"let your boat of life be light, packed with only
what you need - a homely home and simple pleasures, someone to love and someone to love you,
enough to eat and enough to wear
and a little more than enough to drink:
for thirst is a dangerous thing"

Thursday, 11 August 2011

anyone for a couple of poems?

I know I have bored my followers (hello, Aunty Norma) from time to time when I take on the role of "wannabe English professor", which I do not pretend to be (but probably would like to be). I believe that we really do not read enough poetry (or short stories for that matter).  We are so quick to bury ourselves in the latest novels but don't really spare much time for poetry.  On our road trip to Kimberley a few weeks ago Gareth and Nic spoke lots about songs and lyrics.  Lyrics are incredibly important to them and I must say when I see lyrics of songs in print they hit home pretty hard.  I have been listening to a lot of music lately and am amazed at the deep hurt, love and feeling that comes through (that is when I can hear and/or understand what the singer is singing).  I have had some lyrics in my brain for quite a while now, which (if I was at all musical) they could be turned into a wonderful song, but not to be. The words of Adele's "Someone to Love" is another case in point.  I know it is has been played to death (and I am one of the culprits) but if you read it as a poem, it is extremely powerful.

You know how the time flies
Only yesterday
It was the time of our lives
We were born and raised
In a summer haze
Bound by the surprise
Of our glory days

I hate to turn up out of the blue uninvited
But I couldn't stay away, I couldn't fight it.
I had hoped you'd see my face and that you'd be reminded
That for me it isn't over.

I have been looking at some poetry books and found an article and some poems of Billy Collins.  I don't really know much about him so decided to do some research and have found some of his pretty amazing stuff.  There is something very refreshing in his poetry that makes it almost not poetry, to me anyway.  I am sure you will enjoy it too.

The History Teacher

Trying to protect his students' innocence
he told them the Ice Age was really just
the Chilly Age, a period of a million years
when everyone had to wear sweaters.

And the Stone Age became the Gravel Age,
named after the long driveways of the time.

The Spanish Inquisition was nothing more
than an outbreak of questions such as
"How far is it from here to Madrid?"
"What do you call the matador's hat?"

The War of the Roses took place in a garden,
and the Enola Gay dropped one tiny atom on Japan.

The children would leave his classroom
for the playground to torment the weak
and the smart,
mussing up their hair and breaking their glasses,
while he gathered up his notes and walked home
past flower beds and white picket fences,
wondering if they would believe that soldiers
in the Boer War told long, rambling stories
designed to make the enemy nod off."

Don't you love the ending?

Another one:-

The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I'm coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light--
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed."

Awesome hey?   I just love the last verse "It seems only yesterday I used to believe there was nothing under my skin but light.  If you cut me I could shine.  But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life, I skin my knees.  I bleed." 

And then another quote, which is almost exactly what Gareth has told me about my writing but without using words like "embellishment" and "puerile bilge":-

"You come by your style by learning what to leave out. At first you tend to overwrite—embellishment instead of insight. You either continue to write puerile bilge, or you change. In the process of simplifying oneself, one often discovers the thing called voice."
Billy Collins

It explains everything so simply and it is exactly what I try to do with the 200 word challenge (not an easy challenge for me).

Last poem (promise).  This is the poem that I know and that got me into the research.  It was wonderful to re-read it and I seem to have a whole different take on it now.  It is a love poem but it leaves you wondering.  Not often do you read so many negatives in a poem.  What is he trying to say?  Who is he making fun of and who is he complimenting?  I love it.

You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general's head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman's tea cup.
But don't worry, I'm not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and--somehow--the wine.

OK enough from me for one night.  I hope I have not lost you yet Aunty Norma?  In my "googling" this evening looking for a printable version of the poem above, I came upon this little beauty. This, I am certain, you will love:-

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