Objectivist poetry recommendations


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Because Frost was right!

I think it's interesting to learn how to not only write, but to read. It's very attractive to some on both ends because you can do things with internal rhythms, flow...

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This poem below was my very first poem in Portuguese. It was written for a protest singer, Geraldo Vandré, who was a very close and dear friend for a couple of years (I still hold much love for him in my heart). I produced some shows with him that caused a lot of national news and we literally were in the middle of a media hurricane for a while. The poem contains some indirect allusions to words from his songs, so this part is not very communicable to a foreign audience through translation. I provide a translation at the bottom.

Se for comigo

O caos que sobrar de suas mágoas,

Favor tirar da minha frente,

Pois minha passagem por aqui

Apenas foi um acidente.

Posso deixar você, amigo,

Caminhar comigo se quiser,

Mas sem tentar me ajudar

E nem tentar me envolver.

Esta estrada é tão longa, tão forte,

Que levar mais um pra mim não dá.

Fizerem uma confusão enorme

Que até hoje aí está.

E não sei quanto mais frustração e dor

a minha alma suportará,

Mas, meu amigo, por favor,

Se eu cair, me deixa lá.

If you go with me

Please get the chaos that’s left over

From your sorrows out of my way

As my passing through here

Is only an accident.

I can let you, my friend,

Walk with me if you want,

But without trying to help me,

And without trying to entangle me.

This road is so long, so tough,

That I cannot carry another.

Some have caused enormous unrest

That persists even until today.

I do not know how much more frustration and pain

My soul will bear,

But, my friend, please,

If I fall, just leave me there.

Actually, I might think about making a proper English poem out of this. There are some happy accidents of language that appeared when I translated it just now.


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  • 1 month later...

Many thanks to the great Kate for sending me this one.

Columbus, by Joaquin Miller

Behind him lay the gray Azores,

Behind the Gates of Hercules;

Before him not the ghost of shores,

Before him only shoreless seas.

The good mate said: "Now must we pray,

For lo! the very stars are gone.

Brave Admiral, speak; what shall I say?"

"Why, say: ‘Sail on! sail on! and on!’"

My men grow mutinous day by day;

My men grow ghastly wan and weak."

The stout mate thought of home;

a spray Of salt wave washed his swarthy cheek.

"What shall I say, brave Admiral say,

If we sight naught but seas at dawn?"

"Why you shall say, at break of day:

‘Sail on! sail on! and on!’"

They sailed and sailed, as winds might blow,

Until at last the blanched mate said:

"Why, now not even God would know

Should I and all my men fall dead.

These very winds forget their way,

For God from these dread seas is gone.

Now speak, brave Admiral; speak and say"

He said: "Sail on! sail on!, and on!"

They sailed, they sailed, then spake the mate:

"This mad sea shows his teeth to-night;

He curls his lips, he lies in wait,

With lifted teeth, as if to bite:

Brave Admiral, say but one good word;

What shall we do when hope is gone?"

The words leapt like a leaping sword:

"Sail on! sail on! sail on! and on!"

Then, pale and worn, he kept his deck,

And peered through darkness.

Ah, that night Of all dark nights!

And then a speck –

A light! a light! a light! a light!

It grew, a starlit flag unfurled!

It grew to be Time’s burst of dawn.

He gained a world; he gave that world

Its grandest lesson: "On! sail on."

Edited by gary williams
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Leonard Peikoff has a lecture on poetry in which he reads the poem you quote. It is a two tape set called Poems I like and Why from ARI book store.

Edited by Chris Grieb
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A tender poem from a "dirty old man".




waiting for death

like a cat

that will jump on the


I am so very sorry for

my wife

she will see this




shake it once, then




Hank won't


it's not my death that

worries me, it's my wife

left with this

pile of


I want to

let her know


that all the nights


beside her

even the useless


were things

ever splendid

and the hard


I ever feared to


can now be


I love


Charles Bukowski

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  • 1 year later...
I just read "Evangeline; A Tale of Acadie" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Wow. Such beauy and imagery and chivalry. Has anyone one else here this poem? Amazing stuff. Very uplifting and epic.

