Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A life in poetry / Paul Muldoon

Paul Muldoon: a life in poetry

I'm interested in what can be done with words, but I like to jazz things up a bit
    • The Guardian, 

Paul Muldoon
The poet Paul Muldoon … 'I'm horrified at how many lyrics I can still remember from songs from the 50s.' Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian
Collecting lyrics from the more literary end of pop songwriting into a book is nothing new. In recent years Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Jarvis Cocker, Ian Dury and Paul Simon are just some of those whose words have been stripped of the music and presented essentially as poetry, taking their chances with exposure to the unforgiving white page. Their efforts are joined this month by another book of lyrics, The Word on the Street, by Paul Muldoon. As a Pulitzer prize winning poet, former Oxford professor of poetry and current New Yorker poetry editor, Muldoon is no stranger to the challenges of making words stand alone on the page. But for all his successes, he is also aware of the pitfalls.
"You never really know how people are going to respond to something like this," he says. "The tradition of reading lyrics on a page is a little bit iffy. Some of us of a certain age will remember lyrics on album sleeves, which is now not such a feature as it used to be. But in a sense they educated us in how to read them. One took them somewhat seriously, but maybe not completely seriously. I'm a bit conflicted myself." He says there have already been a couple of American reviews saying the book is "not quite up to par. You can see how people might be slightly disconcerted – these things are not quite poems, and yet they are sort of like poems."
Whatever people's responses to the project, no one can say it comes as a surprise. Muldoon has had an obsessive interest in pop and rock music throughout his life, has played in bands, written libretti for opera and collaborated with musicians. In 2006 he published a collection of lyrics, General Admission (Gallery Press), that included "My Ride's Here", a song co-written with his late friend, the musician Warren Zevon, that was later covered by Bruce Springsteen. Last year he published Songs and Sonnets (Enitharmon), in which he explicitly explored the relationship between verse and song, and now The Word on the Street. These lyrics have been written for Muldoon's band, the Wayside Shrines, based in Princeton where he teaches, and the songs are available on the band's website.
"Songs and poems have always existed together for me," he explains. "At school we studied English poetry, French and Latin poetry, as well as Irish, that is Gaelic, poetry, which we were often taught as songs. Yeats wrote a fantastic number of poems with the word song in the title, and used, as I myself have been using, the refrain. I've written quite a few poems in the last few years that have been refrain driven, and so this book is not so strange a development."
Muldoon was born in 1951 in rural County Armagh in Northern Ireland, and recalls a childhood in which there was still a tradition of "the knock on the door and a neighbour dropping by to sit by the fire and maybe being persuaded to give you a bar or two of a song or recite a poem. Recitation was a big thing and a living tradition. People had been forced to learn poems at school, and so had by heart bits of Shakespeare and Byron and Wordsworth that they would call on quite normally and naturally. These guys were farmers for the most part, but they could also recite a bit of a Robert Service poem about life in the Yukon or the Klondike, popular stuff that lived in a sort of netherworld between poetry and song."
As a teenager Eliot was Muldoon's first poetic catalyst, "but that was also, in a way, tied up with song," he says. "One of things people forget about Eliot is that the amount of popular music in The Waste Land is phenomenal. He clearly knew an awful lot about music hall and had a great ear. I'm sure that is one of the reasons he is so memorable. A lot of the stuff is quite dense, but we remember it because he had a good ear for a catchy line, something you must also have in the song business."
Muldoon eventually abandoned "Eliotic parodies" after encountering Seamus Heaney's early work and coming to the realisation that he could write about the world around him. And so he emerged as the great prodigy of Irish poetry who, as a teenager, sent some poems to Heaney asking what was wrong with them. Heaney, so the legend has it, replied in one word: "Nothing". Muldoon has said that even he is sketchy as to the details of the story, but acknowledges its essential truthfulness in that Heaney, who taught him at Queen's University, Belfast, was indeed a huge supporter and recommended him to fellow Ulsterman and Faber poetry editor Charles Monteith, resulting in Muldoon's first book, New Weather, being published when he was still a student in 1973.
After graduating Muldoon worked as a BBC radio and television producer in Belfast before teaching at Cambridge and the University of East Anglia. His 1977 collection, Mules, signalled his first explicit engagement with the Northern Irish Troubles, it was followed by Why Brownlee Left(1980) and Quoof (1983). In 1987 he left to teach in America, where he published The Annals of Chile (1994), featuring the acclaimed elegy for a former lover, "Incantata". His 2002 collection, Moy Sand and Gravel,won the Pulitzer prize. As an academic, Muldoon was Professor of Poetry at Oxford between 1999 and 2004, but his home remains in America, where he is married and has two children aged 13 and 20. Since 1990 he has taught at Princeton, from where The Word on the Street references the details of New Jersey life and lore.
