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Old Jun 19th 2012, 03:07 PM
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Default Poetry and related stuff

Poetry seems to have largely fallen out of fashion. Whether because reading generally seems to be in decline, because of difficulties associated with poetry, because people find it boring or irrelevant, or any other reason is kind of irrelevant.

I like poetry for the same reason that I like playing chess or hockey; or for that matter for the same reason I like philosophy and science, fine woodworking, video games, and music. Probably, when push comes to shove, for the same basic reason most of you enjoy many of the things you do - and, arguably, the same underlying principle motivating much of human endeavours.

Poetry is one example of abiding by certain restrictions for the fun of it.

If you want to get technical, we can talk about types of poetry; the organization of line breaks; various scansion systems with regard to metrical patterns, stanza forms, rhyme, rhythmic figures, and poetic form; what the benefits and drawbacks are to scanning according to stress, beat, or length of a syllable; and whatever else may come up.


...But I think this thread would be better put to use if everyone just posts a poem they like, and perhaps a bit about why they like it. No necessary reference to any technical information. Maybe there's a poem you like because it makes you laugh or speaks to an experience you've had, makes you think about tough questions or is just silly and fun. Nonsense, non-sense, syllabic, lyric, epic, whatever... what do you like?


I'll start.

Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

----

I selected this poem for a few reasons, not least of which is that it's popular enough that perhaps some of you are already somewhat familiar with it. I think this poem is an excellent example of what I mean when I call poetry an example of abiding by restrictions for the fun of it.

Without paying any attention right now to the possible meaning of the poem, I just want to look quickly at the rhyme scheme - yes, a bit technical, but everyone knows what a rhyme scheme is:

aaba / bbcb / ccdc / dddd

English is a notoriously difficult language to write poetry in because unlike many other languages, it is not conducive to rhyme: English does not have endings in the way that, for example, romance languages do, so the availability of rhyme words is extremely limited.

In spite of this, Frost has picked up a difficult rhyme scheme: each new stanza (paragraph) inherits the odd-line-out from the stanza before it. So each of the first three stanzas has three rhyming lines and one not rhyming line, which sets up the next stanza. Great.

But what happens in the fourth stanza, and why does he repeat that last line? There have been several interviews where Frost has been asked to explain the repetition and he never gives a straight answer. I want to suggest that he picked up a difficult rhyme scheme for fun and got himself into trouble.

Why he stopped at four stanzas instead of three or twenty is beside the point, he stopped when he finished his story, but how does he escape his rhyme scheme? If he puts a new off-rhyme, then the poem would probably feel incomplete. He could re-use the rhyme words from the first stanza, but already three stanzas away it would probably feel a bit weird. So he chose to get himself out of trouble by repeating the same rhyme. dddd

Why the repetition? Well, after sweep, deep, keep, and sleep, how many other rhyme words are there that will still fit the story right? If he used a new rhyme word, would it have the same kind of finality as the repetition? Would it feel contrived?

At any rate, and whatever the reason, he escaped his rhyme scheme by repeating the line and it has become one of the most famous and arguably most powerful English poems out there. I think that's pretty damn cool.



Frost has said that "You have freedom when you're easy in your harness" - and I think this poem shows that.
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Old Jun 19th 2012, 04:55 PM
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Default Re: Poetry and related stuff

Poetry is a very difficult thing for me so I can't really give technical details. However, T.S. Eliot is my favorite poet. The following is my Favorite section out of "Choruses from the Rock"

The Word of the LORD came unto me, saying:
O miserable cities of designing men,
O wretched generation of enlightened men,
Betrayed in the mazes of your ingenuities,
Sold by the proceeds of your proper inventions:
I have given you hands which you turn from worship,
I have given you speech, for endless palaver,
I have given you my Law, and you set up commissions,
I have given you lips, to express friendly sentiments,
I have given you hearts, for reciprocal distrust.
I have given you the power of choice, and you only alternate
Between futile speculation and unconsidered action.
Many are engaged in writing books and printing them,
Many desire to see their names in print,
Many read nothing but the race reports.
Much is your reading, but not the Word of GOD,
Much is your building, but not the House of GOD,
Will you build me a house of plaster, with corrugated roofing,
To be filled with a litter of Sunday newspapers?

Eliot expresses a lot here that I sympathize with. I think this sums up a lot of problems society is facing. We are "Betrayed in the mazes of your ingenuities." It sums up what I feel when I am frustrated with the church ("I have given you the power of choice, and you only alternate Between futile speculation and unconsidered action.")

