Alexander Averin

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Thoughts on Poetry

Dear Diary,

A true poet does not bother to be poetical. Nor does a nursery gardener scent his roses.
Jean Cocteau

Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.
Leonard Cohen

Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.
Robert Frost

Poetry is plucking at the heartstrings, and making music with them.
Dennis Gabor

A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness.
Robert Frost

Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.
Rita Dove

I will start with two poems, one is rhymed, one not. The first by the American poet Rita Dove who writes about a lady I admire so much and feel sure I would have done the same as she if I had been travelling on that bus..

Lady Freedom Among Us

don't lower your eyes

or stare straight ahead to where

you think you ought to be going

don't mutter oh no

not another one

get a job fly a kite

go bury a bone

with her oldfashioned sandals

with her leaden skirts

with her stained cheeks and whiskers and

heaped up trinkets

she has risen among us in blunt reproach

she has fitted her hair under a hand-me-down cap

and spruced it up with feathers and stars

slung over her shoulder she bears

the rainbowed layers of charity and murmurs

all of you even the least of you

don't cross to the other side of the square

don't think another item to fit on a

tourist's agenda

consider her drenched gaze her shining brow

she who has brought mercy back into the streets

and will not retire politely to the potter's field

having assumed the thick skin of this town

its gritted exhaust its sunscorch and blear

she rests in her weathered plumage

bigboned resolute

don't think you can ever forget her

don't even try

she's not going to budge

no choice but to grant her space

crown her with sky

for she is one of the many

and she is each of us

© Rita Dove. From On the Bus With Rosa Parks

The second is by one of my favourite poets.


WHEN you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

Yet another day begins with rain. It’s feeling cool again, the river level is quite high for this time of year and it is in fast flow. I’m getting a wee bit desperate now and feel the need to remove myself to warmer climes. The rise in fuel prices won’t bother me as I have my own method of transport.

You can see a picture of where I keep it, hanging on the wall by my back door.

It was writing group last night and there was a lively discussion about poetry and the comparison between poems that are rhymed and those written in free verse. Some folk felt very strongly that poems should rhyme. I think there is room for both and as long as it is good writing and it ‘moves’ me, that is all that matters.

Just out of interest I looked up the definition of the word poem in my Bible, my 1963 Concise Oxford Dictionary

A metrical composition, esp. of elevated character; elevated composition in prose or verse,

A poet is a writer of poems and a writer in verse especially one possessing high powers of imagination, expression etc

I think that as long as the writing is poetical, musical/rhythmical/ metric, metaphorical, reads and sounds ‘right’ and its content ’moves’ you as all good art must, then it is a poem. But the quotes at the top of this blog say it far better than I do.

What do you think?

Have I given up on the blessings, you may ask? Never!

Here are six for today.

A day off and nothing to do!
My dear newfound sister and her lovely family who have just spent the weekend with us.
Time spent with E my youngest granddaughter.
Deep and dreamless sleep when one’s energies are almost depleted.
A favourite TV series that is returning this evening - Who Do You Think You Are?
A pile of lovely books to read - so many that I don’t know where to start.

The sun is peeping at me, such is her habit now, that of shyly peeping out of the clouds instead of shining full on. For she has turned into a bit of a sly temptress who promises me gold, lures me outside and before I know it, it seems that the sun and the rain are in league because the heavens have opened and showered me with heavy torrents.

I am going to brave the elements though as we are just off for a little jaunt in the car, some exploring of new ground to do.

Can’t wait. Back Soon.

Bye for now,
Go mbeannai Dia duit,

PS My favourite poetry quote is by Robert Graves..

There's no money in poetry, but then there's no poetry in money, either.

Oh and here is a puzzle for you. Does anyone know what this is? Keep looking at it; watch what happens. It was very camera shy.


lampworkbeader said...

I had quite forgotten that Yeats poem. Thankyou for reminding me. I guess the puzzle is a piece of faceted glass, but if you stare at it for a long time it becomes many things.

Anonymous said...

I definitely think poetry is an individual choice and also very unique. Each poem is different and I really don't think it matters if it rhymes or not. Like you said, so long as it touches you then the poem is has every right to be a "poem".

CJ xx

Frances said...

Cait, it is wonderful to have you back, and in fine form, with observations, blessings and beautiful poetry.

I would wish to linger longer here and look at those facets, but ... in true New York mode, even on a day off, I must now rush a few blocks downtown for a wonderfully eclectic concert under the stars, Out of Door at Lincoln Center.

Perhaps I will write about it later.


Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Lovely post, and lovely poems. I am especially fond of the Leonard Cohen quote. Of course I'm fond of anything written by Leonard Cohen!

Fern said...

Hi Cait, thanks for visiting me again.
I don't think it should matter whether poetry rhymes or not but I have to confess my favourites often do. I enjoyed the quotes but the ones by Robert Frost especially appeal to me.

Irene said...

I can only write poetry when my emotions are one tenth of a millimeter under my skin, so very close to the surface that I am in danger of dying by touch. It's an achingly painful existence and I can't go through it anymore, so no more poetry writing for me. I can barely read what others write, but I make myself do it to get the reward in the end: the knowledge that I felt the same thing and that I understood it.

Annie Bright said...

I found my way to your lovely blog...and I can't remember how now. :-) I love poetry. I was brought up surrounded by it, and especially love Yeats.
I do like the Robert Graves' quote - very true!

Debs said...

Beautiful poetry. I love the Robert Graves quote, so true.

Fennie said...

Poetry, it always seems to me is prose in zip form. You have to unzip it using your own experiences. For this reason I find poetry hard.But I thank you, Cait, for exposing me to more poetry in your blogs than I would normally come across - and that must be a Good Thing.

Lane said...

I love the Leonard Cohen quote. Isn't that the truth!

The glass pendant is lovely (if that's what it is). Great optical illusion:-)


Great poems Cait, love the glass pendant too :) TFX

Fire Byrd said...

I love the Robert Frost at the top. He really speaks to me.

I agree about poetry not needing to rhyme, it just has to sing in it's words so that they hold together and the essence of them is felt.

Saw the Rosa Parks film not so long ago, a very courageous woman.

Blessings on you to Cait.

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