Bright flames

Match

Simon Armitage wrote his poetry collection “Book of Matches” with the idea that each sonnet should be read quickly, in the time it takes for a match to burn out, about 20 seconds.  I love this idea, too many people labour the reading of poetry.  They put on the “poetry reading voice” which has a plummy accent and a low, monotonous droning drawl that makes everything sound bloody boring.

Poetry should leap from the page and dance across your lips and tongue.  It should be read in a real voice, a natural voice, your own accent.  The pace may be slow, if that is what is called for, but it can also be machine gun fast.

As an added bonus the title of this poem becomes its own joke when you add in the author.  In truth I am not very bothered by Simon Armitage, I like the guy.  I like him enough to wish him a happy birthday today.

Back to those matches then.  I am reminded of Sylvia Plath staring into candle flames.  I am reminded of the little match girl and the visions she sees by the light of each match.  I am reminded of Enda St. Vincent Millay and her double ended candle.  It reminds me of all those poets who have elucubrated deep into the night to craft their work under flickering flames.  It reminds me of T.H. White and his “Once and Future King” who is a candle against the wind, a bastion against the darkness and embodies the hopes and dreams of a better world.  Matches are evocative.

 

I am very bothered; by Simon Armitage

I am very bothered when I think
of the bad things I have done in my life.
Not least that time in the chemistry lab
when I held a pair of scissors by the blades
and played the handles
in the naked lilac flame of the Bunsen burner;
then called your name, and handed them over.

O the unrivalled stench of branded skin
as you slipped your thumb and middle finger in,
then couldn’t shake off the two burning rings. Marked,
the doctor said, for eternity.

Don’t believe me, please, if I say
that was just my butterfingered way, at thirteen,
of asking you if you would marry me.

 

Theodore Roethke

theodore-roethke-in-a-greenhouse

Born on this day in 1908 Thodore Roethke’s short life never crossed with mine.  He passed away, aged only 55, 2 months and 1 day before I was born.

Here is a funny poem from him.  I love the imagery, and the lovely childish innocence of a boy who can’t see what the fuss is about.

 

Child on top of a Greenhouse; by Theodore Roethke

The wind billowing out the seat of my britches,
My feet crackling splinters of glass and dried putty,
The half-grown chrysanthemums staring up like accusers,
Up through the streaked glass, flashing with sunlight,
A few white clouds all rushing eastward,
A line of elms plunging and tossing like horses,
And everyone, everyone pointing up and shouting!

Happy Birthday Bob Dylan

Dylan

In a signature year for Robert Allen Zimmerman he is this years recipient of the Nobel prize for literature, the award being made in 2016 Dylan took his time in accepting it.

Zimmerman changed his name after coming across the beautiful lyrical works of the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.  He was at the time searching for something deeper than rock and roll.

The thing about rock’n’roll is that for me anyway it wasn’t enough… There were great catch-phrases and driving pulse rhythms… but the songs weren’t serious or didn’t reflect life in a realistic way. I knew that when I got into folk music, it was more of a serious type of thing. The songs are filled with more despair, more sadness, more triumph, more faith in the supernatural, much deeper feelings.”                  ………….Bob Dylan

The youth of the counter culture of the 1960’s agreed and the songs of Bob Dylan joined those of Woodie Guthrie and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott as cornerstones of the protest movement.

While gigging around Greenwich village he came across an extended family of Irish brothers from Carrick-on-Suir in County Tipperary.  They shared the simple farming and fishing folksongs and the tradition of rebellion through song of Ireland with him.  The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem found fame in their own regard and Dylan acknowledged their contribution to his emerging iconic style.

The citation from the Nobel committee says he was awarded the Literature prize for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.

Happy Birthday Bob and may you see many more.

