Through rhyme’s vexation

Apparently April was National Poetry Month.  Well, I knew it was in the US, but I didn’t check whether we just followed their lead up norph.  We do.  I am not always the best-informed when it comes to poetry-related calendar divisions, get off my back.  Ahem.  So, who can tell me where the name of this blog comes from?  Did I hear “the blogger’s fascination with the artistic angst of his own irretrievable past”?  Ten points to Hufflepuff!

But for reals, John Donne is amazing.

    I am two fools, I know,
    For loving, and for saying so
        In whining poetry ;
But where’s that wise man, that would not be I,
        If she would not deny ?
Then as th’ earth’s inward narrow crooked lanes
    Do purge sea water’s fretful salt away,
I thought, if I could draw my pains
    Through rhyme’s vexation, I should them allay.
Grief brought to numbers cannot be so fierce,
For he tames it, that fetters it in verse.

    But when I have done so,
    Some man, his art and voice to show,
        Doth set and sing my pain ;
And, by delighting many, frees again
        Grief, which verse did restrain.
To love and grief tribute of verse belongs,
    But not of such as pleases when ’tis read.
Both are increasèd by such songs,
    For both their triumphs so are published,
And I, which was two fools, do so grow three.
Who are a little wise, the best fools be.

“The Triple Fool”, John Donne

That is how we poet ’round here, y’all.  I have a different, unpublished post, which has been sitting in the queue since I started this blog, that also features The Triple Fool.  That post will be staying unpublished, because it is basically me whining in between stanzas of pretty excellent verse.  It’s a control-valve post, like that thing about writing letters and then not sending them, just for the feeling of getting everything out.  I’m suspicious of that kind of practice, because in my experience (both for myself and observing others) rolling thoughts over without ever actually expressing them to the person they’re directed at is usually just practicing being angry (or whatever other troublesome emotion) and makes the stress worse and the potential future outburst more raw, like a punch to a bruise.  Maybe it’s useful in emergencies.  I go back and edit that post every once in a while.  It contains a list of things I try not to think about.  Sometimes I notice that one or two of the things on the list don’t bother me so much any more.

On a parallel subject, does W.B. Yeats seem to anyone else like an amazing spokespoet for Internet Nice Guys?  I first learned of him through The Chieftains’ styling of “Never Give All The Heart”:

Never give all the heart, for love
Will hardly seem worth thinking of
To passionate women if it seem
Certain, and they never dream
That it fades out from kiss to kiss;
For everything that’s lovely is
But a brief, dreamy, kind delight.
O never give the heart outright,
For they, for all smooth lips can say,
Have given their hearts up to the play.
And who could play it well enough
If deaf and dumb and blind with love?
He that made this knows all the cost,
For he gave all his heart and lost.

“Never Give All The Heart”, W.B. Yeats

I was still in a long-term relationship at the time, and while I didn’t quiiiite buy into the message here, I did feel like Yeats (which I did not know how to correctly pronounce) was definitely onto something and it sure did seem like she just didn’t care sometimes and what was with her criticising my heartfelt romantic gestures just because they were also sometimes possessive and selfish?  Ha ha!  Past-Me could have benefited from being abducted to a re-education camp and taught about empathy and what it feels like to be smacked with a cod, is what I’m saying.  And being self-righteously passionate and unappreciated is what Nice-Guying is all about.  Which is not to say that Yeats himself deserves to be condemned for this alone – I don’t know much about him aside from the pessimism and the political involvement and the Nobel Prize – but I bet individual reactions to a poem like this can tell you a lot about a person.

My mother has never been a fan of Margaret Atwood, and as a child I tended to assume that my parents knew what they were talking about (retrololz) but upon investigating her for myself, I’ve found I rather like her style, even as it gives me poetic whiplash by leaping from classic elemental imagery to mundane technical phrases about the importance of chlorophyll.

More and more frequently the edges
of me dissolve and I become
a wish to assimilate the world, including
you, if possible through the skin
like a cool plant’s tricks with oxygen
and live by a harmless green burning.

I would not consume
you or ever
finish, you would still be there
surrounding me, complete
as the air.

Unfortunately I don’t have leaves.
Instead I have eyes
and teeth and other non-green
things which rule out osmosis.

So be careful, I mean it,
I give you fair warning:

This kind of hunger draws
everything into its own
space; nor can we
talk it all over, have a calm
rational discussion.

There is no reason for this, only
a starved dog’s logic about bones.

“More and More”, Margaret Atwood

It’s past midnight now, so it is my birthday, though the exact time would be, I believe 3:54 AM.  Twenty-six has been something of a recovery year – after a couple years of things getting progressively more awesome, I hit a hell of a rough patch and it’s taken a while to feel like I had my legs under me again.  (That’s only partly metaphorical, what with the foot injury that announced the onset of the The Suck.)  What I need to do now is build a new environment inside my head: I react strongly to my surroundings and follow patterns based on them, which means I either feel permanently inspired (the first fall after I moved to Ottawa was like this) or stuck in a meaningless rut (swathes of 2011 were like this).  I want that ‘harmless green burning’ back, assimilation without consumption, because if I can’t find that kind of equilibrium, I know I’m going to fall back to starved irrationality, desperately grasping at things I think I need and never actually getting any of the things that I want.

However, it is now May, and the primary thing I think I want is an Extreme Cake Recipe, ideally involving fire.  Not candles; those are the easy way out.  I mean FIRE.  None of this ‘harmless green burning’ unless there’s a lot of copper salts involved, and even then the ‘harmless’ part should be a matter of debate and concern.

So at least I have one goal to start with.

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2 comments on “Through rhyme’s vexation

  1. Mairead says:

    Ah, Yeats.

    He wrote some lovely stuff, but when he talked about women…awkward, as they say.

    I don’t know about a recipe for a cake on fire: I suppose it’s the wrong season for a flaming pudding?

    Anyway, have a May Day poem with a conveniently appropriate banner.

    Happy birthday!

  2. sarah says:

    Ah, Yeats, indeed. I do love “The Stolen Child,” though.

    If I lived near you, I would help you make your Extreme Cake and help you light in on fire (with one match, too; I was a camp counselor). Alas, I live far away from you and so can only wish you luck in your pursuit of flames and cake.

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