Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Poor flowers

Poore floure (quoth she) this was thy fathers guise,
Sweet issue of a more sweet smelling sire,
For euerie little griefe to wet his eies,
To grow vnto himselfe was his desire;
    And so tis thine, but know it is as good,
    To wither in my brest, as in his blood.

William Shakepeare, Venus and Adonis, 1593
Poor dead flower? when did you forget you were a
    flower? when did you look at your skin and decide
    you were an impotent dirty old locomotive? the
    ghost of a locomotive? the specter and shade of a
    once powerful mad American locomotive?

Allen Ginsberg, “Sunflower Sutra,” 1955
Difficult (at least for me) to think that the phrasing is just coincidence.

Both poems may be found online.


October 30: I’m surprised that some readers (elsewhere) have taken the echo to be a question of whether one poet is “ripping off” or ”stealing” from another. Good grief. It’s an echo, a small element in a poem whose precursor is another poem about a flower, William Blake’s “Ah! Sun-flower.”

comments: 3

journaljim said...

Speaking of coincidence, our Champaign Urbana Poetry group met last night, the 28th. The topic was the Beats and someone brought copies of Sunflower Sutra in as an example. I'm going to share your observation/discovery with the group.

Anonymous said...

Since everything has been said, why not say it anew as a new saying of it echoes the old and is yet new. Who knew?

Michael Leddy said...

Yes, echo, exactly.

I’m surprised to see some of the comments about this post from Jim’s fellow poets (posted elsewhere). Nothing in this post is meant to suggest theft — poets borrow and echo in these ways all the time. And the echo is limited to the two-word phrase, as I thought the title of the post, “Poor flowers,” made clear.