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Do you like "serious poetry"?

I'm not talking about Hallmark card type verse--although I once saw a verse of Emily Dickinson used on a hallmark card ("mis-used," I should say, since they got the exact opposite meaning out of her words that they should have).

How about "real" or "serious" poetry? Any poet or poem or image you love or that sticks vividly in your mind?

I don't know that I ever really "liked" T. S. Eliot, but his "wasteland" image is one of the strongest and most characteristic modern images that I know. Having written THE most famous image of the 20th century is no mean feat! And how can anyone be as insecure as Prufrock who is such a loser "measuring his life out in teaspoons"--not even his fantasy sirens/mermaids want to seduce him! That's hard--especially when you drown from too much "reality."

But then there are images like Robert Frost's "the road not taken"--so moving. I've often borrowed that one from him.

But Emily Dickinson is my favorite: "I've dropped my Brain--My Soul is numb"--I've had days like that.
Or how about this short poem--perfection!

Much Madness is divinest Sense -
To a discerning Eye -
Much Sense - the starkest Madness -
'Tis the Majority
In this, as all, prevail -
Assent - and you are sane -
Demur - you're straightway dangerous -
And handled with a Chain -

Or the powerful confusion of senses (synesthesia) in a dying person looking out the (fading) window and hearing a "buzzing" fly:

There interposed a Fly -

With Blue - uncertain - stumbling Buzz -
Between the light - and me -
And then the Windows failed - and then
I could not see to see -

Have you got some lines of poetry, a metaphor, a poet you'd like to share? I'd love to listen.


Comments (33)

  • Rudebekia
    9 years ago

    Yes,I do like serious poetry. I love Eliot's "Four Quartets" and "Prufrock" and have long parts of them memorized. I love Dante's "Divine Comedy" and can honestly say I know it through and through==all three parts--having taught it at the graduate level many times. Just had a dinner conversation last evening with a colleague about Dante's use of artists and where he places them in the afterlife! I like nearly all of Walt Whitman, G. M. Hopkins, Denise Levertov, Richard Wilbur, Robert Frost, William Stafford, and Philip Larkin. I also read Tennyson with much pleasure although I appear to be about the only one left on earth who does so: "In Memorium," "Idylls of the King," etc.

    Here's part of a favorite Hopkins, off the top of my head so without all his quirky punctuation, lining, etc.

    Margaret, are you grieving
    For golden grove unleaving?
    Leaves, like the things of man
    You with your fresh thoughts care for, can you?

    Ah, as the heart grows older
    It will come to such sights colder
    By and by, nor spare a sigh
    Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie
    But you will weep, and know why.. .

  • friedag
    9 years ago

    Marita, you're not 'the only person left on earth' who enjoys Tennyson. I don't give a hang about most Arthurian legend stuff, but I adore "The Lady of Shalott" -- I am half sick of shadows... I also like Mallory's "Elaine, the Lily Maid of Astolat."

    Regarding Prufrock, a prof once asked me: What does Do I dare to eat a peach? mean? I assumed it had a sexual connotation and said so. The rest of the class twittered and guffawed. I thought they were a bunch of weasels because I'd bet most of them thought the same thing. Prof only sighed and said, "Everyone your age has sex on the brain." Maybe so, but now I'm no longer young I still think that is what Prufrock (Eliot) was talking about. Have I been misinterpreting it all these years? I have to admit that I'm not particularly good at interpreting poetry. I tend to like the way a poet strings words together and the images the words evoke in my mind. Example:

    This comes often into my brain to tease and puzzle me:

    Not from the stars do I my judgement pluck;
    And yet methinks I have astronomy;
    But not to tell of good or evil luck,
    Of plagues, of dearths, or seasons' quality...
    -- the first four lines of Sonnet 14, Shakespeare

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  • veer
    9 years ago

    I was exposed to various forms of poetry during all of my school days. From those jog-along verses of childhood The Song of Hiawatha comes to mind, to a range of English poets from Shakespeare via the 'Romantics' to the 'Narratives' to the 'Modern'.
    Frieda I would agree that the Lady of Shalot does more for me than the endless verses of the incomprehensible (to me and I think the teacher) of Wreck of the Deutschland by G M Hopkins. with apologies to Marita. We had to study his work to mind-numbing depths for A level English and I can still remember most of 'Pied Beauty'.
    But good egs such as The Quality of Mercy from The Merchant of Venice and bits of 'A Midsummer's Night Dream' still come to mind.
    But poets come in and out of favour and I have heard 'skits' of Eliot's work which really take the **** out of what he wrote (as an aside I used to live about a mile from 'Burnt Norton'). Do you all enjoy/mind how a poem has to be dissected? I prefer something you can read and understand.

