Showing posts with label poetry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label poetry. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

WITMonth Day 15 | 10 Recommended Poetry Books



Well, we're back to my lists, as always helped by the excellent people of the internet who filled out my WITMonth Recommendation Survey a couple months ago! Today we're moving onto poetry, a category that can include some of the most lyrical writing the world has to offer, as well as some of its most political, powerful, amusing, entertaining, and emotionally wrenching. Not to mention innovative, inspirational, and educational! Let's go.

  1. alphabet - Inger Christensen (tr. from Danish by Susanna Nied): A unique poetry book with its own heartbeat and rhythm, and one that demonstrates the very best of experimental poetry.
  2. Extracting the Stone of Madness: Poems 1962-1972 - Alejandra Pizarnik (tr. from Spanish by Yvette Siegert): A comprehensive collection from an author who has attracted a passionate following in the years since her tragic early death, renowned for her lyricism and personal touch.
  3. Wild Words: Four Tamil Poets - Malathi Maithri, Salma, Kutti Revathi and Sukirtharani (tr. from Tamil by Lakshmi Holmstrom): A collection of four controversial Tamil women, whose writing inspired threats against them but also recognition of their strength and power.
  4. A Rain of Words: A Bilingual Anthology of Women's Poetry in Francophone Africa - edited by Irène Assiba d'Almeida (tr. from French by Janis A. Mayes): Too often forgotten in conversations about women in translation, this collection showcases African women writing in French and spanning a continent.
  5. The Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova - Anna Akhmatova (tr. from Russian by Judith Hemschemeyer): An iconic writer whose works have become modern classics, exploring horror and beauty and war and peace.
  6. Women Poets of China - edited and translated from Chinese by Kenneth Rexroth and Ling Chung: This collection spans Chinese women's poetry from early literature through the early 20th century, showcasing stylistic changes across the eras and the unique perspective women had when writing poetry.
  7. Poems: New and Collected - Wisława Szymborska (tr. from Polish by Clare Cavanagh): A Nobel Prize winning poet in a rich collection (though you can't go wrong with just about any of her works).
  8. The Poetry of Arab Women: A Contemporary Anthology - edited by Nathalie Handal (various translators): While not exclusively women in translation, this collection is vast in its scope and variety with women writers spanning the entire Arab world.
  9. Poems - Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (tr. from Spanish by Margaret Sayers Peden): An early, pre-feminist writer whose poetry remains powerful alongside her more political works.
  10. The Black Flower and Other Zapotec Poems - Natalia Toledo (tr. from Zapotec by Clare Sullivan): Poetry's eternal power on display in this collection of Zapotec poetry, through themes of love and loss and mystery.
Any excellent poets in translation missing from this list? Who are your favorites?

Sunday, April 15, 2018

It by Inger Christensen | Review

I basically put it on my reading list the day after I finished reading Inger Christensen's phenomenal alphabet. I positively raved about alphabet, and even four years later, I stand by those words. That poetry book (book, I emphasized then and again now, not collection) took my breath away (literally, at times) and enchanted me. It was gorgeous and intelligent and perfectly translated by Susanna Nied and I loved every piece of it. Obviously, I would have to read every one of Christensen's books available in English! And again one translated by Nied! So I promptly placed an order for it.

Not quite it
Here is the uncomfortable truth: I began it in the summer of 2014, certain that I would again fall in love with Christensen's words and unique writing style. But I didn't. In fact, I found myself largely bored and disconnected from the text, recognizing much of the technicality that made alphabet so wonderful, but none of the passionate beauty. I set the book aside, fully expecting to return to it within a few days. It (somehow) ended up in the back of my closet (?) and I forgot about it until three weeks ago, when I found it hidden underneath a pile of misfolded shirts.

