A humourous reminder from The New Yorker that we will feature poetry from the Tang Dynasty on November 23
Born in San Francisco on November 19, 1942, Sharon Olds earned a BA at Stanford University and a PhD at Columbia University.
Her first collection of poems, Satan Says (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1980), received the inaugural San Francisco Poetry Center Award. Olds’s following collection, The Dead & the Living (Alfred A. Knopf, 1984), received the Lamont Poetry Selection in 1983 and the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Her other collections include Stag’s Leap (Alfred A. Knopf, 2012), recipient of the Pulitzer Prize and the T. S. Eliot Prize; One Secret Thing (Random House, 2008); Strike Sparks: Selected Poems(Alfred A. Knopf, 2004); The Unswept Room (Alfred A. Knopf, 2002); Blood, Tin, Straw (Alfred A. Knopf, 1999); The Gold Cell(Alfred A. Knopf, 1997); The Wellspring (Alfred A. Knopf, 1995); and The Father (Alfred A. Knopf, 1992); which was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.
By Stephen Rybicki
During the Fall, monarchs
Descend upon Pelee
Like the laughter of children
Among the gardens of Eden
On a journey south to Mexico
With hundreds of miles to go
A layover stop for them—
They blow in with the wind
And drop like a quilt
Of orange and black patches
Covering the entire island to
Flutter in the weeds and trees
As if the north air were speaking—
The trick is to get in close
To one, backlit by the sun
On a leaf, to see how singular
And delicate each wing is
A skeleton in transparency
Which composes the colony—
And consider how life
Began eons ago with milkweed
Scattered across the countryside
The sky falling, and the sun
Coming down to rest on this island.
Stephen Rybicki is a poet and reference librarian at Macomb Community College, and lives in Romeo, Michigan.
The Roman de la Rose is the work of two authors. Begun by Guillaume de Lorris around 1230 and continued by Jean de Meun approximately forty years later, the Rose is probably the most influential work written in the Old French vernacular. In the centuries following its composition, major poets like Guillaume de Machaut, Jean Froissart, Eustache Deschamps, and Francois Villon continued to write in a tradition dominated by the work which, in some manuscripts, extends to 21,750 lines. In the early 15th century, the Rose was still capable of sparking heated literary debate in France. Other national literatures felt the effect of the Rose as well. The English poets John Gower and Geoffrey Chaucer and the Italian poets Dante and Petrarch were astute readers of the work.
The Roman de la Rose is an allegorical love poem which takes the form of a dream vision. The 25-year-old narrator recounts a dream he had approximately five years previously, which has since come to pass. In his dream he journeyed to a walled garden in which he viewed rosebushes in the Fountain of Narcissus. When he went to select his own special blossom, the God of Love shot him with several arrows, leaving him forever enamored of one particular flower. His efforts to obtain the Rose met with little success. A stolen kiss alerted the guardians of the Rose, who then enclosed it behind still stronger fortifications. At the point where Guillaume de Lorris’ poem breaks off, the protagonist, confronted with this new obstacle to the realization of his love, is left lamenting his fate. Jean de Meun concludes the narrative with a bawdy account of the plucking of the Rose, achieved through deception, which is very unlike Guillaume’s idealized conception of the love quest.
Read the complete History and Summary of the Text of The Roman de la Rose by Lori J. Walters
Read the full text of The Roman de la Rose (in English).
Download PDF version: the_romance_of_the_rose_illuminated__manuscripts
Watch Helena Phillips-Robins (Cambridge University Library) discuss the history of The Roman de la Rose.
A reminder that we will celebrate the use of the rose as a poetic symbol or metaphor on January 25, 2018. Please bring your own illustration of this for reading and discussion and, if you wish, post it first on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly.