"Dawn" by Martin Johnson Heade ‘New Day’ and Other Poetry by Theresa Rodriguez The Society May 20, 2019 Beauty, Poetry 30 Comments New Day Welcome to a new day. I must go Ahead with life as it presents to me I have to forge ahead steadfast and show What moving on and steering forth can be For past is only dreams and memories And it can bind the heart to so much pain And future can be blind to what it sees If it makes anxious thoughts appear again But now is time to move ahead. Today I take the life I’m offered in its course And do what is before me in its way What I must do by elemental force For then is past, the future distant lies But live today, before life lives and dies. Annelid Sonnet (an annelid is a blood-sucking creature like a leech) I thought I had forgotten you by now, But I have not. Must I go again Into this place of torment? Tell me how To get rid of this leech that suckles when I try to free it. How I can I walk on When I am chained? I bury you inside, Outside, within, withal, whereon, be gone! Be dead! But in the casket you abide, Alive but molded, withered; rotten worm That will not die, though I had thought you dead! I lunge forth and away but you hold firm With prongs embedded in my bones and head. __Oh, you have held a place within too long, __Too underserved, too late to right the wrong. Theresa Rodriguez is the author of Jesus and Eros: Sonnets, Poems and Songs as well as a chapbook of 37 sonnets, both of which are available as ebooks on amazon.com. She is a classical singer and voice teacher who has written for Classical Singer magazine. She recently released an album entitled Lullabies: Traditional American and International Songs which is available on all streaming services. 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) 30 Responses Monty May 20, 2019 How curious, Theresa, to find that the 2nd poem generously contains flawless and perfect grammar; and yet the first poem is screaming out for 4 commas and 4 full-stops (by anyone’s reckoning). Reply Theresa Rodriguez May 20, 2019 I thought it read better without the commas or stops. Will reconsider my position. Thanks for your input, I appreciate it very much. Reply Monty May 20, 2019 It seems to me that you’ve asked the reader to take the end of a line as a pause in speech; which might suggest that you feel poetry should be read in lines . . a fatal misconception. Poetry should never be read in lines (unless there’s a full-stop at the end of a line(s). It should be read only as prose: which means it should be read either from capital-letter (at the start of a sentence) to full-stop; Or capital-letter to comma/colon, etc.. then comma to full-stop. As prose, part of the first poem reads: “I must go ahead with life as it presents to me I have to forge ahead steadfast and show what moving on and steering forth can be for past is only dreams and memories and it can bind the heart to so much pain and future can be blind to what it sees if it makes anxious thoughts appear again but now is time to move ahead.” See? Owing to a lack of full-stops, commas and colons . . you’re asking a reader to read that whole sentence without the slightest of pauses at any stage. Try reading it yourself, not as you wrote it: not as lines: but as one sentence. The reader don’t stand a chance of grasping the different individual aspects of the sentence. What about the old adage about “a poet’s fear of being misunderstood” (or, more loosely, Wilde’s: “A poet can survive everything, except a misprint”); that alone should ensure that an author always indicates a ‘pause’ to the reader . . to eliminate “the fear of being misunderstood”. Every poet should contain that fear! Above all, it’s unfair on a reader: the reader is (generally) just following the diction, all the while trying to grasp the meaning of the poem. The reader doesn’t need the distraction of trying to decipher where the ‘pauses’ should be. Theresa Rodriguez May 21, 2019 Monty, I added punctuation, let me know if you think it is better this way: New day Welcome to a new day. I must go Ahead with life as it presents to me; I have to forge ahead steadfast and show What moving on and steering forth can be. For past is only dreams and memories, And it can bind the heart to so much pain; And future can be blind to what it sees, If it makes anxious thoughts appear again. But now is time to move ahead. Today I take the life I’m offered in its course, And do what is before me in its way, What I must do by elemental force. For then is past, the future distant lies; But live today, before life lives and dies. Reply Monty May 21, 2019 That’s changed the world, Theresa. It’s now just like the 2nd poem above . . grammatically generous and grammatically flawless. Theresa Rodriguez May 21, 2019 I am glad you approved, Monty! James Sale May 20, 2019 Thanks for these poems, Theresa. I particularly like the simplicity and timeless message of the New Day – a variant of carpe diem, I guess. And a message always to be told and for us to be reminded of. It is so easy for us to be always in the future. Take me: my youngest son gets married on the 8th of June this year, so I am thinking about being there; and then I am going to be in Bryant Park in New York working with some great classical poets from SCP on the 17th June; then I am attending an exciting poetry workshop in NY on the 24th of June. Jeez, I am thinking about these things all the time so