Tuesday, August 7, 2007

A stream of poetry

I recently saw these pictures on my desktop from a vacation in Punta Fuego we had back in 2003:


and I sang e.e.cumming's poem again:


maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea

Uppermost in my mind, besides, of course, Robert Frost's poems (is it, then, a civic duty of every New Englander to think in Frostian cadence?), are a couple of old Chinese and Japanese poems:

The Little Fête, by Li Po

I take a bottle of wine, and I go to drink it among the flowers
We are always three, counting my shadow and my friend the shimmering moon.
Happily, the moon knows nothing of drinking, and my shadow is never thirsty.

When I sing, the moon listens to me in silence.
When I dance, my shadow dances, too.

After all festivities, the guests must depart.
This sadness I do not know:
When I go home, the moon goes with me,
and my shadow follows me.

This translation is intoned on Vangelis' China, but a very different translation is reproduced at the author's site.

I also recently reran into a pensée from a Go-playing friend, David Matson ...

"Meanwhile, let us have a sip of tea. The afternoon glow is brightening the bamboos, the fountains are bubbling with delight, the soughing of the pines is heard in our kettle. Let us dream of evanescence, and linger in the beautiful foolishness of things."
Okakura Tenshin

... which, surreally, goes very well with this week's reading from Ecclesiastes, chapter 1:

Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.

Seymour makes an appearance here, via his brother, Buddy:

" My personal phobias aside, I don't really believe there is a word, in any language - thank God - to describe the Chinese or Japanese poet's choice of material. I wonder who can find a word for this kind of thing: A proud, pompous Cabinet member, walking in his courtyard and reliving a particularly devastating speech lie made that morning in the Emperor's presence, steps, with regret, on a pen-and-ink sketch someone has lost or discarded. (Woe is me, there's a prose writer in our midst; I have to use italics where the Oriental poet wouldn't.) The great Issa will joyfully advise us that there's a fat-faced peony in the garden. (No more, no less. Whether we go to see his fat-faced peony for ourselves is another matter; unlike certain prose writers and Western poetasters, whom I'm in no position to name off, he doesn't police us.) The very mention of Issa's name convinces me that the true poet has no choice of material. The material plainly chooses him, not he it. A fat-faced peony will not show itself to anyone but Issa - not to Buson, not to Shiki, not even to Basho. With certain prosaic modifications, the same rule holds for the proud and pompous Cabinet member. He will not dare to step with divinely human regret on a piece of sketch paper till the great commoner, bastard, and poet Lao Ti-kao has arrived on the scene to watch. The miracle of Chinese and Japanese verse is that one pure poet's voice is absolutely the same as another's and at once absolutely distinctive and different."

... which really isn't a poem, but a steam, nay, a river of thought.

So, am I sad because I read these poems; or do I recall these poems when I'm sad?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like the poems, the musings...
But I like better the discovery... that behind the computer mind
is a poet.

I like poems. From time to time, some lines come back, as the occasion calls for such -

flower in the crannied wall
i pluck you out of the crannies
i hold you here
root and all in my hand
little flower - but if i could understand what you are, root and all, and all in all -
i should know what god and man is.

And another one -

to see a world in a grain of sand
and a heaven in a flower
holds infinity
in the palm of your hand
and eternity
in an hour.