One Last Hurrah: Three Poets and Something New

This is it. My last post for class. It’s been an adventure and I can’t help but be glad for this assignment. It’s grown me as a writer and reader. So without further ado, allow me to look at not one, not two, but three Modern poets for my final post. (If you can’t tell, I’m playing catch up.)

Today I’ll be looking at three poets: Muriel Rukeyser, Elizabeth Bishop, and Sylvia Plath. And because I figured why not and this is the last chance I’ll get to do this the poet I’ll be comparing them to is…. Me. So be lenient with me (because I in now way am claiming to be as a good a poet as these here) and settle in for a long post.

First up is Muriel Rukeyser. I enjoyed her poetry and really, I just have a thing for social justice poets. So today, take a look at her poem “Mearl Blankenship” from The Book of the Dead and my poem below.

Anger is easy.
The thudthudthud of my heart,
pounding across my soul,
bringing tremors to my frame,
earth shattering quakes that rip apart
the weakness and fragility that held me captive.
It is more simple to see red that to offer a second chance.
If there were fury up from hell,
this jilted lover would take it out for tea and
take a sledge-hammer to its car.
Proving that niceties mean nothing
when storms of wrath—gales that upend worlds,
precision lighting pilfered from Zeus’ armory
by a Hera who will stand for betrayal
no longer—rage across the last fading
memories of amorous days,
more fair and beautiful than
wretched sorrow, but drowned in the
downpour.

One of my favorite things about Rukeyser is that she is unapologetic in her poetry. The Book of the Dead is a stylistic hodgepodge of tone, voices, and formats. It’s awesome. Mearl Blankenship has two distinct tones, one from the perspective of the speaker, and one from Mearl, who is given voice in the poem. Mearl’s letter takes up a good portion of this poem, and it’s heart wrenching to read. The final lines of his letter “But I am still here / a lingering along” brings the reality of suffering and and hopelessness of a man with no one on his side, continuing to plod along in life.

In a similar fashion, I end my own poem with a note a hopelessness. While ager is the theme of the poem, the conclusion of my poem points to how even with a mighty rage, not even anger can keep sadness away.

Next up is Elizabeth Bishop and her poem “One Art.” I found it especially lovely. I’ll be comparing it to my poem “Pink Lemonade,” which you will find below.

Our bench is gone.
The cool marble seat
that held you and I,
our first laughs and jokes,
and the spicy chai
that warmed my body and my heart.

That brisk April evening,
as we sat under the pink lemonade sky
and shared drinks and dreams,
was the beginning
of a friendship
I hadn’t dared to want.

And still the sky
is tinged pink,
looking over the
paths and sidewalks
we walked together,
that I called our own.

But we are no longer we,
you are long gone,
and my dreams
can hold you here no more.
The sky is pink lemonade,
and your name is sour on my tongue.

Both of these poems are about losing something. Bishop writes exclusively of the very idea and art of losing. Her clever rhyming stanzas are witty, but hide the more serious tone of the poem, until eventually revealing in the final stanza the loss of love. The lines “—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture / I love) I shan’t have lied” are a final shock to the reader, realizing that while losing petty things is common place, so too is losing the one you love.

In a similar theme, my poem is about loss.  While obviously more overt, my poem is about losing the one you love and about the memories of that person. Both Bishop and I cal back to similar phrases. For Bishop it is a whole line: “The art of losing isn’t hard to master.” For my it is the idea of pink lemonade. Both of these phrases help to keep the poems focused and concise.

Finally we have come to Sylvia Plath. I’ll be talking about her poem “Lady Lazarus” and my own poem “Still.”

i can still
still
hear your voice
echoing in my heart

there was silence once
and
you filled the void
until it rang hallow

i can still
still
feel your body
holding me in sleep

the heavy warmth
and
the comfort of your arms
kept me alive at night

i can still
still
listen to your song
it will not leave me

though i long for it
quiet
my heart rings empty
i cannot escape you

Plath’s poetry is a level of brilliance I can only hope to one day emulate. Her voice in her poems is terrifying but excellent. One thing I enjoyed was Plath’s balance of repetition and difference. She uses just enough similar phrasing that it catches the eye and the ear, but not so much that it overwhelms. On the other hand, I make repetition my theme. Where Plath’s stanzas are all three lines with varying length and form, I kept my poem more firmly into a specific form. I absolutely love the final stanza of Plath’s poem:

Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.

The firm and assured tone of the poem is almost empowering, while my poem’s voice is that of submission and resignation.

And with that, I finish my blogging for Modern American Poetry. This has been a lot of fun, and I plan on keeping up this blog (although on a number of different topics, not just poetry). Although in the future I might put more of my own poetry here. Thanks for reading!