I’m nobody! Who are you?

April is still here I’m glad. Here’s a timely piece to join in the celebration of National Poetry Month.

***

I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there are two of us – don’t tell!
They’d banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

Emily Dickinson (1830-86)

 

DSC_0739

Oh the comfort of anonymity, no need to trend, to like or be liked, to climb the social media ladder, to reach new heights with more followers. Dickinson sure enjoyed her reclusive life, felt fine with being an unknown. Most of her poems were published posthumously, including this one.

***

 

 

Voice of the Poet: Things Fall Apart

April is National Poetry Month, and three quarters of the days are already gone. Still not too late for me to offer a poetry post. At present, I’m reading Joan Didion’s essay collection Slouching Towards Bethlehem (more about that in a later post). To start off her book, Didion uses W. B. Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming”, from which her book title originates.

Yeats wrote the poem in 1919, shortly after WWI; it was published in 1920. Didion used it like an epigraph for her book published in 1968, about fifty years later, apparently finding it speaks to her collection of essays on her experiences in 1960’s America.

Now almost another fifty years later, the poem still has not lost its relevance. Yeats’ mythical references aside, and just listen to the clearer and more direct words, I can hear the Poet’s voice speak hauntingly to our present world.

**

The Second Coming 
by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned.
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

**

Especially the first stanza… hear what I mean?

Of Words and Spring

April is the month of empty dreams
Half the days gone
waiting for words and spring
still frozen ground
and on the screen
a frigid page as white as snow.

Brown could be the color of hope
After the white
for all I know
green is too much to wish for
I’m contented to see a patch
of dry and withered brown.

The sun is a perpetual sign
that there’s still hope
But it’s no herald of the seasons
for its presence comforts all year long
warming my blank and barren state
as I await for words and spring.

But Easter is an apt reminder
that The Word had come
spoken clear to half-frozen ears
His body hung on a lifeless tree
Blood and water flowed
onto parched and dusty earth

So what if no words come to me
That dreaded writer’s block
reigning the winter of sterility
numbing senses,
snatching thoughts,
seizing any sign of spring.

It’s not about a post or a blog,
Or even buds and melting snow.
The Word had come
lived and loved among us,
broken, bled, died and rose,
melting frozen hearts to greet
a new Spring and eternal growth.

Poem and Photos by Arti of Ripple Effects, April 2011. All Rights Reserved.


The Power of Aloneness

.

Before the resurrection was the death.
Before the death, the long path of suffering.
Before the suffering, the lonely struggle,
Agonizing solitude.

The Garden of Gethsemane,
Epitome of aloneness.
Even the closest would fall asleep
But one kept watch, awake for all.

Sweat dropped like blood
A heart pierced before nails were hammered in.
The soul cried out no, not this cup
But oh, not my will.

Not fear of sinews tearing from the joints
But the searing pain of separation
A Father who would leave totally alone
the tainted Son of Sin.

A prostrating prayer, a yielding spirit
The power of aloneness thus transformed.
As He got up from that rock, He had risen
Ready to accept the kiss of death.

I would never know the nailing pain
nor the bitter taste of that dreadful cup
But let me feel the power of solitary rest
To stay awake and rise and conquer death.

.

***

Poem by Arti of Ripple Effects
On the Eve of Good Friday, 2010.

Photos taken by Arti in Israel, 2007.
Top: Via Dolorosa, Bottom: A Garden in Jerusalem

All Rights Reserved.

The Poets’ Corner

poets-corner-book-cover

Just got this from the library, and it’s a gem.  The Poets’ Corner is subtitled The One-And-Only Poetry Book for the Whole Family, compiled by John Lithgow.  Yes, that’s John Lithgow of the ‘3rd Rock from the Sun’.  From Matthew Arnold to W. B. Yeats, Geoffrey Chaucer to Allen Ginsberg, it’s more like a high school curriculum than your light family reading.  However, the collection includes many favorite selections, ideal to share as literary heirloom.

Lithgow presents fifty poets whose work he had grown up with.  He has written a two-page introduction for each of them, a personal response to a piece of literary art.  In the introduction of the book, he explains how it all started.  Lithgow was invited to host a benefit for a non-profit organization.  The fund raiser was for the fostering of creative approaches to educating autistic children.  He was given a few poems to read out that night, poignant poetry that speaks to the heart of parents with autistic children.  That night, Lithgow saw the power of poems read out, the voice and the words striking a shared chord with deep resonance. Thus planted the seed for this book.

