Soul Of The Poet

When I began this blog a while back, I promised that poetry would be a feature as much as my artwork. I’m finally going to live up to that promise today. This promise is a pleasure to keep. I discovered that I had a knack for poetry wayyy back in high school. Being the romantic, sentimental guy that I am, I suffered the pangs of unrequited puppy love, and I happened across this little ditty by George Whither. And goes a little somethin’ like this:

Shall I wasting in despair
Die because a woman’s fair?
Or make pale my cheeks with care
‘Cause another’s rosy are?
Be she fairer than the day,
Or the flow’ry meads in May—
If she be not so to me,
What care I how fair she be?
Shall my foolish heart be pined
‘Cause I see a woman kind?
Or a well-disposed nature
Joinèd with a lovely feature?
Be she meeker, kinder, than
Turtle dove or pelican,
If she be not so to me,
What care I how kind she be?
Shall a woman’s virtues move
Me to perish for her love?
Or her merits’ value known
Make me quite forget mine own?
Be she with that goodness blest
Which may gain her name of Best;
If she seem not such to me,
What care I how good she be?
‘Cause her fortune seems too high
Shall I play the fool and die?
Those that bear a noble mind
Where they want of riches find,
Think what with them they would do
That without them dare to woo;
And unless that mind I see,
What care I how great she be?
Great or good, or kind or fair,
I will ne’er the more despair:
If she love me, this believe,
I will die ere she shall grieve;
If she slight me when I woo,
I can scorn and let her go;
For if she be not for me,
What care I for whom she be?
George Wither, my high school love coach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

That one poem encapsulated all my feelings at that tender age (ha!) and thus inspired me to try my own hand at poetry. I even adopted a new persona for myself, called simply ‘The Poet’ ( yeah I know, not very imaginative for a poet, but I was 17 at the time. Sue me.) And the Poet’s very first poem back in the autumn of 1983 was called  ‘Ode To a New Love‘. Like to hear it? Here it go…
Long ago I had a girl,
Her love made me happiest in the world.
Then on a whim she broke my heart
So great the pain, so great the smart
It took so long to get over lost love;
Days I spent praying to Heaven above.
Then to my dismay,a repeat of former woe
Out to another my heart did go
Emotion so strong within my breast
I could not fight, though I tried my best.
(Which was enough to last for a while)
Then she melted my heart
With a beautiful smile.
I know…it’s kinda corny. But keep in mind that I was just a kid, and this was my first one. Despite my ‘Poet’ alter-ego, I was still a poetry virgin. But I kept at it. And, I like to think it got a little better. Over time, I went on to create themes to my romantic poetry and to create paintings based on those themes. One of the first, and one of my personal favorites is the ‘After the Fire’ series. It began with the eponymous poem and subsequent painting:
After the fire,
The fire still burns.
Though our love is gone,
Our hearts still yearn.
After the fire,
There is still pain.
Wounds run deep,
Tears fall like rain.
You may feel,my dear, that our love is through.
But the longing I feel in my heart,
I see in your eyes,too.
After the fire,
The heart longs as never before,
And my arms ache
To hold you once more
Though our love is gone,
Our hearts still yearn.
After the Fire,
The Fire still burns
After the Fire oil on canvas 1998

 

I went on to write several follow-up poems to the original After the Fire, but only did the one painting. I went on to write another series, ‘A Thing of Beauty’, named after the first line in the John Keats poem, Endymion.
Keats based the poem on the Greek myth of Endymion, the shepherd boy beloved by the moon goddess Selene.
Endymion visited by his lover Selene, the moon goddess.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s my version;

A Thing Of Beauty:

In the days of my youth,
I yearned for love.
Prayed for it to heaven above.
Now I am older,
And the lesson I’ve learned:
Real love, true love must be earned.
Yet it is fragile like the rose;
Must be nurtured as it grows.
Pluck the rose,
And it withers and dies.
A caged bird,
Though beautiful,never flies.
So the lesson I’ve learned,
I must confess;
A thing of beauty
One can never possess.
A Thing of Beauty, oil on canvas board, 1996

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see from the date, this was one of my earliest paintings. My technique was still developing, and I also learned that canvas board absorbs a lot of the oil paint, decreasing drying time but also makes certain other effect with the paint more difficult to achieve. You can see that I included some thematic elements from the poem; the caged bird, the rose, the beauty herself placed on the pedestal. Altogether, I wrote five poems in this series, each with an accompanying painting. I won’t post them all here, but I will give you at least one more. In the immortal words of Slick Rick (another poet I admire), Hereeee we go…

A Thing of Beauty, At Last, oil on canvas 18 x 24, 1998
A Thing Of Beauty, At Last
All my life,
I’ve looked for love.
Searched the seas below,
And the heavens above
Yes, I’ve searched
All my life
To find someone
To call my wife.
Someone to love,
Is the greatest treasure
And in her love
I’d find great pleasure
Yet love is a quality often missed;
An ethereal thing,
A will-o-the wisp
Often looked for,
Difficult to find.
Sometimes a figment
Of one’s own mind.
A thing of beauty,
Is hard to attain
Difficult to hold;
Harder to gain.
But love’s lesson
I’ve learned at the end:
Before it is found without
It must be had within.
I won’t write any more of the Thing of Beauty poems now, but here’s a look at the rest of the paintings in the series
Another Thing Of Beauty, oil on canvas 18 x 24, 1999
A Thing Of Beauty Forever. My wife’s favorite (she forbade me to sell it).

 

 

 

 

Before I close out, I want to end with the poem I named this post for: Soul Of The Poet.

There is a battle, a war
Not for silver,nor for gold.
It’s a struggle,a skirmish,
For the Poet’s soul.
It’s a wrestling, not with flesh
But with Powers That Be
Forces only a poetic soul can see.
These forces strive each day
To tear the poet apart,
To subdue his spirit;
To tear asunder his heart.
They use confusion as arrows;
Chaos as spears.
These dreadful weapons,
May drive even a Poet to tears.
Thus, the Poet must arm himself
Using written and spoken word.
For the Poet,it’s truly said;
‘Pen is mightier than the sword.’

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