Greek Nerve, American Courage (poem)


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Greek Nerve, American Courage

By John C. Paschalis

Lesbos my island, tonight I feel

myself at odds once more.

I am too lethargic to challenge the agora

and enter hospitable doors.

With the frantic pace of college over,

I feel too unscientific to explore

your petrified forest.

Which route must I take through

this evening's seaside fog?

After all, I came to Saint Issidoros

just to be a bump on a log.

I feel too lazy to languish

in your natural spring baths.

Which path must I take

to embark upon a quest for them?

I prefer lying on the copper beach

and endless hours of rest,

reading an epistemology text.

I walk the main road to town

by bleak, murky shapes on the roadside--

some of which must be mountains, trees, and walls

but my true purpose do I gown

when pausing my thoughts to consider this.

More moved am I

by the memory of unpursued romance

at a seaside bar five years before.

"What are you drinking?"

"Mythos Beer"

"There are more than myths to be found here.

For something real, meet me at the big oak tree

at the square."

Lesbos my island,

for the first time I am severed

from your copper-pebble beaches,

pristine water,

the eternally harmless healing energies

of the rhythmic tides.

Cradled by you no more,

you are the home of my terribly lonely blight.

More to the island than a myth?

I never saw it for I never joined the pursuer

at the oak tree five years before.

I reach the square.

The bar and the oak tree

aren't there.

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I've been taking some notes on your poems, during my free time, and will hopefully find the courage to post my scribbles at one point.

I enjoyed the poem, surprisingly. I'm usually not a fan of open poems but it still captured my attention.

One question: is Lesbos...? It may seem obvious, and it probably is. But I have a habit of over thinking things and reading too much into small facets of literary works.

Thanks Selene!

Edited by Areopagitican
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Lesbos (Greek: Λέσβος also transliterated Lesvos) is a Greek island located in the northeastern Aegean Sea. It has an area of 1632 km² (630 square miles) with 320 kilometres (almost 200 miles) of coastline, making it the third largest Greek island and the largest of the numerous Greek islands scattered in the Aegean. Administratively, it forms part of the Lesbos Prefecture. Its population is approximately 90,000, a third of which lives in its capital, Mytilene, in the southeastern part of the island. The remaining population is distributed in small towns and villages. The largest are Kalloni, the Gera Villages, Plomari, Agiassos, Eresos and Molyvos (the ancient Mythymna). Mytilene was founded in the 11th century BC by the family Penthilidae, who arrived from Thessaly, and ruled the city-state until a popular revolt (590–580 BC) led by Pittacus of Mytilene ended their rule.

The meaning of the word lesbian derives from the poems of Sappho, who was born in Lesbos. The poems contain powerful emotional content directed toward other women and have frequently been interpreted as expressing homosexual love.[1] It is due to this association that Lesbos and especially the town of Eresos, her birthplace, are visited frequently by lesbian tourists.[2]

[url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lesbos#cite_note-1]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lesbos

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I intend to spread my reaction across all three of your threads, ValueChaser. I want to post my feelings to your work holistically, instead of on a specific individual poem, so I thought it would be misleading if I posted my reception in one thread. If I did I believe it would imply, at best, that I was pulling too much from one poem or, at worst, that I was ignoring the other two entirely. Also, consider that poetic criticism is merely inductive reasoning strengthened by large amounts of dogma. Take my words with a grain of salt. But if your toes are stepped on, don't worry, the pain will fade. What seems good to me, may seem bad to others and vice versa.

In this thread I'll concentrate on the use of free verse (blank form, open form et al). Truly, I don't want you writing exclusively in villanella's and sestina's, yet, exclusive free verse rankles my sensibilities.

Generally speaking, the proliferation of free verse has unnecessarily damaged poetry. A fairly profound statement, no? That may make me a New Formalist (or Neo-New Formalist, I suppose) but it is true nonetheless. Free verse, now used all too exclusively, has lead poetry into a cultural Dachau. But instead of dying at a quick stroke, poetry has lingered on in a deathly embrace of proletarianization. I am not a die-hard believer of a structured poem, with rime and meter, nor am I snob. At least, I'm not an excessive snob (certainly not old enough, for one, and not British; for another) but as someone who enjoys poetry, the lack of technical charm throughout the genre is disappointing. Poetry (remember that feminist embarrassment that Obama had read at his inauguration?) cannot be a mere spraying of nice saying generalities. Words mean things, and more importantly: stressed utterances mean different things.

The poem is certainly sincere enough, and profound in its own unique way. I wouldn't agree with John Derbyshire on Free Verse ("inedible"), it certainly has its place, such as your poem, but writing in exclusively Free Verse cheapens the whole genre and your obvious talent.

Cheapens? Well, yes. By excluding the considerations of technical difficulty, you cheapen the decision of every syllable. When you have more options, and less pressure to decide on a course, poems invariably end up in some horrible twilight of sincere emotion and sophistic "me two"ism. It becomes a sophomoric repeat of nice sounding concepts that inevitably produce a gray nothingness. I went to my local bookstore the other day, bought a fairly contemporary book of poetry (filled with the usual clutter of New Left talking points ungracefully slammed onto the pages like a country bumpkin would attempt to slam together the heads of baby pigs) and cannot replicate one line to save my life. I sent some wild stabs today, across the Internet, and contemporary "Post-Modernists," are no better on their websites. There are you few, truly touching poets, which make me understand where the Free Verse mentality comes from (touch as many hearts, as fast as possible). But do I still feel that same thrill remembering them, as I do Robert Browning's “My Last Duchess"?

