MY candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends–
It gives a lovely light!
SAFE upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!
~ A Few Figs From Thistles, Edna St. Vincent Millay
from A Few Figs From Thistles, by Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1922
WAS it for this I uttered prayers
And sobbed and cursed and kicked the stairs,
That now, domestic as a plate,
I should retire at half-past eight?
Ay! November already. Here, have some colors of the season. This is from the gorgeous altar display at the Oakland Museum of California. Their combination of migration – the Monarchs – and the passing of life as commemorated and celebrated during the Dias de los Muertos – was among the more memorable and beautiful that I’ve seen. Well worth a trip.
At some point, this form will become easier. At some distant date, all we’ll need is to hear a form and, with a graceful flourish, we’ll pull out a pen and produce said form with grace.
That day is obviously not yet come, at least not for me.
Last attempted in 2015, the triolet remains the more problematic of the repeating forms for me. I think it’s the awkward rhyme scheme, which never gives me a feeling that the poetic statement is complete. Like a song which closes with an unresolved chord, I find myself… stopped, but not…finished. I’m never quite sure if I’ve yet said what I’ve meant to say – or if it was coherent. Nevertheless, I applied myself to this month’s task set by the lovely Liz, which was to use two autumnal words from a list comprised of orange, fall, chill, light, and change.
The poet warned us gravely ‘nothing gold can ever stay,’
Persimmon’s orange a honeyed warmth ephemeral as mist.
You’ll sooner find a treasure in a vacant alleyway,
The poet warned us, gravely. Nothing gold can ever stay
Bright. Tarnishing, the light fades into winter’s shadowplay.
Drink down the days at autumn’s end on memory’s mailing list.
The poet warned us gravely ‘nothing gold can ever stay,’
Persimmon’s orange a honeyed warmth ephemeral as mist.
Technically, red is the more ephemeral color, but I just had to play with that… because orange is a hard word to include in a poem, since nothing rhymes with orange. I also like to play with using fourteen syllables occasionally.
White-hot, our spirits rising through the heat,
The flame renewed with passion’s fiery light,
Destroyed, we fall. We signal cold’s defeat,
White-hot. Our spirits rising. Through the heat
We radiate – our frantic dance complete –
Collapse as ash, with sated appetite.
White-hot, our spirits rising. Through the heat
The flame renews our passion. Firelight.
Now here, I was only writing about fire. I’m told Other Interpretations May Apply. *cough* I take no responsibility.
Also, happy Books and Blogging Weekend to all those gathered in Hershey, PA for the 2017 Kidlitosphere Conference. Poetry Friday today is hosted at Teacher Dance. Sometimes, when you’re feeling blah, the Friday poetry round-up is just the thing. Read on for a little lift of your spirits.
“Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he sometimes thinks he feels it. But from the view point of daily life – without going deeper – we exist for each other; in the first place, for those on whose smiles and welfare all our happiness depends, and next, for all those unknown to us personally, with whose destinies we are bound up by the tie of sympathy. A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depends on the labors of others, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.” – Albert Einstein, The World as I See It
“A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full or wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantment of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength.” – Rachel Carson The Sense of Wonder
When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He returning chide;
“Doth God exact day-labor, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed,
And post o’er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.”
Sonnet 19 in Poems (1673), John Milton
“Boundaries are contacts as well as limits. At what point do the interests of our country meet and possibly conflict with those of other countries? What are our real interests anyway and are they worth a war for their protection? And are the interests in question those of the nation as a whole or merely those of a small group of people or even of a single person? Are such clashes anyway settled better by heat and conflict, or by a reasonable adjustment?” – Jeanette Rankin Two Votes Against War: And Other Writings on Peace
It’s been a week… but despite the erratic nature of human nature, the seasons tick on; seedtime and harvest, summer and winter. And today we celebrate the steady metronome of the natural world with… hymn meter.
Isaac Watts, the mad rhymer, pretty much invented it, and Emily D perfected it. Not to be confused with the meter of hymn music, this deals with text, and is a fairly simple form. There are three categories of hymn meter: common, which is alternating lines of iambic tetrameter with iambic trimeter; long, which is iambic tetrameter the entire stanza; and short meter, which is two lines of iambic trimeter followed by a single line of iambic tetrameter, and finally returns to iambic trimeter for the fourth line. It’s actually more complicated to explain than to compose.
