“A clock is a little machine that shuts us out from the wonder of time.” ~ Susan Glaspell
“The sunlight claps the earth, and the moonbeams kiss the sea: what are all these kissings worth, if thou kiss not me?” ~ Percy Bysshe Shelley
Spring is practically here and love is in the air. Why not count the minutes with kisses? 🙂
there are so many tictoc
clocks everywhere telling people
what toctic time it is for
tictic instance five toc minutes toc
past six tic
Spring is not regulated and does
not get out of order nor do
its hands a little jerking move
over numbers slowly
we do not
wind it up it has no weights
springs wheels inside of
its slender self no indeed dear
nothing of the kind.
(So,when kiss Spring comes
we'll kiss each kiss other on kiss the kiss
lips because tic clocks toc don't make
a toctic difference
to kisskiss you and to
~ from erotic poems by E.E. Cummings (W.W. Norton & Co., 2010)
How’s that for sweet seduction? 🙂
Indeed, Cummings makes a great case for unbridled passion — no regulated constraints, no measured monotony. Just bring on the sensuous delights, surprising, even sudden. For something this delicious, toss your clocks out the window. After all, love has a way of making time stand still.
As you probably know, Cummings wrote many poems celebrating spring and love, often defining one in terms of the other. I think of “O sweet spontaneous earth . . . thou answerst them only with spring,” “we’re alive,dear:it’s(kiss me now)spring!,” “springtime is lovetime and viva sweet love,” or stanzas like this one:
(with a low high low
and the bird on the bough)
--we never we know
(so kiss me) shy sweet eagerly
“It is interesting to note that poetry, a literary device whose very construct involves the use of words, is itself the word of choice by persons grasping to describe something so beautiful it is marvelously ineffable.” ~ Vanna Bonta
We sometimes hear people say, “words fail me.” Have you ever been stymied trying to write about something you care deeply about, frustrated that everything you come up with falls short?
Whether grief, elation, bafflement, or love — we often fall victim to cliché or manage a fair approximation at best.
In this poem, Jack Gilbert suggests that love — the most intense and wide ranging emotion human beings are capable of experiencing — might be the most challenging to describe in words. It’s ironic how Gilbert acknowledges the imperfection of language with a poem that is perfection in itself. 🙂
THE FORGOTTEN DIALECT OF THE HEART by Jack Gilbert
How astonishing it is that language can almost mean,
and frightening that it does not quite. Love, we say, God, we say, Rome and Michiko, we write, and the words
get it wrong. We say bread and it means according
to which nation. French has no word for home,
and we have no word for strict pleasure. A people
in northern India is dying out because their ancient tongue
has no words for endearment. I dream of lost
vocabularies that might express some of what
we no longer can. Maybe the Etruscan texts would
finally explain why the couples on their tombs
are smiling. And maybe not. When the thousands
of mysterious Sumerian tablets were translated,
they seemed to be business records. But what if they
are poems or psalms? My joy is the same as twelve
Ethiopian goats standing silent in the morning light.
O Lord, thou art slabs of salt and ingots of copper,
as grand as ripe barley lithe under the wind’s labor.
Her breasts are six white oxen loaded with bolts
of long-fibered Egyptian cotton. My love is a hundred
pitchers of honey. Shiploads of thuya are what
my body wants to say to your body. Giraffes are this
desire in the dark. Perhaps the spiral Minoan script
is not a language but a map. What we feel most has
no name but amber, archers, cinnamon, horses and birds.
Pittsburgh native Jack Gilbert once described himself as a “serious romantic.” Born four days after Valentine’s Day in 1925, he flunked out of high school but was admitted to the University of Pittsburgh due to a clerical error (yes, really!).
After his first book of poetry, Views of Jeopardy (1962), won the Yale Young Poets Prize and was nominated for a Pulitzer, he became quite the literary and media darling. He did not embrace this role, however, and for most of his life went into self-imposed exile, eschewing fame and traveling around Europe where he sometimes taught American Literature for the U.S. State Department. He would not publish another collection of poetry for twenty years.
Many of his poems are about love and his relationships with specific women. The “Michiko” in “The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart” is the sculptor Michiko Nogami, a former student 21 years his junior, with whom he lived in Japan until she died from cancer at age 36.
The cultural references in the poem, especially the “spiral Minoan script,” reflects Gilbert’s time living in Greece and brought back fond memories of my visits there. The Phaistos Disc in the photos is one of the greatest archaeological mysteries of all time. At least 4,000 years old, it was discovered by an Italian archaeologist in 1908, and people have been trying to decipher its mysterious code ever since.
Recently, after working together for six years, Dr. Gareth Owen (linguist researcher with the Technological Educational Institute of Crete) and John Coleman (phonetics professor at Oxford), figured out what the mysterious language sounded like and what some of it means. Reading in a spiral direction from the outside to the inside, they’ve concluded it’s a prayer to a Minoan goddess.
Because the inscriptions were made by pressing hieroglyphic “seals” into soft clay, producing a text with reusable characters, the Phaistos Disc is considered by some to be a very early example of “movable type printing.” Fascinating!
Jack Gilbert, who published five volumes of poetry, died at age 87 in 2012 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. I love the idea of dreaming about “lost vocabularies that might express some of what we no longer can.” And I am grateful to poets for inventing their own “lost vocabularies,” giving voice to our deepest yearnings.
Enjoy this reading of the poem by Tom O’Bedlam:
How will you express your love this Valentine’s Day?
🎈 CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? GIVEAWAY WINNER! 🎈
Thanks to everyone who left comments last week. We are pleased to announce that the lucky person receiving a copy of CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? by Irene Latham and Charles Waters is:
🌺 GAYLE!! 🌸
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The talented and clever Sally Murphy is hosting the Roundup this week. Take a trip down under to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being shared in the blogosphere. Have a good weekend. 🙂
Recently, while browsing through The Poets Laureate Anthology (W.W. Norton & Co., 2010), I came across this wonderful poem by William Jay Smith that’s just perfect for Valentine’s Day.
I’m a sucker for the short lyrical line and fell for it immediately, all the while wondering why I hadn’t seen it before. Most of you probably know this poem, perhaps as the lyrics of a children’s song or as a wedding ceremony recitation. I like how it celebrates that pure, unconditional love between parent and child, as well as the romantic love that has the power to sweep us off our feet at any age. With its charm, whimsy and unbounded declaration, the poem expresses the love we all live and long for — beginning to end, above, below, around, and between.