April is the Humane-est (sic) Month, Breeding Thoughtfulness

T.S. Eliot’s epic poem “The Waste Land” famously begins:

 

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
So it’s quite ironic that April is National Poetry Month. If anything, since poetry makes the world more thoughtful and compassionate, I think April might now be the most humane month.
*
Poet Yehuda Amichai wrote: “Compassion is what we need.” Ain’t that the truth!
 *
Of course, one of the greatest mysteries is how a scumbag can write a compassionate, sensitive poem. Case in point: Ezra Nazi-collaborator Pound. He wrote this gorgeous poem/translation:
 *

THE RIVER-MERCHANT’S WIFE: A LETTER

 

by Ezra Pound 1915 (adapted from Rihaku or Li Po 701-762)

 

While my hair was still cut straight across my forehead

I played about the front gate, pulling flowers.

You came by on bamboo stilts, playing horse,

You walked about my seat, playing with blue plums.

And we went on living in the village Chokan:

Two small people, without dislike or suspicion.

 

At fourteen I married My Lord you.

I never laughed, being bashful.

Lowering my head, I looked at the wall.

Called to, a thousand times, I never looked back.

 

At fifteen I stopped scowling,

I desired my dust to be mingled with yours

Forever and forever and forever.

Why should I climb the look out?

 

At sixteen you departed,

You went into far Ku-to-en, by the river of swirling eddies,

And you have been gone five months.

The monkeys make sorrowful noise overhead.

 

You dragged your feet when you went out.

By the gate now, the moss is grown, the different mosses,

Too deep to clear them away!

The leaves fall early this autumn, in wind.

The paired butterflies are already yellow with August

Over the grass in the West garden;

They hurt me.  I grow older.

If you are coming down through the narrows of the river kiang,

Please let me know beforehand,

And I will come out to meet you

As far as Cho-fu-Sa.

 

Frustrating that it was Pound who wrote these beautiful lines. Do you love a work of art by a creep? (Hint: you do if you like James and the Giant Peach or Matilda)

Happy National Poetry Month!!!

I plan to celebrate poetry this month, and am going to try to overlook the little detail above: that I don’t care for this year’s poster. Check out previous year’s posters here.

 

What do you think about this year’s poster? Does it make you want to go read a poem?

 

By the way: #amwriting

40 Comments

Filed under #AmWriting, Poetry, Writing

40 responses to “April is the Humane-est (sic) Month, Breeding Thoughtfulness

  1. If the purose of the poster is to promote National Poetry Month, it fails miserably. What a confusing mishmash.

  2. Yeah, it doesn’t do much for me, either. I’m working on designing my own lame NaPoWriMo logo, as I plan to post throughout the month. 🙂

    • Well, the logo design sounds like lots of fun. But I’m even more eager to see your posts!!! Good luck with it, Jennifer! Or maybe I should say break a leg!

  3. Actually trying to read the poster makes me feel like I’m having a migraine. 😦

  4. Interesting post. I could never figure out why T. S. Eliot called April the “cruelest month.” I agree that it might instead be called the most humane month. I would like to know what is cruel about it? This line gets quoted so often (by people who have no idea what it means) that it is nauseating (the frequent quotations, that is, not Eliot’s words).

    • The way I read those lines is that the speaker resents April (or spring) for stirring up memories and thus desire that are longings that make him feel worse. He felt better when he was numb. But you’re right, I’m pretty sure a lot of people haven’t read “The Waste Land” so why quote from it if you haven’t?! hah Thanks so much for stopping by, Roger! I really like your blog.

  5. Seen (by me) : Poets have the most compressed emotions, most compressed writing.

  6. Just reading a book about evil and what makes people do evil things. It seems most people who do evil are a lot like people who don’t so it’s no surprise that people can mingle in beauty and ugliness at the same time. Most people who do evil never planned to do it but once they do, it makes doing more evil easier. It’s scary ! Also people who do evil tend not to see things from the victims’ viewpoint. They tend to think either they’re doing something for the betterment of humanity or that what they’re doing is not such a big deal. I had to put the book aside for a while because it was disturbing.

