larryhammer: a wisp of colored smoke, label: "softly and suddenly vanished away" (vanished)
2017-10-16 08:05 am

"The dead are sad enough, in their eternal silence."

For Poetry Monday, another ghost story:


Hotel Window, Edward Hirsch

Aura of absence, vertigo of non-being --
could I ever express what happened?
It was nothing, really, or next to nothing.

I was standing at the window at dusk
watching the cabs or the ghosts of cabs
lining up on the other side of the street

like yellow ferryboats waiting to cross
a great divide. All afternoon the doorman
whistled through the shadows, Charon

slamming doors and shouting orders
at traffic piling up along the curb.
People got into cars and disappeared --

ordinary people, tourists, businessmen --
while fog thickened the city's features
and emptied out the color. I don't know

how long I stood there as darkness
inhabited air itself, but suddenly,
when it happened, everything seemed dis-

jointed, charged with non-existence,
as if a vast, drowned lake was rising
invisibly- permanently- from the ground.

At the same time nothing really changed,
footsteps still echoed in the hallway
and laughter flared up the stairwell,

the passengers flinging themselves into cabs
never noticed they were setting forth
on a voyage away from their bodies.

I felt within a sickening emptiness --
intangible, unruly -- and I remember
lying down on the floor of the room ...

Then the phone rang and it was over.
Nothing happened -- it took only a moment --
and it was dizzying, relentless, eternal.


Hirsch was born in 1950 and is still writing and publishing poetry, criticism, and guides to reading poetry.

---L.

Subject quote from Maurice Ravel, responding to criticism that "Le tombeau de Couperin" wasn't somber enough.
larryhammer: a woman wearing a chain mail hoodie, label: "chain mail is sexy" (chain mail is sexy)
2017-10-11 09:29 am

"But when two hares are bounding side by side, / How can you then tell female from the male?"

Time for another installment in that intermitant feature, a Reading Wednesday report. Aside from a backlong of Yuletide fanfic, I finished one book:

Batgirl at Super Hero High by Lisa Yee, which is book #3 of a series of YA tie-in novels for the web-based animated series DC Super Hero Girls (which frankly amazes me: it's an officially produced high school AU focusing on female supers, including future villains). We've read with TBD some of the younger-suitable material (early readers and comic books) but this is definitely too old for them. Enjoyed it as escapist fluff reading by a good writer. FWIW, I now have #1 from the library, but haven't gotten into it yet (partly because the opening, in which naive Wonder Woman first leaves Themyscira, skirts embarrassment humor).

Ongoing:

As far as the Big Brick aka Minford & Lau's Classical Chinese Literature v1, am a little short of halfway through (I'm up to the Six Dynasties period of disunion between the unified empire of the Han and Tang dynasties) but am a little more than halfway through all my available renewals from the library. Oops. I may jump to chapters covering topics I'm less well read on (that is, skip the High Tang poets).

Poems Dead and Undead ed. by Tony Barnstone and Michelle Mitchell-Foust, which is yet another Everyman's Library pocket anthology. I want to like this more, but it hadn't really engaging me. This may be me -- I think I was expecting something with more monsters, but that's another anthology by the same editors. Certainly the idea of poems grouped into corporeal undead / incorporeal undead / devils+angels strikes me as a good thing, and I'm meeting new stuff that I like. And yet. Have picked my way about halfway through.

Plus boning up on canon for my Yuletide assignment, but I can't talk about that oops.

---L.

Subject quote from "The Ballad of Mulan," Anonymous tr. John Frodsham.
larryhammer: a wisp of colored smoke, label: "softly and suddenly vanished away" (endings)
2017-10-09 07:53 am

"the sea's listless chime: / Time's self it is, made audible, / The murmur of the earth's own shell"

For Poetry Monday, another bit of nature versus urban life.


