Saturday, April 4, 2009

April Poetry Month

I'm declaring April, the month that breeds lilacs out of the dead land and mixes memory and desire, as Poetry month.

That means I'll be setting aside some time to read at least two or three poems every day. The brunt of it will be canonical literature but I'll make room for some contemporary work as well, specially speculative poetry.

There's an interesting "Poetry Animation" project over at Youtube: the faces of dead poets are reanimated to produce ghostly readings of their own works. Here is an example, a magnificent reading of the poem "Broken Dreams" by William Butler Yeats (courtesy of Jim Clark). It set me muttering like a fool.

Broken Dreams

There is grey in your hair.
Young men no longer suddenly catch their breath
When you are passing;
But perhaps some old gaffer mutters a blessing
Because it was your prayer
Recovered him upon the bed of death.
For your sole sake--that all heart's ache have known,
And given to others all heart's ache,
From meagre girlhood's putting on
Burdensome beauty--for your sole sake
Heaven has put away the stroke of her doom,
So great her portion in that peace you make
By merely walking in a room.

Your beauty can leave among us
Vague memories, nothing but memories.
A young man when the old men are done talking
Will say to an old man, "Tell me of that lady
The poet stubborn with his passion sang us
When age might well have chilled his blood."

Vague memories, nothing but memories,
But in the grave all, all, shall be renewed.
The certainty that I shall see that lady
Leaning or standing or walking
In the first loveliness of womanhood,
And with the fervour of my youthful eyes,
Has set me muttering like a fool.

You are more beautiful than any one
And yet your body had a flaw:
Your small hands were not beautiful,
And I am afraid that you will run
And paddle to the wrist
In that mysterious, always brimming lake
Where those that have obeyed the holy law
Paddle and are perfect; leave unchanged
The hands that I have kissed
For old sake's sake.

The last stroke of midnight dies.
All day in the one chair
From dream to dream and rhyme to rhyme I have ranged
In rambling talk with an image of air:
Vague memories, nothing but memories.

--William Butler Yeats, Easter 1916 and Other Poems

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