Somehow, Sunday seems an appropriate day to present this poem by Claire Bateman, a fine and under-recognized poet from Greenville, South Carolina, with six books to her name: Coronology (2009); Leap (2005); Clumsy (2003); Friction (1998); At the Funeral of the Ether (1998); and The Bicycle Slow Race (1991). We often hear the word quirky applied to contemporary poets (just glance at five random blurbs, you’re sure to find quirky), but perhaps no one writing today inhabits the word quite as fully as Bateman. The premises of her poems are apparently beamed into the atmosphere at a slant from another, logically slippery dimension -- yet once you step inside, life there seems more cogent, more comprehensible, more carefully thought out than the one you’re turning her pages in. “Unearthing the Sky” first appeared in New Ohio Review’s third issue, Spring 2008. I love the way Bateman will seize on an idea and pursue it all the way in the most natural, credible terms. The excavation draws all kinds from the woodwork – not just the genetically engineered ants that chew up the undissolved stitches, but the vandals (“long-distance pissers”), artists, evangelists, the full spectrum of fanatics and romantics, and yes, even corporate representatives. She has so thoroughly (I want to say accurately) imagined the literal dilapidation of the sky, the media attention, the complicated restorative procedures and precautions and pitfalls, the responses of onlookers and the aftermath, that we readers almost forget that the broken body of the sky is figuring forth a whole cornucopia of ideals that our civilization has chosen by turns to pillage, smudge, neglect, batter. Almost, I say. What follows is a deft and intelligent poem that may well be our century’s companion poem to Hopkins’ “God’s Grandeur.”
- - - - - - -
Unearthing the Sky
It was filthy, of course,
with red clay streaks & embedded chips of loam,
as well as boulder-scored, chipped,
and even fractured in places,
a great big glorious suffering thing
by the very means of its rescue,
the violence of pulleys & clamps.
Areas that had been dredged from under water
were warped & bowed
where detonation had been necessary
to dislodge them.
But there it was for everyone to behold.
Toddlers wearing tiny government-issued hard hats
were told, Look, honey, it’s the sky!
Older children were bussed on field trips to the dig site
where yellow tape kept them from the rim
so that the sign could continue to announce,
DROWNINGS AT THIS SITE: 0.
Round-the-clock floodlights discouraged those
who might have attempted to make their mark
on the sky’s broken body --
graffiti artists & would-be inscribers of the Ten Commandments,
corporate representatives & long-distance pissers,
as well as those who longed to plunge into it --
scuba divers, suicides, mystics, & lovers.
Everything was so lit-up, in fact,
that the sky would have been glad
of some darkness,
but it was not yet well enough
to generate nighttime & other weathers.
There had to be years of repair work
with everything from lasers to sandpaper,
tiny camel’s-hair brushes to welding torches.
Millions of stitches, hand-sewn
with microsuturing needles,
zigzagged across the surface
to eventually either dissolve
or be severed by army ants
genetically engineered to find them tasty.
The surgeons injected implants
of liquid mercury, black diamond plasma,
& other substances whose identities
they were not at liberty to disclose.
But at last, the sky was ready.
After all it had been through,
was it still the sky it had once been?
Not exactly, but were not the people
historically damaged as well --
and wasn’t there the matter
So the various bolts, pegs, & screws
releasing the sky at last
into its own silence.
Everyone watched as it rose,
a little shaky at first, but soon,
nearly as translucent, dizzying,
dimensionless, disturbing, etc.
as they’d anticipated.
When asked why she wept,
one woman could say only,
For something so heavy, it seemed
almost painfully light.
Abandoned, the work site still yawns
like the morning after Christmas.
- - - - - - -
Claire Bateman – remember the name! See you next week. (JAR)
In the New York Botanical Garden in November, Marie Ponsot paused in front of a towering tree. She recalled as a little girl she delighted her mother with the observation that trees are just like big bunches of flowers.
