As an experiment of sorts, I’ve decided to forego my daily ingestion of news and break an habit of nearly a lifetime. The news is all well and fine but I don’t see the point anymore of viewing new casualties in Gaza or the kidnap/rape/torture/murder of whoever it may be. This sounds callous, but believe me, to be outraged, and to feel moved doesn’t cover the fact that nothing gets done about any of this by watching or reading the news. And this alone – my own powerlessness to act – call it weak-willed, indecisive, cowardly, name it whatever you please, has convinced my neurons that to desist from this activity wouldn’t be a terrible loss at all. In any case, I’m bound to hear the latest gossip either at the nearest coffee shop, or when I’m face to face with friends, acquaintances or even strangers. Cable news is another beast (besides the print media) on which I’ve spent not more than an ounce in the past half-decade, and may it remain so eternally. Although I’ve yet to meet such a person, what on earth do these supposed hoarders of Fox/CNN/MSNBC etc. etc. get out of their hoarding? Besides, some of these news outlets are getting terribly close to facts and propaganda (these categories have overlaps more often than you think) and most of them are filled with second-rate dirge that might hurt our sense of style and beauty. I shall scantly repent over the axing of my morning gossip material.
Instead, I’ve decided to fill such an enviable void of the vivid hours with poetry. For now, let’s just say that I’m as much of a poet as an ostrich is to flight: can try, but you’ll be much better off with real verses. In such a spirit, I’ve been perusing some of my favorite poets in the past few days, using the Poetry Foundation’s excellent android app (which has quite an addictive “spin” feature for categories,) and in general, trying to memorize some of these or just simmering in their delight. Einstein said that time slows down as we approach the speed of light. Einstein forgot to factor that poetry can have such an effect too. Or even better: imagine traveling at the speed of light whilst reading some exquisite lines of Shakespeare! That will show Mr. Time the Power we hold over its eternal fold.
Alright, showmanship aside, here are some poems that were propitious towards my happiness and good humor. Happy poems? Yes, shove that embarrassment away. There’s no need for any. Let’s instead take refuge in their sweet and delicious taste.
The first poem that my eyes happened to catch was interestingly enough, a translation of a Chinese poet, T’ao Ch’ien – one of most revered poets to live between the Han and the Tang dynasties. The poem is titled ‘Reading the Book of Hills and Seas’ and although translation takes quite away from a poem, the imaginative element involved in being transported by thousands of years and the simplicity of it makes up for that element lost.
Reading the Book of Hills and Seas by T’ao Ch’ien (translated from Chinese by Arthur Waley)
In the month of June the grass grows high
And round my cottage thick-leaved branches sway.
There is not a bird but delights in the place where it rests;
And I too – love my thatched cottage.
I have done my ploughing;
I have sown my seed.
Again I have time to sit and read my books.
In the narrow lane there are no deep ruts;
Often my friends’ carriages turn back.
In high spirits I pour out my spring wine
And pluck the lettuce growing in my garden.
A gentle rain comes stealing up from the east
And a sweet wind bears it company.
My thoughts float idly over the story of the king of Chou,
My eyes wander over the pictures of Hills and Seas.
At a single glance I survey the whole Universe.
He will never be happy, whom such pleasures fail to please!
The pleasures of the seasons and punchline at the Universe…not bad indeed!
The next one is by an American poet, Benjamin Franklin King (no, not Ben Franklin!) and I found this aptly titled poem, ‘The Pessimist’ to be quite humorous. Pessimism that makes one affirm life.
The Pessimist by Benjamin Franklin King
Nothing to do but work,
Nothing to eat but food,
Nothing to wear but clothes,
To keep one from going nude.
Nothing to breathe but air,
Quick as a flash ’tis gone;
Nowhere to fall but off,
Nowhere to stand but on.
Nothing to comb but hair,
Nowhere to sleep but in bed,
Nothing to weep but tears,
Nothing to bury but dead.
Nothing to Sing but songs,
Ah, well, alas! alack!
Nowhere to go but out,
Nowhere to come but back.
Nothing to see but sights,
Nothing to quench but thirst.
Nothing to have but what we’ve got.
Thus thro’ life we are cursed.
And lastly, I landed on this short-sweet piece by Seamus Heaney through the Poetry Foundation’s “Spin” feature:
The Skylight by Seamus Heaney
You were the one for skylights. I opposed
Cutting into the seasoned tongue-and-groove
Of pitch pine, I liked it low and closed,
Its claustrophobic, nest-up-in-the-roof
Effect. I liked the snuff-dry feeling,
The perfect, trunk-lid fit of the old ceiling.
Under there, it was all hutch and hatch.
The blue slates kept the heat like midnight thatch.
But when the slates came off, extravagant
Sky entered and held surprise wide open.
For days I felt like an inhabitant
Of that house where the man sick of the palsy
Was lowered through the roof, had his sins forgiven,
Was healed, took up his bed and walked away.
The juxtaposition at the end is simply exquisite! It induced in me a morning daydream, obeying in essence my above observations on Einstein and Poetry.
Thanks for reading, cheerio.