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ADONAI On March - 7 - 2011

Breathe-in experience, breathe-out poetry.
Muriel Rukeyser

Poetry, in  a sense, is the art of making nothing mean something. Famed French poet and playwright, Jean Cocteau once said that, “A true poet does not bother to be poetical. Much in the way a gardener does not scent his roses.” True poetry is often regarded as having no meaning but the one the reader ascribes to it. Much the way the smell of flowers may stir emotions or invoke memories in someone.  That is not to say that poetry can’t also have a structure or a specific theme, it is still usually full of metaphor and embellishment.

The history of poetry is as long as the history of modern man.  Many scholars  believe poetry predates literacy. The oldest written works on Earth are all presented in some poetic form. The style is believed to have aided memorization and oral transmission. The Ancient Sumerian poem, Epic of Gilgamesh , is one of the earliest pieces of literature in existence.  An epic poem,it tells of the adventures of a King who spurned the advances of a goddess and embarks on a quest for immortality.

Gilgamesh: History's first action hero.


Ancient Greeks were fond of relaying historical events in the form of poetry. Homer’s Odyssey and  Iliad being the most well known examples. Epic poems were the way to transfer your great story to the masses. It was understandable to a wide range of citizenry. It was also around this time that short form poetry such as hymns, psalms, suras, and hadiths were becoming widespread. Many of them took on a rhythmic structure approaching a form of music. Most notably hymns which were written to be sung. This branch of poetry sprung from the more pleasant side of religion as worshipers looked to exalt their GOD or GOds in song.  It was inevitable that poetry and music would mix. From the Ancient Greek “orchestras” to the bards of the Renaissance, poetry and music were a match made in heaven. The first “song lyrics”. Other examples of rhythmic poetry include limericks, riddles, and many jokes.

Not all poetry is rhythmic though. Poetry in prose is poetry written almost as a novel. Using grammatical structure and natural flow of speech rather than rhythmic structure. Prose poetry is debatable as poetry though. Many argue that it’s focus on narrative and objective truths negate it from being true poetry. It is merely prose. The other side argues that it’s use of metaphor and heightened attention to language, make it real poetry. There is yet another group who believe it’s subversive nature does not fit into either genre. Oscar Wilde picked up prose poetry simply for it’s subversive nature. Poetry nerds are not about to let the debate go either.



Here is a link that further elaborates on the many forms of poetry. Far too much to put into  one article: http://www.types-of-poetry.org.uk/

Let’s take a moment now  to discuss some of the great poets throughout history. And please forgive me if I fail to mention your favorite.  There are just so many. I briefly mentioned Homer before and his great works the Odyssey and the Iliad. Believed to have lived between the 8th and 11th centuries B.C., he had a distinct style to his poetry known simply as the “Homeric Style”. A structured concept pushed rapidly through a singular narrative in hexameter form. A style that has become one of the most common in poetry.


Nor any other wold like Cotswold ever sped,
So rich and fair a vale in fortuning to wed

In the far east, the works of Lao Tzu/Laozi formed the concepts that would lead to the establishment of Taoism. There is much debate as to whether or not Lao Tzu ever actually existed or, if he did, whether his works are all his. His influence on Chinese culture and poetry is beyond debate. Lao Tzu’s works are notable for the time as some are highly political.

Gotta mention Chaucer. As his Wikipedia page points out, he is considered the “father of English literature” and the greatest English poet of the Middle  Ages. Canterbury Tales is  a collection of some of his greatest works, presented as “stories” told by travelers. A must read for anyone. Some of the finest examples of rhythmic verse poetry in existence. He invented the rhyme royal. A method of presenting rhythmic stanzas. A form used by many poets since, including  Shakespeare.

William Bryant was the first great American poet. Born in 1794, barely a decade after the end of the Revolutionary War,  his poetry,at first,was an afterthought to his pursuit of  a legal career. His most famous poem, “Thanatopsis” was said to have been found on his desk by his father and submitted by him to the North American Review. After some confusion over whether it was his work or his father’s, he began writing for them on a consistent basis. Receiving much critical acclaim. In his later years he served as  a mentor to another famed poet, Walt Whitman.

Arguably the greatest modern English language poet is T.S. Eliot. He is responsible for several of the most well known poems in the English language. Ash Wednesday, Four Quartets, and Murder in a Cathedral among them.  Though some of his works have encountered controversy with accusations of anti-Semitism, his impact on modern poetry is far reaching. He is one of the most, if not the most, honored poets in American history.