The bookmark was still buried where I had remembered it being, around a third of the way through. I flipped through the earlier "poems" halfheartedly, seeing the blockish texts that had so turned me off back in the day. But I decided to resume reading, and more importantly I decided to resume reading the book from the point I had stopped. I didn't go back and reread the earlier portion of the book, despite the fact that it is as clearly a whole text as alphabet was. Yet something told me that it would be better to leave the past there, and move forward.

Getting back into the rhythm of the text was difficult. The first few poems felt disjointed, a reminder that I was effectively reading this book from the middle (though I was surprised by how strong a sense from the first part I still had, lodged away in my memory). Some of the context was clearly missing, but not so much that I couldn't keep reading. That, of course, is the beauty of poetry (even book-length, narrative-style poetry) - the vibe, for me, always wins out. How do the poems make me feel? Does the writing move me? Does the writing inspire me? Does the writing transport me? Amuse me? Enrapture me?

Even given this second chance, it largely failed in this regard. Certain poems or segments were gorgeous, trembling with power and eloquence and a sharp eye for reality. And occasionally the loopiness of the writing revisiting certain themes and phrases again and again made me feel like I was getting close to understanding what Christensen was trying to tell me, deep down. But I was never able to move past a general disinterest. For a book designed around a concept, it never got its rhythm down entirely. Most of the repetitions ended up feeling trite and dull; this was made worse by the fact that I didn't connect to some of the themes in the first place, and then having them rehashed over and over ended up leaving me even cooler on the book than beforehand.

It's not that it is bad, because it's not. As a concept, there's a lot to admire in Christensen's definition-breaking writing. There is also no doubt that Christensen had the eye for describing beautifully powerful scenes and images (the "happiness" poems were particularly moving, in my view), and it is all fantastically rendered into English by Susanna Nied. I imagine that had I read this as an independent work, I might have rated it just a bit higher - still not a great book, but a worthwhile poetry book. Yet I had already read alphabet, I already knew that Christensen would someday hone the raw talents displayed in it (a relatively early work) and go far beyond.

There is not so much of Christensen's work available in English, however, that I can ultimately be so picky. I may not have loved it, but I still found plenty to admire within its pages. There is no doubt that Christensen was a stellar poetry experimentalist and her works deserve far greater fame. There is also no doubt that even with this relative disappointment, I will be seeking out Christensen's few other works translated into English. Even if they don't come close to alphabet, they're still much more likely to leave me musing and inspired in all sorts of ways...

Friday, April 21, 2017

Liliana Ursu's poetry is all angles, all edges

My grandfather - whose second language happens to be Romanian - picked up my copy of Liliana Ursu's Goldsmith Market (translated by Sean Cotter) and examined the open, untranslated poem on the left-hand side of the page. He read it aloud, cautiously, skeptically, translating it back to me (into Hebrew, not English), then handed back the book with a decidedly unimpressed expression on his face.

That expression made sense, in all fairness. Not just because my grandfather is not quite the man for poetry recommendations, but also simply because the poem he had read aloud was weak. It was edgy and sharp, but lacking in any powerful message or particularly evocative imagery.

This isn't to say that all of Liliana Ursu's poetry is lacking. Indeed, I've found several poems in Ursu's first full-length English translation that warrant attention and care, poems with power in their angles and sharpness. Poems that breathe new life into frigid air by cutting through it. Take the second half of "A Day in Winter", for example:
A day in winter, a day in summer: same soulsame words, same list of things;only wild ducks fluttering over the frozen green riverkeeps them apart.
The sentences taste brittle, but there's this eerie strength to them as well. But most of the poems in this collection tend to fall into the first category, even with all these "angles". I've said this before and I'll say it again: poetry to me is about feelings as much as it is about language. I probably won't remember the specific words used in a certain poem, but I'll remember how I felt reading it. This means I'm a little less tolerant to bland poetry, particularly ever since I've discovered that there's so much good poetry (particularly in translation, particularly by women).

