Friday, May 31, 2013

The Folly of a Young Man's Tongue

My father said,
When I was young,
To mind my manners,
Hold my tongue.
But I was proud
And talked a yard
For every foot
Of sense I had.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Sara Teasdale - Poem Repertoire vol. 2

"Invictus claptrap," I thought as I began to read this poem.  But I loved the meter.  And the second and third stanza bring into doubt my initial irritation.  Hmmm...

The Shrine by Sara Teasdale
There is no lord within my heart,
  Left silent as an empty shrine
  Where rose and myrtle intertwine,
Within a place apart. 
No god is there of carven stone
  To watch with still approving eyes
  My thoughts like steady incense rise;
I dream and weep alone. 
But if I keep my altar fair,
  Some morning I shall lift my head
  From roses deftly garlanded
To find the god is there.

ABBA rhyme sequence. Very regular syllabically.  The first three lines of each stanza are made up of four iambs (unstressed - stressed).  The fourth line is made up of three iambs.  The effect of this is very flowing, with a discernible marker in between stanzas.

The poem seems centered on location: heart, shrine, place, altar.  Where is god (sic)?  "Not in the heart," answers the first stanza.  God is absent from that silent place, though the word "shrine" implies that there is some expectation that he be there.  Perhaps it is a false expectation.  Nor does any god reside there to give mute approbation or comfort.  The person is alone.

Then comes the hinge, "But if I keep my altar fair."  God is nowhere in the places or situation so far described, but this conditional clause introduces where he might be.  "Some morning," indeterminate, out of one's control or agency, "the god" might appear upon said altar.  But it is too much to say that it is beyond the person's agency, because though this god's arrival is not a matter to be controlled, still it depends on her keeping the altar fair.  And she is doing so.  She is "deftly" garlanding roses.  In the first stanza the rose and the myrtle intertwined without intervention.  In this last stanza, their beauty is being enhanced.

So then, god arrives in beauty.  We participate in the divine not by waiting about for him, not by seeking consolation or approval, but by pursuing beauty, by making that which is beautiful more so by our artistic action.  So the seeming centrality of location is not borne out.

I'm always curious how other people conceive of God in all sincerity.  This conception of God is very forlorn.  He will be absent through the darkness and loneliness, but maybe he'll be present later as a kind of abstraction connected to my action.  How despairing.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

I'm Older than I Am

I've heard of Lady Ga Ga
And know that youngsters boogie.
Or is it that they cha-cha slide?
Or try to dance like Snookie?
I really haven't any clue
I'm aging by the day.
And culture keeps a-marchin' on
And maybe even's gay?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Wallace Stevens - Poem Repertoire vol. 1

It's recently come into my mind to start reading poetry instead of occasionally writing lousy examples of it.  In the back of my mind is building a repertoire of poems to give to my children as they grow up.  Having poetry books at hand is a great resource, but don't serve much good if I don't appropriate any of them.  And one appropriates by reading it, over and again, talking about it, maybe memorizing it.

Here's the first beginning of an initial hint of a start:

"Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock" by Wallace Stevens
The houses are haunted
By white night-gowns.
None are green,
Or purple with green rings,
Or green with yellow rings,
Or yellow with blue rings.
None of them are strange,
With socks of lace
And beaded ceintures.
People are not going
To dream of baboons and periwinkles.
Only, here and there, an old sailor,
Drunk and asleep in his boots,
Catches tigers
In red weather.

So... alliteration in the first line.  Internal rhyme in the second.  He doesn't choose random colors.  The first color becomes the second, while it's replacement follows... just a bit tediously.  The colors themselves are pretty basic, only exciting when compared to white.  And the repetition of pattern isn't exciting either, except that at least it's a pattern!  For my part, it seems pretty silly to wear socks to bed, lace or not, and to wear a beaded belt?  Uncomfortable.  Weird.

And here he makes the connection between apparel and sub-conscious thought.  The one who wears boring dream-time clothes will dream boring dreams.

But an old drunken sailor?  Wearing entirely inappropriate boots?  Well, he's likely to dream something a bit more exciting.


Monday, May 20, 2013


Old MacDonald had a farm
But what lack of efficiency!
Having one of everything
Diffusing his proficiency.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

English is Murder

Grass (British)