    This was the last poem in our modern school poetry book written during WWI by Thomas Hardy . . . a better poet than novelist IMO . . . and I have always loved it for its brevity and because I can understand it.

    In Time of "The Breaking of Nations"
    ONLY a man harrowing clods
    In a slow silent walk,
    With an old horse that stumbles and nods
    Half asleep as they stalk.

    Only thin smoke without flame
    From the heaps of couch grass:
    Yet this will go onward the same
    Though Dynasties pass.

    Yonder a maid and her wight
    Come whispering by;
    War's annals will fade into night
    Ere their story die.

  • dublinbay z6 (KS)
    Original Author
    9 years ago

    I too am a fan of Lady of Shalott--both the poem and the various paintings! And I just bought a gorgeous golden-apricot David Austin rose last summer called -- what else--Lady of Shalott!

    However, I have one objection to the poem. When that handsome hunk of a Lancelot comes riding into the scene, accompanied by every known phallic symbol in the universe so that we won't miss what a handsome hunk he truly is, does he actually accomplish the seduction of our Lady by--of all things!--trilling "tirra lirra lirra/ tirra lirra lye"--I mean, that is the epitome of hunky masculinity? Get real! Ah, but the heart leaps for its own reasons, I guess.

    How about a change of pace. Here is a cool ecological poem by modern American poet Denise Levertov that I like--and that should be readable by just about anyone, but memorable nevertheless. It is about literally "getting in touch with nature."

    To the Snake

    Green Snake, when I hung you round my neck
    and stroked your cold, pulsing throat
    as you hissed to me, glinting
    arrowy gold scales, and I felt
    the weight of you on my shoulders,
    and the whispering silver of your dryness
    sounded close at my ears --

    Green Snake--I swore to my companions that certainly
    you were harmless! But truly
    I had no certainty, and no hope, only desiring
    to hold you, for that joy,
    which left
    a long wake of pleasure, as the leaves moved
    and you faded into the pattern
    of grass and shadows, and I returned
    smiling and haunted, to a dark morning.

    While I admire Levertov's "hands on" approach to nature, and wish I had her courage and confidence (and the joy that results), I must admit that my favorite poet Emily Dickinson has captured better--for me, at least--my feelings about snakes. : )

    A narrow Fellow in the Grass
    Occasionally rides -
    You may have met him? Did you not
    His notice sudden is -

    The Grass divides as with a Comb -
    A spotted Shaft is seen,
    And then it closes at your Feet
    And opens further on -

    He likes a Boggy Acre -
    A Floor too cool for Corn -
    Yet when a Boy and barefoot
    I more than once at Noon

    Have passed I thought a Whip Lash
    Unbraiding in the Sun
    When stooping to secure it
    It wrinkled And was gone -

    Several of Nature's People
    I know, and they know me
    I feel for them a transport
    Of Cordiality

    But never met this Fellow
    Attended or alone
    Without a tighter Breathing
    And Zero at the Bone.

    I've never known exactly what "Zero at the Bone" means, but those are the right words for me--"zero"--in fear, feeling reduced to an absolute "nothing"? To "the Bone" sounds like the ultimate absolute frozen fear, doesn't it?

    At any rate, the poem describes for me the experience of fear--of whatever. But maybe especially of snakes. Irrational, yes--wish I could overcome it like Levertov did.

    I suppose now we could haul out some Milton on snakes in the Garden of Eden, but I don't feel up to Milton today--or most days, if the truth be...

  • Rudebekia
    9 years ago

    I think Wreck of the Deutschland is somewhat incomprehensible, too--not at all my favorite Hopkins. However, Ron Hansen's book Exiles, about the poem, was quite good and made me reconsider it.
    As to "popular" poems, I have many favorites! I really treasure my "A Treasury of the Familiar." Does anyone have that classic 1940s collection? I grew up pouring over it and inherited it from my parents. Among many favorites are "If," "Jenny Kissed Me When We Met," "The Raven," "Ben Bolt," "When the Frost is on the Punkin," "The One-Hoss Shay," "Father William," "The Walrus and the Carpenter," "The Eve of St. Agnes," "Captain, My Captain"--well, the list goes on!

  • friedag
    9 years ago

    Since no one set me straight, I will continue to assume my interpretation of Prufrock's peach-eating is as valid as any other reader's. :-) Vee, I've always preferred poems I can understand, too; but some poems can be so beautifully enigmatic to me that when I find out what they are actually supposed (often I am skeptical) to mean, I am deflated. It's for that reason that I may not enjoy 'dissection'. Occasionally, though, a dissection will provide new oomph in my appeciation of a poem.

