Thursday, November 19, 2020

Poetry Friday: Birthday Gifts Edition, 2020, #1

I got some Amazon gift money for my birthday back in February, and the books I ordered with it arrived right before lockdown began. Somehow, I never got to writing about the poetry, so I'm going to try to remedy that over the next few weeks.




I had A.E. Stallings' book Hapax on my wishlist for a long time. (I had shared some of Stallings' poetry in 2010 and again in 2013.) I knew I liked Stallings' wit and her unfashionable use of rhyme, but it was really the title of this one that drew me. A hapax legomenon is a word or phrase that appears in surviving ancient literature just once. You can imagine that it wouldn't be easy to know exactly what this word means, since you don't have anything to compare it to, so you're forced to rely solely on context clues. 

Stallings, the back of the book informs us, "studied classics in Athens, Georgia, and now lives in Athens, Greece." Many of her poems tackle classical subjects, both mythological and grammatical. In one, "Dead Language Lesson," she writes,


I confiscate a note in which

The author writes, "who do you love?" --

An agony past all correction.


I think, as they wait for the bell,

Blessed are the young for whom

All languages are dead: the girl

Who twines her golden hair, like Circe,

Turning glib boys into swine.


A series of limericks ("XII Klassikal Lynmaeryx") includes, among many good ones:


With a great mind so tragically fertile

Aeschylus won wreaths of myrtle.

And yet his demise

Could win Comic first prize --

To be brained by a hurtling turtle!


Here's part of "Minutes," which uses the metaphor of minutes as beggars:


Minutes swarm by, holding their dirty hands out,

Begging change, loose coins of your spare attention.

No one has the currency for them always;

            Most go unnoticed. 

If you, like me, find yourself wanting to read more Stallings, you can find some of her work at the Poetry Foundation.


This week's roundup is here.



Linda Mitchell said...

I DO want to read more of Stallings work. Her voice is plucky...sort of edgy and funny. I'm also intrigued by Hapax. My children took Latin. And, for some it was super painful. They thought it would be "easier" than a "live" language. Ha! Thanks for the tip on this new-to-me poet.

Tabatha said...

I love comparing minutes to beggars. Her sestina "Like" is one of my favorite sestinas.

Margaret Simon said...

Thanks for this introduction. Time as beggars is perfect.

Linda B said...

Oh my, Ruth, these are delicious. I see what you mean about the language challenge she embraces. I'd love all English teachers to have that first one, maybe posted in classrooms? I got rather hung up on that one thinking with all the online schools there will no longer be love notes (any notes) passed. For a classicist, the limerick is priceless, & the last about beggers, a comment on our world. Thank you, Ruth. I'm glad you got it for your birthday & then shared it!

jama said...

Thanks for introducing us to Stallings work. You spent your gift card money well. :)

Bridget Magee said...

I, too, am not familiar with Stallings work, but now that I've had a sampling thanks to you, I will look for more. :)

laurasalas said...

I love that bit of "Minutes" you've shared. I'm so glad you've got the good company of books and poetry during this endless year!

Carol Varsalona said...

loose coins of your spare attention
This caught my attention, Ruth.
Have a great holiday.