That post title sounds celebratory, but actually it is urgent, because National Poetry Month is nearly over and I have still not gotten it together to write a post about poetry. And now that I am sitting down to do it, I’m not sure what to say, because I do not really understand my tastes in poetry and do not know how to explain them. Sometimes I will like a poem without exactly understanding it, just because of the strange and interesting ways the words have been put together; and then one day, I will be in the middle of having an experience, and I will realize that this is precisely what that poem meant.
Here is a poem that I read for my American Literature class in Britain. It was my favorite one of the Plath poems we did, and it was one of only two we didn’t get to discuss in class (bother). That last stanza gives me shivers every time I read it.
Black Rook in Rainy Weather
by Sylvia Plath
On the stiff twig up there
Hunches a wet black rook
Arranging and rearranging its feathers in the rain.
I do not expect a miracle
Or an accident
To set the sight on fire
In my eye, nor seek
Any more in the desultory weather some design,
But let spotted leaves fall as they fall,
Without ceremony, or portent.
Although, I admit, I desire,
Occasionally, some backtalk
From the mute sky, I can’t honestly complain:
A certain minor light may still
Out of kitchen table or chair
As if a celestial burning took
Possession of the most obtuse objects now and then—
Thus hallowing an interval
By bestowing largesse, honor,
One might say love. At any rate, I now walk
Wary (for it could happen
Even in this dull, ruinous landscape); skeptical,
Yet politic; ignorant
Of whatever angel may choose to flare
Suddenly at my elbow. I only know that a rook
Ordering its black feathers can so shine
As to seize my senses, haul
My eyelids up, and grant
A brief respite from fear
Of total neutrality. With luck,
Trekking stubborn through this season
Of fatigue, I shall
Patch together a content
Of sorts. Miracles occur,
If you care to call those spasmodic
Tricks of radiance miracles. The wait’s begun again,
The long wait for the angel,
For that rare, random descent.
This second one is a poem that I discovered the other day by doing this thing I do where I make the Poetry Foundation website (discovered absolutely by accident and oh, how I love it) pull up random poems for me. I like a lot of Cavafy’s poems, but “The City” might be my favorite because it is beautifully universal. Emerson says something quite like it when he’s writing about traveling (“Your giant is with you wherever you go”), which I have never forgotten; and Greensleeves is about this too really, and then there is an Avett Brothers song that I sing in my car that says “So when you run make sure you run / To something and not away from” – and as a girl about to run to something (not away from), I feel it is important for me to bear all this in mind.
by C.P. Cavafy; translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard
You said: “I’ll go to another country, go to another shore,
find another city better than this one.
Whatever I try to do is fated to turn out wrong
and my heart lies buried like something dead.
How long can I let my mind moulder in this place?
Wherever I turn, wherever I look,
I see the black ruins of my life, here,
where I’ve spent so many years, wasted them, destroyed them totally.”
You won’t find a new country, won’t find another shore.
This city will always pursue you.
You’ll walk the same streets, grow old
in the same neighborhoods, turn gray in these same houses.
You’ll always end up in this city. Don’t hope for things elsewhere:
there’s no ship for you, there’s no road.
Now that you’ve wasted your life here, in this small corner,
you’ve destroyed it everywhere in the world.
Reading it again just now, that traveling thing may not be exactly what the poet intended. But that’s what it means, to me, right now, and I like the poem regardless, so there you go.
Here is one last poem, a short one (I’ve linked to it before but not posted it) by June Jordan, whom I love.
July 4, 1974
by June Jordan
At least it helps me to think about my son
a Leo/born to us
(Aries and Cancer) some
sixteen years ago
in St. John’s Hospital next to the Long Island
do not really prepare you
and running through the darkness with his own
Okay. I have hereby done my duty by National Poetry Month. I will also just add that the Poetry Foundation has a massive archive of poems by poets you know and poets you have never heard of. It’s a brilliant resource with an archive organized in about ten different ways, so you can always find what you’re after. Visit it!
P.S. I know I said I was done, but I really like this poem by Ezra Pound. If you are tired of poetry you can skip it. It is funny and charms me.
The Bath Tub
by Ezra Pound
As a bathtub lined with white porcelain,
When the hot water gives out or goes tepid,
So is the slow cooling of our chivalrous passion,
O my much praised but-not-altogether-satisfactory lady.