So is he writing out of the great tradition of blue-collar music from the garden state? "I like New Jersey and love the tradition of it in song. Obviously Bruce Springsteen is a huge part of that. Maybe it's a small joke that we're a Jersey band, but it's a large collective really, and while there are three or four Princetonians, many of us are not." Muldoon plays guitar in the Wayside Shrines but says "I have a few chords, and that's about it. I had piano lessons as a child but very little of it stuck. Yet I loved the music I heard on the radio and am horrified at how many lyrics I can still remember from songs from the 50s. So I find myself simultaneously, and paradoxically, steeped in music, yet I know almost nothing about it."
As a big fan of Irish traditional music, his first instrument was actually a banjo. He speaks admiringly of Luke Kelly of the Dubliners and his version of the Patrick Kavanagh poem "On Raglan Road". "It's one of Kavanagh's best-known pieces, and I was always interested in the fact that he could pull that off in addition to all the other things he could do. Folk and rock lived alongside each other for me, so I also tried to play T Rex songs on the banjo, but that didn't really work."
On the classic divide between 60s music fans, Muldoon came down on the side of the Stones, "but I still go to see Paul McCartney every chance I get and he is still a phenomenal performer. Just before last Christmas, in a 10-day period, I saw the Stones, the Who, Dylan and Neil Young. They would all be getting their discounts from the grocery store and they were all fabulous. It is hilarious to see how well so many of these guys have weathered. But I'm also a fan of songwriters of earlier eras. Not just the Tin Pan Alley gang, but Cole Porter, Noël Coward, even Gilbert and Sullivan. They were very good at what they did. I'm just as interested in Gilbert and Sullivan as I am in Wagner. Maybe more so."
He says one of the practical reasons he began writing lyrics was that "it might be a way to avoid writing a poem every time some bright idea flew into my head, because most of the time what seem to be bright ideas are not that bright at all. And at the risk of sounding hierarchical, I think there are things you can get away with in a song. The pressure per square inch is a little lower, and, frankly, it has the capacity to deal in what might be truism or cliché."
His favourite title from The Word on the Street is "I Don't Love You Anymore". "I think all songs should be called 'I Don't Love You Anymore'. It allows you to then just get on with it. There's even one called 'Days of Yore'. I mean, you just could not call a poem that, let alone, on a good day, maybe even get away with it." The poem name-checks another notably inventive writer, Ian Dury: "We also discuss how a kid with polio / And a half-decent portfolio / Could get into the Royal College of Art / In those far off days of yore." "I've just read a book of his lyrics edited by his daughter. The best of them stand up extremely well on the page. He was a great writer – a genius really."
The lyrics are full of Muldoon's trademark wit, virtuosic verbal dexterity and tricksiness. "Like most writers, though I know some people might doubt this is true of me, I'm as interested in clarity and simplicity as the next person. I'm not setting out to be what people sometimes think I am. I am setting out to be clear, and songs can be more direct and immediate."
The subject matter ranges from spoilers for Hollywood films to American foreign policy, the state of the economy as well as personal relations. "It's not that poetry can't say things. Of course it can. And it's not that I haven't written poems about American politics, not to mention poems about Irish politics. But there is something about the way music can deliver you to an emotional place. The combination of music and words is a very powerful force in our lives. It's not that I'm going over to that form of writing forever. I'm still very interested in what may be done with words alone, but I like to jazz things up a bit, almost literally sometimes."
His next music project is a collaboration with the composer Mark-Anthony Turnage and the London Symphony Orchestra, to be performed during the Derry-Londonderry City of Culture festival this summer, commemorating the 400th anniversary of the building of the city walls. He says he also has a lot more song lyrics, "probably another book's worth, but whether I'll publish them I don't know. I certainly don't think I'll publish it next." Instead he is currently "attempting to write a few poems" that he suspects will reflect his lyric writing "for better or worse. When I first wrote librettos, that influenced the way I wrote poems. Songwriters have very particular skills. The great ones are great storytellers, and I'm interested in what I might learn from this and be able to bring back into the poetry business. So it has been fun for me and one hopes that it will be fun for other people too. I think I'll be back to poetry next, but I can't help thinking that I might just continue to do both."



