill
Sleeps on the verge of nullity.

Spring sunshine has a quality
Transcending rooks and the hammerings
Of those who hang new pictures,
Asking if it is worth it
To clamour and caw, to add stick to stick for ever.

If it is worth while really
To colonize any more the already populous
Tree of knowledge, to portion and reportion
Bits of broken knowledge brittle and dead,
Whether it would not be better
To hide one’s head in the warm sand of sleep
And be buried without hustle or bother.

The rooks bicker heckle bargain always
And market carts lumber–
Let me, in the calm of the all-humouring sun
Also indulge my humour
And bury myself beyond creaks and cawings
In a below world, a bottom world of amber.

By far the most impressive part of this, for me, are the lines: The rooks bicker heckle bargain always/And market carts lumber–

The Poet of Ceder St. [Filed under: Carrier, Warren.General Discussion]

Never mind the long silence, I have enjoyed Hoke’s posts and thoughts on Nietzsche. I plan to take some time with him and his solitudes and renunciations.

I have recently been spending some evenings with a fine poet named Warren Carrier, father of Wintry-Minded Ethan. Conversations with him have inspired me to try again to memorize poems – an effort that I was rather serious about for a time right after graduating St. Johns. My plan is to memorize one from each poet who I admire. Perhaps, as my view of each poet changes, I will switch to a new poem of theirs… Plans, plans, treacherous plans.

I want to post two poems to commemorate my new resolve. One from Warren (which I have not yet tried to memorize) and one from Louis MacNeice, which I have. I’ll post the MacNeice separately in case anyone wants to comment on one poem and not the other.

Postcard

He gazed beyond the rocky edge where turning
maples stretched for miles, particulars
of his mind, a village, a white spire.
Above the turquoise atmosphere, an unseen
gravity held all light within itself,
burst like a melon, scattering galaxies.
He thought of the momentary hues of maples,
of human generations, the same, and never
the same, of randomness, of order as change.
The black that cracked into its separate stars,
bloomed from bent and distant light, had come
to this: himself here, gazing and musing,
maples the tint of the sun, a village of beings
unseen under leaves, their immaculate spire.

November 8, 2005

Excelsior! [Filed under: Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth]

Excelsior

The shades of night were falling fast,
As through an Alpine village passed
A youth, who bore, ’mid snow and ice,
A banner with the strange device,
        Excelsior!

His brow was sad; his eye beneath,
Flashed like a falchion from its sheath,
And like a silver clarion rung
The accents of that unknown tongue,
        Excelsior!

In happy homes he saw the light
Of household fires gleam warm and bright;
Above, the spectral glaciers shone,
And from his lips escaped a groan,
        Excelsior!

“Try not the Pass!” the old man said;
“Dark lowers the tempest overhead,
The roaring torrent is deep and wide!”
And loud that clarion voice replied,
        Excelsior!

“Oh, stay,” the maiden said, “and rest
Thy weary head upon this breast!”
A tear stood in his bright blue eye,
But still he answered, with a sigh,
        Excelsior!

“Beware the pine-tree’s withered branch!
Beware the awful avalanche!”
This was the peasant’s last Good-night,
A voice replied, far up the height,
        Excelsior!

At break of day, as heavenward
The pious monks of Saint Bernard
Uttered the oft-repeated prayer,
A voice cried through the startled air,
        Excelsior!

A traveller, by the faithful hound,
Half-buried in the snow was found,
Still grasping in his hand of ice
That banner with the strange device,
        Excelsior!

There, in the twilight cold and gray,
Lifeless, but beautiful, he lay,
And from the sky, serene and far,
A voice fell, like a falling star,
        Excelsior!

October 7, 2005

Poeta Loquitur [Filed under: Collins, Billy.Frost, Robert.Thomas, Dylan]

I haven’t had a chance to listen to much yet, and what I have listened to hasn’t really inspired me to listen to much more, but I figure some of you might be interested: I found a link over at Salon to several downloadable CDs worth of Dylan Thomas reading his and others’ poetry, with introductions by Billy Collins. The article requires the visitor to have a Premium membership or a day-pass, which means essentially that you’ll have to watch an ad (requiring Flash). Small price to pay for so large a bounty. I don’t know how long the files will be available, so I suggest getting while the getting’s good. I have been told that “Track 6 on disc 5, ‘Chard Whitlow,’ was written by Henry Reed as a lampoon of T.S. Eliot. Reed won a parody contest with it in 1941.…Thomas recites it while impersonating Eliot. The poem is funny, but the audience is laughing because even they found Eliot to be ‘pompous, silly, overwrought, stilted’ and ‘affected.'”

When it rains, it pours (unless it doesn’t, as when it sprinkles or drizzles or spits or…). Here’s Robert Frost reading some of his own poetry.