That power of pause, of reflection transformed with language, often with a jolt of joy (or pain), makes Marie Ponsot, 91, an inaugural NYC Literary Legend. She is a poet who sees and seizes the lyric moment in her work and in her life.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the 2012 Literary Honors Thursday. Joining Ponsot, were Walter Dean Myers for children’s literature, Paul Auster for fiction, Roz Chast for humor, Robert Silvers for literary life and Robert Caro for nonfiction.
“The clarity of cloud is in its edgelessness,” asserts the poem Ponsot read at the Gracie Mansion ceremony. That poem, "This Bridge, Like Poetry, Is Vertigo," ends with these four lines: “Late at night when my outdoors is/indoors, I picture clouds again:/Come to mind, cloud./Come to cloud, mind.”
Mother to seven, mentor to many, Ponsot writes and teaches with a child’s delight in exploration. But this child reads Latin, translates French and has published numerous poetry collections. The most recent are Easy (2009), Springing (2002) and The Bird Catcher (1998), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award. Among many honors, Ponsot holds the Poetry Society of America’s Frost Medal for lifetime achievement and was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2010.
Professor emerita of English at Queens College, CUNY, Ponsot also has taught in national and international graduate programs. With colleague Rosemary Deen, Ponsot wrote Beat Not the Poor Desk. This revolutionary text for effective writing teaching won the Shaughnessy Medal of the Modern Language Association. Ponsot still teaches at the Unterberg Poetry Center of 92nd Street Y and at The New School.
The city ceremony capped a week of Ponsot appreciation that began Monday at the KGB Bar in the East Village. She first read “TV, Evening News,” a poem that begins with a “screenful of chaos” from the war in Afghanistan.
“I don’t know the languages,” the speaker claims, “I safe screen-watch.” But nevertheless Ponsot connects all of history and humanity in the third, six-line stanza: “Achilles is not there, or Joshua either…/My children are thank God not there/any more or less than you and I are not there.”
As a tank takes out a wall, Ponsot subverts a word of worship: “the house genuflects,” and a woman howls in the dust before the camera cuts to the next shot.
Ponsot is seriously Still Against War, her trademark yellow button and the title of two books of poetry by former students from several decades. Jamie Stern, poet, publisher and lawyer, gathered three dozen students at her Tribeca loft Tuesday to read from Still Against War II. And to take a challenge to describe beyond clichés Ponsot’s bright smile and blue eyes, eyes simultaneously piercing and generous.
“She smiles like she has a secret but one she is happy to let you in,” Michael Bennett said.
“The generosity of the Dalai Lama’s eyes,” offered Elizabeth Coleman.
“Blue laser beams that can zap x-rays or cut glass,” said Jackson Taylor.
In a Ponsot workshop, students do not offer subjective improvements to the poems of others. Instead she draws out rigorous, detailed observations, which inevitably give the poet a notion about what to fix. (I keep on my desk two pithy paragraphs Ponsot wrote about her grandmother’s three-word expression “Mind Yourself Child.” Change the intonation and stress on each word and you too will be thinking about identity in complex ways.)
Still Against War I in 2011 celebrated Ponsot’s 90th birthday and her recovery from a heart attack, stroke and aphasia the year before. Ponsot got critical rapid care because she had a son call poet Scott Hightower, whose partner is an emergency room doctor.
Imagine a life in which her emergency call is to a fellow poet. “She lives poetry on a scale that is just so elemental,” Hightower said. “Not only as a writing mentor but a teaching mentor.”
In the days before she could speak again, Ponsot was taking inventory in her head of language lost, instinctually poking around for passages she knew in more than one language and for a long time. When she couldn’t recall “The Lord’s Prayer” in English, she tried it in French. When that didn’t work, she remembered a Latin manuscript and from visual memory began to translate it back into English.
While Ponsot lay in intensive care, Sapphire, novelist and poet, snuck in to deliver six small notebooks and pen. Once home, a poet posse of students and friends came by to read and talk about poems regularly to help Ponsot regain lexicon and syntax. Her fluency with language restored, Ponsot read new poems as well as published work at Monday’s reading.
