Poetry is a Sickness – A Thrilling, Wonderful Sickness

"Message In A Bottle" - Harmony Becker, published in Mimesis: International Journal of Poetry, Artwork, and Opinion

I’ve had a love affair for quite some time now with poetry, from classic to contemporary, from unstructured to delightfully wild… My mom read a lot of it to me when I was younger, as did her grandfather to her, and it decidingly just…stuck. I have eclectic tastes in poetry ranging from Pablo Neruda to Allen Ginsburg. I love certain authors – Zora Neal Hurston, Saldam Rushdi, Jonathan Safran Foer – because the words and images almost vibrate with energy in their stories and novels. But the common thread between them all is this ability to wrangle the slippery images and sounds that allude most of us, all while speaking to some important expression of experience.

Thought I’d share some of my favorites:

Tonight I can write the saddest lines
– Pablo Neruda

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
Write, for example,’The night is shattered
and the blue stars shiver in the distance.’
The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.
Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.
Through nights like this one I held her in my arms
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.
She loved me sometimes, and I loved her too.
How could one not have loved her great still eyes.
Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.
To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.
What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
The night is shattered and she is not with me.
This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.
My sight searches for her as though to go to her.
My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.
The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.
I no longer love her, that’s certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.
Another’s. She will be another’s. Like my kisses before.
Her voide. Her bright body. Her inifinite eyes.
I no longer love her, that’s certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.
Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
my sould is not satisfied that it has lost her.
Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
and these the last verses that I write for her.

Haiku
by Etheridge Knight

1

Eastern guard tower
glints in sunset; convicts rest
like lizards on rocks.

2

The piano man
is stingy, at 3 A.M.
his songs drop like plum.

3

Morning sun slants cell.
Drunks stagger like cripple flies
On jailhouse floor.

4

To write a blues song
is to regiment riots
and pluck gems from graves.

5

A bare pecan tree
slips a pencil shadow down
a moonlit snow slope.

6

The falling snow flakes
Cannot blunt the hard aches nor
Match the steel stillness.

7

Under moon shadows
A tall boy flashes knife and
Slices star bright ice.

8

In the August grass
Struck by the last rays of sun
The cracked teacup screams.

9

Making jazz swing in
Seventeen syllables AIN’T
No square poet’s job.

“Green Memory” – 1951
-Langston Hughes

A wonderful time – the War:
when money rolled in
and blood rolled out.But blood
was far away
from here –

Money was near.

Epigram
-Langston Hughes

Oh, God of dust and rainbows, help us see
That without dust the rainbow would not be.

The Listeners
– Walter de la Mare

“Is there anybody there?” said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grass
Of the forest’s ferny floor;
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the Traveller’s head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
“Is there anybody there?” he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
By the lonely Traveller’s call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
‘Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
Louder, and lifted his head:–
“Tell them I came, and no one answered,
That I kept my word,” he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
When the plunging hoofs were gone.

These are just a handful of the poems that have captured by attention. I will likely share others as I track them down or stumble upon them. I’d welcome any comments on poems or poets that awaken something in you.

Resources:

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