Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Basking in Some Poetry

photo by: Sunday Grrl


I came home last night to find on my desk The Great Modern Poets: An Anthology of the Best Poets and Poetry Since 1900 (edited by M Schmidt). It's an ideal (re)introduction for someone like me who has not studied poetry in any sustained way since high school and who doesn't have the frame of mind for a tome. Each of the 50 poets is given a short introduction, and some historical and critical context for his or her work. Plus, the book itself looks pretty and feels precious. I will resist taking it around with me today for show and tell.

The usual team was called up - Hardy, Houseman, Frost, Yeats, Frost, Pound, Eliot, Graves, Auden, Thomas, Hughes, Plath etc. - to join names I hadn't heard of before. I was quite surprised to find an Aussie in there, Les Murray (1938 - ). After reading a few of the heavies (it is ordered by poet's date of birth), I came across him and was taken back to the muggy classroom of my teenage years.

I want to share one of his poems here, not because it was necessarily the most pleasurable or insightful of those I read before bed (although I don't think I was being particularly discerning, I was just happy to have my new book!) and certainly not because he is an Australian (you may already know about my ambivalence towards patriotism). I have chosen it because his poem threads many of my recent thoughts about academics, particularly those in consuming spells of thinking and writing. Also, it's reminiscent of a fair few religious/spiritual and philosophical ideas I have read or heard over the years that have appealed to me.


The Meaning of Existence

Everything except language
knows the meaning of existence.
Trees, planets, rivers, time
know nothing else. They express it
moment by moment as the universe.

Even this fool of a body
lives it in part, and would
have full dignity within it
but for the ignorant freedom
of my talking mind.


Anyway, I am off to my Department. It is far too bright and warm for it and my legs are rebelling against the idea. I am quite certain this will be another day of students talking about admiring and smelling flowers and worrying about their inability to focus or finish sentences.

Feel free to point me to your favourite poems - who knows how long this zeal with last! Hope you are feeling uncluttered and positive about things.

3 comments:

Ink said...

Thanks for sharing this poem--I have not seen it before, and it's lovely. And profound.

Wishing you a good day!

kT LindSAy said...

Thank you for this lovely tit bit today! It's beautiful!

Favorite poem - so hard. Read so many over the years. Old school favorite since I was a child was Christina Rossetti's echo - not incredibly complex, I just like it!

Come to me in the silence of the night;
Come in the speaking silence of a dream;
Come with soft rounded cheeks and eyes as bright
As sunlight on a stream;

Come back in tears,
O memory, hope and love of finished years.


O dream how sweet, too sweet, too bitter-sweet,
Whose wakening should have been in Paradise,
Where souls brim-full of love abide and meet;
Where thirsting longing eyes
Watch the slow door
That opening, letting in, lets out no more.


Yet come to me in dreams, that I may live
My very life again though cold in death;
Come back to me in dreams, that I may give
Pulse for pulse, breath for breath:
Speak low, lean low,
As long ago, my love, how long ago.

But my favorite poet is Neruda for sure.

Maybe nothingness is to be without your presence,
without you moving, slicing the noon
like a blue flower, without you walking
later through the fog and the cobbles,

without the light you carry in your hand,
golden, which maybe others will not see,
which maybe no one knew was growing
like the red beginnings of a rose.

In short, without your presence: without your coming
suddenly, incitingly, to know my life,
gust of a rosebush, wheat of wind:

since then I am because you are,
since then you are, I am, we are,
and through love I will be, you will be, we'll be.

(Sonnet LXIX)

More beautiful in Spanish :)

I'd rather be playing frisbee said...

I'm a fan of Les. Here's a neat little one for you from Figs from Thistles, by the master of reframing, Edna St. Vincent Millay:

MY candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends–
It gives a lovely light!