Monthly Archives: December 2014

Monday’s Verse 12/29/2014 for Lucia (Lucia Harvilchuck)

This week I am taking over Monday’s Verse in honor of long-time member Lucia Harvilchuck. Lucia passed away on Saturday after battling cancer for almost twenty years. I have left Lucia on the list this week. She deserves an MV sendoff to the Great Beyond.

She was my teacher, mentor, colleague and friend. Lucia was also so close to several MV members including Susie Cohan, Maria Ray Goodspeed, Lauren Richey and Jeremiah Hakundy.

The kindness she bestowed on us will never be forgotten. She used hers words to mend us when we were hurt and exalt us when we excelled. We felt like gods in her presence. She encouraged us with a fury and force that will make us smile forever.

This week’s poem is by Lucia and is one of the last ones she sent me. It seems apropos for us all–lovers of poetry.

Correspondence by Lucia Harvilchuck

Another letter to your world

To try to answer you,

That had I never read your poems,

I’m not sure what I’d do.

I know I’d never understand

That poems might be so brief

Nor that so little on a page

Could represent such grief

And also joy to lift one up

Beyond a given day’s

Rough, unrelenting waters

And turbulent, dark ways;

That poems could be a travel log,

A ticket round the world

Without a single, high-brow word

To make a forehead burled.

I never might have seen enough

To see what I could see:

Your microscopic eye as guide

Has surely rescued me

From worshipping the grandiose,

From snideness for the small,

And clarified the courtesy

Within the poet’s call.

I wonder from the Tippler’s flight

Down to the Robin’s fall,

If you had never written us,

Would I have writ at all?

Dec. 29, 2014: CORRESPONDENCE (Lucia Harvilchuck)

This week I am taking over Monday’s Verse in honor of long-time member Lucia Harvilchuck. Lucia passed away on Saturday after battling cancer for almost twenty years. I have left Lucia on the list this week. She deserves an MV sendoff to the Great Beyond. She was my teacher, mentor, colleague and friend. Lucia was also so close to several MV members including Susie Cohan, Maria Ray Goodspeed, Lauren Richey and Jeremiah Hakundy. The kindness she bestowed on us will never be forgotten. She used hers words to mend us when we were hurt and exalt us when we excelled. We felt like gods in her presence. She encouraged us with a fury and force that will make us smile forever. This week’s poem is by Lucia and is one of the last ones she sent me. It seems apropos for us all–lovers of poetry. [Sara Cohan] Correspondence by Lucia Harvilchuck Another letter to your world To try to answer you, That had I never read your poems, I’m not sure what I’d do. I know I’d never understand That poems might be so brief Nor that so little on a page Could represent such grief And also joy to lift one up Beyond a given day’s Rough, unrelenting waters And turbulent, dark ways; That poems could be a travel log, A ticket round the world Without a single, high-brow word To make a forehead burled. I never might have seen enough To see what I could see: Your microscopic eye as guide Has surely rescued me From worshipping the grandiose, From snideness for the small, And clarified the courtesy Within the poet’s call. I wonder from the Tippler’s flight Down to the Robin’s fall, If you had never written us, Would I have writ at all?

Dec. 22, 2014: O were my Love yon Lilack fair (Robert Burns)

Dear readers,

who was Robert Burns (1759-1796)? A cultural nationalist? A linguistic nationalist? A romantic poet with a capital R, or a romantic poet with a small r? A libertine? a rural bard? a libertine? the poet laureate of the working man? Probably.

He certainly was raised on a farm and remained a farmer all his life, although one who pursued writing for profit and pleasure, and who was recognized for it in his lifetime–eventually offering him some respite from physical labor. He was a religious man who had no truck with the puritanical conservatism of the Scottish High Kirk. The appeal to nature–as fact or metaphor–is never far in most of his famous works. He worked on love lyrics and Scottish folk tales, and of course he’s most recognizable for his use of dialect–which really isn’t so tricky once you read a few of the lyrics out loud. Having seen “Trainspotting” or “Under the Skin” recently will help.

And many of the published pieces were actually songs, sometimes original and sometimes version of folk songs, meant to be sung. That as much as anything describes his use of form–the line lengths are short, the rhythms loose (folksy) but regular, and the rhyme schemes either couplets or alternating ABAB. I want to note that the occasion of my selecting Burns this week was a weekend Parks & Recreation marathon, in particular the London episode from season 6. Ron Swanson is sent on a wild goose chase of sorts that ends in the birthplace of his favorite single-malt scotch, and, for the viewer, in some rather lovely footage (especially for a sitcom). The moment where Ron reflects on his trip via some forced-upon him poetry is great, and I have a link below, for fans. Not a bad piece of acting by Mr. Offerman, either! Following that, the full text of the poem. -ed.

http://poem.oftheweek.org/?tag=ron-swanson

O were my Love yon Lilack fair,
Wi’ purple blossoms to the Spring;
And I, a bird to shelter there,
When wearied on my little wing.