Ursu's poems aren't solidly bad, they aren't even solidly boring. They're definitely interesting, with that distinct style. There are poems that had me scrambling for air, poems that had me shivering, poems that had me smiling. But the balance tilts just a bit too strongly towards the poems that didn't really mean much on an emotionally stimulating level. Simply put, it's an okay stylistic collection: some gems, some duds. That's to be expected.

Interestingly, I find myself more impressed with the translation, perhaps because of my (very, very limited) knowledge of Romanian. The poems in Romanian had a certain beat to them, one that made some sense to me in terms of that language's style. This rhythm, interestingly, was not maintained in translation. Rather, it seems as though Cotter made a conscious choice to translate style into something English-language speakers would better understand, occasionally changing line structures and thus the poem's flow.

All in all, this collection is far from bad, but it's difficult to offer a rousing endorsement of it either. Its edges provide occasional grasping points, but I can't quite say that I connected with all of it. I can certainly see how other readers might appreciate the sharpness (occasionally harshness) of writing Ursu prefers, but only some of the poems really worked for me.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

WITMonth Day 23 - Women Poets of Japan - A poem

Making my way through this fascinating collection (translated and edited by Kenneth Rexroth and Ikuko Atsumi), and decided to share one of my favorites from it while I focus on recovering.

I Forget - Yoshihara Sachiko

when i awake
i wonder
if the color
i thought i saw
in my dream
was real
or imaginary


was it red?
i turn back
towards the word red
but the color is gone

what i thought was being alive
is only various colors
reflected and
scattered
in my mind

sun setting
turned the windowpane orange
shower spray
was a diamond color
so i thought

now only the memory
of color remains
the window
and the shower spray
have vanished

Saturday, August 8, 2015

WITMonth Day 8 - Classics Challenge - Yu Xuanji's poetry

Yu Xuanji's The Clouds Float North - a collection of the poet's entire poetic repertoire, circa the 9th century, translated by David Young and Jiann I. Lin - is a slim volume, and I'm not quite through it yet. But as inexperienced as I am in reviewing poetry (that is, as bad as I am...), I found myself lingering over a few specific lines and wanting just to share the clarity in these very old poems.

The first thing I noticed is the strange diversity of them: The Clouds Float North is an odd mishmash of flowery language, personal and shared poetry. Some poems here are clearly metaphorical, gently referencing all manner of social interactions. Others are introspective, detailing those small feelings that aren't always easy to put to words. And then there are the universal (ubiquitous) poems about nature and the flow of water or whatever. Beautiful and all, but not necessarily particularly noteworthy. I wouldn't have expected them to be noteworthy, at least.

I'm finding myself drawn much more towards the introspective poems sent to friends - tiny fragments of thoughts which have come down through the years and still fully represent humanity:
I alone feel yearning
without any limit
reciting my own poems
staring up through the pines.
 It's often the punchlines which make me pause and smile, some gentle reminder that humans haven't really changed all that much and our desires - to share our thoughts and words with loved ones - are effectively universal. Yu Xuanji's writing has that slightly transcendent quality of something otherworldly, but totally human as well. And reading her poems makes me feel warm inside, moved by more than just the flowery language or the fact that these poems have been around for far, far longer than I have. This is classic literature I probably never would have known of if not for the Women in Translation project, and I'm glad I'm getting this chance to experience it.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

WITMonth Day 9 - In which I refer you to Ingrid Christensen

I had plans to knock back a few more poetry collections by women writers in translation before today, but alas that didn't happen. Instead, I'm going to refer you all to my review of Ingrid Christensen's phenomenal alphabet - a poetry book unlike any other I've ever read. Happy reading!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

alphabet | Review

I don't always fall for poetry collections. Despite loving poetry, despite having a long and personal relationship with the field, I often find myself dissatisfied with various poetry collections. Some poets, it's true, hit me particularly hard (Sylvia Plath and Czeslaw Milosz, for example), but I'm usually left very cold.

