The Quartet of Beauty

By Crystal Hurd

This month, we have been asked to share four of our favorite poets. Poetry has become increasingly important to me since I began my Creative Writing degree last fall. This semester, I have taken a Poetics class which has taught me about the tension/progression of verse, the wrestle of white space, the beauty of enjambment, and the creative strategies employed by master poets to evoke certain images.

Image by Michael Jay via freeimages.com
Image by Michael Jay via freeimages.com

With this new knowledge, I approach my favorite poets (as well as my own work) with a renewed perspective. Now I look beyond the lines to see the structures beneath, as one who views nature and detects God’s fingerprints everywhere. Fellow muse Doug Jackson discussed his favorite poets last week. Although we share poets, I am choosing four additional poets to add to the list.

1. T.S. Eliot – I wrote a muse about the impact of Eliot’s “The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock” on my academic and artistic development. Eliot was a master of creating rhythmic free verse poetry, saturated with allusions and vivid imagery. One of my favorite stanzas in all of poetry comes from Prufrock:

And indeed there will be time<
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—
(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
(They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

From Bartleby.com (http://www.bartleby.com/198/1.html)

2. Luci Shaw – Oh my word. If you haven’t read the works of Luci Shaw, you are impoverishing your poetical experience. Shaw has released several marvelous books of poetry, including her most recent collection Harvesting Fog. A book of essays entitled Thumbprint in the Clay: Divine Marks of Beauty, Grace, and Order came out in March and a new poetry collection Sea Glass releases next month. One of her books is entitled The Crime of Living Cautiously (LOVE that title!). Some may recognize Shaw’s name from collaborative works she wrote with the late and lovely Madeline L’Engle. She is, without hesitation, one of my favorite poets.

Shaw’s poetry has all of the fervor of a faith refined and delicately and articulately expressed. It’s beautiful, evocative, poignant. I include a poem here from her website [www.lucishaw.com]:

Comeback for snowy plover
Associated Press headline, Oct. 13, 2014

O, lesser flake of feathers, O downy
shore­winged picker of cockles

and mites, twig­legged runner through ripples,
who was it called you out of extinction

to flit and flirt again with the waves?
Who missed you enough to amend

your habitation? Who restored you,
winging you back to the beaches of our lives?

What urgent impulse then spirited you,
safe in your dappled egg, to break shell,

chick stirring in shallow sand­scrape,
lifting to fly the salt wind­­rising in drifts

over the wild surf, your pinions
riding the breath of God?

3. Wendell Berry – Berry is a national treasure. A poet/farmer/activist from Kentucky, Berry speaks about our stewardship of the environment, the casualties of modern life, and the spiritual aspects of nature. He has written several essay collections and poetry collections, as well as a fiction series. His Sabbath poems are downright gorgeous. One of my favorites is below:

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

From the Poetry Foundation http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/171140

4. William Butler Yeats – The widely anthologized Yeats is a well-known Irish poet. Yeats was the first Irishman awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1923. Yeats had a strong influence on modern and postmodern artists. A young, aspiring Irish poet by the name of C.S. Lewis met Yeats in March 1921. He writes in a letter to this father:

I have been taken recently to see the mighty Yeats. It was the weirdest show you every saw, and I fear he is a Kod. You sit on hard antique chairs by candlelight in an oriental looking room and listen in silence while the great man talks about magic and ghosts and mystics: I should have loved to have had Kirk[Patrick – Lewis’s tutor] there. What a fluttering of the dovecote! It is a pity that the real romance of meeting a man who has written great poetry and who has known William Morris and Tagore and Symons should be so overlaid with the shame romance of flame coloured curtains and mumbo-jumbo” (Collected Letters, Volume 1, 524).

I love “The Second Coming” which has birthed such great phrases (and book titles for Achebe and Didion) as “Things Fall Apart” and “Slouches[ing] toward Bethlehem.” Included is a poem that I have taught and thoroughly enjoy:

Sailing to Byzantium

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees,
—Those dying generations—at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

II

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

III

O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

IV

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

*****

Dr. Crystal Hurd is a writer, reader, public school educator, and adjunct professor. She is happily married with three beautiful Terriers (adopted from local shelters). She is a certified book nerd who loves to read and research works involving faith, literature, art, and leadership. You can visit her webpage www.crystalhurd.com , friend her on Facebook, (Crystal Sullivan Hurd) and follow her on Twitter: @DoctorHurd and @hurdofficial.

 

 

 

 

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