Tag Archives: Yeats

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.