I TRY AND DESCRIBE MYSELF

All these poets seem indifferent and cold,
Boring!  Black and white!
They put their love in monuments
Of stone, frozen, it seems, long ago
By outer space without limit; they strive
To put words together, like spark and dark.
If perfection is darkness, they go that way.
For them, nothing has to be alive.
They spurn the hot-blooded day;
Day will melt their monuments.
They take whatever their readers know
And present it as if it were their wisdom,
Whispering and dropping slowly
Into deception and valley,
A perception of soft, sweet glow,
Passion intellectualized!

I brought flowers once to Karla Karrar,
A girl I barely knew, invaded her
Backyard after wandering the hills
For flowers that were almost weeds;
Among weeds, I found strange flowers.
Those were thoughtless thrills;
I was young and could discount them;
I was no poet, then.
Ah, that is one anxious memory.
Now I hope you’ll be able to tolerate me;
I am the book jackets you see, the blurbs and the vanity,

I am the poet now.
I am going to give you love and I am going to give you flowers.
Will you watch as they are depicted as that
For you, right here, in verse, for the next two and three quarter hours?

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3 Comments

  1. Anne said,

    September 13, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    The pretty painting (is it a Van Gogh?) caught my attention and then I read the poem. It is a beautiful poem that other poets can understand and it would be interesting to know how it affects someone who isn’t a poet. I like how the theme of love and flowers is made new and feels fresh and how it is contrasted to the monuments of the dead or dead-in-life poets. This poem has a lot of depth despite its simplicity or because of its simplicity!

    • thomasbrady said,

      September 14, 2010 at 1:54 am

      Anne,

      Thank you. Yes, that is Van Gogh, and the poem seems to really depend on the painting. It isn’t just a poem to a painting; the poem needs the painting. The poet begins with criticism, not poetry. I think the key lines are “I was no poet, then” and “I am the poet now.” There is a sense that the poet is “vanity” and nature (the flower) triumphs at last over the poet’s vanity. The final trope of the “two and three quarter hours,” is a last gasp by the poet, a helpless final gesture to the human—no, the poet won’t really be able to please you with his poem for that long, but plays and films can—so it represents the longing of the poet, a pathos which transcends the criticism we saw earlier. “Day will melt their monuments.” Day could mean the light of Van Gogh’s flower.

      Tom

      • Anne said,

        September 14, 2010 at 12:46 pm

        Tom

        Thank you for pointing out that the poem and painting are connected in what is called Ekphrasis. In an article that was posted on the Writers’ Trust blog years ago that I kept it defines this as
        A “rhetorical device in which one art tries to relate to another art, and in doing so, “speaks to you” through its illuminative liveliness.”
        And the article also uses John Keats’ “Ode to a Grecian Urn” as an example of this. So I can appreciate your poem even more now that I know it is of that type. I was a bit waylaid due to the beginning of the poem which doesn’t seem to respond to the Van Gogh painting since it talks of poets and monuments and the second stanza obviously immediately relates to the painting.
        I like the idea that “Day will melt their monuments” and that poetry is not a monument but something fragile as a flower, as love.


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