Poetry Friday: Swim Your Own Race

The Poetry Friday roundup is over at The Poem Farm today. Our host, Amy, shares a poem about diving. I myself have been thinking a lot about swimming lately, and researching the Total Immersion method and my own options for pool membership. So I thought I’d look for a swim-related poem myself.

NPR obliged me with the beautiful “Swim Your Own Race” by Mbali Vilakazi. I’m just going to share some lines from the opening. Head over to NPR to read the whole poem.

Beneath the surface tension
of shattered
bones, dreams and splintered muscles
things broken
and those that may never be replaced.

Pulling the weight of it,
you do not tread the water wounded
and in retreat

By the determined strokes of fate
you swim your own race

Poetry Friday: The Naming of Cats

My husband has a cat that he generously shares with me. Or perhaps it would be better to say the cat has him.

We confuse people because we regularly call him “The Kitty,” but his name is actually Laertes.

I explain this by saying that “The Kitty” is the name that the family use daily, but “Laertes” is his name that’s particular, peculiar, and more dignified. Of course, we’ll never know his deep and inscrutable singular name.

The Naming of Cats

by T. S. Eliot

The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn’t just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
First of all, there’s the name that the family use daily,
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo, or James,
Such as Victor or Jonathan, George or Bill Bailey —
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter —
But all of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that’s particular,
A name that’s peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkstrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum —
Names that never belong to more than one cat.
But above and beyond there’s still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover —
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.

Poetry Friday: Against Cinderella by Julia Alvarez

We read this poem in my YA Lit class the other day, and it’s phenomenal.

I can’t believe it.

Whoever made it up is pulling my foot

so it’ll fit that shoe.

I’ll go along with martyrdom:

she swept and wept; she mended, stoked the fire,

slaved while her three stepsisters,

who just happened to oblige their meanness

by being ugly, dressed themselves.

I’ll swallow that there was a Singer godmother,

who magically could sew a pattern up

and hem it in an hour,

that Cinderella got to be a debutante

and lost her head and later lost her shoe.

But there I stop.

To read the rest of the poem, go to the Calyx Publishing page and find the excerpts from A Fierce Brightness.

My two favorite parts are these:
“who just happened to blige their meanness/by being ugly” – I love the notion that the stepsisters have a responsibility to be ugly, because that is what their meanness requires of them.  It makes a good point about the nature of many stories – the good people are beautiful and the bad people are ugly, and the physical body makes easily apparent the character’s spiritual nature.

“…there was a Singer godmother,/who magically could sew a pattern up” – Because Singer is a brand of sewing machine.  One other person in the class recognized this and chose it as her favorite part, and I was so excited she did.  But it’s an excellent pun of sorts as well, of course, if you imagine that the godmother did, in fact, sing.

Poetry is so good when it’s good.

Poetry Friday: Rain by Edward Thomas

Rain has been setting the mood here the past couple of days, creating a pleasant sort of gloom.  In honor of that, I present you with:

Rain by Edward Thomas
Rain, midnight rain, nothing but the wild rain
On this bleak hut, and solitude, and me
Remembering again that I shall die
And neither hear the rain nor give it thanks
For washing me cleaner than I have been
Since I was born into solitude.

For the rest of the poem, go here.

Poetry Friday: Richard III

I’m currently working on a production called I Hate Shakespeare.  It runs through quite a few of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, and then some of the lesser known ones as well, poking fun at them (and at people who claim to hate Shakespeare, actually).

My favorite part of the show is the "Zombie Theatre Presents…" segments, when zombies interrupt famous soliloquies.

The first of these is from Richard III, and I present it to you here, with some zombie stuff added at the end so you can get a feel for it.

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this son of York;
And all the clouds that lowered upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths,
Our bruisèd arms hung up for monuments,
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.


Photo by JayT47.

Poetry Friday: e e cummings

I’m getting married on Wednesday.  (Yes, that soon, and on a weekday.  It turns out when your in-laws are professional musicians, weekdays work better for them.)

So I thought I’d share with you the poem that my father will be reading during the ceremony.

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly
beyond any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look will easily unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;
nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

And the poem from which we have quotes inscribed in our wedding bands:

love’s the i guess most only verb that lives
(her tense beginning,and her mood unend)
from brightly which arise all adjectives
and all into whom darkly nouns descend

Happy Friday!  I’ll be spending mine on wedding tasks, seeing Harry Potter, and having dinner with my friends in honor of my recently-past birthday.

