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Old 02-02-2002, 02:28 PM
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Gail White Gail White is offline
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Do you have a favorite poet whose reputation does not stand as high as you feel he/she deserves? Post some of that
individual's work here, and help give a poet a boost towards immortality!

My own candidate for this category is Charlotte Mew (d. 1928). I believe that her slender output has kept her from getting more recognition (also, calling a poet "Mew" makes
her sound like a cat noise.) CM was extremely skillful in handling complicated metrical schemes, and also in handling
powerful emotions. I would like to give you "Madeleine
in Church", but it's really too long. So here's one that
is probably her most frequently anthologized poem:

THE FARMER'S BRIDE

Three summers since I chose a maid,
Too young, may be - but more's to do
At harvest-time than bide and woo.
When us was wed she turned afraid
Of love and me and all things human;
Like the shut of a winter's day
Her smile went out, and 'twadn't a woman-
More like a little frightened fay.
One night, in the Fall, she runned away.

"Out 'mong the sheep, her be," they said.
'Should properly have been abed;
But sure enough she wasn't there
Lying awake with her wide brown stare.
So over seven-acre field and up-along across the down
We chased her, flying like a hare
Before our lanterns. To Church-Town
All in a shiver and a scare
We caught her, fetched her home at last,
And turned the key upon her, fast.

She does the work about the house
As well as most, but like a mouse:
Happy enough to chat and play
With birds and rabbits and such as they,
So long as men-folk keep away.
"Not near, not near!" her eyes beseech
When one of us comes within reach.
The women say that beasts in stall
Look round like children at her call.
I've hardly heard her speak at all.

Shy as a leveret, swift as he,
Straight and slight as a young larch tree,
Sweet as the first wild violets, she,
To her wild self. But what to me?

The short days shorten and the oaks are brown,
The blue smoke rises to the low grey sky,
One leaf in the still air falls slowly down,
A magpie's spotted feathers lie
On the black earth spread white with rime,
The berries redden up to Christmas-time.
What's Christmas-time without there be
Some other in the house than we?

She sleeps up in the attic there
Alone, poor maid. 'Tis but a stair
Betwixt us. Oh! my God! the down,
The soft young down of her, the brown,
The brown of her - her eyes, her hair, her hair!
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Old 02-02-2002, 02:41 PM
bear_music bear_music is offline
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That's a stunner! Never heard of her, will look for more.

Here's another little-known lady, Virginia Adair. Very elderly now, lifelong teacher, I think at Cal Poly in the Pomona area, not sure. hardly ever published until very recently, a small book spanning decades was printed. I found this poem in New Yorker, one of her few published pieces, is how I know about her. This is from memory, but I think it's exact: It has one of the great closing lines in all poetry, methinks.

GOD TO THE SERPENT

Beloved Snake, perhaps my finest blueprint,
How can I not take pride in your design?
Your passage without hoof or paw or shoe print
Revels in art's and nature's S-curve line.

No ears, no whiskers, fingers, legs, or teeth,
No cries, complaints, or curses from you start;
But silence shares your body in its sheath,
Full-functioning with no superfluous part.

Men strive to emulate your forkéd tongue,
Their prideful pricks dwarfed by your lordly length.
Two arms for blows or hugging loosely hung
Are mocked by Boa Constrictor's single strength.

How dare men claim their image as my own,
With all those limbs and features sticking out?
You, Snake, with continuity of bone
Need but a spine to coil and cruise about.

Men fear the force of your hypnotic eyes,
Make myths to damn your being, wise and deft.
You, Snake, not men, deserve my cosmic prize.
I'm glad you stayed in Eden when they left!

--Virginia Hamilton Adair

(music)
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Old 02-02-2002, 09:29 PM
Golias Golias is offline
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I believe the Mew poem was rather thoroughly discussed in an earlier thread on this forum. With this and another poem in Norton, she is hardly unrecognized, as compared to many equally good or even better poets such as Lionel Johnson, John Davidson, Edith Joy Scovell, May Probyn, Henri Coulette, and Dick Barnes.

If a poet's contribution to our lives be considered, the case of Katherine Lee Bates (1859-1929) seems especially deserving of notice. Does anyone here recognize her name? Does anyone here possess a book of her poems? Selected stanzas from her poem "America the Beautiful" have swelled hundreds of millions of hearts, and not only during upsurges of patriotic feeling such as that following September 11, 2001.

