Day 23 — Bill & his posse of Nature Poets

Shakespeare’s birthday/deathday. Each year I try to write something Bill-affiliated. This can be made harder by having a theme superimposed over the top of it (ie, like pandemics or climate change) but at least it forces me to think outside a few boxes for some green inspiration. Which is always a good thing. Need to apologise in advance for the long pome, I didn’t have the time to write a short poem.

If only poets had the power that multinational corporations have to effect change in the world.

*****

Bill S & his posse of Nature Poets

Bill being a country boy born & bred
was a big lover of nature
dropping dozens of wildflowers
animals, trees, natural events
63 birds, & more into his plays ;
with whimsical abandon
he set them in forests, on coasts, 
on rugged heaths
— if he were writing today
climate change would be his bent

so too Bill Blake’s rage
against dark Satanic Mills
which were pumping his pristine
English skies full of black soot 
& were, after all, the beginning 
of man-made climate change

the posse is being assembled

Lawrence & his dark forest soul 
would definitely be there …
with his animalistic magic 
of snakes & bats & pansies 

a third Bill, Wordsworth
knew nature was divine
& believed true happiness 
was achieved when existing 
in harmony with it, always happy 
to wax lyrical about daffodils, 
clouds, & Tintern Abbey

youthful firebrand Keats
loved nature’s vibrant scents 
& colours & cool calming water
a man who happily sang odes 
to Nightingales, Autumn, & the Sea
would get in on this action

although somewhat simpler 
in scope another John (Clare)
less complex & less well known
marvellously describes the natural 
world & rural life in affectionate
vignettes of Winter Evening,
Wood Pictures in Summer,
& the Little Trotty Wagtail

Emerson’s belief that we understand 
truth only by studying the song of nature
& Humblebees & Snow Storms

& Shelley’s awareness she destroys 
as well as creates; singing odes 
to the West Wind, Skylarks & Mont Blanc

& Dickinson finding awe in everything
Light Existing In Spring
Birds coming down the Walk

& Frost whose name suggests he should be
though not a pure nature poet loved
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

many modern poets too are in the posse

the marvellous Mary Oliver who instills 
poems with wonder-filled images 
drawn from daily walks near her home
Wild Geese & Journeys on Summer Days

& Gary Snyder an activist who speaks 
with an ancient voice but modern tongue
of fertile soil, animal magic, 
the power of solitude, rebirth; 
the love & ecstasy of the dance
& Mountains and Rivers Without End

but as wonderful as all these 
nature loving poets are
what we really need
is for everyone to remember
they too are poets, alive in this bleak
eternal universe only because
our home is a delicately crafted
paean to life

Day 23 — Shakespeare & birds & eccentrics: but no rabbits 

23 scotland-starling-murmuration

April 23 is, as I said Monday (Plague Lear), Shakespeare’s birthday/deathday/choose-your-own-anniversary-day. Each year I write something Bill-affiliated. This is the reserve idea mentioned then even though it’s been in my mind for several years ever since reading an article about … well, see below.

A second part  2. Austin’s rabbits, exploring the introduction of rabbits to Australia is also intended, but owing to: a) part 1’s length; b) my inability to reduce a); & c: my weariness, I’m only going to upload part 1. Part 2, although currently incomplete, I still see very much as a companion to this poem. When a first draft of it is finalised, it might help me work out what to trim here.

*****

the law of unintended consequences: Schieffelin’s starlings & Austin’s rabbits

1. Schieffelin’s starlings

i. 1596, London
Shakespeare penning Henry IV, Part 1 :
Hotspur plots to drive Harry nuts
by teaching a starling to repeat
his brother-in-law Mortimer’s name
till he is released from Welsh prison.
the only reference to the bird
in all the Bard’s eclectic opus
— a throwaway line from a country
twitcher turned urban playwright.

ii. 1890, New York
March 6, 1890, Central Park
German immigrant, Bronx resident,
wealthy American businessman,
gentleman, (eccentric) drug manufacturer
American Acclimatization Society member,
& Shakespearian aficionado or fanatic
depending on who you ask
— Eugene Schieffelin —
decided it would be a lark
to introduce (imported from
the Old World at great expense)
every bird spoken in Shakespeare
to North America.

& so 100 birds fly off
into the virgin new world blue

iii. Now
numbering over 200 million
from Alaska to Mexico
these lean mean feathered bullets
do nothing in moderation.
the Rocky Balboas of bird boxing
fierce fighters for nest cavities
regularly muscle out native birds
& blamed for their population declines.
willing & able to eat anything
breed with disconcerting vigour.
— have brought down planes
cost US agriculture a billion a year
steal cows’ grain condensing milk production.

iv. Retrospect
Schieffelin’s attempts
to introduce skylarks
bullfinches, chaffinches, & nightingales
were thankfully, unsuccessful.
however, starlings, sparrows, & pigeons
remain the only unprotected avine
in North America (all introduced)
their numbers in total more
than all other birds combined.

no doubt had he future-known
Bill would have taken up
his quill
& struck
said references from his pages
most vigourously.

