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Poems for beginners 
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Post Re: Poems for beginners
'Performance" I think must mean about the same as "drama," and dramatically the poem does change in those final lines, when as geo says, we suddenly consider a different thesis about the narrator. Up to that point, he's over the top, but in a way that is more or less in keeping with a tradition of idealized romance. The poem plays with our expectations, which do not initially include, as ant said, the narrator as necrophiliac.

One idea about lyric poetry is that there is always a turn, a shift from an initial perspective to a different one, a posing of a problem and an answer, something like that. In "Annabel Lee," maybe we think the turn comes with the death of the lady, but we find out that's not it at the very end of the poem.

This thread is a good idea, geo. I sometimes feel modern poetry got lost somewhere. When you say poetry for beginners, you're talking about the poetry written before the dawn of the age of difficulty, which T. S. Eliot is said to have ushered in. The audience for poetry then changed as well, from the common reader to the in-the-know or academic reader with a taste for obscurity and nuance and willing to indulge a poet who spoke in his own private terms. Most of the poetry of the Nineteenth Century or earlier is not difficult, and when it seems to be, as in Shakespeare or John Donne, the difficulty is from verbal intricacy or unfamiliar diction rather than idiosyncracy of thought, as in modern poetry.

How's that for gross generalization. I'd be remiss not to note that some modern poets didn't abandon the general reader, people like Billy Collins and Mary Oliver.



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Fri Apr 11, 2014 11:28 pm
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Post Re: Poems for beginners
geo wrote:
Ah, Are You Digging on My Grave?
by Thomas Hardy

"Ah, are you digging on my grave
My loved one? -- planting rue?"
-- "No, yesterday he went to wed
One of the brightest wealth has bred.
'It cannot hurt her now,' he said,
'That I should not be true.'"

"Then who is digging on my grave?
My nearest dearest kin?"
-- "Ah, no; they sit and think, 'What use!
What good will planting flowers produce?
No tendance of her mound can loose
Her spirit from Death's gin.' "

"But some one digs upon my grave?
My enemy? -- prodding sly?"
-- "Nay: when she heard you had passed the Gate
That shuts on all flesh soon or late,
She thought you no more worth her hate,
And cares not where you lie."

"Then, who is digging on my grave?
Say -- since I have not guessed!"
-- "O it is I, my mistress dear,
Your little dog, who still lives near,
And much I hope my movements here
Have not disturbed your rest?"

"Ah yes! You dig upon my grave . . .
Why flashed it not on me
That one true heart was left behind!
What feeling do we ever find
To equal among human kind
A dog's fidelity!"

"Mistress, I dug upon your grave
To bury a bone, in case
I should be hungry near this spot
When passing on my daily trot.
I am sorry, but I quite forgot
It was your resting-place."

This is in the same mold as "Annabel Lee," isn't it, with a distinct punchline at the end, very satisfying and basic, and accessible once you sort out who is doing the speaking. I wonder in passing how many of these "speaking from the grave" poems exist? Not to use this thread as tit for tat, but I'd like to put in a poem in by Hardy's contemporary and fellow depressive, A. E. Housman.

Is my team ploughing..."
by A. E. Housman (1859-1936)

'Is my team ploughing,
That I was used to drive
And hear the harness jingle
When I was man alive?'

Ay, the horses trample,
The harness jingles now;
No change though you lie under
The land you used to plough.

'Is football playing
Along the river shore,
With lads to chase the leather,
Now I stand up no more?'

Ay, the ball is flying,
The lads play heart and soul;
The goal stands up, the keeper
Stands up to keep the goal.

'Is my girl happy,
That I thought hard to leave,
And has she tired of weeping
As she lies down at eve?'

Ay, she lies down lightly,
She lies not down to weep:
Your girl is well contented.
Be still, my lad, and sleep.

'Is my friend hearty,
Now I am thin and pine,
And has he found to sleep in
A better bed than mine?'

Yes, lad, I lie easy,
I lie as lads would choose;
I cheer a dead man's sweetheart,
Never ask me whose.



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Sat Apr 12, 2014 7:40 am
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Post Re: Poems for beginners
Housman's poem is the perfect companion to Hardy's. Both are good access points into the world of poetry because they are fairly easy to grasp and to enjoy. Both of these rhyme and both tell a story of sorts which probably adds to their appeal.

I’m a latecomer to poetry myself so I can relate to Chris O’Connor’s recent comment that it’s hard to engage with a lot of poetry. You can easily encounter a poem and not get it so that it just seems like random words on the page. That was a major block for me as well for many years. I remember a Victorian Lit class I took in college many years ago, and being just baffled by the works of Wordsworth, Shelley, and Keats. So it’s not just new poetry versus old. Poems that rhyme offer at least one access point that free verse does not. So older poems might be a good place to start on a journey where the goal is to become better acquainted with poetry.