That concludes our look at some of the great poets through history. Again, I apologize if your favorite was not mentioned. Whitman, Thoreau, and Frost, among others, were just SO obvious and could be discussed at length for HOURS. I don’t blame you if you rage quit the article, though.


Seriously? I wrote fucking Ozymandias! Not one mention?

I’ve been thinking of  away to end this article, so I thought I’d do it this way:

“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

~Dylan Thomas


Thank you for reading and let the discussions begin.



Written by ADONAI

For, behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by his sword will the LORD plead with all flesh: and the slain of the LORD shall be many.

80 Responses so far.

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  1. ghsts says:

    As the morning breaks I hear the sun.

    Lean out of the window ~ James Joyce

    Lean out of the window,
    I hear you singing
    A merry air.

    My book was closed,
    I read no more,
    Watching the fire dance
    On the floor.

    I have left my book,
    I have left my room,
    For I heard you singing
    Through the gloom.

    Singing and singing
    A merry air,
    Lean out of the window,

    Goldenhair ~ Syd Barrett

  2. Khirad says:

    Under One Small Star

    My apologies to chance for calling it necessity.
    My apologies to necessity if I’m mistaken, after all.
    Please, don’t be angry, happiness, that I take you as my due.
    May my dead be patient with the way my memories fade.
    My apologies to time for all the world I overlook each second.
    My apologies to past loves for thinking that the latest is the first.
    Forgive me, open wounds, for pricking my finger.
    I apologize for my record of minutes to those who cry from
    the depths.
    I apologize to those who wait in railway stations for being asleep
    today at five a.m.
    Pardon me, hounded hope, for laughing from time to time.
    Pardon me, deserts, that I don’t rush to you bearing a spoonful
    of water.
    And you, falcon, unchanging year after year, always in the
    same cage,
    your gaze always fixed on the same point in space,
    forgive me, even if it turns out you were stuffed.
    My apologies to the felled tree for the table’s four legs.
    My apologies to great questions for small answers.
    Truth, please don’t pay me much attention.
    Dignity, please be magnanimous.
    Bear with me, O mystery of existence, as I pluck the occasional
    thread from your train.
    Soul, don’t take offense that I’ve only got you now and then.
    My apologies to everything that I can’t be everywhere at once.
    My apologies to everyone that I can’t be each woman and
    each man.
    I know I won’t be justified as long as I live,
    since I myself stand in my own way.
    Don’t bear me ill will, speech, that I borrow weighty words,
    then labor heavily so that they may seem light.

    -- Wisława Szymborska

  3. KillgoreTrout says:

    The Fortune Teller’s Gift

    I have not the fortune teller’s gift.

    All that I own is unseen,

    but my heart still beats.

    It moves my shirt from within,

    For you more than me;

    like this near blank page

    That dares to be filled

    with words to befriend

    you, my world.

  4. Chernynkaya says:

    (Dedicated to All of You)

    I believe in God because of my writing class.
    I read our stories and I see visions.
    If you saw us, individually or as a group,
    you might not be inspired. We are ordinary
    and that is the miracle. Faceless and nameless,
    so ordinary. We live plain lives in squat squares,
    on flat plots or in complexes, without lushness,
    little luxury, no opulence. Not impoverished,
    not at all deprived, just ordinary.

    Our jobs are often meaningless and boring, or
    they are exciting and tense, or they are prestigious.
    But they don’t change anything, they’re just what
    we do to pay the bills, keep the gears turning.
    We get stuck in traffic, we order pizza, buy
    back-to-school clothes, watch TV, see the
    dentist. Take the dog to the vet, take a nap, take
    a letter. And we go to the Bowl, or to Yosemite
    or to a party, or to a shrink. And we knit or read
    mysteries, history, the sport’s page, Nabakov.
    Play CD’s or cards or mind games. Do the
    crossword, do the dishes, do good deeds, do
    whatever it takes to stay even. There is nothing
    momentous about our lives, except

    When I read your stories, you make me cry and
    smile and worry about you. I sigh with relief that
    you’re here and we’ve never even met. But we
    know each other, don’t we? In the writing class?
    Where the stories are our holy books, the poems are scripture,
    and they teach us what we know over and over,
    in every variety, in every iteration. They are so glorious,
    so ordinary, they are the proof of the Divine. Between
    us, in the places we don’t show, in those faces I don’t
    see, we know and we are known.

  5. Redemption Song says:

    anyone lived in a pretty how town
    (by e. e. cummings)

    anyone lived in a pretty how town
    (with up so floating many bells down)
    spring summer autumn winter
    he sang his didn’t he danced his did.

