Sunday, July 29, 2007

Summer Poetry Challenge

Summer Poetry Challenge
I managed to just join in on BookeyWookey's Summer Poetry Challenge just before the August 1st start date. This is a great excuse to spend some time with some wonderful poets, in a genre I neglect far too much.

For the challenge, you need to select four new-to-you poems, three from different time periods, and one poem from any time period that you find mysterious, intimidating, or just don't understand.

My selections are:
Before 1900: 'The Mouse and the Camel' by Rumi (13th century). It is originally from the Masnavi-I Ma'navi, but the translation I am using is from Rumi: Selected Poems, published by Penguin Classics.
Between 1900-2000: 'Her Kind' by Anne Sexton, from To Bedlam and Part Way Back (1960).
2000-2007: 'Pilgrimage' by Natasha Trethewey, from Native Guard: Poems (2006).
An intimidating poem: The 'Rubaiyat' of Omar Khayyam (12th century). The version I am reading is in the book A Treasury of Asian Literature; the poem is translated by Edward Fitzgerald.

And to start off the poetry fun, I would like to post my runner-up choice for the 2000-20007 category. This poem, Fishing on the Susquehanna in July by Billy Collins, caught my eye right away. Unlike the poet, I did grow up fishing on the Susquehanna River, which is 20 minutes from my home. I also camped by it, skipped rocks on it, and went water tubing and swimming in it. And, one of my fellow classmates was lost to this world when climbing a small span of cliffs bordering the river. Out of all the rivers in the world, it is probably the one that holds the most memories to me.
Fishing on the Susquehanna in July
-Billy Collins

I have never been fishing on the Susquehanna
or on any river for that matter
to be perfectly honest.

Not in July or any month
have I had the pleasure--if it is a pleasure--
of fishing on the Susquehanna.

I am more likely to be found
in a quiet room like this one--
a painting of a woman on the wall,

a bowl of tangerines on the table--
trying to manufacture the sensation
of fishing on the Susquehanna.

There is little doubt
that others have been fishing
on the Susquehanna,

rowing upstream in a wooden boat,
sliding the oars under the water
then raising them to drip in the light.

But the nearest I have ever come to
fishing on the Susquehanna
was one afternoon in a museum in Philadelphia

when I balanced a little egg of time
in front of a painting
in which that river curled around a bend

under a blue cloud-ruffled sky,
dense trees along the banks,
and a fellow with a red bandanna

sitting in a small, green
flat-bottom boat
holding the thin whip of a pole.

That is something I am unlikely
ever to do, I remember
saying to myself and the person next to me.

Then I blinked and moved on
to other American scenes
of haystacks, water whitening over rocks,

even one of a brown hare
who seemed so wired with alertness
I imagined him springing right out of the frame.

Picnic, Lightening (1998)


Dewey said...

Oh! That's coming up, isn't it? I should think about putting together the post for it tomorrow so I can post it first thing on August 1st. I love your choices and look forward to reading them here!

Eva said...

I love Rumi-I considered going w/ him instead of Blake, but Blake is a lot 'newer' for me. I also adore Anne Sexton (my favourite of hers is "Just Once"-I memorised it 2 years ago, and I still remember most of it!). Can't wait to see your other choices-I really enjoyed your runner-up.

Nyssaneala said...

@dewey - you have some great choices, too! Jacques Prevert is a new name to me, I'm looking forward to reading the poem (will you be posting it in french or english?) And I can't wait to hear your thoughts on Jabberwocky!

@eva - Thanks for coming by to visit! I must admit, I have always preferred prose over poetry, and as a result my knowledge of poetry is dismally small. I had only heard of Rumi for the first time a few years ago, when we received a book of his poems as a wedding gift.