Tag Archives: poetry

Books, Books, Books!

A logical follow-up to last week’s post about libraries is have one celebrating books. Here is a bit of verse by Elizabeth Barrett Browning – I quoted her once before in ‘From Recluse to Romance,’ which was part of my Real-life Romance series. I haven’t actually read much of her work, because of my somewhat ambivalent attitude to poetry in general, but I do like a lot of her verse than I have read. So here is a chunk so you all can decide what you think too!

Books, books, books!
I had found the secret of a garret room
Piled high with cases in my father’s name;
Piled high, packed large,—where, creeping in and out
Among the giant fossils of my past,
Like some small nimble mouse between the ribs
Of a mastodon, I nibbled here and there
At this or that box, pulling through the gap,
In heats of terror, haste, victorious joy,
The first book first. And how I felt it beat
Under my pillow, in the morning’s dark,
An hour before the sun would let me read!
My books!
At last, because the time was ripe,
I chanced upon the poets.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh (1856), Book I, line 830.

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Where’s the Epic Poems About the Moon Landing?

moon landing 2“Had the ancient Greeks rowed a trireme (boat) to the moon, you can bet there would be a 12-volume epic about that adventure.”

– Christian Bök, in Maclean’s

Poets, says Christian Bök, have spent too much time writing about their own mundane problems when amazing achievements of mankind have been happening all around them. And he’s right – ancient Greeks certainly would’ve written epics about the moon landing.

But hey, poetry is not exactly considered the cool thing to do anymore, unlike in ancient Greek where a good epic could spice up a boring evening with friends. We’re much more likely to make a movie or pop song about it – though a quick browse of Wikipedia reveals the moon landing has mostly only inspired TV films. And I’ve got a bit of an ambivalent attitude to poetry myself, and how it fits into our culture today. Sure, poetry is great and really can stretch the capabilities of language. But so much of it comes off as pretentious. Or too dense to make heads or tails of its meaning. It’s not exactly what people turn on to relax, because it actually takes work to understand.

However, the current trend in spoken word poetry is fantastic. After all, poetry started as a spoken art form, and its written form sometimes doesn’t achieve the effect it should. But spoken word poetry is straightforward, rhythmic, thought-provoking… it uses all the skill of stringing the right words together, without pounding the listener over the head with how ‘deep’ it is. (At least, not the ones I’ve heard – it sounds a bit like rap, if you’re wondering what I mean. There’s millions of videos out there on Youtube.) An epic poem in this format could be the next big thing!

The other thing to consider, though, when wondering about the lack of poetry about the moon landings, is the actual place of the moon landings in our lives. For the ancient Greeks, the moon landing would’ve been stupendous – a quick reading of Homer reveals most of them were pretty pessimistic about man’s ability to control nature like that. But for us, it’s merely in the middle of a long list of stuff humanity is able to do, maybe listed underneath the amount of information you can stick on a iPhone and how thin we can make a laptop screen. Amazing stuff doesn’t make us blink anymore. It’s just expected. Why make an epic poem about it when it’ll be old news tomorrow?

But an epic poem about the moon landings – a really well-written one – could open our eyes to how unbelievable our lifestyles are. How we take for granted the insane technological systems we use everyday. And maybe, just maybe, it could teach us to appreciate the right use of words, and the beauty of language, once again.

My poetry skill isn’t exactly up to that. Any volunteers?

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EPICNESS in the Footsteps of Tolkien

I went through a phase of being obsessed with epic fantasy (see the post Fantasy Round-Up). I still like it, but it’s less of an obsession. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, The Wheel of Time series… the more epic, the better. So when I was assigned to write poetry in school I tried my hand at Tolkien-style epic poetry, and this was the result:

 

Terrnce, Krvel’s Bane

 

Over fields and happy places

Over town and dark, deep mountains

Over forest, and the faces

Of the desert, and by a lake

There is a castle, evil and grim

And Krvel, lord of dark, is there.

Lo, it is all because of him

That the land was dark and foul

That the lake was slaggy, that the grass was dead

That soil was leached, and piles of waste

Lay about, and that the dread

Of Evil haunts each stone and rock.


But lo, up to his castle

Rides a knight, his eyes like storms

His hair is dark, his arms are strong

The lurking evil ‘round him scorns.


A slave of Krvel comes out to him

“Why are you here?” he leers.

“I am Terrnce,” the stranger replies,

“Go tell Krvel to come here.”


Time does pass, and Krvel comes out

Dark is his raiment, sable his sword.

“I’ve come to regain my Lady Voä,”

Quoth Terrnce, “She belongs not to Krvel lord.”

“I did capture her,” Krvel laughed in reply,

“But she belongs to me alone

She suits me best, and because of that

She stays by Krvel, by his throne.

Unless, unless, you challenge me

And take up your sword and fight

Whoever wins shall have the lady

Whoever is greater in might.”


Terrnce, in reply his sword he drew

A fine sword, long, sharp, clean,

But Krvel, dark lord, drew his too

A cruel blade, wicked and mean.

Lady Voä Looked down from her window

And lo, what did she see?

Krvel, dark lord, down below

Fighting with-  could it be he?

Terrnce, her knight, had come to save her

Save her from this evil lord.


Looking up, Terrnce saw her

And strengthened his resolve

To free fair lady Voä

And Krvel’s power to dissolve.