that I can barely live now! So I must remember your timeless wisdom: ” I must go / Ahead with life as it presents to me … Today / I take the life …” Good thoughts. Time to turn the computer off and relax into the present of the present. Thank you. Reply Theresa Rodriguez May 20, 2019 Thank you very much James, I appreciate it! Reply James Sale May 21, 2019 And great news, Theresa – for all SCP afficionados – Theresa Rodriguez will be appearing at Bryant Park on the 17th June to read some of her sonnets. Again, can’t wait to be there! Monty May 21, 2019 My ‘approval’ is insignificant, Theresa. As with all authors and their work; the only ‘approval’ that should really matter is the author’s own. Monty May 20, 2019 . . and I wish it to be known that my words above are directed not only at the said poem; but also to the sundry poems I’ve seen on these pages displaying a flagrant disregard for grammar. Reply Alan Sugar May 20, 2019 Have you ever read the poem “Siembrete” (Throw Yourself like Seed) by Miguel de Unamuno? It’s a sonnet. Yes, imagine that. It’s an exquisite sonnet composed in Spanish! BTW: “molded, withered; rotten worm” reminds me of William Blake. Keep writing poems! Reply Theresa Rodriguez May 20, 2019 Thank you very much, Alan, I appreciate it! Reply Monty May 21, 2019 Oghh, poor old Blakey: that’s the first time I’ve ever heard him described as a molded, withered, rotten worm. Reply Alan Ssugar May 21, 2019 The Sick Rose BY WILLIAM BLAKE O Rose thou art sick. The invisible worm, That flies in the night In the howling storm: Has found out thy bed Of crimson joy: And his dark secret love Does thy life destroy. David Watt May 21, 2019 Thank you Theresa for these poems. I particularly liked the alliteration in the concluding couplet of ‘New Day’: For then is past, the future distant lies But live today, before life lives and dies. Reply Theresa Rodriguez May 21, 2019 Thank you David, I appreciate it very much! Reply Mark Stone May 21, 2019 Theresa, I agree with Monty about the punctuation. Either have to have full punctuation or none, like E.E Cummings. The revised version looks great. I have only one suggestion. Line 9 includes this sentence: “But now is time to move ahead.” To me, this is ever so slightly awkward. It would seem more natural to say one of the following: But now it’s time to move ahead. But now’s the time to move ahead. I enjoyed both poems. The second one is very upscale and classy. Reply Theresa Rodriguez May 21, 2019 I am glad you enjoyed both poems Mark. I am also glad you liked the updated punctuation. I actually struggled quite a bit with what to add or what to omit. It still doesn’t feel “right” to me somehow even though it is “correct” now. As far as the line you mentioned, I guess I don’t like using contractions in poetry much. Thank you so much for your input, I really appreciate it! Reply James Sale May 21, 2019 Of course, Theresa is also a fabulous soprano singer too, and I strongly recommend SCP hear her poetry voice at the event on the 17th June. But check this out: https://www.bardsinger.com/videos Reply Theresa Rodriguez May 21, 2019 Thanks James very much! Reply Dusty Grein May 21, 2019 Theresa, I will have to straddle the fence a little on Monty’s response. While I agree that poetry should be punctuated like prose (and I much prefer the updated version) I have to take offense with one line in his reply. He writes “Poetry should never be read in lines (unless there’s a full-stop at the end of a line(s). It should be read only as prose: which means it should be read either from capital-letter (at the start of a sentence) to full-stop; Or capital-letter to comma/colon, etc.. then comma to full-stop.” My issue is this: NEVER is a rule word that should not be used to describe the process of writing poetry, in any form. Aside from my strong stand as a neo-classicist poet, I am also a book editor and novelist. I am a reader/writer who produces work for hundreds of other writers, and am a stickler for grammatical correctness and visual flow in written works. I am however, a scansion reader of poetry, by nature. This means my mind instinctively finds the meter and the rhythm behind the poem, and then the grammatical structure, all before I even look for symbolism, metaphor, or deeper meanings. Classical forms, as a delivery vehicle, rely on the musical flow and swing of metering, and not just the grammatical correctness of the sentences used to get there; while not all lines demand a full stop, the metered cadences of the classical forms usually require at least a slight pause. It is my strong and honest opinion that poetry should be read as poetry . . . and not as prose that was written in lines. I guess my personal rule of thumb is this: Write your poetry in complete sentences (unless your purpose is served best by ‘e.e. cummings’ style grammatical usage), but read poetry—especially classical formed poetry—using the metric flow that it was designed to be read in, and pause where that flow feels right, regardless of the underlying grammatical structure, which is mostly just aesthetic in nature. In the end, this IS an art form, not a science. Sometimes the structured approach demanded by classical style poems has to be stretched and molded into our own work, so we should never let the word ‘never’ guide our craft. Reply Theresa Rodriguez May 21, 2019 Eloquently put Dusty. Thank you for your perspective, it