Monday, February 28, 2005

Poem of the Week 2/28/2005: In My Craft or Sullen Art

In My Craft or Sullen Art

In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms
I labour by singing light
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
On the ivory stages
But for the common wages
Of their most secret heart.

Not for the proud man apart
>From the raging moon I write
On these spindrift pages
Nor for the towering dead
With their nightingales and psalms
But for the lovers, their arms
Round the griefs of the ages,
Who pay no praise or wages
Nor heed my craft or art

Dylan Thomas

Happy Monday, all! I hope that everything is going well for everybody, or, since that is a little idealistic, I hope that something is going well for everybody. Anyway, a first reading of this poem makes it feel simple and clear, but, as happens so often, looking closer reveals how complex it really is. If we slow way down and ask why this craft is sullen, or look at the rhyme structure (there are only two true couplets here - the rest are split up or slanted - "psalms" and "arms," "heart" and "apart," and then I might argue that the poem is circular, and that the word "art" acts as a sort of strange broken couplet with which to frame the poem). Actually, I think that the rhyming holds a lot of insight into the poem. The couplets are kind of like lovers - they point us to think differently about what a lover is. Does a lover have to be with somebody else to be a lover? Maybe that's why lovers have their arms "round the griefs of the ages;" they are alone, and struggle with the same grief that has touched thousands of years worth of humans. At any rate, it is certainly an interesting poem, and a justly famous one. Have a nice day!


Monday, February 21, 2005

Poem of the Week 2/21/2005: A Martian Sends A Postcard Home

A Martian Sends A Postcard Home

Caxtons* are mechanical birds with many wings
and some are treasured for their markings --

they cause the eyes to melt
or the body to shriek without pain.

I have never seen one fly, but
sometimes they perch on the hand.

Mist is when the sky is tired of flight
and rests its soft machine on ground:

then the world is dim and bookish
like engravings under tissue paper.

Rain is when the earth is television.
It has the property of making colours darker.

Model T** is a room with the lock inside --
a key is turned to free the world

for movement, so quick there is a film
to watch for anything missed.

But time is tied to the wrist
or kept in a box, ticking with impatience.

In homes, a haunted apparatus sleeps,
that snores when you pick it up.

If the ghost cries, they carry it
to their lips and soothe it to sleep

with sounds. And yet they wake it up
deliberately, by tickling with a finger.

Only the young are allowed to suffer
openly. Adults go to a punishment room

with water but nothing to eat.
They lock the door and suffer the noises

alone. No one is exempt
and everyone's pain has a different smell.

At night when all the colours die,
they hide in pairs

and read about themselves --
in colour, with their eyelids shut.

Craig Raine

*i.e. books, which William Caxton (ca. 1422-1491) was the first to print in English
**i.e. automobiles

This poem feels right for tonight. And yes I am getting impatient about the poem of the week - sending it out on what is technically monday but is really Sunday's last gasp. But anyway. This poem is interesting and twisted and sort of beautiful. It's funny and fascinating, and a little sad at the end. Maybe what's appealing about it right now is that I am seeing myself reflected in it - this Martian doesn't know exactly what everything is around him, but he is lacing the best words and ideas he can to it. I particularly enjoy the idea of a cat as an apparatus. I also love that Raine asks us to think about the things around us, and notice what is going on with the colors when it rains. And, for that matter, who is this Martian? Why does he understand what it means to read, in one sense, at the end of the poem and not at the beginning? What does this say about our values/skills? Is it just a matter of his not knowing the right word? I think that imagination is very important in this poem both in the images it presents and as a topic the alien broaches. So I hope that you like this poem for this week!!


Monday, February 14, 2005

Poem of the Week 2/14/2005: Anne Hathaway

Anne Hathaway*

"Item I gyve unto my wife my second best bed."
(from Shakespeare's will)

The bed we loved in was a spinning world
of forests, castles, torchlight, clifftops, seas
where he would dive for pearls. My lover's words
were shooting stars which fell to earth as kisses on these lips;
my body now a softer rhyme to his, now echo, now assonance; his touch
a verb dancing in the centre of a noun.
Some nights, I dreamed he'd written me, the bed
a page beneath his writer's hands. Romance
and drama played by touch, by scent, by taste.
In the other bed, the best, our guests dozed on,
dribbling their prose. My living laughing love -
I hold him in the casket of my widow's head
as he held me upon that next best bed.

Carol Ann Duffy

*Anne Hathaway was Shakespeare's wife

Happy Valentine's Day, everybody! I have known that I was going to do this poem today for a while, and I am awake now and very much wanted to send it out, so here you all go! This is one of my favorite love poems ever - it is pretty neat to give Shakespeare a love poem when he has given us so many. I feel like it gives Shakespeare a more tangible form than his poems do standing alone, because suddenly there is something to connect the love too. The reciprocity gives his words more context; they were written for somebody, those emotions existed. The way Duffy blends the lines between language and love is interesting, too. In fact, now that I look at the poem again, I see that transformation sort of runs through the poem - words and images to physical love to words again. I love, too, how in the bed, his words, and her love, Shakespeare is still alive and laughing....Anyway. I hope that your respective weeks are all wonderful, and happy valentine's day, and goodnight!


Monday, February 07, 2005

Poem of the Week 2/7/2005: The Illiterate

The Illiterate

Touching your goodness, I am like a man
Who turns a letter over in his hand
And you might think this was because the hand
Was unfamiliar but, truth is, the man Has never had a letter from anyone;
And now he is both afraid of what it means
And ashamed because he has no other means
To find out what it says to ask someone.

His uncle could have left the farm to him, Or his parents died before he sent them word,
Or the dark girl changed and want him for beloved.
Afraid and letter-proud, he keeps it with him.
What would you call his feeling for the words
That keep him rich and orphaned and beloved?

William Meredith

Hello - it's Monday and PotW time again! This poem is so tender and soft and humble and amazed that it somehow felt perfect for this week and this day, especially. I have just been feeling really open and relaxed for the last six days or so, so yeah. There you go. There is a lot of empathy in this poem, I think - interesting how it creates empathy for both the main character and the narrator when it is about goodness (a good bit of which, in my mind, is empathy). It's also interesting that empathy occurs with somebody ashamed and afraid and proud; it brings into question what makes us empathize with people, and what in ourselves we find to be so...resonant isn't the word. Maybe tender but I already used that. If you think of a better one, let me know. So that's all for this week!