    The snake poems: I'll take the Dickinson over the Levertov although I probably will not seek to read either of them very often. It's the subject, snakes, not the lesser/greater facility of either poet that puts me off. Kate, I've always wondered about 'Zero at the Bone' and didn't know it came from Dickinson.

    Marita, my family had a similar 'treasury' of poems that included many of the ones you listed which I recall fondly. I've always loved 'Richard Cory' and 'Miniver Cheevy' out of it, although both are pessimistic of the human condition.

    Talking about in-vogue and out-of-vogue: I've found some poetry lovers to be terrible snobs. For instance, they look on readers who like rhyme as philistines. I like rhyme and meter (I fancy that 'sprung' rhythm of 'Spring and Fall, To a Young Child' by Hopkins), and I no doubt have many other philistine poetry preferences, according to the lights of those 'superior' beings. I really don't care, though.

  • woodnymph2_gw
    9 years ago

    My absolute favorite among contemporary poets is the work of Mary Oliver.

    Going back into time, some other poets I greatly admire include: Matthew Arnold, Edna St. Vincent Millay, William Butler Yeats, T.S. Eliot, Gerald Manly Hopkins, Dyan Thomas, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost,and some of Thomas Hardy.

    While I appreciate rhyme, I also like to read well-written "free" verse.

    Another fan of "Lady of Shalott", here, as well.

  • Rudebekia
    9 years ago

    friedag, I think you are spot-on in your interpretation of the "peach" line. After all, Prufrock is obsessing about women laughing at him, his looks ("they will say, 'how his hair is getting thin!'"), women's bodies ("Arms that are braceleted and white and bare"). Clearly he's worried about SEX, and wasn't calling a woman a "peach" part of 1920s cant?

    Just want to mention a few other poets. I have always like Carl Sandburg: his slender volume "Honey and Salt" is still on my bookshelf. And William Carlos Williams and some Robert Lowell. In 1970 there was a paperback collection called "Sounds and Silences" that featured "countercultural" poets like Woody Guthrie, Langston Hughes, Leroi Jones, Leonard Cohen, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gwendolyn Brooks, Galway Kinnell, Molly Kazan, Phyllis McGinley, the Beatles--it was beyond cool to a teenager like me.

  • dublinbay z6 (KS)
    Original Author
    9 years ago

    OK--this is a tough crowd here, I can see. I'm glad woodnymph reminded me of Mary Oliver--another modern American ecological poet. If snakes aren't your thing, I'll win you over with this unconventional modern nature poem, I'm sure.


    a black bear
    has just risen from sleep
    and is staring

    down the mountain.
    All night
    in the brisk and shallow restlessness
    of early spring

    I think of her,
    her four black fists
    flicking the gravel,
    her tongue

    like a red fire
    touching the grass,
    the cold water.
    There is only one question:

    how to love this world.
    I think of her
    like a black and leafy ledge

    to sharpen her claws against
    the silence
    of the trees.
    Whatever else

    my life is
    with its poems
    and its music
    and its glass cities,

    it is also this dazzling darkness
    down the mountain,
    breathing and tasting;

    all day I think of her--
    her white teeth,
    her wordlessness,
    her perfect love.

    Poets no longer lay around on their couches, like Wordsworth, just dreaming of
    A host, of golden daffodils;
    Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
    Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

    (First poem I ever memorized, by the way. I still like it.)

    The less "pretty" side of nature is examined in contemporary nature poetry--and identified with--in this case, a big lumbering shaggy black bear awakening from a winter hibernation and with a hearty appetite for life! Spring is here!

    Mary Oliver is the most happy, gladsome nature poet I know of. Fun to read.


    P.S. Friedag--I'm still considering the possibilities of your "peachy" reading. Much to think about there! LOL

  • woodnymph2_gw
    9 years ago

    Kate, it is true that Mary Oliver's work can be playful and joyeous, but a recent book of her poems can be read as thoughtful, dealing with grief, and spiritual, in that she had just lost her life-long partner. It's called "Thirst." I really admire her artistry, whatever her mood.

  • frances_md
    9 years ago

    While I am certainly not very knowledgeable about poetry, I do really like Robert Frost, Billy Collins, and most especially Longfellow. I enjoyed Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters very much. And, can I admit to having spent many hours obsessing over Rod McKuen's poetry at one love-stricken point in my life? It still "speaks to me", as the saying goes.

    marita, I also have a copy of Sandburg's Honey and Salt on my shelf.

  • friedag
    9 years ago

    Oh yes! Kate, I like the imagery of Oliver's bear much better than the snakes. :-)

    Which reminds me: A few years ago someone here at RP posted one of Mary Oliver's poems that at first befuddled me. I've spent quite a bit of time combing through Oliver's poetry trying to find it again. It had something in it about a ladder or ladders. As I said, I was confused by it, so I appealed for explication and someone (maybe you, Woodnymph) kindly obliged. I got a 'lightbulb coming on' moment with that explanation...I remember that but unfortunately not enough else to identify the poem. Does anyone recognize it from my meager recall?