Subway Wind, Claude McKay

Far down, down through the city’s great gaunt gut
    The gray train rushing bears the weary wind;
In the packed cars the fans the crowd’s breath cut,
    Leaving the sick and heavy air behind.
And pale-cheeked children seek the upper door
    To give their summer jackets to the breeze;
Their laugh is swallowed in the deafening roar
    Of captive wind that moans for fields and seas;
Seas cooling warm where native schooners drift
    Through sleepy waters, while gulls wheel and sweep,
Waiting for windy waves the keels to lift
    Lightly among the islands of the deep;
Islands of lofty palm trees blooming white
    That led their perfume to the tropic sea,
Where fields lie idle in the dew-drenched night,
    And the Trades float above them fresh and free.


McKay was a Jamaican-American poet and novelist of the Harlem Renaissance.

---L.

Subject quote from "The Sea-Limits," Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
larryhammer: canyon landscape with saguaro and mesquite trees (cactus)
2017-10-02 08:13 am

"faith is both the prison and the open hand / bells on low on high / ring for Augustine tonight"

Missed Poetry Monday last week because I was in the hospital waiting to have a kidney stone removed. So here's a belated High Holiday poem:


Yom Kippur, Taos, New Mexico, by Robin Becker

I’ve expanded like the swollen door in summer
        to fit my own dimension. Your loneliness

is a letter I read and put away, a daily reminder
        in the cry of the magpie that I am

still capable of inflicting pain
        at this distance.

Like a painting, our talk is dense with description,
        half-truths, landscapes, phrases layered

with a patina over time. When she came into my life
        I didn’t hesitate.

Or is that only how it seems now, looking back?
        Or is that only how you accuse me, looking back?

Long ago, this desert was an inland sea. In the mountains
        you can still find shells.

It’s these strange divagations I’ve come to love: midday sun
        on pink escarpments; dusk on gray sandstone;

toe-and-finger holes along the three hundred and fifty-seven foot
        climb to Acoma Pueblo, where the spirit

of the dead hovers about its earthly home
        four days, before the prayer sticks drive it away.

Today all good Jews collect their crimes like old clothes
        to be washed and given to the poor.

I remember how my father held his father around the shoulders
        as they walked to the old synagogue in Philadelphia.

"We're almost there, Pop," he said. "A few more blocks."
        I want to tell you that we, too, are almost there,

for someone has mapped this autumn field with meaning, and any day
        October brooding in me, will open to reveal

our names—inscribed or absent —
        among the dry thistles and spent weeds.


Disclaimer: I am not Jewish, but I live in a Reform Jewish-observing household. Also, I am not in Taos, but I live in the state next-door. And yes, doors do swell and tighten during the summer rainy season.

---L.

Subject quote from "Augustine," Vienna Teng.
larryhammer: a wisp of smoke, label: "it comes in curlicues, spirals as it twirls" (curlicues)
2017-09-19 08:23 am

"For arrogance and hatred are the wares / Peddled in the thoroughfares"

Bits of languages:

"Most of the time, I feel a little bit sorry for people who make horrendous translation mistakes. This is not one of those times." (via)

Finding lost languages in palimpsests with bonus library geekery. Note that these aren't previously unknown languages, but new texts for known lost ones. (via)

Inside the world of professional poetry plagiarism. (via lost)

---L.

Subject quote from "A Prayer for My Daughter," W. B. Yeats.
larryhammer: canyon landscape with saguaro and mesquite trees (desert)
2017-09-18 10:27 am

"all the signs read no gringo / but somehow we'll find our way"

For Poetry Monday, something a little different:


A Quarrel of Crows: A Villahaikunelle, Bruce Pratt

A quarrel of crows
glean treasure from torn trash bags
on a rural road,

strut and cakewalk with
raspy-throated posturing.
A quarrel of crows

strip away limp gray rind
like coyotes feasting on doe.
On a rural road,

coon-toppled barrels,
bequeath uneaten orts to
a quarrel of crows

who caw, grateful for
this dessicated banquet
on a rural road.

On the first Friday
of the last month of the year,
a quarrel of crows
on a rural road.


Needless to say, I approve of this formal variation, and want to see more done with it. Possibly something more imagistic.

---L.

