Posts labeled Poetry
< blog main
"Beatrice, then, is another name for inspiration--romantic, aesthetic, moral, and religious. She inspires passion, vision, virtue, and, in the supernatural order, love of God. How she did it was Dante's secret--and hers. Of the fact and its effects nearly all the poet's works bear witness."
--Gerald Groveland Walsh, Dante Alighieri: Citizen of Christendom (1946)
A billion years from now, circling some indigo star, perhaps speaking a language unrecognizable to us, a human child will be taunting another child or adult to the tune of 'nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah; you-can't-get-me.' I swear that thing never dies.
"Poetry is the contrary of an ivory tower. Poetry is not only a refusal of obedience served on all existing censorship and tyranny or the most elevated form of non-resignation to the summary explanations of our terrestrial destiny. It is also an ever-increasing knowledge of the self, an uninterrupted discovery of new human regions and a necessary renewal of the bases of life. Poetry, and this is where the whole extent of its role becomes apparent, has the power to transport what was just a way of dreaming into a way of being. Or more precisely--it exalts this power within us."
--Georges Henein, "The Subversive Function of Poetry" (1939)
"A work which obediently aligns itself with the order of existing facts, society, moral norms, oppressive processes and everyday servitudes... has not the slightest claim to poetry."
--Georges Henein, "The Subversive Function of Poetry" (1939)
"We need more social justice. Free-market societies produce unjust and very stupid societies. I don't believe that the production and consumption of things can be the meaning of human life. All great religions and philosophies say that human beings are more than producers and consumers. We cannot reduce our lives to economics. If a society without social justice is not a good society, a society without poetry is a society without dreams, without words, and most importantly, without that bridge between one person and another that poetry is. We are different from the other animals because we can talk, and the supreme form of language is poetry. If society abolishes poetry it commits spiritual suicide."
--Octavio Paz (1990)
"One of Dante's most astute readers, the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, said that it takes a modern novel hundreds of pages to lay bare a character's soul, but Dante needs only a few lines."
--Joseph Luzzi (2015)
"I want to propose that the humanities should take, as their central objects of study, not the texts of historians or philosophers, but the products of aesthetic endeavor: art, dance, music, literature, theater, architecture, and so on. After all, it is by their arts that cultures are principally remembered.... What would be the advantage of centering humanistic study on the arts? The arts present the whole uncensored human person--in emotional, physical, and intellectual being, and in single and collective form--as no other branch of human accomplishment does."
--Helen Vendler (2015)
"Whitman voiced ideas about man, society, and the universe that in many ways characterize the general perspective of the modern mind as affected by the ideas of science. He anticipated the big picture of the cosmos – energetic, pulsating, multitudinous, evolutionary, creative, many-layered, knowable, mysterious, individuated, and organized."
--Howard Parsons, "Whitman's World View" (1985)
“In 1848, Walt Whitman was twenty-nine years old, and had not yet written a single text that we now remember. Yet seven years after his twenty-ninth birthday, this ordinary American man with no visible talents would publish the most unusual book of poems ever to be written in the United States."
--Paul Zweig (1984)
Bob Dylan changed songwriting; opened it to kaleidoscopic new possibilities. There is no "Sgt. Pepper" without Dylan's influence. 1963's "Freewheeling" has two of my favorites: "Girl from the North Country" and "Don't Think Twice," and perhaps the first 'breakthrough': "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall."
"I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard"
1964 brings the exquisite "Boots of Spanish Leather," the stunning "Chimes of Freedom," the cantankerous "It Ain't Me Babe," and the anthemic "Times They Are A-Changing." But the REVOLUTION is Side Two of 1965's "Bringing It All Back Home." An achievement for the ages.
"And I try to harmonize with songs
The lonesome sparrow sings
There are no kings inside the Gates of Eden"
"Of war and peace the truth just twists
Its curfew gull just glides"
"The motorcycle black madonna
Two-wheeled gypsy queen"
"The foreign sun, it squints upon
A bed that is never mine"
I continue to stand in awe of "Gates of Eden."
