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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Funny about poems [UPDATED]

I celebrate myself, I line-edit myself
[UPDATED, self-fulfilling prophecy edition. Because of course we found typos after bragging.]

As an editor we know what a little time can do for a writer. And by we I mean me. We/I often go back over posts with a fresh eye -- because the seemingly self-conscious plural* 'we' refers to this blog's holy trinity: writer, editor, proofreader. In case you wonder why we do that.

There's a fourth lurker here whom we try to beat to death because she's very, very pale: the poet. We do not succeed; she is on life support, yet she lives.

It was she who made us realize that yesterday's first paragraph was a bad little poem trying to crawl out of a paragraph:

Funny about windows

How far away is freedom?
Three feet, a ledge,
a pane of glass --
a leap of faith too far to take?
Once again
we've let daydreams
be too much with us.

A little editing, some word substitution, line breaks, some playful punctuation and bingo! Bad poetry! And again we break our promise of no originality. Apologies.**

We must also apologize for the negligent treatment of John Donne yesterday. Perhaps our readers reader me needs a short review. Poetry Foundation has a very good and short synopsis of his work. He founded the metaphysical school of poetry, of which Poets.org says
Metaphysical Poets are known for their ability to startle the reader and coax new perspective through paradoxical images, subtle argument, inventive syntax, and imagery from art, philosophy, and religion using an extended metaphor known as a conceit. Donne reached beyond the rational and hierarchical structures of the seventeenth century with his exacting and ingenious conceits, advancing the exploratory spirit of his time.
And we totally forgot to mention Donne wrote one of our very favorite poems, Holy Sonnet 14 -- 'Batter my heart, three-personed God'
Batter my heart, three-personed God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurped town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but Oh, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betrothed unto your enemy:
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
The first line and the last line -- there's a lot of comfort, there. If you can burrow your way through the language of Donne, you find a very modern poet -- sexy, physical, visceral, visual, too. From The Poetry Foundation
Its extraordinary appeal to modern readers throws light on the Modernist movement, as well as on our intuitive response to our own times. Donne may no longer be the cult figure he became in the 1920s and 1930s, when T. S. Eliot and William Butler Yeats, among others, discovered in his poetry the peculiar fusion of intellect and passion and the alert contemporariness which they aspired to in their own art. He is not a poet for all tastes and times; yet for many readers Donne remains what Ben Jonson judged him: "the first poet in the world in some things." His poems continue to engage the attention and challenge the experience of readers who come to him afresh. His high place in the pantheon of the English poets now seems secure. 
Well, if John Donne is so modern, is he on YouTube? Shed your 21st century prejudices. Yes he is. Kenneth Branagh reads The Good Morrow -- very well. And Richard Burton (?!) reads Go and Catch a Falling Star -- very dramatically.

You've suffered enough. We watched a long winter out those windows.


She'd trade Colorado if he'd take her with him / Closes the door before the winter lets the cold in, / And wonders if her love is strong enough to make him stay,/ She's answered by the tail lights shining through the window pane

* First person, anyway!
** Not.

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