Sunday, January 21, 2018

Poetry Pantry #387

Mt. Herschel, Antarctica

Good Sunday morning, Poets!  Hope that you all had a good poetic (and otherwise) week.  I chose a photo of Antarctica from Wikimedia Commons.  Yes, indeed, there is beauty in ice.

Thanks to Susan for such a thoughtful prompt for Midweek Motif - Psyche / Soul.  And what wonderful poetry resulted.  The next Midweek Motif prompt by Sumana will be Weapon, so think about it ahead of time to be ready for Wednesday.

Rosemary featured a very interesting poet, Lawrence Durrell (who I had never heard of) in her The Living Dead series.  She featured one of his beautiful love poems, but also shared a lot of information about him.  I hope you will look back if you haven't already seen the article.

On Monday Sherry will feature an interview with one of our newer participants at Poets United.  Don't you just love it when Sherry shares these interviews?  I know I always look forward to seeing just who she will feature each week.

With No further delay, let's share poetry.   Link your one poem below.  Then pay visits to others who share their poetry! I look forward to seeing you on the trail.

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Living Dead

~ Honouring our poetic ancestors ~

For 'Buttons'

Seemingly upended in the sky,
Cloudless as minds asleep
One careless cemetery buzzes on and on
As if her tombstones were all hives
Overturned by the impatient dead –
We imagined they had stored up
The honey of their immortality
In the soft commotion the black bees make.

Below us, far away, the road to Paris.
You pour some wine upon a tomb.
The bees drink with us, the dead approve.

It is weeks ago now and we are back
In our burnt and dusty Languedoc,
Yet often in the noon-silences
I hear the Vaumort bees, taste the young wine,
Catch a smile hidden in sighs.

In the long grass you found a ring, remember?
A child’s toy ring. Yes, I know that whenever
I want to be perfectly alone
With the memory of you, of that whole day
It’s to Vaumort that I’ll be turning.

– Lawrence Durrell (1912-1990)

I've been revisiting the Durrells over the last few months – brothers Gerald and Lawrence, respectively the youngest and oldest of their family. Gerald was a naturalist/zoologist, memoirist, and sometime TV presenter, who immortalised that family in his most famous book, My Family and Other Animals. Lawrence, a novelist, dramatist, travel writer and poet, was best-known for his series of novels The Alexandria Quartet. 

I saw a new TV series (not the first) based on Gerald's family stories, and was inspired to re-read those and others of his books, which I first discovered decades ago; then sought out Lawrence's fascinating travel books, which I'd never read before, and discovered they go far beyond the merely descriptive into the historical and sociological; found biographies of both men (very different books, about brothers who were in some ways very different men, yet who remained close throughout their lives); and at last took a look at Lawrence's poetry.

I bought the Selected Poems – selected by the distinguished ex-pat Australian poet, the late Peter Porter, who also supplies an illuminating introduction – but I see that Collected Poems 1931-1974 is of course a much more extensive volume. (Both are available from Amazon).

A beautiful prose writer, Lawrence Durrell is often too intellectual a poet for my taste, and rather too erudite, I think, to have wide appeal. Many of his poems assume a level of classical education which not everyone has. That being said, he has quite a range, including the satirical and the bawdy. Porter rates him as an important poet, doing different things from other English poets of the time. Lawrence had a different background, and therefore different influences. He was brought up in British India, and, after finishing his schooling in England, couldn't wait to become expatriate, living in turn in Greece, Egypt and France. 

His love poems (like this one) are the pieces most to my taste, achieving great lyrical beauty. This one is free verse, yet is so musical that I keep thinking it must surely have metre and rhyme. (It has some very subtle and irregularly-placed half-rhymes, if you search for them. One wonders if they're intentional, but he worked so hard at his craft that I think they probably are.)

He was often described as excelling, both as poet and prose writer, in conveying "the spirit of place". That is very evident here too.

One of the things I like best about this poem is the way it says so much in the unsaid. For instance it seems to me perfectly clear the couple made love in that long grass; also there's a strong suggestion that they were secret lovers – yet these things are never spelled out nor even hinted at in the actual words on the page. What mastery!