I offer a bit of word-play that has taken--or has it given--me quite a few hours of frustration and fun. I call it "The Fuzzy-Wuzzy Chronicles" because...well, you'll see why.

The Bear:

Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear,

Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair,

Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn't fuzzy, was he!

The Buzzard:

Buzzy Wuzzy was a bird,

But his buzz was seldom heard,

Buzzy Wuzzy wasn't buzzy, was he!

The Cousin:

Cozzy Wuzzy was a coz,

But no relationship he was,

Cozzy Wuzzy wasn't cozzy, was he!

The Cop:

'Cause he was, he wasn't stopped,

Fuzz he was, he was a cop,

'Cause he was, he wasn't, fuzz he was, see?

I welcome any additions!! I hope to collect a whole bunch of them.


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Phil; He mentioned Ogden Nash and the Columbus poem.

He specifically said not to send any E E Cummings.

I listened quite a while ago so my memory has faded.

I must also mention that Joe Duarte gave a lecture at this year's Summer Seminar on Western Poetry. The lecture and the poetry was very good.

Edited by Chris Grieb
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> As regards love poetry, another favorite of mine is Alfred Tennyson's "Come Down, O Maid." [Ashley Parker Angel]

Ashley, I just stumbled on this post of your from a year and a half ago. I have always loved Tennyson, but had not seen this one. It is beautiful, poignant, heartfelt.

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Jason Rheins - An Introduction to the Elements of Poetry --- In this course the fundamental elements of poetic art are discussed. Drawing examples from across world literature, the course examines how versification, meter, rhyme, poetic form, metaphor and simile constitute a poem's style and serve in the realization of its theme and mood. Included with the course are three helpful review exercises with answer keys to help the student better master the basic concepts of prosody, meter and rhyme. (Audio CD; 5-CD set; 5 hours, 6 minutes, with Q & A)

[End Quote]

I wouldn't buy this for the simple reason that this individual's basic premise is wrong, elevating a non-essential or at best subordinate issue to primary attention. Sounds like he's just parroting uncritically what he learned in high school from a bad English teacher.

Poetry is NOT fundamentally (or necessarily) about prosody, meter, and rhyme or other mechanical or "technical" issues.

Just as movie appreciating (or movie-making and film school) should not be primarily or centrally about visuals and special effects and 'shots' -- which doesn't mean they have -no- role or importance. Poetry (and movies, and literature more broadly) are primarily about *meaning* not mechanics or technical issues. Normally this means: telling a story - and all the relevant principles of literature and coherence and emphasis ought to come first in the case of movies. Or in the case of poetry - not always a story is being told, but at least its then all about mood, description, evocation.

The most important thing about a literary form is its content.

A poem doesn't necessarily have to rhyme, nor does it have to repeat lines or patterns. The 'meter', length, 'foot', rhythmic element are not always important.

Focusing on whether or not a poem is in iambic pentameter or which syllable or word is accented or emphasized in school was almost enough to kill poetry for me forever. Certainly enough to obscure the actual meaning of the poem. Prosody - stress and intonation - and the rhythmic scheme are often (I might even say usually) beside the point, or at least secondary, in a great poem. If you don't penetrate to the meaning behind the metaphors and allusions and images you are not going to appreciate it any more because it has a rhythm or the teacher slaps the desk with her ruler and makes it sound like rap music.

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Phil; I think the most important thing in a movie is the story. Is there an equivalent in poetry?


This is an important question. It's a bit like asking what the most important thing is for a song.

With the exception of epic poetry or structured collection, the vast majority of poetry is on a small scale, just like songs are. The No. 1 criterion for me is for a poem to deal with a universal value. But when you are on a small scale, there are many ways to do that.