An English literature professor at Wellsley College throughout her long working life, Katherine Bates wrote more than thirty books, including several volumes of poetry. Given the march of feminism,the growing emphasis on gay and lesbian rights, etc., it seems surprising that her life and her work have not attracted more interest in recent times.


Here is an occasionally rhymed, heterometrical poem she wrote following the death of her fellow Wellsley teacher and life partner, Katherine Coman:

Yellow Clover

Must I, who walk alone,
Come on it still,
This Puck of plants
The wise would do away with,
The sunshine slants
To play with,
Our wee, gold-dusty flower, the yellow clover,
Which once in parting for a time
That then seemed long,
Ere time for you was over,
We sealed our own?
Do you remember yet,
O Soul beyond the stars,
Beyond the uttermost dim bars
Of space,
Dear Soul who found the earth sweet,
Remember by love's grace,
In dreamy hushes of heavenly song,
How suddenly we halted in our climb,
Lingering, reluctant, up that farthest hill,
Stooped for the blossoms closest to our feet,
And gave them as a token
Each to each,
In lieu of speech,
In lieu of words too grievous to be spoken,
Those little, gypsy, wondering blossoms wet
With a strange dew of tears?

So it began,
This vagabond, unvalued yellow clover,
To be our tenderest language. All the years
It lent a new zest to the summer hours,
As each of us went scheming to surprise
The other with our homely, laureate flowers,
Sonnets and odes,
Fringing our daily roads.
Can amaranth and asphodel
Bring merrier laughter to your eyes?
Oh, if the Blest, in their serene abodes,
Keep any wistful consciousness of earth,
Not grandeurs, but the childish ways of love,
Simplicities of mirth,
Must follow them above
With touches of vague homesickness that pass
Like shadows of swift birds across the grass.
How oft, beneath some foreign arch of sky,
The rover,
You or I,
For life oft sundered look from look,
And voice from voice, the transient dearth
Schooling my soul to brook
This distance that no messages may span,
Would chance
Upon our wilding by a lonely well,
Or drowsy watermill,
Or swaying to the chime of convent bell,
Or where the nightingales of old romance
With tragical contraltos fill
Dim solitudes of infinite desire;
And once I joyed to meet
Our peasant gadabout
A trespasser on trim, seigniorial seat,
Twinkling a saucy eye
As potentates paced by.

Our golden cord! our soft, pursuing flame
From friendship's altar fire!
How proudly we would pluck and tame
The dimpling clusters, mutinously gay!
How swiftly they were sent
Far, far away
On journeys wide
By sea and continent,
Green miles and blue leagues over,
From each of us to each,
That so our hearts might reach
And touch within the yellow clover,
Love's letter to be glad about
Like sunshine when it came!

My sorrow asks no healing; it is love;
Let love then make me brave
To bear the keen hurts of
This careless summertide,
Ay, of our own poor flower,
Changed with our fatal hour,
For all its sunshine vanished when you died.
Only white clover blossoms on your grave.


(The rhythm of this last line invites comparison with the famous last line of Hardy's "During Wind and Rain," does it not?)


Miss Bates' books are nearly all long out of print. I have checked several large libraries and find none of her poetry books.

G.




[This message has been edited by Golias (edited February 25, 2002).]
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Old 02-06-2002, 12:29 PM
graywyvern graywyvern is offline
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Leonie Adams.
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Old 02-07-2002, 04:16 AM
Jim Hayes Jim Hayes is offline
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That poem was exquisite Golias, and thanks for bringing it here, what a repository you are! Speaking of Dick Barnes, I along with many others have enjoyed his work in The Susquehanna Quarterly, could I prevail on you to post what you might consider a favorite work of his?

Jim
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Old 02-07-2002, 08:23 AM
Golias Golias is offline
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The late Dick Barnes' best work may have been his translations from Borges in league with Bob Mezey, but his own poems are also wonderful. Mezey has written of them: .....Metrical phrases and lines appear, sometimes a lot, sometimes a little, but naturally and subtly, like the rhymes, which are often internal, sometimes assonantal, almost always occasional, but used with telling effect......One sometimes sees this kind of completeness and authority in really good metrical verse; in this mode, where one is absolutely on his own, it is a small miracle. Dick Barnes earned the right to work in this mode by mastering the old craft, which rewarded him by refining what must have been a naturally good ear until it was a marvelous one..... What amazes me is that a man can write as well as Dick Barnes does and not be renowned for it.

