Like thousands I took just pride and more than just,
struck matches that brought my blood to a boil;
I memorized the tricks to set the river on fire–
somehow never wrote something to go back to.
Can I suppose I am finished with wax flowers
and have earned my grass on the minor slopes of Parnassus…
No honeycomb is built without a bee
adding circle to circle, cell to cell,
the wax and honey of a mausoleum–
this round dome proves its maker is alive;
the corpse of the insect lives embalmed in honey,
prays that its perishable work live long
enough for the sweet tooth bear to desecrate–
this open book..my open coffin”
Wendy Cope was raised in Kent, England, where her parents often recited poetry out loud to her. She has published several volumes of poetry including Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis and Serious Concerns. Cope possesses a remarkable talent for parody and for using humor to address grave topics.
By A.M. Juster
Most poets who enter the canon arrive amid clatter and controversy. Elizabeth Bishop took a different route. In an era when it was still possible for a poet to become a national celebrity, Bishop avoided publicity and published only about a hundred poems. Nonetheless, her reputation rose slowly and quietly, and continued to climb after her death in 1979.
Bishop became a consensus favorite in the literary community. Formally oriented poets admired her innovative off-rhymes, skilled variations in line lengths, and the rhythms folded into her meter. Political poets of the left, such as Adrienne Rich, clashed with Bishop about being reluctant to promote the women’s and gay liberation movements through sacrificing her privacy, but most such critics stood down when Bishop’s lesbianism became more public. Today, she often seems beyond criticism.
Megan Marshall, a professor at Emerson College and former Bishop student at Harvard, accepts her subject’s greatness with no apparent hesitation, but readers should not be afraid to test that assessment. It is true that Bishop’s technical strengths make her a poet’s poet. When it comes to craft, Bishop’s poetry rivals that of James Merrill, Richard Wilbur, Derek Walcott, and A.E. Stallings. When it comes to precise and striking extended descriptions, she is in a class by herself.
We will be reading and discussing the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop on September 28
By Jan Zwicky
Bare rooms, the echo of white light.
The moon, I think,
Is a white sail of pain.
The answer isn’t love or furniture,
We’re always on the move.
A satellite a hundred miles up
Paces its slow curve. Landscape
Glides beneath it. Scars.
We are discussing the possibility of dedicating a session early in 2018 to the poetry of Jan Zwicky, probably combining it with the poetry of Lorna Crozier. Let us have your thoughts on this.
The long days of summer offer an opportunity to reflect. We selected six poems by contemporary American poets and asked six photographers to let the poems inspire them.
By Douglas Dunn
All the dead Imperia…They have gone
Taking their atlases and grand pianos.
They could not leave geography alone.
They conquered with the thistle and the rose.
To our forefathers it was right to raise
Their pretty flag at every foreign dawn
Then lower it at sunset in a haze
Of bugle-brass. They interfered with place,
Time, people, lives and so to bed. They died
When it died. It had died before. It died
Before they did. They did not know it. Race,
Power, Trade, Fleet, a hundred regiments,
Postponed that final reckoning with pride,
Which was expensive. Counting up the cost
We plunder morals from the power they lost.
They ruined us. They conquered continents.
We filled their uniforms. We cruised the seas,
We worked their mines and made their histories.
You work, we rule, they said. We worked; they ruled.
They fooled the tenements. All men were fooled.
It still persists. It will be so, always.
Listen. An out-of-work apprentice plays
God Save the Queen on an Edwardian flute.
He is, but does not know it, destitute.
Poetry lovers, it’s time to register for our summer 2017 session (July 27). Registration is free, of course. You may register in person, via telephone (604-713-1800) or Register online.
Please take the time to do this, as our free room at the Roundhouse Community Centre depends upon their awareness that we are an active group. So far, only two of our members have registered for the summer session.
How Spectra went mainstream
BY MICHAEL WATERSWITTER BYNNER HATED MODERNIST POETRY. A rising literary star who was briefly engaged to Edna St. Vincent Millay, Bynner felt that the new crop of free-verse poetry movements was becoming absurd. Not only were these poets failing to create real art, but they also took themselves far too seriously.
So he decided to satirize it all.
In February 1916, at a ballet entitled Le Spectre de la Rose, Bynner was criticizing the proliferation of experimental poems to some friends when he made a joke. He asked whether they had heard of the poetry movement known as Spectrism—a name he spontaneously invented based on the title of the ballet.
Later, he told his Harvard friend Arthur Davison Ficke about the trickery, and together the duo decided to make “Spectrism” a reality. Their main goal was to parody the Modernist poetry they so distrusted.