Thursday, February 10, 2011

Off the Shelf Archive - February #1

February is well on its way, and the Archivist bestirs herself, finally. I've picked a rather well-known poem this time, from Irish poet and dramatist William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), because for one, it's a very fine poem, and secondarily, I'm currently working with the form of which it is one of the prime examples in English. It's always humbling to see a form that is driving you to cross-eyed mania executed with perfect poise, and Yeats definitely humbles me thoroughly with this selection, Sailing to Byzantium. The poem is built from four stanzas in the ottava rima form, and deals with the subject of age and the mind, and how to remain spiritually and intellectually alive. It was written in 1928, when Yeats was about 60.

For those who've read it, I think it's worth a re-read; for those who haven't, it's  not my favorite poem by Yeats (that would be When You Are Old) or his most accessible, but it's rather one of a kind.

The previous selection consists of two short poems by the 20th Century American poet,  Richard Brautigan and is rolled out here for a last look.

As always, feel free to comment on either poem here, as comments are disabled off the main page. Suggestions for the next selection are always welcome, also.


Karma Repair Kit, Items 1-4
Get enough food to eat,
and eat it.


Find a place to sleep where it is quiet,
and sleep there.


Reduce intellectual and emotional noise
until you arrive at the silence of yourself,
and listen to it. 
Hinged to Forgetfulness Like a Door

Hinged to forgetfulness
like a door,
she slowly closed out of
and she was the woman I loved,
but too many times she slept like
a mechanical deer in my caresses,
and I ached in the metal silence
of her dreams. 
Richard Brautigan
Image: Cover art, In Watermelon Sugar, By Richard Brautigan


  1. Joy you know how I feel towards the Brautigan.

    yeats on the other hand was much more complex, intellectual and layered in his desire to remain forever young but knowing the only way he could do that was to "think" young.

    Aye, I to would not want to ever come back as any natural thing but rather unlike something imitating the work of a Byzantine craftsman I'd like to live on and return as something never in the wondrous mind of man ever thought of before.

  2. I already commented on this, but I'll just say again, marvelous choice. I remember going on a road trip with two teacher friends one summer, and we had Brautigan paperbacks laying in the back seat along with Goddess knows what all else.

  3. "Into the artifice of eternity" - that line has always resonated with me. My father loved Yeats and though when I was young I found some too boring, too dry, I've come to appreciate it with age.

    Brautigan's cleanness and simplicity is so refreshing. Like all layers have been peeled back and only one slice is on display.

  4. @teh Firingblossom: All the best teachers read poetry. Thanks for the rec on Rommel Drives on Deep--found one used and its blown my mind to read it again.

    @twm : Agree on Yeats--some days I think I'd like to just not come back at all, here anyway, though I have no problem with being a rock, or an ocean drop or something. And thanks for the Brautigan rec--he is for some reason speaking a lot more powerfully to me now than when I first read him.

    @Talon--that artifice line is my favorite too, and on Brautigan,he's all of that, indeed, and more, like in this one more poem-slice I had to stick in below:

    It was Your Idea to go to Bed with Her

    Snowflaked as if by an invisible polar bear
    ---unlucky bastard,
    you're sitting on the fender of her kisses
    while she drives the car down into the
    perfect center of ice.

    ~R Brautigan, fr Rommel Drives on Deep Into Egypt


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats