Friday, January 25, 2013

Conversations With Poetry . . . Or Between Poets . . . Or Poems . . .

Have you ever read poems written in response to other poems or poets?

The first two that I think of are, Christopher Marlowe's The Passionate Shepherd to His Love, and Sir Walter Raleigh's The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd.

You remember. Marlowe's speaker is like, "Aw, come on. You know you wanna. It'd be so great." - for six stanzas.

Then Raleigh's speaker is like, "Uh. Not." - for her own six stanzas.

Now, that's an exchange about as old as dirt.

But did you know that Raleigh wasn't the only poet to take up the pen in response to Marlowe? I know of seven (that's 7!) other poems which carry the conversation forward! Some answer Marlowe directly while others carry on the discussion among themselves.

old fashioned drawing of a pink roseI actually only knew about five of them, but then I found this wonderful little anthology, Conversation Pieces: poems that talk to other poems. It's packed full of lyric poets addressing "someone not in the room," and other poets giving a voice to that silent someone (1). It also contains a brief preface by Billy Collins.

John Donne gives us The Bait, where we see the woman as the bait and all the men as fishes drawn to her; or Jesus as the "fisher of men." Those silly metaphysical poets and their conceits . . .

Various other poets responding to Marlowe include: C. Day Lewis, William Carlos Williams, Ogden Nash, W.D. Snodgrass, Douglas Crase, And Greg Delanty. I've managed a link to most of them, but let me offer the original, the inspiration right here:

The Passionate Shepherd to His Love
- Christopher Marlowe

Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods, or steepy mountain yields.

And we will sit upon the rocks,
Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.

And I will make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle;

A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
Fair lined slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold;

A belt of straw and ivy buds,
With coral clasps and amber studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me, and be my love.

The shepherds' swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my love.

(1) Conversation Pieces: poems that talk to other poems. (P.18)

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