Tag Archives: poetry

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.

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Or Maybe Like This, Carl

6 Feb

     BUTT Freezer for the World,
     Slush Maker, Stacker of Snow,
     Player with Wind chills and the Nation’s Ice Box;
     Stormy, frigid, squalling,
     City of the Big Shovels:

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I
     have seen your cars stranded on Lake Shore Drive
     helpless against the winds of Lake Michigan.
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it
     is true I have seen backs bent under the weight of a shovel
     laden with wet snow.
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the
     faces of women and children I have seen frost-bitten noses
     and chapped lips.
And having answered so I turn once more to those who
     sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer
     and say to them:
Come and show me another city with 700 billion pounds
     of accumulation in twenty-four hours.
Flinging snow into the Chicago River and piling it high
     as skyscrapers, here is an awesome Yeti set vivid against the
     tepid soft cities;

Fierce as a snowthunder, at once clamorous and silent, cunning
     as a flurry pitted against the month of May,
          Bareheaded,
          Shoveling,
          Scraping,
          Plowing,
          Freezing, thawing, refreezing,
Under the snow, frost all over his mouth, laughing with
     white teeth,
Under the terrible burden of multiple layers laughing as
   a midwestern Winter laughs,
Laughing even as a naïve Southerner who has
     never seen our Snowpocalypse, our Snowmageddon,
Bragging and laughing that under his wool sweater is the pulse,
     and under his thermal undershirt the heart of the people,
               Laughing!
Laughing the stormy, raspy, brawling laughter of
     Winter, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Butt
     Freezer, Slush Maker, Stacker of Snow, Player with
     Wind chills and the Ice Box to the Nation.

Search Term Sonnet

29 Dec

In September, I wrote a post about James Thurber and creativity called The Naked Woman on Top of the Bookcase.

I did not imagine that the combination of the word sweat from my blog’s title and the phrase naked woman from the Thurber post would attract so many unsuspecting and unlikely (many of them spelling-impaired) visitors to my site.

Daily, I let them down.  

This calls for an apology:

I know you must be disappointed, dear,
Who googled woman naked in a sweat,
at 2 AM, alone with half-drunk beer,
to find that Mr. Thurber’s all you get.
Small recompense for clicking on this link:
One lame cartoon, with enigmatic text;
No steamy photographs? You surely think:
“Dude, sprezzatura, doesn’t that mean sex?”
But, gentle would-be reader, hear my sighs:
You come, you go, (you read?) unmoved, unheard;
Not one among you heeds my bootless cries;
No comments, no subscriptions, not a word.
Though I with perspiration readers earn,
My nakked, necked, nekkit soul you spurn.