Dante's Divine Comedy is some of my favorite reading so maybe I'll post something out of there in a while.
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Old Jun 19th 2012, 05:18 PM
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Default Re: Poetry and related stuff

Thanks suibhne, for introducing me to Frost in this way.
Interesting thread, and yes, poetry is out of fashion. It's partly to do with the existance of Internet forums - people spend too much time and energy chatting in written form, and as a result, art like poetry suffers.

A bit like what Victor Hugo said about the printing press - it sapped creativity away from other arts, and so we had to go back to antiquity for inspiration, and thus the Renaissance was born.
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Old Jun 19th 2012, 05:35 PM
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Default Re: Poetry and related stuff

I can't pretend to be well versed in poetry or good at discussing it. However, one of my favorite poems is ee cummmings "anyone lived in a pretty how town", in part because it both makes sense and fails to do so at the same time:

Quote:
Originally Posted by cummings, anyone lived in a pretty how town

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone's any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain
In a very different direction from ee cummings, I also like Alexander Pope's "An Essay on Man" and "An Essay on Criticism", both which I find terribly clever. They've also given us some common expressions. They're too long to quote here, but I'll post some snippets.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pope, "An Essay on Criticism"

'Tis with our judgments as our watches, none
Go just alike, yet each believes his own
...
A little learning is a dangerous thing
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.
...
Ah, ne'er so dire a thirst of glory boast,
Nor in the critic let the man be lost
Good-nature and good sense must ever join;
To err is human, to forgive, divine.
...
No place so sacred from such fops is barred,
Nor is Paul's Church more safe than Paul's Churchyard:
Nay, fly to altars; there they'll talk you dead,
For fools rush in where angels fear to tread
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pope, "An Essay on Man"

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan
The proper study of Mankind is Man.
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A Being darkly wise, and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the Stoic's pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a God, or Beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reas'ning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little, or too much;
Chaos of Thought and Passion, all confus'd;
Still by himself, abus'd or disabus'd;
Created half to rise and half to fall;
Great Lord of all things, yet a prey to all,
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl'd;
The glory, jest and riddle of the world.
The last I deem one of the most satisfying summations of the human condition.
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Old Jun 20th 2012, 04:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Non Sequitur View Post
Poetry is a very difficult thing for me so I can't really give technical details. However, T.S. Eliot is my favorite poet. The following is my Favorite section out of "Choruses from the Rock"
And a good choice it is, I think! Eliot is among my favourites as well, although I haven't read Choruses from the Rock. If anyone is interested, the text can be found online here.

One thing I love about poetry is that, if given a chance, it can be enjoyed by anyone regardless of their technical familiarity with it. If it speaks to you, that's enough.

Quote:
Eliot expresses a lot here that I sympathize with. I think this sums up a lot of problems society is facing. We are "Betrayed in the mazes of your ingenuities." It sums up what I feel when I am frustrated with the church ("I have given you the power of choice, and you only alternate Between futile speculation and unconsidered action.")

Dante's Divine Comedy is some of my favorite reading so maybe I'll post something out of there in a while.
I can definitely see this poem representing a conflict between faith and church. Even from a secular standpoint it can stand as a representation of potential and actual action: the 'doer' vs the 'thinker', I guess.

If you find the time I'd like to see which parts of the Divine Comedy you pick out - especially with your academic background, I'm sure you have some interesting insight on some of the passages.
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Old Jun 20th 2012, 04:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NickKIELCEPoland View Post
Thanks suibhne, for introducing me to Frost in this way.
Interesting thread, and yes, poetry is out of fashion. It's partly to do with the existance of Internet forums - people spend too much time and energy chatting in written form, and as a result, art like poetry suffers.

A bit like what Victor Hugo said about the printing press - it sapped creativity away from other arts, and so we had to go back to antiquity for inspiration, and thus the Renaissance was born.
You're probably right. I think that spending a lot of time on forums or on the internet generally is more likely a symptom of a deeper change (not to say problem) in the way we spend our time. It's become somewhat of a cliche observation, but poetry doesn't fit very well into the ultra-stimulated lifestyle rampant - in the west... or north Atlantic, at least.

I'm not entirely sure I agree with Hugo about the motivations of the renaissance, although that's an interesting take on it. Ancient texts largely disappeared except through strict religiously guarded/filtered work: the Renaissance in part was rediscovering those ancient texts at the same time that radical individualism started to really start showing itself. But poetry was very popular even into the early 20th c - writers could rely at least to some extent on a career writing and publishing.
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Old Jun 20th 2012, 06:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dilettante View Post
I can't pretend to be well versed in poetry or good at discussing it. However, one of my favorite poems is ee cummmings "anyone lived in a pretty how town", in part because it both makes sense and fails to do so at the same time
Man... E.E. Cummings is awesome, I can't tell you how many times I've paged through his poems at random, but he's way out there. He's one of the few poets to be really famous during his lifetime - at the time of his death, he was second only to Frost as the most widely read poet in America (and everyone was reading Frost). Here's another poem by Cummings - I flipped randomly in my copy of his complete poems to the first short poem I saw:

Quote:
sentinel robins two
guard me and you
and little house this our
from hate from fear

a which of slim of blue
of here will who
straight up into the where
so safe we are


Quote:
Originally Posted by dilettante View Post
In a very different direction from ee cummings, I also like Alexander Pope's "An Essay on Man" and "An Essay on Criticism", both which I find terribly clever. They've also given us some common expressions. They're too long to quote here, but I'll post some snippets.

