One of my favorite gigs every year and all because of the great work of Langston Hughes. This book has them all. Wow, are these good! All I knew of him was "The Dream Deferred," so this was an eye-opener.
Lots of lovely, lyrical poems that are full of music and sadness. I don't like paperbacks so I got it with the library binding--it seems sturdy enough. The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes. James Langston Hughes. But even when the image of life, imaginative or real, falters so, how essentially vital it still is, and clothed in an exquisite body of words like the traditional "rainbow hues of the dying fish!
So, when his pulse is at its lowest, he cannot forget the beautiful surface of his South Sea idyls or of versified English gardens and lanes. He cared as much for the expression as for the thing, which is what makes a man of letters. So fixed is this habit that his art, truly, is independent of his bodily state. In his poems of "collapse" as in those of "ecstasy" he seems to me equally master of his mood,—like those poets who are "for all time.
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To come, then, to art, which is above personality, what of that? Art is, at most, but the mortal relic of genius; yet it is true of it that, like Ozymandias' statue, "nothing beside remains. He might have grown in variety, richness and significance, in scope and in detail, no doubt; but as an artisan in metrical words and pauses, he was past apprenticeship. He was still a restless experimenter, but in much he was a master. In the brief stroke of description, which he inherited from his early attachment to the concrete; in the rush of words, especially verbs; in the concatenation of objects, the flow of things en masse through his verse, still with the impulse of "the bright speed" he had at the source; in his theatrical impersonation of abstractions, as in " The Funeral of Youth ," where for once the abstract and the concrete are happily fused;—in all these there are the elements, and in the last there is the perfection, of mastery.
For one thing, he knew how to end. The brief stroke does this work time and time again in his verse, nowhere better than in "at dead Youth's funeral:" all were there,—. How vivid! The lines owe something to his eye for costume, for staging; but, as mere picture writing, it is as firm as if carved on an obelisk. And as he reconciled concrete and abstract here, so he had left his short breath, in those earlier lines, behind, and had come into the long sweep and open water of great style:—.
Such lines as these, apart from their beauty, are in the best manner of English poetic style. So, in many minor ways, he shuffled contrast and climax, and the like, adept in the handling of poetic rhetoric that he had come to be; but in three ways he was conspicuously successful in his art. Not to consider it too curiously, take " The Hill.
The Collected Poems of Rupert Brooke by Rupert Brooke - Free Ebook
The dramatic sonnet in English has not gone beyond that, for beauty, for brevity, for tragic effect,—nor, I add, for unspoken loyalty to reality. Reality was, perhaps, what he most dearly wished for; here he achieved it. In many another sonnet he won the laurel; but if I were to venture to choose, it is in the dramatic handling of the sonnet that he is most individual and characteristic.
The second great success of his genius, formally considered, lay in the narrative idyl, either in the Miltonic way of flashing bits of English country landscape before the eye, as in " Grantchester ," or by applying essentially the same method to the water world of fishes or the South Sea world, both on a philosophic background.
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These are all master poems of a kaleidoscopic beauty and charm, where the brief pictures play in and out of a woven veil of thought, irony, mood, with a delightful intellectual pleasuring. He thoroughly enjoys doing the poetical magic. The thought of Milton and of Marvell only adds an old world charm to the most modern of the works of the Muses. What lightness of touch, what ease of movement, what brilliancy of hue!
What vivacity throughout! Even in "Retrospect," what actuality! His good taste saves him from what in another would be shipwreck, but this indifference to values, this apparent lack of selection in material, while at times it gives a huddled flow, more than anything else "modernizes" the verse. It yields, too, an effect of abundant vitality, and it makes facile the change from grave to gay and the like. It exists, however; and especially it was dear to Keats in his youth. It is by excellent taste, and by style, that the poet here overcomes its early difficulties.
In these three formal ways, besides in minor matters, it appears to me that Rupert Brooke, judged by the most orthodox standards, had succeeded in poetry. But in his first notes, if I may indulge my private taste, I find more of the intoxication of the god. These early poems are the lyrical cries and luminous flares of a dawn, no doubt; but they are incarnate of youth.
Capital among them is " Blue Evening. In its whispering embraces of sense, in the terror of seizure of the spirit, in the tranquil euthanasia of the end by the touch of speechless beauty, it seems to me a true symbol of life whole and entire.
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It is beautiful in language and feeling, with an extraordinary clarity and rise of power; and, above all, though rare in experience, it is real. A young poet's poem; but it has a quality never captured by perfect art. A poem for poets, no doubt; but that is the best kind. So, too, the poem, entitled " Sleeping Out ," charms me and stirs me with its golden clangors and crying flames of emotion as it mounts up to "the white one flame," to "the laughter and the lips of light. The "white flame" seems to have had a mystic meaning to the boy; it occurs repeatedly.
And another poem,—not to make too long a story of my private enthusiasms—" Ante Aram ,"—wakes all my classical blood,—. There is a grave in Scyros, amid the white and pinkish marble of the isle, the wild thyme and the poppies, near the green and blue waters. There Rupert Brooke was buried. Thither have gone the thoughts of his countrymen, and the hearts of the young especially. It will long be so. Read this bebopian wordsmith, his pen turned saxophone and ink notes that are black tears. These pages vibrate, a pulse not from way out, but from way in this strange, strange country.
Wearing the poet's trembling, subterranean eyes, I see the dirt of imperial graves, grocery store corpses, swank gas chambers, and bomb shelters cut an inverted skyline against a too orange American sun.
Blinking, I look up and the real sun seems just as radioactive, which is perhaps what leaves me the most shaken. To call these poems 'surreal' seems, now, to muffle Kaufman's prophetic genius.
He saw us, our images in pools of blood, milk, and saxophone spittle. Maybe it was ever our shivering made the ripples that distorted the reflections. While poems like 'Night Sung Sailor's Prayer' and 'Believe, Believe' presage both the linguistic flights of Will Alexander and the affirmative exuberance of Ross Gay, the bulk of the book hearkens back to familiar figures like Blake, Apollinaire, and Artaud.
In the end, of course, Bob Kaufman is Bob Kaufman, and as this collection confirms, the poems tend to extremes, lurching between the sweeping force of a tornado e. Collected Poems of Bob Kaufman is a memoriam of unmitigated joy and abysmal despair. Click here to sign up for the City Lights Newsletter! Staff Recommendations. Rare Books. Poetry Broadsides. Photo Prints.
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