Subject quote from "No Gringo," Vienna Teng.
larryhammer: animation of the kanji for four seasonal birds fading into each other in endless cycle (birds)
2017-09-13 09:31 am

"and in their palaces, / Where luxury late reign'd, sea-monsters whelp'd / And stabled"

Reading Wednesday, with a few things to report --

Finished:

Poems of the Sea ed. by J.D. McClatchy, another Everyman's Library pocket anthology, which I snorked down like wahoo. I especially appreciate the songs and chanteys section. And ending with Whitman. Not quite as good as the seasons one, but close, and scratches a different itch anyway.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, which I greatly enjoyed, despite stalling a few chapters from the end for a week -- it's been that kind of reading time. Ragtag crew of a wormhole boring ship heading into a recent civil war zone on the prospect of a very well paying job, but unlike much space opera, the politics are downplayed to focus entirely on the crew and their relationships. I like the ways generic and individual characteristics are handled, and the whole crew in general. Want the sequel, even though it focuses on the character thread I'm least interested in.

In progress:

On Wings of Song ed. by J.D. McClatchy, yet another Everyman's Library pocket anthology, this one all about birds. My main complaint here is that there are too many very short sections, with title pages that take up space that could have been devoted to, yanno, poems. Am about halfway through, having just finished reading about owls.

Classical Chinese Literature v1 ed. by Minford & Lau -- crunching to about ~¼ in, having reached the Han dynasty. (One advantage, albeit a dubious one, of volume 2 being existentially challenged is not having to cross the Ming Dynasty without a camel, which is never fun.) I do like the editors' focus on how translations have been handled over the centuries, highlighting how western understanding of China and Chinese has changed -- as well as making sure ALL the modes are covered in reasonable depth. I think I very much need my own a copy of this.

---L.

Subject quote from "Paradise Lost" book XI, John Milton. Yes, I know, him.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (Default)
2017-09-11 07:57 am

"it's desert ice outside but this diner has thawed my ears / hot coffee in a clean white mug"

For a Poetry Monday in a September that remains hot (highs still reaching 40°C):


Sestina d'Inverno, Anthony Hecht

Here in this bleak city of Rochester,
where there are twenty-seven words for “snow,”
not all of them polite, the wayward mind
basks in some Yucatan of its own making,
some coppery, sleek lagoon, or cinnamon island
alive with lemon tints and burnished natives,

and O that we were there. But here the natives
of this gray, sunless city of Rochester
have sown whole mines of salt about their land
(bare ruined Carthage that it is) while snow
comes down as if The Flood were in the making.
Yet on that ocean Marvell called the mind

an ark sets forth which is itself the mind,
bound for some pungent green, some shore whose natives
blend coriander, cayenne, mint in making
roasts that would gladden the Earl of Rochester
with sinfulness, and melt a polar snow.
It might be well to remember that an island

was blessed heaven once, more than an island,
the grand, utopian dream of a noble mind.
In that kind climate the mere thought of snow
was but a wedding cake; the youthful natives,
unable to conceive of Rochester,
made love, and were acrobatic in the making.

Dream as we may, there is far more to making
do than some wistful reverie of an island,
especially now when hope lies with the Rochester
Gas and Electric Co., which doesn’t mind
such profitable weather, while the natives
sink, like Pompeians, under a world of snow.

The one thing indisputable here is snow,
the single verity of heaven’s making,
deeply indifferent to the dreams of the natives,
and the torn hoarding-posters of some island.
Under our igloo skies the frozen mind
Holds to one truth: it is grey, and called Rochester.

No island fantasy survives Rochester,
where to the natives destiny is snow
that is neither to our mind nor of our making.


I don't think I could pull off using the name of a city as an end word in a sestina. For foreign context, the city in question is on the south shore of Lake Ontario, and northern winds pick up lake moisture and then dump it on the city as snow. all. winter. long.

---L.

Subject quote from "Homecoming (Walter's Song)," Vienna Teng.
larryhammer: drawing of a wildhaired figure dancing, label: "La!" (celebrate)
2017-09-04 07:48 am

"Yet abides the fact, indeed, the same,— / You are past love, praise, indifference, blame."

New job has been eating up my brain, thus the relative lack of posts. Including, even, mentioning the new job -- it's more technical editing than writing, which is exactly where I want to be, and for a company that makes medical devices, which is good work. Lots and lots of required training, though, given being heavily regulated — thus brain.

