POETS Day! Clement Clarke Moore

[This entry is cross posted at ordinary-times.com]

“Not a mouse stirring.”
– 
Hamlet Act I, Scene I

This is another one of those weekends where there’s really not much need for a POETS Day. Heresy! You might say, and I’d be tempted to agree with you, but even those that don’t celebrate Christmas are the beneficiaries of an act of Congress marking the 25th of December as a federal holiday and that designation pretty well spills over to the days before and after in practice if not in fact. Even if you are at work, whoever you are supposed to be calling on or transferring funds to is probably tilting at last minute shopping or stuck in an airport because the U.S. is now apparently Hoth so it’s a wasted week. If you don’t work retail, you’ve likely already been given a pass to leave work early on Friday if you were expected to show up at all. There’s no need to adhere to the dictate Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday, but that doesn’t mean there’s no need for a bit of poetry. On the contrary, this is an excellent time to get all doe-eyed and the kind of overplayed optimistic cheerful that makes grown men cringe and wish they’d never heard the word ebullient and say, “But it’s always time for poetry!” I think that’s true. Hope you do too.

To my knowledge, there is no tradition recommending anapests when writing poetic religious narratives, but that’s where I keep coming across them. To my knowledge, they are rarely used in devotionals or similarly themed works (I say rarely because I’m holding out that just because I can’t think of a single one, there are more things in heaven and earth than I come across reading the slice of English language poetry that I prefer.) The anapest, a metric foot consisting of two unstressed followed by one stressed syllable, pops up in a lot of long form works. The Illiad, the Odyssey, and the Aeneid were all written primarily using another three-syllable foot known as a dactyl, made up of a stressed followed by two unstressed syllables. The distance between stresses in either foot gives prominence the stress wouldn’t have in an iamb or trochee (two syllable feet, unstressed/stressed and stressed/unstressed respectively) and can contribute to an epic sensibility. Translations into English keep as close to the original possible. “I sing of arms and the man” is an example of keeping with the dactylic spirit if not the precise form. Stresses fall on “arms” and “man” but to make sense a throw away “I” is included. In addition to throw away syllables often anapest might be substituted for a dactyl in translation so you can know in your heart of hearts that Juvenal’s Satires are considered to be written in dactyls but can come across an essay or analysis that says they are anapestic without it ruining your world view.

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POETS Day! Mark Van Doren

[This entry is cross posted at ordinary-times.com]

POETS Day has arrived and it couldn’t have come at a more auspicious moment. About this time desperation for that final gift is settling in and you’re looking at videos and news reports of Black Friday melees and realizing that not only are those people done with Christmas shopping but their wounds have likely healed. It may be that the receiving end of a WalMart stomping pays peace of mind dividends. At the very least you could rely on mall related PTSD as an excuse to get you out of work early and jumpstart the… well…

Maybe jumpstarting the weekend isn’t for you this this time around. It’s still POETS Day and you still have to all that dissembling, obfuscating, truth fudging, and gleeful trespassing of societal norms and all the delicate pieties that preserve our hopefully durable civilization, but this time you are doing it for reasons other than increasing your opportunities for pleasure so it’s kinda selfless. No happy hours, no grassy parks to lay in, no pond swimming or light masochistic jogging. You have to get out of work so go ahead and Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday. The problem is that this POETS Day you’re gobbling up extra me time to shop for others, and that’s the worst kind of shopping there is.

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POETS Day! Roy Campbell

[This entry is cross posted at ordinary-times.com]

Sometimes I feel bad for people who don’t speak English and are stuck calling their master lyricists words like poeta, digter, imbongi, or tusisolo that don’t form tidy acronyms encouraging their better hedonist angels. Thankfully we are blessed by the vision of William the TBA who noticed that Godwinson was busy in York dealing with family issues and figured even if Harold could get to Hastings in time, he’d have to force march his men with out any bathroom breaks. William won and French words marginalized German words. Instead of the dubious Diners In Cardiff Hate Tasting English Rarebit we get the dulcet Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday, so Happy POETS Day! Disassemble, obfuscate, fudge the truth, and gleefully trespass the norms and delicate pieties that preserve our hopefully durable civilization. Nearly all means are justified by the urge to prematurely escape the bonds of employment and settle in at a friendly neighborhood joint a few hours before even happy hour begins, lay comfortably in the grass at a local park or cemetery, take a schvitz, or God forbid, go for a light jog. It’s your weekend. Do with it as you will, but in homage to the mighty Norman acronym may I suggest setting aside a moment for a little verse? It’s a particularly good way to pass time waiting on friends who may not run as roughshod over the delicate pieties and were not as successful as you were in engineering an early exit.

**

In October of 1944, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien spent an evening in discussion with Roy Campbell, this week’s featured poet. Lewis was put off by Campbell’s, according to Lewis, “particular blend of Catholicism and fascism.” Tolkien, who was writing The Lord of the Rings at the time, reportedly took Campbell as inspiration for a mysterious hobbit character named Trotter who he would over time rewrite as a man, rename Strider, and reveal as Aragorn. People didn’t react mildly to Campbell. Even when they were ostensibly friends and admirers of each other’s literary abilities and fellow members of The Inklings, Lewis wrote a mean poem at him.