Monday, October 27, 2014

Paul Muldoon / Poems on war

by ERNEST DESCALS

Poems on war: Paul Muldoon is inspired by Rupert Brooke

Muldoon writes new poem "Dromedaries and Dung Beetles" in response to Brooke's "The Soldier"
The Guardin, Saturday 26 October 2013
  • Paul Muldoon
Paul Muldoon. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod for the Guardian
I'm a huge fan of Rupert Brooke, one of the first poets I read. In fact, the only poet whose work was in my childhood home. I thought it might be interesting to rejig Brooke's idea of the corner of a foreign field and make it "forever Ireland" rather than "England". I also recently visited the battlefields of Gallipoli, not far from where Brooke died, as well as Morocco. I traced what must have been a distant relative who died in the second world war somewhere in north Africa. All of these ideas came together in the poem "Dromedaries and Dung Beetles".

"Dromedaries and Dung Beetles" by Paul Muldoon

An eye-level fleck of straw in the mud wall
is almost as good as gold . . .
I've ventured into this piss-poor urinal
partly to escape the wail
of thirty milch camels with their colts
as they're readied for our trek
across the dunes, partly because I've guzzled
three glasses of the diuretic
gunpowder tea the Tuareg
hold in such esteem. Their mostly business casual
attire accented by a flamboyant
blue or red nylon grab-rope
round their lower jaws, dromedaries point
to a 9 to 5 life of knees bent
in the service of fetching carboys
and carpetbags from A to B across the scarps.
Think Boyne coracles
bucking from wave to wave. Think scarab
beetles rolling their scrips
of dung to a gabfest. These dromedary-gargoyles
are at once menacing and meek
as, railing against their drivers' kicks and clicks,
they fix their beautiful-ugly mugs
on their own Meccas.
The desert sky was so clear last night the galaxies
could be seen to pulse …
The dromedaries were having a right old chinwag,
each musing on its bolus.
Every so often one would dispense some pills
that turned out to be generic
sheep or goat. The dung beetles set great store
not by the bitter cud
nor the often implausible Histories
of Herodotus but the stars
they use to guide
themselves over the same sand dunes
as these thirty milch camels
and their colts. They, too, make a continuous
line through Algeria and Tunisia.
Dung beetles have been known to positively gambol
on the outskirts of Zagora, a boom
town where water finds it hard not to gush
over the date-palms.
Despite the clouds of pumice
above Marrakesh even I might find my way to Kesh,
in the ancient Barony of Lurg,
thanks to Cassiopeia
and her self-regard. Think of how there lurks
in almost all of us a weakness for the allegorical.
Think of a Moroccan swallow's last gasp
near the wattle-and-daub oppidum
where one of my kinsmen clips
the manes of a groaning chariot-team . . .
Think of Private Henry Muldoon putting his stamp
on the mud of Gallipoli
on August 8 1915. It appears
he worked as a miner at Higham Colliery
before serving in the Lancasters and the 8th Welsh Pioneers.
His somewhat pronounced ears
confirm his place in the family gallery.
'It's only a blink,' my father used to say . . . 'Only a blink.'
I myself seem to have developed the gumption
to stride manfully out of a Neo-Napoleonic
latrine and play my part in the march on Casablanca
during the North African campaign.

"The Soldier" by Rupert Brooke

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.




