There’s more enterprise

30 Mar

When I listen NPR’s This I Believe, I start to feel sorry for myself.  All those people earnestly believing things.

I could be a regular contributor to a cranky spin-off called This I Don’t Believe, but I think most people can conjure those feelings without my help.

But I do like (let’s leave belief out of it) playing with words, especially riffing on a poem as if I’d wrought it.  It’s a silly passion.  But I’m not the only fool who’s caught it.

Check out what Kenneth Koch does with “This is Just to Say,” the very William Carlos Williams poem that charmed me a few months ago.  You can’t miss Koch’s wink at Williams (“I have eaten the plums…”) in the first three lines:

To High Spirits

You have taken the vodka
That I was probably
Saving for tomorrow.
Go on and take it
For there’s more enterprise
In waking naked.

And what about those last three lines?  “Go on and take it” sounds like a hangover talking, followed by the suddenly literary “for there’s more enterprise,” and then back down in tone for the big finish: “in waking naked.”

This poem winks twice.  Once at Williams, and, then, at Yeats.

You’ll see what I mean, and I bet you’ll like Kenneth Koch even more.  Here is “The Coat” by William Butler Yeats:

I made my song a coat
Covered with embroideries
Out of old mythologies
From heel to throat;
But the fools caught it,
Wore it in the world’s eyes
As though they’d wrought it.
Song, let them take it,
For there’s more enterprise
In walking naked.

This is just to say that I love the game that Koch is playing.  There’s enterprise in it.

April is National Poetry Month.  Grab some poem (go on and take it!) and wear it in the world’s eyes.  Yeats and Koch don’t mind.  I bet Williams doesn’t either.

43 Responses to “There’s more enterprise”

  1. Andreas Kluth March 30, 2012 at 11:01 am #

    You are so good at this (ie, exegesis of poetry) and I realize that I should never even attempt it.

    If I had to give definition of poetry, it would be a twist on Schopenhauer: Take ordinary words, and say incomprehensible things.

    • jenny April 1, 2012 at 6:20 am #

      I remember. It’s part of the H&M reader’s advantage:

      You went through a Schopenhauer phase (so we don’t have to).

  2. Cyberquill March 30, 2012 at 12:11 pm #

    Brooklyn Bridge is falling down,
    Falling down, falling down.
    Brooklyn Bridge is falling down,
    Fiddler on the Roof.

    • jenny April 1, 2012 at 6:26 am #

      You should splatter some paint on a canvas. I bet it would look just like a Jackson Pollock.

      • Cyberquill April 2, 2012 at 5:02 am #

        I already did a painting. I tried to sell it on eBay, but nobody bid on it.

      • jenny April 2, 2012 at 6:32 am #

        CQ: How much?

      • Cyberquill April 2, 2012 at 9:25 am #

        $22,000, starting price.

        I just listed it again.

        Thanks for reminding me of my painting career.

        I think last time I charged too little, leading eBay-browsing art collectors to assume it was just another worthless lay painting

      • jenny April 3, 2012 at 6:48 am #

        Go get’em, yum7977!


  3. Christopher March 30, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

    While I’m not big on poetry, I’m big on song lyrics. Here’s something for fans of Ol’ Blue Eyes:

    When I was fifty-one,
    It was a very bad year,
    It was a very bad year
    for interest rates,
    And house payment dates,
    I trembled in fear,
    When the Boss was near,
    It was a very bad year.

    When I was ninety-one,
    It was a very bad year,
    It was a very bad year
    for arthritic knees,
    And falling pulse rates,
    I coughed my lungs out,
    And no-one was about,
    It was a very bad year

    • jenny April 1, 2012 at 6:31 am #

      These lyrics…Christopher…are you sure you’re not Jewish? 😉

  4. Emerson March 30, 2012 at 6:26 pm #

    National month of the poetry? It follows my poem in Portuguese, would not be good in English, never I tried to write in other languages!

    Penso que toda luz se apaga no interruptor
    E toda Lua espera o Sol se pôr
    Penso que toda existência vê na morte
    A única razão para existir
    Penso que muita gente tem na sorte
    A única maneira de progredir.

    Eu penso que o mundo só gira por desejar ser um moinho de vento
    Penso que as estrelas caem por não saber voar
    E que todo caminho traçado não sabe onde nos levar.

    Penso que o Sol se aquece por não saber se agasalhar
    E a luz só brilha por temer o escuro
    Penso que a formiga só trabalha por não saber cantar
    E que o tempo só passa por não saber voltar.

    Sempre que ouço a canção tenho vontade de dizer quem sou,
    De falar por onde estive e pra onde vou.
    Mas toda vez que ouço a canção, penso que não.
    Quando na verdade não sei quem sou.

