NaPoWriMo Day 10

“Our prompt for today comes from a quote usually attributed to T.S. Eliot: Good poets borrow; great poets steal. You can learn all about what Eliot actually said here. But let’s stick to plain old stealing today by writing poems with their first lines lifted from other poems. You can pick a favorite poem of yours to take a line from. If that doesn’t appeal, famous sonnets are always a good way to go. Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day, perhaps? Maybe try a little “biblomancy” — get a big book of poetry, an anthology for preference, and open it randomly and use the first line from a poem on the page you hit upon. That’s a good tactic if you don’t want to be too influenced by the poem you’re working from — it can be hard to write a completely different poem using a line from a piece you know well. Anyway, happy thieving!”


Poe is one of my favorite scribes, his horror stories never really struck me as horror stories and his poetry feels a bit long-winded at times.  Nevertheless, my lasting impression of his style is rooted in his narrative inventiveness and preoccupation with death and the macabre.  Cheers to the Amontillado.

The immurement

“The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could,”
Straight starvin a ninja with a name like that is how gangstas do it in the hood.
Like Dante, Wilde & Twain the theme has been alluded to many a time,
And like the Masons, the walls may be mute, but never deaf nor blind.

The nectar of revenge undresses the soul of righteous men,
And some confounded fool declares, ‘My cough shall not mean my end’
Impunity and insult are both dishes served best cold,
To my enemies and critics alike, I say, For this shit, I am too old.

I’m convinced that masonry should be a skill,
plain for all to use.
For if slights of character could be settled by brick walls,
Dear Edgar would need no booze.

-G. Barbieri

So, I figured, if Eliot wanted great poets to steal, why not steal from him. Again I have preserved the structure and rhyme scheme, much as I did in “To His Koi Fishes” (q.v.). I present, then, a backwards version of Eliot’s SECOND most renowned work.

The Love Song of J. Christopher Dunville

Let us go then, you and I
While the evening is spread out across the sky
Like the books and papers strewn upon my table.
Let us go, through certain half-discarded texts,
The rustling sheaves,
Of long-dead authors and their cheap no-vels,
In sawdust barrooms with their peanut shells:
Lines that contain a tedious argument
And artistic intent
To lead the reader to an overarching question;
Oh, do not ask, “Who wrote it?”

The poem’s the thing, and not the poet.
In my room the pages flip and turn
Talking of Byron, Shelley, and Burns.

The yellow pages that crack and rustle in their aged spines,
The yellow ink that Danielewski prints in their aged spines,
Wormed their way into the corners of my dreaming,
Worked upon the pools of my imagination,
Let fall upon my future the weight that falls from heaven,
Slipped by my guard, made a stubborn stain,
And seeing that they owned this December boy,
Reclined upon the throne, and had their reign.

And indeed there have been times
When the yellow pages that fall beneath my gaze
Have cracked and rustled in their aged spines.
There has been time, there has been time
To prepare a poem to read the poems that I read,
There has been time to copy and compose,
And time for all the words and works of man
That smell so sweet but prick like thorny rose;
Time for Poe and time for Keats,
And time still for a hundred interbreedings
And for a hundred readings and re-readings,
Before the taking of a hood and PhD.

In my room the pages flip and turn
Talking of Byron, Shelley, and Burns.

And indeed there have been times
I wondered, “Do I care?” and, “Do I care?”
Times I looked back on when I lost a girl so fair,
And shore the locks that tangled in my hair–
(They all said: “How his hair is so unique!”)
My couture jeans, my beard so lumberjackish on my cheek,
My bandanna just a dollar, but always matching to my sneak–
(They all said: “What days is he behind the bar next week?”)
Do I care
Complete my education?
In a study there is time
For leavings and readings which more study does occasion.

For I have read them all already, read them all:
Have read the sonnets, novels, villanelles,
I have measured out their lines in anapests and dactyls;
I know the poets writing with a crying call
Beneath the witty puns and verbal swells,
So I wonder, what the hell?

And I have known the rhymes already, known them all–
The rhymes that finish up a clever turn of phrase,
And when I am turned so clever, armed with degree
When I’m degreed and teaching in a hall,
Then how should I agree
To spit out all the book-ends of my raves and faves?
And I wonder, what the hell?

And I have known the yarns already, known them all–
Yarns that are folkloric and bold and bare
(But under scrutiny, came from who knows where!)
Is it must from a library
That makes me wax so airy?
Yarns that lie, and are called fables, or myths about the gods.
And so then, what the hell?
And how should I agree?

Shall I say, I have gone all night through ancient tomes
And watched the words that glide along the page
Of drunken sots with quill pens, dreaming of sublime?

I should have been a pair of nerdy lens
Poring over problems of dynamic flow.


And in the afternoon, not in the evening, I sleep so needily!
Drained by long sessions,
No sleep… must write… answer questions,
Stretched over years, debated among the academy.
Should I, after Forster and Conrad,
Understand what made Chinua Achebe so mad?
And though I have wrote and revised, wrote and fixed,
Though I have seen my prose (grown slightly over-long) cut up by my professor,
I am no Master– and here’s some foul weather;
I have felt the strength of my resolve shudder,
And I have heard the Rhetoric division lower voice, and mutter,
And in short, I was depressed.

And will it have been worth it, after all,
After the texts, the articles, the plays,
Among the first editions, among some class discussions on some days,
Will it have been smart time,
To have left the Promised Land in search of rhyme,
To have squeezed an education out of it all
To move towards some difficult profession,
To say: “I am Hemingway, come from the dead,
Come back to write it all, I shall write it all” —
If one, who I left behind instead
Should say: “This is not what I want at all;
This is why I left, after all.”

And will it have been worth it, after all,
Will it have been smart time,
After the theory and the pedagogy and the freshman class,
After the novels, after the teaching, after the girls that wear their letters on their dress–
And this, and so much less? —
It is improbable that I have written what I mean!
But as if Tim Burton took a book and aborted it on screen:
Will it have been smart time
If one, who I left behind or failed to bring along,
When I cantered off to Knoxville, should say:
“This is not my want at all,
This is why– you left me, after all.”

Yes! I am not Holden Caufield, nor want to be;
Am a Wizard of the Crow, one that won’t do
With less than revolution, plus win a heart so true,
Revise the canon; no doubt, a savvy cool,
Influential, glad to pay his dues,
Stylistic, well-read, and gregarious;
Full of tight sentences, never too obtuse;
With lines, in fact, diamantiferous —
The best, at rhymes, in School.

I’m still young… I’m still young…
I shall sing the songs that need be sung.

Why not grow my dreadies back? Do I care what others think?
I shall wear matching bandannas, and some sneak that’s blue and pink.
I have read the critics gossip, stink upon stink.

I do not care if they gossip of me.

I have seen them bashing untoward on the books
Considered by my green eye to be great
When the winds of scholarship blow debate.
I will linger in the stacks of the Hodges
By volumes bound in linen red and brown
Till I walk across the stage, in hood and gown.

By galacticrenaissance

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