National Poetry Month — Day 23

Okay, I admit that I’ve chosen this one of Marie Marshall’s Gothic poems in part because I love the picture she paired with it. The arched window which suggests the shape of the moon. The checkered floor. The drape of her gown, so detailed that I can see even from a black-and-white painting that it’s a particularly sumptuous velvet — and, by the way, a dress I would totally wear.

 

***

 

The crystal ball

 

Where has the seeress lost herself?
In what relentless seas
Sails she, with helmsman sprite or elf,
To seek elusive ease?

What worlds are cupped within her hands?
And where her steady gaze
Falls, are there rich, exotic lands
In sunlit ancient days?

Her lips that seem to wish a kiss,
Her beauty gowned in red –
Is all her being wrapt in bliss,
Or does she see the dead?

See there! Her grimoire and her wand –
Behind, a grinning skull –
Are spirits summoned to respond,
Or are her senses dull?

What knowledge, what enlightenment
Seeks she in realms arcane?
Beware, my sweet! All’s transient,
Your loveliness will wane!

Whatever is the magic lore
Whose secrets now entice
You through a dark and one-way door –
You pay too high a price!

So lady, lay that lore aside,
Forswear your mantic ball
For mind’s health, beauty’s morningtide –
Or, hazarding, lose all!

 

 

The Crystal Ball, by Waterhouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

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National Poetry Month — Day 22

Here is another of Marie Marshall’s Gothic poems. This one, a love poem.

In related news, it always makes me chuckle a bit when my younger students read love poetry for the first time. Some of them never had any idea that poetry had anything to do with passion…which makes me wonder what they’d been reading in the past.

 

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Come, bathe with me by candle-light

 

Come, bathe with me by candle-light
Rose-petal-strewn thy bower be
Thou art desire, thou art delight
With soft caresses sadden me

Come, lie with me in pale moonlight
Sweet-scented grass receiving thee
Be ever pleasant in my sight
With tender kisses gladden me

Come, love with me by sharp starlight
And share my joyful ecstasy
Be never hidden by the night
With reckless loving madden me!

 

 

 

National Poetry Month — Day 21

Poet Marie Marshall, whose work you’ve seen featured and reviewed here before, wrote a charmingly sardonic collection of Gothic poems, some of which I’d like to feature on the blog this month. I like them because I like Gothic stuff in general — I do, after all, teach an AP English course in Gothic Literature — but also because these poems are contemporary (written in 2010) yet honor a very traditional style that we don’t often see being used in current American letters. (And no, Marshall is not an American; she’s based in Scotland.)

There are some who argue that the state of page poetry has become too esoteric for its own relatability. Maybe. I know there are poets I’ve read in the last few years whose work doesn’t really mean anything to me at all. Perhaps I’m too narrative-bound. Perhaps I just appreciate poetry that is trying to relate to the reader in a human way. Who knows?

Marshall’s poems, several of which I’m featuring here in a series, pay homage to rhyme and meter and form and traditional storylines, but in fresh ways. And that, I believe, has value.

 

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Selena

 

For each night’s revelation here I stand
transfixed, to view the rising of the moon;
I take my aged wooden flute in hand
and play a lifting, lilting, falling tune.

I sound my serenade by softest breath,
in semi-silence, half-afraid to break
by step, by slightest movement, into death
the perfect mirror-image in the lake.

Selena is the secret name I give
myself at this deep, magick time of night;
in castle-clouds and hues of grey I live,
and sigh alone in silver, shifting light…

When sunlight comes, and reds and ochres whirl,
I am a very different kind of girl.

 

 

 

 

The Roots of Destiny

In my AP Gothic Lit. class we’ve been studying Frankenstein. Sometimes my students come up with questions and discussions so fascinating I feel the need to share them. Today during a seminar discussion, I was inspired to suggest the following question. Please discuss (in the comments section).

Kenneth Branagh as Victor Frankenstein

Is destiny a function of egotism or irresponsibility?