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Posts Tagged ‘poems’

Sleep of Reason

April 21, 2014 | by

Tatiana_Larina's_dream_by_Volkov_(1891)

Volkov, Tatiana Larina’s Dream, 1891

When Edith M. Thomas wrote “Talking in Their Sleep” in 1885, she was already regarded as one of America’s foremost poets. Well into the last century, her poems were part of the canon—and this one, in particular, was a common inclusion in grade-school readers, memorized and recited by generations of students.

If you look at the 1919 textbook Wheeler’s Graded Literary Readers, with Interpretations, you’ll find “Talking in Their Sleep” presented as a straightforward story of plants and trees sleeping through the winter: “In the spring, just as boys and girls awake in the morning, they will awake again.” As a child, I found the poem terrifying. That something should seem dead when sleeping was scary enough; that the seeming-dead should also speak only made it worse. But then, sleep-talking has always frightened me. Read More »

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Frederick Seidel on Massimo Tamburini

April 12, 2014 | by

Ducati916SPS_1998_ScuderiaAssindia

The Ducati 916, designed by Tamburini. Photo: ScuderiaAssindia, via Wikimedia Commons

Massimo Tamburini died last Sunday, at seventy. Tamburini was an Italian motorcycle designer; his work for Ducati, Cagiva, and MV Agusta set the standard for art and style. The journalist Kevin Ash said that Tamburini’s design for the Ducati 916, which debuted in 1994, “moved it forward, personalized, and Ducati-fied it, in particular the blend of sharp edges and sweeping curves, which, like most innovation, broke existing rules.” And this week’s obituary in the Times found many enthusiasts who were unstinting in their praise:

For decades Mr. Tamburini reigned as “the Michelangelo of motorcycling,” as The Sunday Express, the British newspaper, called him in 2010, and his work exerted a pervasive influence on the look of motorcycles in the late 20th century.

“He always gave great élan to the shapes,” Bruno dePrato, the European editor of Cycle World magazine, said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. “This élan is not aggressiveness, with very edgy shapes and other excesses in styling. His bikes were just shaped by the wind.”

As it happens, Frederick Seidel, whose readers know him as a Ducati aficionado, had paid homage to Tamburini and the Ducati 916 in his poem “Milan,” from the 1998 collection Going Fast. (Curiously enough, Jonathan Galassi also read the final lines of “Milan” in his salute to Seidel at our Spring Revel on Tuesday; read on and you’ll see why.) In memory of Tamburini and his legendary designs, we’ve reprinted the poem here. Read More »

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Philip Larkin’s “The Trees”

April 10, 2014 | by

daffodils

Photo: 4028mdk09, via Wikimedia Commons

It is spring now, and very hard not to feel in clichés. Especially with daffodils everywhere—and very cheap they are, too. “Telephone flowers,” a friend of mine calls them. I buy them by the armful; don’t you?

When I was thirteen, I wrote my first and last piece of fiction. It was about an old woman in a nursing home suffering from dementia and planning her garden through the winter. It was called “Living Time.” Even by thirteen-year-old standards, it was mawkish and I knew it. Because—the silliness of that act of ventriloquism aside—what new is there to say about spring? Read More »

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“Arabia”

April 8, 2014 | by

Tonight, at our Spring Revel, we’ll honor Frederick Seidel with the Hadada Award. In the weeks leading up the Revel, we’ve been looking back at the work Seidel has published in The Paris Review throughout his career.

Zanzibar_Sunset

A sunset in Zanzibar. Photo: hobbs_luton, via Wikimedia Commons

When I first read “Arabia,” which appeared in our Summer 2011 issue, I was sitting on a rickety chair looking out at Lake Michigan. It was a gorgeous day in late June, a twenty-one-year-old cat was asleep at my feet, and I’d just started to sweat in the sun when I read the poem’s first lines:

I move my body meat smell next to yours,
Your spice of Zanzibar. Mine rains, yours pours—
Sex tropics as a way to not be dead.
I don’t know who we are except in bed.

This was before I’d read much of Seidel’s work, and these lines felt outrageous to me, especially that long row of monosyllables, “as a way to not be dead.” It was the perfect poem to read on a summer vacation—as long as it went on, I was living in a kind of lewd Zanzibar of the the mind.