    Marita, I wonder if Sounds and Silences is the same collection of 'countercultural' poems that I ran across about that time -- 1970. The one I remember also included lyrics by Paul Simon, Jim Morrison's 'Horse Latitudes', Otis Redding's 'Dock of the Bay, some Beatles, and others. I was pleased as punch with those inclusions because it validated what I already thought: those lyrics are poetry...serious poetry. Horse Latitudes
    When the still sea conspires an armor
    And her sullen and aborted
    Currents breed tiny monsters,
    True sailing is dead.
    Awkward instant
    And the first animal is jettisoned
    Legs furiously pumping
    Their stiff green gallop,
    And heads bob up
    In mute nostril agony
    Carefully refined
    And sealed over
    --Jim Morrison, 1943-1971

    I don't know why there is no period/full stop at the end, but apparently it is not supposed to be punctuated with one.

    Frances, I too am very fond of A Spoon River Anthology. I've always got a grubby copy somewhere nearby.

  • Sarah79
    9 years ago

    I definitely agree with you that lyrics can be serious poetry. Some of my favorite poets are songwriters--Gordon Lightfoot has long been one of my favorites. In fact, I was disappointed that one of his songs that I particularly like the imagery of--"On Susan's Floor--was not one he had written. Then I found out that it was written by Shel Silverstein, who apparently wrote more than one of my favorite songs. Another favorite songwriter of mine is Kris Kristofferson. I recently looked up his biography online, just out of curiousity, and discovered that he has a master's degree in literature and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University!

    I also am a fan of Tennyson, specifically his "Ulysses." I think the line "Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough/ gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades/ for ever and for ever when I move" defines my feelings about my education...the more I learn, the more context I have for everything I come across, and yet the more I hunger for more!


  • J C
    9 years ago

    Not only do I love 'serious' poetry,' I am a bit of a poet myself. That reminds me, I need to get back to work.

    My mother had a poetry book called Silver Pennies, a compilation by Blanche Jennings Thompson. She read to all of her children from it, and had us memorizing poems as soon as we could talk. My favorite from that volume has always been 'He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven' by W.B. Yeats.

    HAD I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
    Enwrought with golden and silver light,
    The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
    Of night and light and the half-light,
    I would spread the cloths under your feet:
    But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
    I have spread my dreams under your feet;
    Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

  • Rudebekia
    9 years ago

    Sarah79--beautiful post! I love "Ulysses," too--especially because it relates well to Dante's portrait of Ulysses (burning in hell for his untempered ambition). I also love many of the lyrics of Gordon Lightfoot, James Taylor, Bob Dylan, Laura Nyro, Simon and Garfunkel, Don Maclean ("Vincent" and many others), etc. My favorite music is "intelligent" poetry-made-song.

    friedag, my Sounds and Silences volume (a 25 cent paperback from 1970) doesn't have Dock of the Bay in it, but I think I was amazed at it because it took popular song lyrics seriously, juxtaposing them with "serious" poetry. Again, for me as a nerdy young teen growing up on Longfellow, Joyce Kilmer, and their ilk this was the height of cool!

  • Rudebekia
    9 years ago

    Found it on amazon, , ,

  • friedag
    9 years ago

    Marita, thanks so much for the cover image of Sounds & Silences. It doesn't look familiar to me, and since it doesn't have 'Dock of the Bay', it's probably not the one I had. But I definitely remember the 'cool' aspect of the poets included, although I was never very big on some of the 'Beats'. I'm going to get me a copy for further memory-prodding.Like crippled ships that made it
    Through a storm and finally reached a quiet shore
    The homeless found a home on Susan's floor...I've always loved Lightfoot's version, Sarah, but I had no idea it was written by Shel Silverstein! Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river...
    And she feeds you tea and oranges
    That come all the way from China...
    -- Leonard CohenI'll never forget the tea and oranges. I like the way you put it, Marita: "intelligent" poetry-made-song.

    The twentieth century did produce poetry of quite a good sort, I think. Well, actually most of it had to grow on me; but now that a little time has passed, I'm geting fonder.

    Love that Yeats, Siobhan! Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

    I'm mostly stuck in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
    Whenas in silks my Julia goes,
    Then, then, methinks, how sweetly flows
    The liquefaction of her clothes!