    Penso que todo trem parte da estação
    Mas sempre que é inverno não chega o verão
    Penso que pensar demais pode ser bom
    Mas sempre que penso nisso esqueço o refrão.

    Penso que a água corre pra evitar a queda
    Sem imaginar o que a espera
    Penso que todo início evita o fim
    Mas eis que tudo se acaba…

    • jenny April 1, 2012 at 6:41 am #

      Hi Emerson,

      Well, how charming. Penso que I’ve got some friends who can help me with this. I’ll check back in with you.

      Meanwhile, I’m heading over to your blog. I had a thought about one of your posts. No big deal, just something about life and death.

      Also, take a look at this article about why Portuguese is the best language to learn (also where I learned that there is such a thing as complexo de vira-lata):

      Needless to say (but still I’ll say it): I HUG!

  5. Thomas Stazyk March 31, 2012 at 5:02 am #

    Oh, no please—once I start I can’t stop! I wish I’d kept all of the midnight ramblings we came up with in college. This is all I remember of the opening of a rendition of The Raven:

    Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary
    Over many a quaint and curious volume of library lore
    Suddenly a faint unzipping as if someone gently ripping, ripping at clothes I wore . . .

    All I remember is that it went downhill from there. Then there was the time we came up with alternate words for Christmas carols–very bad. We also did a lot with song lyrics–Truckin by the Grateful Dead was one I’m particularly ashamed of.

    I’m sorry but I can’t remember a single one that wasn’t replete with adolescent locker room humor. Good thing I can’t remember them.

    • jenny April 1, 2012 at 6:47 am #

      I wish you’d kept them too.

      Ramblngs: good.
      Midnight ramblings: even better.
      Midnight ramblings replete with adolescent locker room humor (especially set in the library): I’m all about it!

      • Thomas Stazyk April 1, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

        Yes, it described an encounter with a zaftig coed while studying in the library. In December of course. It’s coming back to me, but more I will not say.

      • jenny April 2, 2012 at 6:34 am #

        Zaftig…coed…library…but more he will not say.


  6. dafna March 31, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

    o.k. i’ll try it. rifffin’ off Poe “A Dream Within a Dream”

    Take this notion from your mind!
    That our thoughts only bind,
    What we call our form and matter;
    Is all relative, not like a dream,
    More kindred to an endless stream.
    For there’s more enterprise in thinking
    The naked moment keeps repeating.
    No thing is ever made nor lost,
    Our energy it keeps on beating.
    Time spares us from annihilation,
    Until the universe allows creation.
    Our spores reform and repeat
    The dream again and then encore.

    • jenny April 1, 2012 at 7:02 am #


      You’re not just riffing; you’re actually having a conversation. A conversation with Poe, on his terms.

      That’s exactly what I mean. 🙂

  7. Christopher April 1, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

    In the matter of things Brazilian/Portuguese, I want to recommend *this music station* for putting you in the mood for all things Brazilian/Portuguese.

    I listen to it most times while on the computer in the evening. The music and its enigmatic rhythms lift the dark clouds that shroud my gloomy mind, so that I can to dance the Samba on the sunny beaches of Rio, and can see the colours and feel the warmth as I type away in the vast cold blackness of the northern night.

    Despite my living for many hours most evenings in this intoxicating Portuguese-language world, I still can’t speak a word of Portuguese. But then, that’s just me.

    • jenny April 2, 2012 at 6:36 am #


      Thanks! I will certainly like this. You would learn a little Portuguese if you went to Zumba.

  8. dafna April 1, 2012 at 8:33 pm #

    jenny do another!

    your other is a few moths old – do the yeats poem. i double dog dare ya’

    it takes the mind off of other things. i remember learning how to diagram a sentence, and i have read structured verse and poetry, but i never learned a thing about “meter”.
    there is a giant hole in my formal education which i never noticed before now.

  9. Man of Roma April 2, 2012 at 7:25 am #

    Ah, Portugal / Brasil! Great post btw, but poems in English at present go over my head.

    • jenny April 3, 2012 at 6:46 am #

      If I lived in Rome, would I sigh for Portugal? I guess so.

      Or maybe for Peoria.

      Hi Roma!

      • jenny April 3, 2012 at 7:09 am #

        Peoria was a joke, by the way. Nobody sighs for Peoria.

        I meant Decatur.

  10. Terrell Finney April 2, 2012 at 5:11 pm #

    Wow, what a terrific post. Amazed at your knowledge of various poets, etc. Thanks for sharing.

    • jenny April 3, 2012 at 6:47 am #

      Thanks, Terrell.

  11. Christopher April 3, 2012 at 1:41 pm #

    “……Nobody sighs for Peoria…….”

