An Alphabet of Poets – B is for Bly – Part II

To celebrate National Poetry Month I am featuring a new poet for each day of April. I will be at my abecedarian best and go through the alphabet from a to z with a few letters getting more than one post!

What Is Sorrow For?

What is sorrow for? It is a storehouse
Where we store wheat, barley, corn and tears.
We step to the door on a round stone,
And the storehouse feeds all the birds of sorrow.
And I say to myself: Will you have
Sorrow at last? Go on, be cheerful in autumn,
Be stoic, yes, be tranquil, calm;
Or in the valley of sorrows spread your wings.

Robert Bly, from  Talking Into the Ear of a Donkey,  Norton, 2011

A Ramble and Ramage for Robert For His 85th Birthday

Today my list of favorite poets starts with Berry and ends with Derry.
That’s as far as I can reach from where I sit at my desk
and pick poets, their books, off the shelf.

You might think me lazy or er, lucky that Robert Bly sits directly
over my right shoulder, always an easy grab but it’s complicated:

First I need to refer to angels, not Robert

though he likes to play up there in the world of God and dervishes and the everlasting.
And he believes The angels are still sending messages to Joseph
and he has been sending messages to me buried secretly inside his poems for years (don’t tell a soul.)

You might wonder why all this pother and bother about angels but I am getting there.
You see I was desperate today.
For no obvious rhyme or reason I couldn’t encourage any words for a poem.

So I yanked out The Angels of Pompei in desperation for inspiration: a picture book
with poems by Robert Bly full of crumbling walls and pictures of angels
painted  in the first century c.e. before
being buried along with 16,000 or so poor souls

when Vesuvious blasted and buriedPompeii, Hurculaneum and Stabaie.
Dear angels –

missing the odd wing, foot and leg  but pretty ones
in pretty good shape

really, for being almost 2000 years old. And if you want to know they were discovered
in 1978, photographed in 1985 and published in 1991 in this book with poems by Bly.

I’m not one for mixing poems with angels after the Angel-book craze
in the 1980’s – and all those angels in saccharine Flavia and Hallmark cards, but I was surprised when I opened the book to see a poem
I already knew but from another book Talking into the Ear of the Donkey

and so perched on my chair, I leaned over again and hauled it off the shelf
to find the same poem, titled this time: What is Sorrow For? Not a bad idea for a poem
also in a book about angels and 16,000 or so dead.

But before you wonder if this gets any simpler I discovered from this book that this poem
was in the form of a Ramage
so I went on a small rampage
on the net to track down this new-to-me literary term and found it inside

yet another book by Bly  called Turkish Pears in August and that was great but there it
was again – the same poem on sorrow. I agree one might begin to think Angels
are trying to have their way with me

but before I lose my train of thought, I did find what a Ramage was- a made-up form
by Robert himself, from the French:  branch or ramify. Just eight lines long, has a
troubled speaker and remember this: it has at its heart key “sound particles”
such as in but more prevalent, lots of r sounds – ar, air, and er. Lots of er!

Did you know that an er is a sort of being that cries out ? For sure Robert adjures!
Well, have you ever seen an er? Umm? Perhaps not. Perhaps like Angels,
hard to see. But let me try with a Ramage of my own and er, maybe we can find one
or two dancing on a pin like angels are supposed to do.

A amage for Robert

Well there’s my first er already in Robert and I snuck
in an air in there so there, a plethora of sound particles
tears around but so far no echoes of sorrows or angels anywhere
except here inside my  sixty year old heart, older than Machado’s
when he wrote this in 1903: Last night, as I slept, I dreamt –
marvellous error! – That it was God I had here inside my heart.
Robert you translated that and were it possible I might bother
you to translate the stories of sorrow I have yet to write.  



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