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The Poetry Reader
Posted by: Stephen Fryer (---.cache.pol.co.uk)
Date: July 25, 2002 05:21PM

Back in June, under my Boys Just Wanna Have Fun thread, Ilza posted this:

The selfishness of the poetry reader
( sometimes I think I'm the only . . . )
by Dick Allen

Sometimes I think I'm the only man in America
who reads poems
and who walks at night in the suburbs,
calling the moon names.

And I'm certain I'm the single man who owns
a house with bookshelves,
who drives to work without a CD player,
taking the long way, by the ocean breakers.

No one else, in all America,
Quotes William Meredith verbatim,
cites Lowell over ham and eggs, and Levertov;
keeps Antiworlds and Ariel beside his bed.

Sometimes I think no other man alive
is changed by poetry, has fought
as utterly as I have over "Sunday Morning"
and vowed to love those as difficult as Pound.

No one else has seen a luna moth
flutter over Iowa, or watched
a woman's hand lift rainbow trout from water,
and snow fall onto Minnesota farms.

This country wide, I'm the only man
who spends his money recklessly on thin
volumes unreviewed, enjoys
the long appraising look of check-out girls.

How could another in America know why
the laundry from a window laughs,
and how plums taste, and what an auto wreck
feels like-and craft?

I think I'm the only man who speaks
of fur and limestone in one clotted breath;
for whom Anne Sexton plunged in Grimm; who can't
stop quoting haikus at some weekend guest.

The only man, in all America, who feeds
on something darker than his politics,
who writes in margins and who earmarks pages-
in all America, I am the only man.

******************************************

Still don't know what I was being given: encouragement, sympathy, empathy, rebuke? -but I've been fretting about it ever since. You see, I thought I knew a bit about poetry - but it's full of allusions I don't get. I get "plums"

[This Is Just to Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

William Carlos Williams]

But ... Antiworlds? Sunday Morning? luna moth in Iowa? rainbow trout? snowfall onto Minnesota farms? laundry from a window laughs? autowreck? craft? fur and limestone in one clotted breath? Grimm?

So, I'll be a man and confess that I have waded into emule out of my depth. Sorry, guys: tail between legs, off I slink. Before I do, anyone care to explain all those poetic references?

Stephen


Re: The Poetry Reader
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.washington-36rh16rt.dc.dial-access.att.net)
Date: July 26, 2002 11:31AM


Sounds like a worthwhile project. I assume this is his Sunday Morning, for a start:

[www.bartleby.com];


Re: The Poetry Reader
Posted by: Stephen Fryer (---.cache.pol.co.uk)
Date: July 26, 2002 01:35PM

Thanks, Hugh: thought you might like some notes as a side dish, to aid digestion:

Composition Date:
1917-18.
Form:
abcb.
1.
The Jew of Malta, by Christopher Marlowe (1564-93), supplies the epigraph, which is spoken by Barabas's servant about two friars, a religious type attacked for their parasitic nature from the time of Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales.
The first edition reads "religions" for "religious".
Polyphiloprogenitive: prolific of offspring' (Eliot's usage here is the first example in the Oxford English Dictionary, but Matthew Arnold uses it in Culture and Anarchy. <br /> 2. <br /> sapient sutlers: wise suppliers of provisions (sutler' is originally a term for someone who sells things at a military post).
3.
John 1.1, the interpretation that this New Testament gospeler makes on the account of creation in Genesis.
6.
Superfetation: conceiving while already pregnant so that the uterus has foetuses of different ages.
Eliot's Greek letters are transliterated and italicized in this edition. The Greek words mean: "the One."
7.
mensual: monthly.
8.
enervate: exhausted, without vital powers.
Origen (185-254), a major father of the ancient church who castrated himself so that he would not be tempted by the flesh.
9.
Umbrian school: 15th-century school of art linked with Umbria in the Italian Apennines. The painting could be "Baptism" by Piero della Francesca, which Eliot could have seen in the National Gallery in London (B. C. Southam, A Guide to the Selected Poems of T. S. Elio, 6th edn. [San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1994]: 117).
10.
gesso ground: plaster surface applied to walls to make them suitable for artistic painting.
11.
nimbus: a vaguely circular cloud of light surrounding the head of a saint or a god.
16.
Paraclete: the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit, the third member of the Christian Trinity (with God the Father and God the Son).
17.
sable: mourning, dressed in black.
presbyters: priests, members of the clergy.
19.
pustular: pimply, suffering acme.
20.
piaculative: a new word, for which this is the first example in the Oxford English Dictionary: it means "expiatory or appeasing on account of sins or crimes" and refers to those who obtain forgiveness by the Church through offering money in charity to it.
22.
Seraphim: one of the order of angels.
27.
staminate and pistilate: having stamens (which bear the "male" spores) and having pistils (the "female" ovaries of a seed-bearing plant). Cf. Jules Laforgue's "Ballade":
Une chair bêtement staminifère,
Un cœur illusoirement pistillé,
Saif certains soirs, sans foi, ni loi, ni ché,
Où c'est précisément tout le contraire.

