SONG BE DELICATE by John Shaw Neilson
Let your song be delicate. The skies declare No war — the eyes of lovers Wake everywhere. Let your voice be delicate. How faint a thing Is Love, little Love crying Under the Spring. Let your song be delicate. The flowers can hear: Too well they know the tremble, Of the hollow year. Let your voice be delicate. The bees are home: All their day's love is sunken Safe in the comb. Let your song be delicate. Sing no loud hymn: Death is abroad . . . Oh, the black season! The deep — the dim!
I featured the late Australian poet John Shaw Neilson in 'I Wish I'd Written This' in August 2012, with a mysterious, haunting poem called The Orange Tree. This one is almost equally so, and the line 'Let your song be delicate' has come back to me at random moments all my life, since the age of 13 when I first became acquainted with this poet — as a sweet phrase rather than an instruction.
But let's take it as an instruction now, and attempt some writing with the delicacy and song-like qualities he both recommends and exemplifies.
So your challenge is to let your song be delicate . . .
Or not – read on:
On the other hand, though delicate poetry can be very lovely, there's also a place for the harsh and uncompromising. Perhaps you're more inclined to fire in the belly, a poetry of strength and passion? Even the ugly and the shocking may have a place in poetry, if it has a point to make. Let another dead Aussie, Shelton Lea, also featured here, and capable himself of great delicacy, put you in a very different mood with this brief untitled piece from The Paradise Poems:
COULD YOU KILL A DOG WITH A HAMMER?
WOULD YOU STAMMER WHEN YOU CRUSHED THE SKULL OF A CHILD?
AND IF YOU FOUGHT A MAN TO DEATH WITH BOOTS WOULD YOU BE BEGUILED BY HIS BLOOD?
AND WHEN YOU'VE STABBED AND STABBED AT YOUR UNFAITHFUL LOVER, WOULD YOU FEEL MILD AND CALM, LIKE AFTER A BLOODY GOOD SCREW?
OR WOULD YOU BLUBBER TO INSANITY?
SOME PEOPLE DO.
SOME PEOPLE DO.
Nothing song-like about that! It's a yell. (Yes, it was written and published in all caps, before the internet existed.) He makes a great case for writing like John Shaw Nielson, doesn't he?Yet I know some of you, dear readers, don't shirk the confrontational either.
Perhaps there need be no contradiction; it is also possible for delicacy and strength, mystery and the mundane, to combine. You might like to try that possibility too. For instance Joyce Lee, yet another late great Australian, wrote this when she was close to dying (aged 94):
Still small voice
(from Bountiful Years)
An earthbound day,
thick cloud, oppressive air,
you spend hours
cleaning up spills and breakages.
paints on cloud canvas,
in afterglow. Reflections
of the Presence always known,
Soft warm light
filters through, unlocks
your dark recesses.
The place you dreamed
to rooms inhabited
beyond your furthest thought.
A voice advises
"Ask me in joy as well as need."
Truthfully, I'd love it if you all tried for delicate song today, as it suits my mood – but if your mood is otherwise, by all means express that.
(Images used are free from the internet.)
(Next week's Motif will be 'choices.')
Please share your new poem using Mr. Linky below and visit others in the spirit of the community.
Good morning, Poet Friends! Rosemary, this is a fascinating prompt. I never thought about writing a ‘delicate’ poem before. I will be anxious to see what others write. Have a great week.ReplyDelete
So glad you enjoyed it, Mary. :-)Delete
My mood went somewhere in the middle full of contrasting textures and feelings. I tried to use very natural elements to indirectly address this.ReplyDelete
Maybe I will give it another go tomorrow
Thank you to everyone that joined the conversation on Sherrie s spotlight of my poem too. Enjoyed the conversation.Delete
I loved the little bit that you and Sherry allowed. I hope you do it again soon!Delete
Somewhere in the middle is acceptable too!Delete
Thank you most delicately - in our usual contrary way i think we may have done a little of both!ReplyDelete
I love what you did! A little of both is fine.Delete
Thank you Rosemary - much appreciatedDelete
I found the delicate in my day for this, Rosemary. Thank you for placing the thought in my head and providing so much inspiration.ReplyDelete
I loved the depth of your poem too, Susan.Delete
This is a beautiful prompt Rosemary...ReplyDelete
And your response was full of beauty, Sumana!Delete
Dear Rosemary, I think I used up most of my delicate yesterday. Today, I went for the hammer. But I'm sending you some delicate cyber-hugs. Does that count? ;-)ReplyDelete
Great hammer! And the hugs are welcome too. :)Delete
Oh, this is fun! (You realise I haven't done a prompt here before?) It's great to see so many have posted to it already, and they are all wonderful reads. Thank you.ReplyDelete
I just wanted to say, here is why I love coming to PU.ReplyDelete
I was in a faculty meeting this morning for an hour and a half before school. I just got out of that meeting and everyone through Sumana had already stopped in to read the piece I had submitted. That is just cool, cause that does not happen in any other poetry site that I have been in.
