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Problematic

These are a lot like some of Shakespeare's plays that don't really fit in only one category.


Sonnet 2001 (The Astronomer's Sonnet)

All poets tell us is of death and love
Rambling in riddle, incoherent verse
But I'll show greater in the stars above
Behold the beauty of the universe!
The Sun in wisdom knows no death or birth
The silent Moon, she never laughs or cries
They know not rejoicing, nor know they dearth
Wanderers' cold glow never sees sad eyes.
The unmoved Polestar, stoic as a god
Contrasts each pulsar's ever spinning fire
Even the Dog Star where no man has trod
Burns hotter than any human desire.
The blue Earth alone holds the gem of life
Or do other worlds share our joy and strife?

-F. C. Stamps
2001

Background: My poetic mind usually thinks by default in iambic tetrameter with either couplet or alternating rhymed quatrains. So the difficulty I find in writing alternating quatrains of iambic pentameter has preventing me from producing sonnets. When I read Shakespeare's sonnets, the rhythm is obvious, but I fear my iambic pentameter is more appealing to the counting finger than to the listening heart. Like past poets, rather than formally titling my sonnets, I shall number them, beginning with this year's number since I don't plan on writing more than one a year, and this will make the undiscerning reader think I have written more than I actually have.

If you don't know what each astronomical phenomenon mentioned refers to or why it is so described, go look it up! The English word "planet" originates from the Greek word for "wanderer." The Polestar is Polaris. The Dog Star is Sirius, also known as Alpha Canis Major.


1      

I Sink in My Sorrow

I sink in my sorrow
Thus thought I there
Waiting for nothing be.
No bliss can I borrow
I die in despair
No kith keening for me.

 

2 Of a truth freedom sounds
To the slave most sweet.
Thirstiest is the man
Who espies no drink in heat.
The lonely man longs for love
When on him Love doest cheat.

 

3 I hate these walls
And yet I don't
They're all I know and see.
They're all I will and all I won't
And all I'lll never be.
They're all I have; I wonder
Is the miscreant before me shown
Really any better
Than the one that's yet unknown?

 

4 I am the prisoner of my own torture
A captor I cannot escape.
I am hunted as the lonely cur
Fighting a foe which has no shape.

 

5 Where is now my resolve of stone?
Why sanctuary find I none?
Why stand I here alone?
Why to my pain do I run?

 

6 Dark Fear Anger Hate Sadness Pain and Grief
Thirst Hunger Loneliness and Sorrow without relief.

 

7 Then in my darkness comes to me
Beauty too fair to be real.
In light so bright I cannot see
Sweet serenity do I feel.

 

8 Then speaks to me my cherub
The words I long to hear.
The words I know already
Yet never held them dear.

 

9 Sink not in your sorrow
But think on the morrow
And what the future can bring.
Fear not the unknown
Just follow the path shown
And to God your praises sing.

 

10 Why to pain do you run?
It is here you choose to be.
Leave this place by sorrow won
And choose now to fly free.

 

11 The sooner you leave
The higher you'll fly
The easier it will be.
The longer you stay
The more you will die
And never freedom see.

 

12 The more you fly the less you'll sink
Until you sink no more.
Though hard to try you must not think
To dwell on your sorrow still more.

 

13 When you at last overcome
That which holds you down
Then you can at last become
Possessed of happiness found.

 

14 Sink not in my sorrow
Then can I borrow
Time to make a new start.
And should I yet fall
I'll stand again tall
No matter how hurting my heart.

 

15 I'll sink not in sorrow
Though dark be the night
And rough and stormy the way.
Balm of Gilead I'll borrow
And fight the good fight
Until my night turns to day.

 

16 Light Peace Joy Strength with the eagles soar
Hope Rest Life Love in sorrow sink no more.

 

-F. C. Stamps
December 1999-January 20, 2000

 Background and Explication: I wanted to do something special for my first poem of the new millennium (though technically of course the 21st century does not start till 2001). Although most of the poem was written on the 20th of January, I inserted the fourth and fifth stanzas which I had previously written sometime in December. Thus, this is the first and the last poem of the millenniums. The ninth verse was also written earlier in January, before the rest of the piece. I believe the ninth stanza to be a climatic point in the poem.

The second stanza contains three images, namely, the slave wanting freedom more than anyone else, one being thirstiest when there is no water, and man wanting love the most when he cannot obtain it. The first concept I borrowed from Emily Dickinson's poem number 67 in which victory is wanted most by those who lose the battle. The image of thirst was given to me by an English professor of mine, Dr. Jesse Crisler, during the class discussion of Dickinson's poem. The third image of love is from Frank Norris’ novel McTeague in which a man longs after a woman who is, at first, unattainable as well as from life experiences. The allusion to thirst also has reference to McTeague, with its conclusion in the hot desert.

