Lives of the Poets

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Robert Frost
Very nearly got lost
In a snowy wood at night.
But fortunately, it turned out all right.

William Butler Yeats
Is accounted one of the greats
So much so that poor John Keats
Now has to correct the pronunciation of everyone he meets.

Ezra Loomis Pound
Wrote verse difficult and profound
The fact that even he couldn’t figure it out
Should suffice to remove any doubt.

Wallace Stevens
Was always at sixes and sevens.
He never could decide exactly
Whether to rhyme slant, or perfectly.

Edward “e e” Estlin Cummings
Marched to the sounds of different drummings.
Without making any apologies
He ended up in some anthologies.

Ogden Nash
As a poet was brash
His lines rushed out in a lengthy and seemingly unstoppable torrent
And his rhymes were abhorrent.

Edna St. Vincent Millay
Was heard on occasion to say
That only the author of Euclid’s Elements
Had ever seen Beauty without habiliments.

Mr. Edward Lear
Was rather queer.
But of course, the word had a different meaning back then
So instead, one should simply say that he preferred men.

T.S. Eliot
Never ate anything smelly. It
Was only understated food
That ever suited his mood.

Edmund Clerihew Bentley
Died discontently
Aware that decent rhymes for Clerihew
Are, alas, very few.

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Nothing happens fast

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Nothing happens fast

first the Sun rises and
then it’s night time
and Carl Sandburg is
alive and
children playing horseshoes
and during that slow expanse
the mortgage came due
the elves lay down under
the hill and I

awoke thinking
Oh hell not again.

 

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For me best a paperback

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For me best a paperback:
No good hard boards,
No slick dust jacket that absorbs
The unpredicted inevitable knocks and tears.

Rather the words writ in a rush
Hastened to publication,
The immediate cheap paper
Not worth the saving:

The leftbehind vacationhouse detritus;
The not quite worth packing for home;
The someone else’s freshmanyear surveyclass albatross,
Borne till it could be misplaced in a move

To wash up not yet loved
In beachcomber thriftstores of the mind
In Simi Valley Marin Moscow or Iowa City

Priced to sell
With four neat Roman Xs
Stamped across the pagetops.

 

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Often in Error, Never in Doubt

John Skelton

John Skelton
put his hat of felt on
put his pants and belt on
and his shoes of leather
meet for any weather.
His outfit put together
no hesitation whether
he should go outside—
Aye! I shall! He cried!
And with furious stride
went out through the wide
open front door.
Never yet before
had traveler set out
with fewer pangs of doubt
and such a shout!

 

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The Lives of the Poets

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Ogden Nash
As a poet was brash
His lines rushed out in a lengthy and seemingly unstoppable torrent
And his rhymes were abhorrent.

Ezra Pound
Wrote verse difficult and profound
The fact that even he couldn’t figure it out
Should suffice to remove any doubt.

Edward Lear
Was rather queer.
But of course, the word had a different meaning back then
So instead, one should simply say that he preferred men.

Edmund Clerihew Bentley
Died discontently
Aware that decent rhymes for Clerihew
Are, alas, very few.

Edna St. Vincent Millay
Was heard on occasion to say
That only the author of Euclid’s Elements
Had ever seen Beauty without habiliments.

 

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Ariel

Seedling - Ray S - 8197868606_161834d373_z

Later some said
You’d all along been practicing for dead
But I believe it wasn’t in you
To practice something you already knew;
You, far more wise,
Were already plotting your rise.

 

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Paradise (p.9)

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Little-read now,
but in truth little-read even in his time;
And less loved,
but known for those who loved him in his time.
And the great tower
which was to have reached as high as Heaven
Undercut — or top-heavy,
or with too weak a foundation, —
Too long in the building, in any case.

The sea which gnaws at the land
The land which fills up the sea

* * *

And now in Venice, antique city,
All history encrusted upon her,
and in all her long impatience a kind of patience at last visible,
Pearl of the middle-world,
Her treasures flotsam, flotsam her art,
her history flotsam;
Her citizens flotsam, borne to the edge of the world…

And now, in Venice, what thoughts?

But to have envisioned Paradise
Though the hand was not the eye’s equal;
And to have approached the shoals of Paradise,
Of the chosen island, the site where the great building should take place,
Braved the reefs, stone to tear out a ship’s belly;
To have heard the waves crash and the susurrus,
Sea-surge, waves on the stones,
Day-long, night-long, as ever, so now,
And to have made a start anyway, though never an ending,
Is this a little thing?

“Bill Williams said you had a mystic ear, did you know?”
“He never said that to me. No, I never heard that.”
“A mystic ear, he said. Never a word wrongly chosen,
Never a word misplaced.”

Silence then, the old man perhaps pleased for a while…

But to have had a vision,
To have felt in one’s hand the heft of the stone,
To have made a beginning of things, —
Though on a too-narrow foundation,
The stone on stone laid too high,
Stone laid on stone, and on stone,
The vision made real,
which could not stand the weight of being made real,
Art outstripped by fancy…

 And to have had such a vision,
And to have made such a start

Is this a little thing?
Is this insignificant?

A start, never an ending.
And here, and here…
what thoughts, shaped in silence?

 

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Paradise (pt.6)

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… to have made a start …

“Benito, there was soldier
& a statesman, understd. Art
Economics
& Poetry of his kind
which is in the proper balance —

non crede
né alla possibilità
né all’utilità della
pace perpetua.

Kilt of course
& they like to have kilt me the same — “

Wrong, all wrong, wrong from the start…

But to have made a start, at any rate,
to have had a vision…

A thirty years fury,
China and Pisa conflated,
Jefferson and Mussolini conflated,
H. Adams and Odysseus,
Hell in England,
Satan in Usura, —

And to have had a vision…

To be
To be the stone
To be the stone that splits the in-rushing tide,
And was, some would say he was like that stone —

on which many a foot would stumble,
which could not bear the weight of being builded with,
which, having been spit out from the earth,
returns to earth —

Of such stone, to make Paradise —
Paradise!
Always it comes to this notion of Paradise —

To make Paradise, or “a paradise,” any Paradise,
it is necessary to have had a vision,
it is necessary to have had some plan in mind

And to find Paradise (or any Paradise), it is necessary to walk a long road,
for Paradise is not close by,
and Paradise is not given easily,
it is not a thing given —

For Paradise exists already
and Paradise must be builded;
Paradise must be discovered, and
Paradise must be invented also.

In this it is like a mystery.
O,
it is very like a mystery.

 

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Paradise (pt.5)

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Venice, the city precarious,
built as for eternity,
founded upon water;
The floods each year,
water jealous of stone
rising up;
Every stone brought from afar,
and the city’s treasures traded for or stolen,
laid up like stones;

Those living beside the sea
are of necessity traders —
are of necessity grubbers at the sea’s verge,
Where even careful tending
will not make a garden…

Traders, as all men,
As the bankers trade in money & in war
coin & credit
mustard gas & “security”
In the interest of security,
in the interest…
Ignorance of the masses,
“ignorance of coin,
credit and circulation!”
But with a day’s reading
a man may have the key in his hands,
with one day’s reading…

To make of all things, one thing,
and out of one, all:
A cinema of words,
image following image,
& so on,
& because these things have been joined
they have been meant to be joined,
they increase in meaning;

The key in his hand,
“The terrifyin’ voice of civilization…”

 

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