Poem o’ the Day

A lot of people ask what poetry is. What makes a poem? Is it rhyme, rhythm, something else? Two poets, one Chinese and one Spanish, attempt an answer.

Hu Shih says:

Dream and Poetry

It’s all ordinary experience,
All ordinary images.
By chance they emerge in a dream,
Turning out infinite new patterns.

It’s all ordinary feelings,
All ordinary words.
By chance they encounter a poet,
Turning out infinite new verses.

Once intoxicated, one learns the strength of wine,
Once smitten, one learns the power of love:
You cannot write my poems
Just as I cannot dream your dreams.

Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer seems to laugh at the very question:

Rhyme 21

¿Qué es poesía?, dices mientras clavas
en mi pupila tu pupila azul.
¡Qué es poesía! ¿Y tú me lo preguntas?
Poesía eres tú.


(What is poetry? you say while you pierce
my eyes with your blue eyes.
What is poetry! And you ask me this?
Poetry is you.)

Poem o’ the Day

Poems of a political prisoner today, my darlings. Seemed appropriate, considering the subject of the previous post.

Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet spent over a decade in prison for his communist views. His poetry captures his experiences perfectly, and gives us a glimpse of what political dissidents must endure.

POEMS FOR PIRAYE (9 TO 10 O’CLOCK POEMS)

Our son is sick
his father in prison
your heavy head
fallen in your tired palms
the laughter drained from your golden eyes.

People
will surely carry people
on to sunnier days
our son will get well
his father out of prison
your golden eyes
will fill with laughter once more…
Our fate
is the world’s fate.

AFTER RELEASE FROM PRISON

Awake.
Where are you?
At home.
Still unaccustomed-
awake or sleeping-
to being in your own home.
This is just one more of the stupefactions
of spending thirteen years in a prison.
Who’s lying at your side?
Not loneliness, but your wife,
in the peaceful sleep of an angel.
Pregnancy looks good on a woman.
What time is it?
Eight.
That means you’re safe until evening.
Because it’s the practice of police
Never to raid homes in broad daylight.

Poem o’ the Day

Music, my friends, is poetry. Some of it’s really bad poetry, but poetry it remains.

Of course, most song lyrics don’t stand so well without the music that accompanies them. But there are some bands you can simply sit back and read. For me, Emperor’s like that. For instance, just go read Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk. Okay, yeah, it’s seriously dark, but it’s still beautiful.Italic
But my favorite, absolute favorite, comes from the album IX Equilibrium. The third verse of “Nonus Aequilibrium” melts me every time. I always associate it with two of my most beloved characters, for obvious reasons. And “Of Blindness and Subsequent Seers” just kicks major arse.

Poetry is what you make of it. Even when it’s from a kick-arse black metal album.


Nonus Aequilibrium

Hark
For I speak of purity

I am unconquerable
In my worship
I am invincible
On my crusade
However hard the strikes may be
However deep the wounds
This blood immortal
Bleeds for thee

In every breath I hear
The silent whisper of your name
In every harmony
In every thought
You make my water into wine
Remember
I am ever thine

Blessed was I with the consecration
To indomitable dedication

Two bound as one
In a trinity
Where I comprise
Infinite forms of unity

In unity reborn
To a state
Where all past burdens
No longer shall be worn

I pledge to perfection
No compromise can touch my woe
Nor questions reach my faith
In immortality

In the name of
Nonus Aequilibrium
I am thine
IX times IX…

Of Blindness & Subsequent Seers

Ever behind me
Rise a shadow
Taller than I
Yet, with a certain resemblance

How many times
Do I have to contemplate my own reflection
And say; I have been blind?

I have been blind
Yet, I saw the search and dreams
Of my rejection
Walking behind me

Every time
I am bound to have been granted
The gift of better sight

But my anxiety
Built one more brick
Fearing again
To choose the wrong step

Vaguely I remember
The blurred eyes
Of someone small
These strangers often come as blind
A troubled mind
I left behind

Yet, was it I
Or my shadow
Walking in the past?

Poem o’ the Day

I think most of us know Carmina Burana in one form or another. There’s Carl Orff’s glorious classical music based on it, o’ course. Vampire: the Masquerade was terribly fond of quoting it. And Therion covered Carl Orff’s “O Fortuna,” bringing us full circle.

The Middle Ages weren’t quite the cultural black hole the Renaissance men wanted us to believe. Some extraordinary art came out of it, including poems and songs that have lost none of their power down through the centuries. Carmina Burana’s one of those that earned its survival. Besides, it was apparently written by clergy students who gave the Church ye olde Daily Show treatment. And like the Daily Show, their satire and fun concealed (barely) some vitally important themes. What’s not to love?

The incomparable Tony Kline did this translation. Therion’s cover follows. Enjoy!

O Fortuna’ – CB17

O Fortuna

like the Moon there

ceaselessly you’re varying,

always waxing

ever waning;

how detestable a thing

life, that teases

and then eases,

powers of mind in play,

our poverty

authority

it melts like ice away.

Fortune monstrous

wholly worthless,

your swift wheel you’re whirling,

ill condition,

vain remission

evermore dissolving,

veiled and shaded

adumbrated

on me too you’re pressing;

at your pleasure

my bare back there

wretch to you I bring.