    Next, when I cast mine eyes and see
    That brave vibration each way free,
    -- O how that glittering taketh me!
    -- Robert HerrickVee, what do you think of Herrick's brevity? It's splendidly understandable too. :-)

    Kate, I'm still chuckling over 'hunky Lancelot trilling tirra lirra lirra, tirra lirra lye'... Sometimes I will accept absurdities in poetry that would make me rant about in prose.

  • veer
    9 years ago

    Frieda, unlike you I have little acquaintance with seventeenth or eighteenth century poetry . . . a BIG gap between Shakespeare and Keats. I'll put it down to our narrow school syllabus and my own lack of filling in the blanks.
    You will know Herrick's Gather ye Rosebuds

    Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
    Old Time is still a-flying;
    And this same flower that smiles today,
    Tomorrow will be dying.

    This is being used, set to music, as the introduction of a BBC adaptation of the diaries of Samuel Pepys.

    Below is the nearest eg I can find to that used in the radio programme. The music was written by William Lawes.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Gather ye rosebuds

  • dublinbay z6 (KS)
    Original Author
    9 years ago

    friedag and veer have steered us towards classic love poetry--a fruitful direction. Yes, friedag, that Julia poem is terrific--"liquefaction"--what a great word choice! And of course, veer, the "Gather ye rosebuds" is about as "classic" a carpe diem poem as one can get.

    Since we are on love poems, I just gotta bring out more Emily Dickinson poems (I told you she was my favorite poet). Too many people think she writes depressing death poems only, but she has written a couple of the great love poems on the pain of separation from the beloved. Here is one of my favorites:

    If you were coming in the Fall,
    I'd brush the Summer by
    With half a smile and half a spurn,
    As Housewives do, a Fly.

    If I could see you in a year,
    I'd wind the months in balls -
    And put them each in separate Drawers,
    For fear the numbers fuse -

    If only Centuries, delayed,
    I'd count them on my Hand,
    Subtracting, till my fingers dropped
    Into Van Dieman's Land.

    If certain, when this life was out -
    That your's and mine, should be -
    I'd toss it yonder, like a Rind,
    And take Eternity -

    But, now, uncertain of the length
    Of this, that is between,
    It goads me, like the Goblin Bee -
    That will not state - it's sting.

    And she wrote some sexy love poetry also--which is news to many readers who dismiss her as a fussy old lady poet (which she definitely was NOT).

    Wild nights - Wild nights!
    Were I with thee
    Wild nights should be
    Our luxury!

    Futile - the winds -
    To a Heart in port -
    Done with the Compass -
    Done with the Chart!

    Rowing in Eden -
    Ah - the Sea!
    Might I but moor - tonight -
    In thee!

    So, do you like my Emily Dickinson's selections? : )


  • friedag
    9 years ago

    Vee, I suppose the musical style adapted in the BBC piece for 'Gather Ye Rosebuds' ('To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time') is appropriate to the seventeenth century, but somehow I've always had a male voice in my head reciting it. Hmm, maybe it's because a man wrote it, although there's nothing in it that a woman couldn't say just as appropriately. Thanks for the link to the song. Have you listened to the full adaptation of the diaries?

    Yes, Kate, I like both of the poems by Emily Dickinson you selected. One of the very first poems I memorized is the one sometimes titled 'Chartless':
    I never saw a moor,
    I never saw the sea;
    Yet know how the heather looks,
    And what a wave must be.

    I never spoke with God,
    Nor visited in heaven;
    Yet certain am I of the spot
    As if the chart were given.

    It's interesting to me how often Dickinson used 'charts' to convey her message, as she did in the second one you posted and in the one I did above. Also, in the first one you posted, she mentions Van Dieman's Land (very curiously, in my opinion). I think she must have loved maps and charts, and I can picture her pouring over them.

    Some of Dickinson's more lusty poems make me wonder whether she had more experience than her unmarried state might have signified. I've heard or read somewhere that she could have had a secret lover. However, I don't think a 'real lover' was essential -- an imagination as fertile as Dickinson's could have created one from whole cloth. Maybe, too, she was not completely in the dark about what her brother Austin was sometimes doing.

    I've meant to ask you, Kate, about your user name, dublinbay. Would you tell us why you chose it? I was thinking of things Irish the other day, so I watched John Huston's film 'The Dead' for about the forty-eleventh time. Joyce's words at the end are poetical prose, but earlier at the party when Mr Grace does the recitation, it's a Lady Gregory translation of an Irish poem. It's a love poem but not a happy one.
    Broken Vows
    'It is late last night the dog was speaking of you;
    the snipe was speaking of you in her deep marsh.
    It is you are the lonely bird throughout the woods;
    and that you may be without a mate until you find me.

    'You promised me and you said a lie to me,
    that you would be before me where the sheep are flocked.
    I gave a whistle and three hundred cries to you;
    and I found nothing there but a bleating lamb.

