Avox in Arcadia (perpetual) wrote,
Avox in Arcadia

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The Kairos 30-Day Meme: Eight Favorite Poets

This is a queued entry and does not reflect my current status. A new post will appear each day this month, but to preserve novelty, the categories that I used won’t be listed publicly beforehand. If you’d like to use my template, let me know and I’ll privately send you the complete list of categories so that you can rearrange and swap them out to suit yourself.

If you don’t want to bother with the entire meme but still want to play, it is highly encouraged to list some of your own favorites for today’s category in the comments.

Day Eight: Poets

Poetry isn't everyone's thing but I picked out a few short segments from each one so you can browse and maybe find something you want to read more of. I still read a new one every night. Still on the same collection as I was last time I mentioned it, but now in the "Complaint" category.

Jaroslav Seifert

The guy writes about Prague a lot and I guess I’m an easy mark; I love that city like family. My father bought me a paperback collection of his works once -- a translation, of course, for his monolingual but literary daughter. I never finished it and I can’t find it, but it stuck with me.

From heart to heart you go to warm your hands
In love’s great warming flame;
Along the embankment walk a thousand pretty girls
And they’re all the same.

This city, true, is not where I was born,
Its rivers flow along without concern,
But once below a bridge there I had wept:
A pipe, a pen, a ring are all I kept.

Prague! That's a sip of wine with flavor,
and were she leveled with the ground
and my own home could not be found,
and were she soaked with blood, no braver,

I won't be one of those who're leaving,
I shall be waiting with the dead,
from spring to winter, without dread
till the locked gates at last will swing in.

Philip Larkin

One of a few that I discovered in some college course or other. I remember telling anyone who would listen, “I hate what he says but I love the way he says it.” Self-important as it sounds, I valued that, because where but poetry could I have found the beauty in such nihilism?

And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will.

Time has transfigured them into
Untruth. The stone fidelity
They hardly meant has come to be
Their final blazon, and to prove
Our almost-instinct almost true:
What will survive of us is love.

Morning, noon & bloody night,
Seven sodding days a week,
I slave at filthy WORK, that might
Be done by any book-drunk freak.
This goes on until I kick the bucket.

T.S. Eliot

It makes sense that we’re all assigned a cornerstone Eliot poem at some point; if you’re faced with his dizzying internal abyss and shrug, you know you won’t need to waste your time with lesser poets. But you know what really does it for me? Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. The abyss has a soft side.

Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I am moved by fancies that are curled
Around these images, and cling:
The notion of some infinitely gentle
Infinitely suffering thing.

But I tell you, a cat needs a name that's particular,
A name that's peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?

Billy Collins

Discovered in college but not in a course. My friend gushed about him, and, when I expressed my unfamiliarity, printed me out a dozen pages of modern wit mixed with soothing imagery. We developed inside jokes about him. I miss her.

Remember the 1340's? We were doing a dance called the Catapult.
You always wore brown, the color craze of the decade,
and I was draped in one of those capes that were popular,
the ones with unicorns and pomegranates in needlework.
Everyone would pause for beer and onions in the afternoon,
and at night we would play a game called "Find the Cow."
Everything was hand-lettered then, not like today.

And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

And if you have managed to graduate from college
without ever having written 'Man vs. Nature'
in a margin, perhaps now
is the time to take one step forward.

e.e. cummings

Googling for him I was disappointed to find his name written with normal capitalization. Typesetting tricks aren’t his only trademark but I see them as a kind of signature, not to mention a herald of our era: the written word integrating its medium and not just sounds and meanings. I adore him.

All in green went my love riding
on a great horse of gold
into the silver dawn.

(While you and i have lips and voices which
are for kissing and to sing with
who cares if some oneeyed son of a bitch
invents an instrument to measure Spring with?

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.


It’s fair enough to doubt the authenticity of the translations I’ve read, given such distance, but I honestly think that’s irrelevant -- this poetry exists, and it’s beautiful, and I get the feeling that Jalaluddin Rumi, whoever he really was, would find that conclusion satisfying.

I didn’t come here of my own accord, and I can’t leave that way.
Whoever brought me here, will have to take me home.

Suddenly a raven grips the mouse and flies off.
The frog too, from the riverbottom,
with one foot entangled in the invisible string,
follows, suspended in the air.
Amazed faces ask, “When did a raven ever go underwater and catch a frog?”

I have lived on the lip
of insanity, wanting to know reasons,
knocking on a door. It opens.
I’ve been knocking from the inside.

Edgar Allen Poe

Scene: me, fifteen years old, discovering poetry that feeds my inner goth and makes me feel smart at the same time because it’s “real” poetry. I don’t cringe when I look back at that. Any means of access to literature is a good one, and it’s kind of awesome that I used to have “The Raven” fully memorized.

From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were—I have not seen
As others saw—I could not bring
My passions from a common spring—
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow—I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone—
And all I lov’d—I lov’d alone—

They are neither man nor woman--
They are neither brute nor human--
They are Ghouls:--
And their king it is who tolls ;
And he rolls, rolls, rolls, rolls,
A pæan from the bells!

Here once, through an alley Titanic,
Of cypress, I roamed with my Soul—
Of cypress, with Psyche, my Soul.

Robert Frost

Yeah, the favorite poet of people who have read one or two poems in their lives is also my favorite poet. Come at me, bro. If there’s a better use of traditional rhyme and natural dialogue than his meditations on grief and friendship and manual labor in rural New England, I don’t know of it.

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.

‘Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in.’

‘I should have called it
Something you somehow haven’t to deserve.’

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

Tags: 30 day meme, family, poetry

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