    Women and men (both little and small)
    cared for anyone not at all
    they sowed their isn’t they reaped their same
    sun moon stars rain

    children guessed (but only a few
    and down they forgot as up they grew
    autumn winter spring summer)
    that noone loved him more by more

    when by now and tree by leaf
    she laughed his joy she cried his grief
    bird by snow and stir by still
    anyone’s any was all to her

    someones married their everyones
    laughed their cryings and did their dance
    (sleep wake hope and then)they
    said their nevers they slept their dream

    stars rain sun moon
    (and only the snow can begin to explain
    how children are apt to forget to remember
    with up so floating many bells down)

    one day anyone died i guess
    (and noone stooped to kiss his face)
    busy folk buried them side by side
    little by little and was by was

    all by all and deep by deep
    and more by more they dream their sleep
    noone and anyone earth by april
    with by spirit and if by yes.

    Women and men (both dong and ding)
    summer autumn winter spring
    reaped their sowing and went their came
    sun moon stars rain

  6. Kalima says:

    The Messenger of Death danced through today
    Singing songs of emancipation
    I held my breath, just blinked an eye
    As he took you away from me,


    Hopes of finding something lost
    The sound of your voice
    The warmth of your laughter
    The hand to soothe my tears,

    Only silence now.

    Falling into obscurity, not you, just I
    Entry into an uncertain space to fill
    But how?

    Only silence.

    Do the years really heal my friend
    There will never be enough years,

    Only silence.

    This shattering scream rings in my ears
    It is my own,

    Only silence.

    In these dreams you come so near
    And I’m afraid to make a sound in case
    My pounding heart should take you away again,


    And so, the Messenger of Death danced through today
    Singing songs of emancipation
    I did not believe him

    Now only my silence and I prevail.


    Für Mutti

  7. whatsthatsound says:

    Blithe and insouciant, the president makes jokes about the deaths that he’s unleashed
    surrounded by his paymasters who rub sweaty palms together, gathered round a feast
    meanwhile men and women die on foreign fields
    war is a commodity, and they but its yields

    and it’s all over in time
    we lose our bodies first and then we lose our minds
    and when we lose our memories we rush to get in line
    and rejoin the dance
    we spin round and round and round and round
    till black is white and up is down

    somewhere on Saturn a wise and precocious child stares in disbelief
    at a hologram that shows a world not far away where battles rage and hatreds never cease
    there and then he vows to heal the suffering he sees
    makes his deal with destiny and leaves his life of ease
    and it’s all over in time

    hearts filled with gratitude the parents gaze with pride
    upon their unexpected child
    who is wise beyond his years and very clear that he is here
    to serve a vision that propels him from inside
    magically, it seems, he grows up in the public’s eyes
    soon powerful men rush in to chart his stellar rise
    and it’s all over in time

    he wonders why even now the stars seem to call to him
    when he looks at the sky on winter nights
    could it be that he is the same child who long ago believed
    that he was born to set the world aright?
    And it’s all over in time

    We lose our bodies first and then we lose our minds
    and when we lose our memories we rush to get in line
    and rejoin the dance
    We have the best of intentions
    as we join the dance

  8. bito says:

    Waking into a gathering
    I heard words and talk of reading about roses
    and naked people.

    Does it rhyme
    not rhyme and what is this
    free verse

    I thought it quite funny
    that they could
    read and write
    I can’t nor will my children
    too dear.

    Little bugger
    tried to steal my crumbs

    I finished my meal
    I washed my bowl
    and left the
    Clever to Wonder

    I trimmed the
    near the doorway.

  9. ChrisR266 says:

    The world of poetry is a wonderful place to live.
    Thanks, Adonai, for opening the door for others.
    A few of my favorites are:
    Diane Wakoski
    ee cummings
    Charles Bukowski
    Nikki Giovanni
    John Donne
    William Wordsworth
    Robert Frost--
    I shall be telling this with a sigh
    Somewhere ages and ages hence:
    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference.

  10. escribacat says:

    A brilliant Russian poet, and often political (very hard to pull off), Anna Ahkmatova:

    Terror fingers all things in the dark,
    Leads moonlight to the axe.
    There’s an ominous knock behind the
    A ghost, a thief or a rat…

    • ghsts says:

      Excellent, Russians are so hard to work through, that is wonderfully sublime, the holy trinity of fear. Triggers the memories of Milton, paradise regained for some reason:

      A third sort doubted all things, though plain sense;
      Others in virtue placed felicity

  11. funksands says:

    I’ve really enjoyed reading the poetry and discussion tonight. Thank you. Here’s a piece that really affected me when I first read it and led me to search out more like it.