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POETS Day! John Berryman

[This entry is cross posted at ordinary-times.com]

I can’t believe it’s POETS Day already. These interminable workdays with their drudgery and stench of responsibility really seem to be zipping by. It feels like just yesterday I was lamenting that due to the holiday there was no work to get out of or early weekend hours to be seized, but here we are and the world is back to its pre-Thanksgiving normal. It’s Friday and you’re stuck at work with visions of the fun you could be up to if only you could slip the sultry bonds of employment and embrace the ethos of the day: Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday. Disassemble, obfuscate, fudge the truth, and gleefully trespass the norms and delicate pieties that preserve our hopefully durable civilization. Nearly all means are justified by the urge to prematurely escape the confines of labor and settle in at a friendly neighborhood joint a few hours before even happy hour begins, lay comfortably in the grass at a local park, go for a swim, or God forbid, go for a light jog. It’s your weekend. Do with it as you will, but in homage to the mighty acronym may I suggest setting aside a moment for a little verse? It’s a particularly good way to pass time waiting on friends who may not run as roughshod over the delicate pieties and were not as successful as you were in engineering an early exit.

This week we feature a poem by John Berryman, or “Burremun” as some of his friends called him (he spent some time in England and came back accented.) He was among those known as the Confessional Poets – a group that included Sylvia Plath, Elizabeth Bishop, and Robert Lowell – for the semi to fully autobiographical feel of many of their works. The poets were not amused by the name at all. In his book The Wounded Surgeon, Adam Kirsch writes that “Plath scorned the notion of poetry as “some kind of therapeutic public purge or excretion,’” and that Bishop “deplored the trend toward ‘more and more anguish and less and less poetry.’” Berryman, he wrote, “insisted that ‘the speaker [of a poem] can never be the actual writer,’ that there is always “an abyss between [the poet’s] person and his persona.’” Oh, well. You don’t get to pick your nickname.

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Thanksgiving Leftovers for POETS Day – Reheated Christina Rossetti

[This entry is cross posted at ordinary-times.com]

There’s not much to Piss Off Early from, despite Tomorrow being Saturday. I’m probably wrong about this but to me “seizing” implies taking from. Most people are off work the day after Thasnksgiving so…can you seize the beginning to a weekend if it’s uncontested? Unless you are mid-melee in an epic struggle with a fellow Walmart shopper vying for the last Play Station 5.2 I don’t see much seizing going on today at all. There’s no boss pressing you with a deadline and the threat of late Friday hours. You haven’t hit any stir-crazy milestones because it’s bound to have been a light week. There’s nothing of the standard annoyance to escape from.

Normally I suggest using your reclaimed time in a carpe diem way – hit the bars early, enjoy the park, etc. None of those things hold as much Friday afternoon appeal when they are permitted. I’m going to watch the US play England in the World Cup and do some laundry. My kids are going to the movies but I’m not joining them. I hate theaters now that they all sell nachos; might as well hand everybody a set of maracas. Also, they won’t pause when I have to go to the bathroom and the drinks are really expensive and big so I have to go to the bathroom at a wine bar like dollar to urination ratio. I have a pretty good mystery novel I’m midway through and I see that There Will Be Blood is available streaming on Paramount Plus and I’ve never seen that. It’s ho-hum, but I’ll be okay.

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A Quick Note on the Rossetti POETS Day Post

I mentioned the parallel between the sisters Laura and Lizzie in “The Goblin Market” and the sisters Lilian and Lilias in “An Apple Gathering” in my earlier post. I didn’t make clear my beliefs on why Rossetti didn’t use the names of the first set of sisters twice rather than give the second original names meant to call the first to mind.

This is probably something apparent to many, but I had an “Oh… of course.” moment when thinking about it so I figure it deserves mention if for no other reason to show that what you may consider obvious I may consider cryptic and secreted away. We know that in “The Goblin Market” it’s Laura that gives in to temptation and that Lizzie resists in the face (literally) of an onslaught of enticement. We know who was strong and who was weak. That is not the case with Lilian and Lilias. They are meant to be counterparts to the first but not individually. One of the two has sinned, but we don’t know which. We assume the heroine of “An Apple Gathering” knows which of the two needed forgiveness, but to the reader, so complete was the power of redemption that, Lilian is indistinguishable Lilias and vice versa. We’re not supposed to be able to tell the difference.

I thought that was a deft little move on Chrissie’s part.  

POETS Day! George Mackay Brown

[This entry is cross posted at ordinary-times.com]

Welcome once again to the POETS Day prefab intro paragraph, that wonderous paragraph that heralds the day where we do our best to usher in the weekend, Henry Ford’s greatest creation, a few hours ahead of schedule by embracing the ethos of the day: Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday. Disassemble, obfuscate, fudge the truth, and gleefully trespass the norms and delicate pieties that preserve our hopefully durable civilization. Nearly all means are justified by the urge to prematurely escape the bonds of employment and settle into a friendly neighborhood joint a few hours before even happy hour begins, confound the universe by spending your reclaimed afternoon in church confessing your trespasses, lay comfortably in the grass at a local park wishing you had a BB gun to knock that smug squirrel of his branch, go to a hardware store to buy a measuring tape and measure stuff, or God forbid, go for a light jog. It’s your weekend. Do with it as you will, but in homage to the mighty acronym may I suggest setting aside a moment for a little verse? It’s a particularly good way to pass time waiting on friends who may not run as roughshod over the delicate pieties and were not as successful as you were in engineering an early exit.

George Mackay Brown was born in the town of Stromness in the Orkney Islands, and he liked it so much he decided to stay. There was a brief while when he went to study in Edinburgh but after that it was back to the islands for him and the rest of his seventy-four years. He admired the simple ways of his home and wrote often of its history, interweaving the ancient with the modern.

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