18 December 2012

countdown to new year's: round 2, day 2

Welcome to day two of the second round of dead poet dates!

One thing I must confess before I go any further in this post ... I have a wildly vivid imagination. I don't say that to brag or anything; it just happens to be the truth. I don't just mean I daydream, although I do quite a bit of that. My imagine is vivid ... wildly so. As an example, to get to the downtown area of where I used to live, I had to cross a bridge over a train station. I once had an imagined scene of a wind so strong it blew me off the bridge and into one of the train cars carrying coal; it was so vivid that, as it ended, I found myself actually clinging to the side of the bridge.

That kind of imagination.

So when I'm going on these dead poet dates, it's all in good fun, but it's also extremely vivid for me. I've picked places I would actually like to go so that I actually have fun "going" there. I picture these men's faces (as they were when they were living, of course) as we dine out or sail away and what it would be like to actually be in the presence of these poetic titans. I share this not to give you a major introspective into my life, but to let you know ... When I share this, I'm not just sharing good fun (though, hopefully, that's what you get from it), but also a vibrant poetic experience, a "day in the life" sort of escape. I hope, in other words and simpler terms, that you enjoy this as much as I do.

So, with that, let's dig in to today's dates!

My Funny Valentine in Winter: Robert Hayden vs. Langston Hughes

I meet Robert and Langston at the Blue Note in Greenwich Village. Robert ushers me inside as Langston leans carelessly against the building's facade, telling us he wants to drink in the moment a bit before joining us inside. He joins us just inside the door a moment later, just as we are being led to a small, intimate table. Langston confesses that Jazz, especially the Blues, inspired much of his poetry, and so the music that filters in softly around us carries him a little away. Robert takes the time to lean in close and share how jazz carries him away at times, too. He waits for the next song to begin--a gentle instrumental rendition of Billie Holiday's "You're My Thrill"--and recites "Those Winter Sundays" gently over the flickering flame of the tea light candle centerpiece.

The poem's "pick up line": "him, who had driven out the cold"
The most alluring word/phrase: "banked fires blaze"
The most intriguing line break/enjambment: "fearing the chronic angers of that house, // Speaking indifferently to him,"
The line that says "I love you": "then with cracked hands that ached / from labor in the weekday weather made /banked fires blaze."
The perfect closing line for a date: "What did I know, what did I know / of love's austere and lonely offices?"

As a singer takes to the stage, Langston offers his hand for a dance, and I gladly accept. We move slowly on the floor, and the room's glowing atmosphere is almost enough to make me forget the reason for the outing. It is Langston who brings things back into focus, asking if I am ready to hear his poem. He barely waits for me to nod before reciting his "April Rain Song".

The poem's "pick up line": "Let the rain kiss you."
The most alluring word/phrase: "pools"
The most intriguing line break/enjambment: "The rain plays a little sleep-song on our roof at night-- // And I love the rain."
The line that says "I love you": "Let the rain kiss you."
The perfect closing line for a date: "Let the rain sing you a lullaby."

Which poet would win your heart's last dance?
pollcode.com free polls 

What You Will: Claude McKay vs Pablo Neruda

Later that same evening, as the jazz notes are replaced by cricket serenades, I meet Claude and Pablo at a small stage in the park where Twelfth Night is about to be performed by a local Shakespeare in the Park troop. The intimate staging area is warmed by high torches and bodies bundled together on the grass. Claude has brought a blanket and wraps it twice around my shoulders as we listen to some of the performers play a little pre-show interlude music, setting to tone for the performance. As the music plays and the people around us chatter, Claude laughs lightly and says the title of his poem seems oddly appropriate considering when and where we are. He then recites his poem "After the Winter".

The poem's "pick up line": "We'll turn our faces southward, love / Toward the summer isle"
The most alluring word/phrase: "droning bee"
The most intriguing line break/enjambment: "With black-ribbed blue-bells blowing near, / And ferns that never fade."
The line that says "I love you": "And we will seek the quiet hill / Where towers the cotton tree,"
The perfect closing line for a date: "And we will build a cottage there / Beside an open glade,"

Pablo helps me to my feet at the intermission, jokingly suggesting we give up Twelfth Night for a "fourth meal" somewhere warmer. We find a small coffee and tea stand and soon warm our hands around small Styrofoam cups. As we return to the area where the play will soon resume, Pablo hands Claude a steaming cup of coffee and helps me sit back down before joining us on the grass. The players are back at their intermission music as Pablo recites his "Tie Your Heart at Night to Mine, Love".

The poem's "pick up line": "Tie your heart at night to mine, love,"
The most alluring word/phrase: "Night crossing: black coal of dream"
The most intriguing line break/enjambment: "black coal of dream / that cuts the thread of earthly orbs"
The line that says "I love you": "... tie me to a purer movement, / to the grip on life that beats in your breast,"
The perfect closing line for a date: "So that our dreams might reply / to the sky's questioning stars / with one key, one door closed to shadow."

Which poet is the player upon your heart's stage?
pollcode.com free polls 

Your Turn: Once you have read each poet's poem, please feel free to share your thoughts on the poems of the day, and which poet stole your heart with his verse. Which lines, phrases, and words stood out to you and why? Also: How vivid is your imagination?


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Check out (and vote for!) the previous dates of Round 2 in the Our Lost Jungle Countdown to New Year's:


  1. Ok. I'll be honest. I love Hughes so he wins. I don't care what lines the other guy has. Call it unfair but life isn't fair.

    I also like Peruda but had to vote for McKay on this one. I like the rhythm and rhyme in After the Winter and the alliteration in these lines:

    And we will build a cottage there
    Beside an open glade,
    With black-ribbed blue-bells blowing near,
    And ferns that never fade.

    1. McKay and Neruda is definitely an interesting challenge, Linda, because while McKay paints such a vivid image, Neruda shares a linguistic dream ... and there is such a strong appeal to both. I'm so happy these two got paired up against each other; it's real challenge to my personal poetic "dynamic." Thanks for your feedback--it's added even more complexity to the choice.

    2. LOL. Just noticed that I typed peruda instead of Neruda. Oh my fingers make me laugh.

    3. I didn't even notice! But, I also really like the sound of the name "Peruda." It sounds like a name that needs to belong to someone!


Thank you so much for your comments! Please feel free to share your thoughts here; I look forward to engaging in conversation with you!

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