Just off the top of my head, here are my main values in a poem:

  1. It must focus on a universal value (as I stated).
  2. I must have an identifiable stylistic technique (which can include rhyme or not). This can vary a lot, but the important thing is to have a reason for the style and consistency with that reason.
  3. It must be easily memorable. The contents of a telephone book are not easily memorable. A vivid image or emotion or story presented through disciplined words is, even if you don't recall the exact words.
  4. It must have enough ambiguity to be able to be understood from different angles, but be clear enough for the reader/hearer to discern what the universal value is without rationalizing. Within the context of clarity, a poem with more angles of appreciation is usually a more profound poem while one with fewer angles is a more superficial one. That's not a quality judgment, though. A great poem can be superficial like a great parody. Just compare parody to a deep poem, say, by Robert Frost, to get what I mean.

These are things I look for.

Quality-wise, there must be truth of experience or vision. I don't know any way to set a rule for this other than personal evaluation, but I do know that there is nothing worse than seeing someone ape profundity (for deep—I call this cheap profundity) or go for the cheap rhyme (for superficial). If I never hear the lyrics of another song rhyming "love" with "thinking of" again, it will be too soon. In Portuguese, this is even worse. "Amor" (love) rhymes with "dor" (pain). You can imagine the widespread schlock...


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Michael; Good answer! I still want to think about it. An earlier post mentioned Kipling. When I was four or five I can remember my father recited a Kipling poem with about "being left for dead on Afghanistan plain" which ended with "and going to your God like a soldier".

The may also explain the love people have for Robert W. Service poetry.

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A very interesting book about poetry is Hofstadter's Le Ton Beau de Marot. It is in fact a book about the problems in translating poetry, but that's of course an excellent way to research the essentials of poetry. It contains countless different translations of a simple French poem by Clément Marot (~1500). I'm not a great fan of poetry, but I found this book fascinating. In particular the discussion about the meaning of constraints like rhyme and metre.

Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down.

Robert Frost

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A very interesting book about poetry is Hofstadter's Le Ton Beau de Marot. It is in fact a book about the problems in translating poetry, but that's of course an excellent way to research the essentials of poetry. It contains countless different translations of a simple French poem by Clément Marot (~1500). I'm not a great fan of poetry, but I found this book fascinating. In particular the discussion about the meaning of constraints like rhyme and metre.

Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down.

Robert Frost

Here's the beginning of a poem I wrote:

Buggy little lanterns,

Wafting through the air,

Sometimes you're not,

And sometimes you're there.

It's about lightning bugs, in case that isn't clear. What I like about it is the third and fourth lines mimic the on-off of the bugs' light. I don't know what that property would be called (rhythmic onomatopoeia?) but it is the sort of thing that poetry must have, I think.

Poetry cannot be rendered in prose, because poetry uses word combinations that aren't acceptable in prose. "If you can dream, and not make dreams your master," (Kipling's IF) shows this well. "If you can dream..." is ridiculous as a bit of prose, because everyone "can" dream. Similarly, "make dreams your master," is silly as prose, because we are the authors of our dreams, how could they control us? In poetic interpretation, however, we see that to have dreams is necessary, not childish or unrealistic. And we learn that while dreams, goals, purpose, are essential, they can be elevated above their place, and worshipped and clung to despite changes in circumstances that make them futile or tragic, or they can make us impractically single-minded.

In the context of poetry, these unusual word combinations are acceptable, and the reader "stretches" his knowledge of the words to find a meaning for their combination. If the line "works" as poetry, there is some such meaning, and it leads the reader to think of, imagine, or recall, etc., the thing written about in a "new" but not unfamiliar way.

This "new" but not unfamiliar way is a here-to-fore unconceptualized aspect of the thing or of one's experience. It is familiar in experience, but not in being put into words.

We don't put everything into words. The feeling of the cool air on one's hand when the sun is hot, the excitement of your child's surprising you with a mature insight. There are tons of things we are only able to state or communicate in sentences, paragraphs, articles, etc. Poetry tries to focus our attention precisely on some such aspect of life. Rhyme and rythm, I suspect, add to poetry by creating a sense of integration, "fit," which is needed since sentence grammar is being neglected or defied.

This post has gone on a bit on its own momentum, ahem, but I'll put it up and see what response it gets.


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