But despite that, here's something for a Poetry Monday:


Ghost House, Robert Frost

I dwell in a lonely house I know
That vanished many a summer ago,
    And left no trace but the cellar walls,
    And a cellar in which the daylight falls,
And the purple-stemmed wild raspberries grow.

O’er ruined fences the grape-vines shield
The woods come back to the mowing field;
    The orchard tree has grown one copse
    Of new wood and old where the woodpecker chops;
The footpath down to the well is healed.

I dwell with a strangely aching heart
In that vanished abode there far apart
    On that disused and forgotten road
    That has no dust-bath now for the toad.
Night comes; the black bats tumble and dart;

The whippoorwill is coming to shout
And hush and cluck and flutter about:
    I hear him begin far enough away
    Full many a time to say his say
Before he arrives to say it out.

It is under the small, dim, summer star.
I know not who these mute folk are
    Who share the unlit place with me—
    Those stones out under the low-limbed tree
Doubtless bear names that the mosses mar.

They are tireless folk, but slow and sad,
Though two, close-keeping, are lass and lad,—
    With none among them that ever sings,
    And yet, in view of how many things,
As sweet companions as might be had.


From his first collection, A Boy's Will, near the start. That's a lot of layers of time for such a short piece.

---L.

Subject quote from "Your Last Drive," Thomas Hardy.
larryhammer: a wisp of colored smoke, label: "softly and suddenly vanished away" (finished)
2017-08-23 07:32 am

"The wicked fruit-merchant men, / Their fruits like honey to the throat / But poison in the blood"

Reading Wednesday, with actual reading yay. This isn't a huge list, but there's a doorstop in the works.

Finished:

Erotic Poems ed. by Peter Washington -- the hodgepodginess is delightful: Tennyson sandwiched between Baudelaires. Recommended still. If you do read it, be aware that the last poems are all about the fire gutting out, so plan when you read it accordingly.

Villanelles ed. Finch & Mali -- a morning in a hammock in a ponderosa forest gets me to the end. Good stuff, both the older and contemporary workings of the form. Recommended.

Plus various poetry anthology readings not otherwise noted.

In comics: 1) The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and the Great Lakes Avengers, a compilation of a four-issue arc plus some specials (including her first appearance, as a teenage Iron Man fangirl). Oddly dark, but fun when Squirrel Girl herself is onstage. 2) Super Hero Girls: Summer Olympus, words by Shea Fontana, art by Yancey Labat -- a couple times through, reading it aloud to TBD.

In progress:

Classical Chinese Literature: An Anthology of Translations: Volume I: from Antiquity to the Tang Dynasty ed. by John Minford & Joseph S.M. Lau -- a thick brick to match the long title, being 1130 pages plus preface and appendices. Found this browsing in the library, and we'll see how far I can get before I run out of renewals. I am very much enjoying the sheer SCOPE: it starts with oracle-bone and bronze-ware inscriptions, which are even more interesting than expected. (Note: volume II seems not to have been published? If so, BOO HISS!) Am less than 20% in, which still covers a lot of ground.

---L.

Subject quote from "Goblin Market, Christina Rossetti.
larryhammer: stylized figures of a man and a woman on either side of a shopping cart carrying a heart (shopping cart of love)
2017-08-21 08:39 am

"But sleep stole on, as sleep will do / When hearts are light and life is new"

A Poetry Monday without comment:


Meeting Point, Louis MacNeice

Time was away and somewhere else,
There were two glasses and two chairs
And two people with the one pulse
(Somebody stopped the moving stairs):
Time was away and somewhere else.

And they were neither up nor down;
The stream’s music did not stop
Flowing through heather, limpid brown,
Although they sat in a coffee shop
And they were neither up nor down.

The bell was silent in the air
Holding its inverted poise—
Between the clang and clang a flower,
A brazen calyx of no noise:
The bell was silent in the air.

The camels crossed the miles of sand
That stretched around the cups and plates;
The desert was their own, they planned
To portion out the stars and dates:
The camels crossed the miles of sand.

