armistice_day: (winter's tale . it is a gallant child)
I spent a lot of time alone as a child. Most of that time, when I wasn't riding my bike, I was reading. Or performing interpretive dance to ABBA records, but I won't be covering those flights of fancy in this post.

I read a lot. An awful lot. The Great American Novels of the time, courtesy of the Book Club return cards my mother never returned in time, the Encyclopedia Britannica, Fantasy and Science Fiction received as gifts from Uncles and Aunts, my mother's mysteries, historical fiction and classics, and my own slowly growing collection of odds and ends. One feature of which were my books of poetry. Anthologies, collections, and the like. Big, thick books, crammed with poems. Some of the poems were sad, some were strange, some were boring, some were sappy, some were dirty, and some were beautiful. These are still my main categories for sorting poems, and I find they work quite well. Though I am much easier on the sappy poems now than I was then.

I had a lot of odd hobbies. Lots of only children do. We're inventive about finding ways to use time. One of my hobbies consisted in banging out the poems I really loved on my mother's old portable typewriter. Once typed, I kept them in a folder in my Trapper-Keeper, for easy access. Who could say when I might like to read that poem again? It could happen at any time.

Once, I left a poem, only partly typed, in the typewriter. The paper was onionskin. The verse was one from a poem called "The World" by Henry Vaughn, the very first verse. I didn't much care for the other verses. Though full of incredible images, they were of a moralizing tone that I disliked. But the first-- I didn't have to type it out, I already knew it by heart, I just wanted to. I wanted to not only see the words, say the words, but feel them, too.

When my mother came to collect the typewriter from my room (she typed my father's seminary papers on the same machine), she found the poem and showed it to my father. I hated to disappoint them, but when they asked me if I had written it, I had to say I hadn't. I also probably went on enthusiastically about the verse itself for a bit.

For a long time, I wanted to be a poet. Sometimes I am one, in the usual way. But more usually I am one in my own way. The images I read and the images I see are one and the same in my mind. They become each other forever, a great loop. A great ring.

When I look up to the tangible stars or when I feel the intangible rush and roar of time, I hear Vaughn's words. They are always with me, an image in my mind. Slanted sunlight on translucent paper, the book open at my elbow, the heavy clack of the keys, itchy carpet under my belly, a waving curtain, the sound of a train in the distance.

...

I saw Eternity the other night,
like a great ring of pure and endless light,
all calm, as it was bright;
and round beneath it, Time in hours, days, years
driven by the spheres
like a vast shadow moved; in which the World
and all her train were hurled.

--The World, Henry Vaughn
armistice_day: (the fire that consumes all before it)
Before and beyond any character, what brought me to Nabokov (or was it Nabokov to me) were his images.

Wanted, wanted: Dolores Haze.
Hair: brown. Lips: scarlet.
Age: five thousand three hundred days.
Profession: none, or "starlet"

Where are you hiding, Dolores Haze?
Why are you hiding, darling?
(I Talk in a daze, I walk in a maze
I cannot get out, said the starling).

Where are you riding, Dolores Haze?
What make is the magic carpet?
Is a Cream Cougar the present craze?
And where are you parked, my car pet?

Who is your hero, Dolores Haze?
Still one of those blue-capped star-men?
Oh the balmy days and the palmy bays,
And the cars, and the bars, my Carmen!

Oh Dolores, that juke-box hurts!
Are you still dancin', darlin'?
(Both in worn levis, both in torn T-shirts,
And I, in my corner, snarlin').

Happy, happy is gnarled McFate
Touring the States with a child wife,
Plowing his Molly in every State
Among the protected wild life.

My Dolly, my folly! Her eyes were vair,
And never closed when I kissed her.
Know an old perfume called Soliel Vert?
Are you from Paris, mister?

L'autre soir un air froid d'opera m'alita;
Son fele -- bien fol est qui s'y fie!
Il neige, le decor s'ecroule, Lolita!
Lolita, qu'ai-je fait de ta vie?

Dying, dying, Lolita Haze,
Of hate and remorse, I'm dying.
And again my hairy fist I raise,
And again I hear you crying.

Officer, officer, there they go--
In the rain, where that lighted store is!
And her socks are white, and I love her so,
And her name is Haze, Dolores.

Officer, officer, there they are--
Dolores Haze and her lover!
Whip out your gun and follow that car.
Now tumble out and take cover.

Wanted, wanted: Dolores Haze.
Her dream-gray gaze never flinches.
Ninety pounds is all she weighs
With a height of sixty inches.

