Though love poems are sometimes happy and sometimes sad, there’s no reason that one cannot also use a rhetorical figure to express its point. Paralipsis is a rhetorical figure in which one vows that one is not going to discuss something, all the while mentioning it. It is as if one were to say, “I have no intention of mentioning my opponent’s underhanded tactics!” One is, thus, calling the tactics into prominence and awareness again, all the while saying one has no intention of doing so. That’s what this poem is at least partly about.
Paralipsis I'm not going to speak about love, no, For it gets me overwrought. I've said all I'm going to say now, I can't give love a thought. I'm not going to think about love, no, Why should I be upset? I've considered the whole thing very well, Or I'd be reflecting yet. I'm not going to tumble in love, no, It's made a mistake with me, Because I'm in love right now, and it Wears me down mightily. I'm not going to write about love, no, Or put my woes in verse; For love has a way of sneaking in, (Unless I'm very terse.) ©Victoria Leigh Bennett, 1/18/17
I hope you had some fun, at least, with this poem; I had, in writing it. All for now! Shadowoperator
Though I have only taught college and never high school, I have often thought of the years I spent in contact with junior high (middle school) and high school teachers, and I remember how devoted some of them were to their jobs, and how big the challenges sometimes were. This poem, though, goes out to all teachers, and I hope as well to their audiences.
The Rookie "Now folks, I want you to reach down deep inside for this one," says the well-meaning, who only missed professorial degree by two years, And who now musters her high school forces to face English and American literature. Her soldiers, however, armed only with adoration in some cases, disrespect in others, and indifference for the rest, all laugh alike When Tucker Boyle lets out a deep belch, And incants, aloud, to no one and all, "That was from deep down; honest!" She allows them their laugh, being enlightened rather than professional And thereby the despair of her older colleagues. "You've got to control your students!" they say. "They have to learn respect; God knows, they don't learn it at home." She only laughs lightly. She doesn't want them to be afraid of her, she says. "But they don't look up to you either!" insists the most senior of her fellows. She smiles and says nothing. They little guess how the jibes and jests of Tucker Boyle and Co. have frayed her nerves and loosened her sinews, even, As she stays in nights to plan her deep campaigns Instead of going out for her usual run. Determined that Tucker, of whom her deepest reproach is to call him primly "Mr. Boyle," as if meeting him at a church soirée, where he would never be-- Determined that he will read Walt Whitman and cease To make lewd noises about the other, real soldiers and Walt, When he understands the biographical details clearly (That a miracle in itself, given his obtuseness!)-- She recites, she pounds the desk, she shows them passion. They, for whom the word "passion" means only sex from True Romance and Penthouse magazines scarfed from their mothers and fathers. They eye her doubtfully, uncomprehending: Can she be going the way of the Social Studies teacher a year or two ago, Who blamed them, and blasphemed their parents' God, and then blew her brains out with an old family shotgun thought to be unloaded? Even Tucker Boyle is silent; though he grins, and touches his finger to his forehead: she won't be here long. How funny fate is, sometimes! How apt the measures meted out, To those who see them clearly, yet how overdone, how harsh it seems to her now-- For Tucker Boyle, tired of poetry, Joined the Marines, bulked up, Played his way through a few minor battles, With honors and all that, And then came home in a body bag. And she? Of all the few who went to his funeral, She alone wept streaming tears, Tears that his parents, shy people afraid of their son's proclivities to harass, Feared must be about something betwixt her and him. But wasn't she one of his teachers? Didn't she threaten to flunk him, his last semester, Relenting to a "D+" when the Marines were mentioned? Later, the tears that she cried were at least partly for herself, Or even mainly for herself, and not him: For who can tell who Tucker Boyle might have been If she could have made Walt Whitman live for him? ©Victoria Leigh Bennett, 1/18/17
Nota bene: This poem is not meant to deny the feelings of those who feel that it’s an honor to die for one’s country (or as it is put classically, “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori”–“Sweet and fitting it is to die for one’s homeland.”) Rather, it is meant as a comment upon the senselessness and waste of war in general, though it may oftentimes be deemed necessary in order for a country to survive with its freedoms intact. In this connection, Walt Whitman is a key figure in this poem.
