National Poetry Month: Day 16

Give me no more land

There are no limits to love.
It may be collared and caged,
bargained over and quarrelled
about; but when the wave comes
and rips out the land from
under your feet, there is
an arm that descends
in spite of the fractures
in its bones.

Gifts seem mean;

You are cold.
I will cut open my belly
crack my ribs open like the
opening of locked gates and
you will sleep inside me
like a Russian soldier
in the carass of
his faithful horse.

You are lost.
I will make a map of my skin
and draw roads in red with
the tip of a pin or a knife
until you are pointed
in the direction of
your own name.

Giving is not enough.

Bone-weary from walking the world,
I volunteer to sprint to you
for the sake of nothing but
breathless, nervous laughter
and a desolate land of endless
fertility, without boundary,
where there are no limits
for me to love.

Delilah Des Anges


The use of poetry as near-prose or rhythmic speech is commonplace; the use of poetry as broken prose, or DaDa-ist noise, is embarked upon usually as a second stage in breaking away from the strictures of classical poetry forms. However, there is a delirious middle ground in which dreamlike imagery and mania can be employed in barely-coherent sentences while using a strict poetic form.

by Sylvia Plath

This is a fascinating combination as structure and repetition of the villanelle form employed here drives specific images (Proud you halt upon the spiral stair) deep into the memory with sing-song rhythm, almost like a nursery rhyme. Like a nursery rhyme the language is bordering on the nonsensical (compare: hickory, dickory, dock), but the steady attrition of the repetition and the relentless grind of the rhythmic lines paired with a content that loaded even if the reader isn’t quite sure what it’s loaded with leads to a haunting sensation leaking out of the poem.

A great deal of resentment is aimed at this side of poetry. It doesn’t make sense, is the usual complaint when the reader is bogged down by figurative language or lost in a maze of metaphor. The purpose of poems like this is not to make logical, rational sense but to make emotional sense. Much like the pop song where the lyrics amount to little more than “whooooaaaaa, baby, baby” (which itself borders on the DaDaist or primeval), what matters is the feeling that the words evoke. Instead of reading the words and searching vainly for meaning within them, it is better to let the poem wash over you, and see what sensation is left at the end of it.

This is not necessarily a means of experiencing art that everyone is going to enjoy, but I find that poems that occupy this weird hinterland can result in one feeling more creatively inspired to write, draw, produce music and so on, some of which undoubtedly will make sense. If nothing else, Sylvia Plath’s plaintive, circling, mad villanelle should form the catalyst in someone’s mind to lead them to create their own original work.


Throughout this month I will be nagging readers to donate to MSF

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