Monday, April 27, 2015


Today's prompt was "looking back". I did not feel like waxing philosophical about it, so I waxed flippant instead:

I lost the fight to a flourish of wit.
I was right - but he won it.
His clever tongued had out-fenced me.

My mind, too full of things to say,
Rendered me speechless - my dismay,
That I, so right, should voiceless be.

So I lay, insomniac, on my bed,
Thinking of all I should have said...
I won that fight at half-past three.

That is the one I wrote for my prompt. One of the odd side-effects to writing so much poetry, is that I have started reading a lot more of the stuff lately - a rather wide range of it too, including far more modern verse than I care to make a habit. On that: I have got to a point where I can see where people are going with some of that formless, meter-less rambling free verse stuff. I've come across lines, and phrases that impress me enough to make me re-evaluate my idea that free verse kills poetry. That being said, it seldom holds my attention for very long. I get wildly frustrated by the lack of completion in the lines - the sentences wander and break off in a way that I think is supposed to mimic the cadence of daily speech. It doesn't work for me. I find it effected and aberrant. 

So I mostly stick to older poets - which meant that I was trying to get my head around Gerard Manley Hopkins this morning. He is a remarkable poet, who wrote brilliant things... And I have a love-hate relationship with him. He uses accents marks to show how to the poem should be recited. And he has a curiously Germanic tendency to long word-phrases in his descriptions:dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, for example. Now I am very fond of kennings, and of word phrases, such as sword-bright courage, but I find the sheer abandon with which he uses them quite overwhelming. But his poetry is gorgeous and astonishing. I was reading The Windhover this morning (whence came dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon) and this came at once into my mind:


An Eagle, unfurled against the sky
King of Birds, wind-lifted high
On mighty wings that Cross-wise spread.
So did our King His arms wing-spread,
When Love had lifted Him on high,
Unfurled in Death against the sky. 

And that is that. I have things to do. Things to clean. Things to buy for dinner. I shall see you all again tomorrow, God willing, and the Prompt be not too difficult.


Bella Rose said...

I don't like free-verse. It is way too hard to read.

Was that poem pertaining to a certain person that we both know but do not speak of? It was funny. You won at half-past three huh? Story of my Life.

This is the most you've ever posted... since blogging! you are almost done! Are you excited?

Molly said...

And my comments continue most insufficent to convey just how hard your work hits. The second poem today was a stunner, even by the high standards you've already set. (And we got a twofer, lucky readers that we are!)

If you haven't already, find some bits of Hopkins' journals. The notes he took demonstrate a keen interest in landscape--and language (as in dialect words/ pronunciations) that might ring more than a little familiar with you. (As you may have discovered, he was an Old English scholar as well.)

I will admit, I find the accent marks a bit off-putting too, but when I reflect that Hopkins' aim was to keep the rhythms of his poetry close to real speech, I think it was a good cause, if dauntingly executed. The interior harmonies of his best works never cease to amaze me. I can recite "Pied Beauty" to myself and enjoy it so very much, not only in the sense of the thing, but in the shape of it, too, that I must immediately light in and try it again, upon finishing.

And that bit where he describes a skylark says about everything I ever wanted to say about crunluath variations and never had the words for:

"Left hand, off land, I hear the lark ascend,
His rash-fresh re-winded new-skein├Ęd score
In crisps of curl off wild winch whirl, and pour
And pelt music, till none ’s to spill nor spend."

Mahri said...

Bella ~Yes, I agree! I find free verse quite difficult. One of the reasons given for free verse is that it is clearer and easier to understand, as it is free from the artificial constraints of traditional poetry. But most free verse I have read is just plain weird. "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate" is perfectly clear. "Rev. The wolf in my throat"(which is a line I came across in a recent poem) makes no sense at all.

Molly ~ Pied Beauty is a mighty fine thing - and when *he* uses the word 'dappled' it is absolutely the right word to use... unlike a certain speckled poet, who seems rather too cute when he uses it. I did not know that Hopkins studied Old English, but given his penchant for word phrases, I'm not surprised by it. I think the biggest problem I have with him is that he gives me the same feeling I get in the presence of a very strong personality: I am quite overwhelmed, however much I like him, I cannot bide there too long. For all that, I admire his poetry, and want to make better acquaintance with it.

Treskie said...

mm free verse irritates. I haven't read enough to be figure out WHY it irritates, but it does, and that's annoying. :(

I like the second one lots.

Ehem... You've written a poem a day for over 21 days. Does that mean you have formed the habit and will start posting more frequently when the challenge is finished?