This Is A Good Poem, May 1, 2018

She burned her candle at both ends and won the Pulitzer for poetry, but what Edna St. Vincent Millay to me was one of the first female writers I read who truly did not give a fruck.  She was anti-war when that was unpopular, then supported the war against Hitler when that was unpopular.  She was bi-sexual when society demanded that you pick a side and that side better be hetero.  She was headstrong and hedonistic,  “a frivolous young woman, with a brand-new pair of dancing slippers and a mouth like a valentine,” according to one critic who proposed to her (she turned him down).  She had a damn good time, and she wrote damn good poetry:

I, being born a woman and distressed
By all the needs and notions of my kind,
Am urged by your propinquity to find
Your person fair, and feel a certain zest
To bear your body’s weight upon my breast:
So subtly is the fume of life designed,
To clarify the pulse and cloud the mind,
And leave me once again undone, possessed.
Think not for this, however, the poor treason
Of my stout blood against my staggering brain,
I shall remember you with love, or season
My scorn with pity,  – let me make it plain:
I find this frenzy insufficient reason
For conversation when we meet again.  (1923)

And of course . . .

 

 

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20 thoughts on “This Is A Good Poem, May 1, 2018

  1. This Is Just To Say
    William Carlos Williams, 1883 – 1963

    I have eaten
    the plums
    that were in
    the icebox

    and which
    you were probably
    saving
    for breakfast

    Forgive me
    they were delicious
    so sweet
    and so cold

    9+

  2. Sorry about the double post today; I forgot it was the first of the month.
    Happy May, everybody!

    4+

  3. I loved Millay’s poetry when I was in high school more than half a century ago, but I will admit that in those days I probably didn’t have a clue what she was talking about most of the time. I should read it again.

    3+

  4. Song
    by Adrienne Rich

    You’re wondering if I’m lonely:
    OK then, yes, I’m lonely
    as a plane rides lonely and level
    on its radio beam, aiming
    across the Rockies
    for the blue-strung aisles
    of an airfield on the ocean.

    You want to ask, am I lonely?
    Well, of course, lonely
    as a woman driving across country
    day after day, leaving behind
    mile after mile
    little towns she might have stopped
    and lived and died in, lonely

    If I’m lonely
    it must be the loneliness
    of waking first, of breathing
    dawn’s first cold breath on the city
    of being the one awake
    in a house wrapped in sleep

    If I’m lonely
    it’s with the rowboat ice-fast on the shore
    in the last red light of the year
    that knows what it is, that knows it’s neither
    ice nor mud nor winter light
    but wood, with a gift for burning.

    6+

      1. I learned it years ago, but had forgotten who wrote it. And I had the first line wrong in my head, so couldn’t find it again. But I stumbled across it the other day and was so pleased. That last stanza!

        0

    1. Oh, this is marvellous! And precisely how I feel about being alone.

      I have never really read Millay or Rich, and now I will have to read them both. Thank you both for the recommendations.

      1+

  5. Ah, that is a good poem. Propinquity is such a bitch, fooling us into feelings that are not at all rational.

    2+

  6. Have been overwhelmed by Don McLean’s American Pie over the past week.

    A long long time ago
    I can still remember how
    That music used to make me smile
    And I knew if I had my chance
    That I could make those people dance
    And maybe they’d be happy for a while
    But February made me shiver
    With every paper I’d deliver
    Bad news on the doorstep
    I couldn’t take one more step
    I can’t remember if I cried
    When I read about his widowed bride
    Something touched me deep inside
    The day the music died
    So
    Bye, bye Miss American Pie
    Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
    And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
    Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
    This’ll be the day that I die
    Did you write the book of love
    And do you have faith in God above
    If the Bible tells you so?
    Do you believe in rock and roll?
    Can music save your mortal soul?
    And can you teach me how to dance real slow?
    Well, I know that you’re in love with him
    ‘Cause I saw you dancin’ in the gym
    You both kicked off your shoes
    Man, I dig those rhythm and blues
    I was a lonely teenage broncin’ buck
    With a pink carnation and a pickup truck
    But I knew I was out of luck
    The day the music died
    I started singin’
    Bye, bye Miss American Pie
    Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
    And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
    Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
    This’ll be the day that I die
    Now, for ten years we’ve been on our own
    And moss grows fat on a rolling stone
    But, that’s not how it used to be
    When the jester sang for the king and queen
    In a coat he borrowed from James Dean
    And a voice that came from you and me
    Oh and while the king was looking down
    The jester stole his thorny crown
    The courtroom was adjourned
    No verdict was returned
    And while Lennon read a book on Marx
    The quartet practiced in the park
    And we sang dirges in the dark
    The day the music died
    We were singin’
    Bye, bye Miss American Pie
    Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
    Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
    And singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
    This’ll be the day that I die
    Helter skelter in a summer swelter
    The birds flew off with a fallout shelter
    Eight miles high and falling fast
    It landed foul on the grass
    The players tried for a forward pass
    With the jester on the sidelines in a cast
    Now the half-time air was sweet perfume
    While sergeants played a marching tune
    We all got up to dance
    Oh, but we never got the chance
    ‘Cause the players tried to take the field
    The marching band refused to yield
    Do you recall what was revealed
    The day the music died?
    We started singin’
    Bye, bye Miss American Pie
    Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
    Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
    And singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
    This’ll be the day that I die
    Oh, and there we were all in one place
    A generation lost in space
    With no time left to start again
    So come on Jack be nimble, Jack be quick
    Jack Flash sat on a candlestick
    ‘Cause fire is the devil’s only friend
    Oh and as I watched him on the stage
    My hands were clenched in fists of rage
    No angel born in Hell
    Could break that Satan’s spell
    And as the flames climbed high into the night
    To light the sacrificial rite
    I saw Satan laughing with delight
    The day the music died
    He was singin’
    Bye, bye Miss American Pie
    Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
    Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
    Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
    This’ll be the day that I die
    I met a girl who sang the blues
    And I asked her for some happy news
    But she just smiled and turned away
    I went down to the sacred store
    Where I’d heard the music years before
    But the man there said the music wouldn’t play
    And in the streets the children screamed
    The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed
    But not a word was spoken
    The church bells all were broken
    And the three men I admire most
    The Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost
    They caught the last train for the coast
    The day the music died
    And they were singing
    Bye, bye Miss American Pie
    Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
    And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
    Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
    This’ll be the day that I die
    They were singing
    Bye, bye Miss American Pie
    Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
    Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
    Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die

