Wednesday, August 8, 2007

What Lips My Lips Have Kissed, and Where, and Why

Some poems stick with me months or years after I've read them. One of these poems is "What Lips My Lips Have Kissed, And Where, And Why" by Edna St. Vincent Millay. We read this poem in poetry class, a class which opened my eyes to a new way to read poetry--to really read it and inspect it line by line.

This poem, I think, speaks highly to the college class, perhaps a good reason for my professor to open it up to us. It even seems to be a bit of advice to some for a lesson learned the hard way. I find it strikes a powerful message with precise imagery that really emphasizes her main point. The tree...

Whenever I want to write poetry, I can get discouraged when I read great poetry like this. You know her message, but it's concealed within perfectly constructed symbols and images. Each word is wisely chosen, falling into place where it belongs. It's not too long or too short, and even rhymes beautifully. I envy the talent to write such a crisp, solid poem.

Below I'll post the poem. Feel free to comment on any thoughts you have from reading the poem.

"What Lips My Lips Have Kissed, And Where, And Why"
by Edna St. Vicent Millay

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

1 comment:

Megan Bottle said...

I agree- poetry isn't easy... when I write poetry (which is extremely rare) I write it as if nobody is listening, watching, reading, or caring. Then you're just writing for the sake of writing and not for the sake of impressing someone with your writing.

Poetry's weird though- it's almost like allowing someone to read your journal or diary- a poet must be awfully transparent to publish his or her work. So, no matter how hard you try to write for yourself alone, publication and audience is always somewhere in the mind's sticky notes.

Are you a frequent poet??