    Facing Snow

    Battle cry many new ghosts
    Worry and grieve alone old man
    Disorder cloud low dusk
    Rapid snow dance return wind
    Gourd ladle discard cup without green
    Stove remain fire like red
    Many place news broken
    Worry sit straight book empty After the battle, many new ghosts cry,
    The solitary old man worries and grieves.
    Ragged clouds are low amid the dusk,
    Snow dances quickly in the whirling wind.
    The ladle’s cast aside, the cup not green,
    The stove still looks as if a fiery red.
    To many places, communications are broken,
    I sit, but cannot read my books for grief.

    Du Fu -- (circa 756)

  12. funksands says:

    Freddled Gruntbuggly

    Oh freddled gruntbuggly
    Thy micturations are to me
    As plurdled gabbleblotchits on a lurgid bee.
    Groop I implore thee, my foonting turlingdromes
    And hooptiously drangle me with crinkly bindlewurdles,
    Or I will rend thee in the gobberwarts with my blurglecruncheon,
    See if I don’t!

    -- Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz

  13. KillgoreTrout says:

    A Strange Calm

    On this night this anynight not unlike the billions of others
    a sweet melancholy rises like the circular ballet of smoke
    Dancing off the end of my cigarette as Coltrane calls the tune.
    It’s warm and snug in my little chrysalis of caring and not caring
    Fretting and letting go in the same strain of blue satisfaction.
    I have no country to love and no future to find it.
    I watch too much news and dive nightly into this ever so micro
    soft web.
    Looking for argument and finding stupidity on this electronic
    men’s room wall that’s there and really nowhere when insults and
    labels are thrown out into the ethereal anynight by those injured
    and aiming to injure in a blank space held together by pixels of
    Caring and not caring, letting go and fretting and letting go
    again to wallow in my cocoon of beatitude.
    A strange calm at the center of this circle on this anynight
    not unlike the billions of others that have cared and not cared.
    My body is telling me to sleep, but sleep brings dream unto dream
    that I’ll never remember anyway.
    I am stuck frozen and smiling at train wrecks that others wisely
    turn from.
    I keep looking and not caring and caring all over again trying to
    let go and grasping tightly, fretting and letting go of this
    winged monarch inside me and hiding from me, but the tickle
    of it’s wings fluttering softly in my nocturnal need assure me
    that beauty and ever elusive virtue is not only for
    The light of day.

    One from my collection. Written after a night on a not so nice discussion board.

  14. Khirad says:

    I would but mention that the Mahabharata, attributed to Vyasa (though this is more likely a legendary figure), is the national epic of India and ten times longer than the Iliad and Odyssey combined. So, take that Homer.

    And like that, I’d like to leave a comment ten times as long as this, but I simply don’t know where I would begin!

    But I would add a few while I’m on India. The most famous Sanskrit poets: Valmiki, Panini, Kalidasa…

    Other favorites from India of mine: Thiruvalluvar, Akka Mahadevi, Mirabai, Meena Kumari, Kabir, Tagore…

    And by god, that’s incomplete and just one country.

    I would call Mirabai the Sappho of India. She was the first to really write personally in Hindi.

    री म्हाँ बैठयाँ जागाँ।
    जगत सब सोवाँ॥
    निरहण बैठयाँ रंगमहल माँ।
    णेणा लड़या पोवाँ॥
    इक बिरहणि हम ऐसी देय्वीं।
    अँसुवन की माला पोवै॥
    ताराँ गणताँ रैण बिहानाँ।
    सुख धड़ियारी जोवाँ॥
    मीराँ रे प्रभु गिरधरनागर।
    मिल बिछड़या णा होवाँ॥

    My eyes,
    stretched wide see only

    I hear tell
    There used to be
    a lonely royal girl like me
    upon a time.

    Gazing from
    the palace walls
    was all her life until

    her eyes lit on
    another’s smile,
    like beads that make
    each other shine.

    There is
    yet one, her tears
    stitch gleaming pearls
    all night.

    Says Mira,I count the stars, I wait
    for one pin

    of light.


    But what I’m trying to say is that there’s a whole world — literally — of poetry out there! (which yes, could have never been fit in an article.)

    Oh, and Iran’s national epic, the Shahnameh, is twice the size of the Iliad and Odyssey combined and can be more reliably attributed to the poet Ferdowsi. But I’ll not be getting into more countries/cultures at this point. Oh no!

    Just a quick note on my Egypt article last month (or two?!). For all those that didn’t catch it, its title was totally from Ozymandias. (kudos to Whatsie)

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