    But, Peoria may sigh for you. Consider:

    Don’t sigh for me in Peoria,
    The truth is I never loved you,
    All through my mild days,
    My bored existence,
    I broke my promise,
    Please keep your distance.

    A bit downbeat that does seem. How about something more cheerful:

    I’m with you and you’re with me,
    And so we are all together,
    So we are all together,
    So we are all together,
    Sing with me, I’ll sing with you,
    And so we will sing together,
    As we march along.

    We are marching to Peoria,
    Peoria, Peoria,
    We are marching to Peoria,
    Peoria, hurrah!

    Peoria, city of my dreams……………sigh.

    • jenny April 4, 2012 at 6:23 am #

      Christopher, what, nothing for Decatur?

      Peoria is more mellifluous, I guess, but I always hear “peor” in it, and wonder what it’s worse than…Decatur?

  12. Man of Roma April 3, 2012 at 3:02 pm #


    Portugal is beautiful, romantic. Even Man of Roma cannot live only for Roma 🙂

    Peoria & Decatur? Sound like your never forgotten Malta. But even these places may be interesting to me they being the New World. Always a pleasure to visit here Chicago! Btw, I saw ‘Source code’ yesterday on the Murdoch’s satellite TV where I could admire the Chicago skyline: classy.

    • jenny April 4, 2012 at 6:33 am #

      Roma, you are right about Chicago, especially now that it’s spring. I must find some time to hang out in Millenium Park with all the hipsters.

      Frist step: Look up ‘Source Code.’ Where have I been?

      • Man of Roma April 6, 2012 at 11:25 am #

        By the way, I missed Chicago in my long time ago US trips. What a moron. And ‘Source Code’ is an excellent American movie. Get the DVD if you didn’t see it yet.

      • jenny April 6, 2012 at 5:40 pm #


        You know (right?) that if you are ever in Chicago we will show you the town.

        And Malta, as a bonus.

        It’s almost Passover. Gotta go get my Jewish on. 🙂 Chag Sameach.

        A tutti, actually.

    • jenny April 4, 2012 at 6:40 am #


      By the way, not too far from Malta: Princeton and Harvard.

      • Man of Roma April 7, 2012 at 11:26 am #


        You know we’d love to have you show us Chicago. Very kind of you. Passover. I learn it is celebrated for eight days. Quite long! Felice festa a tutti voi, Jenny.

  13. Christopher April 4, 2012 at 12:16 pm #

    “……what, nothing for Decatur?……..”

    Well, *there’s this*.

    Can you in anywhere Decatur, as you can in McArthur Park, hold birds like tender babies in your hands, and see old men playing checkers by the trees………?

    • jenny April 5, 2012 at 7:05 am #


      Isn’t this the guy who is writing an album about each of the 50 states? A fun blogging idea, by the way.

      Now, MacArthur Park. I know it from Donna Summer, of course. I can’t resist writing about my disco past forever, you know, especially with prompts like this.

      Coming soon: the story of the 24-hour dance marathon at THE TOP HAT.

      • Christopher April 5, 2012 at 2:30 pm #

        “……MacArthur Park. I know it from Donna Summer………”

        I, on the other hand, know it from Richard Harris.

        Although Richard Harris was a terrible singer (his forte was acting), his rendering of McArthur Park was one of the big hits of 1968 (Ah, oui, je m’en souviens très bien).

        It’s THE version of it to listen to.

  14. Christopher May 18, 2012 at 11:07 pm #

    “…..……MacArthur Park. I know it from Donna Summer………”

    Since learning yesterday that she’s just left us all, I’ve been watching this video of a live performance she gave of MacArthur Park six or so years ago.

    It’s terrific.

    I do hope that she and Richard Harris are now singing it together, making it sound sweeter than ever, up there on the Nightshift.

    • jenny May 19, 2012 at 6:42 am #

      Hey, Christopher, thanks! In truth, I have some great memories associated with Donna Summer. I keep threatening to write about my high school dance marathon because, really, I’d just like to relive it.

      This is terrific.

      • Christopher May 19, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

        In your dance marathon did you dance anything like this?!!

      • jenny May 20, 2012 at 6:24 am #

        Well, no, Christopher, nothing like that.

        I see she’s made a lot of videos. All available for public viewing.

        On the other hand, I’ve written a lot of blog posts. All available for public viewing.

      • dafna May 20, 2012 at 7:32 pm #

        I also have some great high school dance memories associated with Donna Summer.

        Christopher, that is a terrible representation of the way to dance to her music 😦

        click on one of her own videos and you will see the fun hand moves! Jacob has a hard time believing that I could dance like that let alone look great doing it!

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