My car is limping, Dolores Haze,
And the last long lap is the hardest,
And I shall be dumped where the weed decays,
And the rest is rust and stardust.

--Lolita, chapter 25, Nabokov
armistice_day: (Default)






When I said that Mercy
stood
Within the borders of the
wood,
I meant the lenient beast
with claws
And bloody, swift-dispatching
jaws.

-- Lawrence Spingarn
armistice_day: (modern vintage . the vile village)






This is the first thing
I have understood:
Time is the echo of an axe
Within a wood.

--Philip Larkin
armistice_day: (little birds . if it's not in the dark)
He wrote beautiful poems, sad poems, joyful poems, angry poems, black poems, love poems, hopeful poems, present poems, American poems.

...

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!

--Let America Be America Again, Langston Hughes
armistice_day: (the first rule of national poetry month)
Though it is now abandoned, St Elizabeth's Hospital, a mental institution, housed the Poet Ezra Pound for more than ten years. A favorite poet of mine, Elizabeth Bishop, reworked the House the Jack Built as a ode on Pound's commitment.

...

This is the house of Bedlam.

This is the man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is the time
of the tragic man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is a wristwatch
telling the time
of the talkative man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is a sailor
wearing the watch
that tells the time
of the honored man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is the roadstead all of board
reached by the sailor
wearing the watch
that tells the time
of the old, brave man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

These are the years and the walls of the ward,
the winds and clouds of the sea of board
sailed by the sailor
wearing the watch
that tells the time
of the cranky man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is a Jew in a newspaper hat
that dances weeping down the ward
over the creaking sea of board
beyond the sailor
winding his watch
that tells the time
of the cruel man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is a world of books gone flat.
This is a Jew in a newspaper hat
that dances weeping down the ward
over the creaking sea of board
of the batty sailor
that winds his watch
that tells the time
of the busy man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is a boy that pats the floor
to see if the world is there, is flat,
for the widowed Jew in the newspaper hat
that dances weeping down the ward
waltzing the length of a weaving board
by the silent sailor
that hears his watch
that ticks the time
of the tedious man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

These are the years and the walls and the door
that shut on a boy that pats the floor
to feel if the world is there and flat.
This is a Jew in a newspaper hat
that dances joyfully down the ward
into the parting seas of board
past the staring sailor
that shakes his watch
that tells the time
of the poet, the man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is the soldier home from the war.
These are the years and the walls and the door
that shut on a boy that pats the floor
to see if the world is round or flat.
This is a Jew in a newspaper hat
that dances carefully down the ward,
walking the plank of a coffin board
with the crazy sailor
that shows his watch
that tells the time
of the wretched man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

-- Visit to St. Elizabeth's, Elizabeth Bishop
armistice_day: (illustrated man . map of the interior)





It hangs from heaven to earth.
There are trees in it, cities, rivers,
small pigs and moons. In one corner
the snow falling over a charging cavalry,
in another women are planting rice.

You can also see:
a chicken carried off by a fox,
a naked couple on their wedding night,
a column of smoke,
an evil-eyed woman spitting into a pail of milk.

What is behind it?
—Space, plenty of empty space.

And who is talking now?
—A man asleep under his hat.

What happens when he wakes up?
—He’ll go into a barbershop.
They’ll shave his beard, nose, ears, and hair,
To make him look like everyone else.

--Tapestry, Charles Simic
armistice_day: (illustrated man . map of the interior)
When I was a child
I played by myself in a
corner of the schoolyard
all alone.

I hated dolls and I
hated games, animals were
not friendly and birds
flew away.

If anyone was looking
for me I hid behind a
tree and cried out "I am
an orphan."

And here I am, the
center of all beauty!
writing these poems!
Imagine!

-Autobiographia Literaria, Frank O'Hara
armistice_day: (cockaigne . in aspect)



And the days are not full enough
And the nights are not full enough
And life slips by like a field mouse
Not shaking the grass

--Ezra Pound
armistice_day: (winter's tale . it is a gallant child)
Another suggestion by a friend, this poem is surely one of Dylan Thomas' better known, but it's none worse the wear for that.

Poetry was meant to be heard aloud. So listen if you like to a reading by the poet himself -- click here.

...

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
Trail with daisies and barley
Down the rivers of the windfall light.

And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
In the sun that is young once only,
Time let me play and be
Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
And the sabbath rang slowly
In the pebbles of the holy streams.