means a lot. Reply Monty May 24, 2019 I agree fully with your above sentence, Dusty, which went: “‘NEVER’ is a word that should not be used to describe the process of WRITING poetry, in any form”. Quite true. But, apart from the difficulty one might find anyway in using the word ‘never’ to desribe something (with it not being an adjective) . . . one can see clearly above that I never once mentioned the word WRITING. My above words concerned only the READING of poetry, and how it should be READ; quite apart from the WRITING of poetry, wouldn’t you agree? Indeed, you yourself incorporated part of my text into your Comment: “Poetry should never be READ in lines”, and yout Comment then goes on to refer only to the READING of poetry . . so I’m stuggling to see how you got ‘writing’ and ‘reading’ mixed-up. Read again. Of course there should be no limitations, no ‘nevers’, on the WRITING, the composition, of a poem, but there is undoubtedly a wrong and a right way to READ a poem; and I stand steadfastly by my words that it’s “wrong to read a poem by lines”, and “it’s wrong to pause at the end of each line”. A clear example: If the first 3 lines in a poem are written as 1 sentence (capital-letter at the start of the 1st line; full-stop at the end of the 3rd), with NO other punctuation in between . . those 3 lines should be read without pause. But for one to read in ‘lines’, they would pause at the end of the 1st line as though there was a comma there; which would affect how they began the 2nd line; which would then affect their reading of the whole sentence . . the flow of a complete sentence! So, you’re a “scansion reader of poetry”, and as such, you say that “while not all lines demand a full-stop” (we all know that; only lines which end with the end of a sentence “demand” a full-stop) . . “the metered cadences of the classical forms usually require at least a slight pause” (at the end of each line). I say NOTHING requires a slight pause except a comma, a colon or a full-stop! I’m not a “scansion” reader; I read poetry as prose, and pause only when the grammar directs me to. If I encounter two lines which read: I made my way back into town To find a shop, and quench my thirst. . . I’m never gonna pause between ‘town’ and ‘to’: meter or no meter: scansion or no scansion. You then go on to say that “poetry should be read as poetry . . and not as prose which was written in lines”; but poetry IS prose written in lines . . thus one CAN ONLY read it as prose; and be directed by the grammar as one would be in prose. In your penultimate paragraph, you refer to the grammatical-structure of a poem as “mostly just aesthetic in nature” . . how dare you dismiss such a vital constituent in such a way. Grammar is everything. Reply Dusty Grein May 25, 2019 I must apologize to Monty, for the inference that his comment was about writing poetry, as opposed to reading it. I write poetry as a reader and I read poetry, either internally or aloud, in metric feet, so for me that distinction is less black and white than it may be for others. I feel that considering it “wrong to read a poem by lines” runs counter-intuitive to the nature of lined poetry in general, and specifically classical form poetry. Why bother writing poetry in metric form, if your intent is to have it read as prose? Would it not be simpler to write it as prose instead? In my opinion—note the word opinion—metered classical poetry is much closer to music than it is to straight prose. If you have ever tried to read the lyrics to songs as prose, you soon realize that it loses much of its magic. Hence, the reading of poetry as prose, without using the measured syllabic constructs of iambs, trochees and other poetic feet—which includes pauses outside grammatical constructs—robs it of much of its power and beauty. I will stand strong on the main point where we differ. In prose, grammar IS everything (as I stated, I am a book editor and publisher), but classical form poetry is NOT “prose written in lines,” but is crafted in metric feet using specific scansion. If further proof is required that poems do not require grammatical correctness, I would point to the works of not only E.E. Cummings and Walt Whitman, but the Bard himself. Shakespeare often wrote in grammatically unsound sentence fragments, to bend the lines of his poetry into metered form. While the language has adapted and morphed since his day, I would argue that his poetry lines, as opposed to his prose, were always intended to be read using the same metric cadence he wrote them in, and not as straight prose. I will have to agree to disagree with Monty. I will not reduce his points to “how dare you’s”, but will intsead simply say that we differ in how we view, and hence read, poetry. Is there a “right” and a “wrong” way to do so? Alas, this is the final disagreement I must hold strongly to. Enforcing rules on the reading of poetry is almost as bad as enforcing them on the writing of such. At the end of the day, if a poem entertains you, moves you, makes you smile, or makes you think—regardless of how you read it—that is where the value lies, not in its grammatical correctness. Monty May 30, 2019 But, Dusty, for a poem to “entertain one; make one smile; make one think” . . one HAS to be able to understand it. And one can only do that if it’s ‘gramatically correct’. No one “enforces rules on the reading of poetry”; the reader reads using the same grammatical