    'You promised me a thing that was hard for you,
    a ship of gold under a silver mast;
    twelve towns and a market in all of them,
    and a fine white court by the side of the sea.

    'You promised me a thing that is not possible;
    that you would give me gloves of the skin of a fish;
    that you would give me shoes of the skin of a bird,
    and a suit of the dearest silk in Ireland.

    'My mother said to me not to be talking with you,
    to-day or to-morrow or on Sunday.
    It was a bad time she took for telling me that,
    it was shutting...

  • veer
    9 years ago

    Frieda, the eg I gave for Gather ye Rosebuds . . . was the only one I could find via youtube, The BBC dramatisation did use a male voice, which sounded better.
    Pepys, like many educated men of his time, was a fair musician and probably was familiar with the music chosen.
    The BBC are 'putting out' a few excerpts from the diaries, for 5 weekdays at a time, every three months or so.

    I have very little knowledge of Emily Dickinson (another of those 'foreign' poets not taught/studies here) . . .maybe her mention of Van Dieman's Land is a metaphor for the furthest place someone/something could be?

    Below is the excerpt from the John Huston film.

    Here is a link that might be useful: The Recitation

  • Kath
    9 years ago

    I don't read much poetry, but the kind I like has metre and rhyme. I don't have much time for what seems like prose written with strange line breaks.
    I agree with the comments about lyrics often being poetry, and would like to submit this for comment. Hilltop Hoods are the most successful hiphop artists in Australia, and happen to come from the next suburb to us. My son is also a rapper, and knows the Hoods quite well. This is the first verse of one of their songs.

    Stopping All Stations

    Early morn, train station, aching from the arthritis,
    This war veteran knows what a hard time is,
    He needs his pension, dementia and half blind is
    The reason he rides the train with no car license,
    So he boards with an expired ticket has a swipe,
    Gets a fine cos the change he got don't add up right,
    We're talking about a man who never lived a lavish life,
    Caught up in the age of computer chips and satellites,
    A lovely lady boards looking tired and half awake,
    He smiles, she reminds him of his wife that passed away,
    She says something as she walks right past his way,
    His old hearing aid don't last quite half the day,
    Some young gentlemen alive with their laughter,
    Approach the old timer and put a knife to his heart to
    Explain that money or blood's the price of their barter,
    To a man whose friends probably died for their fathers.

    Below is the link to listen to the song. The album it comes from, The Hard Road, was redone with backing from the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, written by the conductor, and the album titled The Hard Road Restrung.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Stopping All Stations

  • dublinbay z6 (KS)
    Original Author
    9 years ago

    friedag--very moving poem by Lady Gregory. I've never read her poetry before although I was aware she was an important influence on Irish literature. And thanks, veer, for the recitation link--exceedingly well done. No, I do not find the poem strange, but moving in its honest exploration of the despair of lost love.

    About my online name Dublin Bay, there is no interesting story. About the time I discovered Garden Web -- the Rose Forum, to be specific--I had ordered a climbing rose called Dublin Bay. The Rose Forum suggested many people like to register under their favorite rose, so Dublin Bay seemed appropriate to go with my Irish nickname of "Kate." I do admit to flaunting my Irish ancestry a bit--ever since the day my mother (adopted by a nice but prejudiced Swedish lady--I think it was a protestant vs Catholic thing) told me I should be ashamed of being Irish! Made me mad! Both my children were given very Irish name also--I guess it has become a family thing now.

    astro--I certainly agree with the general premise that popular lyrics are poems put to music. Although I no longer keep up with popular music, I can remember decades ago one poetry enthusiast proclaiming at length that some of the Beatles' songs were poetry equal to anything Shakespeare ever wrote. I thought that claim was a bit excessive, myself--but would agree that many of their later lyrics are quite poetic.

    Back centuries ago, poetry was always "performed" to musical accompaniment--bards were singing poets, literally. Homer refers to poets "singing" about the hero or goddess or whatever, for instance. So there is an ancient connection between poetry and music.

    A number of modern composers have put Emily Dickinson's poetry to music. They usually write very dissonant modern compositions for her--seems to fit her agonized moods better, I guess. "Sweet" music would sentimentalize her too much--turn her into a "sweet" poet--yuck! Emily is not "sweet"--thank goodness! One of these days, I'll search for those online musical renditions I was listening to and post them here--they are really strange, if you like strange--but they work fine!