Just like a woman; by Bob Dylan

Nobody feels any pain
Tonight as I stand inside the rain
Ev’rybody knows
That Baby’s got new clothes
But lately I see her ribbons and her bows
Have fallen from her curls
She takes just like a woman, yes, she does
She makes love just like a woman, yes, she does
And she aches just like a woman
But she breaks just like a little girl

Queen Mary
She’s my friend
Yes, I believe I’ll go see her again
Nobody has to guess
That Baby can’t be blessed
Till she sees finally that she’s like all the rest
With her fog, her amphetamine and her pearls
She takes just like a woman, yes
She makes love just like a woman, yes, she does
And she aches just like a woman
But she breaks just like a little girl

It was raining from the first
And I was dying there of thirst
So I came in here
And your long-time curse hurts
But what’s worse
Is this pain in here
I can’t stay in here
Ain’t it clear that

I just can’t fit
Yes, I believe it’s time for us to quit
But when we meet again
Introduced as friends
Please don’t let on that you knew me when
I was hungry and it was your world
Ah, you fake just like a woman, yes, you do
You make love just like a woman, yes, you do
Then you ache just like a woman
But you break just like a little girl

Clancys1-300x240

Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem

Highest paid poet!

Taupin & John

Officially the highest paid poet in the world, Bernie Taupin; poet and famously lyricist to Elton John.  Happy Birthday!

Don’t let the Sun go down on me: lyric by Bernie Taupin

I can’t light no more of your darkness
All my pictures seem to fade to black and white
I’m growing tired and time stands still before me
Frozen here on the ladder of my life

It’s much too late to save myself from falling
I took a chance and changed your way of life
But you misread my meaning when I met you
Closed the door and left me blinded by the light

Don’t let the sun go down on me
Although I search myself, it’s always someone else I see
I’d just allow a fragment of your life to wander free
But losing everything is like the sun going down on me

I can’t find
Oh, the right romantic line
But see me once and see the way feel
Don’t discard me baby don’t
Just because you think I mean you harm
But these cuts I have,
They need love to help them heal

Don’t let the sun go down on me
Although I search myself, it’s always someone else I see
I’d just allow a fragment of your life to wander free
Cause’ losing everything is like the sun going down on me

Happy Birthday Alexander Pope

Alexander Pope

Famous in his own lifetime and famous ever since, Alexander Pope is the second most frequently quoted author in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations after William Shakespeare.   Poet, essayist and translator of both Odyssey and Iliad by Homer.

It is funny the things that lead to a ‘revival’ for a writer.  Recently Kirsten Dunst played Mary in a film about a couple who undergo a mind wipe procedure to erase the pain of their memories of a love affair.  She trots out a quote from the Pope poem “Eloisa to Abelard”.  Overnight Pope was popular again.  I can’t remember the name of the movie but the quote in question is this:

How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot! 
The world forgetting, by the world forgot
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d.

 

 

Ode on Solitude; by Alexander Pope

Happy the man, whose wish and care
A few paternal acres bound,
Content to breathe his native air,
In his own ground.

Whose heards with milk, whose fields with bread,
Whose flocks supply him with attire,
Whose trees in summer yield him shade,
In winter fire.

Blest! who can unconcern’dly find
Hours, days, and years slide soft away,
In health of body, peace of mind,
Quiet by day,

Sound sleep by night; study and ease
Together mix’d; sweet recreation,
And innocence, which most does please,
With meditation.

Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;
Thus unlamented let me dye;
Steal from the world, and not a stone
Tell where I lye.

eternal-sunshine-of-the-spotless-mind

Happy Birthday William Allingham

Dolmen

Best known for his poems about fairies here is something more somber but no less romantic from an Irish poet.

 

A Gravestone; by William Allingham

Far from the churchyard dig his grave,
On some green mound beside the wave;
To westward, sea and sky alone,
And sunsets. Put a mossy stone,
With mortal name and date, a harp
And bunch of wild flowers, carven sharp;
Then leave it free to winds that blow,
And patient mosses creeping; slow,
And wandering wings, and footsteps rare
Of human creature pausing there.

Happy Birthday Omar Khayyam

Although we know him best for his poetry it is worth remembering that Khayyam was a mathematician of some note, and an astronomer.  As a scientist he had views on religion that were not popular when he lived when he was labeled a skeptic and a sinner.

In truth he was probably more of an agnostic than an atheist and more of  a Sufi mystic than a sinner.  At heart, as he displays in the quatrain below, he believed that we make our own fate.  He rejects the notion, so beloved of venal faithful of all religions, that you can behave badly on earth and be somehow rewarded in the afterlife.

I sent my Soul through the Invisible,
Some letter of that After-life to spell:
And by and by my Soul return’d to me,
And answer’d “I Myself am Heav’n and Hell

Khayyam