I gathered images in the third stanza from three sources. In the song "L.A. Song" a woman struggles to find freedom from pain which she believes is caused by her being L.A. only to find that the same feeling is found everywhere. Also like the lyrics of the song, the movie The Shawshank Redemption talks about how prison inmates can become dependant on prison walls when that is all they know. Finally, Flannery O'Connor's short story "The Displaced Person" includes the quote, "The devil you know is better than the devil you don't know."  Thus, the speaker faces the question which is an amalgam of Shawshank and "The Displaced Person"--is the unknown set of problems, the untried life, better than the present one?  The fourth line of the ninth stanza alludes back to the final four lines of the third stanza.

In the first two lines of the tenth stanza I used an important concept from the television series Deep Space Nine (which I really don't watch). In the show's opening episodes, the protagonist repetitively relives the death of his wife, and the normal progression of his life is damned as a result. Finally it is pointed out to him that that moment in time is where he chooses to exist.  This stanza also refers back to stanza five and answers the questions asked there.  The second two lines of the tenth stanza allude to the scripture found in the Old Testament book of Joshua.   in chapter 24 verse 15 one reads: "Choose you this day whom ye will serve . . . but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."

The eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth stanzas contain concepts derived from my personal experiences in Japan. For example, I learned there that it is easier to good after you start doing good, as pointed out in verse eleven. The same is true conversely; it is harder to do good when you do bad. One example of this is that I don't have any problem not smoking a cigarette because I have chosen not to smoke while a person who has chosen to smoke will undoubtedly find it terribly difficult to not smoke anymore. The twelfth stanza refers to a church doctrine in which one can progress spiritually to a point where they are sanctified from all sin by the Holy Ghost, but that's a whole other deep discussion. Also in stanza twelve is the lesson a wiseman once told me that one must not dwell on the negative if one is to overcome their challenges. Finally, in the thirteenth stanza, one last universal principle I learned during my time in the Orient: when we overcome our weaknesses which hold us down, then do we become the person we want to be.

The tenth and eleventh stanzas also refer to the doctrine that one should "Stand in holy places," which is that when one surrounds themselves with good influences and associates with people who are a good influence on them, it is easier to make right choices.

The fifteenth stanza is full of images from the scriptures as well as from the LDS Church hymnal. Balm of Gilead was a spice mentioned in the Bible. "An aromatic gum or spice used for healing wounds (Gen. 43:11; Jer. 8:22; 46:11; 51:8). A bush producing the resin from which the balm was made grew so plentifully in Gilead in O.T. times that the balm came to be known as the 'balm of Gilead,' and was exported to Tyre and Egypt (Gen. 37:25; Ezek. 27:17)" [BD 618]. This healing spice also appears in the hymn "Did You Think to Pray?" as does the line "Prayer will change the night to day," thus the final line of the stanza. And of course "I have fought the good fight" is a quote from the apostle Paul from the Second book of Timothy.   The final line of this stanza does not suggest that the speaker's troubles are done away with, but rather that his attitude has changed.  This change of attitude from existentialism to transcendentalism is also reflected in the second half of stanza fourteen.

As to imagery pointing to a possible theme; the mention of freedom in the last line of the eleventh stanza refers back to the second stanza.  This line in the eleventh stanza combined with the thirteenth stanza point to the theme of "freedom=happiness."  Then in the sixteenth stanza there is again the mention of flying or soaring, suggesting that "flying=freedom."  Thus one can deduce that the imagery of flying, or happiness, is the opposite of sinking, or sorrow, as stated in the twelfth stanza.  In this sense, the sixteenth stanza is the antithesis of the sixth stanza.

Much of the structure of this piece I tried to base on a poem about AIDS which was divided into halves, the first having a dark tone and the second having a very positive tone. Each of the poem's halves ended with a refrain, showing the speaker's tone. The first half dealt with abstract images whereas the second had concrete images. The writer even changed the rhyme scheme for the poem's second half. I read the poem at work on a break to help a coworker analyze it for his English class. I found the use of subtle changes in structure so interesting that I wanted to try to utilize them. However, looking at what I've written for this piece, I don't think I emulated the style very well.

I wrote the poem while studying some writings of Walt Whitman, and I think the poem's style may have been affected slightly by it. As is becoming my habit as of late, I tried to include as much alliteration as possible, as evident in the first stanza, though I still don't have as much as Wilbur has in his work. I realize the reading of the poem may be somewhat difficult, but I would suggest a pause at the end of each line for a successful reading.   Even with its several universalities and what not, I am still not satisfied with this piece and am not sure it's a good poem at all.  I suppose time will be the judge of that.

Lastly and most importantly, I got the title and idea for this poem in the first place from a piece of art I saw on the Internet by Suzanne Hudson. The drawing depicts her fictional anthropomorphic character, Syne, crying with the words, "I sink in my sorrow" written next to him. The file was uploaded December 8, 1999 as synesorw.jpg. The very existencialistic tone of this picture of Syne is contrasted in another of Hudson's works, syne20.jpg.  Thank you Suzanne.


The Return of the Raven


Once a strange land I did wander, aimless deep thought did I ponder
As I came upon, near yonder, a hamlet by the seashore.
Being dusk and in the winter, a bed for night I did implore.
Only this and nothing more.

