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From Microcosms by Wislawa Szymborska (translated from the Polish by Stanisław Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh)

But then suddenly beneath the glass,
foreign to a fault
and so petite,
that what they occupy in space
can only charitably be called a spot.

The last set of stanzas of the poem may qualify as the literary equivalent of breaking the fourth wall.

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‘Tis each and all a work of art,
That constant care and practice means —
The actor who creates a part
Has done his work behind the scenes.

  – from Banjo Paterson’s  Behind the Scenes (1893)

A wonderful poem that brings to fore that aspect of achievement that goes on behind the scenes – the slow and persistent honing of the craft, endless repetitions that take you one infinitesimal step toward perfection, that invisible foundation of time and effort on which the final few minutes of glory are built. In a world used to instant gratification, it is often easier to want than to be.

Dorothy Parker’s early works of poetry have been categorized as light verse. It combines playful rhyme and humor with themes that, for the most part, talk about love and loss, or rather more of loss than love. Enough Rope is her first published work of poetry. Consider, for example, the following:

In youth, it was a way I had
To do my best to please,
And change, with every passing lad,
To suit his theories.

But now I know the things I know,
And do the things I do;
And if you do not like me so,
To hell, my love, with you!

For guys reading the book, there’s more direct reproach. A poem titled Men begins:

They hail you as their morning star
Because you are the way you are.
If you return the sentiment,
They’ll try to make you different;

where ‘they’ are the lot of men, and ‘you’ the gentle female reader. The poem ends with the declaration:

They’d alter all that they admired.
They make me sick, they make me tired.

There are the occasional interludes of love, as in the poem Day-Dreams

If you and I were one, my dear,
A model life we’d lead.
We’d travel on, from year to year,
At no increase of speed.
Ah, clear to me the vision of
The things that we should do!
And so I think it best, my love,
To string along as two.

This sentiment is carried forward in another poem titled Love Song, that begins:

My own dear love, he is strong and bold
And he cares not what comes after.
His words ring sweet as chime of gold,
And his eyes are lit with laughter.

and ends with the following lines – the last of which I haven’t quite been able to interpret.

He’ll live his days where the sunbeam start,
Nor could storm or wind uproot him.
My own dear love, he is all my heart, –
And I wish somebody’d shoot him.

If the above lines make you feel all lovey-dovey, the poem Unfortunate Coincidences helps dispel that.

By the time you swear you’re his,
Shivering and sighing,
And he vows his passion is
Infinite, undying –
Lady, make a note of this:
One of you is lying.

In yet another poem:

Oh, seek, my love, your newer way;
I’ll not be left in sorrow.
So long as I have yesterday,
Go take your damned to-morrow!

The poems are cynical, many of them, but they are not depressingly melancholic. The simple, humor-infused, effortless rhyme make the poems light-hearted, and moments both of love and loss are dealt with in jest. Enough Rope is the first collection of 6 others in the book of her collected poems. I may have more to say when I get on to finishing the rest.

age is no crime

but the shame
of a deliberately
wasted
life

among so many
deliberately
wasted
lives

is.

8 count was the poem that led me to look up more by Charles Bukowski. Now I have besides me, a 400-page tome of his poems – The Last Night of the Earth – page after page of his distinctive unadorned, indifferent, and melancholic style.

being perishable sometimes makes a
man
strange
almost
unemployable.

We look before and after,
And pine for what is not:
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.

from To a Skylark by Shelley

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