March 21 is the UN’s World Poetry Day, and we here at S&R invite our readers to celebrate the event along with us. Hit the comment thread and offer up a bit of verse – something you admire, something you wrote, whatever.
I’ll go first, and I’ll do a bit of both. In my latest (as yet unpublished) book, there is an homage to my hero, William Butler Yeats – an homage that also manages to be painfully autobiographical in a way. So here is my poem, “William and Maud,” and the Yeats poem it’s riffing on, as I imagine the conversation they had there by the sea on the cliffs of Howth, as she spurned his proposal of marriage (for the first time of four). Yeats first.
THE WHITE BIRDS
WOULD that we were, my beloved, white birds on the foam of the sea!
We tire of the flame of the meteor, before it can fade and flee;
And the flame of the blue star of twilight, hung low on the rim of the sky,
Has awakened in our hearts, my beloved, a sadness that may not die.
A weariness comes from those dreamers, dew-dabbled, the lily and rose;
Ah, dream not of them, my beloved, the flame of the meteor that goes,
Or the flame of the blue star that lingers hung low in the fall of the dew:
For I would we were changed to white birds on the wandering foam: I and you!
I am haunted by numberless islands, and many a Danaan shore,
Where Time would surely forget us, and Sorrow come near us no more;
Soon far from the rose and the lily, and fret of the flames would we be,
Were we only white birds, my beloved, buoyed out on the foam of the sea!
Now my dramatization.
William and Maud
I am haunted by numberless islands... – WB Yeats Walking by the shore at dusk, air leaden with a faith in words. William looks up, says Maud, the sky is full of dragonflies. She stares beyond the sea. That's nice, Bill. But I've a kingdom to burn. Your bugs will be dead by morning. Words are a piper, he says. When we die, our ghosts will haunt the waves and young men will lift a pint to wandering beauty. We're inside-out, says Maud. I want to drown Dublin in English blood and you, so much like a woman with your poetry and your mysteries. I will summon ancient warriors to your heel. Then you will love me. Maud stares beyond the rim of the sea. Summon me powder and horses, Bill. His study quiet as dust, a candle's nub races the dark to dawn. William sits, vanquished by the sacred rose and the guns of love.
Happy Poetry Day. Your turn.
“William and Maud” originally appeared in Pemmican in June, 2011.