...

The last I deem one of the most satisfying summations of the human condition.
I've always thought Wilde's little anecdote on Pope was a funny one, "There are two ways of disliking poetry. One way is to dislike it; the other is to read Pope."

Pope is one of the greats, but I often find his language is kind of contrived - which really isn't fair, because he hit a wave right before poetry changed gears. That said, yeah, he does have moments I really like - and there are tons of Pope fans out there Wilde notwithstanding.

I think the bit from Pope's Essay on Man you quoted goes very well alongside the Eliot Non Sequitur posted if you haven't looked at that yet.
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Old Jun 20th 2012, 07:52 PM
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Default Re: Poetry and related stuff

Moderator's note: I have just moved the posts about the origins of the renaissance to their own (History) thread to prevent hijacking this one.
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Old Jun 23rd 2012, 07:18 PM
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At his best William Wordsworth acheives a surpassing majesty.

From Book V of The Prelude:

When Contemplation, like the night-calm felt
Through earth and sky, spreads widely, and sends deep
Into the soul its tranquillising power,
Even then I sometimes grieve for thee, O Man,
Earth's paramount Creature! not so much for woes
That thou endurest; heavy though that weight be,
Cloud-like it mounts, or touched with light divine
Doth melt away; but for those palms achieved
Through length of time, by patient exercise
Of study and hard thought; there, there, it is 10
That sadness finds its fuel. Hitherto,
In progress through this Verse, my mind hath looked
Upon the speaking face of earth and heaven
As her prime teacher, intercourse with man
Established by the sovereign Intellect,
Who through that bodily image hath diffused,
As might appear to the eye of fleeting time,
A deathless spirit. Thou also, man! hast wrought,
For commerce of thy nature with herself,
Things that aspire to unconquerable life; 20
And yet we feel--we cannot choose but feel--
That they must perish. Tremblings of the heart
It gives, to think that our immortal being
No more shall need such garments; and yet man,
As long as he shall be the child of earth,
Might almost "weep to have" what he may lose,
Nor be himself extinguished, but survive,
Abject, depressed, forlorn, disconsolate.
A thought is with me sometimes, and I say,--
Should the whole frame of earth by inward throes 30
Be wrenched, or fire come down from far to scorch
Her pleasant habitations, and dry up
Old Ocean, in his bed left singed and bare,
Yet would the living Presence still subsist
Victorious, and composure would ensue,
And kindlings like the morning--presage sure
Of day returning and of life revived.
But all the meditations of mankind,
Yea, all the adamantine holds of truth
By reason built, or passion, which itself 40
Is highest reason in a soul sublime;
The consecrated works of Bard and Sage,
Sensuous or intellectual, wrought by men,
Twin labourers and heirs of the same hopes;
Where would they be? Oh! why hath not the Mind
Some element to stamp her image on
In nature somewhat nearer to her own?
Why, gifted with such powers to send abroad
Her spirit, must it lodge in shrines so frail?
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Old Jun 25th 2012, 07:37 PM
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I'm not really into poetry but here's one I like:

Le bateau ivre (Rimbaud)

Comme je descendais des Fleuves impassibles,
Je ne me sentis plus guidé par les haleurs :
Des Peaux-Rouges criards les avaient pris pour cibles,
Les ayant cloués nus aux poteaux de couleurs.

J'étais insoucieux de tous les équipages,
Porteur de blés flamands ou de cotons anglais.
Quand avec mes haleurs ont fini ces tapages,
Les Fleuves m'ont laissé descendre où je voulais.

Dans les clapotements furieux des marées,
Moi, l'autre hiver, plus sourd que les cerveaux d'enfants,
Je courus ! Et les Péninsules démarrées
N'ont pas subi tohu-bohus plus triomphants.

La tempête a béni mes éveils maritimes.
Plus léger qu'un bouchon j'ai dansé sur les flots
Qu'on appelle rouleurs éternels de victimes,
Dix nuits, sans regretter l'oeil niais des falots !

Plus douce qu'aux enfants la chair des pommes sûres,
L'eau verte pénétra ma coque de sapin
Et des taches de vins bleus et des vomissures
Me lava, dispersant gouvernail et grappin.

