So you can read my books

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

F is for FROST_Poetry is Dead

I have a ghost cat.  Gypsy is her name.  It's all right if you think I am crazy.  Most days I do as well.

Being a ghost, she warns me when I am about to be visited in the midst of my sleep.  She mutters under her breath as she was muttering now.

A reedy voice quavered in the darkness by my bed, "I have been one acquainted with the night. 

A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness"

Robert Frost slowly materialized in a misty cane chair by my bed. 

"I thought people would always be held fixed by poetry -- not necessarily mine.  But now, poetry is as dead as I."

Gypsy muttered something in cat and shoved her head under my pillow, and Frost shook his head,

"Yes, even more so since I am keeping your loyal cat awake."

He smiled at my frown.  "I am fluent in Cat."

His smile died, "But no one is fluent in the magic of poetry any more it seems."

I murmured a bit of "I Knew a Woman" by Theodore Roethke:

"I knew a woman, lovely in her bones
When small birds sighed,
she would sigh back at them."

He shook a long forefinger at me.  "You do not count.  You are Lakota."

I snorted, "We Lakota hear that a lot."

He ignored me.  We Lakota are used to that, too, and he whispered,

"Society has been changing in a way that did not favor the reading of poetry. From the Me Generation of the '70s to the get-rich-quick '80s, our culture became intensely prosaic.

Ambiguity, complexity and paradox fell out of favor. You the living embraced easily defined goals and crystal-clear communication (Ronald Reagan was president, presiding over the literalization of America).

Fewer politicians seemed to quote contemporary poets in speeches, and the relatively small number of name-brand, living American poets died or faded from view.

By the '90s, it was all over. If you doubt this statement, consider that poetry is the only art form where the number of people creating it is far greater than the number of people appreciating it.

Anyone can write a bad poem.

To appreciate a good one, though, takes knowledge and commitment. As a society, you lack this knowledge and commitment. People don't possess the patience to read a poem 20 times before the sound and sense of it takes hold.

They aren't willing to let the words wash over them like a wave, demanding instead for the meaning to flow clearly and quickly. They want narrative-driven forms, stand-alone art that doesn't require an understanding of the larger context."

The ghost of Hemingway materialized beside him, sipping from a glass of whiskey. 

"Roland is part of a world that apotheosizes the trendy, and poetry is just about as untrendy as it gets. Bored housewives want to read books with buzz, the latest trend."

I shook my head.  "Not everyone."

They both said as one, "You don't count."

I was starting to get a complex.

Hemingway muttered, "Poetry is designed for an era when people valued the written word and had the time and inclination to possess it in its highest form."

Frost nodded, "Poetry is dead."

Hemingway scowled over to me. 

"If poetry is dead, you prose writers are in the next ward over, wheezing noisily, with your family gathered around looking concerned and asking about your silverware."

I shook my head and murmured from Theodore Roethke again:

"I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow."

And since Gypsy is now a ghost cat, she drew her tiny head out from under the pillow

and yowled in a voice which sent shivers through the marrow of my bones,

 "Little do you two-leggeds know of the things that ink may do, how it can mark a dead man's thought for the wonder of later years, and tell of happenings that are gone clean away,

and be a voice for us out of the dark of time, and save many a fragile thing from the pounding of heavy ages; or carry to us, over the rolling centuries,

even a song from lips long dead on forgotten hills.” 

With that, Gypsy thrust her tiny ghost head under my pillow.  Frost turned to Hemingway and sighed, "When ghosts of cats speak wiser and lovelier than we, it is time to go."

Which they did.





  1. Yes, I agree, it's dead. I always wanted to be brilliant enough to get poetry, but try as I might, I rarely read one and fully understand it. Still, I appreciate poetry and the brain cells it takes to write great ones. :)

  2. I wish I was fluent in Cat like Frost. I agree that for most, poetry is dead and a forgotten art

  3. The most recent poetry I've read is Jessica Bell's.

    In college I worked in the music library and wrote poetry during quiet times. I have a few books of Allen Ginsberg's poems and a couple of others. (not too traditional)

    Perhaps music in the form of song lyrics have replaced our use of poetry.

  4. Celeste:
    I am a dinosaur, for I still read poetry -- but you heard the ghosts of Frost and Hemingway -- I don't count! :-) Like you, I wish I could write great poetry! I've only done a few haiku's. Thanks for visiting and commenting!

    J Keith:
    Sadly, like you, Celeste, and Frost, I feel poetry is dying if not already dead -- except for me, and you know what Frost and Hemingway told me!!

    Song lyrics can be seen as poetry put to music ... except Rap -- you do not want to hear Hemingway's view of Rap!!

    I have a series of four volumes called A POEM A DAY which brighten my mornings or evenings, depending upon when I read them.

    Gypsy, my ghost cat, just snorted, "Yeah, but you don't count, remember?"

  5. I love seeing Gypsy. I miss her.

    To be honest, I would rather read exquisitely written narrative prose than poetry—I can't explain why except to say people who love and appreciate music don't all enjoy listening to the same composers, artists, or types. Those of us who who treasure beautiful writing don't all admire words in the same form.