(Poésies complètes, ed. Pascal Pia [Le Livre de Poche, 1970]: 229).
28.
office: job.
epicene: either sexless, or having commerce with both sexes, as the bees do in transferring pollen from stamen to pistils.
29.
Hams, found at the back of the knee, are crooked; and the term comes from a root so meaning. Sweeney is celebrated by Eliot in two other poems, "Sweeney Erect" and "Sweeney among the Nightingales."

Stolen from [www.library.utoronto.ca].

I recognise myself and my children among the church-goers!

Stephen


Re: The Poetry Reader
Posted by: Pam Adams (---)
Date: July 26, 2002 02:18PM


Re: The Poetry Reader
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.washington-35rh16rt.dc.dial-access.att.net)
Date: July 26, 2002 06:03PM


Polyphiloprogenitive: 'prolific of offspring'

I remember when I looked that one up, since it spawned this DD:

Melody-Swellody
Johann Sebastian
Bach was a harpsichord
Master we know;

Surely in light of his
Philoprogenitive
Exploits was also of
Organ a pro.


(He had a whole passel of children.)


Re: The Poetry Reader
Posted by: Pam Adams (---)
Date: July 26, 2002 06:51PM

And this would be a good one for that 'stressed/unstressed' syllable discussion, as you have to pronounce Sebastian just so for the rhyme to work out.

pam


Re: The Poetry Reader
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.washington-35rh15rt.dc.dial-access.att.net)
Date: July 27, 2002 12:34PM


I guess Johann "Sebaschun" Bach could be done, for a different line, but I will leave that for another time.

Not to muddle matters, but there is at least one other candidate for the Sunday Morning reference. I will stay with the Toronto site, to include the footnotes:


[www.library.utoronto.ca];


Re: The Poetry Reader
Posted by: Pam Adams (---)
Date: July 29, 2002 12:17PM

I'm glad you found it. I'd seen several references to the oranges and the green cockatoo in the Spenser mysteries by Robert B. Parker, but hadn't gotten around to tracking down the reference yet.

pam


Re: The Poetry Reader
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.washington-36rh15rt.dc.dial-access.att.net)
Date: July 29, 2002 12:29PM


That laughing laundry reference seems familiar to me, but I cannot place it.


and how plums taste, and what an auto wreck
feels like-and craft?


That doesn't sound right - typo, perhaps? I could not find a copy online to check it.

Dick Allen is still alive, I believe. I guess 'someone' could chase down his e-mail or snail mail address, and ask him, if all else fails.


Re: The Poetry Reader
Posted by: Stephen Fryer (---.cache.pol.co.uk)
Date: July 29, 2002 12:56PM

I haven't found a copy either - perhaps Ilza could recheck her source?

Hugh, the Web references to him refer to the Expansive Poetry movement - not a term with which I'm familiar. Mean anything to you/others?

Stephen


Re: The Poetry Reader
Posted by: ilza (---.162.228.51.sao.ajato.com.br)
Date: July 29, 2002 04:47PM

"when half her bed is covered with books . . . "
Denise Levertov

is it only me, or quite often people look you in a strange way
when you say you like poetry ?

or when you buy tons of books iso new clothes ?

or when people find you reading iso of watching tv ?

that was it, Stephen,
misplaced maybe, my admiration for you guys and girls who can write poetry
( admiration, not envy . . . ) , and share it,
or remember obscure/long forgotten lines . . .

a compliment


Re: The Poetry Reader
Posted by: Stephen Fryer (---.cache.pol.co.uk)
Date: July 29, 2002 05:00PM

whew
breathes again

Stephen


Re: The Poetry Reader
Posted by: ilza (---.162.228.51.sao.ajato.com.br)
Date: July 29, 2002 05:01PM

Hugh
I copied it ( typo is mine, that's for sure, sorry ) for some reason
from a friend's The Best American Poetry 1999

to be honest, it is not that I like it sooooooooo much,
I like the idea, though . . .