Having done various experiments with different forms and after attempting to break my meter and rhyme habits, I’ve gone back into my old habits for another poem, a whimsical one this time, a little forlorn and sad, but one with a certain humor as well. The rhyme and meter seemed necessary to suit the subject, so I hope the fact that most or at least many poets these days don’t use rhyme or meter won’t offend. Here goes:
A Rhyme for the Hard-to-Please I don't have faith in rain, I have far more in pain; For rain just comes and goes, But when pain comes, it grows. It bows and bends my heart, And makes a hollow smart; How could it hurt and pine And to leave thus decline? I don't see much in snow, Though it refuse to go Like pain; it blankets all And casts a weary pall. For though snow stays and stays, Like to pain's dreary days, Ice crystals may shine white, And may some days be bright. Least trust I, though, the sun, Which every day does run, From East 'round to the West, Each hour, without rest. It too, like pain, is there Though it may not appear To be within our gaze Or showing forth its rays. And while all, sun, snow, rain, Do each their force retain, Sun most does with pain flirt, Because it joy asserts: When forth across the sky The light shines out on high Then pain does plain and moan Because it is alone. ©Victoria Leigh Bennett, 1/17/17
Though I don’t usually write occasional poems, with the Inauguration and (supposedly) a new era just ahead of us, I wanted to write one which references the past, and celebrates the day. If you don’t agree with me about anything I say, then that is your right, too. It’s not a perfect poem by a long shot, but I believe it expresses the thoughts in my mind today accurately, and sometimes that’s the most one can hope for. Have a good day.
Martin Luther King Day, 2017 "You know he cheated on his wife," My neighbor says. "Had affairs, and everything." This, I think, is meant to indicate That his public faith with all of us Wasn't perfect either, Though even his wife Revered his public stance. And what man, anyway, Or maybe even what woman-- Given an equal chance to do wrong-- Would respect the office And the private world As if they were the same? Said John and Oko Lennon, "Woman is the nigger of the world," And said La Rochefoucauld, "It pertains to great men to have great faults." Is it all the outward dance of men Determined only to do one good at a time, To have a whipping boy in the shadows In the form of a woman? Of is it just that The Public itself Cannot grasp how a person, Man or woman, Needs to fight, with some room reserved For error, a margin in which to be forgiven? Now we are at the beginning of what pretends, At least, To be a new beginning, Full of hope for those who've felt neglected While civil rights made its great footsteps forward. But why isn't it full of hope For everyone at the same time, As civil rights has always purported to be? And the figurehead at the top: A man full of error, Which if error is meant to reassure us Should surely do us proud. His spite of John Lewis, His rejection of memorials for King, How can these be worked in with "Of the people, by the people, for the people"? Who're people? I am people, you are people, he and she are people. And we one and all Must learn to contain Our furies at each other Lest the furies that our leaders Aim at each other-- Playing on the public stage as if they were Coriolanus, Caesar, or Henry V, Only with words far less impressive-- Lest their Furies become those of the Greeks, And shred us all to pieces, Public and private. The new figurehead has promised To put us in the driver's seat, Though little did we think That it meant we have to drive the venerable jalopy Without capsizing it, since he has abdicated Acting responsibly, drinking in the back seat And fondling those public figures who would always Be fondled, whoever has the lead role. Be brave! my fellows, And cast doubt from your minds, For though it is not now our kingship, We have had a king fight nobly and well, We have had a model of a man Whereby to set the measure of all others. Look forward, hope! For what we see With disbelieving, jaded eyes Is not always the true path Of our fates. It is our struggle now As it was King's, and we for this Remember him this day. ©Victoria Leigh Bennett, 1/16/17
Finis, for today anyway.
This poem was initiated by a remark I once made to someone I love; I told him he wasn’t a Neanderthal, meaning what most contemporary and not necessarily knowledgeable people would mean, i.e., that he had polished manners. But then, later I remembered that scientists in more recent times have come up with the notion that the real Neanderthals were in the main a gentle and peaceable people, so it’s as much in justice to the Neanderthals as it is to ancient peoples in general and my friend in particular that I made up this poem. And I was delighted finally to find that the poem agreed to be written in free verse, after all. (N.B.: In this poem, I use the word “lewd” primarily though not exclusively in its older sense, i.e., “untaught, unlearned.”)
