Poetry as a genre will always hold a special place in my heart. I remember as an English Lit major, taking survey courses that unfolded the world of literature. The courses painstakingly distinguished certain periods of writing and the themes and predilections of that time, to begin to equip those of us taking those courses with an expert understanding of the [American and British] written word. We also discussed what was considered literature. Since it very much looks different from a novel, poetry was often on the chopping block of discussion. Is poetry literature or is it an altogether separate manner of writing? Is poetry simply a subset of the larger umbrella of literature, or is it out in the rain? The argument on both sides is compelling, and can be as erudite as you want to make your point. It’s fun to think about…what do you think? Is poetry literature?
Poetry holds another place in my heart and in my life. At any one time, to supplement the two books I am reading, I also have a selection of poetry I like to read. The function is utilitarian, and, yeah, it’s also just nice to read different kinds of writing. Like exercise, a little bit reading is better than nothing. Sometimes when I get into bed, I frankly just don’t feel like reading, either because I’m too tired, or because what I’m reading is too heady to dive into at 11 o’clock at night, or (looks left, looks right…psssst, come closer…) sometimes I just don’t feel like reading. There. I said it. And, sometimes I don’t. I bypass the reading rainbow and just hit the sack. However, on the nights where I want a little sustenance, a little dive into something interesting, I’ll read some poetry.
So, after many months of reading, I’d say over a year actually, I finally finished (Charles*) Baudelaire’s Paris Spleen. Have you read it? It’s great, a bit melancholy as the blurb on the back cover of my particular edition will have you know, but also, not without hope. Baudelaire raged against the modern world, and his own subjectivity in this collection of poetry–many late nights pondering, wishing for some escape from something…For example, in his poem, “One O’Clock in the Morning,” he exclaims,
At last! I am alone! Nothing can be heard but the rumbling of a few belated and weary cabs. For a few hours at least silence will be ours, if not sleep. At last! the tyranny of the human face has disappeared, and now there will be no one but myself to make me suffer (15).
Like most readings, and poetry in particular, it’s best when read out loud–so give that a whirl if you haven’t already. Okay, two more examples of his poetry and I say go pick up a copy of something by Baudelaire.**
And, a poem called, “The Hemisphere in Your Hair,” just really makes me think Baudelaire was ahead of his time–this and his whole collection of work. Anyway, in this poem he wishes, “Long, long let me breathe the fragrance of your hair. Let me plunge my face into it like a thirsty man into the water of a spring, and let me wave it like a scented handkerchief to stir memories in the air” (31).
Many times after reading a poem or two before hitting the sack, I’d shut the book and just say, “that was just so good.” What a wonderful way to end a night. And I’ll leave you with a short quote from “Portraits of Some Mistresses,” “Then, to Kill Time which has such a hardy life, as well as to accelerate Life which flows so slowly, they ordered a few more bottles of wine” (89).***
*Baudelaire is such a strong last name to me, I just feel you never really need to say Charles.
** Clayton Fine Books has a selection of first edition works by Baudelaire.
*** Warning, this poem is actually kind of disturbing, Bukowski style.