I Wept Tonight When Live Words Rose

Millay 12

I shall forget you presently, my dear,
So make the most of this, your little day,
Your little month, your little half a year,
Ere I forget, or die, or move away,
And we are done forever, by and by
I shall forget you, as I said, but now,
If you entreat me with your loveliest lie
I will protest you with my favourite vow.
I would indeed that love were longer-lived,
And oaths were not so brittle as they are,
But so it is, and nature has contrived
To struggle on without a break thus far, –
Whether or not we find what we are seeking
Is idle, biologically speaking.


A hundred years later and Millay is seeing a resurgence in respect and interest.   It begs the question if she were alive today and writing the very same sonnets, would she even get a sniff from publishers?   Tracey K. Smith and Terrance Hayes are using the sonnet form in innovate ways and receiving critical acclaim.  But they are not metrical sonnets. Do fuddy, duddy traditional sonnets still have a role to play or has the ghost of William Carlos Williams, (who I love by the way) won the day and free verse is forever king?  The problem is there are an incredible number of terrible free verse poets.  Go to a local poetry reading at a coffee house sometime.   There are also incredibly gifted ones.  I would say the same is true for poets that still write in rhyme, but you already have three strikes against you if send in a poem that rhymes for publishing.  I started this blog because I got tired of the endless rejection slips and figured that rather than waste my time sending in poetry that was unlikely to get a welcome, I would create a vehicle to share the poetry I enjoy and slip a few of my own in once in a while and see if I could get away with it. White, male, metrical poets that get published today are as rare as a breed as there is in the literary world.  I can’t think of a single one that has gotten my attention in recent years as I don’t think they have much of an opportunity to find their audience. If you have a favorite present day metrical poet please share….

Several chums of Millay would pull off one of the better poetic spoofs of the 20th century. Witter Bynner, along with Arthur Ficke, would create a new fake poetic movement called the Spectra Poets.  Writing under assumed names, and genders, they concocted all kinds of silliness making fun of the new fad of free verse poetry.  Unfortunately, free verse got the last laugh.   Frank Hudson, a friend of Fourteenlines, has an outstanding article on his blog.  Check out the link below and while you are there, listen to some of his original music using poems as lyrics.   Its worth the time to listen.

https://frankhudson.org/tag/arthur-davison-ficke

Bynner, although gay, and possibly involved in an on again, off again relationship with Ficke, would propose to Millay while she was in Paris via a series of letters.  Millay would turn him down and then through a series of unfortunate events, (or fortunate), Millay would accept only for Bynner to ghost her, priming the pump for Eugen to come along and sweep her off her feet.  I think Edna’s marriage with Eugen was a far more fulfilling one than if she had married Bynner, in what would have been a poor marriage of literary convenience.

If Words Are Wise

by Witter Bynner

Words, words and words! What else when men are dead,
Their small lives ended and sayings said,
Is left of them?  Their children go to dust,
As also all their children’s children must
And their belongings are of petty worth
Against the insatiable consuming earth
But words, if words are wise, go on and on
To make a longer tone of unison
With man and man than ever faint selves make
With one another for whatever sake . . . .
Therefore I wept tonight when live words rose,
Out of a dead man’s grave, whom no one knows.

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A Sonnet Obsession

I am a life-long Minnesotan who resides in Minneapolis. I hope you enjoy my curated selection of sonnets, short poems and nerdy ruminations.

2 thoughts on “I Wept Tonight When Live Words Rose”

  1. We seem to be moving to some quantum forces this week! I’d just finished linking to your presentation of Millay’s “The Little Ghost” last night and then I see you mentioned my story about the Spectrist poets.

    Like

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