Time was away and somewhere else.
The waiter did not come, the clock
Forgot them and the radio waltz
Came out like water from a rock:
Time was away and somewhere else.

Her fingers flicked away the ash
That bloomed again in tropic trees:
Not caring if the markets crash
When they had forests such as these,
Her fingers flicked away the ash.

God or whatever means the Good
Be praised that time can stop like this,
That what the heart has understood
Can verify in the body’s peace
God or whatever means the Good.

Time was away and she was here
And life no longer what it was,
The bell was silent in the air
And all the room one glow because
Time was away and she was here.


---L.

Subject quote from "Snow-Bound," William Greenleaf Whittier.
larryhammer: animation of the kanji for four seasonal birds fading into each other in endless cycle (seasons)
2017-08-14 10:19 am

"Fold your flocks up, for the air/ 'Gins to thicken, and the sun/ Already his great course hath run"

For Poetry Monday, looking back a little further into the year:


March, Edward Thomas

Now I know that Spring will come again,
Perhaps to-morrow: however late I've patience
After this night following on such a day.

While still my temples ached from the cold burning
Of hail and wind, and still the primroses
Torn by the hail were covered up in it,
The sun filled earth and heaven with a great light
And a tenderness, almost warmth, where the hail dripped,
As if the mighty sun wept tears of joy.
But 'twas too late for warmth. The sunset piled
Mountains on mountains of snow and ice in the west:
Somewhere among their folds the wind was lost,
And yet 'twas cold, and though I knew that Spring
Would come again, I knew it had not come,
That it was lost too in those mountains chill.

What did the thrushes know? Rain, snow, sleet, hail,
Had kept them quiet as the primroses.
They had but an hour to sing. On boughs they sang,
On gates, on ground; they sang while they changed perches
And while they fought, if they remembered to fight:
So earnest were they to pack into that hour
Their unwilling hoard of song before the moon
Grew brighter than the clouds. Then 'twas no time
For singing merely. So they could keep off silence
And night, they cared not what they sang or screamed;
Whether 'twas hoarse or sweet or fierce or soft;
And to me all was sweet: they could do no wrong.
Something they knew—I also, while they sang
And after. Not till night had half its stars
And never a cloud, was I aware of silence
Stained with all that hour's songs, a silence
Saying that Spring returns, perhaps to-morrow.


---L.

Subject quote from "The Faithful Shepherdess," act II, scene 1, John Fletcher.
larryhammer: a wisp of colored smoke, label: "softly and suddenly vanished away" (vanished)
2017-08-09 03:51 pm

"I know…/ That life is but a dark and stormy night/ Of senseless dreams, terrors, and broken sleeps"

Slightly late, but still in time for Reading Wednesday:

Finished:

The Four Seasons ed. by J.D. McClatchy. This has immediately become one of my favorite anthologies ever. Heartily recommended.

In Good King Charles's Golden Days by Bernard Shaw. Shaw's influence is all over 20th century drama, isn't it. Parts of this could have been written by a young Stoppard.

A Popular Schoolgirl by Angela Brazil. This one is set just after the Great War, and its shadow looms over civilian life. Read it while recovering from a kidney stone attack, and it did the job admirably of distracting me without any need for serious thought. Not her best or even most interesting, but a solid instance of her sort of schoolgirl stories.

In progress:

The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism by Bernard Shaw, which is lucid and entertaining, if marred by occasional bits of condescending. Would that more books on economics were written this well. Maybe a quarter of the way in? -- it's hefty, but quick reading.

Love Poems ed. by C.N. Edwards, which is the sort of anthology where the illustrations are much of the point: there's an old painting opposite every poem. (The cover has Klimt.) Not many poems that are both good and new to me, so far, though many lovely paintings I hadn't met before. Overall, acceptable as a member of its class. The text is oddly marred by proofreading errors, including several instances of two stanzas being run together. Am ~½ through.

---L.

Subject quote from "The Tragedy of Charles, Duke of Byron," George Chapman.
larryhammer: animation of the kanji for four seasonal birds fading into each other in endless cycle (kigo)
2017-07-31 09:35 am

Let us make. And set the weather fair.