As she told a group of high school poetry students in the Bronx in November, even in the hospital she followed the only rule she’s ever made for herself about writing – do it at least 10 minutes every day. “If I could do that with seven children, so can you,” Ponsot said.
Then to their surprise, 15 minutes into the class they’d expected to be a lecture and reading from a master, Ponsot leaned forward and announced “My dears, let’s hear your poems.”
One by one, they read while Ponsot listened as intently as she watches trees and clouds and children and wars and words.
Catherine Woodard wrote “Secret of Tomato” as a tribute to Ponsot and appears in both Still Against War volumes. Her poems have appeared in Poet Lore, Southern Poetry Review, RHINO and other journals. She worked to restore Poetry in Motion to the NYC subways and is a board member of the Poetry Society of America. Woodard is a 2012 fellow at the Hambidge Center in Georgia. In 2011, she was a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and a featured poet at UnshodQuills.com. Woodard has a MFA in poetry from The New School and MS in journalism from Columbia University.
Today is the opening day for millions of baseball fans--including me. (This poet cheers for the Dodgers.)
Another fan of baseball, Stephen Crane (b. 1891 in New York, and shown above as a Syracuse University undergraduate), made a name as a journalist, and wrote novels, short-stories, and poetry at the turn of a prior century. Here is a brief biography of the artist--and his influential friends--thinkers such as H.G. Wells and Henry James. And here is some information on his baseball-loving Syracuse days. And here is a wonderful Best American blog post on his birthday in November.
A highschool sophomore I know sent me the following poem; in fact, it is his favorite early American poem. Stephen Crane’s “’Truth,’ Said a Traveller” he wrote, "presents two conflicting themes, first that truth is an achievable phenomenon, and second that it is mysterious and unreachable, a shifting, relative, and utterly mysterious entity."
"Truth," said a traveller, "Is a rock, a mighty fortress; Often have I been to it, Even to its highest tower, From whence the world looks black." "Truth," said a traveller, "Is a breath, a wind, A shadow, a phantom; Long have I pursued it, But never have I touched The hem of its garment." And I believed the second traveller; For truth was to me A breath, a wind, A shadow, a phantom, And never had I touched The hem of its garment.
In his fascinating 1975 essay, "The Hole in the Bucket", (Coming into the Country, University of Michigan Press) John Haines claims that "American poetry lacks ideas." He continues, "Like all large statements, this one covers a lot of ground and leaves plenty of room for error". Was Haines responding to a lack he felt in 1975 that previous generations of American poetry had not shared? Yes, he seems to be!
However, it is precisely a poetry of ideas that I think we are beginning to see, more and more, in some of recent contemporary poetry...sinuous, philosophical long poems. Quirky philosophical sonnets. Experimental leaps and fancies that hold ideas central and foremost. Ben Lerner. Fanny Howe. Olena Kalytiak Davis. Claudia Rankine. Dan Beachy-Quick. Ben Doller. Douglas Kearney. Paisley Rekdal. And on and on.
Thanks, Stephen Crane. Thanks, John Haines.
Ed note: Kevin Young gave wonderful reading on Monday at the 92nd Street Y here in NYC. He read new poems plus selections from his books, which you can buy here. Here's David Lehman's introduction:
Good evening. It gives me enormous pleasure to introduce this reading by Kevin Young, for in addition to admiring his work as an editor, a curator, a writer, and above all a poet, I have been lucky enough to collaborate with him on two very different projects, about which I will leave you in momentary suspense while I list a few of his accomplishments, as is customary on such an occasion.