Et dès lors, je me suis baigné dans le Poème
De la Mer, infusé d'astres, et lactescent,
Dévorant les azurs verts ; où, flottaison blême
Et ravie, un noyé pensif parfois descend ;

Où, teignant tout à coup les bleuités, délires
Et rhythmes lents sous les rutilements du jour,
Plus fortes que l'alcool, plus vastes que nos lyres,
Fermentent les rousseurs amères de l'amour !

Je sais les cieux crevant en éclairs, et les trombes
Et les ressacs et les courants : je sais le soir,
L'Aube exaltée ainsi qu'un peuple de colombes,
Et j'ai vu quelquefois ce que l'homme a cru voir !

J'ai vu le soleil bas, taché d'horreurs mystiques,
Illuminant de longs figements violets,
Pareils à des acteurs de drames très antiques
Les flots roulant au loin leurs frissons de volets !

J'ai rêvé la nuit verte aux neiges éblouies,
Baiser montant aux yeux des mers avec lenteurs,
La circulation des sèves inouïes,
Et l'éveil jaune et bleu des phosphores chanteurs !

J'ai suivi, des mois pleins, pareille aux vacheries
Hystériques, la houle à l'assaut des récifs,
Sans songer que les pieds lumineux des Maries
Pussent forcer le mufle aux Océans poussifs !

J'ai heurté, savez-vous, d'incroyables Florides
Mêlant aux fleurs des yeux de panthères à peaux
D'hommes ! Des arcs-en-ciel tendus comme des brides
Sous l'horizon des mers, à de glauques troupeaux !

J'ai vu fermenter les marais énormes, nasses
Où pourrit dans les joncs tout un Léviathan !
Des écroulements d'eaux au milieu des bonaces,
Et les lointains vers les gouffres cataractant !

Glaciers, soleils d'argent, flots nacreux, cieux de braises !
Échouages hideux au fond des golfes bruns
Où les serpents géants dévorés des punaises
Choient, des arbres tordus, avec de noirs parfums !

J'aurais voulu montrer aux enfants ces dorades
Du flot bleu, ces poissons d'or, ces poissons chantants.
- Des écumes de fleurs ont bercé mes dérades
Et d'ineffables vents m'ont ailé par instants.

Parfois, martyr lassé des pôles et des zones,
La mer dont le sanglot faisait mon roulis doux
Montait vers moi ses fleurs d'ombre aux ventouses jaunes
Et je restais, ainsi qu'une femme à genoux...

Presque île, ballottant sur mes bords les querelles
Et les fientes d'oiseaux clabaudeurs aux yeux blonds.
Et je voguais, lorsqu'à travers mes liens frêles
Des noyés descendaient dormir, à reculons !

Or moi, bateau perdu sous les cheveux des anses,
Jeté par l'ouragan dans l'éther sans oiseau,
Moi dont les Monitors et les voiliers des Hanses
N'auraient pas repêché la carcasse ivre d'eau ;

Libre, fumant, monté de brumes violettes,
Moi qui trouais le ciel rougeoyant comme un mur
Qui porte, confiture exquise aux bons poètes,
Des lichens de soleil et des morves d'azur ;

Qui courais, taché de lunules électriques,
Planche folle, escorté des hippocampes noirs,
Quand les juillets faisaient crouler à coups de triques
Les cieux ultramarins aux ardents entonnoirs ;

Moi qui tremblais, sentant geindre à cinquante lieues
Le rut des Béhémots et les Maelstroms épais,
Fileur éternel des immobilités bleues,
Je regrette l'Europe aux anciens parapets !

J'ai vu des archipels sidéraux ! et des îles
Dont les cieux délirants sont ouverts au vogueur :
- Est-ce en ces nuits sans fonds que tu dors et t'exiles,
Million d'oiseaux d'or, ô future Vigueur ?

Mais, vrai, j'ai trop pleuré ! Les Aubes sont navrantes.
Toute lune est atroce et tout soleil amer :
L'âcre amour m'a gonflé de torpeurs enivrantes.
Ô que ma quille éclate ! Ô que j'aille à la mer !

Si je désire une eau d'Europe, c'est la flache
Noire et froide où vers le crépuscule embaumé
Un enfant accroupi plein de tristesse, lâche
Un bateau frêle comme un papillon de mai.

Je ne puis plus, baigné de vos langueurs, ô lames,
Enlever leur sillage aux porteurs de cotons,
Ni traverser l'orgueil des drapeaux et des flammes,
Ni nager sous les yeux horribles des pontons.


Yes, it's in French. Bite me

By the way, there's poetry without any formal structure or restrictions too, even without rhyme.
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