    I'm not sure if everybody but me realized it, but Dickinson's reference to "Van Dieman's land" is to Australia--I always assumed the penal colonies, though I'm not sure that is relevant to her poem where she seems to be focusing more on a country far away. If you lived in New England, Australia would probably qualify as far away, don't you think? (You all knew that? Well, aren't I slow on the uptake!) LOL

    Back to poetry and music, veer, I can easily imagine poems like "Gather ye rosebuds" set to music--with their easy rhythms and rhymes, they seem made for musical treatment, in fact--and I like 17th century music played to a harpsichord, but I have to admit I wasnt' crazy about the link you provided. Couldn't understand a word! But I'd like to hear some other version, and astro would love to hear...

  • woodnymph2_gw
    9 years ago

    I do not find the lady Gregory poem "strange" at all. Indeed, it is very much in the Celtic tradition of poetry. If I recall, correctly, Lady Gregory was one of the women who inspired the work of Irish poet Yeats.

    Am pushed for time, today, but I hope to return to post some favorites tomorrow here.

  • friedag
    9 years ago

    Vee, thanks for making the link to 'The Recitation' for me. I enjoyed the Portuguese subtitles, too. :-)

    Woodnymph, you're right: Lady Gregory had a direct influence on Yeats as well as other Irish poets.

    Interesting that you and Kate don't find 'Broken Vows' strange when the 1904 guests at the party apparently did. It seems to be a point that John Huston, as director, or his son, Tony Huston, as screenwriter, wanted to make because the poem doesn't appear in James Joyce's short story but was added by them. Perhaps they were commenting on how the Irish of that time were out of touch with their own Irishness. In another part of the film, the character of Molly Ivors slammed Gabriel Conroy for being what she called a 'West Briton', an Irishman who looked to England instead of depending on his own Irish opinion.

    Kath, I'm mightily impressed with the hiphop lyrics of the Aussie artists and the orchestral musical adaptation. It's a far sight further progressed than any American example I can think of -- but, of course, I don't know much about American hiphop except that I've never developed a liking for it.

    I look forward to reading more poems that this group likes!

    Woodnymph, may I remind you about the Mary Oliver poem I asked about above? The one with the ladder imagery in it. I hope you know which one I'm talking about, because it's driving me crazy!

  • dublinbay z6 (KS)
    Original Author
    9 years ago

    friedag--is one of the following Mary Oliver poems the "climbing" one you had in mind? Of the handful of poems by Oliver that I know, these are the only ones that feature climbing--but there is no ladder, unless you want to count the tree as a ladder.


    In afternoon I watched
    the she-bear; she was looking
    For the secret bin of sweetness--
    honey, that the bees store
    in the trees' soft caves.
    Black block of gloom, she climbed down
    tree after tree and shuffled on
    through the woods. And then
    she found it! The honey-house deep
    as heartwood, and dipped into it
    among the swarming bees--honey and comb
    she lipped and tongued and scooped out
    in her black nails, until
    maybe she grew full, or sleepy, or maybe
    a little drunk, and sticky
    down the rugs of her arms,
    and began to hum and sway.
    I saw her let go of the branches,
    I saw her lift her honeyed muzzle
    into the leaves, and her thick arms,
    as though she would fly--
    an enormous bee
    all sweetness and wings--
    down into the meadows, the perfection
    of honeysuckle and roses and clover--
    to float and sleep in the sheer nets
    swaying from flower to flower
    day after shining day.

    That final image always cracks me up--the big shaggy bear, drunk on honey, fantasizing about being a tiny little bee flying around in ectasy as she gathers the pollen for making honey all day long! Don't we sometimes long to be the exact opposite of what we really are--in this case, a bear's version of Cinderella at the ball, perhaps. LOL

    The Honey Tree

    And so at last I climbed
    the honey tree, ate
    the bodies of bees that could not
    get out of my way, ate
    the dark hair of the leaves,
    the rippling bark,
    the heartwood. Such
    frenzy! But joy does that,
    I'm told, in the beginning.
    Later, maybe,
    I'll come here only
    sometimes and with a
    middling hunger. But now
    I climb like a snake,
    I clamber like a bear to
    the nuzzling place, to the light
    salvaged by the thighs
    of bees and racked up
    in the body of the tree.
    Oh, anyone can see
    how I love myself at last!
    how I love the world! climbing
    by day or night
    in the wind, in the leaves, kneeling
    at the secret rip, the cords
    of my body stretching
    and singing in the
    heaven of appetite

    May we all discover the "secret bin of sweetness" --joy and love--and find within ourselves a "heaven of appetite" for the honey of life!

    I like to pair these two poems (don't know if Oliver intended that or not)--the second poem showing what she learned from the bear (from nature) about living life to the fullest ("gathering rosebuds" while we may, as our favorite 17th century poet might put it?) as she figuratively climbs the tree of sweetness that the bear literally climbed.