Re: The Poetry Reader
Posted by: marian2 (---.in-addr.btopenworld.com)
Date: July 30, 2002 06:33AM

Not only do people look at you in a strange way if you say you like poetry, some run away immediately, either mentally or even, occasionally physically. I'm not sure whether they are afraid I'll cite some or think my eccentricity is infectious. However, when they are having a rough time and I send them an appropriate poem they love it! It's just like admitting religion or to being a soldier or policeman, only OK if it's what the recipient of your confidence needs at the time. Luckily the older I get, the less it bothers me.


Re: The Poetry Reader
Posted by: Desi (---.clientlogic.ie)
Date: July 30, 2002 08:51AM

people usually just laugh at me or get a sort of dazed look in their eyes that other people seem to have when someone starts speaking about high tech science. Very strange. I'm not bothered by it at all. It's just a shame for them i think.


Re: The Poetry Reader
Posted by: Pam Adams (---)
Date: July 30, 2002 12:14PM

Only half the bed covered with books? She's doing pretty well. Of course, mine includes cats as well, and they take up more space.

pam


Re: The Poetry Reader
Posted by: Stephen Fryer (---.cache.pol.co.uk)
Date: July 30, 2002 01:37PM

Funnily enough, Anthony Burgess said much the same, finding his bedspace taken up with fat cats -


Earthly Powers: "It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me."

Stephen


Re: The Poetry Reader
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.washington-35rh15rt.dc.dial-access.att.net)
Date: August 03, 2002 02:48PM


I was in bed with my catamite

Snort!

Expansive Poetry movement

I was not familiar with the term either, but here is an essay on it by Dick Allen, of all people:

[www.selu.edu];


Re: The Poetry Reader
Posted by: katie (---.proxy.aol.com)
Date: August 14, 2002 11:01AM

smiling.........


Re: The Poetry Reader
Posted by: Pam Adams (---.csupomona.edu)
Date: August 14, 2002 08:19PM

I went clue-searching again. Would you believe that the combination of 'fur +clotted +breath' came up with 5 pages of hits? Mostly fan-fiction of one type or another.

pam


Re: The Poetry Reader
Posted by: Marian-NYC (---.nyc1.dsl.speakeasy.net)
Date: August 15, 2002 07:22PM

Thoughts on reading all of the above:




You leave me breathless!
That's all I can say.

I can't say more because:
you take my breath away!



    (song lyric - sung by Ella and Nat "King" Cole -
    author unknown at the moment)


Re: The Poetry Reader
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.washington-35rh16rt.dc.dial-access.att.net)
Date: November 30, 2002 09:42AM


That laughing laundry reference seems familiar to me, but I cannot place it.


Here is the one I had in mind, but still can't be sure it is the right reference:


Love Calls Us to the Things of the World

The eyes open to a cry of pulleys,
And spirited from sleep, the astounded soul
Hangs for a moment bodiless and simple
As false dawn.

Outside the open window
The morning air is all awash with angels.

Some are in bed-sheets, some are in blouses,
Some are in smocks: but truly there they are.
Now they are rising together in calm swells
Of halcyon feeling, filling whatever they wear
With the deep joy of their impersonal breathing;

Now they are flying in place, conveying
The terrible speed of their omnipresence, moving
And staying like white water; and now of a sudden
They swoon down into so rapt a quiet
That nobody seems to be there.
The soul shrinks

From all that it is about to remember,
From the punctual rape of every blessed day,
And cries,

“Oh, let there be nothing on earth but laundry,
Nothing but rosy hands in the rising steam
And clear dances done in the sight of heaven."

Yet, as the sun acknowledges
With a warm look the world's hunks and colors,
The soul descends once more in bitter love
To accept the waking body, saying now
In a changed voice as the man yawns and rises,

"Bring them down from their ruddy gallows;
Let there be clean linen for the backs of thieves;
Let lovers go fresh and sweet to be undone,
And the heaviest nuns walk in a pure floating
Of dark habits,
keeping their difficult balance.'
- Richard Wilbur




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