    As long as writing remains an art, poetry will live on. But art is passion, a marvel of the human heart and soul, once it's relegated to mass entertainment, which is where it's headed . . . well, let's not think about it.

    Conicidentally, I read a poem this morning: Robert Graves White Goddess (The Poem not the book)

    I know some Byron, some Shelley, and several of Shakespeare's sonnets, but it's been a long while since I committed any poetry to memory, probably at least 10 yrs.

    VR Barkowski

  6. This was an exceptionally beautiful post Roland. I'm glad I stopped by to read it. And like VR, I miss Gypsy too. But probably not as much as you.

    As for poetry, I used to read a lot when I was younger. Not so much anymore. Although I have several volumes on my shelf.

    I think you're right though, poetry seems to be something from a forgotten age. When the world was slower and written words meant something. Everything goes so fast now, and social media has taken over. No one has the time to sit down and just read. It's like grabbing a hamburger. Reading happens in batches of time.

    Poetry takes reading to a whole other level, something to be savored like a 5-course meal instead of a quick bite of take-out.

    Thanks for this post, Roland. Sorry for the ramble.

  7. Great post! I think for the majority of the population, poetry is dead but a small number of us cling to it still.

    Three swords piercing- a heart; cloud and rain behind. Divinortory
    Meanings: Removal, absence, delay, division, rupture, dispersion,
    and all that the design signifies naturally, being too
    simple and obvious to call for specific enumeration. Reversed:
    Mental alienation, error, loss, distraction, disorder, confusion.

  9. Poetry is stacked three feet high on my desk and I had a Shelly poem on my blog for O. The first piece I ever sold was a poem. I was commissioned to write a poem in high school but it was the 70's then and you say it's over. I hope not. The day before yesterday at one thirty in the morning, after celebrating my husband's birthday, I wrote a poem. I was bleary eyed and the poem may not be Frost but I had to have a poem for my post on turtles. Honestly, I feel there is a resurgence in poetry because it is a shorter work that fits onto an iPhone. Folks can sit at the vet holding their cat and wonder why they didn't stop somewhere on a snowy evening when they had so many promises to keep.

  10. I am not a poet with rhythm to my words I'm afraid.
    I do read it every day, as several of my blogger buddies are poets.

  11. I love poetry and have written a verse or two myself. I read it ofter, as like Alex, I have blogger friends who are poets.

    And you, my friend, are a poet. Your prose is full of heart, soul, and emotion. Words can be so comforting as so beautiful, especially in the hands of a master.

  12. What a magnificent cat, Gypsy, was - and is, of course, in your heart.

    My poetry is about as good as my drawing - beyond belief - and 'not' in a talented way ...

    Another fine post, Roland.

  13. VR:
    THE WHITE GODDESS is indeed evocative, reminding me of the verses of Robert Bridges. Lyrical prose many say is dead, too -- which does not bode well for my brand of writing!

    Byron and Keats murmur in my head Shelly irritates me solely on the fact of his irresponsible treatment of a 16 year old girl which resulted in her suicide. Silly I know -- In my mythos, Elu drowns Shelly out of revenge for that death. Thanks for mising Gypsy. She lives on in GHOST OF A CHANCE though. :-)

    Ramble here any time you want. :-) Thanks for missing Gypsy, too.

    Yes, I believe poetry is from another age, too -- when fine prose was appreciated. Now, it is all sensation.

    What kind of sensibilities will our teens have 30 years from now? :-(

    Yes, like you I believe a small, very small segment of readers will still read poetry. It is sad to think of this art form as dying.

    Did you write me a poetic Tarot reading? Interesting choice of words. :-)

    The Desert Rocks:
    There is an eternal quality to the best poetry as with Frost's snowy musing at a crossroads, isn't there?

    I usually read it every day in the form of the Psalms or from one of the volumes, POEM FOR THE DAY. :-)

    Thanks for the nice words about my prose, but then, you know from the praise of your intro's that your own words are lyrical.

    Gypsy sends a ghost purr your way in thanks. Yes, most of my poetry is like stick-figure drawing, too! :-) Thanks for the kind words about my post!!

  14. wow. you, my friend, are not just a brilliant writer, you're also a brilliant poet! i loved Gypsy's poem. evocative and lovely, just like she is.

    i have to admit, when i saw her earlier, it made me cry. i know how much she means to you. my kitties mean the same to me. she has such spirit and personality :)

    i, sadly, agree-i believe it's dead. or gasping its last breath. i like to read it if i can figure out its meaning. i've written quite a lot of it, too.

    wonderful post!

  15. Words Crafter:
    Gypsy says her poem is her own. She just let me write it down! :-)

    Gypsy will always be a part of me. Her intelligence and gentleness were one of a kind.

    Poetry is in ICU for certain -- though that thought has gotten me some hot emails denying it. :-)

    Thanks for the kind words! I hope you enjoy Victor's first adventure.