Arts/Literature

WordsDay: It’s World Poetry Day 2013

CATEGORY: WordsDayMarch 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 In my latest (as yet unpublished) book, there is an homage to my hero, William Butler Yeats – an homage that also manages to be painfully autobiographical in a way.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.

9 replies »

  1. What kind of crotchety old bastard would I be if I didn’t offer up some Baudelaire? 😉

    Annihilation

    Poor weary soul! To think how thou wouldst plunge and leap
    When the bright spur of Hope into thy flank was pressed!
    He has unsaddled thee for good. Lie down and rest,
    Old spavined horse, old nag not worthy of thy keep.

    Thou, too, my heart, lie down and sleep thy bestial sleep.

    And thou, my mind, old highwayman, thou who didst fling
    Thyself from ambush upon every joy, go thou
    And skulk in peace. No pleasure will come near thee now;
    No joy can tempt so somber and uncouth a thing.

    Gone, gone: even that infallible sweet thrill of spring!

    Time blots me out, as flakes on freezing bodies fall;
    I see the whole round world, with every animal,
    And every flower, and every leaf on every branch,
    And there is absolutely nothing I like at all.

    Come down and carry me away, O avalanche.

    — George Dillon (trans.), Flowers of Evil (NY: Harper and Brothers, 1936)

  2. Here’s one I wrote back in February:

    Chelyabinsk

    Is it a miracle if hundreds of morning commuters instantly upload video of the fireball, the brimstone rain, the shock wave punching out an avenue of windows, pilgrims, clutched in Rasputin’s skeletal wingspan, performing self-surveillance to stave off the rampant extortion, sent into the world bearing the digital shards of an archangel’s warning shot across Satan’s bow?

  3. Late to the party, but here’s a fave of mine:

    Stéphane Mallarmé
    Apparition
    The moon was grieving. Seraphim in tears,
    Musing in the calm of vaporous flowers,
    Were drawing, bow in hand, from sad violas
    Sobbing glissandos over blue corollas.
    – It was the blessèd day of your first kiss.
    My reverie, enraptured by the abyss,
    Imbibed its wisdom from the sad perfume
    Which even the dreams we gather in full bloom
    Distill within the heart that gathers them.
    My eyes on the worn stones, I wandered then,
    When suddenly you happened to appear,
    Laughing, with evening sunlight in your hair;
    And I thought I saw the fairy with the cap
    Of light, who passed before my infant sleep,
    Opening her hands to scatter through the years
    Snowy bouquets of richly scented stars.

  4. I first read “we tire of the flame of the meteor” as “we tire of the flame of the metaphor.”

    But that will never happen.