All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
And playing, lovely and watery
And fire green as grass.
And nightly under the simple stars
As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars
Flying with the ricks, and the horses
Flashing into the dark.

And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
The sky gathered again
And the sun grew round that very day.
So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
Out of the whinnying green stable
On to the fields of praise.

And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
In the sun born over and over,
I ran my heedless ways,
My wishes raced through the house high hay
And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
Before the children green and golden
Follow him out of grace.

Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
In the moon that is always rising,
Nor that riding to sleep
I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

--Fern Hill, Dylan Thomas


*awen: the Welsh for poetic inspiration in the bardic sense.
armistice_day: bird & wire (thaumatropy . tales for other times)
I have quite a few favorite poems by Ginsberg, but since we share a favorite poet in Walt Whitman, I chose to go with this one.
..

What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for I walked down the
streets under the trees with a headache self-conscious looking at the full moon.

In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the neon fruit
supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!
What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families shopping at night! Aisles
full of husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes! --- and you,
Garcia Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons?
I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber, poking among the
meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys.
I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the pork chops? What price
bananas? Are you my Angel?
I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans following you, and
followed in my imagination by the store detective.
We strode down the open corridors together in our solitary fancy tasting
artichokes, possessing every frozen delicacy, and never passing the cashier.
Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in an hour. Which way does
your beard point tonight?
(I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the supermarket and feel
absurd.)
Will we walk all night through solitary streets? The trees add shade to
shade, lights out in the houses, we'll both be lonely.
Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love past blue automobiles in
driveways, home to our silent cottage?
Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher, what America did you
have when Charon quit poling his ferry and you got out on a smoking bank and
stood watching the boat disappear on the black waters of Lethe?

-- A Supermarket in California
, Allen Ginsberg
armistice_day: (o fortuna . velut luna)
The Carmina Burana, is a collection of medieval poetry featuring themes that range from the religious to the political, the moral to the erotic, and the Bacchic to the Satirical. Found collected in a monastery, the Songs of Beuren were the work of "goliards", defrocked monks, vagrant students, minor clerics and minstrels. Today, the most famous (read: most abused and and overworked) of these songs is the O Fortuna (Imperatrix Mundi)-- a rail against Lady Luck Herself, set to music by Carl Orff.

Reading the lyric, it's plain that there really is nothing new under the sun. After all, who is there who hasn't felt utterly forsaken from time to time?

...

Fortune,
like the moon you are changeable,
ever waxing and waning;

Hateful,
life first oppresses and then soothes
as fancy takes it;

Poverty and power, it melts them like ice.

Fate--
monstrous and empty, you whirling wheel, you are malevolent,
well-being is in vain and always fades to nothing
shadowed and veiled, you plague me too;

Now, through the game, I bring my bare back to your villainy.

Fate is against me,
in health and virtue driven on and weighed down,
always enslaved.

So at this hour, without delay
pluck the vibrating strings;
since Fate strikes down the strong man
all weep with me!


...

Since this poem was meant to be heard as a song, I feel it's fitting to include a performance in this post. This is a fine one, by the LSO under Richard Hickox.
As hard as it is to divorce this music from its familiar, modern context, try to put the million movie trailers, explosions, and nervous breakdowns aside and take it in. It's well worth the effort.

[It's also a hell of a lot of fun to sing.]

armistice_day: (Default)
It had been many years since I'd read or thought of this poem. A friend reminded me of it, when I asked what I should choose next to post here. I want to say coming back to it now with fresh eyes is rewarding, and it is-- but even more rewarding, and bittersweet, is coming back to it with eyes that are older.

...

I

I sought a theme and sought for it in vain,
I sought it daily for six weeks or so.
Maybe at last, being but a broken man,
I must be satisfied with my heart, although
Winter and summer till old age began
My circus animals were all on show,
Those stilted boys, that burnished chariot,
Lion and woman and the Lord knows what.

II

What can I but enumerate old themes,
First that sea-rider Oisin led by the nose
Through three enchanted islands, allegorical dreams,
Vain gaiety, vain battle, vain repose,
Themes of the embittered heart, or so it seems,
That might adorn old songs or courtly shows;
But what cared I that set him on to ride,
I, starved for the bosom of his faery bride.

And then a counter-truth filled out its play,
'The Countess Cathleen' was the name I gave it;
She, pity-crazed, had given her soul away,
But masterful Heaven had intervened to save it.
I thought my dear must her own soul destroy
So did fanaticism and hate enslave it,
And this brought forth a dream and soon enough
This dream itself had all my thought and love.

