Thursday, October 06, 2011

Happy National Poetry Day!


I have another confession to make: I don't love poetry the way I love a nineteenth-century novel.  My motivation to read novels far exceeds my desire to dig into poetry.  Yet when I make the effort to get into it, I am always amply rewarded.  I need to redouble my poetic exertions.  In the meantime, I would like to share a few favourite poems to honor the many great poets who have contributed to the literary canon.


My favourite poem of all time comes from The Bard, but I suppose that's hardly surprising.  It's 'Sonnet 116.'  I think it's a fantastic representation of what a fierce love should be.  Here's a testament to my geekiness: one day during my high school years I decided I should know my favourite poem, so I sat down and spent a chunk of time memorizing it.  (Like I said, geeky.)  I've been able to recite it ever since.


I am a fan of anything that can make me laugh, and poetry is no exception.  For that I turn to mock epic poems of the eighteenth century.  They're such a hoot!  I love the mock epic style so much that I write mock epic prose in emails to my friends.  This is yet another instance of my literary nerdiness -- I'm on a roll today!  Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock is the mock epic I find myself turning to again and again.


Here's a hilarious passage from Canto IV in which Belinda laments the loss of her perfect curl of hair:

'O wretched Maid! she spread her Hands, and cry'd,
(While Hampton's Ecchoes, wretched Maid! reply'd)
Was it for this you took such constant Care
The Bodkin, Comb and Essence to prepare;
For this your Locks in Paper-Durance bound,
For this with tort'ring Irons wreath'd around!
For this with Fillets strain'd your tender Head,
And bravely bore the double Loads of Lead?
Gods! shall the Ravisher display your Hair,
While the Fops envy, and the Ladies stare!
Honour forbid!'

 The fatal deed

If you're interested, you can read the poem in its entirety here.

Finally, I always dig some John Keats.  I prefer him to all other Romantic poets and was fortunate enough to visit his grave this past April.  I remember when I saw the Keats biopic Bright Star.  The part of the film that struck me the most was, quite unexpectedly, the credits.  Lead actors Abbie Cornish and Ben Whishaw recited Keats' words accompanied by instrumental music as the credits rolled.  It sure did lift the soul and all that.  Can we say music to my ears? (Music to my ears.)  


Since we are getting deeper into the fabulous month of October and the best of all seasons (fall), I thought it would be appropriate to highlight his 'Ode to Autumn.'  I can practically smell the crisp Autumn air as I read it:

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'erbrimmed their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, -
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing, and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.


Who are your favourite poets?  What are your beloved poems?

11 comments:

Brooke said...

I've always liked Robert Frosts "The Road Less Traveled" (I wrote a post on it a couple of weeks ago!) But I am not a huge poetry fan to be honest. I do like me some epic poems though. Homer, and Dante are always good on that note.

Angel Court Jewels... said...

I got excited just seeing the Edgar Allan Poe book, in your first picture. He has always been my favorite author. He has always seemed as mysterious, as his writtings. This geek has tour his home and the cemetery where he is buried.

Happy Weekend!
xoxo,
Courtney

Diana said...

Brooke: Robert Frost is great! I loved your 'Road Less Traveled' post. It was very thought provoking and inspiring.

Courtney: I'm incredibly jealous you've visited Poe's home and burial site. I live for literary pilgrimages. It took me a while to come around to him though. When I read 'The Tell-Tale Heart' as a youngster I was terrified for weeks, and it took me years to summon the courage to go back to his writing. So glad I did though!

John McLendon said...

I was going to post a Larkin poem, but I like Dylan Thomas better. He makes me want to visit the Welsh seaside, which I will actually be doing soon on Holiday!
We are also going to Snowdonia!

And death shall have no dominion.
Dead mean naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
Under the windings of the sea
They lying long shall not die windily;
Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
And the unicorn evils run them through;
Split all ends up they shan't crack;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion.

Diana said...

John, I need to read more Thomas; this poem is lovely. Thanks for sending it my way.

P.S. I'm super jealous of your Welsh seaside travel plans. When are you going?

The Moody's said...

I think that Shel Silverstein is always overlooked. He's brilliant! Have been rediscovering him & thoroughly enjoying much more as an adult than as a child. Catherine loves quoting him, and Matt wonders why he isn't studied more in anthologies. We also can't help but love T.S. Elliott. One of my personal favorites is Gwendolyn Brooks.

Diana said...

Andrea: I love Shel Silverstein! I think it's tragic how children's literature in general is often overlooked. There are so many layers you miss as a kid but can appreciate more as an adult.

I haven't read Gwendolyn Brooks in years. I should get reacquaint myself with those poems.

As for T.S. Eliot...well, let's just say I'm not a fan. 'The Wasteland' confused the hell out of me as an undergrad. It's not even funny. Well, I suppose it would be funny if someone like you, who understands Eliot, were watching my perplexity in action.

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