Tag Archives: poetry

Listening to the Moon

Paua mosaic moon pendant I made. Closest I could get to an eclipse image from my own photographs!

With the lunar eclipse coming up on January 31st I wanted to mention an astronomer, mathematician, and poet that I’d only recently heard of. Her name was Wang Zhenyi (1768-1797) and in her terribly brief 29 years she covered a lot of ground.

Wang Zhenyi was born in 18th century China to a family that valued education. Her grandfather had a library of some 70 books, and when her father failed his imperial exams he studied medicine on his own and recorded his research, making a living as a travelling pharmacist. Her father taught her about medicine, mathematics and geography, her grandmother taught her poetry, and her grandfather shared his library and his love of astronomy.

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Eternal Lives

I can’t not mention Shakespeare this week. This Saturday will be the 400th anniversary of his death.

 

So its sonnet 18 that comes to mind. Yes, he’s using May and not April, but still, 400 years is getting on eternal lines. It’s not Beowulf, let alone Gilgamesh, but it’s nothing to sneeze at!

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You Are Spring

I’ve been remiss in posting for National Poetry Month, but wanted to share a Gwendolyn Brooks poem that was recently introduced to me.

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A Faery’s Song

John Waterhouse

John Waterhouse

I know they’re different stories-so far as I know La Belle Dame sans Merci has an Arthurian feel but isn’t based on a particular tale, while Aengus is one of the Tuatha Dé Danann in Irish mythology-but these two pieces strike me as a matched set.

(I’m not fond of Keats’ stock character, but I’m a bit enamored of the Pre-Raphaelite art it inspired. Though the combination of military haircuts, multi-era armor and gauzy gowns sometimes crack me up a little bit too.)

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A phrase remains

silver beech

Two poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay today.

The first is playful, it sounds like a chant you might make running through the woods, or when making magic wands.

The second is a stark contrast despite the similar sense of enumeration. It holds the sadness and determination I normally think of when her name pops up. (The first poem of hers I ever read was Conscientious Objector, so that set the tone.)

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Child of the wandering sea

The Chambered Nautilus

 

Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

 

 

This is the ship of pearl, which, poets feign,

Sails the unshadowed main,—

The venturous bark that flings

On the sweet summer wind its purpled wings

In gulfs enchanted, where the Siren sings,

And coral reefs lie bare, Continue reading

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Some Untidy Spot

Landscape with fall of Icarus

Musee des Beaux Arts

W. H. Auden

 

About suffering they were never wrong,

The old Masters: how well they understood

Its human position: how it takes place

While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;

How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting

For the miraculous birth, there always must be

Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating

On a pond at the edge of the wood:

They never forgot

That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course

Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot

Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse

Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

 

 

In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away

Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may

Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,

But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone

As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green

Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen

Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,

Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

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I shall do nothing but look at the sky

Roman Wall Blues

W.H. Auden

 

Over the heather the wet wind blows,

I’ve lice in my tunic and a cold in my nose.

 

The rain comes pattering out of the sky,

I’m a Wall soldier, I don’t know why.

 

The mist creeps over the hard grey stone,

My girl’s in Tungria; I sleep alone.

 

Aulus goes hanging around her place,

I don’t like his manners, I don’t like his face.

 

Piso’s a Christian, he worships a fish;

There’d be no kissing if he had his wish.

 

She gave me a ring but I diced it away;

I want my girl and I want my pay.

 

When I’m a veteran with only one eye

I shall do nothing but look at the sky.

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As Short a Spring

The first of two paintings by William Waterhouse inspired by Herrick’s poem.

Robert Herrick (1591-1674) was an English poet and vicar. His major work, Hesperides, was published in 1648.

 

His most famous line is from To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time: “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,/ Old Time is still a-flying;/ And this same flower that smiles today/ Tomorrow will be dying.” I’m guessing that sounds familiar.

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Dissembling Nature

I managed to pull my back something awful and even though I probably just look like a tall person with back pain I feel like an Igor or Quasimodo. Or, since I’m having gallery issues and in a vile mood, perhaps like Richard III. (At least, I feel like Terry Jones’ playing Richard III rather than the historical Richard III.) Not as eloquent though…

 

Act I, scene i

 

Now is the winter of our discontent

Made glorious summer by this sun of York;

And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house

In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.

Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;

Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;

Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,

Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.

Grim-visaged war hath smooth’d his wrinkled front;

And now, instead of mounting barded steeds

To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,

He capers nimbly in a lady’s chamber

To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.

But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,

Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;

I, that am rudely stamp’d, and want love’s majesty

To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;

I, that am curtail’d of this fair proportion,

Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,

Deformed, unfinish’d, sent before my time

Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,

And that so lamely and unfashionable

That dogs bark at me as I halt by them;

Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,

Have no delight to pass away the time,

Unless to spy my shadow in the sun

And descant on mine own deformity:

And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,

To entertain these fair well-spoken days,

I am determined to prove a villain

And hate the idle pleasures of these days.

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