For Poetry Monday, breaking another of my rules of thumb and posting an extract:


A Fanfare for the Makers, Louis MacNeice

A cloud of witnesses. To whom? To what?
To the small fire that never leaves the sky.
To the great fire that boils the daily pot.

To all the things we are not remembered by,
Which we remember and bless. To all the things
That will not notice when we die,

Yet lend the passing moment words and wings.

*


So fanfare for the Makers: who compose
A book of words or deeds who runs may write
As many who do run, as a family grows

At times like sunflowers turning towards the light,
As sometimes in the blackout and the raids
One joke composed an island in the night,

As sometimes one man’s kindness pervades
A room or house or village, as sometimes
Merely to tighten screws or sharpen blades

Can catch a meaning, as to hear the chimes
At midnight means to share them, as one man
In old age plants an avenue of limes

And before they bloom can smell them, before they span
The road can walk beneath the perfected arch,
The merest greenprint when the lives began

Of those who walk there with him, as in default
Of coffee men grind acorns, as in despite
Of all assaults conscripts counter assault,

As mothers sit up late night after night
Moulding a life, as miners day by day
Descend blind shafts, as a boy may flaunt his kite

In an empty nonchalant sky, as anglers play
Their fish, as workers work and can take pride
In spending sweat before they draw their pay,

As horsemen fashion horses while they ride,
As climbers climb a peak because it is there,
As life can be confirmed even in suicide:

To make is such. Let us make. And set the weather fair.


This is from Autumn Sequel canto vii. The * marks almost 100 lines not included by Helen Gardner in The New Oxford Book of English Verse -- what's elided is important for the larger poem but weakens a detached extract.

---L.
larryhammer: animation of the kanji for four seasonal birds fading into each other in endless cycle (seasons)
2017-07-26 09:13 am

"I'm not shocked to hear this begins with a genealogy -- it is an Icelandic story, after all."

Reading Wednesday is nigh. In fact, it's here. And I done been readin'!

Finished:

I Shall Seal the Heavens. Finally. I have to say, this is epic: The author knows how to plot on an enormous scale, and how to build up the stakes in order to tear down everything you think you know is safe, before pulling back more of the curtain to show a wider stage. (The first timeskip is startling enough, and successive ones have stronger impacts until the climactic one that's as baffling as it is shocking.) There's a couple narrative patterns that get a little tiresome and in the final arc, the author resorts to using an unreliable POV, apparently to up the tension but the effect is to make some reveals feel like ass-pulls, but those are quibbles. I won't say that the treatment of women is unproblematic, but it's better than typical for Chinese popular lit and some female characters are given complete respect by the narration. I do recommend this to anyone in search of a timesink* and interested in current trends in Chinese fantasy.

An Interpretation of Friends Worship by N. Jean Toomer, a Friends General Conference chapbook found randomly on Project Gutenberg. I've no idea how much sense it make to anyone unfamiliar with Quaker practice, but I found it spoke to my condition, to use the Friendly phrase.

The complete flower fairies of Cicely Mary Barker. I've one book of hers and read at least one or two more over the years, but having them all together as on that official website is nice. Archive binge! This is a good example of a mixed-medium art form: each {poem + picture} is a unit -- they require each other, and are significantly weaker when separated. (The sentiments are not very Chinese, but the genre certainly is.)

In progress:

The Four Seasons ed. by J.D. McClatchy, another Everyman's Library pocket hardcover poetry anthology. Needless to say, I'm All Over this one. Lots of good stuff, too. Am halfway through Summer (following Western tradition, it starts with Spring).

In Good King Charles's Golden Days by Bernard Shaw, which is a quite Shavian if somewhat rambly imagining of a 1680 meeting between Isaac Newton, George Fox, and Charles Stuart, with interruptions by three royal mistresses. And others.


* At 1600+ chapters, it's freakin' HUGE. The translation is somewhat over 3 million words long, or roughly the size as all the Jordan-only volumes of The Wheel of Time.


---L.