.

.

Note: some scholars reject the theory that Schieffelin belonged to a group dedicated to introducing into America all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s works wanting to hear them warbling their old world songs on the limbs & branches of America … but I have used it irregardless because, poetry. Everything else is as factual as my research can make it.

Day 20 — positive thinking while in lockdown

William Shakespeare writing at home

I was saving this idea for the 23rd (Shakespeare’s birthday/deathday/chose-your-own-anniversary-day) when I usually write something Shakey-related. Anyhoo this was an idea I thought I might explore then, but it poured out of me today, so we’ll just deal with it. (I do have another idea in reserve, or perhaps something entirely new will pop out.)

Also thanks to a poet whose work I hugely admire, as well as being a dear friend, for saying he’s been enjoying reading my poems. He was particularly kind about this year’s Easter Sunday poem saying it “abided with [him]” & it’s been returning to his mind often over the last few days. He’s even left it open in his browser to be able to come back to it. Thank you Tom. That means the absolute world to me. It often feels during this mad month that you’re writing in & to a vacuum; and that much of what gets created is pedestrian at best, or merely not-quite-average, so even if only one or two poems fire during the month, it feels like a success.

*****

Plague Lear 

i.
if, like me,your mediocrity valve is already open
full trickle then saccharine motivational memes
such as Shakespeare wrote Lear during the plague 

aren’t.   bloody.   helping.   one.   poxy.   bit.

ii.
well take a modicum of heart cos the reality is
Shakey dates are always shaky at best but Lear
probably doesn’t quite pass the jester test

sure, Lear was most likely written in 1606
it was entered into the Stationers’ Register that year
& contemporary events seem referenced within

yet 1606 wasn’t such a big deal as pandemics go
— most every year had a bitta Black Death — the Great Plague*
didn’t hit til 65 & the Sweet Swan was long gone

1603 was the go to year for things bubonic in Bill’s life
& all our country boy turned out then was (chortle)
Measure for Measure — yes, one of the “problem plays”

iii.
if you really want to feel insecure (& no doubt you do)
consider that 1606 might’ve been the year not only
of Lear — but Macbeth — & Antony & Cleopatra too

                                                     Bing.   Bang.   Boom!

.

.


*Between 1603 and 1665, only four years had no recorded cases of plague. 

The Great Plague of 1665-66 was actually the second plague to be so known; the first was in 1625 & was known as the Great Plague until it was surpassed in deaths by the “final” Great Plague.

Plague was par for the course for everyone in those days is what I’m saying.

Day 23 – swans (& folios)

23 the_swan_by_transcendelia_d4rrjqs

Again, working on a longer poem today. Knew an hour ago I wouldn’t finish in time, so started a new one. Coming to understand, NaPoWriMo is less about the poems you finish this month — and more about the poems you’ve long wanted to start and will finish next month.

*****

Will never end

Will you forever be
the quintessential
enigma-wrapped-
conundrum-encased-
paradox-generator?
or will your secrets
one day unfurl?
a swan ascending
from the mute stream.
so many want so much
from your cursed bones;
but so little remains
& it’s oh so easy
to fabricate tales
to suit our own
desperate desires

.


 

BONUS POEM: April 23, 2018

Unresolved & unfinished I think, but the others I wrote today don’t fit …

*****

First Folio

all this fuss
over a book
plenty of books
have existed
& been lost
& the world
continues on

at once
a little richer
& a little poorer
for having existed
yet been lost
which is which
you must determine

23b old books.jpg

Day 23 – swans (& folios)

23 the_swan_by_transcendelia_d4rrjqs.jpg

Again, working on a longer poem today. Knew an hour ago I wouldn’t finish in time, so started a new one. Coming to understand, NaPoWriMo is less about the poems you finish this month — and more about the poems you’ve long wanted to start and will finish next month.

*****

Will never end

Will you forever be
the quintessential
enigma-wrapped-
conundrum-encased-
paradox-generator?
or will your secrets
one day unfurl?
a swan ascending
from the mute stream.
so many want so much
from your cursed bones;
but so little remains
& it’s oh so easy
to fabricate tales
to suit our own
desperate desires


 

BONUS POEM: April 23, 2018

Unresolved & unfinished I think, but the others I wrote today don’t fit …

*****

First Folio

all this fuss
over a book
plenty of books
have existed
& been lost
& the world
continues on

at once
a little richer
& a little poorer
for having existed
yet been lost
which is which
you must determine

23b old books.jpg

Day 23 – Ode

Given that Billy Boy’s birthday (maybe) & death day falls in the middle of NaPoWriMo, I usually like to write something Bard-related.

