Sunday, October 4, 2015

Poetry Pantry #272


By Rosemary Nissen-Wade

Melbourne Town Hall with clock tower, from Elizabeth Street. 

A section of Federation Square – a place of cafés, exhibitions, tourist information and all kinds of gatherings. City buildings in background.

This Aussie Rules football is a bit too big to kick!
Sculpture at McClelland Gallery & Sculpture Park, Langwarrin.

This instrument really does make melodious music when the wind fills it!
Another sculpture at McClelland Gallery & Sculpture Park.

Boreks (a Turkish delicacy) have become a Melbourne institution. 
Lunchtime queues at historic Victoria Market.

Good day, Poets!

Great to see you today.  Look forward to seeing what you link today (and tomorrow) here at the Pantry.  I do enjoy the variety of topics and forms that I see as I make the rounds.  Hope you will be making the rounds as well.

Today we continue with some more of Rosemary Nissen-Wade's photos from Melbourne, Australia.  She makes Melbourne look SO inviting!!  I was there once and would love to go back.  Please take a look at Rosemary's article from this week if you haven't seen it.  She featured one of our 'poetic ancestors,' Francois Villon and his poem 'The Ballad of Dead Ladies.'

Tomorrow come back and see a Poetry Blog update, courtesy of Sherry.  This poet has been featured before, but it is always nice to return a year or two later and see what is new in a poet's life.  And here in the Pantry we will be featuring photos this poet took for the two following weeks.  I've shared her photos here below.  Hint hint. But today I'm not naming names!  Smiles.

Susan's Midweek Motif prompt on Wednesday is "Teacher - One Who Teaches."  Hopefully to see you for that as well!

Enjoy the Pantry today!

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Living Dead

Honouring our poetic ancestors
The Ballad of Dead Ladies
by Francois Villon (1431–?) 
translated by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Tell me now in what hidden way is
   Lady Flora the lovely Roman?
Where’s Hipparchia, and where is Thais,
   Neither of them the fairer woman?
   Where is Echo, beheld of no man,
Only heard on river and mere,—
   She whose beauty was more than human? . . .
But where are the snows of yester-year?

Where’s Heloise, the learned nun,
   For whose sake Abelard, I ween,
Lost manhood and put priesthood on?
   (From Love he won such dule and teen!)
   And where, I pray you, is the Queen
Who willed that Buridan should steer
   Sewed in a sack’s mouth down the Seine? . . .
But where are the snows of yester-year?

White Queen Blanche, like a queen of lilies,
   With a voice like any mermaiden,—
Bertha Broadfoot, Beatrice, Alice,
   And Ermengarde the lady of Maine,—
   And that good Joan whom Englishmen
At Rouen doomed and burned her there,—
   Mother of God, where are they then? . . .
But where are the snows of yester-year?

Nay, never ask this week, fair lord,
   Where they are gone, nor yet this year,
Save with thus much for an overword,—
  But where are the snows of yesteryear?

Villon’s poetry has had a number of translations into English. I like the Rossetti better than others I’ve seen of this particular poem. And it is Rosetti’s translation of the refrain which has become famous in its own right.

A Wikipedia article on this poem tells us:

Particularly famous is its interrogative refrain, Mais où sont les neiges d'antan? This was translated into English by Rossetti as "Where are the snows of yesteryear?",for which he coined the new word yester-year to translate Villon's antan. The French word was used in its original sense of "last year", although both antan and the English yesteryear have now taken on a wider meaning of "years gone by".

The article goes on to list many, many uses of this refrain in contemporary literary contexts. It includes the original French words of the whole poem, which you might be interested to look at. (Rossetti gets his rhyme scheme right.)

Villon is an intriguing figure. The Encyclopedia Britannica for kids tells us:

One of the greatest French lyric poets, François Villon was also a criminal who spent much of his life in prison or in banishment from medieval Paris. His emotional poems speak of love and death, revealing a deep compassion for human suffering, and they express in an unforgettable way his remorse for his sins.

From the Wikipedia article (see link on his name, above) we learn that, born into poverty, he became an Arts student at the University of Paris, receiving his Bachelor’s degree in 1449 and Master’s in 1452. Some years later he was involved in a brawl after which his opponent died. Villon fled and was sentenced to banishment from Paris; but he was pardoned seven months later on testimony that his victim (and attacker) had forgiven him before dying.

He was later involved in a major robbery, as one of a gang of student-thieves. Again he was banished, and embarked on four years of wandering, possibly with a group of thieves.

Brawling and thieving seem to have been his usual crimes, sometimes resulting in periods of imprisonment. In 1462 he was arrested, tortured and condemned to be hanged, but in 1463 the sentence was commuted to banishment.

