Saturday, January 24, 2015

Poet Laureate

From the Book of Zimmerman, Chapter 1974:
Then she opened up a book of poems
And handed it to me;
Written by an Italian poet
From the 13th century.
And every one of them words rang true
And glowed like burnin' coal;
Pourin' off of every page
Like it was written in my soul, from me to you,
Tangled up in blue.
Ol' Bob has never really clarified the issue of the identity of that poet.  The interwebz are full of speculation, but I've never had cause to wonder.  See, I've always known -- pretty much with absolute certainty -- that it was Petrarch that he must have been talking about.  (14th century... 13th century... who's counting?)

Why Petrarch?  Simple... his poetry spoke to me, too, through a wormhole that cut right through 6 centuries and 2 languages.  Definitely the same exact effect as Bob's burnin' coal.  I've been as uplifted as Bob's lyrical narrator,

Blessed be the day,
And the month, and the year,
And the season, and the time, and the hour,
And the moment,
And the beautiful country, and the place
Where I was joined
To the two beautiful eyes that have bound me.

I've been as tortured,

I find no peace, and yet I make no war;
and fear, and hope; and burn, and I am ice;
and fly above the sky, and fall to earth,
and clutch at nothing, and embrace the world.

One imprisons me, who neither frees nor jails me,
nor keeps me to herself nor slips the noose;
and Love does not destroy me, and does not loose me,
wishes me not to live, but does not remove my bar.

I see without eyes, and have no tongue, but cry;
and long to perish, yet I beg for aid;
and hold myself in hate, and love another.

I feed on sadness, laughing weep;
death and life displease me equally,
and I am in this state, lady, because of you.

And I've been given wake-up calls similar to those that Petrarch tried to give the dry scholastics of his day...

Suppose that you have learned by heart the deeds
of illustrious heroes throughout the ages.
What good is this if it does not change
the way you live your daily life?

I also was always touched by the wide-eyed zeal with which Petrarch pursued the goal of being the first Italian poet to be crowned with a laurel wreath since the ancient Roman practice fell out of favor centuries before.  The guy had chutzpah... much like this other guy who just appeared on the cover of AARP's magazine!


  1. No flies on AARP. I'm a longtime member. Not as longtime as Dylan or Petrarch but both are in good shape for men their ages. When I grow up, I want to be just, wait a minute, they didn't really grow up, did they? Well, that takes a load off of me. Poetry has only the loosest connection to the age of the poet, and the best of it possesses its own vitality. I can't help speaking of all good poets in the present tense. Great post, Cygnus!

    1. Thanks, Geo! I'll be AARP-eligible in just a handful of years, and I'm not hanging up my poetry pen just yet... :-)

    2. 'Not as longtime as Dylan or Petrarch but both are in good shape for men their ages.'


  2. Dear Cygnus, thank you so very much for leading my interested to Petrarch! I don't know why he has not been in my field of vision for such a long, long time - now I will read, more and intense (and, if I'm lucky, sometimes in the future - even in the original language. That will be worth every minute - and hours - I spend at my desk, learning the beautiful Italian language).
    Thank you again!

    1. You're very welcome, Britta! Enjoy... I'm sure his poetry is even more fluid and piercing (if something can indeed be both!) in the original.

      I don't know Italian, but I love listening to it. When I was in Italy, I bought a child's picture book with a simplified version of Dante's Divine Comedy. It's awesome even not understanding the words... and it didn't abridge the famous "l’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle!" :-)

  3. Replies
    1. Hey, I've nominated you for an award over at my blog!

    2. First: thanks! As usual for me, I don't know if I'll be able to spread the love to another 15 fellow bloggers, but I appreciate the honor!

      Ha -- Dr. Robert. :-) I never associated that Beatles song with Dylan, but it makes sense.

    3. Don't sweat the 15. You deserve the honor.

  4. My girlfriend is a natural blue head.
    A virgin, with a pierced labia.
    Not so much a dog walker, as a member of their pack.
    Pop rock & infinity pools.
    Goose stepping backwards; rewinding history's odometer.
    Selling it as new.

    -Marc Breed
    An Ohio Poet Laureate candidate

    1. I have no idea what you're talking about, good man, but I'll fight to the death for your right to confuse me. :-)