09 March 2011

Tuesday(ish) poem: 'Poetry with Beatrice and Laura'

Poetry with Beatrice and Laura

Could Beatrice have written like Dante
Or Laura glorified love’s pain?
I set the style for women’s speech
God help me shut them up again.
― Anna Akhmatova

First we discuss Beatrice’s poem
It’s about her stalker
how he hides
around corners, appears
she goes, pretends
to be walking the other
way, pretends
he doesn’t see her
‘I don’t think he’s dangerous’
she says, ‘but he really gives me the willies’

We praise
her sharp images
the melody of rhythm, conciseness of form
her humour

I suggest she might want to change
the names

‘He just needs a proper girlfriend,’ says Laura
and she knows
what she’s talking about
she too
has a bad case of the secret admirer

‘It’s just been embarrassing,’ she says
‘I have to publish
under a pseudonym
“Oh, you’re that Laura,” they used to say
“Laura ‘whose beauty was the envy of the sun’”?
No editor would take me seriously anymore’

Her poem, a perfect sonnet
is about love and pain
and how they are not
the same thing
‘Something my grandson
should have learnt,’ she giggles
It is a departure for her
She usually writes political satire

As the theme
has turned around to love
poetry I confess that since
I have been in love
love poems have been
I suggest that there is something
about the distance, the artifice
of infatuation
that lends itself
to voluminous words
Beatrice and Laura groan

Beatrice says, ‘My husband read
what he wrote about me: “Turn, Beatrice
o turn your holy eyes upon your faithful one,”
and he said “Dante should come and live with you
for a few days, then he’ll know
how human you are,” but then
he kissed me and said
“and that’s why I love you”

Same time next
week we’ll meet again
at Beatrice’s house
and over tea and cake
bring our latest clutch of poems out
into the light

OK, so not actually Tuesday anymore, but I've missed posting a Tuesday poem for several weeks now, for various reasons, and thought it was time I got back into the swing of it.

I mentioned this poem in my last post, and talked about how I was inspired to write it after getting annoyed by that quote by Anna Akhmatova. It was going to be one of the poems in the last section of My Iron Spine, where I hang out with women from history, but I took it out because I wasn't entirely sure about it. I'm kinda fond of it though.

Beatrice Portinari (1266–1290) was a Florentine lady, best known as the woman loved from a distance by Italian poet Dante Alighieri. She is worshipped in many of his poems and appears in The Divine Comedy as a guide to paradise. It is likely that Dante only actually met Beatrice twice in his life. Laura de Noves (1310–1348) was a lady of Avignon, believed to be the woman loved from afar by the poet Petrarch and the subject of many of his sonnets. She was probably an ancestor of Marquis de Sade.

You will find many other Tuesday poems via the Tuesday Poem blog.


Helen Lowe said...

Helen, I love it! It 'so' needs to be in a collection. :)

Mary McCallum said...

Hmmm. I think my comment got swallowed! If it didn't, delete this Helen... what I said was: 'Great Helen, I like the stinging sharpness of it, and the way it opens windows on the facade of history (what blokes did.) X

melissashook said...

this is really interesting, the loving from afar...could be the start of many complex discussions...
thank you...

Helen Rickerby said...

Thanks for your kind comments Helen, Mary and Melissa! It's nice to give Beatrice and Laura an audience.