Not so with Inger Christensen's utterly breathtaking alphabet, one of the most innovative, beautiful, intelligent and finely crafted poetry books I've ever read in my life.

When I use the word "breathtaking" to describe alphabet, it is not merely a hyperbole. alphabet literally left me breathless as I found myself reading along aloud and getting utterly swept up in the words. It's not just the rhythm of the poems, which are all built with the same calm structure, all swept around existence, all flowing almost flawlessly into each other. There's also something about the way the poems lead into the next, the way they form a whole. The way I found myself mouthing the words, reading them aloud and incapable of letting them glide by me passively. This is nearly impossible for any poetry book. For one in translation? I was in awe.

I keep using the term "poetry book" for a very specific reason - alphabet is explicitly not a collection. Many poetry collections have similar themes and ideas running through them, but alphabet can and should be viewed as a single unit. Each poem is essentially a chapter in a growing story, a growing understanding of the world and of humanity. These chapters are framed by the alphabet (hence the title), going from A to N. Here we find the only possible flaw in the book, where occasionally the words that appear in the new chapter don't actually start with the official letter in English. I felt like this would have been purely entrancing in the native Danish, but truthfully it flowed so perfectly in English that except for the letter J or so, I felt no awkwardness in translation.

alphabet really is a masterpiece. It's a masterpiece of the type that I think any curious reader should seek out, a book that's both beautiful, interesting, and perfectly translated. It's truly something special, even if you don't usually read poetry. It's just brilliant, period. And you should all read it.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A disappointing underdog | Thoughts

So I've been reading this fairly slim Israeli, independently published poetry collection for just over a month now. I'm not done yet. In fact, I'm only two-thirds of the way through. The book - with its bright orange cover - mocks me from my bedside. I can't seem to finish it.

I know poetry collections aren't like novels. Novels usually need to be read straight through - stops along the way break up the flow and generally make it harder for me to appreciate the book. Poetry isn't like that. Poetry can be read in pieces, spread out across years and years. And yet there's something about reading a poetry collection straight through that thrills me. Reading Sylvia Plath's The Colossus a few weeks back was like that - exhilaration and excitement at the way the poems fit together but didn't overlap. The way they didn't repeat themselves. The way they each stood out.

There's something about rooting for the underdog. It's like the love for all things indie, or strange literature, or translated books, or all of the above. A small, Israeli published poetry collection? Underdog laws say I ought to praise it highly, recommend it to all my friends, spread the word. But I can't, and I feel guilty for it.

The reason I can't is because the collection is, for lack of a better term, boring. The language is lovely and the poems have a great sound when read aloud, but they are lacking heart, diversity and fire. Religious half-themes crop up frequently, but rather emptily, more for their vocabulary than for their actual soul. And personal references are rather detached and emotionless. These poems are bland - not dull and certainly not badly written, but nothing worth mentioning by name and certainly not worth reading in one sitting. They are repetitive. They do not move me.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Thoughts on poetry and Sylvia Plath

The cliche to reading Sylvia Plath entails a certain darkness. It should be nighttime, cold, the reader in a dark and hushed environment, wrapped in a heavy blanket, melancholy and sadness set deep in order to fully appreciate the distinctly depressive undertones that ripple throughout Plath's poetry. The reader is in a deeply meditative mood, contemplating each word and every sound individually and carefully. That's the cliche.

So of course I sat down to read Plath's The Colossus on a bright, sunny Friday afternoon at a pool party, with a loud, cheerful pop playlist and the happy sounds of the party-goers enjoying themselves in the pool accompanying Plath's gorgeous heavy poetry.

I've liked Sylvia Plath for years, ever since I first read The Bell Jar. I read the book in one sitting at the library, curled up in a thoroughly uncomfortable chair, but completely and utterly enraptured by the characters and the language of Plath's only novel. I was barely sixteen, at a particularly difficult point in my life, and that "gorgeous heaviness" spoke to me. A few weeks later, I started investigating Plath's poetry, but I never really delved into it fully. Now, a few years later, I find myself visiting this strange tortured land again and yes, I love it.

