Friday, March 28, 2008

The Guesthouse by Rumi

This week, a little wisdom from the great Persian poet Rumi.

The Guesthouse

This being human is a guesthouse
Every morning a new arrival
A joy, a depression, a meanness
Some momentary awareness
Comes as an unexpected visitor

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows
Who violently sweep your house
Empty of its furniture
Still treat each guest honorably
He may be cleaning you out
For some new delight!

The dark thought, the shame, the malice
Meet them at the door laughing
And invite them in
Be grateful for whoever comes
Because each has been sent
As a guide from the beyond

Translated by Coleman Barks

Rumi (Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi) was a 13th century Persian muslim poet, jurist, and theologian. His name literally means "Majesty of Religion". He was born in Balkh (now part of Afghanistan) and died in present-day Turkey. His works are widely read in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and are in translation in Turkey, Azerbaijan, the U.S., and South Asia. He lived most of his life in, and produced his works under, the Seljuk Empire. Rumi's importance is considered to transcend national and ethnic borders.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Dream Variations by Langston Hughes

Dream Variations

To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done.
Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes on gently,
Dark like me--
That is my dream!

To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Dance! Whirl! Whirl!
Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening . . .
A tall, slim tree . . .
Night coming tenderly
Black like me.

Langston Hughes was born in 1902 in Joplin, Missouri. Through his poetry, fiction and plays he tried to acurately portray the African-American experience in early to mid twentieth century America. He made major contributions to the Harlem Rennaisance, and is known for incorporating jazz influences into his work.

Friday, March 14, 2008

An Excerpt from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot

Many poets and critics think Prufrock is the great poem of the 20th Century. I think it's as good a choice as any. People often champion the work's content and overlook its style and beauty.

This excerpt is one of my favorite parts. Notice the conflation of cosmic thoughts and a lonely and suffocating insecurity.

There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

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?

You can read the whole poem here.

Thomas Stearns Eliot was born in Missouri in 1888, but spent most of his life in London. Arguably the most influential poet of the 20th Century, he won the Noble Prize for Literature in 1948. Eliot died in London in 1965.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Poem by Frank O'Hara

This week's is a lighthearted, stream-of-consciousness poem by Frank O'Hara. Enjoy.

Lana Turner has collapsed!
I was trotting along and suddenly
it started raining and snowing
and you said it was hailing
but hailing hits you on the head
hard so it was really snowing and
raining and I was in such a hurry
to meet you but the traffic
was acting exactly like the sky
and suddenly I see a headline
there is no snow in Hollywood
there is no rain in California
I have been to lots of parties
and acted perfectly disgraceful
but I never actually collapsed
oh Lana Turner we love you get up

Frank O'Hara became one of the most distinguished members of the New York School of poets, which also included John Ashbery, James Schuyler, and Kenneth Koch. O'Hara's association with the painters Larry Rivers, Jackson Pollock, and Jasper Johns, also leaders of the New York School, became a source of inspiration for his highly original poetry. He attempted to produce with words the effects these artists had created on canvas.