mitchellirons

rough notes

Posts Tagged ‘poetry

GMH No. 1

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Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)
“No Worst, There is None”

No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief,
More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring.
Comforter, where, where is your comforting?
Mary, mother of us, where is your relief?
My cries heave, herds-long; huddle in a main, a chief-
Woe, world-sorrow; on an age-old anvil wínce and síng —
Then lull, then leave off. Fury had shrieked “No ling-
Ering! Let me be fell: force I must be brief.”

O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap
May who ne’er hung there. Nor does long our small
Durance deal with that steep or deep. Here! creep,
Wretch, under a comfort serves in a whirlwind: all
Life death does end and each day dies with sleep.

(1884-85)

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Written by mitchellirons

February 10, 2009 at 11:50 pm

Cavafy, Ithaka

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I’ve been sorting, weeding, and disposing of old files, essays, records and paperwork this December.

Every now and again, I encounter something that left a mark at a certain time. This here is a scanned image of Constantine Cavafy’s poem, “Ithaka” (Keeley and Wheeler, trans., 1960). I read it in a cross-listed English/Classics class simply called “The Epic”. It was a 24-week journey through Homer, Virgil, with a smattering of Dante and Milton. Toward the end of the term, our prof, a kindly old Greek scholar, handed out this piece of paper and read it aloud to us. I don’t know if Nikki Hare would write poetry, but certainly no one could read it as well as she. Hare understood not only the power of rthym and cadence, but also of volume and voice. If you do bother to read this, then please read it aloud. Not under your breath. Read it as if you were presenting it to someone. That’s how all poetry should work.

(And yes, I’m sure I’m going against certain ethical principles by posting this. But I do it of the sake of art. And the children. Think of the children.)
Ithaka, by C.P. Cavafy (1911)

When you set out for Ithaka
ask that your way be long, full of adventure, full of instruction.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon — do not fear them:
such as these you will never find
as long as your thought is lofty, as long as a rare
emotion touch your spirit and your body.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon — you will not meet them
unless you carry them in your soul,
unless your soul raise them up before you.

Ask that your way be long.
At many a summer dawn to enter
— With what gratitude, what joy —
ports seen for the first time;
to stop at Phoenician trading centers,
and to buy good merchandise,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensuous perfumes of every kind,
sensuous perfumes as lavishly as you can;
to visit many Egyptian cities,
to gather stores of knowledge from the learnéd.
Have Ithaka always in your mind.
Your arrival there is what you are destined for.
But do not in the least hurry the journey.
Better that it last for years,
so that when you reach the island you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to give you wealth.

Ithaka gave you the splendid journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She hasn’t anything else to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka has not deceived you.
So wise have you become, of such experience,
that already you will have understood what these Ithakas mean.

ithaka

Written by mitchellirons

January 2, 2009 at 5:55 pm

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Randall Jarrell, The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner

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Randall Jarrell, “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner” (1945).

From my mother’s sleep I fell into the State
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

BallTurret(See the mechanics and interior of a ball turret here.)
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Written by mitchellirons

January 23, 2008 at 10:07 am

Ginsberg, Whitman, and America in “A Supermarket in California”

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Allen Ginsberg, “A Supermarket in California”.
Berkeley, 1955.

What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for I walked down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache self-conscious looking at the full moon.
In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!
What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes!-and you, García Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons?

I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber, poking among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys.
I heard you asking the questions of each: who killed the pork chops? What price bananas? Are you my Angel?
I wandered in and out of the brilliant staks of cans following you, and followed in my imagination by the store detective.
We strode down the open corridors together in our solitary fancy tasking artichokes, possessing every frozen delicacy, and never passing the cashier.

Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in an hour. Which way does your beard point tonight?
(I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the supermarket and feel absurd.)
Will we walk all night through solitary streets? The trees add shade to shade, lights out in the houses, we’ll both be lonely.

Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love past blue automobiles in driveways, home to our silent cottage?
Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher, what America did you when Charon quit poling his ferry and you got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the boat disappear on the black waters of Lethe?

——-

disjointed thoughts on Ginsberg, Whitman, and America.