Fortune, easing,

virtue-pleasing,

turned now away from me,

you’re withering

you’re weakening

ever in misery.

Now today

without delay

pluck the quivering heart-string;

since by ill fortune

strength is brought down,

all join with me in weeping!

Poem o’ the Day

My heart-sister NP threw a gauntlet today. It’s sitting there at my feet, gleaming through the veil of dust it raised:

One of the things I find myself thinking about when I’m stuck on a story is what else I could be writing. I know this is my brain procrastinating, but I’ve come up with some interesting characters, plots, and settings as a result.

All this thinking has led me to a writing prompt, which I’ve altered slightly to fit NPM.

Write a poem about what you should be writing and what you wish you were writing right now.

My Muse is off in southern climes with my inspiration, having a good debauch without me. All I’m left with is a new home I haven’t quite settled in to, a singularly unhelpful cat, and a DVR full of Hot Rocks. Poetry in my soul = 0.

And it’s not like I was a great poet to begin with.

Crap in a hat.

Pour a glass of liquid courage. Turn off the DVR and put on the music. Argue with Firefox over the fact I’d like it to play music. Win argument by using nuclear option.

Here goes.

Writer’s Block Blues
by Dana Hunter

Writing nothing much
Just laughing at politics
And smacking at fools.

Mind’s been too silent
Worlds are so hard to create
When you’re distracted.

Inspiration – ha!
It doesn’t come standard, no
Nissan excepted.

(Well, not even on
One of those automobiles
I know – I own one.)

No inspiration
Just a memory of it
I remember awe.

Pulsing, pounding, hot
Volcanic eruptions of
Creative fury.

I remember gray
skies like pounded silver, harsh seas
Swimming hurricanes

These things I would write:
Veils of rain in the Sian
Wine in the Southlands.

Poetry wars and
the meaning of unity
Torn apart, made whole.

Love, laughter, pain, joy
Great themes and the little things,
Myths, legends, made real.

Ignorance stops me
Doing them justice takes time
So I pause to learn.

Every day, my thoughts
center on my characters.
All I do, for them.

I want to return
Wade in the Silver Serpent
Bring a world to life.

It won’t be long now
before I know just enough
to return to them.

Then, do them justice:
The world, people and story
Those things I love most.

The things I should write
and the things I wish to write
Are one and the same.

Poem o’ the Day

Emily Dickinson was one of the first poets I ever appreciated, possibly because she’s succinct. After all of the complicated, flowery shite we got buried under in class, it was a relief to meet a poet able to make her point in a few powerful lines.

The woman had more insight into humanity than almost anyone else. Considering she was a shut-in before the age of the intertoobz, that’s pretty remarkable.

Here’s two of my favorites.


“Faith” is a fine invention

“Faith” is a fine invention
When Gentlemen can see—
But Microscopes are prudent
In an Emergency.

I took my Power in my Hand

I took my Power in my Hand—
And went against the World—
‘Twas not so much as David—had—
But I—was twice as bold—

I aimed by Pebble—but Myself
Was all the one that fell—
Was it Goliath—was too large—
Or was myself—too small?

Poem o’ the Day

I’ll never forget the shock upon learning that my dad loves Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven.” He’d never shown the slightest sign of appreciation for literature. The last time he’d read to me was when I was an infant. But there came a day when he spotted me with my American Lit textbook, asked what we were reading, and grabbed the book away when I showed him. My poor mother nearly had a heart attack when she came home and found my father doing a dramatic reading of a poem.

Now, “The Raven” is an awesome poem. But that memory of my taciturn dad getting so fired up makes it all the better. And now, it’s become a graphic novel - I can’t wait for this summer, when I get to spring this on him.

I can’t publish the comic, o’ course, but I can point you to a dramatic reading by Christopher Walken if you’d like a little spice with your American poetry.

The Raven

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore–
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“‘Tis some visiter,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door–
Only this and nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;–vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow–sorrow for the lost Lenore–
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore–
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me–filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
“‘Tis some visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door–
Some late visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door;
This it is and nothing more.”

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”–here I opened wide the door–
Darkness there and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore?”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”–
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my sour within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping something louder than before.
“Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is and this mystery explore–
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;–
‘Tis the wind and nothing more.

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he,
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door–
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door–
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then the ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore–
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning–little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door–
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as “Nevermore.”

But the Raven, sitting lonely on that placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if its soul in that one word he did outpour
Nothing farther then he uttered; not a feather then he fluttered–
Till I scarcely more than muttered: “Other friends have flown before–
On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before.”
Then the bird said “Nevermore.”

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore–
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of ‘Never–nevermore.’”

But the Raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore–
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
“Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee–by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite–respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!–prophet still, if bird or devil!–
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate, yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted–
On this home by Horror haunted–tell me truly, I implore–
Is there–is there balm in Gilead?–tell me–tell me, I implore!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!–prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us–by that God we both adore–
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore–
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

“Be that our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting–
“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul has spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!–quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadows on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted–nevermore!