Here's a Barnes poem, one of my favorites - a recollection from his childhood in the San Bernadino Mountains of California:

A Winter Day Before the War

Hidden a week in a blizzard, the sun
came out and glittered on the snow; the sky
was indigo. We went out to visit, Mother on snowshoes,
a few of us kids on skis, when the air was so sweet
it made you happy to breathe. We talked with two ladies
on their stoop where icicles shone and dripped
and went around Nellie Smith's gift shop to see
an icicle a foot thick on the north side of the house.
Nobody said that day was marvelous, but it must have been
if it can stand out that clear in the mind, and bright
when so many other days are forgotten
or marked by something that happened.
A day like that: well, who knows. Maybe any day.


G.




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Old 02-08-2002, 01:27 AM
Clive Watkins Clive Watkins is offline
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Hi!

At the risk of seeming merely controversial, and pace Robert Mezey’s judgement (with whom I find myself more often than not concurring), isn’t "A Winter Day Before the War" just a piece of lineated prose - and not very distinguished prose, at that? - Thus:

Hidden a week in a blizzard, the sun came out and glittered on the snow; the sky was indigo. We went out to visit, Mother on snowshoes, a few of us kids on skis, when the air was so sweet it made you happy to breathe. We talked with two ladies on their stoop where icicles shone and dripped and went around Nellie Smith's gift shop to see an icicle a foot thick on the north side of the house. Nobody said that day was marvelous, but it must have been if it can stand out that clear in the mind, and bright when so many other days are forgotten or marked by something that happened. A day like that: well, who knows. Maybe any day.

What am I missing here?

Clive Watkins
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Old 02-08-2002, 10:57 AM
ewrgall ewrgall is offline
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Originally posted by Clive Watkins:
.....isn’t "A Winter Day Before the War" just a piece of lineated prose - and not very distinguished prose, at that. What am I missing here?

Clive Watkins


Clive,
You're not missing a thing. This type of stuff is wretchedly bad but no one will point it out. Good job.

ewrgall




[This message has been edited by ewrgall (edited February 15, 2002).]
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Old 02-09-2002, 06:36 AM
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Gail White Gail White is offline
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Thanks for all the good responses. Just a note here to recommend a book. I recently acquired "British Women Poets
of the Nineteenth Century" (ed. Margaret Higonnet, from
Penguin Group). It contains all the poets you would expect,
a few who aren't worth the space they take up, and several
real finds. I was delighted to find several pages devoted
to Michael Field (who was really two women), but the
surprise gem of the book for me was a dramatic monologue
called "Xantippe" by Amy Levy, who died young (by suicide)
in 1889. I'm going to see if the used bookstores can help
me find more work by Levy.

****************

Just so as not to go off without leaving a poem, here's
one by F.W. Bourdillon, who died in 1921 having written
several volumes of verse, but only one memorable poem:

THE NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES

The night has a thousand eyes,
And the day but one;
Yet the light of the bright world died
With the dying sun.

The mind has a thousand eyes,
And the heart but one;
Yet the light of a whole life dies
when love is done.
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Old 02-15-2002, 09:44 AM
A. E. Stallings A. E. Stallings is offline
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I'm tempted to think, at times, that MOST of the poets I admire are underrated, at least by critical establishment. I guess that's just the quirkiness of fandom. I think of Housman, for instance, whose popularity has never flagged, but who seems always to be damned with faint praise by serious critics.

Or I think of this poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Her reputation has long been eclipsed by her husband, but a sonnet such as this one gives you an inkling of why, during their lifetime, it was much the other way around:

Grief

I tell you, hopeless grief is passionless;
That only men incredulous of despair,
Half-taught in anguish, through the midnight air
Beat upward to God's throne in loud access
Of shrieking and reproach. Full desertness
In souls, as countries, lieth silent-bare
Under the blanching, vertical eye-glare
Of the absolute Heavens. Deep-hearted man, espress
Grief for the Dead in silence like to death:
Most like a monumental statue set
In everlasting watch and moveless woe
Till itself crumble to the dust beneath.
Touch it: the marble eyelids are not wet--
If it could weep it could arise and go.

I have no idea why she isn't represented by THIS in the Norton Anthology, instead of the same old Sonnets from the Portuguese.

Anthologies have a huge role to play in this issue, of course.


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