The words of the true poems give you more than poems,
They give you to form for yourself, poems, religions, politics, war, peace, behavior, histories, essays, romances, and everything else,
The balance ranks, colors, races, creeds, and the sexes,
They do not seek beauty-they are sought,
Forever touching them, or close upon them, follows beauty, longing, fain, love-sick.
They prepare for death-yet are they not the finish, but rather the outset,
They bring none to his or her terminus, or to be content and full;
Whom they take, they take into space, to behold the birth of stars, to learn one of the meanings,
To launch off with absolute faith-to sweep through the ceaseless rings, and never be quiet again.
by Oscar Williams
He sees the world, a trek of values, ply
Its trade of waysides to a common view;
The sun and moon are blinkers to his eye;
That head on wisdom’s shoulders is askew
From watching dread dimensions crossroads lock,
Collision of directions so intense
The hands and face slip from the circled clock,
The atoms statue melts the niche of sense.
Aye, root and flower swordplay in his rhyme
And judgments parry their high blades of light –
The lightning from the bush of thunder fleeing
Kindles a home of symbols with the height –
And in his song is etched the blanch of time,
The fatal flash catastrophe of being.
We have not wings, we cannot soar;
But we have feet to scale and climb
By slow degrees, by more and more,
The cloudy summits of our time.
The mighty pyramids of stone
That wedge-like cleave the desert airs,
When nearer seen and better known,
Are but gigantic flights of stairs.
The distant mountains, that uprear
Their solid bastions of the skies,
Are crossed by pathways that appear
As we to higher levels rise.
The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night.
A year ago I sat down and decided to create a blog. I had been thinking about it for awhile but didn’t know a thing about creating a website or using WordPress. I dove in head first and haven’t looked back. This is my 173 blog post. There have been nearly 6,500 visitors to Fourteenlines this past year. I have shared over 300 poems from 152 different poets with people from over 30 countries around the world.
What have I learned in the past year? Mostly that my appreciation for poetry continues to grow. Writing this blog is a self taught course in English literature. Surprisingly my obsession with sonnets is showing no sign of abating. A testament to how deep the well of sonnets for exploration. Most importantly, one year into writing this blog I am still having fun!
I have given some thought to my goals with this blog, knowing that my creative pursuits tend to have a beginning, a middle and an end. I am shooting for 1,000 blog posts. At a pace of 3 postings a week this project will carry me onward for another 5 years.
In researching sonnets about writing for this anniversary edition, I came across the fine sonnet by Malcom Guite called Hospitality. I rather like his idea that some words are “shy and rare, unused to company” and must be coaxed out of the darker recesses of writer’s imaginations to take center stage on the starkest of white stages.
To read the entire blog in which the sonnet Hospitality is published click on this link:
I turn a certain key within its wards,
Unlock my doors and set them open wide
To entertain a company of words.
Whilst some come early and with eager stride
Others must be enticed and coaxed a little,
The shy and rare, unused to company,
Who’ll need some time to feel at home and settle.
I bid them welcome all, I make them free
Of all that’s mine, and they are good to me,
I set them in the order they like best
And listen for their wisdom, try to learn
As each unfolds the other’s mystery.
And though we know each word is my free guest,
They sometimes leave a poem in return.
Call the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
As they are used to wear, and let the boys
Bring flowers in last month’s newspapers.
Let be be finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.
Take from the dresser of deal.
Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
On which she embroidered fantails once
And spread it so as to cover her face.
If her horny feet protrude, they come
To show how cold she is, and dumb.
Let the lamp affix its beam.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.
I don’t know why I love this poem. Maybe it’s the mixture of serious with the silly. It paints a great picture, even if I am not sure I totally understand what its all about. Good poetry has a veil around it that allows the reader to decide and this one leaves plenty for the reader to interpret.
A more interesting question is whether Wallace was intentionally playing with a sonnet concept when he wrote it? At first glance this is obviously not a sonnet, at least to any purist. But when I look closer, I am not so sure. It is 138 syllables in length, shockingly close to our 140 syllable traditional sonnet. It is 16 lines, not 14, but its clever in how the rhyming scheme is incorporated with a 1-2 punch at the end, just like an English sonnet. The final two lines of each stanza is 21 syllables. If you count enough sonnets there are plenty of others that finish with an extra syllable or two when it carries the sonnet to its natural conclusion.
Stevens was consciously moving away from traditional metrical poetry to voice his own unique style throughout his career. But the pull of tradition impacts writers and artists in unusual ways and it would have been interesting to have a conversation with Wallace on whether, even subconsciously, his experience with sonnets had an impact on his creation of this wonderful poem.
I often am attracted to a poem for one line and for me in this poem it is the line “Let be be finale of seem.” It is such a convoluted use of the word be and yet it makes sense to me. It says to me – our impressions have the final say in what’s real and what is not, for though we may have eyes in our heads it is our brains that decide what is that we see.