January 1, 2017

Reading Poetry [Filed under: General Discussion.Yeats, William Butler]

Excerpt from Adam’s Curse

We sat together at one summer’s end,
That beautiful mild woman, your close friend,
And you and I, and talked of poetry.
I said, ‘A line will take us hours maybe;
Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought,
Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.

Better go down upon your marrow-bones
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;
For to articulate sweet sounds together
Is to work harder than all these, and yet
Be thought an idler by the noisy set
Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen
The martyrs call the world.’ …

Let us articulate sweet sounds together! It is not now the summer’s end, but come, meet for an old-fashioned talk of poetry. We can talk over brunch, we can talk over mimosas, we can talk over the internet, we can talk over each other. Unstitch a verse with me, then stitch it back together. If you are interested, please send me an email to register for the site.

November 27, 2016

Ἑαυτὸν τιμωρούμενος [Filed under: Baudelaire, Charles]

L’Héautontimorouménos

À J.G.F.

Je te frapperai sans colère
Et sans haine, comme un boucher,
Comme Moïse le rocher
Et je ferai de ta paupière,

Pour abreuver mon Saharah
Jaillir les eaux de la souffrance.
Mon désir gonflé d’espérance
Sur tes pleurs salés nagera

Comme un vaisseau qui prend le large,
Et dans mon coeur qu’ils soûleront
Tes chers sanglots retentiront
Comme un tambour qui bat la charge!

Ne suis-je pas un faux accord
Dans la divine symphonie,
Grâce à la vorace Ironie
Qui me secoue et qui me mord

Elle est dans ma voix, la criarde!
C’est tout mon sang ce poison noir!
Je suis le sinistre miroir
Où la mégère se regarde.

Je suis la plaie et le couteau!
Je suis le soufflet et la joue!
Je suis les membres et la roue,
Et la victime et le bourreau!

Je suis de mon coeur le vampire,
—Un de ces grands abandonnés
Au rire éternel condamnés
Et qui ne peuvent plus sourire!

I, too, occasionally indulge in a bit of self-torment—as when I attempt to translate Baudelaire into English verse. It is not an easy task, and I am never entirely up to it. I always want to adhere as closely as possible to Baudelaire’s grammar, rhythm and vocabulary, but the mere act of translation demands significant departures (and thus sacrifices). Still, there is no benefit to self-torment if it is not performed in public, so I here present my latest (but certainly not last) exercise in self-abuse. Would that it were only self-abuse—Baudelaire is obviously the most unfortunate victim, but my apologies, too, to anyone else who reads it!

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May 27, 2015

Plus ça change… [Filed under: General Discussion]

Penned some 18 years ago:

Juvenalia/Juvenilia

My thoughts unfold, the air grows cold
As if it knows I’ll need the snows
To quench my mental fire:
My future turns—ignites and burns
Through hope and fear—but leaves me here,
Alas, with no desire!

March 19, 2015

“Grab the world by its clothes pins and shake it out again….” [Filed under: Mojgani, Anis]

I can’t post the text of the poem “Shake The Dust” by Anis Mojgani both because it is almost certainly covered by copyright and also because I haven’t seen an accurate transcription, but I think this poem is better to hear than to read, anyway, so I encourage poetry lovers to listen to Anis Mojgani’s performance of “Shake The Dust” here. Incidentally, a clip of this poem is featured in Mat Kearney‘s new song “Heartbreak Dreamer” from his new album “Just Kids.”

August 17, 2013

The Internet Is Not Yet Full: A Brief Tale of Two Poems [Filed under: Noyes, Alfred.Swinburne, Algernon Charles]

In a brief moment of quiet this afternoon, I was browsing the poetry shelf in my home library today and noticed a book I did not know we owned: Sonnets of This Century, edited and arranged, with a critical introduction on the sonnet, by William Sharp. The little volume was published by Walter Scott of Paternoster Row, London, in 1888 (though the copy at Google Books shows a publication date of 1886), and contains a reasonable selection of nineteenth century sonnets. I browsed the author index and noticed a small number of entries by Algernon Charles Swinburne, who has long been my favorite poet. I did not recognize any of the titles, so I opened the book and read one called “Hope and Fear”:

Hope and Fear

Beneath the shadow of dawn’s aerial cope,
    With eyes enkindled as the sun’s own sphere,
    Hope from the front of youth in godlike cheer
Looks Godward, past the shades where blind men grope
Round the dark door that prayers nor dreams can ope,
    And makes for joy the very darkness dear
    That gives her wide wings play ; nor dreams that fear
At noon may rise and pierce the heart of hope.
Then, when the soul leaves off to dream and yearn,
May truth first purge her eyesight to discern
    What once being known leaves time no power to appal ;
Till youth at last, ere yet youth be not, learn
    The kind wise word that falls from years that fall—
    ‘Hope thou not much, and fear thou not at all.

The poem is the first in a collection of sonnets Swinburne published in “Tristram of Lyonesse and Other Poems” in 1882. I do not have a copy of Tristram and had never seen the sonnet before. It is certainly not Swinburne’s best, but the last line is somewhat catchy. So I was rather surprised when I pulled another book off my shelf—A Letter to Lucian by Alfred Noyes, published in 1956—and quite by accident landed on the following poem:

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