Sunday, October 26, 2014

Paul Muldoon / Love Poem with Pig

Pink pig
by Marcia Baldwin

Love Poem with Pig

by Paul Muldoon
When the people of Smartno threw their very last pig to the Turks
who had for months beset their hilltop town
they were gratified to look down
next morning and find the siege works
abandoned. Only stout defenders, the Turks concluded, would conjoin
blasphemy with beneficence. The way you poke a fork
at a slab of pork
shoulder or pork loin
on which you've yet to put your stamp
suggests you might succumb if my steadfastness were itself to fail.
Before you undermine
my confidence so I suddenly decamp
and go looking for some other hilltop town to assail
maybe you'll toss me a little something? Maybe you'll give me a sign?


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Kenneth Rexroth / Travelers in Erewhon



Travelers in Erewhon

by Kenneth Rexroth

BIOGRAPHY

You open your
Dress on the dusty
Bed where no one
Has slept for years
An owl moans on the roof
You say
My dear my
Dear
In the smoky light of the old
Oil lamp your shoulders
Belly breasts buttocks
Are all like peach blossoms
Huge stars far away far apart
Outside the cracked window pane
Immense immortal animals
Each one only an eye
Watch
You open your body
No end to the night
No end to the forest
House abandoned for a lifetime
In the forest in the night
No one will ever come
To the house
Alone
In the black world
In the country of eyes

From The Collected Shorter Poems of Kenneth Rexroth



Friday, October 24, 2014

Federico García Lorca / The Gypsy and the Wind


The Gypsy and the Wind
by Federico García Lorca

Playing her parchment moon
Precosia comes
along a watery path of laurels and crystal lights.
The starless silence, fleeing
from her rhythmic tambourine,
falls where the sea whips and sings,
his night filled with silvery swarms.
High atop the mountain peaks
the sentinels are weeping;
they guard the tall white towers
of the English consulate.
And gypsies of the water
for their pleasure erect
little castles of conch shells
and arbors of greening pine.

Playing her parchment moon
Precosia comes.
The wind sees her and rises,
the wind that never slumbers.
Naked Saint Christopher swells,
watching the girl as he plays
with tongues of celestial bells
on an invisible bagpipe.

Gypsy, let me lift your skirt
and have a look at you.
Open in my ancient fingers
the blue rose of your womb.

Precosia throws the tambourine
and runs away in terror.
But the virile wind pursues her
with his breathing and burning sword.

The sea darkens and roars,
while the olive trees turn pale.
The flutes of darkness sound,
and a muted gong of the snow.

Precosia, run, Precosia!
Or the green wind will catch you!
Precosia, run, Precosia!
And look how fast he comes!
A satyr of low-born stars
with their long and glistening tongues.

Precosia, filled with fear,
now makes her way to that house
beyond the tall green pines
where the English consul lives.

Alarmed by the anguished cries,
three riflemen come running,
their black capes tightly drawn,
and berets down over their brow.

The Englishman gives the gypsy
a glass of tepid milk
and a shot of Holland gin
which Precosia does not drink.

And while she tells them, weeping,
of her strange adventure,
the wind furiously gnashes
against the slate roof tiles.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Federico García Lorca / Sonnet of the Sweet Complaint





Sonnet of the Sweet Complaint

by Federico García Lorca

Never let me lose the marvel
of your statue-like eyes, or the accent
the solitary rose of your breath
places on my cheek at night.

I am afraid of being, on this shore,
a branchless trunk, and what I most regret
is having no flower, pulp, or clay
for the worm of my despair.

If you are my hidden treasure,
if you are my cross, my dampened pain,
if I am a dog, and you alone my master,

never let me lose what I have gained,
and adorn the branches of your river
with leaves of my estranged Autumn.




Sunday, October 19, 2014

Federico García Lorca / Song of the Horseman II

Black horse by LadyAway

Song of the Horseman II
by Federico García Lorca

In the black moon
Home to the horseback bandits
Spurs ring a song:

"Woah black pony!
Whither with your dead rider are you going?"

These are the strong
Spurs of a stirless bandit
Whose reins are down:

"Woah cold pony
What a fragrance in the dagger's flower"

In the black moon
The side of Sierra Morena
Bled from a wound.

"Woah black pony!
Whither with your dead rider are you going?"

