Thursday, January 12, 2012

Notes Toward a Supreme Ghazal

Ms Hacker likes to write in the ghazal form.
She does something every night in the ghazal form.

I've never attempted this mode of Arabic verse,
But I should try something light in the ghazal form.

It might also be a medium for invective:
Do poets vent their spite in the ghazal form?

It's mystifying to me, really, how anyone
Could seem to take delight in the ghazal form.

The anticlimactic repetition ending each couplet
Makes it difficult to excite in the ghazal form.

Hard to imagine Michael Longley or Seamus Heaney
Remembering the potato blight in the ghazal form.

Even a mind of the caliber of Albert Einstein
Would sound less than bright in the ghazal form.

Yet some American poets can make good verse
About war-torn countries' plight in the ghazal form.

O dylan of darkspeech, fight!  Let your words take flight!
Show your poetic might in the ghazal form!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Bard of Avon Calling

I need to re-purchase a copy of Hamlet. The Pelican Shakespeare version of the famous play has these bizarre editorial emendations, "Lamort" instead of "Lamound," "heated visage" instead of "tristful visage," and so on. It's like reading the New American Bible version of the Bard of Avon.

Existence or its opposite? That's what I am asking myself.
Whether it be more or less dignified to put up with
The barbs and darts of brash Luck, or to use weapons
Against distress's oceans, to stop them from happening.

Too tired to translate the whole soliloquy into the NAB idiom.

Heschel III

Prayer is not a stratagem for occasional use, a refuge to resort to now and then. It is rather like an established residence for the innermost self. All things have a home: the bird has a nest, the fox has a hole, the bee has a hive. A soul without prayer is a soul without a home. Weary, sobbing, the soul, after wandering through a world festered with aimlessness, falsehoods and absurdities, seeks a moment in which to gather up its scattered life, in which to divest itself of enforced pretensions and camouflage, in which to simplify complexities, in which to call for help without being a coward. Such a home is prayer. Continuity, perseverance, intimacy, authenticity, earnestness are its attributes. For the soul, home is where prayer is.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, “On Prayer,” from Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, ed. Susannah Heschel (Farrar Straus Giroux, 1996), p. 258

Monday, January 09, 2012

More from Heschel

Wonder rather than doubt is the root of knowledge.

*

When in doubt, we raise questions; when in wonder, we do not even know how to ask a question.

*

There is no answer in the world to man's radical wonder.  Under the running sea of our theories and scientific explanations lies the aboriginal abyss of radical amazement.

*

We must keep our own amazement, our own eagerness alive.  And if we ever fail in our quest for insight, it is not because it cannot be found, but because we do not know how to live, or how to beware of the mind's narcissistic tendency to fall in love with its own reflection ...

*

What is subtle speculation worth without the pristine insight into the sacredness of life, an insight which we try to translate into philosophy's rational terms, into religion's ways of living, into art's forms and visions?

*

Souls that are focused and do not falter at first sight, falling back on words and ready-made notions with which the memory is replete, can behold the mountains as if they were gestures of exaltation.

*

from Man Is Not Alone:  A Philosophy of Religion, pp. 11-15, passim