A Five-Sonnet Sequence by Phillip Whidden The Society October 23, 2017 Beauty, Culture, Poetry 9 Comments Scorn “Enargeîs is the technical term ‘for divine epiphany: a word that contains the dazzle of “white,” argós, which comes to designate a pure, unquestionable “conspicuous-ness” ’ ”. ~ Michael Schmidt, The First Poets, 19 I wonder if perhaps we moderns know This brilliant whiteness much more clearly than The ancients did. They made their temples glow With painted color like the rainbow span But more intense. The goddess and the god Were daubed with firmest tints of red and gold, Blues, reds, greens—strong as emeralds. How odd That seems to us when what we know is bold Severest white divinities and stone Carved columns. Noontime light in Greece Reveals the purest color for a throne, A god’s own seat that might hold Jason’s fleece. Before the gods became poetic wares, Divinities appeared as white-hot glares. Personalized Epiphany “This ‘conspicuousness’, he adds ‘will later be inhabited by poetry, thus becoming perhaps the characteristic that distinguishes poetry from every other form.’” ~ Michael Schmidt, The First Poets, 19 Deep poetry does something depths can not Do. It stands out among the arts, a thing Conspicuous in power. Music, hot With inspiration, has a different wing Which rises in the air and heart, but lines Of Mariana trench profoundness work Inside the heart, inside its fathom brines And currents. Down in that divinest murk Are frigid swelters only words can tell. The plastic arts appeal to eye alone, Or sometimes hand, but do not cast the spell Veins need. Paints do not travel in the bone. The theatre and film demand too much Control. A poem grants the reader’s touch. Where? Where? Where? “Achieved poetry paints with at least one colour which can be found nowhere else.” ~ Michael Schmidt, The First Poets, 19 Do you know just what that color is? Gods’ Eyes must contain it—goddesses’ more so— Yet can we see it there? Perhaps it nods At us with holy winks above the slow Convictions of a palm tree’s fronds before The sacrifice by priests in island shades. Perhaps it gives us glimpses from the floor Of marble temples. Mostly it evades Us. That is why it matters. Those who grasp The color, artisans with words, do not Themselves know what it is. Fists barely clasp It in their lines. The hue hates being caught. Once found it fades. It must be caught again. The rainbow trout gasps out in air-filled pain. Treatments in English Lessons Yet even poetry is now without Transcendence. No one wants to read it. No One pays for it and no one is devout About it as they were before the glow Of cinema and television screens. Forget about the God is dead debate. Forget about the notion that machines Could write it and computers might dictate It. It is now long dead for most except For weddings, funerals, engagement showers And such. No man or woman now is swept Away to love by sonnets. They have lost their powers. The poem’s stored in classrooms only. Still It’s there—given like a cultural pill. Stunned, Stung with Aesthetic Tears “When it reaches Alexandria, poetry comes in out of the sun, retires to the library . . . And so it [poetry] survives in a world where the vulgar tongue is not Greek.” ~ Michael Schmidt, The First Poets, 19 At Florida Technological U One afternoon I had some time to kill, Or I was bored with working my way through Some Library Science. Needing health’s pill I headed for the shelves of poems doomed To be unopened in the stacks and took Anthologized poems down. Wonder loomed. I read an ode by Keats. The cosmos shook. My eyes sang out with tears and not because Of sentiment inside those lines. The tears Burned down my cheeks because of beauty’s laws. The ode was like the music of the spheres. Perfection in the crafting of each line, And not words’ meanings, formed that white stone shrine. Phillip Whidden is a poet published in America, England, Scotland (and elsewhere) in book form, online, and in journals. He has also had an article on Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum est” published in The New Edinburgh Review. www.phillipwhidden.com Views expressed by individual poets and writers on this website and by commenters do not represent the views of the entire Society. The comments section on regular posts is meant to be a place for civil and fruitful discussion. Pseudonyms are discouraged. The individual poet or writer featured in a post has the ability to remove any or all comments by emailing submissions@ classicalpoets.org with the details and under the subject title “Remove Comment.” Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Related 9 Responses Sultana Raza October 23, 2017 Wish I didn’t have to agree with these poems, but am afraid I have to echo these sentiments. What a pity! Yet, at least some people such as yourself still thrum to the beat of authentic poetry. Merci et bon continuation! Reply Phillip Whidden November 7, 2017 Dear Sultana Raza, I’m unhappily glad that you were forced to agree. Real poetry is still being written. Phillip Reply James Sale October 23, 2017 I am rushing to travel abroad at the moment so haven’t time to consider this properly, but it certainly strikes me immediately as containing some wonderful ideas and lines: the Still/pill is one such example – how true! And, as a direct result too, I have just been on Amazon to order this Michael Schmidt book, which I wasn’t aware of before. I really like Michael Schmidt – his Lives of the Poets is tremendous reading, except for one thing: in terms of contemporary poetry he loves meretricious trash – all the pretentious nonsense that has been heaped on the world since WW1 in the name of art. That said, his own poetry I quite like – still, mustn’t rant – pressed for time. Well done, Phillip – this is an excellently conceived sequence. Reply Phillip Whidden November 7, 2017 Dear James Sale, Thanks for your positive response and for writing to me even though you were in a rush. I’m glad you were inspired to buy THE FIRST POETS. It really pushes my buttons. Poems just flow out of me because of it. Very recently I got his book about early English poets, THE STORY OF POETRY. It is having pretty much the same effect on me. All the best, Phillip Reply C.B. Anderson October 23, 2017 Maybe I’m right, or maybe I’m wrong. But for me, the preceding poems were murky: too many devices without adroit concision. De gustibus non est disputandum. Reply C.B. Anderson October 23, 2017 Maybe I’m right, or maybe I’m wrong. But for me, the preceding poems were murky: too many devices without adroit concision. De gustibus non est disputandum. Reply Phillip Whidden November 7, 2017 Dear C. B. Anderson, Murky? All the best, Phillip Whidden Reply Michael Dashiell October 24, 2017 In reference to Treatments in English Lessons, you tell the bleak truth about poetry today. Since free verse really has no specific rules to heed, anyone can write a poem, so why read and pay for them? Reply Phillip Whidden November 7, 2017 Dear Michael Dashiell, I’m sorry we have to agree on the point of this sonnet you commented on here. Thanks for taking the time and trouble to respond. All the best, Phillip Whidden Reply Leave a Reply Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.