Subject quote from a recent episode of Saga Thing.
larryhammer: topless woman lying prone with Sappho painted on her back, label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (classics)
2017-07-17 02:23 pm

"all around / Is silence; and shadows closer creep / And whisper softly: All must fall asleep"

For Poetry Monday, an acknowledgement that Elizabethan sonnet sequences weren't all about the mens:

Sonnet 19 from Pamphilia to Amphilanthus, Mary Wroth

Come darkest Night, becoming sorrow best,
    Light leave thy light, fit for a lightsome soul:
    Darkness doth truly suit with me oppressed,
    Whom absence power doth from mirth control.

The very trees with hanging heads condole
    Sweet Summer's parting, and of leaves distressed,
    In dying colours make a grief-full role;
    So much (alas) to sorrow are they pressed.

Thus of dead leaves, her farewell carpets made,
    Their fall, their branches, all their mournings prove,
    With leafless naked bodies, whose hues fade
    From hopeful green to wither in their love.

If trees, and leaves for absence mourners be,
No marvel that I grieve, who like want see.

Lady Mary Wroth was Philip Sidney's niece, and author of a prose romance and scandalous roman à clef, The Countess of Montgomery's Urania -- to which this sequence was appended, in the persona of the heroine writing to and about the feckless hero (some of the sonnets from it also appeared diegetically in the text).

---L.

Subject quote from "Westminster Abbey: October 12, 1892," Thomas Henry Huxley.
larryhammer: a wisp of colored smoke, label: "softly and suddenly vanished away" (disappeared)
2017-07-10 08:22 am

"maybe someone somewhere else / could show you something new to help / with the ups and downs"

For Poetry Monday, another sample from an Elizabethan sonnet cycle:

Sonnet 61 from Idea, Michael Drayton

Since there’s no help, come let us kiss and part.
Nay, I have done, you get no more of me;
And I am glad, yea glad with all my heart,
That thus so cleanly I myself can free.
Shake hands for ever, cancel all our vows,
And when we meet at any time again,
Be it not seen in either of our brows
That we one jot of former love retain.
Now at the last gasp of Love’s latest breath,
When, his pulse failing, Passion speechless lies;
When Faith is kneeling by his bed of death,
And Innocence is closing up his eyes—
Now, if thou wouldst, when all have given him over,
From death to life thou might’st him yet recover!

(See also this performance.)

Drayton was possibly the best of the second-tier Elizabethan/Jacobean poets, a thoroughly professional writer who turned his hand at every poetic genre of the day, handling all of them with solid craft and a deft ear. He spent most of his life working as secretary to various patrons, never especially high ranking ones.

What I especially like about Idea, especially in its final form (Drayton revised it extensively over 25 years, and this sonnet first appeared in the last edition), is that he rarely loses sight of the ostensible purpose of the sequence -- namely, to seduce, and most of its sonnets are acts of rhetoric trying to convince someone of something: his beloved, himself, his audience. This gives the poems a dramatic tension that's lacking in far too many of his contemporaries. I wouldn't want him as my lover, not acting like this, but it makes for damn fine poetry.

---L.

Subject quote from "Break It Down Again," Tears for Fears.
larryhammer: topless woman lying prone with Sappho painted on her back, label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (greek poetry is sexy)
2017-07-03 07:55 am

"though she's lost her wedding ring / somewhere near her misplaced jar of bougainvillea seeds"

For Poetry Monday, continuing the (non)argument of Wyatt and Gascoigne, a pome from Astrophil and Stella:


Sonnet 31, Philip Sidney

With how sad steps, O Moon, thou climb'st the skies!
How silently, and with how wan a face!
What, may it be that even in heav'nly place
That busy archer his sharp arrows tries!

Sure, if that long-with-love-acquainted eyes
Can judge of love, thou feel'st a lover's case,
I read it in thy looks; thy languish'd grace
To me, that feel the like, thy state descries.

Then, ev'n of fellowship, O Moon, tell me,
Is constant love deem'd there but want of wit?
Are beauties there as proud as here they be?

Do they above love to be lov'd, and yet
Those lovers scorn whom that love doth possess?
Do they call virtue there ungratefulness?