But there’s some modern poetry that would be good as well. You mention Billy Collins, who wrote a poem about smoking that I really can relate to. I’ll trot out Kay Ryan’s poem “Doubt” at some point too.

I taught an English class a few years ago which included an introduction to poetry, and I was completely up front to my students about my poetry blind spot. I still don’t know much about rhyme scheme and patterns of stress and all that:

an iamb goes: ti-tum
a trochee goes tum-ti
a spondee goes tum! tum!


One of the poems we encountered in that class was “Suburban” by John Ciardi (I’ll post that poem at some point). More importantly, I did some research and found an out-of-print book by Ciardi called “How Does A Poem Mean.” And so I’ve been reading through this book for almost two years now, coming very close to the end of it. I’m still baffled my much of it, but perhaps more able to take in and enjoy the performance of a poem.

DWill, I hope you and a few other BT regulars who are much more versed than I am will sort of take over this thread. Until that happens, it’s sort of the blind leading the blind.


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Sat Apr 12, 2014 9:56 am
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Post Re: Poems for beginners
I just like the idea of beginners, to tell you the truth, and would hope to be a beginner always in areas such as poetry and philosophy, even science.

I'm not much into the technical detail of versification. I taught English for a time, but I didn't find that subject to be one I enjoyed getting across to students. Didn't like grammar or spelling, either, for that matter. Didn't teach for that long, wonder why.

I bet that Victorian lit class wouldn't seem so hard for you now. Poems that are difficult for me are ones that are scared to death to make any statement, because that would be too obvious and unsophisticated. No, more likely I suppose is that I just don't get it and am not motivated to get it. For example, Wallace Stevens' famous poem "13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird."


I
Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.

II
I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.

III
The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.

IV
A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one.

V
I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

VI
Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.

VII
O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?

VIII
I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.

IX
When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.

X
At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.

XI
He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
For blackbirds.

XII
The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.

XIII
It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.



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Post Re: Poems for beginners
Quote:
"13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird."


wow, i loved that, cheers.

http://www.whats-your-sign.com/raven-symbolism.html

Quote:
The raven is symbolic of mind, thought and wisdom according to Norse legend, as their god Odin was accompanied by two ravens: Hugin who represented the power of thought and active search for information. The other raven, Mugin represented the mind, and its ability to intuit meaning rather than hunting for it. Odin would send these two ravens out each day to soar across the lands. At day's end, they would return to Odin and speak to him of all they had spied upon and learned on their journeys.


Quote:
Dr. Carl Jung deemed raven symbolism to represent the shadow self, or the dark side of the psyche. I very much like this. Why? Because by acknowledging this dark side, we can effectively communicate with both halves of ourselves. This offers liberating balance, and facilitates tremendous wisdom (something the raven would be very pleased with).

In other words, through the consistent unveiling of inner depths, and the positive/active utilization of inner impulses the esoteric secrets become exposed to the light of our own consciousness. This is at the crux of what the raven speaks to me.


Quote:
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.



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Sat Apr 12, 2014 9:25 pm
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Post Re: Poems for beginners
youkrst wrote:
"13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird."

wow, i loved that, cheers.


Glad somebody can get something out of it!



Last edited by DWill on Sat Apr 12, 2014 10:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Sat Apr 12, 2014 10:24 pm
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Post Re: Poems for beginners
DWill wrote:
Glad somebody can get something out of it!


reminds me of the old Don McLean thing where he stopped telling people what "american pie" was all about, because when they told him what is was all about (to them) he often found it much more interesting than his own original intention.

if beauty can be in the eye of the beholder then perhaps meaning is somewhat in the mind of the interpreter in a manner of non-dogmatic speaking.

Quote:
I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.


http://missmerfaery.squidoo.com/raven-symbolism-lore

Quote:
Shamanism and Native American spirituality speak of animal totems. These are important nature symbols used by people to get in touch with specific required qualities found within an animal. A person's totem animal will have qualities they need, that they connect with, or feel a deep affinity toward. You can work with more than one totem animal, although many people tend to have a main totem that they work with all their life.

Raven is known as the "keeper of secrets" in numerous native tribes.

As a totem, Raven is the teacher of mysticism. Having such a wealth of myth and lore surrounding him throughout many cultures and ages, Raven is the ideal teacher of this subject.

The black color of ravens and their carrion diet associates them with darkness. This dark void represents the the unconscious.

Raven brings heightened awareness and a deeper understanding of our consciousness. Raven allows us to see into the hearts of others using our newly found perception, helping us to empathise with their feelings.

Raven encourages us to experience transformation, so that we can be reunited with the mysteries of the universe, and rid ourselves of our inner demons.


am i up to 13 ways yet :-D



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Sun Apr 13, 2014 12:43 am
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Post Re: Poems for beginners
Wallace Stevens, the WASP insurance exec, would probably be amazed at your sources. But as you so rightly say, the meaning isn't up to him.

If we could we only all do better in that non-dogmatic manner of speaking....