The answer is, quiet simply, no. There are, unlike poets previously, no longer the lines of note. There is only the gray mass of note; the feeling, a left over taste not entirely unlike bitter sweet, which pervades you as you finish a poem. It's saddening because there is nothing better than reading a poem once, twice, four times, eight times, twelve times, twenty times, forty times; each time getting more from its meaning. Not in these new poems, each line is bland and made especially to 'touch your heart.' It is a moot point whether a black feminist can touch people's hearts with poor similies of her vagina and the Middle Passage to America.

I want to see a poem, written by you, which is fixed. A poem that I can smile and enjoy, because of its memorability, long past the day I stop contributing to this site. You have the talent, only, you need to utilize it.

Edited by Areopagitican
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Greek nerve. Exemplified at the Battle of the Hot Gates. When Xerxes general demanded of the Spartans that they lay down their arms, the Spartan captain replied: Melon Lebes -- Come and get them.

American Courage: In the distance the drums of the British Regulars could be heard and the sound grew louder as they approached Lexington. At the Lexingon Green in the wee hours of April 19, 1775 Captain John Parker gave orders to his militia: Stand your ground. Don't fire unless fired upon. But if they mean to have a war, let it start here.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Greek nerve. Exemplified at the Battle of the Hot Gates. When Xerxes general demanded of the Spartans that they lay down their arms, the Spartan captain replied: Melon Lebes -- Come and get them.

American Courage: In the distance the drums of the British Regulars could be heard and the sound grew louder as they approached Lexington. At the Lexingon Green in the wee hours of April 19, 1775 Captain John Parker gave orders to his militia: Stand your ground. Don't fire unless fired upon. But if they mean to have a war, let it start here.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Which then brings to mind -

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,

Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,

Here the embattled farmers stood

And fired the shot heard 'round the world.

[Emerson, from memory]

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Greek nerve. Exemplified at the Battle of the Hot Gates. When Xerxes general demanded of the Spartans that they lay down their arms, the Spartan captain replied: Melon Lebes -- Come and get them.

American Courage: In the distance the drums of the British Regulars could be heard and the sound grew louder as they approached Lexington. At the Lexingon Green in the wee hours of April 19, 1775 Captain John Parker gave orders to his militia: Stand your ground. Don't fire unless fired upon. But if they mean to have a war, let it start here.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Which then brings to mind -

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,

Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,

Here the embattled farmers stood

And fired the shot heard 'round the world.

Anon:

Damn good memory!

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,

Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,

Here once the embattled farmers stood,

And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;

Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;

And Time the ruined bridge has swept

Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,

We set to-day a votive stone;

That memory may their deed redeem,

When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those heroes dare,

To die, and leave their children free,

Bid Time and Nature gently spare

The shaft we raise to them and thee

Edited by Selene
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Greek nerve. Exemplified at the Battle of the Hot Gates. When Xerxes general demanded of the Spartans that they lay down their arms, the Spartan captain replied: Melon Lebes -- Come and get them.

American Courage: In the distance the drums of the British Regulars could be heard and the sound grew louder as they approached Lexington. At the Lexingon Green in the wee hours of April 19, 1775 Captain John Parker gave orders to his militia: Stand your ground. Don't fire unless fired upon. But if they mean to have a war, let it start here.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Which then brings to mind -

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,

Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,

Here the embattled farmers stood

And fired the shot heard 'round the world.

Anon:

Damn good memory!

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,

Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,

Here once the embattled farmers stood,

And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;

Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;

And Time the ruined bridge has swept

Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,

We set to-day a votive stone;

That memory may their deed redeem,

When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those heroes dare,

To die, and leave their children free,

Bid Time and Nature gently spare

The shaft we raise to them and thee

[heh - you should hear my Hiawatha [no - you shouldn't]]

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I will try to be gentle...

It's not e.e. cummings, that's for sure. It might be good to study his love poems (there are few of them, really).

The imagery is, well, rough. Lesbos, forests... I get the impression women (at least the strong ones I know well) would find this aesthetically unpleasing, at the least.

But, to the positive, there is good intent; it is Romantic in nature, and the rhythms aren't bad to me.

Author, please take the critique in the manner it was meant. I will leave you with an example.

because i love you)last night

clothed in sealace

appeared to me

your mind drifting

with chuckling rubbish

of pearl weed coral and stones;

lifted,and(before my

eyes sinking)inward,fled;softly

your face smile breasts gargled

by death:drowned only

again carefully through deepness to rise

these your wrists

thighs feet hands

poising

to again utterly disappear;

rushing gently swiftly creeping

through my dreams last

night,all of your

body with its spirit floated

(clothed only in

the tide's acute weaving murmur

ee cummings

I am not a writer of poetry, though highly-schooled in it, I suppose. Occasionally, I write one. I can barely do Haikus right. :)

I would caution, in critique, that one should be prudent both in type, and frequency of unloading imagery. Meaning, don't throw too much out at once, and, use the coarse words less frequently.

Work off the rhythm, use the imagery with great beauty, and sparely, so that said image can stand in its own beauty.

Thanks for the piece!

rde

Edited by Rich Engle
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