Monthly Archives: March 2012

March 26, 2012 Waking from Drunkenness on a Spring Day

Dear readers,
By seasonally-apt member demand, we begin our section on poetry with a springtime theme. I thought we’d start from the beginning and move forward, though perhaps not directly (I immediately found a poem from an old Chinese poet, but am not forgetting that the ancient Romans, with their Georgics, probably have a lot of spring poems as well). Nonetheless given the way I lifted my head at 10:53 a.m. Sunday, this selection by Li Po is seasonally and personally timely.
Li Po (c. 701-762) was the most famous of the Tang dynasty poets, and he was born into a family of exiles. His birthplace was somewhere in what is today Afghanistan, and when he was about 5 his father moved the family to what is now Chengdu in Sichuan provice, where I really, really hope they had the chance to try a dish called cumin lamb. OH MY GOD–topic for a different day. He was a peripatetic poet and knight-errant, traveling from Sichuan to Taiyuan and Shanghai, eventually settling for 10 years in Shandong. He had many political affiliations and court duties, and at one point was imprisoned and sentenced to death. When a friend intervened on his behalf, the sentence was changed to exile in Yunan. Legend states that Li Po drowned when he toppled from his boat trying to embrace the moon’s reflection, but given the subject and mood of today’s selection, maybe he was trying to do something else. -ed.
WAKING FROM DRUNKENNESS ON A SPRING DAY
“Life in the World is but a big dream;
I will not spoil it by any labour or care.”
So saying, I was drunk all the day,
Lying helpless at the porch in front of my door.
When I woke up, I blinked at the garden-lawn;
A lonely bird was singing amid the flowers.
I asked myself, had the day been wet or fine?
The Spring wind was telling the mango-bird.
Moved by its song I soon began to sigh,
And as wine was there I filled my own cup.
Wildly singing I waited for the moon to rise;
When my song was over, all my senses had gone.
(Trans. Arthur Waley 1919)
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St. Patrick’s Day smart aleck, 2012 The Beatles

Dear readers,

please follow the chain-of-connections here as we close out our curricular section on poetic smart-alecks with shout-outs to 2 long-time Monday’s Verse favorites. First a tip of the keyboard to founding member Sara Cohan, for being quoted in a news story last week claiming that–I swear I am not making this up–she and her organization “look forward to continuing to work with all the Kardashians in ending the cycle of genocide worldwide.” Yes, those Kardashians. For more see:

A more smart-alecky comment has never been made, and she said it with a straight face (Sara claims the soundbite was ghost-written, but if so it was the ghost of Oscar Wilde).
Hey speaking of funny Irish guys, Saturday was St. Patrick’s Day and I feel like I sold Mr. Paul Muldoon somewhat short with his 2-line contribution to our smart-aleck reading list. So here’s a slightly more filled-out piece by him, from his 1998 collection Hay. He’s been more smart-alecky in tone elsewhere; here he’s reserving a mischievous grin for the stuttering forced rhyme (it’s from a series of short poems called “Sleeve Notes”) and the too-clever, show-offy latin play on words. But before you read the poem, if you have time, please see the video below, which could be the most smart-assed literary effort of all time. Classic Muldoon:
All in all, it’s a rather overwhelming expanse of wiseacreage for one day, and thus a fitting conclusion to a good run. We are now open to suggestions for our next reading theme. -ed.

THE BEATLES: The Beatles

 

Though that was the winter when late each night
I’d put away Cicero or Caesar
and pour new milk into an old saucer
for the hedgehog which, when it showed up right

on cue, would set its nose down like that flight
back from the U.S. … back from the, yes sir, …
back from the … back from the U.S.S.R. …
I’d never noticed the play on “album” and “white.”

March 12, 2012 Symptom Recital

The following nominations for smart aleck of the week were entered by vigilant readers. In no sensible order, they were:
1. Theresa Sullivan
2. Patrick Donahue
3. Yours truly
4. Breen O Conchubhair
5. Dorothy Parker
After extensive research into our respective oeuvres, I’ve decided to go with Dorothy Parker. Nominations are still being accepted, wisenheimers. -ed.
Symptom Recital
I do not like my state of mind;
I’m bitter, querulous, unkind.
I hate my legs, I hate my hands,
I do not yearn for lovelier lands.
I dread the dawn’s recurrent light;
I hate to go to bed at night.
I snoot at simple, earnest folk.
I cannot take the gentlest joke.
I find no peace in paint or type.
My world is but a lot of tripe.
I’m disillusioned, empty-breasted.
For what I think, I’d be arrested.
I am not sick, I am not well.
My quondam dreams are shot to hell.
My soul is crushed, my spirit sore;
I do not like me any more.
I cavil, quarrel, grumble, grouse.
I ponder on the narrow house.
I shudder at the thought of men….
I’m due to fall in love again.

March 5, 2012 At a Factory in Italy

Dear membranes,
I’m running out of smartasses, so if you have suggestions send them to me. Frederick Seidel (b. 1936) is more sardonic than smartass, but I think he qualifies for our purposes. This poem says so. It’s serious, but it’s devastatingly funny. I think so, anyway! He has a line in here that “poetry has power.” For proof of that statement we need look no further than the line above, which reads in its entirety: “A descendant of Samuel Taylor Coleridge speaks Italian to the rhinoceros.” Tha’ts my favorite line I’ve read in a while. It’s so ridiculous! But it reveals poetry’s power insofar as, somehow, in the context he’s created, it makes perfect sense. He’s made us accept something we should, really, never accept. He’s fooled us. What a smartass. -ed.
AT A FACTORY IN ITALY
The Man of La Mamma is a tenor as brave as a lion.
Everything is also its towering opposite.
Butch heterosexuals in Italy spend lavishly on fragrances.
The in thing was to shave your head, the skinhead look.
Guys spend more on beauty products here
Than in any other country in the world.
Everyone is also a boss.
The English executive assistant to the Italian CEO stays blondly exuberant
When sales to America plummet, when the dollar is weak.
Her name is Alice Coleridge. Her phone rings nonstop. Pronto, sono Aleecheh!
The world at the other end of the phone is a charging rhinoceros.
A descendant of Samuel Taylor Coleridge speaks Italian to the rhinoceros.
Poetry has power, as against the men and women actually making things
On the assembly line on the ground floor.
Someone had the brilliant idea of using
Factory workers in the ads,
And using a fashion photogrpaher to add elegance and surprise.
They found an incredible face on the ground floor
With a nose to die for, and paid her to straddle
A motorcycle her assembly line had made and pose in profile.
So what did the Italian nose do? She ran with the money to get a nose job.
-2009