To Be A Poet
To be a poet — is the same
As when by truth of life
You scar your own tender flesh,
And with the blood of feelings
Caress the souls of others.
To be a poet — to sing freedom,
As you know it best
The song of the nightingale doesn't hurt him -
His song is always the same.
Canary mimicking someone's voice -
Pitiful and silly bauble
The world needs real songs — so sing like only you can
Even if you sound like a frog.
Mohammed has overdone it in the Quran
When he forbade strong drink
That is why the poet will not stop
Drinking wine before he goes to the torture
And when a poet goes to his lover,
And finds her lying with another
He, kept by life-sustaining liquid,
Won't send a knife into her heart.
But, burning up with jealous recklessness,
Will whistle on the way back home
"So what, so I will die a vagabond,
On this earth such fate is also known."
Essenin the great Russian poet, married for a short time to the famous American dancer Isadora Duncan, never wrote a line for or against the communist revolution, which he lived through. Like all very serious romantic poets he committed suicide (reason not clear - the inhumanity of the times or the inhumanity of the woman who rejected him at the time). But unlike most romantic poets he attacked the nightingale for having the same song every time (though, of course, it doesn't!) and being like a canary (which it patently isn't). But his poetic images are so convincing we can always forgive his inaccurate reading of reality.
Maybe he was a punk romantic, or an early Rebel without a Cause.
Czechia 1901 - 1986
Nobel Prize for Literature 1984
One of the Charter 77 Signatories
To Be a Poet
Life taught me long ago
that music and poetry
are the most beautiful things on earth
that life can give us.
Except for love, of course.
In an old textbook
published by the Imperial Printing House
in the year of Vrchlický's death
I looked up the section on poetics
and poetic ornament.
Then I placed a rose in a tumbler,
lit a candle
and started to write my first verses.
Flare up, flame of words,
even if my fingers get burned!
A startling metaphor is worth more
than a ring on one's finger.
But not even Puchmajer's Rhyming Dictionary
was any use to me.
In vain I snatched for ideas
and fiercely closed my eyes
in order to hear that first magic line.
But in the dark, instead of words,
I saw a woman's smile and
That has been my destiny.
And I've been staggering towards it breathlessly
all my life.
An honest poet, Seifert frankly admitted he loved women more than poetry, and maybe, unlike Rilke who felt the reverse, his lack of dedication made him a middling poet. But his documentation of life in poetry is some of the best writing in the Czech language (say the Czechs), and at least the Swedes recognized this too. See also:
http://www.archipelago.org/vol2-3/seifert6.htm - The Lost Paradise, which starts in the famous Jewish Cemetry in Prague.