I’m obsessed with language, but so much of my attention to it in my work is on what could be called “technical communication,” “business communication,” or “expository prose.” It can be artful, but it is rarely beautiful. I want to recapture some beautiful language in my life, so my New Year’s resolution is to learn—really learn—12 poems, 12 pieces of beautiful language embodying beautiful or provocative thought. What that means is that I will learn them by heart but then also play with them, remix them, reconceive them in hopes that this playfulness will enhance my technical communication and expository prose. You can help by nominating candidate poems.
Here are my criteria:
- Identify a poem or portion of one with maximum length of around 50 lines. I construe “poem” broadly. For example, an excerpt from the King James version of the Song of Solomon would certainly count.
- The text you identify must be in English, Swedish, Portuguese, or Spanish. I don’t understand any others, and I’ll have to work hard even to work with one in any of these languages other than English, but I’m willing to try. A translation into English from some other language is also eligible.
- The text you identify must be from 1923 or earlier. That makes it easier for me to play with it without having to do a copyright fair-use analysis; that would seem too much like work of another kind. In the case of a translation, the translation must be from before 1923. (They are independently copyright-protected.)
- Ideally, the text is available on the Internet somewhere. That’s not required, provided I can find it readily by other means.
You can post nominations in the comments here or Tweet at me (@rhetoricked). I’ll announce “winners” as I select them on a rolling basis.
Thanks for your help and nomination, and Happy New Year!
Featured Image from Walters Art Museum: 16th Century illuminated manuscript of poetry in Arabic.