An Introduction to Classical Poetry

Hey y'all!It's National Poetry Month which is exciting to me because I'm such a poetry dork. Previously, I’ve only been able to post during my Top Ten Tuesday related to poetry. If you follow me on Twitter, I tend to tweet (a lot of) poems day-to-day but they can get a little scattered. I talked in my introduction to the month post about how this is going to work on the blog: I'm spotlighting a genre of poetry a week, as classified by yours truly. I tend to divide poetry into three categories: classical, spoken, and contemporary poetry.

You might be into classical poetry if

  • your phone autocorrects years to Yeats (guilty on this one)

  • you find yourself referencing lines from Frost in everyday life

  • you annotate your paperbacks of Neruda beyond recognition

  • prefer reading leather-bound books or reading foreign writers

The thing about classical poetry is that it's very rhythmic. It's formal, which makes it harder to get into, but it's also refreshing in a  way because it's an entirely different style than most "normal" writing nowadays. It's the type of writing that makes me feel like I should read these poems in my dad's study, perhaps inhaling the smell of peppermint and cigar smoke. It's the type of poetry that makes me want to have a name-dropping conversation with "Oh, you've read Baudelaire? What elements do you think are derived from so-and-so?" I've been trying really hard to read more of the "big names" of poetry. I'd love to be able to call myself a pretentious reader, but I can't stomach poetry that's too dense. Despite that, I think I've managed to find a few poets that are much more gentle when reading more formal poetry for the first time. I hope y'all enjoy!

The Reading List

Read Rumi if you like romantic poetry with elements from the non-Western tradition

#1

"You Are Not Your Eyes"

Those who have reached their arms into emptiness are no longer concerned with lies and truth, with mind and soul, or which side of the bed they rose from. If you are still struggling to understand, you are not there. You offer your soul to one who says, “Take it to the other side.” You’re on neither side, yet those who love you see you on one side or the other. You say Illa, “only God,” then your hungry eyes see you’re in “nothing,” La.You’re an artist who paints both with existence and non. Shams could help you see who you are, but remember, You are not your eyes.

#2

A night full of talking that hurts,
my worst held-back secrets. Everything
has to do with loving and not loving.
This night will pass.
Then we have work to do.
#3
The minute I heard my first love story,I started looking for you, not knowinghow blind that was.
Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere,they’re in each other all along.
Read Bukowski if you like grittier takes on life
#1
“unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don't do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don't do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.”
#2
“great writers are indecent people
they live unfairly
saving the best part for paper.

good human beings save the world
so that bastards like me can keep creating art,
become immortal.
if you read this after I am dead
it means I made it.”
#3
“I sit here
drunk now.
I am 
a series of
small victories
and large defeats
and I am as
amazed
as any other
that
I have gotten
from there to
here
without committing murder
or being
murdered;
without
having ended up in the
madhouse.

as I drink alone
again tonight
my soul despite all the past
agony
thanks all the gods
who were not
there
for me
then.”

Read Neruda if you like gorgeous lines crafted with timeless emotion

#1

I like it when you're quiet. It's as if you weren't here now,
and you heard me from a distance, and my voice couldn't reach you.
It's as if your eyes had flown away from you, and as if
your mouth were closed because I leaned to kiss you.

Just as all living things are filled with my soul.
you emerge from all living things filled with the soul of me.
It's as if, a butterfly in dreams, you were my soul,
and as if you were the soul's word, melancholy.

I like it when you're quiet. It's as if you'd gone away now,
And you'd become the keening, the butterfly's insistence,
And you heard me from a distance and my voice didn't reach you.
It's then that what I want is to be quiet with your silence.

It's then that what I want is to speak to you your silence
in a speech as clear as lamplight, as plain as a gold ring.
You are quiet like the night, and like the night you're star-lit.
Your silences are star-like, they're a distant and a simple thing.

I like it when you're quiet. It's as if you weren't here now.
As if you were dead now, and sorrowful, and distant.
A word then is sufficient, or a smile, to make me happy,
Happy that it seems so certain that you're present.

#2

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write, for example,'The night is shatteredand the blue stars shiver in the distance.'The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.Tonight I can write the saddest lines.I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.Through nights like this one I held her in my armsI kissed her again and again under the endless sky.She loved me sometimes, and I loved her too.How could one not have loved her great still eyes.Tonight I can write the saddest lines.To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.What does it matter that my love could not keep her.The night is shattered and she is not with me.This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.My sight searches for her as though to go to her.My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.The same night whitening the same trees.We, of that time, are no longer the same.I no longer love her, that's certain, but how I loved her.My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.Another's. She will be another's. Like my kisses before.Her void. Her bright body. Her inifinite eyes.I no longer love her, that's certain, but maybe I love her. Love is so short, forgetting is so long.Because through nights like this one I held her in my armsmy sould is not satisfied that it has lost her.Though this be the last pain that she makes me sufferand these the last verses that I write for her. 

#3

If You Forget Me

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
remember
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

But
if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.”

***

All of these poets are absolutely phenomenal and I love them so much. The dog-eared copies of poems I have by them are underlined and highlighted beyond the point of recognition. Need a few more to get started? Check out additional suggestions below! I hope y'all enjoy!

Other poets to check out: Mary Oliver, Baudelaire, Sylvia Plath, Rainer Maria Rilke