Whitman Ginsberg

I saw you Walt Whitman, in amoung the peaches and penumbras! I was recently re-acquainted with Ginsberg’s “Supermarket”, and was struck once more by the force and authority found in his confrontation of the myth of the American Dream. Invoking for his muse the ghost Walt Whitman, a patriarch of American poetry and the myth of Nation, Ginsberg attacks the Dream as the greatest lost cause of the twentieth century.

There may be some hyperbole contained in that statement – the American Dream as the greatest lost cause – but it is not without merit. Even if the Dream does exist, Ginsberg makes clear how difficult it is to find, let alone it is to achieve, for both middle America and those on its fringe. Thinking about Whitman, the great poet who asserts independence and identity through both sexuality and landscape, Ginsberg questions the value of an “Americanness” based on shopping for mass-produced items in a unnatural, corporate supermarket far removed from a person’s or nation’s soul. Ginsberg’s post-war America is a nation of late-night grocery shoppers who do nothing with their time but consider the ripeness of peaches and avacodos in the neon glow of their local supermarket. Ginsberg is shopping for an image, looking a perfect vignette of what America is, and all he finds are consumers, choosing one peach over the other when both come from the same share-cropped grove. Nature and authenticity are not necessarily effaced in this new America, but are definitely substituted with a different form. There is no natural light in Ginsberg’s America but only a chemical, neon glow.

What makes the poem so interesting is not necessarily Ginsberg’s criticism of the (false) American dream by situating its adherents to a lifestyle full of mass-market grocery stores and the same blue automobile in every garage, but the evocation of Whitman himself. Ginsberg speaks to Walt, and Walt returns by inserting himself into Ginsberg’s thoughts and into the poem, offering us a chance to consider an America defined by its margins. Both Whitman and Ginsberg lived in a sexual penumbra – neither poet allowed their sexuality to either lurk in the shadows, or be fully disclosed and normalized in full light. Ginsberg does, however, find a certain solace walking the neon-lit aisles with Whitman while eyeing the young clerks or considering suggestive foods such as artichokes and bananas. In this neon glare – neither shadow nor real “natural” light – Ginsberg can speak from the outside, from the margins, and declare the American Dream to be lost to those who are literary buying in, in the supermarket. The families shopping in the artifical glow of the supermarket’s lights are no better than the “degenerates” of the Beat Generation. Yet, just as America refuses to acknowledge the simple fact of Whitman’s homosexuality, and its importance to his poetry, the families refuse to acknowledge the artifice and inauthenticity of their national myth.

Disclaimer: These are not your thoughts. And this is not an academic site. Using them for your paper will not only be an instance of plagiarism, but also a moment of shoddy research that would grant you a very low grade if you managed to pass off the work as your own.
Like the rest of America, as Ginsberg caught on to, you are commodified.

Written by mitchellirons

January 20, 2008 at 4:18 pm

Ginsberg, Whitman, and America in "A Supermarket in California"

with 3 comments

Allen Ginsberg, “A Supermarket in California”.
Berkeley, 1955.

What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for I walked down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache self-conscious looking at the full moon.
In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!
What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes!-and you, García Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons?

I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber, poking among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys.
I heard you asking the questions of each: who killed the pork chops? What price bananas? Are you my Angel?
I wandered in and out of the brilliant staks of cans following you, and followed in my imagination by the store detective.
We strode down the open corridors together in our solitary fancy tasking artichokes, possessing every frozen delicacy, and never passing the cashier.

Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in an hour. Which way does your beard point tonight?
(I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the supermarket and feel absurd.)
Will we walk all night through solitary streets? The trees add shade to shade, lights out in the houses, we’ll both be lonely.

Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love past blue automobiles in driveways, home to our silent cottage?
Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher, what America did you when Charon quit poling his ferry and you got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the boat disappear on the black waters of Lethe?

———————-

disjointed thoughts on Ginsberg, Whitman, and America.

Whitman Ginsberg

I saw you Walt Whitman, in amoung the peaches and penumbras! I was recently re-acquainted with Ginsberg’s “Supermarket”, and was struck once more by the force and authority found in his confrontation of the myth of the American Dream. Invoking for his muse the ghost Walt Whitman, a patriarch of American poetry and the myth of Nation, Ginsberg attacks the Dream as the greatest lost cause of the twentieth century.

