Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma, Tonga

Saturday, April 30, 2005

April cannot satisfy the need for Poetry Month

Eliot was right:

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

We need to attend to our responsibility for the consequences of our actions on this planet, but we are tangled more than is usual in the banal actions that make up our days. In the meantime, someone slips us an opportunity to ease out of the imposed prose restraints disguise significance. Poetry Month-- what a concept; what a conceit.

And I relish it. Taxes come and go; I lick the stamp and seal the envelope with a tongue sweetened by the words of Donne.

I am two fools, I know,
For loving, and for saying so
In whining poetry...

Poetry needs more than one month, especially a month as short and fragmented as April. Then, too, April-- although ideal for mixing passion and poetry-- is somehow inadequately sharp and biting for some kinds of poems. John Betjeman needs a different season altogether.

"In Westminster Abbey"

Let me take this other glove off
As the vox humana swells,
And the beauteous fields of Eden
Bask beneath the Abbey bells.
Here, where England's statesmen lie,
Listen to a lady's cry.

Gracious Lord, oh bomb the Germans,
Spare their women for Thy Sake,
And if that is not too easy
We will pardon Thy Mistake.
But, gracious Lord, whate'er shall be,
Don't let anyone bomb me.

Keep our Empire undismembered
Guide our Forces by Thy Hand,
Gallant blacks from far Jamaica,
Honduras and Togoland;
Protect them Lord in all their fights,
And, even more, protect the whites.

Think of what our Nation stands for,
Books from Boots' and country lanes,
Free speech, free passes, class distinction,
Democracy and proper drains.
Lord, put beneath Thy special care
One-eighty-nine Cadogan Square.

Although dear Lord I am a sinner,
I have done no major crime;
Now I'll come to Evening Service
Whensoever I have the time.
So, Lord, reserve for me a crown,
And do not let my shares go down.

I will labour for Thy Kingdom,
Help our lads to win the war,
Send white feathers to the cowards
Join the Women's Army Corps,
Then wash the steps around Thy Throne
In the Eternal Safety Zone.

Now I feel a little better,
What a treat to hear Thy Word,
Where the bones of leading statesmen
Have so often been interr'd.
And now, dear Lord, I cannot wait
Because I have a luncheon date.

Somehow disconcerting, somehow comforting; some similarities jar me, superimposing one decade and decadent empire over another. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

So we learn, we read, we listen and speak. Those whose gifts include verse help us to capture and then release grief and delight, fear and love, reality and more-- and we are once again divinely human.

"Who are a little wise, the best fools be."