Because hymn meter was well loved by Emily Dickinson whose 236th poem, “Some Keep the Sabbath Going to Church” has ever been used by earnest poets to get out of leaving the house at the weekend, I thought I’d dash off a quick nod to her. Of course, this effort isn’t true short meter, because the third line is not short by any means, and to make it even more hymn-like, I added a distinct refrain. This was me not trying to quite go with the rules just yet:
Keeping Emily’s Sabbath
cathedral light abounds
through old growth canopy
as crows produce a raucous sound, as fog’s damp surges all around
and we breathe autumn’s ease, in redwood panoply.(no sermon, no sexton. birdsong, from every direction
the quail’s quiet sageness is truth for the ages, and never is service too long)
leaf-fall means death. Rejoice
in every dying tree
for autumn leads to winter’s choice. Then, ending, winter gives spring voice
and brings the honeybee, renewal’s guarantee.(no chalice, no cantor: listen to the blue jay’s banter
the woodpecker’s rapping, its beats overlapping, and never is service too long)
scythe down, like autumn’s weeds
what binds you to the pew
no dome nor chorister a need, that “all are loved,” be that the creed
which Sabbath-hearts pursue; may Light be found in you.No vestments, no hymn book. Take to the woods. Change your outlook.
Your body will thank you – the dogma will keep – and the sermon won’t put you to sleep.
Somewhere, my mother is perhaps despairing of my church attendance. *cough*
The next two poems I tried a little harder to both keep to the theme (why, oh, why is it that the minute someone mentions theme, poems spring forth from the forehead of Zeus on thoroughly different topics? I have the most contrary brain) and to the rules of form. This one in common meter goes out to the people who I annoyed on Twitter when I told them not to talk to me about pumpkin spiced anything until November… when I’m spicing pumpkins for pie:
There’s More To Life (Than Pumpkin Spice)
(There’s more to life than pumpkin spice
In autumn’s short-lived hoard,
Than cutesy “hygge” merchandise
You really can’t afford.)
Crabapples, crisp, without a doubt
When kissed by nighttime’s rime
Are twice as sweet, and Brussels sprouts
when roasted, are divine.
Bright hops, persimmons, leafy kale
Meld autumn’s rustic hues
Gold cannot stay, and fog’s exhale
Bronze streaks the sunset’s blue.
There’s more to life. Though pumpkin’s nice
Sing autumn’s fullest song —
Praise for short days in paradise
Laud nights, knife-crisp and long.
Hops really are gorgeous – Click if you’ve never seen them. There was a hop farm up near where we used to live, and though we don’t brew beer, it was A Big Deal to the many who do. Apparently the in-thing for decoration this fall is not hops, but… cotton bolls. Meh, I’ll pass. Give me that glorious hoppy green.
Finally, this is long meter, and while it’s definitely less… sparkly and dance-y than the rest, it likely lends itself to four-part voices and pipe organ beautifully.
Contrails streak skylines, white on blue,
Crossing guards heed the avenue,
Breath makes its halo misty cloud,
Fog folds the land within its shroud.
Schoolyards burst forth with raucous noise
Squirrels scold unheeding girls and boys
Bees labor long on winter’s hoard
Markets display their festive gourds
Landscape takes shades of orange and gold
Ocher and azure, tawny, bold
This serves as notice: time runs on
In this seasonal marathon.
Bright as a coin, the harvest moon
Draws down the drapes of afternoon
Last gasp of summer’s bright caprice
Leaves pass out autumn’s press release
This has been kind of a fun meter to play with! Enjoy more autumn-flavored selections from: Tricia, a this-girl-ain’t-growing-old ode from Liz; Sara brings the beauty to the dying season and Laura’s adorable tribute to Jack made me smile. Now, here’s Kelly‘s take on the form, and hugs to Andi; we’ll catch up with her later.
Even MORE autumnal poetry is found in Violet Nesdoly’s pumpkin patch!
“The real damage is done by those millions who want to “survive.” The honest people who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don’t like to make waves – or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honor, truth, and principles are only literature. Those who live small, mate small, die small. It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you. But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. Safe?! From what? Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn.” – Sophie Scholl, Die Letzten Tage
“When we tell lies or omit truths about life to children, they are filled with unrealistic expectations of the world. We create angry adults who do terrible things to themselves or to others. The truth creates peace.” Javaka Steptoe