Kurt Vonnegut – ‘Two Little Good Girls’

[  # 86 of My Favourite Short Poems  ]

vonnegut

Known primarily as a novelist, Kurt Vonnegut (1922 – 2007) was an American writer. He published 14 novels, three short story collections, five plays, and five works of non-fiction. He is most famous for his darkly satirical, best-selling novel ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’, published in(1969.

I do like this short poem of his which I came across only recently.  Apparently it was never given a title by Vonnegut and was discovered in a letter of 1961 sent by him to a friend.  It has a delightfully simple and artless warmth which engenders such good feeling and optimism.

 

Two little good girls
Watchful and wise —
Clever little hands
And big kind eyes —
Look for signs that the world is good,
Comport themselves as good folk should.
They wonder at a father
Who is sad and funny strong,
And they wonder at a mother
Like a childhood song.
And what, and what
Do the two think of?
Of the sun
And the moon
And the earth
And love.

 

chinesebanner

 

 

Advertisements

‘I wish I loved the Human Race’

[  # 85 of My Favourite Short Poems  ]

Sir_Walter_Alexander_Raleigh,_Julian_Ottoline_Vinogradoff_and_unknown_boy_by_Lady_Ottoline_Morre

Image from Wikipedia

Not to be confused with his more famous namesake who played such an important role in the early colonisation of North America, (1582 – 1618), Sir Walter Alexander Raleigh (1861 – 1922) was an English scholar, poet, and author.  He was born in London, the fifth child and only son of a local Congregation minister.   Raleigh is buried in the churchyard of the parish church of St. Lawrence at North Hinksey, near Oxford.  His son Hilary edited his light prose, verse, and plays in ‘Laughter from a Cloud (1923).  He is probably best known for the poem “Wishes of an Elderly Man, Wished at a Garden Party, June 1914”.

It is this poem, bitter-sweet and with its pessimistic view of mankind, but not without its wry humour, which I have chosen to remind my readers of today . . .

 

I wish I loved the Human Race

I wish I loved the Human Race;
I wish I loved its silly face;
I wish I liked the way it walks;
I wish I liked the way it talks;
And when I’m introduced to one,
I wish I thought ‘What Jolly Fun’.

 

bar1

‘Who’s Who’ – Benjamin Zephaniah

[  # 84 of My Favourite Short Poems  ]

Zephaniah-001

Benjamin Zephaniah

 

 

‘Who’s Who’

I used to think nurses

Were women

I used to think police were men

I used to think poets

Were boring

Until I became one of them.

 

Benjamin Zephaniah

 

bar-yellow

 

Benjamin Obadiah Iqbal Zephaniah (born 15 April 1958) is a British writer, poet and Rastafarian.  He was included in The Times list of Britain’s top 50 post-war writers in 2008.  Zephaniah was born and raised in the Handsworth district of Birmingham which he has called the “Jamaican capital of Europe”. He is the son of a Barbadian postman and a Jamaican nurse.  A dyslexic, he attended an approved school but left aged 13 unable to read or write.

He now writes that his poetry is strongly influenced by the music and poetry of Jamaica and what he calls “street politics”. His first performance was in church when he was eleven, and by the age of fifteen, his poetry was already known among Handsworth’s Afro-Caribbean and Asian communities.

bar-green

The Borderlands of POETRY – 1

closeup photo of assorted title books

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

PART THE FIRST

An introspective week, during which I inspect the reasons and beliefs which govern my poetry.

I have recently been made to look more closely at my understanding of these on giving consideration to the words of that controversial Canadian academic, clinical psychologist, and considerable YouTube presence, Jordan Peterson.  In particular I have been led to consider a statement of his regarding his assertion of what poetry is and what the poet is attempting to do.

“We live in the finite and comprehensible but are surrounded by the infinite and incomprehensible and there has to be a border between those…like a mediating border… That’s poetry and art, that’s narrative and religion.” Jordan Peterson.

The background to his thinking on this and on related topics can be better understood by listening to a College Q and A on the subject of  ‘Free Speech, Racism, & Religion’ and published on YouTube – (or see below . . . )

The particular view which Peterson expressed , which I quote above, can be found at approximately 17.00 minutes in.  It has given me cause to consider my own impetus and purposes in writing poetry, some thoughts on which I will try to present on ‘Roland’s Ragbag’ throughout this week. 

 

bar-curl4


‘The Tern’ by Spike Milligan

[  # 83 of My Favourite Short Poems  ]

 

tern

The Tern

 

Said the mother Tern to her baby Tern

“Would you like a brother?”

Said the baby Tern to the mother Tern,

“Yes, one good Tern deserves another.”

 

By Spike Milligan

 

bar-green

Reprinted from ‘The BIG BOOK of POEMS’, by Roger McGough and Gyles Brandreth and Friends, Published in 1999 by Andre Deutsch Classics

bar-green

‘Another Unfortunate Choice’ by Wendy Cope

[  # 82 of My Favourite Short Poems  ]

 

redline-thin

handsonmyheart3

‘Another Unfortunate Choice’

 

I think I am in love with A. E Housman,

Which puts me in a worse-than-usual-fix.

No woman ever stood a chance with Housman

And he’s been dead since 1936.