The night spurs
Its black flanks, spangling
Itself with stars:

"Woah cold pony!
What a fragrance in the dagger's flower"

In the black moon
A cry! And then the long
Deep bonfire horn.

"Woah black pony!
Whither with your dead rider are you going?"


Note:

Sierra Morena- A mountain range in southern Spain. Its mention in this poem may be a reference to Don Quixote, in which Sancho Panza suggests taking refuge in Sierra Morena from the Holy Brotherhood after liberating a group of slaves.





Monday, October 13, 2014

Federico García Lorca / Song of the horseman


Federico García Lorca
SONG OF THE HORSEMAN



Córdoba
Away and alone

Pitchblack pony, risen moon.
A sack of olives at my saddle.
Though I know the roads I travel
I shall never get to Córdoba.

Through the meadow, through the wind,
Pitchblack pony, crimson moon.
I am in the sights of Doom
That watches from the towers of Córdoba.

Oh the road lies long before me!
Oh for my courageous pony!
Oh for Doom out waiting for me
Long before I get to Córdoba.

Córdoba
Away and alone



Friday, October 10, 2014

Federico García Lorca / Lament for Ignacio Sánchez Mejías



Lament for Ignacio Sánchez Mejías
by Federico García Lorca

1. Cogida and death

At five in the afternoon.
It was exactly five in the afternoon.
A boy brought the white sheet
at five in the afternoon.
A frail of lime ready prepared
at five in the afternoon.
The rest was death, and death alone.

The wind carried away the cottonwool
at five in the afternoon.
And the oxide scattered crystal and nickel
at five in the afternoon.
Now the dove and the leopard wrestle
at five in the afternoon.
And a thigh with a desolated horn
at five in the afternoon.
The bass-string struck up
at five in the afternoon.
Arsenic bells and smoke
at five in the afternoon.
Groups of silence in the corners
at five in the afternoon.
And the bull alone with a high heart!
At five in the afternoon.
When the sweat of snow was coming
at five in the afternoon,
when the bull ring was covered with iodine
at five in the afternoon.
Death laid eggs in the wound
at five in the afternoon.
At five in the afternoon.
At five o'clock in the afternoon.

A coffin on wheels is his bed
at five in the afternoon.
Bones and flutes resound in his ears
at five in the afternoon.
Now the bull was bellowing through his forehead
at five in the afternoon.
The room was iridiscent with agony
at five in the afternoon.
In the distance the gangrene now comes
at five in the afternoon.
Horn of the lily through green groins
at five in the afternoon.
The wounds were burning like suns
at five in the afternoon.
At five in the afternoon.
Ah, that fatal five in the afternoon!
It was five by all the clocks!
It was five in the shade of the afternoon!



2. The Spilled Blood

I will not see it!

Tell the moon to come,
for I do not want to see the blood
of Ignacio on the sand.

I will not see it!

The moon wide open.
Horse of still clouds,
and the grey bull ring of dreams
with willows in the barreras.

I will not see it!

Let my memory kindle!
Warm the jasmines
of such minute whiteness!

I will not see it!

The cow of the ancient world
passed har sad tongue
over a snout of blood
spilled on the sand,
and the bulls of Guisando,
partly death and partly stone,
bellowed like two centuries
sated with threading the earth.
No.
I will not see it!

Ignacio goes up the tiers
with all his death on his shoulders.
He sought for the dawn
but the dawn was no more.
He seeks for his confident profile
and the dream bewilders him
He sought for his beautiful body
and encountered his opened blood
Do not ask me to see it!
I do not want to hear it spurt
each time with less strength:
that spurt that illuminates
the tiers of seats, and spills
over the cordury and the leather
of a thirsty multiude.
Who shouts that I should come near!
Do not ask me to see it!

His eyes did not close
when he saw the horns near,
but the terrible mothers
lifted their heads.
And across the ranches,
an air of secret voices rose,
shouting to celestial bulls,
herdsmen of pale mist.
There was no prince in Sevilla
who could compare to him,
nor sword like his sword
nor heart so true.
Like a river of lions
was his marvellous strength,
and like a marble toroso
his firm drawn moderation.
The air of Andalusian Rome
gilded his head
where his smile was a spikenard
of wit and intelligence.
What a great torero in the ring!
What a good peasant in the sierra!
How gentle with the sheaves!
How hard with the spurs!
How tender with the dew!
How dazzling the fiesta!
How tremendous with the final
banderillas of darkness!

