Mighty Fungi, the destroyer,
rending like a divorce lawyer.
There are no bonds you can’t dissolve.
It’s by your graces our world revolves.
Your rap is bad, but we all know,
the pile of stiffs would ceaseless grow,
if you weren’t breaking down the dead.
This collection stands as one volume in a series entitled “Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets.” Other volumes in the series feature the work of a particular author, a regional or national poetic tradition, a type of poem (e.g. sonnets,) or – like this one – a central theme (e.g. friendship, love, animals, war, etc.)
It’s a broad ranging collection. It covers a period from before Christ (e.g. the Roman poet Catullus) to twentieth century poets such as Sylvia Plath and Joseph Brodsky. The poetry also spans the globe including not only English language poets of Britain and America, but also translated poetry from India, the Middle East, China, Japan, and elsewhere. The poem’s lengths range from the brevity of a Bashō haiku to long poems such as Keats’s “The Eve of St. Agnes.” Epically long poems aren’t included, though there are excerpts such as that of Shakespeare’s “The Rape of Lucrece.” There is a favoring of classical English forms (e.g. iambic pentameter) even among many translated poems, but that doesn’t mean that the collection lacks diversity of form.
One nice thing about the diversity of poems is that one gets to see how various cultures and time periods dealt with erotic content. It should be noted that readers who are expecting poems that are erotic in the sense of being pornographic or bawdy by today’s standards are likely to be disappointed. That said, while many of the erotic elements are veiled in symbolism, that isn’t the case throughout. There is some explicitly erotic content among the collected poems. (Though, not as explicit as one sees in the works of Allen Ginsberg, for example.) It was interesting to see that it isn’t necessarily that the further back one goes in time the more repressed or veiled the writing is. On the contrary, some of the Latin and old Indian poems were among the most explicit. Of course, decoding the meaning of poets, and the savoring of reading that requires, is part of the joy of reading poetry.
I enjoyed this collection. I thought it was nice gathering of poems that explored sensuality, romance, and eroticism.
a man overdressed in the way of those who have no place to hang a hat and an abiding fear that anything left out of sight will vanish — no matter how tattered, malodorous, and undesirable an object of theft said item may be
as he paced, his soliloquy never ceased:
“i’ve been down there; i followed it all the way down to the bottom.
“i saw what resides in the bankrupt bowels of this magnificent megalopolis.
“i looked in its burning eyes, and it would have killed me if it’d thought me worthy.
“i won’t flattery myself to think it took pity on me. no. it just didn’t find me worth its effort.
“it’s waiting. you’ll see. you’ll all see. someday it’s gonna bust its way up here.
“that’ll be our judgement day. could be tomorrow. could be in a million years…”
my first thought was that the man was insane and needed medication
my second thought was that any disaster that brings humanity to its knees will be heralded by a disheveled person ranting about an incomprehensible threat
i did the only thing i could do. i played the odds, figuring that since there are far more lunatics than humanity-devouring disasters; i went about my day as usual
5.) On Love and Barley by Matsuo Basho [Japanese]: One doesn’t get better haiku [and other traditional Japanese poetry forms] than Basho.
4.) The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur [Indian-Canadian]: This isn’t the expected fair for an “around the world” post as it’s not blatantly infused with setting / geography, but culture does factor in prominently.
3.) Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman [American]: Not only does Whitman explore the many dimensions of America, he also references other cultures and locales. [There was a fascination with the East brewing in Whitman’s day.]
2.) Octavio Paz / Selected Poems by Octavio Paz [Mexican]: Paz was a diplomat as well as a Nobel Laureate, and his poems include many references to India (where he was posted) as well as Mexico.
1.) The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran [Lebanese-American]: Featuring an intriguing melange of advice in poetic form.
NOTE: It’s not as global a list as I’d like. I’d love to hear what works others might include in the list. I don’t think poetry gets translated as much as fiction and so it’s a bit of a challenge. It’s much easier to find examples of novels & short story collections from far-flung corners of the world.
This is a collection of 39 poems by the twentieth century poet William Carlos Williams. It’s a thin volume, and is part of Penguin’s Modern Classics — a series of short works (small short story collections, novellas, and poetry collections; all less than 100 pages) that feature writers from the past century or so. Like many, my experience with Williams didn’t extend much beyond his red wheelbarrow (not included herein) and so it was nice to get a taste of a broader range of his poems.
The poetry is free verse with experimental feel. The gathered poems are as short as a few lines and as long as two-ish pages, but most fall in the one to one-and-a-half page range. Williams was an imagist, and these poems reflect that focus on creating vivid imagery while using economy of words. While imagery is given priority, Williams doesn’t completely ignore sound, using alliteration and repetition to create interesting aural effects here and there. Nature is a common theme, but not an exclusive one in these works.
Among the more noteworthy poems are the titular poem (“Death the Barber”), “Dedication for a Plot of Ground” [an elegy to his grandmother, Emily Dickinson Wellcome (not the poet sharing the same first two names),] “Young Sycamore,” “Death,” “The Botticellian Trees,” and “The Bitter World of Spring.”
I enjoyed this little collection and that it wasn’t just greatest hits — which in Williams’ case would revolve around his famous “Red Wheelbarrow.”