See also sonnet 39. Sir Philip was the Elizabethan courtier par excellence, in the opinion of his contemporaries, and a damn fine writer. Astrophil and Stella is not actually the first sonnet sequence in English, but it was the first Petrarchan one -- and it sparked a fad for them, including Shakespeare's famous, incomplete one. It's also, IMNSHO, the best of the Elizabethan sonnet cycles, as it tells a complete, dramatic story, and including drama is something that only Drayton also managed. Note that Sidney is not actually a practicing Petrarchan lover -- he spends a lot of time arguing against several of the conventions, even while embracing the genre.

---L.

Subject quote from "Passing Afternoon," Iron & Wine.
larryhammer: a wisp of colored smoke, label: "softly and suddenly vanished away" (endings)
2017-06-26 08:09 am

"don't modulate the key / then not debate with me"

For a Poetry Monday, something that really isn't a response to last week's Wyatt, but I mentally link them together anyway:

“And if I did, what then?” George Gascoigne

    “And if I did, what then?
Are you aggriev’d therefore?
The sea hath fish for every man,
And what would you have more?”

    Thus did my mistress once,
Amaze my mind with doubt;
And popp’d a question for the nonce
To beat my brains about.

    Whereto I thus replied:
“Each fisherman can wish
That all the seas at every tide
Were his alone to fish.

    “And so did I (in vain)
But since it may not be,
Let such fish there as find the gain,
And leave the loss for me.

    “And with such luck and loss
I will content myself,
Till tides of turning time may toss
Such fishers on the shelf.

    “And when they stick on sands,
That every man may see,
Then will I laugh and clap my hands,
As they do now at me.”

Gascoigne was many things over his life, including soldier of fortune, courtier, member of parliament, and playwright. He was also the premier English poet of the 1570s, though his reputation has been completely overshadowed by Spenser's arrival on the scene a few years after his death. This is the final poem of The Adventures of Master F. J., a sort-of-novel-shaped thing of mixed prose and verse, with a layer of epistolary indirection, about a love affair that goes very wrong. It's an odd beast, but I don't regret having read it (many years ago), and I especially don't regret several of its poems. (BTW, in the narrative the speaker was, as per the second stanza, nonplussed by his mistress, and walked home before writing down this response.)

---L.

Subject quote from "Farmer Refuted," Lin-Manuel Miranda.
larryhammer: a wisp of colored smoke, label: "softly and suddenly vanished away" (vanished)
2017-06-19 08:38 am

"Be this, good friends, our carol still:/Be peace on earth, be peace on earth/to men of gentle will"

For a Poetry Monday, let's reach back half a millennium for a poem, shall we? We shall:


"They flee from me that sometime did me seek," Sir Thomas Wyatt

They flee from me that sometime did me seek
    With naked foot, stalking in my chamber.
I have seen them gentle, tame, and meek,
    That now are wild and do not remember
    That sometime they put themself in danger
To take bread at my hand; and now they range,
Busily seeking with a continual change.

Thanked be fortune it hath been otherwise
    Twenty times better; but once in special,
In thin array after a pleasant guise,
    When her loose gown from her shoulders did fall,
    And she me caught in her arms long and small;
Therewithall sweetly did me kiss
And softly said, “Dear heart, how like you this?”

It was no dream: I lay broad waking.
    But all is turned thorough my gentleness
Into a strange fashion of forsaking;
    And I have leave to go of her goodness,
    And she also, to use newfangleness.
But since that I so kindly am served
I would fain know what she hath deserved.


Plus ça change, and all that. Wyatt was a diplomat for Henry VIII (including the embassy to the Pope asking for annulment from Catherine of Aragorn), and he brought back to England the continental manner in Renaissance poetry -- he wrote the first sonnets in English as imitations of Petrarch, whom he also translated, and he was constantly experimenting with style and form in his lyrics. (Though, interestingly, that "newfangleness" is straight out of Chaucer, meaning fickleness.) Of course, being a courtier in Henry's court was dangerous: he was imprisoned in the Tower of London on suspicion of having an affair with Anne Boleyn and was freed only after her execution, which he witnessed and wrote about.

---l.

Subject quote from "The End of the Play," William Makepeace Thackeray.