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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. PatsyT says:

    It’s been awhile…..

    A blind man man sees more then me
    He looks into the mind,
    the world he does not see

    An old man knows more then me,
    he has all the experience I am lacking

    An ugly man looks better then me,
    he never suffers from a vain heart, you see.

    A poor man has more then me,
    He thrives on the pleasures of the heart
    not on money

    Is it better to be
    Would I,
    What I am looking for?

  2. For America and Roosevelt says:

    The sea! The sea!
    when I think of the sea
    there comes to mind
    the Iliad
    and Helen’s public fault
    that bred it.
    Were it not for that
    there would have been
    no poem but the world
    if we had remembered,
    those crimson petals
    spilled among the stones,
    would have called it simply
    The sexual orchid that bloomed then
    sending so many
    men to their graves
    has left its memory
    to a race of fools
    or heroes
    if silence is a virtue.
    The sea alone
    with its multiplicity
    holds any hope.
    The storm
    has proven abortive
    but we remain
    after the thoughts it roused
    re-cement our lives.
    It is the mind
    the mind
    that must be cured
    short of death’s
    and the will becomes again
    a garden. The poem
    is complex and the place made
    in our lives
    for the poem.
    Silence can be complex too,
    but you do not get far
    with silence.
    Begin again.
    It is like Homer’s
    catalogue of ships:
    it fills up the time.
    I speak in figures,
    well enough, the dresses
    you wear are figures also,
    we could not meet
    otherwise. When I speak
    of flowers
    it is to recall
    that at one time
    we were young.
    All women are not Helen,
    I know that,
    but have Helen in their hearts.
    My sweet,
    you have it also, therefore
    I love you
    and could not love you otherwise.

    William Carlos Williams, “ Asphodel, That Greeny Flower ”

    APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
    Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
    Memory and desire, stirring
    Dull roots with spring rain.
    Winter kept us warm, covering 5
    Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
    A little life with dried tubers.
    Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
    With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
    And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten, 10
    And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
    Bin gar keine Russin, stamm’ aus Litauen, echt deutsch.
    And when we were children, staying at the archduke’s,
    My cousin’s, he took me out on a sled,
    And I was frightened. He said, Marie, 15
    Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
    In the mountains, there you feel free.
    I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.

    T. S. Eliot, “ The Waste Land ”

    “ this great catastrophe to our letters ”

    William Carlos Williams on “ The Waste Land ”

  3. For America and Roosevelt says:

    A selection of my recent works ( slightly expurgated ) –

    haiku [ V III MMXI -- 1 ]

    Part One


    1 one of these days I’m going to get organizized


    1 one of these days I’m going to get orgasmizized

    Part Two


    1 one of these days I’m going to get disorganizized


    1 one of these days I’m going to get disorgamizized

    Part Three

    f*** Nixon

    First Appendix

    1 one of these days I am going to get organisised

    Second Appendix

    1 one of these days I am going to get disorganisised

    Third Appendix

    1 f*** the Kronos Quartet

    haiku [ V III MMXI -- 3 ]


    1 blancmange


    1 f*** the blancmange


    1 do not f*** the blancmange


    1 warning contains information about how to f*** the blancmange


    1 warning does not contain information about how to f*** the blancmange

    haiku [ V III MMXI -- 5 ]

    1 la merde avec le blancmange

    • PatsyT says:

      I love this!

      • For America and Roosevelt says:

        A few more chosen completely at random –

        haiku [ XXVI X MMX -- 3 ]

        1 the compleat ass over tit

        haiku [ IX IX MMX -- 8 ]

        1 thus

        haiku [ XIX IX MMX -- 3 ]


        1 by the Grand Duchess of Bakersfield

        2 flautomobile dyskinesia


        1 interenantiodromially interf***erbated via interociter

        2 albeit with a certain want of precision

        haiku [ XXII IX MMX -- 2 ]

        1 the indeterminacy having been augmented to such an indefinite extent that it now may or may not be virtually entirely impossible to ascertain or signify or otherwise communicate or determine anything

      • For America and Roosevelt says:

        Oh why thank you!

        • PatsyT says:

          You are most welcome,
          Could you please explain the Kronos Quartet?

          • For America and Roosevelt says:

            Piano. I like to use string instruments to set up ghastly microtonal tunings with grindingly dissonant harmonics, though ( but I don’t play them in the proper sense ).

          • For America and Roosevelt says:

            The Kronos Quartet is a string quartet that specializes in modern music, except that they long ago went from playing the more cerebral, high-modernist sort of stuff to playing mostly trendy,crossovery, NPR-type stuff ( and thereby selling many times more CDs than, say, the Arditti or Flux quartets ). I was listening to a particularly bad example ( it was in the middle of a radio show ) while I was writing that one.

            • PatsyT says:

              Interesting For A and R,
              I have not followed that Quartet very much.
              My oldest daughter is studying violin at the Oberlin Conservatory.
              One of our favorites is the Emerson Quartet
              I have not followed how popular that one is but my daughter loves that the first and second violin switch off positions.
              Do you play an instrument?

  4. SequimBob2 says:

    Enjoyed the column. Thank you for ‘going there.’

    Great poems can reduce a topic to a searing, brilliant essence or turn a subject on its head and present it in a completely unexpected perspective.

    Speaking of perspective, my favorite ‘perspective’ poem:

    A man said to the universe:
    “Sir I exist!”
    “However,” replied the universe,
    “The fact has not created in me
    A sense of obligation.”

    — Stephen Crane

  5. foodchain says:

    I really like the breathe in——-breathe out. It sets a wonderful pace for the reader.

    • ADONAI says:

      Thank you foodchain :) I’m really glad you enjoyed the piece.

      • KillgoreTrout says:

        Adonai, T.S. Elliot once compared the writing of a poem to an exorcism. I think he was correct about that.
        You get these thoughts whirling around in your head, and they just have to come out. And once they do, it is very satisfying.

  6. foodchain says:

    I say consider it all, weigh it all, but know what you like. Talent should never be wasted by form, nor should it be elevated by form. You make me like KY.

  7. PocketWatch says:

    e e cummings

    poet or insane?

  8. whatsthatsound says:

    A Brief History of the Poetry of Whatsthatsound:
    This was my first poem, proudly written on the walls of a stall in a bathroom of the Ohio State Art Department Building:

    Nuclear Proliferation

    Let me come into your bomb shelter
    and we’ll dance neath the red glow of the
    noon day sun
    and you shall
    bear my three
    armed child

    • ADONAI says:

      I think it’s right up there with, “Here I Sit Broken Hearted…”

      • whatsthatsound says:

        you honor me!
        And that’s right up there with my all time favorite poem (which you have to say really quickly for full effect)

        I’m not a pheasant plucker
        I’m a pheasant plucker’s son
        I’m only plucking pheasants
        till the pheasant plucker comes

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