How I wad mourn, when it was torn
By Autumn wild, and Winter rude!
But I wad sing on wanton wing,
When youthfu’ May its bloom renew’d.

O gin my love were yon red rose,
That grows upon the castle wa’!
And I mysel’ a drap o’ dew,
Into her bonnie breast to fa’!

Oh, there beyond expression blesst
I’d feast on beauty a’ the night;
Seal’d on her silk-saft faulds to rest,
Till fley’d awa by Phebus’ light!

-1793

Dec. 15, 2014: ACQUAINTED WITH THE NIGHT (Robert Frost)

Dear readers,

for exploration of stanzaic verse in the modern era, one could do much, much worse than studying the collected poems of Robert Frost (1874-1963). He stands at a sort of midway point between the Victorian and the modern–no so much chronologically, but by sensibility. But absent, for the most part, is the forced diction and high-toned vocabulary of the starched-collar days. In its place grows an American, semi-rural vernacular. He was also quite prolific, so that no matter how familiar with his work, readers can almost always find another example of his forms to study.

Here’s a none too obscure piece from about 1923. Its theme and imagery pretty much speak for themselves. What I enjoy is how he’s toyed a little bit with the sonnet as usually written in English, exchanging 3 quatrains for 4 tercets. Clever little piece of math there. And then in repeating his first line at the end, he steals a little style from the french villanelle, quite effective in this context. Have a good week– ed.

Acquainted with the Night

I have been one acquainted with the night.

I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.

I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.

I have passed by the watchman on his beat

And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet

When far away an interrupted cry

Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;

And further still at an unearthly height,

One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.

I have been one acquainted with the night.

Dec. 8, 2014: BRAHMA (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Dear readers,

Shouting out — but not heavenward, as today’s poem insists — toKAY SPEARMAN, 11th-grade English teacher extraordinaire, who shuffled off this mortal coil last week. Consider this week’s edition an apostrophe to her. Yes, she made her students look up vocabulary words and literary terms. Yes, she made her students memorize lines from Ralph Waldo Emerson. In the words of a founding MV member, “She was one of those teachers that was full of passion and had such a yen for poetry. She begged us to think outside the box. In 1988 and in the Deep South, her ideas and philosophies were nothing short of revolutionary for our sheltered minds.”

That’s about the best a teacher could hope to have said about her, no?

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) was the first major American writer (thinker, poet, essayist, critic) to introduce the classical sources of Asia and the middle east to the domestic reading audience. Religion, philosophy, and poetry were his chief concerns, and he incorporated what he found into his own essays (as in, “attempts”) in those fields. In 1857 he published the following lyric in The Atlantic, dramatizing the idea that the temporal world is but a mask of something divine, something resting in all souls, and something that is perhaps undefinable. Though a strong “I”, the speaker of the poem does not name itself. Strong ABAB rhyme and even-footed (though in varying foot-lengths!) tetrameter bring the idea across. -ed.

BRAHMA

If the red slayer think he slays,

Or if the slain think he is slain,

They know not well the subtle ways

I keep, and pass, and turn again.

Far or forgot to me is near;

Shadow and sunlight are the same;

The vanished gods to me appear;

And one to me are shame and fame.

They reckon ill who leave me out;

When me they fly, I am the wings;

I am the doubter and the doubt,

I am the hymn the Brahmin sings.

The strong gods pine for my abode,

And pine in vain the sacred Seven;

But thou, meek lover of the good!

Find me, and turn thy back on heaven.

Dec. 2, 2014: DARK NIGHT AND SILENT (Vikram Seth)

Dear readers,

I’ve read about 300 sonnets in the past 5 days, but not, NOT, I assure you, on purpose. A fellow reader (thank you, Katie P.!) recently gave me a copy of Vikram Seth’s 1986 novel “Golden Gate,” composed entirely in rhymed tetrameter sonnets. There are 2 per page, and he just takes you on through the characters and events and dialogue of a normal contemporary novel, only in 14 line sections, rhymed and measured. They fairly fly by. Some of them sound a little silly. Some of them are merely functional. Some of the characters’ lines make one think, “No one talks like that.” And then some are from the author’s point of view, and some from an omniscient narrator. And some hold up all on their own as free-standing lyrics. This is one of the latter, which I happened upon while reading in bed last night, appropriately. As someone who gets a little testy without his regular 9 hours, I related to this! -ed.

“Dark Night and Silent”

Dark night and silent, calm, and lovely,

That stills the efforts of our lives,

Rare, excellent-kind, and behovely . . .

No matter how the poet strives

To weave with epithets and clauses

Your soundless web, he falters, pauses,

And your enchantment slips between

His hands, as if it’s never been.

Of all times most imbued with beauty,

You lend us by your spell relief

From ineradicable grief

(If for a spell), and pain, and duty.

We sleep, and nightly are made whole

In all our fretted mind and soul.