I think I made a giant step forward in my appreciation of poetry today (as a participant in Lynn and Liz’s Poetry Thursday). I was asleep this morning; it was about 6AM. The morning light drizzled through the blinds and rested on my naked body sprawled across my bed like the Roman God of Virility announcing to the world, “I am Man.”
“Damn alarm clock!” I said, as this annoying sound pounded into my ear. I slammed the alarm clock into “snooze” mode. But the sound continued. It was not my alarm clock. It was some stupid bird outside in a tree (a crow, perhaps?).
To me, this crow sounded like an alarm clock.
Now, what does this have to do with poetry?
On Monday night, I went to the Beverly Hills Library and skimmed through some poetry books. I noticed that poets are always using nature as a way of describing their lives.
“She was as angry as a tornado.”
“Her green eyes were like leaves of grass.”
Now, I grew up in New York, and spent much of my adult life in Los Angeles. I love nature as much as the next guy (despite being allergic to most of it). I’ve seen the greatness of Yosemite — and even got a cool Ansel Adams poster at the gift shop. I love the sound of rivers flowing. I’ve enjoyed Vermont and her colorful Fall.
But I’m not really at home with nature. It doesn’t really feel natural for me to describe Sophia as “a tiger in the bedroom,” because I have no idea what a real tiger would do in a bedroom. I’ve seen tigers in the zoo. I’ve seen tigers at the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. I know a tiger mauled Siegfried — or was it Roy?
So, as I woke up this morning, I gave some thought to the statement:
“That annoying crow sounds like my alarm clock.”
I’m sure if Yeats was alive today and living in my crappy apartment instead of me, and the alarm clock would go off, he would have look over at the clock and say:
“That weird clock with a smiling face sounds just like a crow!”
He knows about crows, but nothing about alarm clocks. I know about alarm clocks, but nothing about crows.
Maybe I would enjoy poetry more if I can find some poems that related to me in a more personal way — more about how crows sound like alarm clocks rather than how alarm clocks sound like crows. You know, the way women eat up all those chick lit novels because it relates to their own lives.
So, today I searched around for poems that focused more on the urban experience, and I found quite a few.
I particularly liked the following poem by Amy Lowell (February 9, 1874 – May 12, 1925). Lowell, was an American poet of the imagist school, who posthumously won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1926. Many of her poems have lesbian themes, but this poem focuses on the darkness of Industrial Age New York City.
New York at Night by Amy Lowell
A near horizon whose sharp jags
Cut brutally into a sky
Of leaden heaviness, and crags
Of houses lift their masonry
Ugly and foul, and chimneys lie
And snort, outlined against the gray
Of lowhung cloud. I hear the sigh
The goaded city gives, not day
Nor night can ease her heart, her anguished labours stay.
Below, straight streets, monotonous,
From north and south, from east and west,
Stretch glittering; and luminous
Above, one tower tops the rest
And holds aloft man’s constant quest:
Time! Joyless emblem of the greed
Of millions, robber of the best
Which earth can give, the vulgar creed
Has seared upon the night its flaming ruthless screed.
O Night! Whose soothing presence brings
The quiet shining of the stars.
O Night! Whose cloak of darkness clings
So intimately close that scars
Are hid from our own eyes. Beggars
By day, our wealth is having night
To burn our souls before altars
Dim and tree-shadowed, where the light
Is shed from a young moon, mysteriously bright.
Where art thou hiding, where thy peace?
This is the hour, but thou art not.
Will waking tumult never cease?
Hast thou thy votary forgot?
Nature forsakes this man-begot
And festering wilderness, and now
The long still hours are here, no jot
Of dear communing do I know;
Instead the glaring, man-filled city groans below!
A year ago on Citizen of the Month: A Letter to Diane Keaton