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Imitation! Creative Compliment, Lacking in Originality, or Plagiarism?
This week takes me back to college days. I was taking a graduate course (as a Physics major) in 'Modern Poets' at the University of Oklahoma. Our assignment for the week was to write a poem ourselves in the style of a modern poet we had already studied. I had already been attracted to the poems of Richard Wilbur and got to hear him do a reading while I was on campus at OU. In fact, his, 'A Boy At The Window, ' remains a personal favorite to this day and reminds me a lot of Robert Frost's best work! In any case, the poem I chose of his (to 'write in the style of') was another of his famous rhymes called 'Love Calls Us To The Things Of This World.' And here it is from PoemHunter.com's library of famous poets and their poems. I only regret that PoemHunter, in spite of their many virtues, gives such short shrift to a poet's formatting which I have laboriously restored here for your enjoyment. What do you suppose it is? Is PH so soulless that they would deny you the right to see Richard Wilbur's verses flapping in the morning breeze?
'Love Calls Us To The Things Of This World' by Richard Wilbur
The eyes open to a cry of pulleys,
And spirited from sleep, the astounded soul
Hangs for a moment bodiless and simple
As false dawn.
Outside the open window
The morning air is all awash with angels.
Some are in bed-sheets, some are in blouses,
Some are in smocks: but truly there they are.
Now they are rising together in calm swells
Of halcyon feeling, filling whatever they wear
With the deep joy of their impersonal breathing;
Now they are flying in place, conveying
The terrible speed of their omnipresence, moving
And staying like white water; and now of a sudden
They swoon down in so rapt a quiet
That nobody seems to be there.
The soul shrinks
From all that it is about to remember
From the punctual rape of every blessed day,
'Oh, let there be nothing on earth but laundry,
Nothing but rosy hands in the rising steam
And clear dances done in the sight of heaven.'
Yet, as the sun acknowledges
With a warm look the world's hunks and colors,
The soul descends once more in bitter love
To accept the waking body, saying now
In a changed voice as the man yawns and rises,
'Bring them down from their ruddy gallows;
Let there be clean linen for the backs of thieves;
Let lovers go fresh and sweet to be undone,
And the heaviest nuns walk in a pure floating
Of dark habits,
keeping their difficult balance.'
Poet's Notes: by Brian Johnston, not Richard Wilbur:
In years past city people used to hang laundry to dry on string cords that they would run between buildings on pulleys! I have not seen this or even pictures of this in a long time and suspect that the practice is either illegal or has just gone out of favor with the advent on self-service laundries where you can both wash and dry your clothing in machines. It is, of course, a very colorful image that Richard paints.
Now here is the poem that I turned in and read aloud to a Graduate class full of English Majors. Please remember too that I was a graduate student in Physics and not an English Major.
For Love Of ________ by Brian Johnston
In a house by a highway by a railroad
Eyes open to a self-set sleep-destroying buzzer
That waking mind impudently pretends
Penetrating the window barrier (1)
The air conducts a heavy diesel lullaby.
Over wealthier suburbs slips a transport,
Supersonic, though no sweeter music,
For rich and poor alike a boon (2) to sleep;
Heard only by more wicked insomniacs
For whom the watch's competent hum is a dirge. (3)
Descending in a shower of metallic disintegration (4)
Three men ignite the atmospheric blindfold, (5) survive,
Do not plunge white-hot into the sea, a common meteor,
But drift coolly down on nylon wings
To the waiting Carrier of the 300 lb. Angelfood. (6)
The mind shrinks
From the prospect of that confrontation,
From the phallic disruption of Christian paradise, (7)
'Oh, let there be nothing on earth but leavings,
Nothing but starships on a photon sea… (8) '
Now begins man's search for a Southland.
Yet, as light passes Venetian blinds,
Like music through classical guitar strings,
Touching the softened form of familiar Love,
The rods of the eye (9) wander adagio
Along the bars of a century-old sight before rising,
'Dethrone the convict from electric eclipse,
Redress the squalid in disposable, dust-free clothing,
Release the lovers to their denouement…'
The earth womb trembles in the last pains
Of the dark hour,
heralding man's difficult birth.
Poet's Notes: by Brian Johnston
My poem makes reference to several dated pieces of culture and technology as well…
(1) A jet going faster than sound is said to have 'crossed the sound barrier' and causes an explosive sound for people below. Windows are just a joke to this kind of noise and provide no protection at all.
(2) The sound made by a jet plane crossing the sound barrier is called a "sonic boom." So there is some word play between 'boon' and 'boom.'
(3) At one time in wrist watch technology, the most accurate had tiny tuning forks inside to improve accuracy. You could put them up to your ear and hear them hum. Modern electronic watches use quartz crystals for the same purpose which cannot be heard and are much more accurate.
(4) A composite shield ignites when a space capsule reenters the atmosphere at high speed which carries heat away from the capsule thus protecting the occupants.
****More Poet's Notes and Analysis in Part 2****
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