This isn't a review of The Colossus. At this point in my life, I absolutely lack the credentials to review poetry. I can only enjoy poetry for what it is, enjoy it for its sounds and its rhythms, for the emotional impact it leaves on me and for the way it touches me. Poetry is less about the technical, individual aspects that I can dissect novels into. Poetry is much more personal - what hits me like a ton of bricks might not even make your eyelids twitch.

I liked The Colossus. Plath has an obvious way with words (her vocabulary is unreasonably and wonderfully complex), but more than that the poems breathe. They're different and beautiful and powerful all at once. Unlike most poetry collections, I was able to sit and swallow The Colossus in one or two sittings, without feeling like the poems repeated themselves thematically or lyrically. And contrary to what we like to say, Plath's poetry isn't really dark. It's a bit heavy, yes, but I didn't feel as thoroughly depressed as I might get reading teen poetry anthologies. Or even some classic Romantic poetry. Not happy, but I left The Colossus feeling not as though I'd been emptied, but as though I'd been filled somehow - beautiful words, images and thoughts that have left me with a taste for more poetry...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The greatest poem ever written - Love and tensor algebra

From Stanislaw Lem's The Cyberiad, translated by Michael Kandel:

In an attempt to test out a new "bard machine":
"Very well. Let's have a love poem, lyrical, pastoral, and expressed in the language of pure mathematics. Tensor algebra mainly, with a little topology and higher calculus, if need be. But with feeling, you understand, and in the cybernetic spirit."
"Love and tensor algebra? Have you taken leave of your sense?" Trurl began, but stopped, for his electronic bard was already declaiming:
Come, let us hasten to a higher plane,
Where dyads tread the fairy fields of Venn,
Their indices bedecked from one to n,
Commingled in an endless Markov chain!

Come, every frustum longs to be a cone,
And ever vector dreams of matrices.
Hark to the gentle gradient of the breeze:
It whispers of a more ergodic zone.

In Riemann, Hilbert or in Banach space
Let superscripts and subscripts go their ways.
Our asymptotes no longer out of phase,
We shall encounter, counting, face to face.

I'll grant thee random access to my heart,
Thou'lt tell me all the constants of thy love:
And so we two shall all love's lemmas prove,
And in our bound partition never part.

For what did Cauchy know, or Christoffel,
Or Fourier, or any Boole or Euler,
Wielding their compasses, their pens and rulers,
Of thy supernal sinusoidal spell?

Cancel me not - for what then shall remain?
Abscissas, some mantissas, modules, modes,
A root or two, a torus and a node:
The inverse of my verse, a null domain.

Ellipse of bliss, converge, O lips divine!
The producs of our scalars is defined!
Cyberiad draws nigh, and the skew mind
Cuts capers like a happy haversine.

I see the eigenvalue in thine eye,
I hear the tender tensor in thy sigh.
Bernoulli would have been content to die,
Had he but known such a2 cos 2 φ!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Poem of the month

Lo, this land that lifts around it
Threatening peaks, while stern seas bound it,
With cold winters, summers bleak,
Curtly smiling, never meek,
'Tis the giant we must master,
Till he work our will the faster.
He shall carry, though he clamor,
He shall haul and saw and hammer,
Turn to light the tumbling torrent,—
All his din and rage abhorrent
Shall, if we but do our duty,
Win for us a realm of beauty.

Master or Slave - Bjornstjerne Bjornson

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

In honor of Bacchus

This weekend, I happened upon my 1939 edition of The Oxford Book of English Verse. This is a poetry collection I purchased in eighth or ninth grade for that years poetry unit, enjoying the old-school styles and poems. As I now flipped through the small hardback book, I noticed that several slips of paper served as bookmarks, and also that I had dog-eared many of the pages. Surprised, I began to take more care in my perusal of the book, trying to spot which poems had struck my 13-year old fancy.

