Editorial April 2006 Poets, Marvellous Poets by Hilary Williamson
James Elroy Flecker (1884-1915) wrote in The Golden Journey to Samarkand:
'We who with songs beguile your pilgrimage And swear that Beauty lives though lilies die, We Poets of the proud old lineage Who sing to find your hearts, we know not why, -
What shall we tell you? Tales, marvellous tales ...'
His works and those by others of my favorite bards overflow the shelves around my computer, often tempting me to take off on pilgrimages of poesy. I enjoy reading from old favorites at any time - poets, marvellous poets like Robert Graves, Rudyard Kipling, James Elroy Flecker, W. B. Yeats, Piet Hein, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, ...
But I often seek out new favorites as well. When I travel, I love to discover great poets of other lands, like Iran's Hafez, China's Lu Xun, Russia's Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Poland's Czeslaw Milosz or India's Rabindranath Tagore. Although poems suffer even more than other texts in translation (and I agree with Kakuzo Okakura who says in The Book of Tea that 'Translation is always a treason') I still enjoy exploring verses from other cultures, in books like The Winged Energy of Delight: Selected Translations by Robert Bly who says that the 'most important gift we receive when translating is to see genius ... shine straight through into the world.'
Recently, I've sampled relatively modern Western poets. I delved into Run with the Hunted for Charles Bukowski's noir verses, that are nevertheless both insightful and passionate - the poet says of himself, 'there's a bluebird in my heart that / wants to get out / but I'm too tough for him'. I appreciated the ironic perspective on modern life in Campbell McGrath's Pax Atomica, in which he calls our Information Age 'the Olympian vox populi of CNN / as global witness to our local forms of carnage'. James Tates' Return to the City of White Donkeys offers satirical extrapolations of everyday moments in free verse - I loved his description of a loon's call as 'a tremendous looping, soaring, swirling, quadruple whoop.' And Dan Chiasson's Natural History speculates with elegance and irony on the eternal themes.
But, being a long-time Kipling admirer, the collection whose singing finds my heart is A Glass Half Full by Felix Dennis. Here's a verse that ends his Laughing Buddha, which can be read or listened to at FelixDennis.com:
'Infant Buddha, sifting sand, All creation in your hand, Where does infant wisdom fly? Only heaven knows - not I.'
Enjoy the beauty of lilies and find your own poetic marvels from both old bards and new this month - in books and audiobooks, at poetry readings or from so many sources online.
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