But now he sleeps without end.
Now the moss and the grass
open with sure fingers
the flower of his skull.
And now his blood comes out singing;
singing along marshes and meadows,
sliden on frozen horns,
faltering soulles in the mist
stoumbling over a thousand hoofs
like a long, dark, sad tongue,
to form a pool of agony
close to the starry Guadalquivir.
Oh, white wall of Spain!
Oh, black bull of sorrow!
Oh, hard blood of Ignacio!
Oh, nightingale of his veins!
No.
I will not see it!
No chalice can contain it,
no swallows can drink it,
no frost of light can cool it,
nor song nor deluge og white lilies,
no glass can cover mit with silver.
No.
I will not see it!



3. The Laid Out Body


Stone is a forehead where dreames grieve
without curving waters and frozen cypresses.
Stone is a shoulder on which to bear Time
with trees formed of tears and ribbons and planets.

I have seen grey showers move towards the waves
raising their tender riddle arms,
to avoid being caught by lying stone
which loosens their limbs without soaking their blood.

For stone gathers seed and clouds,
skeleton larks and wolves of penumbra:
but yields not sounds nor crystals nor fire,
only bull rings and bull rings and more bull rings without walls.

Now, Ignacio the well born lies on the stone.
All is finished. What is happening! Contemplate his face:
death has covered him with pale sulphur
and has place on him the head of dark minotaur.

All is finished. The rain penetrates his mouth.
The air, as if mad, leaves his sunken chest,
and Love, soaked through with tears of snow,
warms itself on the peak of the herd.

What is they saying? A stenching silence settles down.
We are here with a body laid out which fades away,
with a pure shape which had nightingales
and we see it being filled with depthless holes.

Who creases the shroud? What he says is not true!
Nobody sings here, nobody weeps in the corner,
nobody pricks the spurs, nor terrifies the serpent.
Here I want nothing else but the round eyes
to see his body without a chance of rest.

Here I want to see those men of hard voice.
Those that break horses and dominate rivers;
those men of sonorous skeleton who sing
with a mouth full of sun and flint.

Here I want to see them. Before the stone.
Before this body with broken reins.
I want to know from them the way out
for this captain stripped down by death.

I want them to show me a lament like a river
wich will have sweet mists and deep shores,
to take the body of Ignacio where it looses itself
without hearing the double planting of the bulls.

Loses itself in the round bull ring of the moon
which feigns in its youth a sad quiet bull,
loses itself in the night without song of fishes
and in the white thicket of frozen smoke.

I don't want to cover his face with handkerchiefs
that he may get used to the death he carries.
Go, Ignacio, feel not the hot bellowing
Sleep, fly, rest: even the sea dies!



4. Absent Soul

The bull does not know you, nor the fig tree,
nor the horses, nor the ants in your own house.
The child and the afternoon do not know you
because you have dead forever.

The shoulder of the stone does not know you
nor the black silk, where you are shuttered.
Your silent memory does not know you
because you have died forever

The autumn will come with small white snails,
misty grapes and clustered hills,
but no one will look into your eyes
because you have died forever.

Because you have died for ever,
like all the dead of the earth,
like all the dead who are forgotten
in a heap of lifeless dogs.

Nobady knows you. No. But I sing of you.
For posterity I sing of your profile and grace.
Of the signal maturity of your understanding.
Of your appetite for death and the taste of its mouth.
Of the sadness of your once valiant gaiety.

It will be a long time, if ever, before there is born
an Andalusian so true, so rich in adventure.
I sing of his elegance with words that groan,
and I remember a sad breeze through the olive trees.




Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Federico García Lorca / The Faithless Wife


The Faithless Wife
by Federico García Lorca

Federico García Lorca / A casada infiel

So I took her to the river
believing she was a maiden,
but she already had a husband.
It was on St. James night
and almost as if I was obliged to.
The lanterns went out
and the crickets lighted up.
In the farthest street corners
I touched her sleeping breasts
and they opened to me suddenly
like spikes of hyacinth.
The starch of her petticoat
sounded in my ears
like a piece of silk
rent by ten knives.
Without silver light on their foliage
the trees had grown larger
and a horizon of dogs
barked very far from the river.

