Category Archives: Poetry

Poetry and Speech

On Mother’s Day one of the things we did was go to the bookstore. I’ve been So Very Good lately, getting all of my books either from the library or BookMooch, so I felt justified in buying a few for once. In addition to a compilation (I almost typed “complication” – interesting slip) of C. S. Lewis essays on Christianity, I bought the new Tolkien, The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún. It’s poetry for the Seriously Geeky, being a rewriting of ancient Eddic sagas in modern English but retaining the Old Norse meter.

That sounds rather esoteric, but it’s amazing to read. This kind of poetry is so compressed and so highly structured – a line divided into two halves with two stressed syllables in each, the third of the four stresses always carrying alliteration, to be matched by one or both of the first two, but never by the fourth (are your eyes crossing yet?) – it’s really awe inspiring that someone could create it. Here’s an example:

The Gods gathered
on golden thrones,
of doom and death
deeply pondered,
how fate should be fended,
their foes vanquished,
their labour healed,
light rekindled.

In forge’s fire
of flaming wrath
was heaviest hammer
hewn and wielded.
Thunder and lightning
Thor the mighty
flung among them,
felled and sundered.

–”Völsungakviða En Nyja” (The New Lay of the Völsungs), Upphaf (Beginning) 7-8.

Now certainly the subject matter is interesting, being some of the oldest stories of Northern Europe, but even better is to say these poems out loud! They are like the most delicious tongue twisters ever.

I’ve had a soft spot for tongue twisters since childhood. My parents bought me a book of tongue twisters that I practically wore out – it even had foreign language ones like “Six sous ces saussicons-ci?” (Six cents for these sausages? – French) or “Nama mugi, nama gome, nama tamago” (Raw wheat, raw rice, raw egg – Japanese).

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes – even more than these tongue twisters, Tolkein’s eddic poems remind me of some of the speech exercises we learned in Foundation Year at Rudolf Steiner College:

Lovable lidded lizard,
Lipping light laughter,
Lumpishly lurking,
Launching a lurch!

Clip, plop, plik, glik,
Clinked clapper quickly

Or this one from Steiner himself:

Tu-whit twinkle ’twas
twice twigged tweaker
to twenty twangy twirlings
the zinnia crisper
zither zooming shambles
this smartened smacking
smuggler sneezing
snoring snatching.

Discussions with Teachers, p. 135.

How fun are those? And how much more fun to have Tolkein put that kind of beautiful, chewy language into poetic form with an engaging plot and luscious imagery.

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Filed under Books, Poetry, Silliness and Mayhem

There will be time, there will be time

To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

-From “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” T. S. Eliot, 1917

I’ve been wondering why I haven’t posted anything much here lately. Remember NaBloPoMo? A post EVERY DAY, for heaven’s sake.

There have been eminently practical, homely reasons: illness, work, lack of sleep. But I think the main reasons relate to blogging itself.

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Filed under Blogging, Deep Thoughts, friends, life, Poetry

Early Winter Haiku

A gang of six crows
Looking for sandpit treasures–
Where are all the kids?

Dusting the mountains
Little pellets hissing down
Wintry mix outside

Leaves hang in brown shreds
Waving in the icy wind
And low clouds darken

Wet mittens and gloves
Glasses steaming up inside
Piles of boots and hats

Cutting up carrots
The boy works so carefully.
Pot roast smells so good!

Staying up too late
Two laptops glow and chirrup
It’s election night!

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Filed under haiku, Nature, Poetry

Autumn Day

Lord, it is time. Let the great summer go,
Lay your long shadows on the sundials,
And over harvest piles let the winds blow.

Command the last fruits to be ripe;
Grant them some other southern hour,
Urge them to completion, and with power
Drive final sweetness to the heavy grape.

Who’s homeless now, will for long stay alone.
No home will build his weary hands,
He’ll wake, read, write letters long to friends
And will the alleys up and down
Walk restlessly, when falling leaves dance.

-Rainer Maria Rilke, translation by Guntram Deichsel

Photos by Anthromama, of the Cherry Springs Nature Area, Caribou-Targhee National Forest.

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Filed under Nature, Poetry

A Uniform Hieroglyphic

Yesterday the kids and I took a hike through Monsey Glen. We found lots of “scope for the imagination” as Anne Shirley would have it: many sandstone overhangs and caves, some of which were occupied by Native Americans over the last 3,000 years; oddly shaped rhododendron groves; lots of gnome king palaces in oak stumps and trunks; and mossy pillows in abundance. Aside from the sadly littered creek bed, this small park was really magical.

As I was thinking about posting some of the pictures from our walk, I recalled that one of my favorite poems, “Song of Myself,” by Walt Whitman, has been poking me in the back of my brain lately. So I read it over once again, and was inspired to accompany the photos with some excerpts:

Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace and knowledge that pass all the argument of the earth,
And I know that the hand of God is the promise of my own,
And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own,
And that all the men ever born are also my brothers, and the women my sisters and lovers,
And that a kelson of the creation is love,
And limitless are leaves stiff or drooping in the fields,
And brown ants in the little wells beneath them,
And mossy scabs of the worm fence, heap’d stones, elder, mullein and poke-weed.

I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey work of the stars,
And the pismire is equally perfect, and a grain of sand, and the egg of the wren,
And the tree-toad is a chef-d’oeuvre for the highest,
And the running blackberry would adorn the parlors of heaven,
And the narrowest hinge in my hand puts to scorn all machinery,
And the cow crunching with depress’d head surpasses any statue,
And a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sextillions of infidels.

Walking the path worn in the grass and beat through the leaves of the brush,
Where the quail is whistling betwixt the woods and the wheat-lot,
Where the bat flies in the Seventh-month eve, where the great goldbug drops through the dark,
Where the brook puts out of the roots of the old tree and flows to the meadow…

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Filed under Deep Thoughts, Nature, Poetry