You can read about Lawrence Durrell's life and work in Wikipedia, and there are several interviews listed on Google, including some on YouTube.

I'm only a little way into his biography – an unauthorised one, which nevertheless draws on recollections of people who knew him well. It's 
Through the Dark Labyrinth by Gordon Bowker.

I'm already thinking about re-reading The Alexandria Quartet and perhaps tackling his other great series, The Avignon Quintet, which would be new to me. Meanwhile, even the poetry I don't like best is an interesting read.

(By the way, although nearly everyone wants to say "Duh-RELL" – and I have had more than one person tactfully correct my pronunciation to that – in this case "Durrell" is actually pronounced with a short "u" as in "but" and the stress on the first, not second syllable.)

Material shared in 'The Living Dead' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings and images remain the property of the copyright owners, where applicable (older poems may be out of copyright)

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Psyche / Soul

Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss (1793) by Antonio Canova

". . .  the heart of the star as opposed to the shape of a star, let us say — exists in a mysterious, unmapped zone: not unconscious, not subconscious, but cautious." 
~ Mary Oliver

“The most valuable thing we can do for the psyche, occasionally, is to let it rest, wander, live in the changing light of room, not try to be or do anything whatever.”  
May Sarton

* * *

Midweek Motif ~ Psyche / Soul

          Since Sumana made the last Midweek Motif  "poetry about the body," I thought poetry about psyche and soul logically followed: psychology and spirituality.   Are mind and soul synonymous?  Do either exist without body?

          Psyche is also the name of Cupid's love in Greek Mythology ~ a myth which is a very dramatic story on the order of "The Beauty and the Beast."

Your Challenge:  In today's new poem, turn your attention to themes of consciousness and unconsciousness, to soul or to Psyche herself.

The structure of the souls of plants, animals, and humans, 
according to Aristotle.

I am angry with X, with Y, with Z,
for not being you.
Enthusiasms jump at me,
wagging and barking. Go away.
Go home.

I am angry with my eyes for not seeing you,
they smart and ache and see the snow,
an insistent brilliance.

If I were Psyche how could I not
bring the lamp to our bedside?
I would have known in advance
all the travails my gazing
would bring, more than Psyche
ever imagined,
and even so, how could I not have raised
the amber flame to see
the human person I knew
was to be revealed.
She did not even know! She dreaded
a beast and discovered
a god. But I
know, and hunger
to witness again the form
of mortal love itself.
. . . . 
(Read the rest HERE.)

1802, West, Benjamin, Eagle Bringing cup to Psyche.jpg
Eagle Bringing cup to Psyche
by Benjamin West, American, 1738–1820

Mind ? Body

How do they survive, riven   
as they are, the one undoing   
the other's desire?   

Tell the body to outrun   
the mind, and the mind smirks,   
whispering too loudly 
this way   this way,   
blocking all the exits.   

And the body, luxurious   
sensualist by pool side or in bed,   
doesn't it hear the mind's   
impatient machinery ticking 
it's time   it's time? 
. . . . 
(Read the rest here.)
The Greek letter 'psi', a symbol for psychology
Greek letter 'psi', a symbol for psychology

O who shall, from this dungeon, raise 
A soul enslav’d so many ways? 
With bolts of bones, that fetter’d stands 
In feet, and manacled in hands; 
Here blinded with an eye, and there 
Deaf with the drumming of an ear; 
A soul hung up, as ’twere, in chains 
Of nerves, and arteries, and veins; 
Tortur’d, besides each other part, 
In a vain head, and double heart. 

O who shall me deliver whole 
From bonds of this tyrannic soul? 
Which, stretch’d upright, impales me so 
That mine own precipice I go; 
And warms and moves this needless frame, 
(A fever could but do the same) 
And, wanting where its spite to try, 
Has made me live to let me die. 
A body that could never rest, 
Since this ill spirit it possest. 
. . . . 
(Read the rest of this amazing poem HERE.)

Please share your new poem using Mr. Linky below and visit others in the spirit of the community—

                (Next week Sumana’s Midweek Motif will be ~ Weapon.)