Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Happy Poetry Month!

First of all: I'm a bit late letting you know about this, but the fact is that over on Instagram (and Twitter) this month I'm sharing a favourite commonplace book quote every day. You're warmly welcomed to participate as well! Here's the challenge I made, and be sure to tag your contributions with #commonplacebookchallenge so I can see it!

In other news, a lovely blog called The Edge of the Precipice is hosting a celebration for National Poetry Month, which happens to be April. This poetry tag is part of that party, and because I love poetry, I'm going to spend some time filling it out.

What are some poems you like?
As regular readers of this blog know, I love poems of almost every description. I particularly love a good epic poem: Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene, Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered, Beowulf, and The Song of Roland are among my favourite epics.

If you want just one excellent non-epic recommendation, I recently made the acquaintance of Milton's Hymn on the Morning of Christ's Nativity and it was unbelievably good.

What are some poems you dislike?
I don't like Wordsworth's daffodil poem and poems of that sort generally (so, I'm not a huge fan of the Romantics. I know!). I find TS Eliot's and other people's free verse very difficult to like. And if I'm never asked to read another piece of inspirational doggerel in public it'll be too soon.

Are there any poets whose work you especially enjoy? If so, who are they?

My favourite poets are undeniably GK Chesterton, James McAuley, and Christina Rossetti. I also enjoy Tolkien's poetry, CS Lewis's poetry, and Dorothy Sayers's poetry.

Do you write poetry?
I've been known to! (See some of my older efforts here and here). Normally I don't, unless inspiration strikes. The last bit of poetry I wrote was a stanza for Pendragon's Heir (at the end of chapter 6), where inspiration was very much lacking. I used GK Chesterton's The Crusader Returns from Captivity as a template for the scheme of rhythm, rhyme, and alliteration; and beat the thing till it sort-of fit.

Have you ever memorized a poem? 

 Yes--GK Chesterton's The Last Hero was definitely one, though there have been others. Most recently, James McAuley's almost haiku-like Late Winter is one I delight to remember.

Do you prefer poetry that rhymes and had a strict meter, or free verse?  Or do you like both?

Generally I much prefer rhyming or blank verse to free verse, especially as the latter tends to be either bad or comprehensible only after great effort. But I did once stumble across a couple of poems by a woman named Vera Pavlova, which I loved:
I am in love, hence free to live
by heart, to improvise caresses.
A soul is light when full,
heavy when vacuous.
My soul is light. She is not afraid
to dance the agony alone,
for I was born wearing your shirt,
will come from the dead with that shirt on.
Do you have any particular poetry movements you're fond of? (Beat poets, Romanticism, Fireside poets, etc?)
I've usually enjoyed the Metaphysical Poets (John Donne, George Herbert, Andrew Marvell), and it's a safe bet that if any of the Inklings or their associates or forefathers wrote poetry, I love it.

What about you? Who are your favourite poets? Who've I missed?


Joseph J said...

I'm assuming that by you were referring to Wordsworth's daffodil poem, not Longfellow's, and that you have a heart of stone! Next you'll be saying that Kubla Kahn leaves you cold. What about The Rime of the Ancient Mariner? Who can fail to be enthralled by that prolonged semi-pious acid trip?

I suppose someone who reads epic poetry before breakfast can be partly excused for failing to hold these poetic pastries in very high esteem. I myself have rarely ventured outside the desert menu. I stand in awe of Milton, however, although he is not without his faults.

If I may venture an observation, it seems to me that your tastes in shorter poetry lie in the somewhat didactic realm. Chesterton, Lewis, Sayers, Updike, they are all happiest when setting a theological thought to rhythm and rhyme. Personally I find such poetry can be rather dry. As much as I love Chesterton the thinker, I find his poetry too often doggerel, and as usual with him almost compulsively disputatious. As much as I applaud his opinions I enjoy the simple warm sentiments of the infamous daffodil poem even more. Poetry for me is primarily a means to escape the weary controversies of the world and contemplate beautiful, eternal things.

Joseph J said...

Also, may I recommend the poems of Robert W. Service for some good vigorous escapist fun ("The Cremation of Sam McGee", the "Ballad of Blasphemous Bill", "The Shooting of Dan McGrew"). He also wrote lots of shameless inspirational doggerel of the Kipling variety, intended apparently to be recited by tough men around campfires in harsh wildernesses (and it probably was).

Anonymous said...

Joseph J somehow gets me thinking of Sir Geoffrey Hill's recent observation in a review essay, 'Of his [Charles Williams's] three major books of literary criticism, Poetry at Present (1930), The English Poetic Mind (1932) and Reason and Beauty in the Poetic Mind (1933), all published by the Clarendon Press, the first, I entirely agree with [Grevel] Lindop, is largely a failure; the second is a magnificent study of Shakespeare, Milton and Wordsworth that I still recommend to students who profess poetry; the third I also strongly recommend, chiefly for its opening chapter, “The Ostentation of Verse” and its ninth, “The Abolition of Significance”.'