There may be some hyperbole contained in that statement – the American Dream as the greatest lost cause – but it is not without merit. Even if the Dream does exist, Ginsberg makes clear how difficult it is to find, let alone it is to achieve, for both middle America and those on its fringe. Thinking about Whitman, the great poet who asserts independence and identity through both sexuality and landscape, Ginsberg questions the value of an “Americanness” based on shopping for mass-produced items in a unnatural, corporate supermarket far removed from a person’s or nation’s soul. Ginsberg’s post-war America is a nation of late-night grocery shoppers who do nothing with their time but consider the ripeness of peaches and avacodos in the neon glow of their local supermarket. Ginsberg is shopping for an image, looking a perfect vignette of what America is, and all he finds are consumers, choosing one peach over the other when both come from the same share-cropped grove. Nature and authenticity are not necessarily effaced in this new America, but are definitely substituted with a different form. There is no natural light in Ginsberg’s America but only a chemical, neon glow.

What makes the poem so interesting is not necessarily Ginsberg’s criticism of the (false) American dream by situating its adherents to a lifestyle full of mass-market grocery stores and the same blue automobile in every garage, but the evocation of Whitman himself. Ginsberg speaks to Walt, and Walt returns by inserting himself into Ginsberg’s thoughts and into the poem, offering us a chance to consider an America defined by its margins. Both Whitman and Ginsberg lived in a sexual penumbra – neither poet allowed their sexuality to either lurk in the shadows, or be fully disclosed and normalized in full light. Ginsberg does, however, find a certain solace walking the neon-lit aisles with Whitman while eyeing the young clerks or considering suggestive foods such as artichokes and bananas. In this neon glare – neither shadow nor real “natural” light – Ginsberg can speak from the outside, from the margins, and declare the American Dream to be lost to those who are literary buying in, in the supermarket. The families shopping in the artifical glow of the supermarket’s lights are no better than the “degenerates” of the Beat Generation. Yet, just as America refuses to acknowledge the simple fact of Whitman’s homosexuality, and its importance to his poetry, the families refuse to acknowledge the artifice and inauthenticity of their national myth.

Disclaimer: These are not your thoughts. And this is not an academic site. Using them for your paper will not only be an instance of plagiarism, but also a moment of shoddy research that would grant you a very low grade if you managed to pass off the work as your own.
Like the rest of America, as Ginsberg caught on to, you are commodified.

Written by mitchellirons

January 20, 2008 at 4:18 pm

Dana Gioia, California Hills in August

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Dana Gioia, “California Hills in August” (1982).

I can imagine someone who found
these fields unbearable, who climbed
the hillside in the heat, cursing the dust,
cracking the brittle weeds underfoot,
wishing a few more trees for shade.

An Easterner especially, who would scorn
the meagerness of summer, the dry
twisted shapes of black elm,
scrub oak, and chaparral — a landscape
August has already drained of green.

One who would hurry over the clinging
thistle, foxtail, golden poppy,
knowing everything was just a weed,
unable to conceive that these trees and sparse brown bushes were alive.

And hate the bright stillness of the noon,
without wind, without motion,
the only other living thing
a hawk, hungry for prey, suspended
in the blinding, sunlit blue.

And yet how gentle it seems to someone
raised in a landscape short of rain —
the skyline of a hill broken by no more
trees that one can count, the grass,
the empty sky, the wish for water.

Written by mitchellirons

January 15, 2008 at 1:36 pm

William Wordsworth re-visited

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As if we needed another link to justify oour use of the internet, what with the incredible amount of internet banking, monster.com job-hunting, google calendaring and flickr photosharing we do, I present today a small but wondrous hip-hop-ified rendition of William Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud“.

Re-interpreted as a short rap as part of a tourist campaign for England’s Lakes District, this ‘music video’ has been making the rounds on the internet for a couple months now. (I resurrect it and send it out to my friends from time to time to ensure they still value their Norton Anthologies of English Literature.) Featuring a rapping squirrel, lots of daffodils, a glass of milk and a really dope backbeat (i think that’s what the kids still call it), this link is sure to perk up your late afternoon doldrums in your offices and cubicles.

Do you have any other web-based off-the-wall interpretations of literature to share? Sound and full-motion are desired, but any links will be accepted – it would be nice to see what else the internet has in store for literature hounds like us.

(The actual website is found at http://www.golakes.co.uk/wordsworthrap/)

William Wordsworth is commodified.

Written by mitchellirons

August 25, 2007 at 1:17 pm