But the song that remains an enigma--shining like an obsidian monolith of genius--the ineffable marriage of wordplay, imagery, sound is...
the Big Dipper spills
countless stars across the sky
my empty-cup heart
"To be simple is not always as easy as it seems."
--Ferdinand Hodler (1923)
"The reading of the Divine Comedy, like the reading of Shakespeare, has no end: one does not reach the point where it is possible to say that we see what is in it."
--Francis Fergusson (1953)
Drew Dellinger speaking at the New Story Summit. Findhorn, Scotland.
A short video clip of my poem, "re:vision," from my talk at the New Story Summit at Findhorn in Scotland.
"The great function of poetry is to give us back the situations of our dreams."
"One of the things poetry does is allow one to say, 'you are not alone,' and to speak for those who have not yet spoken."
--Lucille Clifton (2003)
"In reading the compositions of earlier men, I have tried to trace the causes of their melancholy, which too often are the same as those that affect myself.... Even when circumstances have changed and men inhabit a different world, it will still be the same causes that induce the mood of melancholy attendant on poetical composition."
--Wang Hsi-chih (353)
"Dust, laughter, nothingness: our all
is born of the nonsensical."
--Glycon (21 CE)
"The basic movement of the rhythm, the total character of the dream, through the vehicle of exquisitely chosen sounds and incisively revealing epithets, constitute the poetic effect."
--Irwin Edman (1928)
"An account in the Book of Ballymote shows the ritual sanctions available to a poet if a king refused him his proper reward for a poem. After fasting on the land of the king, a council of ninety could be called to give a judgement, and if they decided that it would be a greater crime to prevent the satire or curse on the king, the poet could continue with his ritual action. At sunrise, he and six other poets would stand on a hilltop at the boundary of seven lands. Each poet would face his own land, the ollahm, or holder of the highest degree addressing the land of the king. With their backs against a hawthorn on the hilltop, a thorn from the tree and a slingstone in each poet's hand, and the wind blowing from the north, each of them chanted into the stone and the thorn, the ollahm speaking before the others, then all the bards together. Each would then put his stone and thorn at the butt of the tree. If they were in the wrong, the earth of the tree would swallow them up. If their magic was powerful enough, the earth would swallow the king, his wife and his sons, his horses and his hounds, his arms and his dress."
--John Sharkey, Celtic Mysteries (1975)
"Dante, as he tells us in the Vita Nuova, was discovered drawing an angel after the death of Beatrice.
It may be that what these poets had in common was a method of contemplation that expanded consciousness in them so that they were made open to the illumination of Sapientia, and that an effect of this expanded consciousness was to open up to them the world of the imagination, the world of symbols... through which Love acted as their guide."
--William Anderson, Dante the Maker (1980)
There is a lot that could be said about bad rhymes, and many examples we could nominate, each according to our taste, but one thing that makes bad rhymes bad is that they call attention to themselves; their conspicuousness breaks the spell of the poem or song. Rather than serve it, they subvert it.
Rhymes call negative attention to themselves when they feel forced or contrived, like the poet is being pushed around by the rhyme scheme. Poets and lyricists rightly sense that they MUST follow the rhyme (in a rhyming piece), or else it will unravel, but following it to the exclusion of good sense and artistic truth leads to the ludicrous word choices we recognize as bad rhymes.
A particularly egregious example of this can be found in a song by the band, Train. Let's look at the whole lyric, then break it down:
"Hey soul sister
Ain't that Mister Mister
On the radio, stereo,
The way you move ain't fair, you know."
--Train, "Hey Soul Sister"
1. "Hey soul sister..." So far, not bad, but things go wrong pretty quickly.
2. "Ain't that Mister Mister"
Are you fucking kidding me? Are you seriously talking about some bullshit band from the 80s right now? This is the line that clearly was chosen for the sole reason that the word "mister" rhymes with "sister." It's been said that "Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep." It's not good to be too critical during the creative, composing phase, but for God's sake, this is a line that never should have escaped the notebook or rehersal room. There are many factors that can make a line great, bad, or in-between. Sometimes a line tries to do too much. This is an example of a line, or a writer, doing too little. Lazy writing says, 'It rhymes; that's enough." But a line doesn't just have to rhyme. It has to make sense; it has to work on its own; it has to fit the tone of the piece; it has to ring true in some way; it has to have the natural rhythms of speech, or the novelty of fresh language; it has to not-be-about-some-ridiculous-80s-band-just-because-it-rhymes.