This year, I’m focussing on the famous joke about the school kid who was studying Macbeth complained: “I dunno know why my teacher says Shakespeare was such a good writer.  Everything he writes is a cliché.”

As is often the case with these collage poems, it has clunky patches (which would have been softened if I didn’t give myself Game 1, below) but I think in a future rewrite could be smoothed out to give me sense.

Two games for readers:

1. How have the clichés been arranged?

2. One play is not mentioned … this is not for want of trying, but dozens of websites listing famous phrases that have passed into cliche territory, not one listed a recognisable or common phrase people would easily recognise. Very strange. I even skim read most of the play, trying to find one I could pinch. Nada. There is a prize for those who can name the play (haha, there is no prize except the joy of satisfaction).

The Bard of Cliche

i.
& so I step Into thin air, a Brave new world
Such stuff as dreams are made on —
Strange bedfellows, Make a virtue
of necessity As good luck would have it
I am no longer a Laughing stock
The world’s mine oyster I Refuse
to budge an inch Something in the wind
Makes me As merry as the day is long
& that’s the Obscene Zany Naked truth
Fancy-free, Swift as a shadow
But With bated breath, I wait
Even though Love is blind Truth will out
I could Hold a candle to your Pound of flesh
Forever and a day Cannot get
Too much of a good thing
All the world’s a stage
All of a sudden, Bedazzled
You Break the ice Kill with kindness
It’s Cold comfort to know
All’s well that ends well
As you Laugh yourself into stitches
Out of the jaws of death Leaving my face
— As white as driven snow.

ii.
I must Play fast and loose
There is no Elbow room To keep
my Spotless reputation as a Night owl
Yet Give the devil his due
Set my teeth on edge The game is afoot
He has Eaten me out of house and home
It’s an ill wind which blows no man to good
A heart of gold, Faint hearted
Mum’s the word, Tongue tied
Tongue, Dead as a doornail
Tongue, A tower of strength
For goodness sake

iii.
It’s Fashionable to say Good riddance
to the Devil incarnate
A fool’s paradise A wild goose chase
Parting is such sweet sorrow
We have seen better days
A dish fit for the gods Masters of their fate
Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war
I am constant as the Northern Star
Milk of human kindness
Live long day All our yesterdays
in One fell swoop we Double double
toil and trouble Be-all and the end-all
Crack of doom Knock knock! Who’s there?
To thine own self be true
In my heart of hearts
In my mind’s eye There’s the rub
Nothing can come of nothing
& so we Come full circle
Where everything is
A foregone conclusion

drippyshakesCROP

Day 23 – couple of presents for the birthday boy

Today is the anniversary of some guy’s birth who I’m kinda interested in. So I’m giving him two presents.

I started the first poem last year during NaPoWriMo14, but the loss of power in my house prevented me from finishing it. So it has been ‘rolled over’ to NaPoWriMo15. It’s still not quite what I want — but that’s what May is for, right? The second one is just a bit of fun — which no doubt only folks who know a bit about The Bard might find droll (but I’m not holding my breath on that). Really it was written to keep myself amused.

*****

I.
451 candles

though there’s doubt over the date
the compromise is St George’s Day
three days before your baptism
though under the Julian calendar
it’d be May 3, so what’s in a date?

admittedly you seem like a ghost
across all the lost centuries
we glimpse you only tangentially
through the dust & distance
your poor posthumous portraits
your six scrawled signatures
your small latin & less greek
your second best bed, your poaching
& all the accompanying apocrypha

you are perhaps the best known man
who we know next-to-nothing about
but the feeling of paucity stems from
the desperate intensity of our gaze
gaps exist for almost everyone of the time
your peers are no exception
yet of the 3000-odd plays believed staged
during this “golden age” of theatre
38 of the 230 extant manuscripts are yours
— 1 in 15 is a very respectable ratio

however, a succession of looneys enjoy
casting doubt on your every aspect —
appearance, identity, even your life itself
they cannot accept an ordinary man
can make extraordinary work
but rather needs to be from the ruling class
(bacon, de vere, queen bess herself, etc)

one thing that is certainly certain
were you still alive today
you’d have a heck of a time
blowing out all the candles

II.
the signing of the wills

far from being the genius
everyone claims
i counter you’re just
a willy-nilly-numpty
who didn’t know how
to spell his own name

that’s right i said it mr so-called

Wm Shakspe
Willm Shaksp
Willm Shakspere
William Shakespe
William Shakspere
William Shakspeare

you can’t even get it right — Shakespeare

*****

10 - BKA-Computermontage - Chandos-Portraet - Droeshout-Stich , 1995