Nothing more was heard of him that can be verified, though Rabelais wrote some apocryphal stories.  One of his translators, Anthony Bonner, speculates:

He might have died on a mat of straw in some cheap tavern, or in a cold, dank cell; or in a fight in some dark street with another French coquillard; or perhaps, as he always feared, on a gallows in a little town in France. We will probably never know.

There is also an examination of his life and poetry at The Poetry Foundation and a very readable, concise but informative biography at Academy of American Poets.

As to the poetry, we are told in Wikipedia:

Villon was a great innovator in terms of the themes of poetry and, through these themes, a great renovator of the forms. He understood perfectly the medieval courtly ideal, but he often chose to write against the grain, reversing the values and celebrating the lowlifes destined for the gallows, falling happily into parody or lewd jokes, and constantly innovating in his diction and vocabulary; a few minor poems make extensive use of Parisian thieves' slang. Still Villon's verse is mostly about his own life, a record of poverty, trouble, and trial which was certainly shared by his poems' intended audience.

An Amazon blurb of a recent translation by David Georgi says:

One of the most original and influential European poets of the Middle Ages, François Villon took his inspiration from the streets, taverns, and jails of Paris. Villon was a subversive voice speaking from the margins of society. He wrote about love and sex, money trouble, "the thieving rich," and the consolations of good food and wine. His work is striking in its directness, wit, and gritty urban realism. Villon’s writing spurred the development of the psychologically complex first-person voice in lyric poetry. He has influenced generations of avant-garde poets and artists. Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine have emulated Villon’s poetry. Claude Debussy set it to music, and Bertolt Brecht adapted it for the stage. Ezra Pound championed Villon’s poetry and became largely responsible for its impact on modern verse. 

Meanwhile, the Rossetti translation includes words and phrases we find old-fashioned now, but it still makes music. And it gives us that version of the refrain which has become part of our collective consciousness independently of its source – as, I gather, the original, Mais où sont les neiges d'antan? has too. 

There is a free pdf download of good translations by A.S, Kline (2004) here. And there's a collection at PoemHunter where the translations are also good, though unattributed. (Not being a French scholar, I mean 'good' in terms of poetry rather than accuracy.)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Recovery/Healing

"And someday . . .
If the darkness knocks on your door
Remember her, remember me
We will be running as we have before
Running for answers, running for more"

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Midweek Motif ~ 

It will surprise no one that my first motif after back surgery is Recovery.  My lumbar spine is now fusedfour of the five vertebraeand the pain in my legs is GONE!   Thank you, thank you for all your good wishes!  

I am particularly grateful to poet Michael Ryan who has given me permission to use his amazing poem "A Thank-You Note."

Life is precious.

I think about how precious when I look at the news of wars, refugees and broken environments; when I see marvelous new inventions and creative ideas about interacting with all living things; when friends heal into more life or sometimes into death.

Your Challenge is to write a poem 
that heals or has a motif of recovery. 

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A Thank-You Note

                                                                                                          For John Skoyles
My daughter made drawings with the pens you sent,
line drawings that suggest the things they represent,
different from any drawings she — at ten — had done,
closer to real art, implying what the mind fills in.
For her mother she made a flower fragile on its stem;
for me, a lion, calm, contained, but not a handsome one.
She drew a lion for me once before, on a get-well card,
and wrote I must be brave even when it’s hard.
Such love is healing — as you know, my friend,
especially when it comes unbidden from our children
despite the flaws they see so vividly in us.
Who can love you as your child does?
Your son so ill, the brutal chemo, his looming loss
owning you now — yet you would be this generous
to think of my child. With the pens you sent
she has made I hope a healing instrument.
(Source: Poetry (July/August 2013), used with permission.)

Homage Kenneth Koch
If I were doing my Laundry I’d wash my dirty Iran
I’d throw in my United States, and pour on the Ivory Soap, scrub up Africa, put all the birds and elephants back in the jungle,
I’d wash the Amazon river and clean the oily Carib & Gulf of Mexico,   
Rub that smog off the North Pole, wipe up all the pipelines in Alaska,   
Rub a dub dub for Rocky Flats and Los Alamos, Flush that sparkly Cesium out of Love Canal
Rinse down the Acid Rain over the Parthenon & Sphinx, Drain Sludge out of the 
Mediterranean basin & make it azure again . . . 
(Read the rest HERE at the Poetry Foundation)

Motion Picture Footage From "An Inconvenient Truth"

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Please share your new poem using Mr. Linky below
and visit others in the spirit of the community.

       (Next week Susan's Midweek Motif will be ~ Teacher, One who Teaches)