    • So disturbing. Why are we (as in humans) so fascinated with evil and evil people anyway? I think there is some truth in that evil continuum that we can all slide along because look at how evil normal people can be in time of war, for instance. I am thinking of people who rat out others, etc. Maybe even more interesting is what keeps from people from ever (knowingly) doing evil!!!

  7. I’d have to think too long about your question, Luanne! How about movies? I like Woody Allen’s movies but, OMG, what a creep!

  8. I’m also not a fan of the poster. I like collages, but there’s no focus here.
    As far as creepy awful people who produce beautiful work (poems, music, art, movies, etc.)–I think there are probably more than we know. Humans are complex. Didn’t Pound go insane, or perhaps he was always mentally ill?

  9. I’m going to have to go to my bookshelf and find some poetry books to read this month, Luanne. And I’m with the rest of the crowd – that poster is like a dog’s breakfast 😉

  10. I think it’s important to separate an artist’s humanity from his or her work. The work can be valuable, even if the artist is a monster. We’re all flawed, after all. :/

    • First I wanted to play devil’s advocate and say that the art must be corrupt if the person is corrupt but then I was thinking about artists who fall in the middle but lean toward the annoying or obnoxious or mean or something. But then I realized that I was having to make judgments about people! haha

  11. Offhand, i can’t think of any writers I love who are known jerks, but I am sure in time I can think of a few! I don’t really mind the poster, but it doesn’t stir much in me either way so it’s probably a fail.

  12. Provocative discussion and responses to your post Luanne! Poster: a trend, as I know from my husband who teaches graphic design at a university: he says that they want to convey a concept, but they have not used a clear visual hierarchy. Too cluttered. Second topic: so many things I love (movies, paintings, poems) were created by some of the worst people. I can accept it for the most part. Picasso was evidently narcissistic and egocentric, and Hemingway was a bully, according to one his biographers, as well as a few of his friends. Diego Rivera, major philanderer. How wonderful, then, to celebrate artists and writers who were also decent and good people, or at least were not destructive people to others! A tribute to creativity? It does not distinguish?

  13. I have a hard time reconciling personal life with creative effort, Luanne. I get this from my Mom. She “held transgressions against people.” Years went by before she would like Nancy Reagan. She mentioned she recentlymourned her death. She always used to say, in a rather unforgiving and mean way, “That make up girl, Nancy, stole Jane Wyman’s husband!”
    I don’t like bigots nor molesters who to me are ” monsters.” Now, we do believe in forgiving those who apologize or show remorse. Didn’t know that Matilda and James and the Giant Peach author is horrible. This is not upsetting since both books have a little mean streak in a character or as in Matilda’s parents, both are negative adults and ” bad parents.” I rather don’t like them! Thanks for your frankness, Luanne. ❤

    • HAH!!!! Thank you, Robin!!! I have thought this for years, used to mention it in children’s lit classes I taught, and few agreed with me!! I find those books to be very mean, especially James and the Giant Peach. The “voice” of the books are mean to so many, including overweight women. There is just a nastiness that is not offset by kindness, compassion, etc. Thank you thank you thank you.
      About your mother, yes, that generation was/is also the same way about Elizabeth Taylor regarding Debbie Reynolds . . . .

  14. That poster! Good grief! I like how someone described it as a “dog’s breakfast.” We could say it looks like a kittie’s breakfast 😉

    I have struggled with learning, after I’ve admired someone for a long time, that they have done evil things, or at least committed actions I can’t condone. Woody Allen is a great example because he and Soon-Yi are still married, probably his longest marriage yet. So one might argue that Soon-Yi was older than her years, yadda, yadda. But it’s still creepy and I don’t think I can ever watch Manhattan again (although I had a hard time with Allen’s character having an affair with a teen-ager then too. He was funny when frolicking with adult women, not at all with very young ones). What’s also difficult for me is the stories about artists like Ray Charles, Al Green who supposedly were abusive toward the women in their lives. Not as devastating as learning that a famous poet was a Nazi collaborator, but troubling nonetheless.

  15. The poster doesn’t encourage me to read poetry, but your blog does Luanne!

I'd love to hear your comments

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s