And when the Fool and Blind Man stole the bread
Cuchulain fought the ungovernable sea;
Heart-mysteries there, and yet when all is said
It was the dream itself enchanted me:
Character isolated by a deed
To engross the present and dominate memory.
Players and painted stage took all my love,
And not those things that they were emblems of.

III

Those masterful images because complete
Grew in pure mind, but out of what began?
A mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street,
Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can,
Old iron, old bones, old rags, that raving slut
Who keeps the till. Now that my ladder's gone,
I must lie down where all the ladders start
In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.

- The Circus Animals' Desertion, W.B. Yeats
armistice_day: ((dCd) spleen and ideal . avatar)
I've been reading this poem for many years now.
It always seems to offer something new, a continual revelation.

...

i

Whoever despises the clitoris despises the penis
Whoever despises the penis despises the cunt
Whoever despises the cunt despises the life of the child.

Resurrection music, silence, and surf.

ii

No longer speaking
Listening with the whole body
And with every drop of blood
Overtaken by silence
But this same silence is become speech
With the speed of darkness.

iii

Stillness during war, the lake.
The unmoving spruces.
Glints over the water.
Faces, voices. You are far away.
A tree that trembles and trembles.

iv

After the lifting of the mist
after the heavy rains
the sky stands clear
and the cries of the city risen in day
I remember the buildings are space
walled, to let space be used for living
I mind this room is space
whose boundary of glass
lets me give you drink and space to drink
your hand, my hand being space
containing skies and constellations
your face carries the reaches of air
I know I am space
my words are the air.

v

Between between
the man : act exact
woman : in curve senses in their maze
frail orbits, green tries, games of stars
the shape of the body speaking its evidence

vi

I look across at the real
vulnerable involved naked
devoted to the present of all I care for
the world of history leading to this moment.

vii

Life the announcer.
I assure you
there are many ways to have a child.
I bastard mother
promise you
there are many ways to be born.
They all come forth
in their own grace.

viii

Ends of the earth join tonight
with blazing stars upon thier meeting.

These sons, these sons
fall burning into Asia.

ix

Time comes into it.
Say it. Say it.
The universe is made of stories,
not of atoms.


x

Lying
blazing beside me
you rear beautifully up—
your thinking face—
erotic body reaching
in all its colors and lights—
your erotic face
colored and lit—
not colored body-and-face
but now entire,
colors lights the world of thinking and reaching.


xi

The river flows past the city.

Water goes down to tomorrow
making its children I hear their unborn voices
I am working out the vocabulary of my silence.


xii

Big-boned man young and of my dream
Struggles to get the live bird out of his throat.
I am he am I? Dreaming?
I am the bird am I? I am the throat?

A bird with a curved beak.
It could slit anything, the throat-bird.

Drawn up slowly. The curved blades, not large.
Bird emerges wet being born
Begins to sing.


xiii

My night awake
staring at the broad rough jewel
the copper roof across the way
thinking of the poet
yet unborn in this dark
who will be the throat of these hours.
No. Of those hours.
Who will speak these days,
if not I,
if not you?

The Speed of Darkness
- Muriel Rukeyser
armistice_day: (Default)
Ms. Sexton went out looking for the gods.
She began looking in the sky
--expecting a large white angel with a blue crotch.

No one.

She looked next in all the learned books
and the print spat back at her.

No one.

She made a pilgrimage to the great poet
and he belched in her face.

No one.

She prayed in all the churches of the world
and learned a great deal about culture.

No one.

She went to the Atlantic, the Pacific, for surely God...

No one.

She went to the Buddha, the Brahma, the Pyramids
and found immense postcards.

No one.

Then she journeyed back to her own house
and the gods of the world were shut in the lavatory.

At last!
she cried out,
and locked the door.

- Gods, Anne Sexton
armistice_day: (gold . put the inside on the outside)
Verse is everywhere, and so is meaning. Even in words that have become so well known that it's an effort to experience them afresh.
Shakespeare can feel at first so monumental, so unapproachable, or even so done, but really his plays are stories of universal human feeling that resonate with any people in any time or place. There we are in all of our best and worst moments.

Slings & Arrows is a great show if you love Shakespeare-- it's even a great show if you aren't all that familiar with Shakespeare and just want to see some fine acting, some superb writing, and some fine tragicomic drama.
The poem I've chosen for today is an often quoted selection from Macbeth. If you'd like to hear wonderful reading of this poem, you can find one here, as part of an episode of Slings & Arrows [>>2:56-5:16], complete with context.