With its ostentatious rhymes (Labia with Arabia), its nods and winks to the politics of the day (“The president of the United States / Is caught between those two tectonic plates, / Republicans and Democrats”) and its flagrantly oversexed images (a cowboy sipping honey from a pair of sweet lips), “Arabia” now reads to me like vintage Seidel—the way it forces the visceral and the bodily to coexist with the elegant, the faint taunt that comes in a line like “I’m happy staring at what makes me stare.” It also contains what you might read as an incidental summary of Seidel’s poetics: “It’s politics, it’s tropics, and it’s warm.” (And it is, like sex tropics, a great way not to be dead.) After that first stanza, it continues:

I’ll tell you someone I’m not happy with—
But no I won’t. I won’t destroy the myth.
The president of the United States
Is caught between those two tectonic plates,

Republicans and Democrats, the nude
Alternatives to naked solitude.
It’s politics, it’s tropics, and it’s warm
Enough to arm the sunrise with a car alarm

That’s going off and starts the earthquake shake
And shiver, shiver, of the sobbing steak.
O sweet tectonic fault line and sweet lips
Exuding honey that the cowboy sips.

Read the whole poem here.

 

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Michael Bruce’s “Elegy—Written in Spring”

March 27, 2014 | by

Marianna Saska, Edinburgh Castlehill in Spring

Edinburgh Castlehill in spring. Photo: Marianna Saska, via Flickr

Michael Bruce has a purchase on the springtime. He was born on March 27, 1746, just as spring was coming to Scotland, and his most enduring poem is “Elegy—Written in Spring.” The guy knows greenery.

Bruce—a Scotsman, as you may have guessed—was the son of a weaver; growing up, “his attendance at school was often interrupted because he had to herd cattle on the Lomond Hills in summer, and this early companionship with nature greatly influenced his poetry.”

And so it did: “Elegy” is a plain-and-simple celebration of companionship with nature; it’s unadorned and all the more beautiful for it. Bruce wrote the poem toward the end of his life, and its last stanza, which turns to gaze at death, is quietly devastating, especially since it comes after so many words devoted to the bliss and beauty of pastoral Scotland. The images here are classically, achingly bucolic: flowers, plains, furze. Verdant ground, ample leaves, and dewy lawns. On a day like today, when, in New York, the new season struggles to shuck off the dreariness of the last, “Elegy” is an ideal balm. If only it could bring the balmy weather with it. Read More »

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“For Holly Andersen”

March 25, 2014 | by

On April 8, at our Spring Revel, we’ll honor Frederick Seidel with the Hadada Award. In the weeks leading up the Revel, we’re looking at Seidel’s poems.

arvind grover carlyle hotel

Bemelman's Bar in the Carlyle Hotel, New York. Photo: Arvind Grover

Over the weekend, I turned on Studio 360. A cardiologist was describing the health benefits of dance—and this cardiologist was none other than Holly Andersen, hero of a great poem by Frederick Seidel, from his 2006 collection, Ooga-Booga. Dr. Andersen is also the dedicatee of the poem. I guess you could say she is its muse, but hero is the better word. This is a poem about heroism: doing your job in the face of death. It happens also to be a love poem, for in Seidel’s work love and admiration are rarely far apart. I never have a drink at the Carlyle Hotel without thinking of the first lines, and I think of the last lines much more often than that.

Seidel has never given a public reading, but he has made several recordings of his poems, including this one. I played it as soon as the segment was over.

What could be more pleasant than talking about people dying,
And doctors really trying,
On a winter afternoon
At the Carlyle Hotel, in our cocoon?
We also will be dying one day soon.

Dr. Holly Anderson has a vodka cosmopolitan,
And has another, and becomes positively Neapolitan,
The moon warbling a song about the sun,
Sitting on a sofa at the Carlyle,
Staying stylishly alive for a while.

Her spirited loveliness
Does cause some distress.
She makes my urbanity undress.
I present symptoms that express
An underlying happiness in the face of the beautiful emptiness.

She lost a very sick patient she especially cared about.
The man died on the table. It wasn't a matter of feeling any guilt or doubt.
Something about a doctor who can cure, or anyway try,
But can also cry,
Is some sort of ultimate lullaby, and lie.

 

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