By his titles you shall know him. Kevin Young is the author of books of poetry entitled Dear Darkness, For the Confederate Dead, Jelly Roll: A Blues, and Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels – and as the list suggests the history and culture of black Americans figures very significantly in his creative and professional work. He has a natural flair for the noir in more than one sense. I first encountered Kevin Young when he was writing film noir poems and editing his turn-of-the-century anthology Giant Steps named in honor of a jazz composition by John Coltrane and introducing us to “a cross-section of cutting-edge black writers,” including, among the poets, Elizabeth Alexander, Terrance Hayes, Harryette Mullen, Natasha Trethewey. Nothing if nor prolific, Kevin has edited anthologies of jazz poems, blues poems, and a selected edition of John Berryman, the white poet who dared to adopt a persona in blackface for his most original work, The Dream Songs.
Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels, Young’s 2011 collection, is characteristically greater than the sum of its parts; it is unified in tone, style, subject matter, and ambition. Young comes at you in the form of a minstrel show in one poem, a hymn in another, proverbs and prayers, diary entries and letters, to look at the 1839 slave-ship mutiny with the multiple perspectives the truth calls for. And at the same time he was writing Ardency he was editing The Art of Losing, an anthology of poems of grief and healing. The elegiac impulse is strong in his own recent poems, such as the brilliant selection chosen by Langdon Hammer for the current issue of The American Scholar. These are poems that deal with that gravest of one-time events in the life of a man, the death of his father. In such a one as “Wintering,” the palpable chill of death makes the poet wish “to be warm -- & worn -- // like the quilt my grandmother / must have made, one side / a patchwork of color -- // blues, green like the underside / of a leaf – the other / an old pattern of the dolls // of the world, never cut out / but sewn whole – if the world / were Scotsmen & sailors // in traditional uniforms.” The quilt as a metonymy for art is what turns metaphor into truth. Mourning “is just / a moment, many, // grief the long betrothal / beyond. Grief what / we wed, ringing us.”
The first time Kevin Young and I collaborated was on January 4, 2007, when we agreed to take part in what Ken Gordon, of Quickmuse.com, called a “special serial agon.” Kevin and I were given four prompts and asked to write poems in response, with a limit of fifteen minutes per prompt, and with each keystroke preserved in real-time. Among the prompts was a quote from the then-recently deceased James Brown: “The one thing that can solve most of our problems is dancing.” We wrote poems based on the line, which both of us endorsed, with qualification and elaboration, and I was delighted to hear the quotation once again at a reading Kevin gave from his new award-winning prose book, The Grey Album. On that same day we also wrote poems prompted by quotes from or about three other notables who had just died, Saddam Hussein, Gerald Ford, and Robert Altman. You’ll find it on the net: go to Quickmuse. Our poems also appeared in New American Writing.
In contrast to that improvisatory collaboration of simultaneous verse-making, the second time Kevin and I worked on a project together was the year he made the selections as the guest editor of The Best American Poetry 2011, of which we are both I think justly proud. During that period we met, either by plan or serendipitously, at a Boston hotel, a New York art gallery, a London airport, and a café off an Atlanta road named after the fellow who pursued the Fountain of Youth and discovered Florida instead. It was a pleasure to work with him – and to celebrate life and art with this man of extraordinary intelligence, energy, ambition, and a contagious joie de vivre, a particular joy in living that stands behind even the darkest of his elegies.
-- David Lehman
For the past several years, I've been buying the Studio Hinrichs 365 Typography Calendar from Ken Night Design. The supersize version is worth the price because when it's mounted on the inside of the front door I can read it from just about anywhere in the living and dining room. Plus, it's attractive. Each edition features 12 unique typefaces - one for each month; many are not commercially available - with a brief explanation of why the font is distinctive and a biography of each type's designer.
I just removed January to expose February (above) and am disappointed that February is a short month because I'm wild about designer/artist Ward Schumaker's contribution to 2012. He came up with "Gertrude-and-Alice" while working on illustrations for “Paris France,” his book on Gertrude Stein. In keeping with his artistic style, he combined brushed letters and hand-cut paper characters. Schumaker says that he imagined that the heavy brush strokes represented the large and ebullient Gertrude Stein, while the delicate hand-cut paper pieces represented the thin and prickly Alice B. Toklas.