With a clash their swords met in mid-air

Krvel pushed Terrnce’s blade aside

But Terrnce struck back, himself to defend

Yet does not attack freely, his time he bides

Then with a clash their swords meet again

Striking and biting, as furious as snakes

Terrnce falls back, his sword by his head

Defends himself calmly, a deep breath he then takes

And attacks, like a lion, valiant and true

Krvel steps back, afraid for a moment

But strikes Terrnce’s sword; his mouth in a line

Terrnce’s arm trembles, yet he does not relent.

He leans back and pushes, he calls on his strength,

Gathering all his power, all in one heave

He hews at Krvel’s arm, at his chest, at his neck

Krvel falls dead, and Terrnce it can’t believe

Lady Voä is free!


Voä runs out to meet him, and hold out her arms

Terrnce hugs her, he loves her, and she is now his

Together they ride out into sunset and light

The terror of Krvel to never re-live

By the way, this is probably my last poem for awhile. Stay tuned next week for a new direction!

 

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An Immeasurable Fairyland

Another ‘light-hearted flight of fancy’ – also, the only bit of poetry I’ve been paid for. In contrast to last week’s poem, it rhymes. 🙂

 

An Immeasurable Fairyland

I walked into a lonesome glade

Where on stem and leaf and every blade

Of grass there danced a fairy maid

And trails of gems through dew they laid.


Each had a cloud of silver hair

Their dress was white, their feet were bare

And glowing pearls round throats most fair

They danced around crystals most rare.


And round the tree and o’er the stream

A garland like a golden beam

Was hung, the flowers ream on ream

And each was shining with a gleam.


Then finally I turned and left

And though I search till my dying breath

Where that glade was I could not guess

That place of magic fairy-ness.

 

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Rhymes and Non-Rhymes

I like poetry to rhyme. Sure, some non-rhyming poetry is neat, but as a kid it stuck in my head that poems = rhymes, and poems that don’t rhyme feel weird somehow. Still, I’ve written some stuff that doesn’t rhyme. I like the challenge of rhyming, but when I want to write an idea quickly, it’s easier not to rhyme. Like this word picture:

 

The Fire Maidens

The golden pail of spilling sunlight
Slowly sinks behind the horizon
As the last fire-maidens
Flash over the water
Dancing.
Their clouds of red-gold fire
Swirl around their faces
And their light
Reflects
Off the water beneath them.
Till the last of spilling sunlight
Departs
And the fire-maidens
Leave with it.
Until tomorrow.

 

In relation to last week’s post, this was definitely a poem that was published in a vanity anthology once…

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Limerick

No time for a deep, insightful blog post on the meaning of life today, so instead you get some nonsense poetry. Namely, a limerick:

 

I walked along the beach

And stepped upon a peach.

I slipped, and whacked

Muscle Man, who cracked

And now I’m quite dead meat.

 

 

Not exactly a wonderful limerick, but fun to write. If you enjoy limericks, there’s some good ones in Edward Lear’s A Book of Nonsense.

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Vanity, Oh Vanity

OR: What Do You Mean I’m Not a Great Poet – I Got My Poem Published In a Vanity Anthology!

 

On the subject of poetry, it’s very difficult to publish poetry, or get famous doing it. But that’s not exactly obvious if you just google “publish poetry” or “poetry contest” and thousands of hits pop up – unfortunately a good chunks of these are vanity presses. A vanity press is a publisher who gathers people’s works (often poetry, though I’m sure fiction ones exist) into anthologies, which it then sells back to the people who wrote for it at  (often) extremely high prices, and that’s how it makes its money. The people wrote for it buy it because they’re all excited to see their name in print. But they don’t really get all that much exposure out of it, other than the narrow group of people who buy the anthology. Though it might make them feel good about getting published – hence the term “vanity press”.

I got suckered into submitting work to one publisher that was often classified as a vanity press – the old poetry.com site (the site is being revamped now, apparently). Fortunately I never bought any of the books my poetry was supposedly published in. Once my friends and I learned about their scheme, we amused ourselves by sending really bad poetry to them. There was a form on their website which would automatically post your submission on their website, and it cracked us up to see our absolute gibberish “published” for all the world to see. We checked back at the site a couple weeks later, and all our poems had been taken down, except for one of mine. I can’t remember how the one they left up went exactly, but it definitely included the line “elephant on my tongue” – which displays exactly how high their standards of poetry were.

Really, though, it’s always good to keep in mind that it’s not a simple process to get your poetry works out there – or any type of writing you do.

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Teenage Dreams

This poem was actually on a bus ad – our city has this program called “Poetry on the Bus” to put poetry in everyday transit riders’ lives, and my poem was selected for it a couple years back. It was actually pretty cool to hear some of my friends saw it. It’s actually the last two verses of a longer poem I wrote for school, but I had to chop it down because it was too long.

Teenage Dreams:

I want the best of both worlds, really

To be too young for my road to be hilly

With the carefree-ness of my childhood days

But a grown-up freedom in which to play –

I am bound by ties and fetters

Of decorum, and society

Likely my life will follow to the letter

But my dreams? They belong to me.

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Poetry

Poetry is whirling words

Apple trees and bright blue birds

Words that make you feel happy

That is poetry.

I’ll be the first to admit what little poetry I’ve written is mostly light-hearted flights of fancy. The one above was on my Grade 8 poetry portfolio, so it seems fitting to start off a short series of poetry here (I’m making a change from my usual posting of fiction on Sundays for a few weeks).

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