bear by san

December 2021



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bear by san

I am not a poet.

I gave up poetry because I am not good at it, and I refuse to do anything important to me unless there's a chance I can be good at it.

I am, however, addicted to sonnets. And I've been itching lately to write poetry again, after six years clean and sober. I actually wrote a haiku the other day...

Perhaps it's time to remind myself why I'm not a poet, again.

The Oven Bird
Robert Frost

There is a singer everyone has heard,
Loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wood bird,
Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again.
He says that leaves are old and that for flowers
Mid-summer is to spring as one to ten.
He says the early petal-fall is past
When pear and cherry bloom went down in the showers
On sunny days a moment overcast;
And comes that other fall we name the fall.
He says the highway dust is over all.
The bird wouild cease and be as other birds
But that he knows in singing not to sing.
The question that he frames in all but words
Is what to make of a diminished thing.

Fair Weather
Dorothy Parker

This level reach of blue is not my sea;
Here are sweet waters, pretty in the sun,
Whose quiet ripples meet obediently
A marked and measured line, one after one.
This is no sea of mine, that humbly laves
Untroubled sands, spread glittering and warm.
I have a need of wilder, crueler waves;
They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm.

So let a love beat over me again,
Loosing its million desperate breakers wide;
Sudden and terrible to rise and wane;
Roaring the heavens apart; a reckless tide
That casts upon the heart, as it recedes,
Splinters and spars and dripping, salty weeds.

Sonnet: Love Is Not All
Edna St. Vincent Millay

Love is not all: It is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain,
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
and rise and sink and rise and sink again.
Love cannot fill the thickened lung with breath
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
pinned down by need and moaning for release
or nagged by want past resolution's power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It may well be. I do not think I would.

Dammit. I still have the urge to write poetry.

Touchstone: When a man’s verses cannot be understood, nor a man’s good wit seconded with the forward child Understanding, it strikes a man more dead than a great reckoning in a little room. Truly, I would the gods had made thee poetical.

Audrey: I do not know what ‘poetical’ is. Is it honest in deed and word? Is it a true thing?

Touchstone: No, truly, for the truest poetry is the most feigning; and lovers are given to poetry, and what they swear in poetry may be said as lovers they do feign.

-William Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act III, scene iii

ETA: Whups. I'm not looking for condolences, encouragement, or assurances that if I just keep writing poetry, my poetry will improve. Seriously. Nor am I insinuating that anybody else should give up on their own aspirations as a poet. I was attempting to be amusing, and have an excuse to mention some sonnets I love, and to remind myself that really, while I'm a damned fine prose writer, I'm also an enormously bad poet, and I should bear that in mind. Really. No subtext. Honest. I swear.

On the other hand, if anybody wants to kick up a favourite sonnet or three.... wheedle


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Write your own poetry. Don't let those buggers Frost, Parker, and Millay stop you. Express your own thoughts/feelings, to the best of your own ability. You'll still be saying something nobody else could say.
Ehn, baloney. I've written enough bad poetry to know that writing bad poetry is profoundly unsatisfying.

The problem with bad ppoetry, actually, is that when one writes it, one *is* saying something that anybody else could say. And usually has.

Sorry; sad but true.
*g* This is why I screw around in photoshop. It doesn't matter if I'm good at it; it makes me happy.

Fingerpainting for nerds.
Oh heck, I love Dorothy Parker and Edna St. Vincent Millay, but if I clobbered myself with comparing my poetry to theirs, I'd never write (much less publish) any poems! I think writers are just writers, and can probably tackle any genre they wish, provided they read enough in the genre...

You're probably right. And I'm not saying that my standards do or should apply to anybody else... but I've got this little voice in the back of my head that says "If I can't write something as good as a minor 20th-century poet (and boy do I think it's unfair that these guys (except for Frpost), and, say, Dylan Thomas, are considered 'minor' poets) then I have no business writing at all."

I get it with prose, too, but for some reason, in prose, it just drives me to work harder.

Writers is nuts.
I found this website (tellingly titled Not All Goth Poetry Is Bad) a while ago: http://www.velvet.net/poetry/ . It's usually cheering :)
*hearts back*
If you don't write the bad poetry first, you will never write the excellent poetry that will come later.
Would you like to see the twenty years worth of bad poetry I *have* written?

*cough* No, don't be foolish. Of course you don't.
Thank you for the Dorothy Parker, which I'd not read, and will be immediately stealing for school.

And the reminder of "Love Is Not All" which I keep meaning to use.

The thematic echoes between the two are marvelous, aren't they? I love them both, but I love them more in close proximity. *g*

one of my favorite of favorites. . .

Countee Cullen

Some for a little while do love, and some for long,
And some rare few forever and for aye.
Some for the measure of a poet's song,
And some for the ribbon's width of a summer's day.
Some upon a golden crucifix do swear,
And some in blood do plight a fickle troth.
Some struck divinely mad may only stare
And out of silence weave an iron oath.

So many ways love has, none may appear
The bitter best, and none the sweetest worst.
Strange fruit the hungry have been known to bear
And brackish water slakes an utter thirst.
It is a rare and tantalizing fruit
Our hands reach for, but nothing absolute.