 


 

A tale of unrequited love – By Wendy Cope

Reproduced from ‘The Big Book of Little Poems’ (Pub: Andrew Deutsch Classics)

redline-thin

‘Night Marriage’

[  # 81 of My Favourite Short Poems  ]

marriage

Night Marriage   . . .  by   Carol Ann Duffy

When I turn off the light
and the dark mile between us
crumples and falls,
you slip from your self to wait for me in my sleep,
the face of the moon sinking Into a cloud;

or I wake bereaved
from the long hours
I spend in your dreams,
an owl in the forest crying its soft vowels,
dark fish swimming under the river’s skin.

Night marriage. The small hours join us,
face to face as we sleep and dream;
the whole of the huge night is our room.

bar-green

Re-printed from ‘The Times’,  Saturday September 3rd, 2005

bar-green

 

‘The Way Things Might Have Been’

[ Wednesday Replay # 2 ] 

Beckwith_James_Carroll_A_Wistful_Look

 ‘. . . For two years I went to the woods every night. I made a little shrine out of that spot and kept my slippers and his letter there.  I read a lot of books while thinking about him, in particular one by Hazlitt, which I didn’t fully understand, but which gave me melancholy pleasure.   Three lines I learnt by heart, reciting them over and over, as the light began to fade and my childhood with it.’

“MAN IS THE ONLY ANIMAL THAT LAUGHS AND WEEPS; FOR HE IS THE ONLY ANIMAL THAT IS STRUCK BY THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WHAT THINGS ARE AND THE WAY THEY MIGHT HAVE BEEN.”

William Hazlitt,  English essayist (1778 – 1830) . . .   From  ‘Lectures on the English Comic Writers’ (1819)

bar-green

N.B.  Presumably to emphasise the wistful mood she is trying to convey, Beryl Bainbridge slightly alters the usual last phrase of the Hazlitt quote, which normally reads: ‘. . . and what they ought to be.’

bar-green

Previously blogged on 11th August 2016

bar-green

‘First Fig’ – Edna St.Vincent Millay

[  # 80 of My Favourite Short Poems  ]

emillay

Edna St. Vincent Millay was an American poet and playwright who was born in Rockland, Maine, in 1892.  I have used a short poem of  hers before in this series – in November of 2017, q.v. . . .    ‘What Lips My Lips Have Kissed’ .

This poem is even shorter, but I find that it does have a  lot to say, about her own lifestyle and about the times and the milieu which she inhabited in her heyday in 1920s New York.   Millay titled the book in which this poem was published A Few Figs From Thistles, and this poem was the first one in the book, hence ‘First Fig’.

The poem is highly symbolic and the opening line plunges the reader into that arresting metaphor which she uses to describe her wild, bohemian, certainly unorthodox spirit.   The second line, however, recognises the ephemeral nature of such an existence with the bitter-sweet ‘It will not last the night’.  She is acknowledging that brightness is not all, a candle burning simultaneously from both ends will burn twice as quickly and such hedonistic times will not last.

bar-green

Figs from Thistles: First Fig

 

My candle burns at both ends;

   It will not last the night;

But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—

   It gives a lovely light!

 

2-ended candle

 

bar-green

Early 20th Century Autograph Books

[ Wednesday Replay # 1 ] 

Previously published on Roland’s Ragbag on August 6th 2016 at:
‘Early 20th Century Autograph Books’


 

Autograph books, where they exist, are now used mainly for collecting the signatures ( or at least the scribbled ciphers) of the latest popular music or sports star.

Compare this scribble below by Wimbledon Champion, Andy Murray, in 2013, with, from my own autograph collection (of 2), this perfectly legible  autograph of England and Yorkshire batsman, Len Hutton, obtained in the 1940s . . .

100 years ago Autographs Books were primarily more for the collecting and usually exchanging, of aphorisms, homilies, comments,  pithy verses, simple drawings, personal messages, with friends and relatives.

These autograph books of the first half of the 20th Century, give a clear picture of the social mores and conventions of the time.  Their contents can be clearly seen as a means of passing popular wisdom on to subsequent generations. Nowadays they may be thought of by some as schmaltzy, even maudlin, but they do present a picture of the tastes and sentiments of that time and help to remind us of a much simpler and less cynical age.

 REPRODUCE BELOW, In Slide show format) SOME OF THE SKETCHES FROM MY OWN FAMILY’S AUTOGRAPH BOOKS – THE MAJORITY OF THE ENTRIES ARE DATED 1929.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

. . . AND HERE ARE THE TEXTS OF SOME OF THE MORE DISCERNING ENTRIES . . .


Beware sweet maid when men come to thee
And say they seek their soul’s affinity
When all they want, the base espousers,
Is someone to sew buttons on their trousers.


_____________
_____________
_____________
_____________

‘Just a few lines from a would-be poet’


It’s very hard to find a friend
When your heart is full of hope.
It’s harder still to find a towel
When your eyes are full of soap.


In ascending the hill of prosperity
May you never meet a Friend


It’s not the one that knows the most
That has the most to say.
Nor yet the one that has the most
That gives the most away.


Love is like a mutton chop
Sometimes cold – Sometimes hot

Whether cold or whether hot
It’s not a thing to be forgot.


‘Taint what we have,
But what we give,
‘Taint what we are,
But how we live,
‘Taint what we do,
But how we do it,
That makes life worth
Going through it.


Make new friends but keep the old,
One is silver, the other gold;
Cheeks may wrinkle, hair grow grey,
But friendship never knows decay.


When the golden sun is sinking,
When your time from care is free,
When of others you are thinking,
Will you sometimes think of me?


Written in faltering, scratchy handwriting …

This is a damned bad pen you’ve given me!

bar-green