Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Garden of Verse: April Fools! -- Snow Falls, Spring Flowers Bloom, and Poets Dwell on Poetry

We are all fools for April. 
         This year when Easter Sunday fell on April First, April Fools Day surprisingly held off the snow until the second day of the month. Snow fell for the morning hours on April Second, filled the yards, clung to all the trees and shrubs, while the birds hid in the hedges waiting it out. Midday came, the snowfall stopped on a dime; its inch-or-two accumulation watered our earth and was gone in an hour. By the time Anne came home from work, the sun was shining, and she declared an official, though unexpected "beautiful day."
           Here we are, April. Back to bright mornings followed by rainy afternoons -- or, perhaps, the opposite -- for who knows how long. Hopefully not for the full month's duration.
            But this is April's regular menu. So take the good stuff when you can. And hope the weather doesn't save its worst tricks for your days off.
             April is a tricksy month.   
             Verse-Virtual, the poetry journal I write for, pulled out another new trick this month, as editor Firestone Feignberg built a whole issue on poems 'about' poetry. That's both a hard thing to do and an easy one. 
              Sometimes poets fall into a trap of turning everything they write into a poem about poetry. Every description ends up saying something is "like a poem." If that's the 'easy' approach, it's also the wrong one. 
               Overcompensating, perhaps, I decided to limit my own field of composition to responses to poems, or other writings, that have in the past explicitly addressed the 'what' in the question 'what is poetry.'
                The result is that the three poems I contributed to the April edition are all based on well-known texts: Archibald McLeish's oft-anthologized (and quoted from) "Ars Poetic." This is the poem that concludes with the famous line "A poem should not mean, but be." 
                Marian Moore's early 20th century poem "Poetry," that beings with the widely quoted line: "I too dislike it." 
                The third poem actually responds to critical writing (by Harold Bloom) on the idea of the poetic "daemon," the spirit of poetic inspiration, as applied to the poet Walt Whitman and other influential American writers. I'll post the beginning of that poem here:

Daemon Lover
            ("The daemon know how it's done" -- Harold Bloom)
The wandering ear hears
the daemon along the shore
in autumn's moan and breaks the chain of illusion
Everything happens in the past. No one can live in a present
that fires too quickly, like the pilot in the old stove
that keeps us alive but can't tell us what it means,
that passes too quickly, breathing through time's stuffed nostrils, 
coughs once, maybe twice, then shakes us off
like a dog breaking the neck of something small and barely alive
The daemon breaks the necklace
of time...

Please find the end of this poem, my two others, and many other fine poems from Verse-Virtual's contributors in this month's issue. 
Here's the link: