Breath Poems

[Zephrus. God of the winds (detail from “The Birth of Venus,” Sandro Botticelli]

AG: .. ..(I cited some lines)  from Hart Crane’s poem “Hurricane” as an example of dochmaic meter… and the whole poem is really interesting, and it’s just in the sequence of poems I’ve been referring to, one time or another, like William Carlos Williams’ poem about Thursday  (air – coming in and out of his nose) , Shelley’s “Ode To the West Wind – (“Make me thy lyre even as the forest is’”… “Be thou me spirt fierce (the wind)”, or, “The breath whose might I have invok’d in song/ Descends on me; my spirit’s bark is driven” in “Adonais”, or a little Elizabethan poem that I’ve quoted a number of times about “What is beauty but a breath? Does anybody know that? – “What is beauty but a breath?” Does anybody know?

Student: By who?

AG: Anonymous. Does anybody know that? Does anybody not know that? – or heard/not heard that? – Oh, I think…I thought I’d gone over that… [Allen reads the poem in its entirety] – .”What is beauty but a breath?/Fancies twin at birth & death/The colour of a damask rose,/That fadeth when the north wind blowes:/’tis such thatthough all thoughts do crave it ,/they know not what it is to have it:/a thing that stoops sometimes not to a king/and yet most open to he commomst thing/For she that is most fair/ Is open to the aire”. So the poem has a nice beginning – “What is beauty but a breath?” – anyway – and  “For she that is most fair/ Is open to the aire”

So there were a series of poems that I’ve been developing over the last year-and-a-half that have related to spirit as breath as making poetry (that is, a spiritual poetry), poetry seen as wind coming out of the body, or wind, breath, like the winds of earth. From Williams’ poem to Shelley’s poems to the Elizabethan poems, amongst others. So here is one that.. [Peter Orlovsky suddenly arrives!]

to be continued…

Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at the start of the tape and concluding approximately two-and-a-half minutes in

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