The central theme here is not autism, but the selections here speak to a general and wider audience, humanity at large.  The bonus is a CD featuring readings from Lithgow And Friends.  I believe that poetry read out loud offers a heightened enjoyment than just from silent reading.  I had heard recordings of Robert Frost and William Carlos Williams  reading their own work, leaving indelible resonance that I didn’t get from reading off the page.

Here in this CD, what we have are  professional performers, experienced and well-trained in the art of speech, dramatically performing these selections. And Lithgow’s ‘Friends’ include: Eileen Atkins, Kathy Bates, Glenn Close, Jodie Foster, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, Lynn Redgrave, Susan Sarandon, Gary Sinise, and Sam Waterston… what a cast.

Here are  some of my favorites, too bad I can’t embed the sound track.  But do check it out from your local library, or even get a copy of your own.  It’s a keeper.

We Real Cool by Gwendolyn Brooks

(Read by Morgan Freeman)

The Pool Players.

Seven at the Golden Shovel.

We real cool. We

Left school. We

Lurk late. We

Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We

Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We

Die soon.

***

I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud by William Wordsworth

(Read by Helen Mirren)

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

*

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the milky way,

They stretched in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

*

The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee: A poet could not but be gay, In such a jocund company: I gazed—and gazed—but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought:

*

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

***

The Red Wheelbarrow

by William Carlos Williams

(Read by Jodie Foster)

so much depends

upon

a red wheel

barrow

glazed with rain

water

beside the white

chickens.

***

No Doctors Today, Thank You by Ogden Nash

(Read by John Lithgow… I LOL listening to him)

They tell me that euphoria is the feeling of feeling wonderful,

well, today I feel euphorian,

Today I have the agility of a Greek god and the appetitite of a Victorian.

Yes, today I may even go forth without my galoshes,

Today I am a swashbuckler, would anybody like me to buckle any swashes?

This is my euphorian day,

I will ring welkins and before anybody answers I will run away.

I will tame me a caribou

And bedeck it with marabou.

I will pen me my memoirs.

Ah youth, youth! What euphorian days them was!

I wasn’t much of a hand for the boudoirs,

I was generally to be found where the food was.

Does anybody want any flotsam?

I’ve gotsam.

Does anybody want any jetsam?

I can getsam.

I can play chopsticks on the Wurlitzer,

I can speak Portuguese like a Berlitzer.

I can don or doff my shoes without tying or untying the laces because

I am wearing moccasins,

And I practically know the difference between serums and antitoccasins.

Kind people, don’t think me purse-proud, don’t set me down as vainglorious,

I’m just a little euphorious.

**

Lithgow and friends have convinced me all the more that poetry is written to be heard.

Poets’ Corner:  The One-And-Only Poetry Book For The Whole Family, compiled by John Lithgow, Grand Central Publishing, 2007,  280 pages.

National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month.  I’m glad we still celebrate poetry in this day of ephemeral twittering.  W. H. Auden once described poetry as “memorable speech”.  As millions upon millions join in on-line chats, exchanging the most trivial of their everyday life unreservedly, and even addictively all day long, how we need poetry all the more, to create lines that strive for some memorable quality worthy of keeping.

The late Canadian communication guru Marshall McLuhan was right, the medium is the message.   And such is the message of our time.  Mind you, I’m no Luddite, my iPhone is evidence.  I’ve gone through this before, so I’m not going to dwell on it here again.  It’s just that the rash and temporal nature of our medium, and mode, for that matter,  make me long for quality and permanence.

After posting an excerpt of  T.S. Eliot’s poetry in my last entry, I just didn’t have enough.  I re-read and explored more of his work and was amazed at how prophetic his vision was.  To celebrate National Poetry Month, here’s Arti’s selections of  lines from the work of T.S. Eliot, just for our post-modern, Facebook and Twitter generation.

nighthawk-by-edward-hopper

Twit twit twit

Jug jug “>jug jug jug jug jug

So rudely forc’d.

— The Waste Land (1922)



Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.

— Ash Wednesday (1930)


There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;

….

Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all: —
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;

….

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

— The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (1915)



The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of The Word.

All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to God.
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries
Brings us farther from God and nearer to the Dust.

— Choruses from The Rock (1934)


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Visual: Nighthawks (1942) by Edward Hopper.  CLICK HERE FOR MORE EDWARD HOPPER.