rules with which they’ve grown up: start of a sentence to full-stop . . start of the next sentence to full stop. Nothing changes just because it’s a poem. If I may use the same example as above: I made my way back into town To find a shop, and quench my thirst. That is a single sentence, from the capital T to the full-stop. Whether that sentence was in a piece of prose writing, or in the middle of a poem, one reads it the same way . . capital letter to full stop. If we were to read that sentence in a piece of prose writing, we wouldn’t pause after the word ‘town’ . . so we shouldn’t pause just because ‘town’ happens to be the last word in a line of a poem. Regarding the above poem, you yourself said you “prefer the updated version”.. Why? It’s the same poem as the original version! Could it be that you preferred the updated version because it contained the necessary grammar for you to absorb the narrative? And if you preferred the updated version, that means you felt the original to be inferior. Why? It’s the same poem. Again, could it be that you felt it to be inferior ‘cos it lacked the basic grammar to allow you to absorb the narrative. So, in a roundabout way, you’re now saying GRAMMAR COUNTS. Grammar was the ONLY difference between the two versions . . and you “preferred” the one with grammar. Thus, I now even more right to say: “How dare you dismiss grammar” . . ‘cos you chose the second version BECAUSE IT CONTAINED GRAMMAR! So how, HOW, can you then go on to say that grammar “has no value in poetry”? Make your mind up. Reply James Sale May 31, 2019 Sadly, Monty, you are rapidly becoming the Emperor of Pedantry on these pages, and like most pedants you are wrong on most things, but occasionally you may get something right in the same way a blind person may hit a dart board if they simply throw enough darts in the general direction. But it would be helpful if you would stop making ‘absolute’ statements that are clearly incorrect. Most of your threads seem to be littered with these. For example, in your last post here we have: ‘… one HAS to be able to understand it.’ No, we don’t have to understand a poem, especially not to be entertained; indeed, can one say one ‘understands’ Coleridge’s Kubla Khan (or Lewis Carroll)? It is a polysemous text that defies ‘understanding’ in a full sense. And then we have the absurdity of ‘And one can only do that if it’s ‘grammatically correct’ – how wrong could that be? We understand ungrammatical texts in English all the time – foreign students, not to mention the indigenous population, speak and write ungrammatical English all the time, but it still makes perfect sense. English is famous for this, because unlike Latin it is an analytical language. And BTW, your own sentence above – ‘Thus, I now even more right to say: “How dare you dismiss grammar” . .’ is ungrammatical and has a missing word, but we perfectly understand it because our own understanding supplies the sense. So rather than trying to find missing commas, I would really much prefer it if you would attempt to ‘appreciate’ the poetry; that would really help the debates on these pages. Reply Monty October 13, 2019 Next time, have the decency to look-up a word’s true meaning before attributing it to me. The definition of ‘pedantic’ goes something like: ‘Unnecessarily fussy about things which don’t really matter’. My remarks about the lack of grammar in the above poem were not ‘unnecessarily fussy’, and they DID matter; ‘coz the author thereafter modified her poem, adding the missing grammar. That action rendered the poem complete; which in turn compelled further commenters to say they preferred the updated version. See? My remarks transpired to have been of some value. What’s more, the same author submitted another poem (a quality piece: Writer’s Block) to these pages just in the last few days . . which was grammatically immaculate! Pedantic? Go and find yourself a dictionary. And in future, don’t quote me out of context. Yeah, I did say the words: “.. one has to be able to understand a poem”; but those words were preceded by other words in a single sentence: “For a poem to entertain one, make one smile, make one think: one has to be able to understand it”. Which is indubitable! Of course we don’t HAVE to understand a poem (I wish I had 10€ for all the ones I’ve not understood); but what does a poem give us if we don’t understand it? How can it make us smile or think if we don’t understand it? How can it arouse ANY emotions within us if we don’t understand it? Maybe that’s why you quoted me OUT of context, ‘coz IN context, my words were irrefutable. Take your basic tabloid distortion elsewhere. There’s no denying that you’ve got every right to highlight my one “missing word” in my previous comment; if the error’s there, it deserves to be pointed out. I’ve got no qualms with that; and I’d do the same myself if I was commenting upon someone’s prose. But on this occasion, I felt it to be a tad ironic that the error was highlighted by one whose comments on these pages have been historically littered with the most elementary of blemishes. And as for your: “I’d much prefer it if you’d attempt to appreciate the poetry; that’d really help the debates on these pages” . . well, who cares what YOU’D prefer? These pages ain’t about YOU. If you don’t like it: don’t read the debates. Stay within the safety-net of your obsequiousness. Reply Dusty Grein