Monday, April 30, 2012

On Poetry: and its awesomeness

Lets start off by being completely honest: most people don't like poetry. (I'm pretty positive my fellow bloggers are in that majority.) And most of you lovely readers probably are too, but you know what- that's okay. Because I'm going to do my best to convince you that it's one of those things you have to keep giving a go until you find what's right for you. Until a few years ago, I would've been standing right there next to the rest of you, shaking my head, and saying that there's no way I'd ever in a million years like the stuff. (Except for one Miss Emily Dickinson who has captivated me since middle school.) But somehow, I've randomly picked up poets here and there that speak to my swoon-induced tendencies the same way a good piece of score or a perfect period piece does. With that said, I give you a few of my favorite poets (along with some examples of why they're so spine-tinglingly brilliant)...
First up is Robert Burns (1759-1796), who gets bonus points just for being Scottish. In fact, I think that's why I like him so much. He writes a lot about his love for the Highlands, and about love in general, and if there's one thing I'm a sucker for it's when he combines both and then I start daydreaming about a handsome man in a kilt coming and whisking me away... There's just something about a man with a rumbly burr to his voice and I'm getting off track, so why don't I just let you read a bit of one of my favorite Burns poems (and perhaps one of his most popular, as it has been sung by numerous musical artists).
O, my love is like a red, red rose, That's newly sprung in June. O, my love is like the melody, That's sweetly play'd in tune. 
As fair art thou, my bonnie lass, So deep in love am I, And I will love thee still, my dear, Till a' the seas gang dry.
Tell me that doesn't give you ALLTHEFEELINGS. I want to be someone's bonnie lass... It's just so... ROMANTIC. I give you an A++, Mr. Burns for the inclusion of ALLCAPSFEELINGS. In other words, this ranks at a solid 8 on the petticoat-melting scale.
I'm almost afraid to go on to this next one, because John Keats (1795-1821) pretty much is the king of ALLCAPSFEELINGS and if I'm sitting here listening to the Bright Star score while I write this and maybe dying sobbing emotionally over his incredible love for Fanny Brawne, well, can you blame a girl? Keats had a short life, and he really wasn't appreciated during the time he was alive (clearly his contemporaries were idiots). We can all give a small sigh of relief, though, because today he's one of the most celebrated English poets. Why, you ask? This is why:

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art--
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors--
No--yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever--or else swoon to death. 
Are you heart-clutching yet? I fear this particular poem turns me into Sally when she attempts to live-blog historical mini-series including both Prince Eddie, bromances, and France. It makes me want to run out into the street and start asking people if they've read Bright Star, and if they haven't then WHYEVERNOT? JOHN KEATS, my love for you is true, and if I were still in middle school, I would have your name scrawled all over my notebooks, encircled with little hearts, and perhaps a few 4evs thrown in for good measure- this is the depth of my love. 
Lets move on to one Miss Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), whom, as Anne Shirley would say, I consider one of my dearest bosom friends. She and I have been through a lot together, and I can feel the emotion she put into each line poetry as easily as I can read the words transcribed on a page. The best thing about her writing is that it is accessible, and even though she was born in a different time than you and I, she lived and loved and experienced so deeply, and then she wrote about it so we could share her grief and happiness. And I basically just want to invite her over for a cup of tea and some cookies:
"Hope" is the thing with feathers--That perches in the soul--And sings the tune without the words--And never stops-- at all--
And sweetest-- in the Gale-- is heard--And sore must be the storm--That could abash the little Bird--That kept so many warm--
I've heard it in the chillest land--And on the strangest Sea--Yet, never, in Extremity, It asked a crumb-- of Me.
Ranier Maria Rilke (1875-1926) caught me by surprise. But perhaps he shouldn't have, given my love for the German language (his native) and the amazing beyond description way he combines words and makes your heart hurt a little because they're just so SO.... See, I can't even begin to think of a way to express my love. So I'll let you read why, first in the original, and then the translated:
Ich bin, du Ängstlicher. Hörst du mich nicht
mit allen meinen Sinnen an dir branden?
Meine Gefühle, welche Flügel fanden,
umkreisen weiß dein Angesicht.
Siehst du nicht meine Seele, wie sie dicht
vor dir in einem Kleid aus Stille steht?
Reift nicht mein mailiches Gebet
an deinem Blicke wie an einem Baum?
Wenn du der Träumer bist, bin ich dein Traum.
Doch wenn du wachen willst, bin ich dein Wille
und werde mächtig aller Herrlichkeit
und ründe mich wie eine Sternenstille
über der wunderlichen Stadt der Zeit.
I am, O Anxious One. Don't you hear my voice
surging forth will all my earthly feelings?
They yearn do high that they have sprouted wings
and whitely fly in circles around your face.
My soul, dressed in silence, rises up
and stands alone before you: can't you see?
Don't you know that my prayer is growing ripe
upon your vision, as upon a tree?
If you are the dreamer, I am what you dream.
But when you want to wake, I am your wish,
and I grow strong with all magnificence
and turn myself into a star's vast silence
above the strange and distant city, Time. 
 And as a bonus, because I love this so much and want to put it in my pocket and carry it with me everywhere:
Ich möchte aus meinem Herzen hinaus
unter den großen Himmel treten.
I would like to step out of my heart
and go walking beneath the enormous sky.
See why I have no words? Rilke knew how to capture the words needed to make brilliant poetry. I salute you, sir!
Now we end, dear readers, with the Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas (1914-1953). His writing is probably least like all the others I've listed here, but lovely and life-changing in its own way. No talk of love or other swoon-worthy emotions here, but his reality-- life and death and growing up, is so relatable.
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightening they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sand the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night. 
I hope y'all will consider giving the poetry thing a go, obviously the people I've profiled here are only an incredibly small selection of poets, and the ones who give me the most FEELINGS. So, you should go to the library, or even the bookstore and just browse, you never know what might make your heart beat a little faster or cause you petticoats to melt into a puddle of ALLCAPSFEELINGS. 


  1. Admittedly, my appreciation for poetry has never gone further than Shakespeare's Sonnet 116 (and haikus about Jon Snow and Robb Stark... *cough*). But I DO cry my eyes out whenever I watch Bright Star, so... maybe I'll start with Keats! "I almost wish we were butterflies" ... *CREYES*

    1. I LOVE Shakespeare's sonnets! But I figured I'd try to be a little outside of the box, so to speak, with this post. I also like haikus about Jon and Robb, you should write some!

      Ugh... BRIGHT STAR. It slays me. Every time. You should start with his letters to Fanny and then read his poems!

  2. i love rilke too :) my fav is der panther, especially the last verse, seufz...

    1. Rilke just does funny things to my heart. I do like der panther, but Lament is probably my favorite.

  3. No Byron?
    I'm not as developed a fan of poetry as you are, but I still like reading the occasional poem. There are some that go way over my head, and then there are others that don't - should probably get into the habit of consistently reading more poetry.