Saturday, November 20, 2010

Classic Poetry - (Genius & Those Annual Bills - Mark Twain)


Genius, like gold and precious stones,
is chiefly prized because of its rarity.

Geniuses are people who dash of weird, wild,
incomprehensible poems with astonishing facility,
and get booming drunk and sleep in the gutter.

Genius elevates its possessor to ineffable spheres
far above the vulgar world and fills his soul
with regal contempt for the gross and sordid things of earth.

It is probably on account of this
that people who have genius
do not pay their board, as a general thing.

Geniuses are very singular.

If you see a young man who has frowsy hair
and distraught look, and affects eccentricity in dress,
you may set him down for a genius.

If he sings about the degeneracy of a world
which courts vulgar opulence
and neglects brains,
he is undoubtedly a genius.

If he is too proud to accept assistance,
and spurns it with a lordly air
at the very same time
that he knows he can't make a living to save his life,
he is most certainly a genius.

If he hangs on and sticks to poetry,
notwithstanding sawing wood comes handier to him,
he is a true genius.

If he throws away every opportunity in life
and crushes the affection and the patience of his friends
and then protests in sickly rhymes of his hard lot,
and finally persists,
in spite of the sound advice of persons who have got sense
but not any genius,
persists in going up some infamous back alley
dying in rags and dirt,
he is beyond all question a genius.

But above all things,
to deftly throw the incoherent ravings of insanity into verse
and then rush off and get booming drunk,
is the surest of all the different signs
of genius.

Mark Twain

Those Annual Bills

These annual bills! these annual bills!

How many a song their discord trills
Of "truck" consumed, enjoyed, forgot,
Since I was skinned by last year's lot!

Those joyous beans are passed away;
Those onions blithe, O where are they?
Once loved, lost, mourned—now vexing ILLS
Your shades troop back in annual bills!

And so 'twill be when I'm aground
These yearly duns will still go round,
While other bards, with frantic quills,
Shall damn and damn these annual bills!

~ Mark Twain
(Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain 30 November 1835 - 21 April 1910)

So tell us honestly, did you realize or know that Mark Twain wrote poetry?  Many people do not know he was a poet.  They are to blinded by his other great works; Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer. Do you like these two poems?  I, as a poet love the last few lines in genius becuase it justifies my insanity lol.  Please share any thoughts you have concerning this selection in the comments section below.  We look forward to hearing your thoughts about these poems and Mark Twain.  Do you have another poem you like by Mr Clemens?  Please post a link to it in the comment section so we can read it too.

Poets United posts a classic poem once weekly. We want to do this to introduce classic poets and their poems to our members. It is also a way to display different styles, genres and approaches to poetry. Our intent is to further expand the world of poetry while educating ourselves.

If you have a classic poem or set of prose you are fond of please let us know by emailing it to us at


  1. No poem from me - just a hint.
    'Too', not 'to' is used when it means either 'too much' or 'as well' - so your last line should read 'so we can read it too'.
    The spelling you used would have to be ' so we can read it to somebody - (i.e. "One reads to A N Other")
    Hope this helps?

  2. Yikes my o fell off the page!! I swear I put it there! LOL ty for the heads up Jinksy, sometimes haste and spelling combine to be my worst enemy. That and maybe left over lasagna.

  3. Witty poems. I'd like to see Mark Twain's face if he saw how big the annual bills are nowadays! His teeth would all fall out from sheer horror:)

  4. I can see and hear Mark Twain, portrayed by Hal Holbrook, going back and forth on the stage reeling off Genius. Thanks for showcasing those excellent choices.

  5. This is timely, since there is a lot of buzz this week with the publication of Autobiography of Mark Twain: The Complete and Authoritative Edition, Volume 1.

  6. OMG...I knew he was a Genius, but now we all can justify our exsistence. Twain lived in Northern Cal for awhile he had a big influence and has a large following here...great post...bkm

  7. My brother brought Twains autobiography by this evening just having finished it himself. Who is the Twain of our time, or is there one John Stewart maybe?.. But Mark Twain was so special, so singularly amazing as writer, social commentator and human being, great poem, great post. I can't wait to start reading it tonight.

  8. It should also be "dash off", not "dash of."

    I had not realized that Twain wrote poetry. I did know, however, that despite his populist writings, he was a man quite concerned with the trappings of success. So, not surprising, then, that he should be buried in bills!

  9. Good concept, a classic every week.Good choices this week. Bills have had a long history apparently and still causing consternation

  10. I always felt I was, but now I know, I'm a drunken genius!

  11. There were at least five hundred English-language poets who excelled the purported poems of Samuel Clemens. Although granted, vastly few of them were his countrymen.


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