    Songwriters: Don Mclean
    American Pie lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

    1+

    1. I remember being asked to translate this for schoolfriends: ‘levee’ in particular flummoxed them (they hadn’t been paying attention in Geography, evidently).

      0

    2. This is a wonderfully powerful song (I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a full version with all these verses), but I have to confess that every time I hear this song my brain overwrites it with Weird Al’s Star Wars Episode 1 parody. (“Oh my, my, this here Annakin guy/ may be Vader someday later, now he’s just a small fry…”) ^^; (I’m typing this on Star Wars day, so that makes it okay, right?)

      0

  7. I found Henry Beard’s ‘Poetry For Cats’ a few weeks ago. This is my favourite. I’ve read it dozens of times now and it makes me laugh every time.

    THE END OF THE RAVEN
    by Edgar Allen Poe’s cat

    On a night quite unenchanting, when the rain was downward slanting,
    I awakened to the ranting of the man I catch mice for.
    Tipsy and a bit unshaven, in a tone I found quite craven,
    Poe was talking to a Raven perched above the chamber door.
    “Raven’s very tasty,” thought I, as I tiptoed o’er the floor,
    “There is nothing I like more”

    Soft upon the rug I treaded, calm and careful as I headed
    Towards his roost atop that dreaded bust of Pallas I deplore.
    While the bard and birdie chattered, I made sure that nothing clattered,
    Creaked, or snapped, or fell, or shattered, as I crossed the corridor;
    For his house is crammed with trinkets, curios and weird decor,
    Bric-a-brac and junk galore.

    Still the Raven never fluttered, standing stock-still as he uttered,
    In a voice that shrieked and sputtered, his two cents’ worth – “Nevermore.”
    While this dirge the birdbrain kept up, oh, so silently I crept up,
    Then I crouched and quickly leapt up, pouncing on the feathered bore.
    Soon he was a heap of plumage, and a little blood and gore –
    Only this and not much more.

    “Oooo!” my pickled poet cried out, “Pussycat, it’s time I dried out!
    Never sat I in my hideout talking to a bird before;
    How I’ve wallowed in self-pity, while my gallant, valiant kitty
    Put an end to that damned ditty” – then I heard him start to snore.
    Back atop the door I clambered, eyed that statue I abhor,
    Jumped – and smashed it on the floor.

    7+

  8. I realize that there are people of find Billy Collins somewhat plebeian, but I find him delightful. And he’s great in person, if you ever get the chance.

    Litany

    You are the bread and the knife,
    The crystal goblet and the wine…
    -Jacques Crickillon

    You are the bread and the knife,
    the crystal goblet and the wine.
    You are the dew on the morning grass
    and the burning wheel of the sun.
    You are the white apron of the baker,
    and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

    However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
    the plums on the counter,
    or the house of cards.
    And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
    There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

    It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
    maybe even the pigeon on the general’s head,
    but you are not even close
    to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

    And a quick look in the mirror will show
    that you are neither the boots in the corner
    nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

    It might interest you to know,
    speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
    that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

    I also happen to be the shooting star,
    the evening paper blowing down an alley
    and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

    I am also the moon in the trees
    and the blind woman’s tea cup.
    But don’t worry, I’m not the bread and the knife.
    You are still the bread and the knife.
    You will always be the bread and the knife,
    not to mention the crystal goblet and–somehow–the wine.

    2+

    1. I love Collins.
      I made the possible mistake of deciding all the poetry this year would be by women, but I can be persuaded out of that since there are so many male poets that I dearly love.

      1+

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