November 2011

Weldon Kees

Mystery Of The Disappearing Poet

When French poet and proto-rock-star Rimbaud wanted to give up his life and disappear mysteriously, he ran away and became a businessman in Africa. When his admirer Jim Morrison wanted to do the same, he drank himself to death and left everyone to speculate that he had somehow faked it.

 

When the poet Weldon Kees wanted to disappear, he just did it. He told a friend on the phone that he was thinking of running away to Mexico. Then he placed a pair of red socks in his sink for some unknown reason and left his apartment, taking with him only a sleeping bag and his bank-book. His car was found by the Golden Gate Bridge, suggesting he might have jumped off- but no body or suicide note was ever found.

If You Don't Like Rhyme And Meter...

You Don't Like Poetry

What I am going to say now is not going to be very popular with some people, but it needs to be said. I'm not one of those neo-formalist dogmatists who would insist that there is no such thing as good free verse poetry. There has been plenty of wonderful free verse poetry, although there has also been a vast amount of prosaic garbage.

 

However, I've heard the statement made by several free-verse poets that they didn't like any rhymed or metrical poetry whatsoever, and that they didn't like any poetry written before the free verse revolution began.

Li Bai

Warrior Poet

The phrase “warrior poet” is a strange cliché, considering how rarely those two words have had any reason to be used together, but Chinese poet Li Bai was the real thing- an actual warrior poet of the T'ang Dynasty.

 

In Li Bai's early years, he was a “xia,” a Chinese knight-errant. The xia were very different from other warriors such as the Japanese samurai or the European knight. Xia were vagabonds who roamed from place to place seeking opportunities to perform heroic deeds on behalf of the mistreated common people- at least in theory. I think we can assume that real xia were frequently not quite as noble as all that, but still Li Bai was one of their number. He was an expert swordsman who was said to have killed several opponents in duels during his wanderings.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Poet. Opium addict.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge is one of the most famous British Romantic poets, along with William Wordsworth. Coleridge’s poems are some of the most epic and beautiful written in modern history, but the man himself suffered debilitating bouts of depression throughout his life. Medicated with laudanum, an opium sleeping substance, Coleridge was an opium addict for most of his adult life.