A Poem a Day: National Poetry Month, a Bard’s Birthday, Literature in the Face of Tragedy

I’m not sure what I want to say, or whether there’s a need to say anything at all. I had been meaning to posts poems in honor of National Poetry Month, and have almost been delayed a month. I was going to start posting any day now, joking that it would be like having two months dedicated to poetry.

I was thinking about literature. I was thinking about the celebration at Harvard Square I was going to miss this Saturday, a celebration for Shakespeare’s birthday, poetry, and the anniversary of two Harvard Square book stores. I was annoyed to be busy (ironically, since I would be rehearsing for a production of Hamlet), but enthused that people would take such an interest in celebrating the literary.

What are we celebrating now? That the violence occurring in Boston is not of a greater magnitude, and that so many people are rallying together to help one another.

The right words are not coming out; I don’t know how to respond to everyone’s concern, fear, sadness. Boston’s usual “normalcy” (a word I saw someone post on Facebook) is not a “normalcy” I grew up with, or that I see back home, in Venezuela. But I’m choking up at the idea that Bostonians are experiencing that fear for personal safety and the safety of loved ones, that constant dread that only becomes more painful the more permanently and quietly it etches itself in your mind. I’m almost perversely glad the events of this week seem shocking: we live in a place where crime and violence of this order is a shock. This should always be the case; I pray it always is the case.

Poem 1:

“Kaddish”

Strange now to think of you, gone without corsets & eyes, while

I walk on the sunny pavement of Greenwich Village.

downtown Manhattan, clear winter noon, and I’ve been up

all night, talking, talking, reading the Kaddish aloud,

listening to Ray Charles blues shout blind on the

phonograph

the rhythm the rhythm—and your memory in my head three

years after—And read Adonais’ last triumphant stanzas

aloud—wept, realizing how we suffer—

And how Death is that remedy all singers dream of, sing,

remember, prophesy as in the Hebrew Anthem, or the

Buddhist Book of Answers—and my own imagination of

a withered leaf—at dawn—

Dreaming back thru life, Your time—and mine accelerating

toward Apocalypse,

the final moment—the flower burning in the Day—and what

comes after,

looking back on the mind itself that saw an American city

a flash away, and the great dream of Me or China, or you and

a phantom Russia, or a crumpled bed that never

existed—

like a poem in the dark—escaped back to Oblivion—

No more to say, and nothing to weep for but the Beings in the

Dream, trapped in its disappearance,

sighing, screaming with it, buying and selling pieces of phantom,

worshipping each other,

worshipping the God included in it all—longing or inevita-

bility?—while it lasts, a Vision—anything more?

(extract), by Allen Ginsberg

Note: No matter how I tried, I couldn’t get WordPress to format the poem correctly. I’ll try and fix it soon.

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One Response to A Poem a Day: National Poetry Month, a Bard’s Birthday, Literature in the Face of Tragedy

  1. Pingback: A Poem a Day: Excerpt from Howl | The Educated Procrastinator

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