Past the blackberries,
the reeds and the hawthorne
underneath her cluster of hair
I made a hollow in the earth
I took off my tie,
she too off her dress.
I, my belt with the revolver,
She, her four bodices.
Nor nard nor mother-o’-pearl
have skin so fine,
nor does glass with silver
shine with such brilliance.
Her thighs slipped away from me
like startled fish,
half full of fire,
half full of cold.
That night I ran
on the best of roads
mounted on a nacre mare
without bridle stirrups.

As a man, I won’t repeat
the things she said to me.
The light of understanding
has made me more discreet.
Smeared with sand and kisses
I took her away from the river.
The swords of the lilies
battled with the air.

I behaved like what I am,
like a proper gypsy.
I gave her a large sewing basket,
of straw-colored satin,
but I did not fall in love
for although she had a husband
she told me she was a maiden
when I took her to the river.



Sunday, October 5, 2014

Federico García Lorca / The Guitar


The Guitar

by Federico García Lorca
The weeping of the guitar
begins.
The goblets of dawn
are smashed.
The weeping of the guitar
begins.
Useless
to silence it.
Impossible 
to silence it.
It weeps monotonously
as water weeps
as the wind weeps
over snowfields.
Impossible
to silence it.
It weeps for distant 
things.
Hot southern sands
yearning for white camellias.
Weeps arrow without target
evening without morning
and the first dead bird
on the branch.
Oh, guitar!
Heart mortally wounded
by five swords.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Peter Cole / Why Does the World Out There Seem


Why Does the World Out There Seem
by Peter Cole


                                I.
Why does the natural feel unnatural?
Why does the world out there seem
so utterly foreign to these poems?
It isn’t strange, and hardly hostile,
to the heart and eye behind their lines:
dirt exploding into spring,
leaves climbing the pipe to the screen,
the morning glory’s funnel of blue,
the sap of it all coursing through
every fiber of all those veins.
Why does the natural feel so strained
when set beside the abstract figures
of speech’s discourse linking us?
Poems, as Williams wrote, are machines.


                                II.
But maybe the natural’s not what I mean,
so much as experience of the natural
merged with that which men have made.
No, not that. It’s registration
of things one feels have already been
established as facts by eyes and mind.
Once is plenty. And that’s the sacred.
Why the need to return to the scene
of each epiphany? Why the craving
for that halo? A kind of greed?
Natural lines on a piece of paper
are revelation enough for now,
as are speaking and listening to
you and what these words might say.


                                III.
Extending beyond information, but also
observation of that natural
world that observation reveals
as a miracle. Or not beyond—
beside. Maybe even beneath.
Or breached. That’s the thread leading
back and possibly out or through:
to what or whom? Him? You?
I’m here, almost against my will,
having been led, as though by the nose,
by language. And in this abstract picture
I’m asking you to bear with me.
Reader. Readers. Reading. We
are in this instant’s chain together.


                                IV.
A chain partaking of enchantment,
mystics have written, implying song,
and maybe the poem. Or just a spell.
Which might as easily be a hell-
ish hall of echoes or mirrored images
mixing in the hungry mind.
Or, diversion that doesn’t feed
and draws one further from, not toward,
the pool of pleasure wisdom is.
Depending on the poem’s design.
Strange how I’ve become a modern
poet of a medieval kind—
making poems for a different diversion,
as they point toward what’s divine.


                                V.
Amusement derives from the animal’s mouth
and snout, stuck there in the air,
as it stares, struck by words
it heard. In a manner of speaking
it muzzles as in what’s not fair,
or wonder. And in the illogical moment
of what it means and how it works,
while the mouth is closed, nourishment—
if it’s serious—enters through it.
And in a nutshell that’s the sentence
and solace that sweet Chaucer meant.
The poem’s gesture, changing, survives
in generations of aspiration,
leading us on . . . or into our lives.


CONJUNCTIONS:50, Spring 2008
http://www.conjunctions.com/preview.htm