Tuesday, August 21, 2007

David Lehman

Feeling a little too lazy to write a proper post, so here are a couple of delightful poems by David Lehman instead - both taken from his 2005 collection When a Woman Loves a Man. Not the most sublime poems, perhaps, but delightful, truly delightful:

The Party of Ideas

Existentialism was there, smoking on the balcony.
Inside, Descartes' Cogito held a volume of Spinoza's Ethics
in one hand and a glass of port in the other as if the difference
between them were either self-evident or non-existent.
The dictatorship of the proletariat had made eye contact
with the theory of infantile sexuality. Cardinal Newman
(The Idea of a University) chatted amiably if a bit stuffily with
the Sublime, who kept looking over his shoulder in the approved
manner of New Yorkers at parties on the lookout for someone
more important than the person they are speaking to,
only this was the party of ideas, where the idea of a republic, a democracy,
and the idea of the self-determination of nations could mingle
at the end of the day, satisfied. The idea that history repeats
itself was there. The idea that history repeats itself was there.
Logical Positivism was there, a kindly old pipe-smoking don who
asked to his rooms for sherry and said he was cautiously optimistic.
The buzz in the room was that the first refuge of the scoundrel
had begun an affair with the last infirmity of the noble mind,
which explained why neither of them was present. Art for
art's sake was there, nursing a vodka gimlet. It was clear
from a look at Utopia's face that she'd had one brandy Alexander
too many, but British empiricism looked none the worse for wear.
Everyone said so, especially American pragmatism, savoring
a new wrinkle. The Noble Savage tended bar.
The Categorical Imperative wouldn't take no for an answer.
I thought of "The Idea of Order at Key West" and took a leap of faith
opening a door hoping it led to the men's room.

Wystan Hugh Auden: A Villanelle

Why shun a nude tag?
Why stun a huge hand?
Hug a shady wet nun.

Why stand a huge Hun?
Why gash a dune nut?
Why shun a nude tag?

Guy hands u new hat,
Haw, the Sunday gun.
Hug a shady wet nun.

Why aghast, unnude?
What a gash untuned?
Why shun a nude tag?

Ashen guy dun what?
Why? Nag a shut nude.
Hug a shady wet nun.

Why daunt a snug he?
Why dun a gaunt she?
Why shade a nude tag?
Hug a shady wet nun.


Tabula Rasa said...

Why shun a nude tag?


IK said...

the 3rd line in the final quatrain: shouldn't that be -
Why shun a nude tag?

this villanelle does not follow the same conventional structures of its rhyme sequence, does it? So, does this constitue one? Or is it just that villanelles have evolved to not consider the rhyme sequence (and form its own)?

anita said...

Hug a shady wet nun.

There's a Pablo Neruda poem with a line about a nun, running with a sexy knife...

For some reason, Lehman's poetry (even though its so different) reminds me of that image. Just as startling perhaps.

Break a leg with the dissertation.


Anonymous said...

In case anyone's wondering, each line just reworks the letters comprising Auden's full name.