May 31, 2019 Monty, Before I respond too deeply, I must say that I am in agreement with James, and I find your statement [for a poem to “entertain one; make one smile; make one think” . . one HAS to be able to understand it. And one can only do that if it’s ‘gramatically correct’] to be slightly ludicrous, beyond the misspelling it contains. Perhaps one of the greatest English poems ever penned, in my opinion, is by Lewis Carrol, and begins: ’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe. The aforementioned requirement for ‘understanding’ this beautiful nonsense poem is laughable. Since L.C. made up a majority of these words, no two people will ever understand it the same way, yet a great many—if not most—people do enjoy it and are in fact entertained by it, without understanding exactly what it says. It is obvious that the two of us may never agree on more than a few things, but I find I really must clarify one point. I did not ‘dismiss’ grammar, nor did I ever say it “has no value in poetry” but rather I stated “grammatical structure [in poetry] . . . is mostly just aesthetic in nature”. My preference for the modified and grammatically ‘correct’ version of Theresa’s poem is not due to a shift in its readability, or my lack of understanding/absorption of the original, but because it IS aesthetically more pleasing, and I am a very visual reader. The visual presentation (aesthetics) of a poem DOES have value, beyond simply making it grammatically sound as prose. This accounts for the beauty of centered lines of verse in some poetry, or the use of varying word counts/lengths to achieve shaped poems. As to your example . . . I made my way back into town To find a shop, and quench my thirst. This couplet, in my opinion, SHOULD be read with a slight pause between the stressed syllable at the end of line 1, and the unstressed syllable at the start of line 2. This fluctuation in stress patterns—not its grammar—is what makes the poem into iambic tetrameter, and is the difference between metered poetry and unmetered prose. It could have been written without any capitalization or punctuation at all; this would make it totally unacceptable as prose, but it would still be a valid poetry couplet with perfect rhythm and flow (especially if it were center justified, a grammatical no-no): i made my way back into town to find a shop and quench my thirst or it could have been punctuated with a soft stop (imposed by a comma, an ellipsis . . . or even an em dash—) after the word TOWN, which would not only give it the aesthetically pleasing visual aspect of ‘correct’ grammar, but would also have the added benefit of imposing audible metering on the lines, for those who either don’t grasp how to read in poetic feet—known as scansion (metered reading)—or the value of reading poetry using this syllabic line & verse method. You may notice that I have used the phrase “in my opinion” several times in this reply. I do not claim to be an expert on anything, but I do know what I enjoy; I have also learned that my views may not fit everyone else, and I am okay with that . . . but I do like to make sure my views are clearly expressed, and not misinterpreted. I do prefer the use of correct grammar in poetry (when it fits the purposes of the poet), but mostly for its visual aspects; I do not find a lack of grammar ruins either the poem, or my ability to understand it, or read it in metric verse—if it was crafted as such. This crafting is the basis of all classical style metric poetry forms, as opposed to syllabic or free verse poems, and may be why you find the prevalence of poetry without regard to the standard rules of prosaic grammar, here on the Society’s website. At the end of the day, we all have our own reasons for, and obviously our own methods of, reading poetry. I hope that we ALL continue to read, enjoy, and appreciate the classical forms that this Society works so diligently to promote and preserve, as written by the eclectic and talented group of poets who are presented on these pages. Reply Monty October 13, 2019 All I can ask, Dusty (and I’ll ask no more hereafter) is that you read the following groups of words . . a/ ‘deaf even to the hoots of gas-shells dropping softly behind’ b/ ‘if you too could pace behind the wagon that we flung him in’ c/ ‘the blood come gargling from his froth-corrupted lungs’ d/ ‘bitter as the cud of vile’ . . and you’ll see as clearly as possible that there is nowhere within each group of words where we’d make even the slightest of pauses, either in speech or reading. Anyone and everyone can see that. Those words happen to be taken from a renowned war-poem, in which they’re presented thus: a/ Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.. b/ If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace Behind the wagon that we flung him in.. c/ If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs.. d/ Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues.. There you have it. There are some pauses WITHIN the lines (as the commas tell us), but NOT THE SLIGHTEST of pauses at the end of the lines. I trust that you’ll now retract your claim that, when reading poetry, we should naturally pause at the end of a line. We shouldn’t . . unless the grammar tells us to. You can go on forever about your ‘cadences’ and ‘scansion’ . . that has no bearing on what I’ve shown above. 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