Photo by Frenkieb.

Poetry Friday: Aeneid I.23 – 33

LATIN (from The Latin Library):

Id metuens, veterisque memor Saturnia belli,
prima quod ad Troiam pro caris gesserat Argis—
necdum etiam causae irarum saevique dolores 25
exciderant animo: manet alta mente repostum
iudicium Paridis spretaeque iniuria formae,
et genus invisum, et rapti Ganymedis honores.
His accensa super, iactatos aequore toto
Troas, reliquias Danaum atque immitis Achilli, 30
arcebat longe Latio, multosque per annos
errabant, acti fatis, maria omnia circum.
Tantae molis erat Romanam condere gentem!

ENGLISH (my translation):
Fearing this and remembering the war, Juno Saturnia,
because she had foremost waged war against Troy for her beloved Argives
(indeed the causes of her anger and cruel passions
had not yet fallen from her spirit; the stored up judgement
of Paris and the injury to her rejected beauty and the hated race
and the stolen honors of Ganymede remain at the top of her mind) —
inflamed by these things also she was keeping the Trojans
tossed on the whole sea, the leavings of the Danaids and of fierce Achilles,
far from Latium, and they kept wandering for many years
driven by the fates around all the seas.
So great a burden it was to establish the Roman race.

While I love all of the Aeneid, there are specific lines that pop out as being just perfect. Tantae molis erat Romanam condere gentem! is one such line. I just love it. If I ever get a proper microphone (and I suspect I will soonish), maybe I’ll start adding an audio component to my poetry Friday posts so you can hear this stuff read aloud in the Latin. It is just so beautiful.

Other Vergil posts:
Aeneid I.1-7
Aeneid I.8-11
Aeneid I.8-11
Aeneid I.12-18
Aeneid I.19-22

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Poetry Friday: Aeneid I.19 – 22

LATIN (from The Latin Library):
Progeniem sed enim Troiano a sanguine duci
audierat, Tyrias olim quae verteret arces; 20
hinc populum late regem belloque superbum
venturum excidio Libyae: sic volvere Parcas.

ENGLISH (my translation):
But she had heard indeed that a race to be led
from Trojan blood would at some time overturn those Tyrian citadels;
this people ruling widely and proud in war
was going to come for the destruction of Libya: thus the Fates unrolled.

Poetry Friday Roundup is at Under the Covers today.

Other Vergil posts:
Aeneid I.1-7
Aeneid I.8-11
Aeneid I.8-11
Aeneid I.12-18

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Poetry Friday: Aeneid I.12 – 18

LATIN (from The Latin Library):
Urbs antiqua fuit, Tyrii tenuere coloni,
Karthago, Italiam contra Tiberinaque longe
ostia, dives opum studiisque asperrima belli;
quam Iuno fertur terris magis omnibus unam
posthabita coluisse Samo; hic illius arma,
hic currus fuit; hoc regnum dea gentibus esse,
si qua fata sinant, iam tum tenditque fovetque.

ENGLISH (my translation):
There was an ancient city (the Tyrian settlers held it)
Carthage, far away facing Italy and the Tiber’s
mouth, rich in resources and very fierce in the pursuits of war;
the only city which Juno is said to have cherished
more than all the other lands, with Samo estemmed less: here were her arms,
here was her chariot; now already the goddess
aimed for and cherished this city
to be the ruling power for the races, if some fate would allow it.

Poetry Friday Roundup is at Becky’s Book Reviews today.

Other Vergil posts:
Aeneid I.1-7
Aeneid I.8-11

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Poetry Friday: The Bait

I love a good love poem. I wish I could express what my criteria for that is.

So, here, abbreviated, "The Bait" by John Donne.

Come live with me, and be my love,
And we will some new pleasures prove
Of golden sands, and crystal brooks,
With silken lines, and silver hooks.

For thee, thou need’st no such deceit,
For thou thyself art thine own bait:
That fish, that is not catch’d thereby,
Alas, is wiser far than I.

Go here for the full poem.

The first stanza reminds me of Catullus’s Poem 5:
Vivamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemus
Rumoresque senum severiorum
Omnes unius aestimemus assis

Let us live, my Lesbia, and let us love,
And let us value the gossip of all
The too-severe old men at only a single coin.  

(That’s my loose translation.  Adapted for modern readers, because they aren’t familiar with ancient currency, generally.)