...

She should have died hereafter;
there would have been a time for such a word.

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
creeps in this petty pace from day to day
to the last syllable of recorded time,
and all our yesterdays have lighted fools
the way to dusty death.

Out, out, brief candle!

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
that struts and frets his hour upon the stage
and then is heard no more: it is a tale
told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
signifying nothing.


-- Macbeth, s.V, William Shakespeare
armistice_day: (modern vintage . the vile village)
He didn't look a thing like a poet, did Theodore Roehtke.
Assigned reading: The Lost Son, one of his first longer works.
...

from "The Lost Son"

Snail, snail, glister me forward,
bird, soft-sigh me home,
worm, be with me.
This is my hard time.

Fished in an old wound,
the soft pond of repose;
nothing nibbled my line,
not even the minnows came.

Sat in an empty house
watching shadows crawl,
scratching.
There was one fly.

Voice, come out of the silence.
Say something.

Appear in the form of a spider
or a moth beating the curtain.

Tell me:
which is the way I take;
out of what door do I go,
where and to whom?



It was beginning winter,
an in-between time,
the landscape still partly brown:
the bones of weeds kept swinging in the wind,
above the blue snow.

It was beginning winter,
the light moved slowly over the frozen field,
over the dry seed-crowns,
the beautiful surviving bones
swinging in the wind.

Light traveled over the wide field;
stayed.
The weeds stopped swinging.
The mind moved, not alone,
through the clear air, in the silence.

Was it light?
Was it light within?
Was it light within light?
Stillness becoming alive,
yet still?
A lively understandable spirit
once entertained you.
It will come again.
Be still.
Wait.


-- Theodore Roethke
armistice_day: ((dCd) spleen and ideal . avatar)
I've been posting a poem a day in my journal during April for a few years now. This year will be the first in this journal, though I will be cross-posting. This year there's a bit of a bittersweet feeling about the whole enterprise, what with the very recent passing of Adrienne Rich. So much has been said about her, and her poetry. I can only say that she shaped not only my idea of what poetry was, but of how I experienced poetry-- how I wrote it thought it and spoke it and lived it.

The moment of change is the only poem.- Adrienne Rich

...

W.H. Auden is always a feature of this month for me, something I always post. He's one of my very favorite poets. Someone, along with Adrienne Rich, I consider to be one of "my" poets. I think they'd both find that idea pretty amusing, for various reasons.

They are very different (couldn't be more-so, really) Rich and Yeats. Different poets, different people. Still, when I think of Rich's passing, it's Auden's tribute to Yeats that comes to mind.

...

I

He disappeared in the dead of winter:
The brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted,
And snow disfigured the public statues;
The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day.
What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.

Far from his illness
The wolves ran on through the evergreen forests,
The peasant river was untempted by the fashionable quays;
By mourning tongues
The death of the poet was kept from his poems.

But for him it was his last afternoon as himself,
An afternoon of nurses and rumours;
The provinces of his body revolted,
The squares of his mind were empty,
Silence invaded the suburbs,
The current of his feeling failed; he became his admirers.

Now he is scattered among a hundred cities
And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections,
To find his happiness in another kind of wood
And be punished under a foreign code of conscience.
The words of a dead man
Are modified in the guts of the living.

But in the importance and noise of to-morrow
When the brokers are roaring like beasts on the floor of the Bourse,
And the poor have the sufferings to which they are fairly accustomed,
And each in the cell of himself is almost convinced of his freedom,
A few thousand will think of this day
As one thinks of a day when one did something slightly unusual.

What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.


II

You were silly like us; your gift survived it all:
The parish of rich women, physical decay,
Yourself. Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.
Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still,
For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.



III

Earth, receive an honoured guest:
William Yeats is laid to rest.
Let the Irish vessel lie
Emptied of its poetry.

In the nightmare of the dark
All the dogs of Europe bark,
And the living nations wait,
Each sequestered in its hate;

Intellectual disgrace
Stares from every human face,
And the seas of pity lie
Locked and frozen in each eye.

Follow, poet, follow right
To the bottom of the night,
With your unconstraining voice
Still persuade us to rejoice;

With the farming of a verse
Make a vineyard of the curse,
Sing of human unsuccess
In a rapture of distress;

In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountain start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.

- In Memory of W.B. Yeats, W.H. Auden


...

Follow, poet.