3. "On the radio," This line only exists to try to make some sense out the previous line, which only exists because "sister" rhymes with "mister."
4. "Stereo," Was it a stereo or a radio, or both? Is this necessary? Does this really make sense, or does "stereo" just kind of fit sonically and syllabically with "radio"?
5. "The way you move ain't fair, you know." "Stereo and "fair you know" is par for the course as pop rhymes go; not terrible, but we never should have gotten here. This whole rhyme scheme emerged as a pointless effort to cover the tracks left by the ungodly, "Ain't that Mister Mister." In this case, the bad rhyme set off a cascade of misfortunes.
Of course it's easy to pick on Train. (Later in this song they sing, "I'm so obsessed / My heart is bound to beat right out my untrimmed chest." Untrimmed? Seriously?) But the larger point is to learn from bad rhymes the principles that make a rhyme work.
As stated above, it should never feel like the writer is reaching too far for the rhyme. A rhyme should have the simple ease of Keith Richards warbling, "Hey baby, what's in your eyes? / I see them flashing / like airplane lights," or the novelty of Beyonce rhyming "woke up in the kitchen" with "how the hell did this shit even happen."
Rhymes should feel natural and fresh at the same time; not forced or ludicrous, as with "bad" rhymes, but suprising and satisfying. Trying to reach the hearts of the reader or listener with bad rhymes is like sending a WWE wrestler to do the work of a ninja. Only great (or good) rhymes have the stealth and grace to deliver the Five-Point-Palm Exploding-Heart-Technique of poetic satisfaction.
winged women was saying
"full of grace" and like.
was light beyond sun and words
of a name and a blessing.
winged women to only i.
i joined them, whispering
--Lucille Clifton (1980)
"Art and poetry cannot do without one another. Yet the two words are far from being synonymous. By Art I mean the creative or producing, work-making activity of the human mind. By Poetry I mean, not the particular art which consists in writing verses, but a process both more general and more primary: that intercommunication between the inner being of things and the inner being of the human Self which is a kind of divination (as was realized in ancient times; the Latin vates was both a poet and a diviner). Poetry, in this sense, is the secret life of each and all of the arts."
--Jacques Maritain, Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry (1952)
Yesterday I was looking through The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead (1964), by Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner, and Richard Alpert (now Ram Dass).
While perusing, I was especially stuck by a sentence in one passage, and its subtle similarities in spirit and phrasing to John Lennon's immortal intro to "I Am The Walrus": "I am he / as you are he / as you are me / and we are / all together."
Here's the passage from Leary, Metzner, and Alpert (emphasis added):
A sense of profound one-ness, a feeling of the unity of all energy. Superficial differences of role, cast, status, sex, species, form, power, size, beauty, even the distinctions between inorganic and living energy, disappear before the ecstatic union of all in one. All gestures, words, acts and events are equivalent in value -- all are manifestations of the one consciousness which pervades everything. "You," "I" and "he" are gone, "my" thoughts are "ours," "your" feelings are "mine." Communication is unnecessary since complete communion exists. (The Psychedelic Experience, 1964.)
Admittedly, this is not much to work with, but I think the coincidence in timing is worth noting. "The Psychedelic Experience" was published in 1964, just as Lennon and the other Beatles were first encountering LSD. In the next few years Lennon wrote his psychedelic anthems, "Tomorrow Never Knows" (Revolver, 1966) and "Strawberry Fields Forever (1967), as well as "A Day in the Life" and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" (Sgt. Pepper, 1967).
It seems likely that a book such as "The Psychedelic Experience" would have been among Lennon's reading interests at the time.
