Friday, April 9, 2010

The Lines of Others, Out Loud

Having found Hugo Ball's Karawane (from Annika) on youTube, I looked there for some of the other poets people quoted.

I couldn't find the specific poems, but it's nice to hear the poets' voices at least.

Here's the first crop.

I. Robert Frost

Margaret said: "One that's been lodged in me since a period of Frost fanaticism a couple years back:"

They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars - on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.

- Robert Frost, from "Desert Places"

Jennifer said: "Speaking of Frost, my favorite, typed from memory so the lines may break in the wrong places. [Nope. I checked and you were just missing a comma, which I added. --Fresca]
I love its succinctness, the colloquial sound of it even though it scans and rhymes in classical style. And I love the un-"Frost"ness of it--no Hallmark poetry there. : )"

"Fire and Ice"

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
This is the only video I found of Robert Frost live: a snippet from a poetry reading.

II. César Vallejo

Momo posted this poem in Spanish on Easter: "Masa" (Mass), by the Peruvian poet César Vallejo.
She said: "It's in Spanish and I can't find the better translation of it into English (there is one by Robert Bly that is servicable, but even the better one by Clayton Eshelman is not great). It's a resurrection poem without god. It reminds me that we are never alone."

So I (Fresca) went and found Leonardo Sbaraglia (from Argentina) reciting the poem in Spanish, with English subtitles.

III. T. S. Eliot

Clowncar said: "Lines encountered during a time of grieving, and have never left me."

In the dawn I gathered cedar-boughs
Sweet, sweet was their odor,
They were wet with tears—
The sweetness will not leave my hands.
--From "Song of Whip-Plaiting", by Constance Lindsay Skinner

"One more, that used to roll around in my head when I lived in Mpls, next to the Mississippi.
I love that river."

I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river
Is a strong brown god.
--From "The Dry Salvages" (No. 3 of the Four Quartets), by T. S. Eliot

Eliot reading "The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock" (which turned up on this blog last spring: Dare to Eat a Peach).

IV. Mary Oliver

Kellie said:

"You do not have to be good"

"The entire poem is a touchstone for me ("Wild Geese", by Mary Oliver), but that's the line that scrolls behind my eyes in all-caps at times. It is my talisman against useless guilt."

I couldn't find a video of Oliver, but here's an audio recording of her reading "Blackwater Pond" and "The Sun."

V. Nancy L. Wade

Nancy, who is working (I hope) on a way to record her poems, sent this poem she wrote:


when is a good time to die?
when broad leaves shelter
tiny lives singing, crawling, hiding,
as you should have sheltered,
or when loose dry leaves
swirl in a puff along the sidewalk
huddling like cold children.
perhaps when trees spread black,
naked limbs, appealing
for only a streak of light – or
when warmth comes, just a little,
enough so that when
those you have shadowed
return home without finally silent you,
there is one small,

--Nancy L. Wade

VI. Wendell Berry

Deanna said:
"I've loaned out my favorite poetry book, by Wendell Berry, but here's a line from his poem "Marriage," that might fit many relationships and is one of my very favorites:"

It is healing. It is never whole.

Wendell Berry Reading from Leavings

I had a hard time finding online the little poem "Marriage" by Wendell Berry (another of his marriage poems eclipses it), so I will post the whole thing here:


for Tanya

How hard it is for me, who live
in the excitement of women
and have the desire for them
in my mouth like salt. Yet
you have taken me and quieted me.
You have been such light to me
that other women have been
your shadows. You come near me
with the nearness of sleep.
And yet I am not quiet.
It is to be broken. It is to be
torn open. It is not to be
reached and come to rest in
ever. I turn against you,
I break from you, I turn to you.
We hurt, and are hurt,
and have each other for healing.
It is healing. It is never whole.


ArtSparker said...

A very moving collection.

Margaret said...

This is lovely, Fresca. Thanks for stitching it together.

I love to watch the bits where they focus on audience members watching/listening/laughing/smiling while Frost speak.

"But the corpse, alas, kept on dying"---a line not easily forgotten.

deanna said...

Wow, thank you for the chance to see and hear Wendell. He sounds like regular folk, as I knew he would. And I love his genuine humor. The others' lines and poems are so real and good, too. Thanks.

Maura said...

Years ago in the middle of a hectic day as an advocate, I pulled out a book of poetry to calm me in such moments. W.H. Auden leapt off the page at me. I memorized this instantly (a serious challenge for me, normally) because its light, the light of others, seared itself into my being:

Defenceless under the night
our world in stupor lies.
Yet dotted everywhere,
ironic points of light flash out
wherever the just
exchange their messages.
May I, composed like them
of eros and of dust,
beleaguered by the same
negation and despair
show an affirming flame.

Manfred Allseasons said...

A bit violent I know, but I love this:

Slough, by John Betjeman.

Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough!
It isn't fit for humans now,
There isn't grass to graze a cow.
Swarm over, Death!

Come, bombs and blow to smithereens
Those air -conditioned, bright canteens,
Tinned fruit, tinned meat, tinned milk, tinned beans,
Tinned minds, tinned breath.

Mess up the mess they call a town—
A house for ninety-seven down
And once a week a half a crown
For twenty years.

And get that man with double chin
Who'll always cheat and always win,
Who washes his repulsive skin
In women's tears:

And smash his desk of polished oak
And smash his hands so used to stroke
And stop his boring dirty joke
And make him yell.

But spare the bald young clerks who add
The profits of the stinking cad;
It's not their fault that they are mad,
They've tasted Hell.

It's not their fault they do not know
The birdsong from the radio,
It's not their fault they often go
To Maidenhead

And talk of sport and makes of cars
In various bogus-Tudor bars
And daren't look up and see the stars
But belch instead.

In labour-saving homes, with care
Their wives frizz out peroxide hair
And dry it in synthetic air
And paint their nails.

Come, friendly bombs and fall on Slough
To get it ready for the plough.
The cabbages are coming now;
The earth exhales.

Lill said...

What gems there are here! Naturally your blog community cherishes poetry, Fresca, we are brought together by attraction to your love of words and ideas. I feel less alone -- thank you.


Fresca said...

Thanks, all. People sometimes complain, "Nobody reads poetry anymore."

Well, somebodies do. From the guys in the back of the bus composing rap to friends quoting Auden, I see poetry all around me.

MAURA: I read that Auden grew to hate that poem, but everyone else--including me--loves it.

MANFRED: OMG, how funny! It's Wendell Berry as a comic Brit. (Berry was deeply into a return to growing our own cabbages.)

My favorite line:
"In various bogus-Tudor bars "

I was just commenting the other day how much I dislike faux-Tudor, which we have here too. Not sure why.

Jennifer said...

I am surprisingly impressed I got the line breaks right as well! It's more a tribute to Frost than me, though, as he always knew where to break the lines to echo both human speech and thought.

These really are beautiful, Fresca--so far-flung and yet you stitch them all together so well, using the living voices and breath of the poets.

I'm happy to see Eliot there, somehow I managed to memorize huge swathes of his poetry without really meaning to, and somehow I'm always vaguely embarrassed about it, I'm not sure why.

Fresca said...

JEN: You're right--knowing where to break a poem is really something.

When I jotted down scraps of poems from memory, the only ones I remembered correctly were the ones with wonderful rhythm and rhyme:
E.g. "I do not like green eggs and ham,
I do not like them, Sam-I-Am."

You had written good comments on Prufrock last year. Something embarrassing about memorizing T.S. Eliot---what could that be?
Is liking his poetry sort of puerile, maybe?
Like, faux-profound? Even when he IS profound?
I don't know.
I like him.
And I don't.