Monday, June 03, 2013

Profile: facing right

They didn't come today, my cranes-in-the-meadow. It is amazing how often we expect something that we have no control over to continue (because we WANT it to!) But this photo from a couple of days ago shows clearly the brownish color of the immature crane and the healthy sheen on the back and the bustle feathers. One has to look a little harder to perceive his red face.

I have been stirring my poetry books here in this new/old location and found the long-titled Preferences; 51 American poets choose poems from their own work & from the past.  A few used copies of this 1974 book are still available from Amazon. It was edited by my beloved Richard Howard (a memory thread for another time) and a photo of each of the 51 poets was taken by Thomas Victor. The photos are GREAT! Not the same-old, same-old that you have already seem, but fresh takes on some of the great poets of our century, The one of W. H. Auden shows but half his craggy face; the rest is in shadow. Unforgettable! I am sure you could get this book on interlibrary loan. The poems are very good, in all sorts of diverse and surprising ways; each contribution has a discussion by Richard Howard, who has long been one of our finest critics of poetry, as well as a very fine poet himself. Choices of poems are surprising and all-over-the-map! From the whole tradition of poetry in English, with a little Dante thrown in,
When I took the poetry seminars from Robert Hass thirty years ago, one of the poets who merited his highest praise was Thomas Hardy. Hardy is not a happy poet, as he was not a jolly novelist, but he is compelling, consistent and clear, and his craft is of the very highest, I think. This poem was one I had not remembered seeing before.


      The day arrives of the autumn fair
              And torrents fall,
      Though sheep in throngs are gathered there
              Ten thousand all,
      Sodden, with hurdles round them reared:
      And, lot by lot, the pens are cleared,
      And the auctioneer wrings out his beard, 
      And wipes his book, bedrenched and smeared.
And rakes the rain from his face with the edge of his hand,
              As torrents fall.

     The wool of the ewes is like a sponge
              With the darkening rain:
      Jammed tight, to turn, or lie, or lunge,
               They strive in vain.
      Their horns are soft as finger-nails,
      Their shepherds reek against the rails,
      The tied dogs soak with tucked-in tails,
       The buyer's hat-brims fill like pails,
Which spill small cascades when they shift their stand,
                 In the daylong rain.


        Time has trailed lengthily since met
                  At Pummery Fair
         Those panting thousands in their wet
                   and wooly wear:
          And every flock long since has bled,
          And all the dripping buyers have sped,
          And the hoarse auctioneer is dead,
          Who "Going---going" so often said,
As he consigned to doom each meek, mewed band
                    At Pummery Fair.

Thomas Hardy  in Preferences; 51 American Poets Choose Poems , , ,  page 206

Read it out loud and listen to this TERRIFIC poem, see how all the resources of repeated sounds and sound-patterns support the experience of the poem. Trace the pattern of shorter and longer lines with the indentations that Hardy has chosen. RHYME, rhyme, rhyme. So many of the splendid one-syllable words in which the English language is so rich. Note the resemblances to ballad form. Now go and write something yourself, Try for one stanza, with rhyme, lots of one-syllable words, Hit the iambic trimeter and vary it. I am going to try,  Good night!

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