April 5, 2014
Missed Day 4, but here’s one for Day 5: Robert Frost’s “Acquainted with the Night” has always resonated with me for several reasons. Like many poets, I walk frequently, often at night, trying to burn out, push through, or just dwell with an unsettling aura of melancholia. And if you pass by, I’m not going to explain. I didn’t have a luminary clock against the sky to deepen that gray not wrong/not rightness, but when I was young, there was a red cross that glowed on the hill across the river. Now that the weather’s getting warmer, I hope the long walks will be less broody.
“Acquainted with the Night”
I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.
I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.
I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,
But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky
Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.
April 3, 2014
I don’t have to say much to explain this poem or my response–it’s Pablo Frickin’ Neruda, “Body of a Woman.” You can find another translation here, though I personally like Merwin’s the best (reproduced below). I’ll just say that, as erotic as his poems are, there’s also a profound longing embedded in them, and that’s what I tried to capture–“alone like a tunnel.”
“Body of a Woman”
Body of a woman, white hills, white thighs,
you look like a world, lying in surrender.
My rough peasant’s body digs in you
and makes the son leap from the depth of the earth.
I was alone like a tunnel. The birds fled from me,
and night swamped me with its crushing invasion.
To survive myself I forged you like a weapon,
like an arrow in my bow, a stone in my sling.
But the hour of vengeance falls, and I love you.
Body of skin, of moss, of eager and firm milk.
Oh the goblets of the breast! Oh the eyes of absence!
Oh the roses of the pubis! Oh your voice, slow and sad!
Body of a woman, I will persist in your grace.
My thirst, my boundless desire, my shifting road!
Dark river-beds where the eternal thirst flows
and weariness follows, and the infinite ache.
April 2, 2014
Here’s my visual response to Sara Teasdale’s haunting “There Will Come Soft Rains.” In case it’s not entirely clear what’s going on in the background, it’s supposed to be a broken skyscraper overtaken by plant life. I was thinking of trying to draw more ruins, but I was honing in on the line “would scarcely know that we were gone,” suggesting less and less traces of humanity.
Yes, I know Ray Bradbury wrote a short story of the same name (which features the poem itself). It’s one of my favorites.
“There Will Come Soft Rains”
There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white;
Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that we were gone.
April 1, 2014
So, April is National Poetry Month. Rather than write a new poem each day, or analyze a poem written by another each day (both of which I’ve done before), I’m going to draw something as a response to poems. I’m no professional artist by any stretch of poetic license, but I think it’d be interesting to experiment with creating visual representations of poems. Some images might be quick doodles, others might be more carefully rendered. This first one is based on Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Wild Swans.”
I looked in my heart while the wild swans went over.
And what did I see I had not seen before?
Only a question less or a question more;
Nothing to match the flight of wild birds flying.
Tiresome heart, forever living and dying,
House without air, I leave you and lock your door.
Wild swans, come over the town, come over
The town again, trailing your legs and crying!