A quick Google search took me to Schumaker's own blog and website, where one can see more of his fine work. Some of it may look familiar; Schumaker's illustrations have appeared in many popular magazines and newspapers.
Here's an image of Gertrude Stein from "Paris France":
In a recent post, Schumaker reports that he's just landed in New York City, where he'll live for a year. Welcome!
Patrick Kavanagh (1904–1967) continues to inspire conflicting feelings and opinions. John Nemo, writing in The Dictionary of Irish Literature, puts it this way: “His followers, a varied but vocal group, speak of him admiringly as an important force in Irish letters, second only to Yeats. His detractors, fewer in number but every bit as vocal, dismiss him as a loud-mouthed, ill-mannered peasant who disrupted rather than advanced the development of modern literature.” As a loud-mouthed, ill-mannered peasant myself, I will take my place among Kavanagh’s followers.
One of his most ardent admirers was my old friend James Liddy, an Irish poet who spent most of his adult life as a professor at the University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee until his death in 2008. Many years ago (in the ‘70s sometime), James sent me a copy of an Irish journal called The Lace Curtain, which included his “Open Letter to the Young about Patrick Kavanagh.” Describing Kavanagh’s work (and, really, his own as well), Liddy writes, “Or there is a poetry in which real ideas from living come at us. This kind can be direct statement with a reference behind to the story of what happened to the poet. It relies on the mind staying alive, on the man making the statement keeping his emotional intelligence alive.”
Kavanagh brings that emotional intelligence, I think, to “A Christmas Childhood,” a poem one encounters regularly this time of year in Irish circles on both sides of the Atlantic. As an Irish accordion player, I relish the mention of his father’s melodeon (pronounced melojin), which is a single-row button accordion.
The poem introduces us to the thrumming imagination of a six-year-old Irish farmboy, ca. 1910, who is perfectly in tune with the magical world around him.
One side of the potato-pits was white with frost—
How wonderful that was, how wonderful!
And when we put our ears to the paling-post
The music that came out was magical.
The light between the ricks of hay and straw
Was a hole in Heaven's gable. An apple tree
With its December-glinting fruit we saw—
O you, Eve, were the world that tempted me
To eat the knowledge that grew in clay
And death the germ within it! Now and then
I can remember something of the gay
Garden that was childhood's. Again
The tracks of cattle to a drinking-place,
A green stone lying sideways in a ditch
Or any common sight the transfigured face
Of a beauty that the world did not touch.
My father played the melodeon
Outside at our gate;
There were stars in the morning east
And they danced to his music.
Across the wild bogs his melodeon called
To Lennons and Callans.
As I pulled on my trousers in a hurry
I knew some strange thing had happened.
Outside the cow-house my mother
Made the music of milking;
The light of her stable-lamp was a star
And the frost of Bethlehem made it twinkle.
A water-hen screeched in the bog,
Crunched the wafer-ice on the pot-holes,
Somebody wistfully twisted the bellows wheel.
My child poet picked out the letters
On the grey stone,
In silver the wonder of a Christmas townland,
The winking glitter of a frosty dawn.
Cassiopeia was over
Cassidy's hanging hill,
I looked and three whin bushes rode across
The horizon. The Three Wise Kings.
An old man passing said:
‘Can’t he make it talk’—
The melodeon. I hid in the doorway
And tightened the belt of my box-pleated coat.
I nicked six nicks on the door-post
With my penknife’s big blade.
There was a little one for cutting tobacco,
And I was six Christmases of age.
My father played the melodeon,
My mother milked the cows,
And I had a prayer like a white rose pinned
On the Virgin Mary’s blouse.
At his wedding in April 1967; Kavanagh died in November of that year.
One final note: Kavanagh’s best-known poem is probably “On Raglan Road,” which was written to the tune of an old march called “The Dawning of the Day.” Many singers have recorded the song since the ‘60s, including Van Morrison and Sinead O’Connor.