So door to door I asked all kin, after being full the inn.
My hopes with sunlight soon did thin, as shut on me the town's last door.
Thus sleeping outside and not in, an orchard did I explore.
There my weariness I bore

Under tree and under starlight, made my bed there, I, that cold night
Then came to me, mid-dream, a fright, a ghost from days of yore.
Though starry there was thunder, and the lightning flashed my blunder
"Why me?!" did I aloud wonder, at the figure, me before.
But then it was no more

Starting up and about looking, thinking maybe a mistooking
Maybe I had been mistaken, by a branch the breeze had shaken
For the stars were brightly shining, without cloud and without lining.
Perhaps a dog I heard wining, was what a ghost I'd taken for.
Only this and nothing more

But then as I lay there sighing, something me, I thought was eyeing
But again myself assuring, it'was but a cat's apurring
Or perhaps a bird, by flying, but to myself I was lying
For I knew the ghost before me, and I knew that I'd be dying
For though the ghost I could not see, I knew it had come just for me,
Followed me since days of yore, followed me to this distant shore
Me to kill and nothing more.

So quickly ran I, up started, light headed, heavy hearted.
But no sooner had I departed, that I could run no more.
With my chest about me burning, my stomach within me churning
My breath I was for yearning, and this chase to be no more.
Then sounded, "Nevermore!"

Then again I was abounding, with my heart within me pounding
Trying to flee the sounding of the sounding beast of yore.
Still running, came I to the beach, And my god I did beseech,
"Rid me of this flying leach, sucking life from my ev'ry pore!
This I ask and nothing more!"

Along the beach was I running, with flying o'er me that beast, cunning.
Into water he was gunning, pecking me away from shore.
Sank I my head beneath wave, to, from his pecking, my head save.
This, when the sand beneath me gave, swim I did, though body sore.
This I could do, and nothing more

Still the evil thing persisted, tired, my body limped then listed.
So it seemed the bird insisted that I could breath nevermore.
And my weakness here was growing, though in heart I not yet knowing
To a wat'ry grave was I going, for darkness hid the shore.
Darkness here and nothing more

And so thus upon the morrow, no more time had I to borrow
But also ended all my sorrow as my body washed ashore.
And perched near my earthly shell, was the creature here from hell
Yet in no way could it tell, I was now with my love Lenore.
With her above--forevermore!

-F. C. Stamps
March 25-26, 1994

Background: Writing it at the end of my Junior year in high school, I wasn't sure where I was going with this piece as I wrote the first few stanzas; thus one may notice that there is no definite reference to any raven in the first five stanzas.  I was just experimenting with the form I observed in Poe's "The Raven."  It wasn't until I wrote the end of the sixth stanza that I decided to make the poem and sequel to Poe's work.  I was pleased with the outcome of my efforts, especially considering that at the time I wrote the poem, I really had no idea what Poe's "The Raven" was about.  I didn't even know what the difference between trochaic and iambic was.  This is especially noticeable in the fifth line of the fifth stanza in which the regular trochaic pattern of the poem is interrupted by a sudden line of iambs.  However, if read correctly, a harmonious rhythm is very attainable.


Untitled 2

 

I fear I am:

 

 

 

Fighting a war I cannot win
Looking ahead to what has been
Having to pay an infinite cost
Running a race I've already lost

 

If only I had:

 

 

 

Taken the time to hold you tight
Taken the chance to set things right
Done the things I meant to do
Told you the words, "I love you"

 

How I miss:

 

 

The times that we both shared
All the ways you showed you cared
The little things I could do for you
And the big things you meant to me too.
 

-F. C. Stamps
November 28, 1999


Background: I wrote this piece on a whim, trying to come up with stanzas in which each of the four lines could start with the same words.  In other words, one could read the words "I fear I am" before each line of the first stanza and have it make sense.  In fact, they don't make much sense without the introductory words.  I've never heard of anyone else doing poetry like this, and I have no idea whether it's something new or if it's been thought of before.

Limericks & Haiku

Limericks

Water
When first I saw the ocean blue
I thought one day I'd travel it too
    But now that I have
    I have no more
Since the water has washed me ashore.

1988-1989

 

Time
Time now flies so fast
And so goes things past
    We try to hold on
    To things that are gone
And so fate is cast.

 

Fear
Into the dark of night
We ran for fear and fright
    From what we know not
    We ran without thought
Dare not, be caught, in sight.

 

Symphony
The bass drum rolled a little
The snare drum paradiddled
    The choir sang
    The bells went clang
And then I played the fiddle.

 

Drowning
The water began to rise
So started the man’s demise
    He tried to swim
    But it had him
His cruel fate he did despise

December 1993

 

Haiku

What one wave washes
Ashore, another will wash
Away the same.

Background: The first limerick, "Water," was written around the 1989, the subsequent limericks circa 1993, and the haiku in 1999.  In the first limerick, the original text of the last line started with "For" not "Since." The rest of the limericks were written for the same English class as the poems "Turn," "Unkown," "Lamentations," and "Verb is a Noun.


Poetry copyright © 1998 by F. C. Stamps

© 1999 - 2017 F. C. Stamps