Happily, Reason and Beauty in the Poetic Mind is scanned in Internet Archive (as is The English Poetic Mind): maybe (re)reading Williams on “The Ostentation of Verse” is a good enrichment of the remaining three-plus weeks of Poetry Month!

David Llewellyn Dodds

Hanna said...

Looks like we do have similar tastes in poetry! In the past, I've mostly preferred lyric poetry (even some of that fluffy, Wordsworth-like stuff ;)), but your reviews of epic poems do make me curious to try them sometime. Also, I had never heard of Vera Pavlova before, but having found a few of her poems online, she sounds fantastic! I haven't read many Russian poets, so I look forward to exploring her work.

Suzannah said...

Joseph - Oops, someone should revoke my poetry licence. Or I'll edit my post ;). I'm often perfectly heartless, but if it's Coleridge's "In Xanadu" to which you refer, take it back: I adore it. And I love "Ozymandias", but "Lines Written Above Tintern Abbey" bore me to tears. I haven't read "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" for so long I've forgotten most of it, but it tells a story (and I love poems that tell stories), so I enjoyed it.

I do indeed like argumentative verse, but "didactic" is such a narrow word. It may describe "Cliche Came Out of Its Cage" or "A Letter to John Dryden" but it doesn't describe "Hermione in the House of Paulina" or "Lepanto" or any of the Sayers poetry I've been acquainted with. And it's a big blunt ugly word to use for the multilayered conceits of the Metaphysical poets.

David - Ooh, I'm very tempted to look up and read those books. I'm not sure my schedule will allow it though, as I'm busy force-feeding myself crusader history at present. But I'm young yet ;). Thank you for alerting me to their presence!

Hanna - I'm a big fan of lyric poetry too - of the right type. Epic poetry is remarkably different, a reading experience unlike any other, offering little of what most people go to poetry for--it doesn't encourage you to slow down and savour a neat turn of phrase, more just flings you into a galloping story. But I think it deserves to be better known and loved :).

Thought you'd like Vera Pavlova!

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Longfellow and long poems, I've just read John Garth's 2014 essay on Tolkien's 1914 Earendil poem, which, as Hugh Brogan pointed out to him and he explores in detail, is endebted to, and plays with, one of Shelley's poems! And, he further considers how Longfellow's Song of Hiawatha, which consciously makes use of the Finnish Kalevala, may have contributed to the work of the young Tolkien!

Rather like the auntie in Stella Gibbons's Cold Comfort Farm, who 'saw something nasty in the wood shed when she was a little girl', I was rather scared off Longfellow at about age nine by (dire thought) a teacher who loved his work! I tried his Golden Legend about 15 years later, thanks to Charles Williams who loved it in his youth, but am only now, thanks to Garth on Tolkien, catching up with Hiawatha - with considerable enjoyment (not a little of which is due to Peter Yearsley's delightful reading of it for - an Englishman, appropriately enough in the Tolkien context!).

David Llewellyn Dodds

Suzannah said...

David, that reminds me that I have indeed read The Song of Hiawatha, and enjoyed it very much! I noticed that Hiawatha had used the same rhythm scheme, but now that you mention it, it also has a very similar plot, with Hiawatha himself having a lot in common with Vainamonen. Ooh. Maybe I'll have to re-read it now!

Hamlette (Rachel) said...

Hello! I'm really enjoying your answers to the tag. I actually don't care for Wordsworth's Daffodil Poem either, or much else from the Romantics, I must admit. They get so enamored of crags and clouds and begin to weary me. Tragic of me, I know :-o

Thanks for linking up!

Suzannah said...

Hello, Hamlette! Thanks so much for your terrific celebration! I'm so happy we see eye to eye on the Romantics. I feel like they're responsible for a lot of people not liking poetry: we want fewer daffodils and more monsters getting rent limb from limb :D

Hamlette (Rachel) said...

As Armande says to her grandson in Chocolat, "Don't worry -- it's not that kind of poetry." :-D

Elisheva said...

My favorite Biblical Quote (which is definitely BC) is from the Book of Proverbs chapter 30, verse 19:
The way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a serpent upon a rock,
the way of a ship in the heart of the sea, and the way of a man in the world.

As a librarian and book lover, I enjoyed this writing prompt as well as other articles published on this blog. For this reason I would like to nominate you for the Blogger Recognition Award.

I have also posted a link on my blog to this blog:

Suzannah said...

Glad you're enjoying the blog, Elisheva! And thank you for the award!

bareket57 said...

I've already liked your Facebook page and I've shared this post :)


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