Evolution A shy dweller in a cave Peers forth at the sky, Only disencumbered at the stone mouth Of his harking back to the shadows. His being, pained and gentle, As if borne down already by the load He must carry back to keep warm with. So look you at me, Your true sweet soul chilled and full of necessity, Diverse paths before you, but none You are eager to depart upon. A glance, weather-eye upward Then you commence Leading me to hope that a smile or a joke, A solar approach, Will sweat out the heat of you, Teach you the trick Of loving yourself more, Dreading the forest less Where you may find more to sustain you Than dripping stone walls and packed floor. Still, I know that the asceticals we are used to Often seem our only choice of direction When night falls, The wild calls are all around us, And the sky lowers and promises nothing. But step forth, while daylight beckons, And try your skill at this: Facsimilating your shelter In the own arms of the trees; And when night falls, Call you out with the rest, For you have forgotten That you are one of them. And in place of your lewd--read: unlearned-- Sketches on the cave walls, Make your artifacts and rouse your voice To songs of the sky and gods and demons, For the sky loves you, and all its denizens too. ©Victoria Leigh Bennett, 1/14/17
I am rather fond of this poem already, though that may be for reasons aside from its quality, I don’t know. Good night, and in cave or forest, sleep well! Shadowoperator
I have to hope that my audience isn’t getting tired of all the love poetry of various kinds that I’ve been posting. Even after all the centuries of love poems that have been written, it’s still one of the most frequently written about topics, which is the only thing I have to excuse myself with, really. It lends itself to broader philosophical speculations sometimes, and sometimes is just a tiny firecracker all to itself. This poem tonight is one which uses a dialectal word I grew up hearing, and even if you’ve never heard it before, I think you’ll get the gist of it as the poem progresses. Though this poem may sound resigned, it should also be a bit humorous to you, if you consider it as a lover’s quarrel, capped off with the ambiguous word “penn’d” (meaning both written by hand and also penned up). I hope you enjoy it. It was fun to write, though I’m still trying to conquer my problems with writing blank and free verses; maybe next post.
We can’t always have our druthers
For other souls have theirs;
‘Twixt mutual gods and devils
We’re always splitting hairs.
Sometimes we can’t see eye-to-eye, true.
I druther love discuss;
He druther not, there’s where the rub is,
He doesn’t want a fuss.
He druther pretend there is nothing
Between us, me and him,
Whatever it is, there is passion
Of true love, or a whim.
I druther explore our options
He druther call a halt:
Think I, it’s romantic! Thinks he, though,
It mustn’t be his fault.
It’s true, that in each position
In life, there is a fee
And the question thus barely arises
What he’d do, were he free.
We each pay for ev’ry rule broken,
So I must hear him out.
Though I druther be kissing and coddling,
He druther blandness tout.
“I druther not lose him completely,
I druther be his friend;
And I druther be there at the ending”
So true love thus is penn’d.
©Victoria Leigh Bennett, 1/14/17
Though this poem may be a bit of a one-trick pony, still I hope it has something that rewards your attention. Have a good night, and read lots and lots of poetry!
As you may or may not know, a haiku is a 17 syllable poem, with the pattern 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables. Some of the most beautiful Asian haikus are nature poems, each as delicate as the petals of a flower; others are about lost love, new love, almost any kind of love. I have chosen to write six interconnected haikus on one developing topic, the playfulness of love. I hope you’re surprised at the end, at least the first time through.
Six Haiku Cannily watching He yawns, showing all canines. The male stretches forth. Alertness ne'er leaves And nor does preening his mind, For his thought is plain: She sees me, I know. What he plays at, she grasps well, Yet lets him remain. Then time, to business-- Dismiss her from thought, it seems. He's more things to do. Just in case she nods, Forgets, he flexes once more-- A callused conscience. What if she's a minx? He has the remedy clear: You'd think he's a cat. ©Victoria Leigh Bennett, 1/8/17
That’s all, for this evening. More tomorrow, perhaps.