VAN GOGH by Mervyn Peake

(No.55 of my favourite short poems)
Mervyn Peake-Self Portrait

Mervyn Peake (1911 – 1968) … Self-Portrait

VAN GOGH   . . .  by Mervyn Peake

Dead, the Dutch Icarus who plundered France
And left her fields the richer for our eyes.
Where writhes the cypress under burning skies,
Or where proud cornfields broke at his advance,
Now burns a beauty fiercer than the dance
Of primal blood that stamps at throat and thighs.
Pirate of sunlight! and the laden prize
Of coloured earth and fruit in summer trance
Where is your fever now? and your desire?
Withered beneath a sunflower’s mockery,
A suicide you sleep with all forgotten.
And yet your voice has more than words for me
And shall cry on when I am dead and rotten
From quenchless canvases of twisted fire

Van Gogh-Wheatfield With Cypresses

Wheat Field With Cypresses, 1889 by Vincent Van Gogh

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Popular Opinion

 

ItWasMe

From Reddit (detail) – Sep., 2017

“Popular opinion is the greatest lie in the world. ”  ― Thomas Carlyle   Thomas Carlyle

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WAS IT ME?

Three faces of the truth
Did, Didn’t, Might-Have-Done
Owned up only to being honest

DID . . .

Ok
Hands up
I admit it
You aren’t wrong
It was me
I am guilty
You’ve got me bang to rights

DIDN’T

It wasn’t me
You are mistaken
Not guilty
I deny it all
I was never there
I couldn’t have done it
I have a watertight alibi

MIGHT-HAVE-DONE

I don’t know
It might have been me
It could have been me
But – what does it matter
I don’t care
You don’t care
No-one cares

JUDGEMENT

Being economical with the truth
Right or wrong
True or false
Truth will out
Justice will triumph
 
Or so says popular opinion 
The greatest lie in the world

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Carpe Diem

(No.53 of my favourite short poems) 

carpe diem

Not in fact a poem this week, but an inspirational  monologue on the significance of writing poetry and of the importance of  ‘carpe diem’  (translated from the Latin as ‘seize the day’), or the importance of making the most of the present time before it is too late.  The thesis is presented in the film ‘Dead Poets’ Society’ in a speech to his pupils by the charismatic English teacher, Mr Keating, who taught his pupils about life, not just about poetry and the English language.   Mr Keating was played in the film by Robin Williams.

From ‘Dead Poets Society’ … screenplay written by Tom Schulman

Mr. Keating:

“In my class, you will learn to think for yourselves again. You will learn to savor words and languages. No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.  I see that look in Mr Pitts’ eyes like 19th century literature has nothing to do with going to business school or medical school, right?  Maybe.  You may agree and think yes, we should study our Mr. Pritcher and learn our rhyme and meter and go quietly about the business of achieving other ambitions.  Well, I have a secret for you.  Huddle Up…Huddle UP!  We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute.  We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race.  And the human race is filled with passion.  Medicine, law, business these are all noble pursuits necessary to sustain life.  But poetry, beauty, romance, and love; these are what we stay alive for.  To quote from Whitman “Oh me, Oh life! … of the question of these recurring;  of the endless trains of the faithless … of cities filled with the foolish;  what good amid these? Oh me, Oh life.”  “Answer…that you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. …  What will your verse be?” 

Robin Williams - Dead Poets Society

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Watch “Robin Williams – What will your verse be? – excerpt from Dead Poets Society” on YouTube  . . .

Mr Keating’s speech from ‘Dead Poets’ Society’

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Thomas H. Schulman ( 1950 – 2016) is an American screenwriter best known for his semi-autobiographical screenplay Dead Poets Society. The film won the Best Screenplay Academy Award in 1989, and was nominated for Best Picture and Best Director.  (From Wikipedia)

Robin McLaurin Williams (1951 – 2014) was an American stand-up comedian and actor. Starting as a stand-up comedian in San Francisco and Los Angeles in the mid-1970s, he is credited with leading San Francisco’s comedy renaissance.  (From Wikipedia)

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A Poetic Formula

 (Poem No.51 of my favourite short poems) 

A Poetic Formula

formula

A dozen, a gross and a score

Plus 3 times the square root of 4

Divided by 7

Plus 5 times 11

Is  9 squared

And not a bit more.

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This ingeniously composed equation and the accompanying verse is quoted in Gyles Brandreth’s 2015 book ‘Word Play’ (Coronet Books – Hodder and Stoughton), as a composition by the playwright, Tom Stoppard. 

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Penelope Fitzgerald – The Kitchen Drawer Poem

 (Poem No.50 of my favourite short poems)

Kitchen Drawer

‘The Kitchen Drawer’ – Penelope Fitzgerald

THE KITCHEN DRAWER POEM

The nutcracker, the skewer, the knife,

are doomed to share this drawer for life.

You cannot pierce, the skewer says,

or cause the pain of in one place.

You cannot grind, you do not know,

says nutcracker, the pain of slow.

You don’t know what it is to slice.

to both of them the knife replies,

with pain so fine it is not pain

to part what cannot join again.

The skewer, nutcracker, and knife

are well adapted to their life.

They calculate efficiency

By what the others cannot be

and power by the pain they cause

and that is life in kitchen drawers.

