I said that I would compose a poem and I did and promptly erased it. I would love to say that when I finished and stood back that I realized that its great beauty and misunderstood genius was too bright for public eyes, but that would be extreme poetic licence on my part. I will as an exercise on my part compose a poem that will coincide with the theme of the poem of the day (even closely imitate it) and if such a composition such approach genius (even if minutely), then I will go ahead and post it, even invite comments on it (though I daresay they will not be on my genius).
The next poem is also from the same book and chapter that I used yesterday. The chapter is titled “Reading a Poem” and it goes to prove that composing a poem has less to do, as one amateur poet was blithe in advising me, with writing one’s feelings and more to do with putting forwards one’s ideas and thoughts much as prose is used. In fact, poetry is quite multifarious. It can be used as a mnemonic, “Remember, remember the …something of November” (Dammit, I never remember, guess I’d have to be British.) The book’s example is: “Thirty days hath September/April, June and November”. My favorite as always is a Ben Franklin, “Be Chary of giving advice/ Wise men don’t need and fools won’t heed it.”
But to say that poetry is merely someone’s feelings is very misleading and isn’t giving the form its due. “At first glance, a poem usually will make some sense and give some pleasure, but it may not yield everything at once… Poetry is not to be galloped over like the daily news: a poem differs from most prose in that it is to be read slowly, carefully and attentively…good poems yield more if read twice; and the best poems – after ten, twenty, or a hundred readings – still go on yielding.”
I found this latter bit to be true when I used a poem I had typed for a class (it was the front page to an essay I had written on the poem) to cover up a hole in my door. Every day I would look at that door, I would read that poem and though I thought it originally just a story about a man visiting an empty house, as I examined the language more carefully I found something more supernatural haunting the language. I understood what the man in the poem had sensed and, more to the point, that to write about “its” presence more directly would be to not fully encapsulate the truth of its essence. (I believe it was a poem called “the Listeners”, but don’t quote me on that.)
Now onto the poem.
by D.H. Lawrence
Softly, in the dusk, a woman is singing to me;
Taking me back down the vista of years, till I see
A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings
And pressing the small, poised feet of a mother who smiles as she
In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song
Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong
To the old Sunday evenings at home, with winter outside
And hymns in the cozy parlor, the tinkling piano our guide.
So now it is vain for the singer to burst into clamor
With the great black piano appassionato. The glamor
Of childish days is upon me, my manhood is cast
Down in the flood of rememberance, I weep like a child for the past.
So, after all that talk of poetry not just being what a person feels, I use this poem, what gives? Well, partially, I picked this poem though from the same chapter as yesterday, randomly, but also to say, that this is good illustration of how a poem isn’t simply about feelings – there’s a subtle theme here at work and, yes, it’s put in a very impassioned, overly sentimental way, but it isn’t an entry from Lawrence’s diary.
I think that the best way for me to say it is to point to the play “‘Night Mother” about a mother trying to convince her daughter not to commit suicide. But the daughter gives a very compelling monologue at the end when she says, “remember when you were a baby and everybody loved you? It didn’t matter if you were fat, thin, misshapen, you were a baby, innocent, pure love. And then you grow up and suddenly you’re not enough.” This is only paraphrasing, but it, to me, strikes at the heart of this poem. We’ll never know the true love that we knew as children. A piano will never transform into that beautiful, ethereal thing that transported us to heaven, to comfort and laughter and grace. It’s now only a thing made of wood and wire.
Remember when you were luscious and full,
Filled with sugar plums and fairies and dreams of delight?
Outside, was shocking, nose numbed to dull,
Covered by tiny crystal lattices floating about like a sprite.
Memories of crunching through snow, and the fresh smell of pine,
birds and squirrels dancing up and down your spine?
Now, you are brown and the rain is falling.
Now, it is grey and the dumpster is calling.
Yeah, that’s as good as it gets. I’m not a poet and, boy, don’t I know it.