Poetry Month: Week Two, with Natalie Barney

Right to left, Renée Vivien and Natalie Barney
Right to left, Renée Vivien and Natalie Barney

Micah, my youngest son, and I are once again this year recording poems for National Poetry Month. In an effort to read and record poets that are new to us, or at least whose work we have not yet read out loud, we are both picking a different poem each week of April and sharing it with you. From Shakespeare’s time to Shelley’s, to some living poets of today, follow us and read along. We’d be tickled to hear that we’ve introduced you to a new favorite.

Last week, Micah chose a little-known (who should be more well-known!) lady poet from the 1600s and this week I have recorded the following gem, published in 1920 by the delightfully fierce Natalie Barney

The story goes that she met Oscar Wilde when she was 12 years old, and that experience changed her life, partly because of the influence Wilde had in her mother returning to her own art after her wealthy husband had earlier dissuaded her. The article goes on to say that her first love was a summer fling with Eva Palmer. She had studied in Paris and would return, eventually founding a popular salon there for artists. Learn more about this early feminist and artistic trailblazer by reading the entire, fascinating article in Headstuff.org.

The image below was painted by Natalie’s mother when the young poet was 20 years old. You can enjoy more of Natalie’s work from her book Poems & Poèmes, preserved online by the Guttenberg Project. 

HABIT

Ah! habit, how unmusical and shy
That outworn miracle: our ecstacy!
Between our hands that clasp their empty palms,
This daily prayer is this our psalm of psalms!
What is this nothing that was more than all?
Thinned as a golden ring that dare not fall,
That unsuspected danger: faithfulness,
Has linked us strangers, and a something less!
Exchanging vows and other platitudes,
As beggars chained in separate solitudes,
Though jealousy keep live the rotten core,
Lovers that were be lovers nevermore.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. This won’t be included in the next anthology about the enduring quality of love. I mean, “beggars chained in separate solitudes” is so bleak.

    I think I would read line one without a pause into line two.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, you’re probably right. I was just discussing with Micah the punctuation and how it took quite a few takes to get it to sound natural. I have trouble with multiple couplets not sounding like a nursery rhyme too. And yes, I think of this piece a little bit the way I think of “Thursday” by Edna St. Vincent Millay, though it’s likely that Barney was being serious rather than tongue-in-cheek. She was not a big fan of monogamy, it seems.

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  2. keatsbabe says:

    I have worked out why I am not seeing your posts so often David – you are ending up in my ‘Social’ folder on gmail and I fear I have missed a lot. An excuse to take my time and browse and be inspired… Thanks for this one – anothe rpoet for me to find out more about.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I had that same struggle! The social folder, so I spent some time just a week or two ago getting all my notifications worked out in Word Press. You can select which blog updates get daily, instantly, or weekly. I had tried to depend on occasional strolls through the Word Press Reader, but that wasn’t really giving me the scope of it. Hopefully, we’ll both keep up to date more! 🙂 Thanks for checking in!

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