Catullus c. 84-54 BC
An ancient poet, equal parts cheeky, heartfelt and technically brilliant. Catullus was always willing to let the events of personal life infest his poetry:
"Your most recent acquisition, Flavius,
must be as unattractive as
(doubtless) she is unacceptable
or you would surely have told us about her...
... tell us, my friend -
Catullus will lift the two of you & your love acts into the heavens
in the happiest of the hendecasyllables."
"Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus
one circumcised Priapus of a proconsul
apparently prefers the company
of a couple of society-mongers
Porcius & Socration
his own mangy hirelings
to that of my dearest Veraniolus
my own dear Fabullus,
they dining well at the best places
you forced to hang about the street-corners
angling for invitations."
T. S. Eliot 1888-1965
An American who seemingly yearned to be British. Excelling in form, but also emerging at the beginning of the free verse era, Eliot wrote some utterly extraordinary poetry combining both form and free verse - dense with mythological and occult references and beautiful, soul-grabbing insight. (He also penned Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, which would later form the basis for the musical CATS; though, Grizabella's dirge is not from Old Possum, but contains elements of Rhapsody on a Windy Night. Someone else created "Memory".)
"His soul stretched tight across the skies
That fade behind a city block,
Or trampled by insistent feet
At four and five and six o'clock;
And short square fingers stuffing pipes,
And evening newspapers, and eyes
Assured of certain certainties,
The conscience of a blackened street
Impatient to assume the world.
I am moved by fancies that are curled
Around these images, and cling:
The notion of some infinitely gentle
Infinitely suffering thing."
Sylvia Plath 1932-1963
An exceptional poet assailed at every turn in her life by self-doubt and emotional pain.
"I have suffered the atrocity of sunsets.
Scorched to the root
My red filaments burn and stand, a hand of wires.
Now I break up in pieces that fly about like clubs.
A wind of such violence
Will tolerate no bystanding: I must shriek...
I am inhabited by a cry.
Nightly it flaps out
Looking, with its hooks, for something to love.
I am terrified by this dark thing
That sleeps in me;
All day I feel its soft, feathery turnings, its malignity."
Allen Ginsberg 1926-1997
An incredibly strange and amazing man with a compassionate clarity of vision and talent for word utilization that seems totally unique.
"There are unused electricity plugs all over my house if I ever needed them.
The kitchen window is open, to admit air...
The telephone - sad to relate - sits on the floor - I haven't had the money to get it connected -
I want people to bow when they see me and say he is gifted with poetry, he has seen the presence of the Creator.
And the Creator gave me a shot of his presence to gratify my wish, so as not to cheat me of my yearning for him."