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Post Re: Poems for beginners
DWill wrote:
No, more likely I suppose is that I just don't get it and am not motivated to get it. For example, Wallace Stevens' famous poem "13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird."

Okay, yes, this is mostly baffling. But maybe the point is not to understand it so much as go with it. With every reading, I find that I like it a little more because it is so weird.

Imagine the first scene, one of absolute stillness . . .

Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.

That gives me a little thrill. It's epic like the calm before the Apocalypse. I've started thinking of the blackbird as a metaphor for death. Thanks, youkrst, for those references. I have weird little book that I splurged on a few years back, THE FOLKLORE OF BIRDS, by Edward Armstrong. I'll consult this book later.

Note that the word "blackbird" is contained exactly once in each stanza. Still not sure what it all means though. It's a weird and surreal kind of poem. Dreamlike. So if we were to think of this as a performance, maybe it would be a dream sequence.

I'm reminded of this famous poem. Coleridge said the idea for the poem came to him in a dream, but he was interrupted the next morning by a visit from the person from Porlock, and by the time the person left, he had forgotten most of it. So it is referred to as a fragment by its author. But maybe the story of the person from Porlock is part of this poem's performance?



Kubla Khan
By Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Or, a vision in a dream. A Fragment.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:
And mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean;
And ’mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!
The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!

A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight ’twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.


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Sun Apr 13, 2014 10:12 am
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Post Re: Poems for beginners
Would we call this an imagist poem? Even though Stevens isn't considered to be in that school, the poem does seem to me to pin its meaning on a series of images. It's mostly a matter of taste, after all. I like to have the poet operating closer to the oral origins of poetry instead of way out on the literary limb. It would seem out of place to me to hear this recited.

I've wondered what the true composition history of "Kubla Khan" might be. Maybe it's true as Coleridge said that the poem came to him in a vision and wrote itself. But maybe, too, there was more conscious crafting going on. In any case, the fleetingness of artistic inspiration is itself a good topic for poetry.

It might be of interest that "KK" is no. 7 on William Harmon's Top 500 Poems.



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Post Re: Poems for beginners
Quote:
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.


GET DOWN!

Quote:
A place where nobody dared to go
The love that we came to know
They call it Xanadu

And now
Open your eyes and see
What we have made is real
We are in Xanadu


Quote:
His disciples said to him: "On what day will the kingdom come?" "It will not come when it is expected. No one will say: 'See, it is here!' or: 'Look, it is there!' but the Kingdom of the Father is spread over the earth and men do not see it."


Quote:
nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or, 'There it is!' For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst."


stuck in the middle with YOU!

Xanadu, Kingdom of God, Nirvana etc etc a rose by any other name...

Quote:
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.



Sun Apr 13, 2014 10:06 pm
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Post Re: Poems for beginners
So tell me, is there any lyric out there you don't know? :appl:



Sun Apr 13, 2014 10:08 pm
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Post Re: Poems for beginners
Rush has a song called Xanadu too. Don't know if youkrst got that one.


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Post Re: Poems for beginners
good catch geo, cheers

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEuOoMprDqg&feature=kp

Quote:
I had heard the whispered tales of immortality
The deepest mystery
From an ancient book I took a clue
I scaled the frozen mountain tops of eastern lands unknown
Time and Man alone
Searching for the lost Xanadu


Tom Sawyers one and all.

Quote:
Catch the mist, catch the myth
Catch the mystery, catch the drift.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auLBLk4ibAk



Sun Apr 13, 2014 11:42 pm
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Post Re: Poems for beginners
here's a bit of Alan Moore that reads like a poem

Quote:
"If you wear black, then kindly, irritating strangers will touch your arm consolingly and inform you that the world keeps on turning.
They're right. It does.
However much you beg it to stop.
It turns and lets grenadine spill over the horizon, sends hard bars of gold through my window and I wake up and feel happy for three seconds and then I remember.
It turns and tips people out of their beds and into their cars, their offices, an avalanche of tiny men and women tumbling through life...
All trying not to think about what's waiting at the bottom.
Sometimes it turns and sends us reeling into each other's arms. We cling tight, excited and laughing, strangers thrown together on a moving funhouse floor.
Intoxicated by the motion we forget all the risks.
And then the world turns...
And somebody falls off...
And oh God it's such a long way down.
Numb with shock, we can only stand and watch as they fall away from us, gradually getting smaller...
Receding in our memories until they're no longer visible.
We gather in cemeteries, tense and silent as if for listening for the impact; the splash of a pebble dropped into a dark well, trying to measure its depth.
Trying to measure how far we have to fall.
No impact comes; no splash. The moment passes. The world turns and we turn away, getting on with our lives...
Wrapping ourselves in comforting banalities to keep us warm against the cold.
"Time's a great healer."
"At least it was quick."
"The world keeps turning.
Oh Alec— Alec's dead."



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