Clearly this is longshot speculation, with little to go on, but it seems possible that the idiosyncratic syntax of this phrase, "'You" 'I' and 'he,'" as well as the spiritual import of the paragraph, caught Lennon's attention.
Just maybe, these words helped inspired what I've always thought to be the peculiar (and somewhat masculine) phrasing of Lennon's captivating verse: "I am he / as you are he / as you are me."
I haven't looked at my Beatles books to see what John has said about the influences on "I Am The Walrus," but I thought this small correspondence was worth noting. I have no evidence that John Lennon read this paragraph, or, if he did, that it had any influence, but I think the similarity in spirit, and slight echoes in wording, to one of Lennon's most iconic lyrics, is enough to raise the question.
Additional note (Aug 11, 10:26am):
I just glanced at a statement where Lennon says the first two lines of "I Am The Walrus" were written during two separate acid trips. More resereach to be done. Also, on further the reflection, the "I am he as you are he," kind of language also seems similar to my memory of some of the kinds of wording used in the Upanishads.
"The successful poet, the poet who really carries his message, is the one to whom the words come that have this particular power... What he does for you, what he does for us all is always to produce a metaphor in which we suddenly see two separate parts of the world, and we say, 'My God, why did I not think that they belonged together?' ... It is the essence of poetry, as of painting, as of all art, to communicate that, to leap over the gulf between us -- to make the metaphor suddenly speak to us, not so that we understand it, but so that we recreate it. Style is the means by which we recreate the content for ourselves."
--J. Bronowski (1978)
"For Blake the imagination is nothing less than God as He operates in the human soul.... for Coleridge the imagination is of first importance because it partakes of the creative activity of God.
This is a tremendous claim, and it is not confined to Blake and Coleridge. It was to some degree held by Wordsworth and Shelley and Keats. Each was confident not only that the imagination was his most precious possession but that it was somehow concerned with a supernatural order. Never before had quite such a claim been made, and from it Romantic poetry derives much that is most magical in it."
--C. M. Bowra, The Romantic Imagination (1949)
“A griot (pronounced greeo) is one who, by memory alone, preserves and teaches the history and traditions of the tribe. In some traditional African societies, this master of “historical oratory” is an important sacred figure – akin to a story-teller, minstrel, jester, herald, annalist, troubadour, gleeman, and poet all rolled into one.”
--Geneva Smitherman, Talkin and Testifyin (1977)
"No sharp dichotomy exists, but a kind of sacred-secular circular continuum.... There is very often a sacred quality surrounding the verbal rituals of the secular style, with all gathered around the rapper, listening attentively, looking idolizingly and lingering on his or her every word, mystically engrossed in the rap."
--Geneva Smitherman, Talkin and Testifyin: The Language of Black America (1977)
"Dante in meditation"
"The Divina Commedia contains a large number of cryptograms which have never, so far as I know, been noticed.... A cryptogram, or hidden writing, is a deliberate arrangement of words, letters, numbers, or other signs, which is intended to conceal as well as express a meaning.... Among the cryptograms which I have discovered in the Divina Commedia are acrostics, telestics, interior sequences, anagrams, irregular letter clusters, string ciphers, and cabalistic spelling devices.
I am far from assuming that the cryptograms which I have discovered are all that Dante made.... The announcement that the Divina Commedia is teeming with cryptograms is likely, I am aware, to be met with incredulity."
--Walter Arensberg, The Cryptography of Dante (1921)
Love Letter to the Milky Way Book Tour
Drew will be touring the galaxy (or at least this corner of it) to launch the BRAND NEW EDITION of love letter to the milky way, out now on White Cloud Press. Come see Drew at one of these events, and support Drew's work by giving copies of love letter to the milky way as the perfect gift!
Check back often for updates, as new dates/events are being added on a regular basis!
Occupy Wall Street Drew Dellinger
We need global
citizens for some sit-ins
I say we all meet
on Wall Street
and lock down--
lock the whole block down!
[Drew Dellinger, 2001]
I take exception to the rule
of the greedy and the cruel.
This fall, school’s in session
and the lesson is Wall Street.
It’s time for action
and your name’s on the call sheet.
