In search of a poem

Girish and I chatted a bit yesterday on my comments page about favorite poets. This put me in the mood to post a poem.

How I find poems to post is sort of a mystical experience. Usually, one thing leads to something else which leads to something else which finally leads to The Poem.

This time, using Girish’s comments as a starting point, I first did a search for Arthur Rimbaud. I didn’t find any poems, but I did find a fascinating article by Michael Walker, Translating Poetry: The Works of Arthur Rimbaud From French to English.

Then I looked up Anne Carson. Again, no poems that said “post me” but I enjoyed reading a Slate article where I learned Carson’s collection, The Beauty of the Husband: A Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos is a “meditation on the Keatsean belief that beauty is truth.”

I didn’t know Keats believed that. I reread some of his poems, but still none seemed right to post. However, I discovered an interesting webpage that has images of Keats’ handwriting.

Next up, James Merrill. Found lots of information about this Pulitzer Prize winning poet but not too many actual poems online. I’ll get back to him.

Last was Charles Simic. I liked his, “The School of Metaphysics.” Close but not quite. Ah, I found it:

A Book Full of Pictures

Father studied theology through the mail
And this was exam time.
Mother knitted. I sat quietly with a book
Full of pictures. Night fell.
My hands grew cold touching the faces
Of dead kings and queens.

There was a black raincoat
in the upstairs bedroom
Swaying from the ceiling,
But what was it doing there?
Mother’s long needles made quick crosses.
They were black
Like the inside of my head just then.

The pages I turned sounded like wings.
“The soul is a bird,” he once said.
In my book full of pictures
A battle raged: lances and swords
Made a kind of wintry forest
With my heart spiked and bleeding in its branches.


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