Before I die, I must just find this rhyme.
Be quiet, my friends, and do not waste any time.
We’re marching off in company with death.
I only wish my girl would hold her breath.
There’s nothing wrong with me, I’m glad to leave,
Now mother’s crying too, there’s no reprieve.
And now look how the sun’s begun to set.
A nice mass-grave is all that I shall get.
Once more the good old sunset‘s glowing red.
In thirteen days I’ll probably be dead.
7 August 1914: seven weeks later Lichtenstein was dead
Translated from the German by Patrick Bridgwater
A final reminder that on this Thursday, October 27, Anne Fletcher will lead a discussion on the Poetry of the First World War. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for a list of Anne’s selected poems (and prose). Anne also invites members to bring their own favourites to read and discuss.
Please also bring your ideas and suggestions for topics for 2017.
By Elizabeth Lund
Nothing in Billy Collins’s 12th book, The Rain in Portugal (Random House, $26), is exactly what readers might expect, and that’s the charm of this collection. Collins, a former U.S. poet laureate and one of the country’s most popular poets, has always known how to combine offbeat observations and dry wit. Yet here he adds so many subtle twists — beginning with the book’s title — that he and readers sidestep from the familiar into a more fanciful landscape. Sometimes the surprises arise from a mundane moment, as when the speaker describes his black cat or muses about conversations with the sister he never had. At other times, the speaker starts with an unusual premise — Shakespeare on a plane, Keith Richards holding up the world — that leads to curious conclusions.
by T. S. Eliot
When we came home across the hill
No leaves were fallen from the trees;
The gentle fingers of the breeze
Had torn no quivering cobweb down.
The hedgerow bloomed with flowers still,
No withered petals lay beneath;
But the wild roses in your wreath
Were faded, and the leaves were brown.
“Song” was published in Vol. 83, No. 6, of The Harvard Advocate on May 24, 1907.
An exciting mixture of established poets, only one of whom has previously won the Prize, highly-regarded mid-career poets, and newcomers, including one debut collection.
In a rare UK performance Canadian poet Anne Carson read from her recent verse novel Red Doc>, a sequel to her 1998 Autobiography of Red. In the earlier book Geryon, a version of the red, winged monster slain by Herakles in his tenth labour, was a moody, gay teenage boy who falls for the suave charmer Herakles, only to be ultimately rejected by him. In Red Doc> he reappears as G, older, wearily aware of time’s flight, and Herakles as a war veteran, haunted by his past.
‘Her ambition is one thing’, wrote Sarah Crown in the Guardian; ‘the fact that it is so completely achieved is, frankly, something else … The best stories don’t have beginnings or endings, not really, but they do have great tellers. Carson is, simply, one of the very best.’
This event took place with the generous assistance of The Poetry Society.
By Oscar Wilde
To drift with every passion till my soul
Is a stringed lute on which all winds can play,
Is it for this that I have given away
Mine ancient wisdom, and austere control?
Methinks my life is a twice-written scroll
Scrawled over on some boyish holiday
With idle songs for pipe and virelay,
Which do but mar the secret of the whole.
Surely there was a time I might have trod
The sunlit heights, and from life’s dissonance
Struck one clear chord to reach the ears of God:
Is that time dead? lo! with a little rod
I did but touch the honey of romance — *
And must I lose a soul’s inheritance?
*An allusion to Jonathan’s reply to Saul in the First Book of Samuel (14:43): “I did but taste a little honey with the end of the rod that was in mine hand, and lo! I must die.” Wilde’s poem – with its phallic suggestion and alteration of the Biblical passage – denies moral consequences. Pater uses the entire Biblical passage in his essay on Winckelmann in The Renaissance, perhaps the “source” of Wilde’s poem.
by Danielle Charette
Long before Donald Trump, there was the homegrown demagoguery of Robert Penn Warren’s Willie Stark. All the King’s Men turns seventy this year, but Warren’s best-known novel seems as prescient as ever. As Governor Stark barnstorms his way across the South, Warren exposes the underbelly of American politics, where the rule of law and state budgets become “like the pants you bought last year for a growing boy.” For Warren’s politician, “it is always this year and the seams are popped and the shankbone’s to the breeze. The law is always too short and too tight for growing humankind.”
Despite his ten novels, Warren thought of himself primarily as a poet, and you can hear his ear for backwater prosody in Stark’s often-cruel populist rhetoric. In this sense, All the King’s Men serves as a kind of primer for approaching Warren’s earthy realism. The poems we find in volumes like Promises and Tale of Time are full of blackened oaks, birds of prey, unnamed fathers and ticking clocks. The “facts” of rustic America can seem backward or painful, but they can also give substance to poetry. For Warren, the honest poet confronts the world before him, without floating off into what Keats called the “egotistical sublime.” The freewheeling ego is a writerly sin he associated with Emerson’s Over-soul, Hemingway’s chauvinists and Jay Gatsby’s romantic fantasies. All are guilty of a “fluidity of selves” and the dangers that come with delusions of grandeur. More often than not, this shapeshifting has a political component. We see it in the bizarre conceit that the son of a New York real-estate mogul speaks for working-class voters abandoned by the “establishment.” Trump’s sudden affection for the everyman marks a nastier rejoinder to 2008, when soaring vagaries like “hope” and “change” propelled President Obama to the White House. Vacant ideals tend to invite civic confusion at best and political thuggery at worst.
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