The following find particularly made me laugh. I suspect it did back then, too.

A Drinking-Song

Bacchus must now his power resign -
I am the only God of Wine!
It is not fit the wretch should be
In competition set with me,
Who can drink ten times more than he.

Make a new world, ye powers divine!
Stock'd with nothing else but Wine:
Let Wine its only product be,
Let Wine be earth, and air, and sea -
And let that Wine be all for me!
-Henry Carey

Friday, April 22, 2011

A poetry story

A lovely 'Even Hoshen' edition
Czesław Miłosz and I "met" in late spring of 2006. The days were warm and sunny, the atmosphere carefree and happy. The school year was coming to a close. Our end-of-the-year English unit was poetry, as was our summarizing final project and exam (more details here). I was impressed enough with Miłosz writing to give him the front-centre spot in the project, and enough to remember his name. And yet.
 
And yet it took me an additional five years to read further Miłosz poems, this time in another language. When an article in the Ha'aretz Book Review (partial English representation here) mentioned a newly published translation of a collection of Miłosz poems, I immediately took note. During the National Book Week, I visited the booth of this publisher (small, independent and almost entirely unknown... sadly). I picked up the book was struck by the beauty of the edition. This was not a simple publication. I could discuss the publishers at length (at a later time), but suffice to say that the edition is positively lovely - heavy paper, a distinct blue font, and specially drawn images scattered throughout the book. A book for a true bibliophile. And Miłosz lover.

I did not immediately dive into It (as the collection is called in this edition). I took my time, occasionally reading a poem here and there. One evening, I sat down to read a few poems before bed. One left a particularly strong impression. "Meaning":

When I die, I will see the lining of the world.
The other side, beyond bird, mountain, sunset.
The true meaning, ready to be decoded.
What never added up will add up,
What was incomprehensible will be comprehended.


And if there is no lining to the world?
If a thrush on a branch is not a sign,
But just a thrush on the branch? If night and day
Make no sense following each other?
And on this earth there is nothing except this earth?

 
Even if that is so, there will remain
A word wakened by lips that perish,
A tireless messenger who runs and runs
Through interstellar fields, through the revolving galaxies,
And calls out, protests, screams.


(translation Robert Hass)

It's a poem that can impact a reader in two languages (or possibly more). This is why I return to Miłosz, why I do like some poetry. I'm not a huge poetry reader, but poems like this - poems that move a reader enough to read them again and again and again without the words growing old - are the reason I will continue to seek out new poets. And return to the talented ones.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Some light reading and a quote

Found in the form of Sylvia Plath's unabridged diaries. While reading someone's personal thoughts is a bit disconcerting at times, the book is good for sporadic reads. Plath is one of few poets I've actually read and the occasional poems and poetic moments in her diaries make this a fascinating read. That and Plath's infamous depression. And irony of ironies, as I began reading this heavy book (674 pages, not including the notes), I came across this line on page 10:
And I don't want to die.
Normally, that would appear to be a completely normal sentence. Especially taken in context, where she sounds glum but determined to live. Still, knowing how Plath's life ends makes this simple sentence positively reek of irony. Aside from that, the book is, so far, not much beyond well-written diaries with a bit too much angst on their mind. Also perhaps the prequel to "The Bell Jar". The stalker-sensation is slowly fading and I think this might help further my understanding of "The Bell Jar" and of Plath's poetry. Or I'll continue analyzing this like I might a novel and point here to some foreshadowing. But that seems a bit too morbid.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Thoughts on poetry

Following the recent announcements regarding this year's Pulitzer winners, the Guardian wrote up a piece about the poetry winner, WS Merwin. It's an interesting article that's bound to make readers go out looking for some of Merwin's works. It certainly made me want to go out and learn more. But I found myself wondering: Merwin has received two Pulitzer prizes and I had not heard of him until now. I mentioned the newer forms of poetry a couple of weeks ago but I didn't really go into the "standard" poetry that's still around. You don't meet people on the street who introduce themselves as "professional poet". And those writers who do spend a lot of time on poetry often delve into other fields as well (quite understandably).