Alright, off to the classroom. I will catch up with others at my break.
Well, this poem is not brand new, but I wrote it only a month ago. I think it fits the theme well though. It is about how our perspective can change the personal meaning of a song (or a poem). It is titled: Listening (Grateful Perspective)ReplyDelete
Thanks! Have a great day!
Haven't seen you before, I don't think! Welcome.....Delete
It does indeed fit the theme well, Robert. And it's such a sweet piece of synchronicity that my own response to my own prompt was also titled LIstening. :-)Delete
Thanks for the warm welcome.Delete
Hope you're having a wonderful week so far, sharing my poem "Smile" hope you all like it :D
Lots of love,
Impossible not to like it, Sanaa! *Smile*.Delete
Such a lovely prompt! Enjoyed writing for it. And now looking forward to read all the lovely poems here :)ReplyDelete
And I much enjoyed reading your poem, Purba!Delete
Music runs deep in my life and it is something I have inherited so it is lovely to see how "the song" connects generations.ReplyDelete
Happy Wednesday all
Happy Wednesday Leslie :D :DDelete
And lovely to see how you conveyed that abiding connection.Delete
this prompt is like quiet rippling over the ocean, i luv itReplyDelete
have a good Wednesday poet friends
I loved seeing what you did with it, Gillena - delicate indeed!Delete
Thank you, Rosemary. Hmmm, my still waters run deep: Delicately violent.ReplyDelete
The delicate violence of ongoing grief and loss - yes - something many of us live with, yet it is always intensely personal.Delete
Great prompt Rosemary. I enjoyed the poems you highlighted here, even the not so delicate one.ReplyDelete
Yes, that's a pretty amazing poem, I think, even though it's so confronting that it still makes me reel after many years' acquaintanceship.Delete
I'm always intrigued to see where these prompts will lead us...ReplyDelete
It seemed to lead people quite deep, I'm gratified to note.Delete
Oops my url changed as I updated my domain ~ second one's correct...Delete
Thank you, for the challenge, Rosemary...I will return to read as soon as possible...it may need to be tomorrow afternoon though...please be patient with me...thank you!!ReplyDelete
No problem, Hannah. It often takes me a few days to read all responses to prompts I participate in. (It's OK to have a life, lol.)Delete
Yes, I agree...thank you, for your understanding. :) I hope you're having a great week!Delete
I gave it a try. thanksReplyDelete
Thank you for your very thoughtful prompt. I have been absent from Poets United for several weeks with domestic commitments and, preparing my second book of poetry. I am anxious to return to my more regular writing and was delighted to find this opportunity. Anything connected to my Ulster homeland, will always touch a delicate heart and eye!!
Wonderful to see you, Eileen! You were missed...exciting to hear about your 2nd book of poetry.Delete
I loved the tenderness with which you wrote of your homeland. (Smile.)Delete
Hello everyone! My poem, I hope, is a delicate piece dedicated to all those praying for an absolution to their daily sufferings. May it warm a heart, kiss the unloved, welcome the hurt, and ease the tears of the battered and abused. God bless everyone!!!ReplyDelete
So many nice thoughts you have expressed here, James!Delete
I read it as a most beautiful prayer which I too would pray.Delete
thank you Mary and Rosemary for the nice comments. i wrote it during a blissful moment. God bless each of you. loves, jtDelete
Mr. Linky vanishes again! Mine is up at: https://purplepeninportland.wordpress.com/2015/09/19/songs-playing-softly/ReplyDelete