Traverse City Record-Eagle

Feature Columnists

May 9, 2009

On Poetry: First thought, full bloom

It's the rainy season here in Traverse City. After the winter we've had, spring makes me a little goofy, which may be why I like this poem about rain and mud and love by Paul Valery, the French poet, essayist and philosopher. As with all poems that please me, it doesn't quite do what I expect.

The language starts out all flowery and charming. Its tone is like a Shakespearean sonnet. "Deign" (condescend), the speaker starts up -- but "deign" to what? He doesn't finish his thought until the end of the poem! He's getting as distracted by his darling Laura's beauty as she herself is distracted. Each line is an image of her, and we remain off-balance, not sure what we're reading, until we get to the end.

Girl With Mind Wandering

Deign, Laura -- now again the rainy season's here --

Beside me all perfume, your shoulder leaning, dear,

On my indulgent love attentive as you go,

Laura, all soulful look that looks at nothing though,

Deign, brow and the wide eyes so lost in heaven's own blue,

Even while your dreaming feet, as fated to, splash through

Pools mirrored lush in mud you wade and set a-spraying,

Deign, dear, to listen once to what your lips are saying ...

-- Paul Valery (1871-1945)

And how does he feel about her, after all? This is the surprise. She may be beautiful, she may seem soulful, but he's completely exasperated with the way she goes on and on like a Valley Girl, her brain detached from her words.

It's funny that "a-spraying" is rhymed with "saying." Her words spray out like the spring mud.

Here's a good example of a poem some would dismiss as "old" because it begins with a word we seldom use these days. Maybe we should complain because it's a little hard to keep up with. Maybe we should raise our feminist hackles because the man's the alert one and the woman's the ditz.

Text Only

Facebook
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
Associated Press Video
Bill Murray Continues To Be Just Bill Murray By Eating Some Free Bill Murray Ice Cream Deja vu: Another NYPD officer choke-holding a suspect Hillary Clinton Blamed Bill's Affair With Monica Lewinsky On Abuse He Suffered As A Child 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Reports: Ravens RB Ray Rice Suspended For 1st 2 Games Of The Season Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director Air Algerie plane with 119 on board missing over Mali Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent Free Arturo - The World's Saddest Polar Bear A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years LeBron James -- Dropped $2k On Cupcake Apology ... Proceeds To Benefit Charity Snoop Dogg Says He Smoked Weed at the White House Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Chris Pratt Interrupts Interview To French Braid Intern's Hair Shirtless Super Mario Balotelli Dances While Ironing - @TheBuzzeronFOX Whoa! Watch "Housewives" Star Do the Unthinkable LeBron apologizes to neighbors with cupcakes Justin Bieber In Calvin Klein Underwear Shoot Samsung Pre-Trolls The IPhone 6 With New Ad Jimmy Kimmel Introduces His Baby Girl