As National Poetry Month comes to a close, the lack of interest in poetry today becomes more and more apparent. My 9th grade poetry unit may have been my final, but my class was not exposed to a wide range of older and modern poetry. Instead, each student was told to find ten poems and put them on a colorful, artistic t-shirt. As projects go, not bad. But most students restricted their finds to the books the teacher left in the classroom, teen anthologies and mostly out-there poetry. In my own out-of-school searches, I stumbled upon Czesław Miłosz and discovered very special writing. But when I showed the poems to other students, they showed little interest, pointing out that the point of the project was ultimately just the artistic side. Reciting poetry required little delving into the real literary aspects of the poems. And I too quickly forgot the poetry unit, focusing more on the novels read during the year.

Ultimately, my own personal shame at not knowing Mr Merwin will carry on until I read some of his works. I've already admitted to being woefully uneducated in the ways of poetry, but I suspect if I had received more exposure to it, I might actually seek out poets, rather than randomly discover them (Miłosz, Sylvia Plath, Blake...). One of my favorite books is still an old poetry anthology from the early 20th century. Why I am not so connected to modern poetry continues to baffle and disappoint me.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Poetry of lyrics

I'm not much of a poetry fan or poet, but there's a charm to reading poems every once in a while. Literature seems, somehow, to include poetry in it. The Guardian writes about poems about as often as it writes about novels. Some poems are actually books (I'm looking at you, Homer), long epics that tell a story in rhymes (often lost in translation). And don't get me started on the poetry translation theory. But as I was rereading my favorite Shakespeare sonnet the other day, I was struck by the opening line which was what had made it my favorite in the first place:
Music to hear, why hear'st thou music sadly?
Right. So not remarkable on its own, but something there is interesting. A poem (a sonnet, no less) starts out with reference to something very closely related to poetry: music. These days, poetry publications are fairly rare. People made a big deal of someone reading a poem at the presidential inauguration. There isn't much of a culture for poetry. It's not really taught in school, and if it is, it's done in a very boring way. And yet poetry is not dead. Sylvia Plath, poet and novelist, is still famous. And not simply for the incredible "The Bell Jar", but also (mostly) for her poetry. Indeed, even her early poetry is enough to make readers sit back and shiver a little:

The mindless April leaves heave sighs
And twirl in aimless sarabandes.
My fingers curl and clutch the sky;
Green blood flows in green-veined hands.

This is a snippet but it leaves an impression. Either I'm woefully uninformed (also an ominous sign) or the standard form of poetry is going out of style. Exit Shelley (Percy, beautiful poems), enter music. Lyrics, to be more precise. The last few years have seen a rise in story-like songs, songs with impressive word choices and clever games. As music styles themselves develop, so do the lyrics that accompany them. Some bands tell stories clearly with nothing particularly complex. Others choose to literally put poetry to music. I can think of many songs with very special lyrics. An example:
To dress up your wounds
Wash off the salt
Freshen the blooms
At your sea-rusted altar
While simple, this chorus from "Fire Snakes" (Laura Veirs) has an underlying poetic feel to it. Most of her songs do. This is just one example for this kind of music-driven poetry. And it seems English teachers are catching on. So while there are hundreds of poem-songs out there, some better than others (apologies to all the great lyrics that couldn't fit in this post today; the draw was entirely random), it's interesting to see the not-so-stark comparisons between these "poems" and Shakespeare, who instead wondered why we listen to music sadly. Anyone with specific poetic songs are welcome to leave bring them up.

And let's not forget: Croatian, Hebrew, and Slovenian all use the same word to mean both "song" and "poem".