Archives for posts with tag: poetry

One for the Lord Byron fans, myself included. Anyone interested in his poetry, his life, and his reputation as a bit of a madman will love this article about his family’s estate. There’s an abbey turned country house, a pair of follies, a duel, mock battles, and much more. I was really into the romantics as a teen, until I fell in love with the Victorians when I got older. I still like Byron and Shelley, but Matthew Arnold’s and William Wordsworth’s dramatic, lyrically descriptive poems overtook their longheld place in my heart. Still, I’ve kept imagery conjured by Byron’s Sonnet on Chillon and Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage tucked away in its corner of my mind, and still have a big beautiful  framed seascape poster with his “I love not Man the less, but Nature more…” quote at the bottom. A girl’s first poet love lingers for the rest of her life, it seems.


You know the question some people have to think long and hard about and others snap out an instant answer? The one that goes: If you could go back in time and have a conversation with anybody from the past, who would it be? I’m one of the snap it out people. Rainer Maria Rilke (though I will admit Nikola Tesla is a close second).

I first discovered Rilke’s poetry through the beautiful TV series Beauty and the Beast. The Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton one, not the CW one. That show made me fall in love with poetry. I’m not quite sure how Rilke’s distinctive, gorgeous, and not as accessible as many others poems struck such a cord with me that they rose above all others, but I’m grateful for the introduction to what has become a lifelong love for all things Rilke.

Yes, all things. In addition to his poetry that paints word pictures with its rhythm and lyrical descriptiveness, he also wrote equally lyrical prose. His book Letters to a Young Poet, in which he instructs and encourages a young friend, serves to do the same for me. There’s a particular line about creativity and the ability to write on command being different for different people and the way it must rise as sap in a tree (paraphrased, but the way I remember it many years after reading it), that resonated with me at a time when I struggled to fit into the molds of others with rigid ideas about how one must write. I felt that I had been “given permission” by my mentor from long ago to write the way my brain insisted was my way. That that made it THE way for me. Even still, when I rue the way I work, taking however much time my way needs to plot, and name characters, and order stories, the words “as sap in a tree” creep into my being, I relax, and go about my thing, my way. Even in a passing comment in correspondence, Rilke enhanced my own life, so, so many years after his death.

His death…. I read a story that he pricked his finger on a rose thorn, contracted blood poisoning, and died. What a tragic, yet romantic story. How fitting, though terrible, for a tragic, romantic poet.

This Brain Pickings article gives a taste of Letters to a Young Poet, and a flavor of Rilke himself, a man with such talent, such wordsmithery that he made me love the line “my feeling sinks, as if standing on fishes”.

I don’t get the CW, and for once I’m glad.  I’m afraid there would be a terrible temptation to watch the new incarnation of Beauty and the Beast, followed by a bunch of negative emotions that do not belong in the TV watching experience. 

I adore the version from the 1980s. There’s something almost indefinable about that convergence of writing, casting, acting, direction and music.  It has affected me as no other series ever has. 

Beyond the lyrical beauty of the longing for something a mere breath away, yet held apart by chasms of complication, and the novelty of the voiceovers reading from poems and literature that resonate within the context of the stories and on into the darkness of ethereal night, Beauty and the Beast gave me a gift both unexpected and treasured. 

Finally, I understood poetry. 

I had never been a lover of poems.  In fact, they seemed alien and unappealing to me.  A language unlearned, and unlearnable.  An English teacher I once had was so enamored of poetry that it was a near obsession.  She rhapsodized at length about the glories of the lines that she read to the class with such heartfelt passion.  I didn’t get it.  I expected to never get it. 

Once I discovered Beauty and the Beast, it was as if a long-missing key had unlocked a door.  When Vincent and Catherine read the same lines I’d once shrugged aside, I suddenly realized what I’d been missing.  What had been missing every other time I’d heard poetry read, or tried to read it to myself, hoping to force some ah ha moment.  It was so very simple.  Rhythm.  The proper cadence made all the difference in the world.  Once I had this key, I was able to open so many beloved doors. 

I now love Arnold, Wordsworth, Thomas, and my favorite, Rilke, that was another discovery directly from the lips of Vincent, the beast less beastly than many real life creatures who call themselves men.  Read with the proper rhythm, poems began to open up an entirely untapped part of my creativity, and I not only came to love to read poetry but also to write it. A facet to my life that I now cherish might never have come alive. 

It was a single line, wafted softly into the air by Vincent’s velvet rubbed the wrong way voice, that first transformed seemingly simple lines of words into a vision of a faraway land, and made me understand the power of poetry to fuel the imagination and add grace to even the simplest life:

“This city now doth, like a garment, wear the beauty of the morning.”–William Wordsworth. 

Vincent reading Wordsworth on the 1980s television series Beauty and the Beast

Note: With apologies for this reposting, due to technical glitches beyond my control.

The excellent recent article The Story Behind Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah made me start thinking about my favorite version of the song. Again.

Years ago I wandered around Goodwill, looking for treasure. I always gravitate toward the CDs in any store that has them. A cover caught my eye. Why I do not know, since it was minimal at best. It was John Cale’s Fragments of a Rainy Season. I turned it over. Some of the song titles leapt out at me, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night in particular. I love that poem, by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.

On the strength of the Welsh influence, I got the CD. I’ve traveled around Wales and it quickly became one of my favorite places I’d ever been. The coastal areas in particular are breathtaking and unforgettable.

That CD has become one I have to force myself to stop listening to. Particularly the above mentioned songs and another, Paris 1919. Cale’s piano skills are amazing and his unique, emotion filled voice accompanies the songs and music beautifully. That in combination with gorgeous songs, several of Welsh origin, makes Fragments of a Rainy Season one of my favorite albums. A treasure indeed.

I listened to Hallelujah several times after reading the article. The way John Cale sings it makes it the lament of a man broken by love. To me at least. It seems that song is many things to many people.  Then I listened to my other favorites…more than once.  Eventually, I managed to lower the music and back away slowly…until the next time I cannot resist its allure. 

I like The Velvet Underground…the band Cale is most famous for, but I love his Fragments of a Rainy Season to the point of near obsession. I’d never heard of him, before chance brought me one of my favorite CDs. Now, because of it, I’ll never forget him.

John Cale Singing Hallelujah