Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Get Drunk

Thanks to all poetry lovers out there as National Poetry Month comes to a close. I'll once again promote the Favorite Poem Project and support for all the arts. I'll try to be more organized about this next year!

Maggie Jochild of the Group News Blog (and Meta Watershed) posted one of her favorites, an untitled poem by Judy Grahn. Check it out, and the Group News Blog comment thread. Many readers shared their favorite poems.

Poetry Out Loud, a national poetry recitation contest, just concluded in Washington, D.C. (Congratulations to 18-year-old William Farley of Arlington, Virginia for becoming the overall winner, although the event as a whole is pretty cool.)

On NPR show Bookworm, host Michael Silverblatt's guest today was poet Yusef Komunyakaa. In March, his guest was poet Michael Bidart (parts one and two), and at the start of April, he hosted three poets to recite and discuss Walt Whitman.

Here's my featured pick for this year (although I've used it elsewhere). Liam Clancy recites a great version:

Here's a slightly different version:

Get Drunk
By Charles Baudelaire

One should always be drunk. That's all that matters;
that's our one imperative need. So as not to feel Time's
horrible burden one which breaks your shoulders and bows
you down, you must get drunk without cease.

But with what?
With wine, poetry, or virtue
as you choose.
But get drunk.

And if, at some time, on steps of a palace,
in the green grass of a ditch,
in the bleak solitude of your room,
you are waking and the drunkenness has already abated,
ask the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock,
all that which flees,
all that which groans,
all that which rolls,
all that which sings,
all that which speaks,
ask them, what time it is;
and the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, and the clock,
they will all reply:

"It is time to get drunk!

So that you may not be the martyred slaves of Time,
get drunk, get drunk,
and never pause for rest!
With wine, poetry, or virtue,
as you choose!"

(The French original can be read here.)

This has been one of my favorite poems ever since I first hear Liam Clancy perform it. It's hard for me to read it without hearing it with an Irish accent, because of that, and it's a pretty Irish sentiment. I like the idea of getting intoxicated by something besides alcohol, and that does happen. To me, the poem's about not forgetting myself and what's important in life, and about trying to stay passionate, active and inspired. Some work, while important, can grow arduous and burnout is always a risk. There are plenty of carpe diem poems out there, but I like this one's style. Get drunk – with wine, poetry, virtue, theater, film, philosophy and love, as you choose.


Will Shetterly said...

Makes me suspect he'd read Rumi.

erin said...

Gah, I just miss you so,so much.

Great poem. It has always been one of my favorites.

Hugh said...

One of my favourite poems of all times since I also heard Liam Clancy recite it. The existential question raised by the issue of drunkenness, in all it's forms, points us to the real reason for our indulgence in all these activities which give us release from the burden of temporal time...