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World Poetry Day - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
World Poetry Day
From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved,
I loved alone.
--Edgar Allan Poe

Well, it's apparently World Poetry Day.

I like poetry. I don't love it, but I do like it, and I think it's something fiction writers should practice, particularly in its formal, rhyming forms. Why? Because learning to use language in such a strict, disciplined way is great mental exercise, and really helps to free up the ol' vocab when you go back to writing prose. So, I write horrible fan poetry (Shadows on a Whispered Breath, From the Depth of Midnight's Soul) just to play around with rhyme and meter and get in shape. Maybe it's time to try an HP poem. Er, other than the Sorting Songs in most chapters of Of A Sort (my favorite is Tonks's year).

Maybe not.

Anyway, the first poet I went crazy over is also the first fiction author I went crazy over: Edgar Allan Poe. "Annabel Lee" was the first poem I memorized. No, I'm not quoting it from memory here; it's pasted in.


It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea;
But we loved with a love that was more than love –
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the wingèd seraphs of Heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in Heaven,
Went envying her and me –
Yes! – that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we –
Of many far wiser than we –
And neither the angels in Heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.

For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling, my darling, my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea –
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

Through the Dark Tower books, Stephen King introduced me to T.S. Eliot (at least in a way that made me interested in him). The Waste Lands introduced me to "The Waste Land", but when I got out a book of his poems, I fell in crazy muskrat love with "Ash Wednesday".

I used these as the opening and closing on a SW story called "Prophesy to the Wind":

Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgment not be too heavy upon us.

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air...

....And God said,

Prophesy to the wind, to the wind only for only
The wind will listen.
And the bones sang...


...Will the veiled sister pray
For children at the gate
Who will not go away and cannot pray:
Pray for those who chose and oppose

O my people what have I done unto thee...

Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea
Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.

I like the whole poem--Lady of silences, calm and distressed...

Anyway, that's my poetry day post.
15 comments or Leave a comment
From: anatomiste Date: March 21st, 2005 06:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love "Ash Wednesday." I discovered it when my boyfriend was disappointed it wasn't in his Norton Anthology, so I made a paper booklet and wrote the whole thing out by hand (what an experience!) and mailed it to him.

The whole thing gets even richer if you're familiar with the traditional Anglican liturgy. Especially, "Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst come under my roof, but speak the word only and my soul shall be healed" is said three times by everyone during Mass, right before the Eucharist.
veryshortlist From: veryshortlist Date: March 21st, 2005 06:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wasn't it poetry day a couple months ago?

No wait, I'm thinking of that time when everyone was posting poetry in their LJ's. I like Edgar Lee Masters myself, along with the poets you mentioned.
straussmonster From: straussmonster Date: March 21st, 2005 07:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
Spoon River Anthology proves that a book of poetry can be so much more than the sum of its parts.
veryshortlist From: veryshortlist Date: March 22nd, 2005 09:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
We read it last year in Drama, and I have to say that I agree wholeheartedly with you on that.

What made it even more interesting was one of the entries was about a man who had given everything in support of some politician, and the teacher herself pointed out that it seemed like there was a relationship there.
straussmonster From: straussmonster Date: March 22nd, 2005 09:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
There's also how it's structured as a little Inferno-to-Paradiso progression, and how some things only make sense further along in the book and then you go back and re-read...
veryshortlist From: veryshortlist Date: March 23rd, 2005 10:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, that's what makes it interesting too.
zoepaleologa From: zoepaleologa Date: March 21st, 2005 06:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
"Ash Wednesday" is my favourite non-epic length poem.

Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still

I love in particular Eliot's skilful weaving of almost liturgical language. Even as an agnostic.

It is about his own difficulties with his faith and conversion. He longed to approach his Christianity with a greater simplicity.
antonia_east From: antonia_east Date: March 21st, 2005 07:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Despite his having created such a hoo har about literary tradition - which I then have to learn about - I do love Eliot. I'm madly in love with the Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock - it has to be my favourite of all time, I have it on my bedroom wall. The imagery and the insecurity is wonderful. I came across this in a biography of Cather this evening:

And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

It's from 'Little Gidding'.
straussmonster From: straussmonster Date: March 21st, 2005 07:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
My favorite lines of Eliot are from Gerontion:

Here I am, an old man in a dry month,
Being read to by a boy, waiting for rain.
I was neither at the hot gates
Nor fought in the warm rain
Nor knee deep in the salt marsh, heaving a cutlass,
Bitten by flies, fought.
vytresna From: vytresna Date: March 21st, 2005 08:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
Excellent! I was looking for an opportunity to talk about Robert Burns, and here it is!

Apparently, "Parcel of Rogues in a Nation" is a reaction to the Scottish Parliament agreeing to "unify" with the English Parliament, which is a fine political center of the piece - "the last remnants of the old Republic are being swept away" - but the thing is, said unification happened fifty years before Burns was born. I picture him not liking what he heard about his country's history, vowing to build up his poetry skills until one day he could have his vengeance. If anyone knows exactly what prompted the poem (one of the finest ever written, may I add,) please let ne know.
zephprolixity From: zephprolixity Date: March 21st, 2005 10:25 pm (UTC) (Link)

Poetry Day

I'll see your Poe, and raise you some Scott... I cut my poetic teeth on the writings of Sir Walter.

I especially like Marmion

O woman! in our hours of ease
Uncertain, coy, and hard to please,
And variable as the shade
By the light quivering aspen made;
When pain and anguish wring the brow,
A ministering angel thou!

From Canto vi. Stanza 30.

and Lady of the Lake.

And ne'er did Grecian chisel trace
A Nymph, a Naiad, or a Grace
Of finer form or lovelier face.

From Canto i. Stanza 18.

From: (Anonymous) Date: March 22nd, 2005 03:51 am (UTC) (Link)


I have to second The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, by far my most favorite poem. The opening imagery is classic prose--everything poetry should be. However, it is this stanza that gets me every time:

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or to
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous---
Almost, at times, the Fool.


marionravenwood From: marionravenwood Date: March 22nd, 2005 04:04 am (UTC) (Link)
Have you read The Archivist?
chicleeblair From: chicleeblair Date: March 22nd, 2005 04:54 am (UTC) (Link)

I hope you don't mind, I recced Shifts on the new fellytone_fic community, a new community designed to provide audio versions of fanfics.

trinity_clare From: trinity_clare Date: March 25th, 2005 04:44 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm in the middle of writing a 7-page research paper on Eliot for my English class, complete with an in-depth analysis of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock". Weird how things sometimes meet up that way, isn't it?
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