9.18.2009

Critical Valentine

Prose that keeps
trying to remember
to be poetry
is prose
not poetry
poetry’s sent to get past
these unrhymed
broken lives
while prose
always wants to settle
somewhere here
what makes
that star falter
but a state
of wonder?

10 comments:

Henry Gould said...

Bravo!

Tom C. Hunley said...

I like "unrhymed broken lives." I'm not as sure about the prose/poetry distinction drawn here and so many other places. I like Lewis Turco's take on it, in the intro to THE BOOK OF FORMS, where he says that poetry and prose are not opposites: prose and verse are opposites, and you can make poetry out of either one, as demonstrated by non-rhymed, unmetered Old Testament poetry and some Norse sagas and Christopher Smart and Walt Whitman and the French Symbolist prose poems of Rimbaud and Baudelaire (on one hand) and 400 years of English verse (on the other hand), this being a very, very rough summary of Turco's comments because I don't have his book here in fron tof me.

Mairi said...

Perhaps Ruskin is a good illustration of Tom's comment about making poetry out of either prose or verse. Ruskin's prose comment on Turner's "Typhoon Coming On" was "She is a slaver, throwing her slaves overboard. The near sea is encoumbered with corpses." From that note he writes the following, not very prosaic piece.

"It is a sunset on the Atlantic after prolonged storm; but the storm is partially lulled, and the torn and streaming rain clouds are moving in scarlet lines to lose themselves in the hollow of the night. The whole surface of the sea included in the picture is divided into two ridges of enormous swell, not high, nor local, but a low, broad heaving of the whole ocean, like the lifting of its bosom by deep-drawn breath after the torture of the storm. Between these two ridges, the fire of the sunset falls along the trough of the sea, dyeing it with an awful but glorious light, the intense and lurid splendour which burns like gold and bathes like blood. Along this fiery path and valley, the tossing waves by which the swell of the sea is restlessly divided, lift themselves in dark, indefinite, fantastic forms, each casting a faint and ghastly shadow behind it along the illumined foam. They do not rise everywhere, but three or four together in wild groups, fitfully and furiously, as the under strength of the swell compels or permits them; leaving between them treacherous spaces of level and whirling water, now lighted with green and lamp-like fire, now flashing back the gold of the declining sun, now fearfully dyed from above with the indistinguishable images of the burning clouds, which fall upon them in flakes of crimson and scarlet, and give to the reckless waves the added motion of their own fiery flying. Purple and blue, the lurid shadows of the hollow breakers are cast upon the mist of the night, which gathers cold and low, advancing like the shadow of death upon the guilty* ship as it labors amidst the lightning of the sea, its thin masts written upon the sky in lines of blood, girded with condemnation in that fearful hue which signs the sky with horror, and mixes its flaming flood with the sunlight, – and cast far along the desolate heave of the sepulchral waves, incarnadines the multitudinous sea."

Peter said...

Ruskin's Valentine

How what is poetic is not poetry
Ruskin is not a poet he is actually
a scientist of the aesthetic
a perfectly assiduous one
but poetry is what hardly ever shows up even in good poems like just a beating of the shrubbery
until long-eared poetry leaps out munching on the nonchalant mind
of course as a figment or a pigment
it refused to eat its concepts
so now it has a longing for
violet that sphere of the nameless
demanding something of us
in which it turns and leaves.

Tom C. Hunley said...

I like that, Peter. It reminds me some of David Antin's poems. Anyway, Turco would probably agree that "poetry is what hardly ever shows up even in good poems," but he'd say that it shows up just as rarely in poems written in the verse mode (that is, poems in which the poet counts syllables, stresses, or both) as it does in poems written in the prose mode (that is, poems in which the poet does not count any of these things, regardless of whether or not there are line breaks).

Mairi said...

Peter - can you give us your definition of poetry, in the positive not the negative?

Can anyone else give us their definition?

Peter said...

Mairi's Valentine

Unpleasant as paradox
can be what evades
abhors definition may
submit to characterization
as the human being of
poetry accompanies the same
position as night does
appearing in the middle
of the day for a moment when
a messenger passes a note right
under your nose or at the end
of the night you wake dreaming
inside a glimpse and
grasp a picture of
the real ahead.

Mairi said...

Got it. Thanks. "A picture of the real ahead," is about as good as we're going to get.

Peter said...

Mairi's (Sorry) Valentine

For what certain work
in this uncertain world
would you pay a poet
to bring those drivers
those hammers of
human dreaming
to build a few spiritual
chairs out of
all character is pictorial
I want to know what
supplement to take
so thinking starts or
stops at least the door
where you take off
your clothes singing
in a tunnel of flames.

Mairi said...

Peter - I'm taking the liberty of moving your last to the comment box under my most recent as it seems relevant. Thanks.
P.S. Why Sorry?