    If neither is the right poem, they are still a couple of my favorite contemporary nature poems. Maybe this is why I'm fond of bears in nature poems.


  • woodnymph2_gw
    9 years ago

    Frieda, I can't recall the "ladder" poem by Oliver.
    Here are some of my favorites:

    the Lake Island of Innisfree

    I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
    And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
    Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
    and live aloe in the bee-loud glade.

    and I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
    Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
    There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
    and evening full of the linnet's wings.

    I will arise and go now, for always night and day
    I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
    While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
    I hear it in the deep heart's core.

  • woodnymph2_gw
    9 years ago

    Perfect for this time of year:

    Emily Dickinson:

    A light exists in spring
    Not present on the year
    At any other period
    When March is scarcely here.

    A color stands abroad
    On solitary hills
    That science canot overtake
    But human nature feels.

    It waits upon the lawn
    It shows the furthrest tree
    Upon the furthrest slope we know
    It almost speaks to me.

    Then, as horizons step,
    Or noons report away
    Without the formula of sound
    It passes and we stay:

    A quality of loss
    Affecting our content,
    As trade had suddenly encroached
    Upon a sacrament.

  • woodnymph2_gw
    9 years ago

    Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586)

    My true love hath my heart, and I have his,
    By just exchange one for the other given.
    I hold his dear, and mine he cannot miss;
    there never was a better bargain driven.
    His heart in me keeps me and him in one;
    My heart in him his thoughts and senses guides;
    He loves my heart, for once it was his own;
    I cherish his, because in me it bides.
    His heart his wound received from my sight;
    My heart was wounded with his wounded heart;
    For as from me on him his hurt did light
    So still methought in me his hurt did smart:
    Both equal hurt, in this change sought our bliss;
    My true love hath my heart, and I have his.


  • friedag
    9 years ago

    Kate, I don't recall a bear in the Oliver 'ladder' poem...I think I would remember a bear! Oliver does have a thing for bears, though, so who knows...

    Drat! I hate my feeble memory. I'm beginning to wonder if it's an Oliver poem after all, but the reason I think so is I associate Mary Woodnymph with Mary Oliver, because Woodnymph brought her poems to my attention when she posted some of them in a thread like this one. At first I wasn't altogether receptive to Oliver's style, but I remember discussing this particular poem with Woodnymph and possibly CeCe (Carol) and that's when the light came on for me re Oliver. Oh well! I'll keep looking. The search has got me to read a lot of Oliver and that's a benefit.

    Kate, it's a great pairing of poems whether it was Oliver's intention or not.

    Woodnymph, I like all three of those poems. Arcadia, particularly, is in my zone. Isn't it funny/peculiar/interesting that poetry lovers often develop these 'zones'?

    I found this while browsing Immortal Poems of the English Language, edited by Oscar Williams:
    I, too, dislike it: there are things important beyond all this fiddle.
    Reading it, with perfect contempt for it, one discovers in
    it after all, a place for the genuine.
    Hands that can grasp, eyes
    that can dilate, hair that can rise
    if it must, these things are important not because a

    high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because they are useful.
    (continued for 3 1/2 more verses)
    -- Marianne Moore, 1887-1972

    Seems apropos! Yes, yes, yes, Ms Moore, you said it -- poetry can be useful. :-)

  • dublinbay z6 (KS)
    Original Author
    9 years ago

    This may be a far stretch, friedag, but the only poetic ladder I can remember is the Robert Frost poem about apple-picking time. You might take a look at it--just in case.

    I love that Moore poem (but I'm not overly fond of much of the rest of her poetry). That first line always brings a grin to my face.

    Woodnymph--thanks for bringing that Dickinson poem to my attention. I had not really noticed it before, but it does fit the season, doesn't it. And ends with her typical theme of withdrawn happiness or loss of something valuable. Innisfree is another wonderful poem--haven't read it in years. Thanks for reminding me of it.


  • woodnymph2_gw
    9 years ago

    In his writing of the Celtic culture, Frank Delaney has praised the poetry of Dylan Thomas, who, although he wrote in English, his love of nature and musicality has a distinctive Celtic feel, as in:

    "...And as I was green and carefree; famous among the barns
    About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home.
    In the sun that is young once only,
    Time let me play and be
    Golden in the mercy of his means,
    And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
    Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold.
    And the Sabbath rang slowly
    In the pebbles of the holy streams."

    What an exquisite picture the poet paints of his beloved countryside.

  • dublinbay z6 (KS)
    Original Author
    9 years ago

    I've always loved this poem--yes, musical--lilting! And the image of the magic of youthful dreams and illusions--the golden time. I don't know if it is Celtic or not, but it is ecstatic!

    And of course the heartfelt pang when we realize he is singing "in his chains."


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