It’s time we all meet
and name what it is:
the game has been rigged
to enrich corporate
business interests that sent this economy spinning.
Charlie Sheen is not the only clueless dude that thinks he’s winning.
See, the one percent done spent all the rent.
And now the rent’s due, so we’re coming to a tent near you.
We’re the like-minded ninety-nine percent
standing up to corruption with loving dissent.
We stand for justice,
and the future,
and all of humanity.
Embracing all people.
Yes, even Sean Hannity.
The message is simple:
greed, injustice, and eco-destruction have to go.
Pay attention corporate media. We’ll try to say it slow.
It’s time to
rock the nation,
rock this occupation.
It’s time for the people to peacefully fight back.
Tell Congress and the media we’re taking the mic back.
Tell the jaded it’s that long-awaited revolution.
Put away the pepper spray and re-read the Constitution.
These cops are paid to go crazy, yo.
But we’re peaceful.
Don’t tase me, bro.
We came to incite insight,
unite and discuss this.
We came to hang, and to bang the drums of justice.
with our love and our light.
the earth and the sky,
and live with all beings
as a planet-wide tribe.
Occupy the divine mind residing inside.
See, I’m the type writer
that’s known to light fires
and prone to inspire
the moment’s own higher desire.
‘Cause history knows it’s the time
for resisting the team at the scene of the crime.
Tell your friends I’ll meet ‘em there at Freedom Square.
They can’t stop us, from Seattle to Chiapas.
It’s our mission to envision
what comes after the catastrophe.
How do we move past
the capitalist disaster?
Our communities need us.
We are all leaders.
How could we ask for anything less than the future?
(October 13, 2011) www.planetizethemovement.org #OWS copyright c 2011
As an independent scholar and renegade researcher, there's nothing I love more than coming across a super-cool book I've never seen before, especially if it's old, and awesome, and I get it for 25 cents at a library book sale.
Check out these quotes from The Situation of Poetry, a 1955 work by Raissa and Jaques Maritain. (I had known something of J. Maritain as an influence on Martin Luther King Jr., and also, Thomas Berry had mentioned to me that Maritain had influenced him. I did not know that Maritain had written on poetry.)
The Situation of Poetry:
Four Essays on the Relations between Poetry, Mysticism, Magic, and Knowledge
by Jaques and Raissa Maritain
"Poetry is the fruit of a contact of the spirit with reality, which is in itself ineffable, and with the source of reality, which we believe to be God himself in that movement of love which causes him to create images of his beauty. That which is thus conceived in the mysterious retreats of being is expressed with a certain savory illogic, which is not nonsense but a superabundance of sense."
--Raissa Maritain, p. 21
And check out this great quote from a footnote on p. 29:
"The originals of the images and forms which the language of dreams, poetry, and prophecy employs are found in the Nature which surrounds us and which appears to us like a world of Dream incarnate: like a prophetic language whose hieroglyphs were beings and forms."
--G. H. von Schubert, quoted in The Situation of Poetry (1955)
“Instinctively rather than reflectively he had reached the conclusion that the whole universe was for him not object but subject—it was he."
--Romain Rolland, on Walt Whitman, in The Life of Vivekananda (1931)
the same moon
that shone in the New
Mexico sky, shimmering
into silvery existence
in a tray of Ansel Adams' developer
the same moon that illuminated
the apples of Eden,
the same moon that shines upon my
lover in Bolinas
that inspired poet-monks
to drink and write
the same moon that rose for the goddesses and heroes
climbs the sky
above the bay
outside my door.
July 13, 2011
"All sorts of people can write a great song. It took Bob Dylan to rewrite our idea of what a great song can be."
"Archetypal metaphors seem to have a special rhetorical potency.... According to [Michael] Osborn, the primary sources of archetypal metaphors are derived from the fundamental human experience of water and the sea, light and darkness, the human body, war and peace, animals, the family, mountains, sexuality, and the relationships between above and below and forward and backward."