Poem o’ the Day

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” Fuck, no. I got served nothing but that stupid sonnet for years. A note to educators: children don’t appreciate love poetry as much as you think they do. And yes, they remember what they read last year. And the year before that. And two years ago, yes. How could they forget when they keep having to read the same schlock every damned year?

Being served that same damned sonnet year after year after year in school just about soured me permanently on sonnets. I fucking hated sonnets. Then I ran across Shakespeare’s Sonnet XXXV.

That, my darlings, changed everything. This was meat and marrow, blood and bone. This was passion and drama. This was the human condition. Fuck flowers. Get thee behind me, stupid sappy love stuff. This is where the true power of the sonnet form gets unleashed:

Sonnet XXXV

No more be grieved at that which thou hast done:
Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud,
Clouds and eclipses stain both moon and sun,
And loathsome canker lives in sweetest bud.
All men make faults, and even I in this,
Authórizing thy trespass with compare,
Myself corrupting salving thy amiss,
Excusing thy sins more than thy sins are:
For to thy sensual fault I bring in sense—
Thy adverse party is thy advocate—
And ‘gainst myself a lawful plea commence.
Such civil war is in my love and hate,

That I an áccessory needs must be
To that sweet thief which sourly robs from me.

Poem o’ Yesterday

Um, oops. Got so steamed by shoddy science on the teevee that I forgot poetry. So, uh, yeah. Pretend this got posted yesterday, would ye?

Poetry is usually quite serious business, but there’s nothing in the rules saying you can’t be silly. Sometimes, you’ve got to play with your poetry just like you play with your food.

Speaking of food, here’s a little something from Peg Spencer of the Dread Poet’s Society:

About exotic foods

Pickled eggs I’ve had, and worse
The thought of frog legs makes me purse

my lips and gag, but I would try
a fresh polk salad, loaf of rye,

some crab legs, sushi (only cooked!
I’m a doc, you know, I looked

beneath the scope, I did, and ugh
what I saw would make a slug

chuck up his breakfast, so no raw
fish for me), a monkey’s paw

is taking it too far as well.
I’d like a fondue, that’s a smell

that makes me smile, and want to dip
a cube of bread, then take a sip

of Chardonnay, oops there I am
back at wine! alright, then, ham,

but only finest prosciuttos
will make it past my snobby nose

Chinese I’ll eat (the food, I mean)
Italian, Spanish, French cuisine

Hillbilly with okra pie
Better than a stick in your eye

But ask me to avoid Whole Foods?
That goes too far, sir, almost rude!

That place is home, my second larder
Quit I won’t, I’d fight much harder

For organic foods and fresh ones
even though it uses up funds

Cheap it ain’t: just ask Cheapskate
Still its always worth the wait

Don’t believe me? Come for dinner
You don’t like it? You’ll leave thinner

Uh oh, wait a minute, what’s this?
I can’t stop creating bupkiss

Rhyme’s Disease has taken over
Get the hook! I’m done! It’s over.

Great. Now I’m hungry. And with this cat on my lap, starvation or involuntary amputation are my only two options. Nothing for it but to peruse SillyPoems.co.uk:

attraction

by Andy Curtis

I can’t believe how attractive you are.
From the outset, we just clung together
Like reunited lovers
There’s always such a buzz when you’re around
And what’s that aroma?
It’s strangely familiar.

You hold me – tighter, if anything,
And I simply can’t let go.
You make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up
You make all the other ones stand up too
And you’re hot – so amazingly hot!
I can’t even manage to ask for what I really want -
Like, for the electric to be switched off.

Poem o’ the Day

The Digital Cuttlefish may be on hiatus, but his poetry still abounds on the intertoobz. And he has a poem that perfectly compliments this week’s Sunday Sensational Science, so now’s the perfect time to highlight his virtuosity.

Cuttlefish proves that poetry very much has a place in modern life: as commentary, as dialogue, as entertaining enlightenment, and as another satirical weapon to level at those who would lay science low. His poetry’s also a sheer, unadulterated delight. I hope he returns soon!

To The Senator’s Health!

PZ reports that Senator Tom Harkin regrets that his National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine has done what I, for one, would have bet against: it has disproven “too many” alternative therapies.

I wonder if we can get something to make the Senator feel better…

The Senator is needing
A colonic or a bleeding
Or perhaps a dose of radium to give a healthy glow.
My alt-med guru teaches
That the use of sterile leeches
Would give balance to his humours, and would help his chi to grow.
Hydrotherapy and spinning
Would be only the beginning;
An emetic or a purgative would do his body good
Ground-up rhino horn or penis
And a sacrifice to Venus
Will do more to swell his thinking than viagra ever could!
A double dose of calomel
Would do his tired body well
Or drink colloidal silver till his skin is vivid blue
Elective psychosurgery,
As anyone can plainly see,
Is something that could keep his thinking on the straight and true
We can mix some herbs and spices
Bought at legislators’ prices
With the urine of donkey, for the Senator to drink–
But despite our urgent praying
We recall the ancient saying:
You can vote a man to Senate, but you cannot make him think.

Psst… Don’t forget Cuttlefish’s book is available on Lulu!