[Reposted because one of those pesky extra words sneaked in the first time.]

Re: one of my favorite of favorites. . .


I've never ever ever read that one before.

*floats on a haze of sonnety happiness*
The Poet, Trying to Surprise God

The poet, trying to surprise his God
composed new forms from secret harmonies,
tore from his fiery vision galaxies
of unrelated shapes, both even & odd.
But God just smiled, and gave His know-all nod
saying, "There's no surprising One who sees
the acorn, root, and branch of centuries;
I swallow all things up, like Aaron's rod.
So hold this thought beneath your poet-bonnet:
no matter how free-seeming flows your sample
God is by definition the Unsurprised."
"Then I'll return," the poet sighed, "to sonnets
of which this is a rather pale example."

"Is that right?" said God. "I hadn't realized."

--Peter Meinke
...the sound of tea coming out of one's nose....

ahem. this one's your fault

As in, the first line decked me while I was in the shower and that pretty much put paid to the rest of the evening. To wit:

for Elizabeth Bear

Skill is not all, but it's much of the fun:
the pleasure of a feast that's served just right
with wine that tastes not only of the night
but hearkens back to the vines in the sun.
Skill is not all, but it's much about love:
there isn't much sense to whom it graces
yet long devotion can alter the races
in favor of turtles, push meeting shove
and words meeting willfulness; it's a game
where skill is not all but dice aren't random
and squandered talents echo through fandom --
and is their glitter that of costly fame
or that of spilled moonshine bright on the leaves?
Skill is not all; still, roll up your sleeves.

- pld


Re: ahem. this one's your fault

*g* Clever!
Heh. Sonnets are sodding difficult. Try writing sestinas; they're lots of fun and easier to do.


Michael Drayton:

Since there's no help, come let us kiss and part,
Nay, I have done: you get no more of me,
And I am glad, yea glad with all my heart,
That thus so cleanly I myself can free.
Shake hands for ever, cancel all our vows,
And when we meet at any time again
Be it not seen in either of our brows
That we one jot of former love retain.
Now at the last gasp of Love's latest breath,
When his pulse failing, Passion speechless lies,
When Faith is kneeling by his bed of death,
And Innocence is closing up his eyes,
Now, if thou wouldst, when all have given him over,
From death to life thou might'st him yet recover.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnet from the Portuguese no 6:

Go from me. Yet I feel that I shall stand
Henceforward in thy shadow. Nevermore
Alone upon the threshold of my door
Of individual life, I shall command
The uses of my soul, nor lift my hand
Serenely in the sunshine as before,
Without the sense of that which I forbore -
Thy touch upon the palm. The widest land
Doom takes to part us, leaves thy heart in mine
With pulses that beat double. What I do
And what I dream include thee, as the wine
Must taste of its own grapes. And when I sue
God for myself, He hears that name of thine,
And sees within my eyes the tears of two.

Millay in different mood:

Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word!
Give me back my book and take my kiss instead.
Was it my enemy or my friend I heard,
``What a big book for such a little head!''
Come, I will show you now my newest hat,
And you may watch me purse my mouth and prink!
Oh, I shall love you still, and all of that.
I never again shall tell you what I think.
I shall be sweet and crafty, soft and sly;
You will not catch me reading any more:
I shall be called a wife to pattern by;
And some day when you knock and push the door,
Some sane day, not too bright and not too stormy,
I shall be gone, and you may whistle for me.

Re: Sonnets

Not a sonnet, but it interests me how Millay and Parker so often play off one another.

Have you read Parker's "Penelope"?

"...They will call him brave."

Oh, yeah.

John Keats is a favorite of mine--personally and poetically. I've a couple of short stories that respond to him: "The Dying of the Light," (which also mentions Shelly, Thomas, and Phil Ochs, among others) and "This Tragic Glass."

Someday I'll write that one-act play about the dead poets hanging out in a gay bar in Heaven....

I've long loved that Millay -- or, well, loved it for two or three years, which is how long I've known it. Are you reading the Mitford biography of her? It's intriguing.
"Savage Beauty" ? I am, little by little. In between the beatniks.

Hmm. That sounds like a band name, too.
The Chicken
For These Our Guests

I plucked this morning morning's pinion, chick-
  en of Sunday's supper, singed-sear-smooth Fowl in her perking
  In the boiling level underneath her water pot, and lurking
Low there, how she'd shed beneath the shuck of my fingers' pick
Her feathers—torn off, off forth on a flick,
  As a leaf's curl scatters on a fall wind: the pull and jerking
  Removed the small down. My hand in working
Stirred the bird, —the cleaning of, the preparation, a cook's trick.

Pale pullet and gizzard and heart, oh, skin, flesh, fat there
  Bubble! AND the broth that breaks from thee then, is two
Times told tastier, more delicious, than plainer fare.

  They're waiting for it: such folks must first chew
Cheese, in square-sliced cubes, and the spare
  Liver, onion lavered, then gulp good chicken stew.

I have a Hopkins fetish...


Just, wow.

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