Sunday, April 11, 2010

Horace, Odes, book I (Chicago, 1960, trans. Joseph P. Clancy)

Horace, what’s up? I don’t feel like trying to say something original about Horace. I’ll read the other books. It’s hard to take the “hail Caesar” bits, and I feel strange about the coloquial stuff, its often-mean tone, contrasted with—or, jeez, that’s moralistic, it’s “bound up with”—the hot life in its engagement. A model of social poetry worth investigating. It really starts to get good around #14 or 17 or so. Here are a couple of dashed-off half-assed bits written under the Horatian influence. I’d like to make a day’s or week’s project of responding to Horace’s poems with more care and effort.

John, Dana, Jess, Lewis, Lisa, Karl
Michael, Kevin, Bridget, John, Jordan
Rebecca, Hai-Dang, Steve, Connie
Matt, Seth, Ron, Rick, Mark, Mavis

Amy, Ryan, Ryan, Ryan, Elizabeth
Beth, Astrid, Deena, Carolyn, Gretel
Karin, Jeremy, Kjerstin, Clay, Roberto
and you, voice is not speech, can we

carve a path between the name, I
recognize, and am that path, and
the tunnel of sound that opens me,
you, budding onto time, by which

I mean world, and am back in words
again, as if I ever left, on that path,
the voice, the underground tubes, shooting
down and welling, so long as it

does not dominate, let us be the voice
of voice’s polyphony, all over a choir
and that choir in counterpoint to what
doesn’t even sound, a lark of earth


Chant the praise of what’s not so hard, my love,
in you, chant the praises of what tones sing when you shake
a limber string, tuned enough
to set the other lyre alight.

Toes, sink in the mud of streams of barely-lived distances,
the cool tones that distinguish the middle ground,
the green ground hardest to see,
harder than the far dark mound of sky,

where hands, cold of the panhandling temple
with a name, an island to you, strain to birth
the quiver of passion held common
on common ground nobody gave.

May war with its tears and fearful famine and plague
be lifted from our people and from our enemies,
may we wish well on all
because that’s easier and doesn’t hurt.


  • At April 16, 2010 at 10:53 PM, Blogger Ian Keenan said…

    Twombly had a print (drawing?) of a peace of paper with the word 'HORACE' written on it. Beautiful it is and for him nice work if yu can get it..


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