Tattoos, unlike smoking, remain pretty cool. They’re also here to stay (and in keeping with the loose Persian connections, please allow the pun). I thought of introducing a brief collage of poetry tattooed on strangers and friends. Of course I suspected something like this had been done before, but I had no idea of the quality nor the extent of such projects.
Before briefly exploring some Persian connections and implications of this topic, I want to thank writer Facebook friends for introducing me to a couple of great publications: Editors Kim Addonizio and Cheryl Dumesnil have created an anthology of fantastic writers that capture the art of tattooing in various ways in Dorothy Parker's Elbow: Tattoos on Writers, Writers on Tattoos. Also of interest is Eva Talmadge and Justin Taylor’s The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos for Bookworms Worldwide, a great coffee table book featuring great photographs of literary excerpts tattooed on various body parts.
I also want to mention too that my Queens College Early Americanist colleague Sian Roberts advises researching into “moko,” which,” she says, “is deeply integrated into Maori and Polynesian culture (fun fact: ‘tattoo’ originated as a Polynesian word.)”
In thinking about this topic in relation to things Persian (my commitment for my week of blogging), I also got to know those already in my life by various poetry on their skin. I didn’t know, prior to this entry, that my friend Jason Tougaw, a Comp. Rhetoric specialist (also at Queens College) has a Cocteau drawing of Orpheus, which explains in part why he seems to embody a kind of poetry. Stefanie Simons, who I got to know at Pen America, has tattooed part of an Aracelis Girmay poem on her body (yet another significant reason Stefanie is such a cool young writer). Getting more serious with things—and hopefully I can put a few pics up of what I’m seeing—Claire Van Winkle, poet and translator (and new MFA student at Queens) has this on her arm from Jorie Graham “The longing is to be pure. What you get is to be changed. ~JG” Always, or usually, the arms of these writers carry the words of writers, as if literally connecting to some key influence.
By way of transition to the Persian, Tara Mokhtari, an Iranian-Australian poet and critic who I recently met during her visit to NYC, has the following lines in Perisan on her arm from the modern Iranian poet Sohrab Sepehri (about whom I hope to blog soon). She offers the following loose translation: "Live large, and alone, and modest, and unyielding.” Most people, she notes, get a little disappointed when she explains the “alone” part. Writers, however, would surely understand.
I offer these tattooed lines as a greater transition to the well-known early trendsetting images of Iranian artist Shirin Neshat, who radically politicized the female body with words from poetry as well as other sources. Like Neshat’s work, Mokhtari’s words both attract and subvert attention, as the latter explained how men during her trip to NYC hit on her by using the foreign lines as an entry into the conversation (making the message of valuing aloneness all the more significant).
Those unfamiliar with Neshat's postmodern treatment of the feminine post-Islamic Revolution—especially following her visit to her country of origin in the 1990’s—might find it worthwhile to check out her Women of Allah series. She co-opts a kind of communal or group definition of the Persian woman in the context of the Islamic Republic of Iran, reproducing a seeming empowerment with guns, for example, though also rendering the women with little individuality (re-imposing the mystique of the veil, so to speak).
There are far too many things to say and theorize upon as one considers the implications of these seminal images. In a pithy blog entry, it’s perhaps best to let the art speak for and against itself, so I’ll refrain from what will only become a reductive analysis. One overriding question that Neshat’s work continues to brilliantly bring to the surface relates to appropriation and issues of Orientalism.
Obviously the Persian script on female bodies (the artist used her own body in much of this work), like Tara’s tattoo, means something different to Iranians than to those, say, in the English speaking world. The latter can’t help but find another layer in their resistance to understanding, and I read that some have mistakenly assumed they must be lines of the Qu’ran. What does it mean to know, or to not know, that often this amazing calligraphy are the words of the first modern feminist poet Forugh Farrokhzad?