--John Louis Luciates & Celeste Michelle Condit
blossoms in winter?
climate change has my haiku
all kinds of confused.
the hovering moon
i don't know how it hangs there
there's much i don't know
Drake, "Forever," featuring some guys, and Eminem who KILLS IT (starting at 4:54). There's a reason that Shady raps last on this song. Nice track.
What are some of your favorite songs of 2010?
Never heard this cover before! Arlo sings Bob's brilliance in grand fashion. The lyrics are stunning.
come into the consciousness of clouds. enter the frequency of the flickering flame.
"A mind persuaded that is lives among things that, like words, are essentially significant, and that what they signify is the magic attraction, called love, which draws all things after it, is a mind poetic in its intuition, even if its language be prose. The science and philosophy of Dante did not have to be put into verse in order to become poetry: they were poetry fundamentally and in their essence."
--George Santayana, Three Philosophical Poets: Lucretius, Dante, Goethe (1910)
"That should be the world's national anthem, the world's global anthem."
--Rachel Kohn, ABC Radio National, Australia,
After hearing John Seed recite "Word to the Mother," by Drew Dellinger.
(April 18, 2010)
The Greek Poets: Homer to the Present, Constantine, et al, eds. (Norton, 2010)
When I heard you were dead, Heraclitus,
tears came, and I remembered how often
you and I had talked the sun to bed.
Long ago you turned to ashes, my Halicarnassian friend,
but your poems, your Nightingales, still live.
Hades clutches all things yet can't touch these.
(third century BCE; translated by Edmund Keeley)
Lucille Clifton died February 13, 2010, at 73 years old. She was an amazing poet. If you haven't checked her out, you might enjoy doing so. Below is a poem from Ms. Clifton. Blessings for her journey and gratitude for her truth-telling voice.
the earth is a living thing
is a black shambling bear
ruffling its wild back and tossing
mountains into the sea
is a black hawk circling
the burying ground circling the bones
picked clean and discarded
is a fish black blind in the belly of water
is a diamond blind in the black belly of coal
is a black and living thing
is a favorite child
of the universe
feel her rolling her hand
in its kinky hair
feel her brushing it clean
"Through the wild cathedral evening, the rain unraveled tales."
--Bob Dylan, "Chimes of Freedom"
February 2, 1968
In the dark of the moon, in flying snow, in the dead of winter,
war spreading, families dying, the world in danger,
I walk the rocky hillside, sowing clover.
I Walk Out Into the Country at Night
The moon is so high it is
Almost in the Great Bear.
I walk out of the city
Along the road to the West.
The damp wind ruffles my coat.
Dewy grass soaks my sandals.
Fishermen are singing
On the distant river.
Fox fires dance on the ruined tombs.
A chill rises and fills
Me with melancholy. I
Try to think of words that will
Capture the uncanny solitude.
I come home late. The night
Is half spent. I stand for a
Long while in the doorway.
My young son is still up, reading.
Suddenly he bursts out laughing,
And all the sadness of the
Twilight of my life is gone.
(From One Hundred Poems From the Chinese, Trans., Kenneth Rexroth. New Directions, 1971.)
A shattered stone statue
Some old copper coins
Strange ornaments of blackened silver
Several broken bronze vessels
In a desert
And people say that centuries ago
Here where there is only a desert
A city was once settled
And a thought strikes me:
Even today, at a party
When I come face to face with you
For one second
Just for one moment
The warmth of your body
The fleeting chance of meeting our eyes
The shine of your red bindiya
The rustle of your clothes
The fragrance of your hair
And sometimes, unintentionally
A tiny flower of touch
And then again, that unending desert
That desert where once
A city had flourished.
(From Anthems of Resistance: A Celebration of Progressive Urdu Poetry, by Ali Husain Mir & Raza Mir. IndiaInk, 2006.)
The heart is a begging bowl. The world is a luminous coyote. The heart: a mad genius. The world: a standing wave. The world is a goddess of energy. The heart is a monolith on the moon. Earth: dream-blossom of the cosmos--silent universe, speaking in species. The heart is aquatic. The world is promiscuous. The heart is a problematic documentarian. The world is a god-drunk flood of physics.