Photo of a Bristlecone Pine in California‘Bristlecone Longevity’ and Other Poetry by Phillip Whidden The Society July 7, 2018 Beauty, Culture, Poetry 5 Comments Bristlecone Longevity The beauty of the tree is not how old, Indeed how ancient in its gnarling now, Not in its silent history yet untold, Nor in the pre-historic roots and bough— Their age—but in its newness ever new, Its torqued refusal to be caught by death, Rejection of defeat enclasped in screw- Shaped trunk, five-thousand-year eon’s breath There in its arid air, determined bark, Those needles prickly and the feisty cones Which stand against, aghast, against the stark Realities which beat against its bones, __These needles and these cones forever young, ____Which sing forever like a new-made tongue. From the Enlightenment to Gazing at a Dark-haired Navel How John Locke could result in Pollock is Opaque to me, but still I think the thread Is there. When humans think, they start to fizz, And there’s a clue. If once an unfuzzed head Is told it doesn’t have to follow God Or other fundamental creeds, then it Can run amok with alcohol and odd Drug pleasures . . . or in a personal fit Like “Me First, First, First, First!” A painter can Fling paint across a canvas or can blob It here and there. A poet fills a span Of paper with some dribbled words. All throb __With meaning, or at least that is the claim, ____But really it’s just feelings lacking shame. Ars Poetica “The word ‘classic’ itself . . . derives from the Latin word classicus which referred to recruits of the ‘first class’, the heavy infantry in the Roman army. The ‘classical’, then, is ‘first class’, though it is no longer heavily armoured.” ~ Robin Lane Fox, The Classical World: an Epic History from Homer to Hadrian, p. 1 The finest do not win the war with weight Of numbers. Heavy popularity Is not enough to stop them. You can freight The arts with freedoms of vulgarity, Simplicity, and banging rhymes in verse, Or wildest sloshes meant to shock the eye In paintings. You can conjure even worse In license in a film with all awry With tastelessness and dirt. There is a way Which always has been there to make the best Of creativity. It is the sway Of formal rules to help the artist wrest __The power of lawlessness by might of mind ____And make of grossest chaos things refined. 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. 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 5 Responses Amy Foreman July 7, 2018 Phillip, I enjoyed these immensely. Your incisive word choices and placements, your brilliant alliteration throughout (“fizz, unfuzzed, fundamental, fit, First, fling” in the second poem, and “win the war with weight . . .” in the third poem) and your skillful use of enjambment make these sonnets push forward relentlessly as a spring freshet, around their “turns” and over the falls, into the succinct, clear waters of your ending couplets. Very well done! Reply Phillip Whidden July 18, 2018 High praise indeed, Amy Foreman. Thanks. I only just noticed yesterday that these poems had appeared on the website. By that time others had occasion to find what they consider faults, so it was good that you got in there first. I note that one of them, in effect, finds fault with your comments. You might not be all that surprised that I consider your comments to be the correct ones. I’m smiling, Amy Foreman. Reply Joseph S. Salemi July 7, 2018 One minor quibble about your Bristlecone sonnet: in line 8, you should say “four-thousand-year-old eon’s.” The addition of the word “old” to your compound adjective puts the meter of that line in sync with the rest of the poem, which is perfectly iambic. As line 8 stands now, it had only nine syllables, and can only be scanned as an iambic-5 with great awkwardness. Reply James Reis July 15, 2018 I noticed that the poem is set in a single cumulative sentence, which to my ear, needed that cadence break to highlight the poem’s payload with a spotlight shining brightly to frame its importance. When I read it the first time, that cadence break hit me strongly as the mark of poetic genius. Even after reading it, perhaps a dozen times, my opinion has not changed in spite of repetition’s reputation for covering the extraordinary with a blanket of familiarity. For me, this is treasure found. Reply Leo Yankevich July 7, 2018 I enjoyed these all, but especially the last two. Unlike Amy, though, I don’t think your enjambments are that skillful. They only expose that you are searching for easy rhymes, rhymes that meet formal requirements, but have no punch. A sonnet titled “Ars Poetica” should show some bravura: tight biting rhymes with no enjambments. 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.