A prodigious amount of tension derives from the dichotomous reception of eastern vs. western audience. Insofar as Robert Frost famously claimed “Poetry is what gets lost in translation,” he was pulling a fast one, and his elusive irony gets aptly demonstrated here. The meta-statement itself is poetry, an epigram of sorts, meaning in locating the dislocation Frost paradoxically finds poetry. In her own way, through the resistance of translation and the resulting loss of meaning, Neshat too makes poetry in the English speaking world by allowing the loss.
Of course there is a lot more going on in Neshat’s earlier work here (not to mention her more current projects with video and film). To a certain extent interjecting the images in the framework of poetry tattoos might seem like forcing a comparison. However, when considering these indelible impressions as well as a kind of permanence through the use of impermanent artistic media, they remain another kind of tattoo pictured on the artist.
My experience with the ghazal, as both a translator from the classical Persian as well as an Iranian-American poet writing in the form in English), gets me thinking comparatively, both in terms of time and space. New translations of any great writing will always appear, in part because literary styles change along with a reading audience. Thinking about how this form reaches from the 13th and 14th centuries to today, even as it spans regions (from Iran to America), continues to offer a kind of intercultural space for some postmodern funkiness.
I didn’t think, out of all the things in the world to blog about, that I’d find myself here, but to make it worthwhile, I want to focus on form in relation to theme. If I remember correctly, T.S. Eliot has that great metaphor about theme or meaning in a poem as analogous to the meat the burglar throws the guard dog as he sneaks into the home for the jewels (the style). To a great extent, the “beloved” in the ghazal has served as the desired object, especially for Persians, who adapted the longing for the divine into such a sensual and tangible form, wherein the beloved becomes the material manifestation of divine presence. As a result, writers like Hafez began juxtaposing the high and the low, esoteric theological matters with full red lips, long before rock n’ roll was invented, let alone rap or hip hop.
Of course, some of these depictions do not safely fall under the rubric of political correctness. This makes the current writing of the form that much interesting, when considering a Persian writer like Simin Behbahani who, while honoring the form of the ghazal , inverts the gender of the beloved, a politicized/feminist statement on the centuries old tradition.
For all their erudition, readers then and now are still dogs, regardless of the desired object, so I thought if only to satisfy my own hunger, I’d throw out contemporary manifestations of the beloved—objects of transcending desire—as they surface in different kinds of writing. Again, it’s not like these have direct relevance to the form, but they do capture something of the spirit of longing for the beloved, albeit within the context of the culture in which they are written. Here’s a little list arising from a survey of some favorites. They are off the top of my head—lines to and for various beloveds—and admittedly they tend to get too male/chauvinistic. I really would like to see collective posts here, various lists from men and women:
Wendy let me in I wanna be your friend
I want to guard your dreams and visions
Just wrap your legs round these velvet rims
And strap your hands across my engines
“Pray and play, play and pray.”
“I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog too.”
--Wicked Witch of the West, Wizard of Oz
“In this country first you get the money, then you get the power, then you get the woman.”
“Oh, wait’ll I get dat wabbit!”
“Oh no, Mrs. Robinson. I think, I think you're the most attractive of all my parents' friends. I mean that.”
--Benjamin (from The Graduate)
“What am I living for, if not for you?”
--Fred Jay and Art Harris (Song)
“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”
“I put her on my plate, then I do the dishes.”
“Hello cowgirl in the sand…”
“Ah beer, the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems.”
“God it’s so painful when something is so close, but still so far out of reach.”
“Hey Mr. DJ, I just wanna’ hear, some rhythm and blues music…on the radio”
“I eat men like air.”
“See that look in their eyes, Rock? You gotta get that
look back, Rock. Eye of the tiger, man.”
--Apollo Creed, Rocky III
“The ghost of electricity howls in the bones of her face
Where these visions of Johanna have now taken my place.”
“What they want, I don’t know, they’re all revved up and ready to go.”