Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Poetry Wednesday

By Judith

Although Sara Teasdale (1884 - 1933) was of the same era as the other modern poets we've been looking at, she decidedly was not a "modern." The poets of this time wrote the way their contemporaries in the fields of art and music approached their craft; life played out in a rhythm of ragtime or jazz. This was a time of change, of uncertainty.

Sara Teasdale's work was more like a stroll in the park at twilight: quiet, dewy, somehow other-worldly. Her comtemporaries looked only forward; it seemed as though she looked back toward the Pre-Raphaelites such as the Rossettis (Dante Gabriel, the painter and poet and his sister Christina, the poet). In fact, Christina Rossetti was one of Sara Teasdale's favorite poets (mine too!). Figures from the past, fictional heroines, and modern legends inspired her (Helen of Troy, Beatrice, Guinevere, Eleonora Duse).

Like her contemporaries, she spent time in Europe, but while Paris seemed to call to the Bohemians, it was with England she felt most compatible. But home wasn't the Continent, and she came back to America again and again and traveled it from coast to coast. Each place inspired her. From Maine to New York City to Tucson to Santa Barabara, she found something everywhere that spoke to her, while never being at home anywhere. She was something out of time, out of place, belonging neither to the past or the future. While this strange nature could sometimes produce poetry that was less than profound, there was a lyric beauty about all that she wrote and I find myself coming back to her poetry as much as I do to Christina Rossetti's.

Here is a poem from her second book, Helen of Troy and Other Poems (1911).

Central Park At Dusk

Buildings above the leafless trees
Loom high as castles in a dream,
While one by one the lamps come out
To thread the twilight with a gleam.

There is no sign of leaf or bud,
A hush is over everything-
Silent as women wait for love,
The world is waiting for the spring.

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