By Penelope Fitzgerald

 Printed in @London Review of Books’ – 3rd October, 2002.

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Penelope Fitzgerald (1916 – 2000) was an English Booker Prize-winning novelist, poet, essayist and biographer.  In 2008, The Times included her in a list of “the 50 greatest British writers since 1945”. In 2012, The Observer named her final novel, ‘The Blue Flower‘, one of “the ten best historical novels”.  She also wrote a splendid biography of the Victorian artist Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones.

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G.K.Chesterton: ‘Wine And Water’

 (Poem No.47 of my favourite short poems)

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874 – 1936), was an English writer, poet, philosopher, dramatist, journalist, orator, theologian, biographer, and literary and art critic.  He was a large man, standing 6 feet 4 inches and weighing over 20 stone (130 kg).  His girth, perhaps in part due to his great fondness for wine,  occasioned a famous incident when he remarked to his friend George Bernard Shaw  “Look at you, anyone would think a famine had struck England.”  Shaw retorted, “To look at you, anyone would think you have caused it”.

wine&water

Wine And Water

Old Noah he had an ostrich farm and fowls on the largest scale,
He ate his egg with a ladle in a egg-cup big as a pail,
And the soup he took was Elephant Soup and fish he took was Whale,
But they all were small to the cellar he took when he set out to sail,
And Noah he often said to his wife when he sat down to dine,
“I don’t care where the water goes if it doesn’t get into the wine.”

The cataract of the cliff of heaven fell blinding off the brink
As if it would wash the stars away as suds go down a sink,
The seven heavens came roaring down for the throats of hell to drink,
And Noah he cocked his eye and said, “It looks like rain, I think,
The water has drowned the Matterhorn as deep as a Mendip mine,
But I don’t care where the water goes if it doesn’t get into the wine.”

But Noah he sinned, and we have sinned; on tipsy feet we trod,
Till a great big black teetotaller was sent to us for a rod,
And you can’t get wine at a P.S.A., or chapel, or Eisteddfod,
For the Curse of Water has come again because of the wrath of God,
And water is on the Bishop’s board and the Higher Thinker’s shrine,
But I don’t care where the water goes if it doesn’t get into the wine.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

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To reinforce Chesterton’s delight in the drinking of wine, I quote a verse from another of his poems on the same subject . . . 

“Feast on wine or fast on water,
And your honour shall stand sure …
If an angel out of heaven
Brings you other things to drink,
Thank him for his kind attentions,
Go and pour them down the sink.”

wine_water_song

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‘i carry your heart with me’ -E.E.Cummings

(Poem No.46 of my favourite short poems)

E.E. Cummings ( or ‘e e cummings’) (1894-1962) was an experimental American poet with a distinctive style, but nevertheless very accessible.  I previously blogged his poem … maggie and millie and mollie and may
Cummings’ poetry often deals with themes of love and nature, as in the following lovely poem . . .

heart

i carry  your heart with me

 

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
                                  i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

BY  E.E.Cummings

 

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Oscar Wilde – ‘Tread lightly, she is near’

 (Poem No.45 of my favourite short poems)

WoT Churchyard

REQUIESCAT

Tread lightly, she is near
Under the snow,
Speak gently, she can hear
The daisies grow.

All her bright golden hair
Tarnished with rust,
She that was young and fair
Fallen to dust.

Lily-like, white as snow,
She hardly knew
She was a woman, so
Sweetly she grew.

Coffin-board, heavy stone,
Lie on her breast,
I vex my heart alone,
She is at rest.

Peace, peace, she cannot hear
Lyre or sonnet,
All my life’s buried here,
Heap earth upon it.

 

by: Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde

 

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The Birth Of A Poem

[ Prompted by Davy D’s recent question on the GoDogGo Cafe website, entitled . . .    ‘Are You A Poet?’  ]

 

Poetry Breathe Life

THE BIRTH OF A POEM

 

Generated from the furnace
Of a fervent mind
A poem defines itself
As a jewel
Precisely cut
Precious and lustrous
Poised above a ring of gold
Encircling thoughts
And reflecting
In its faceted faces
Feelings and emotions
Otherwise ill-expressed

The poet
The visionary
Frames the template
Bringing life to contemplation
Substance to inspiration
A peasant in the fields of the imagination
Cultivating conceits
Ideas and concepts
Labouring at the word-face
Crafting thoughts into expressed truths
Weaving feelings into reasoned words
Bringing all to fruition in
The gemstone of creativity

 

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Brian Patten – Mary’s Lamb

(Poem No.44 of my favourite short poems)

Brian Patten made his name in the 1960s as one of the Liverpool Poets, alongside Adrian Henri and Roger McGough.  He has written over fifty poetry books for both Adults and children.   Patten’s style is generally lyrical and his subjects are primarily love and relationships, but I have taken this, slight, but amusing poem, from one of his earliest collections of poems for children ‘Thawing Frozen Frogs’.

Marys Lamb

MARY HAD A BIT OF LAMB

Mary had a little lamb,
Its fleece was white as snow,
And everywhere that Mary went
The lamb was sure to go.

She went into the butcher’s,
Came out with some lamb chops.
I would never follow Mary
Into any kind of shops!

 

Brian Patten (From: ’Thawing Frozen Frogs’ – Puffin Books, 1992; Illustration by David Mostyn)

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