Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Happy B-Day, Shakey!

It's Shakespeare's birthday! (Well, actually, it's the day he died, but we guess they celebrated things differently in olden times.) We're sure that must be like a national holiday in England or France or wherever he's from. He's totally the GOD of poetry! He wrote entire plays in that iampic pentagon or whatever you call it.This is the man who put Leonardo Dicaprio and that My So-Called Life chick in the same play! He wrote the best love stories ever written in his own writing! Without a laptop!

He also wrote some sonnets, whatever those are, and some of them were to a "fair youth," maybe one like our Leo here. We know about that because of that LFO song that goes, "When you take a sip you buzz like a hornet, Billy Shakespeare wrote a whole bunch of sonnets-- New Kids On The Block had a bunch of hits, Chinese food makes me sick, and I think it's fly when girls stop by for the summer..." Remember that song? That's totally poetic, because it doesn't make sense, like all good poetry.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


Seamus Heaney is an Irish poet who is always winning lots of awards for scribbling stuff. We haven't read much of his poetry, but awards are usually really shiny, and we like shiny things. He won like a ton for his verse translation of the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf (which was made into a movie, so the story must be pretty good). But his translation of Beowulf is truly wonderful because it openly embraces the violent and gross. Just look at these lines chronicling Grendel's retreat after having his arm ripped off:
"hasped and hooped and hirpling with pain.../The bloodshot water wallowed and surged, /There were loathsome upthrows and overturnings /Of waves and gore and wound-slurry." Awesome!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Just Sit Right back and You'll Hear a Tale...

Fact: You can sing most of Emily Dickinson's poems to the Gilligan's Island theme song. Go ahead. Try it:

Because I could not stop for Death --
He kindly stopped for me --
The Carriage held but just Ourselves --
And Immortality.

We slowly drove -- He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility --

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess -- in the Ring --
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain --
We passed the Setting Sun --

Or rather -- He passed Us --
The Dews drew quivering and chill --
For only Gossamer, my Gown --
My Tippet -- only Tulle --

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground --
The Roof was scarcely visible --
The Cornice -- in the Ground --

Since then -- 'tis Centuries -- and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses' Heads
Were toward Eternity --

The weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed--

Oh, sorry. We got carried away.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Thomas Wyatt's Hot Sonnet Action!

Thomas Wyatt the Elder is regarded as the first poet to bring the sonnet form to England. I've always liked sonnets, because they're pretty much designed to get into someone's pants. Wyatt translated the sonnets of Petrarch, and then wrote many of his own (maybe to Anne Boleyn) like this one:

ABIDE, and abide; and better abide,
After the old proverb the happy day
And ever my Lady to me doth say,
"Let me alone, and I will provide."
I abide, and abide, and tarry the tide,
And with abiding speed well ye may.
Thus do I abide I wot alway,
N'other obtaining, nor yet denied.
Aye me! this long abiding
Seemeth to me, as who sayeth
A prolonging of a dying death,
Or a refusing of a desired thing.
Much were it better for to be plain,
Than to say, "Abide," and yet not obtain.

Whew! There's nothing like a bout of "long abiding" to give a guy some serious grief! He wrote you a SONNET for crying out lout! Have sex with him already!

(Ed. note: It has come to my attention that this is actually Thomas Wyatt the Younger, Wyatt's son, of "Wyatt's Rebellion" fame. Whatever, he's sexier.)


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Rumi: Making God Sexy Since 1207

Rumi, according to our top Wikipedia scholars, was a 13th century Persian poet. He was also a Sufi, which is one of those mystical deals like Buddhism or Kabbalah, or any other cool celebrity religion. And his poems reveal the heart of a true party animal:

Drunks fear the police,
but the police are drunk too.

People in this town, we love them
both like different chess pieces.

Chess is boring, but the part about the police getting drunk reminds us of Superbad. Awesome movie. Anyway, here's to Rumi!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Coming to a Theater near You

Who wouldn't like Keats more if he had written charming romantic comedies?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Hot Poet-on-Poet Action

Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes shared a passionate, tumultuous relationship.

Their story was made into the movie Sylvia, which was ok but could have used more nudity and a less depressing ending. So she dies and that's it? Couldn't she just get over it and maybe find someone else? Someone played by Colin Firth. And he emerges from lakes a lot. That was in something literary, right? But we digress. Anyway, we don't see why she had to lose it and stick her head in the oven and stuff. After all, her daddy thought she was fine...

--with thanks to EJP

Monday, April 7, 2008

Sharon Olds Expresses Herself

Poetry also has divas. We hereby celebrate Sharon Olds, the Material Girl of poetry, complete with her scandalously provocative sexual commentary and Catholic iconography.


Sunday, April 6, 2008

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Romantic poet of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, wrote some pretty awesome poems about lesbian vampires and the "stately pleasure-dome" (sounds hot!) of Xanadu. Some sexy facts: Coleridge was totally addicted to opium. He had a weird love / triangulated desire /menage a trois setup with William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy, saying things like, "Tho we were three persons, it was but one soul" (sounds hot!). For his makeover, I thought I'd evoke a thin, waifish, but still sexy heroin addict. Also, I always thought "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" could have been a lot sexier without the ugly, boring old Albatross. A peacock is much prettier, don't you think? And it contains a dirty word!


Maybe not the best photoshop job, but check out Photoshop Disasters if you want to be truly appalled.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Li Bai--Tang Dynasty Bad Boy!

They just don't make poets like they used to--back in the 700's, Li Bai was China's #1 badass. Just check out this poem where he gets so wasted he doesn't know what season it is:

(The Meaning of Life Revealed) Upon Waking Up Drunk on a Spring Day
translated by Keith Holyoak

Life in this world is just a glorious dream,
So why should we sweat and toil our lives away?
Be lazy—pour yourself wine, and always stay drunk
Like me, laid out here on the porch all day
Until I woke up, and spied among the courtyard’s
Blossoming flowers one small songbird at play.
"Little friend," I inquired, "Could you kindly tell me the season?"
The wandering warbler sang on the breeze of May—
Spring already! I only could heave a sigh,
Pour some more wine, and down it without delay.
Then loudly I sang, awaiting the bright moonrise.
My song has ended—I forget what I meant to say!

Makes today's department wine-and-cheese parties seem totally lame.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Arthur "Rambo" Rimbaud

I'm taking a cue from Evan's mention of Arthur Rimbaud, French Symbolist and Surrealist poet. Rimbaud was already a pretty hot piece of jailbait when he was alive and (probably) having an affair with Paul Verlaine. True to the sexification formula, Rimbaud was played by Leonardo DiCaprio in a movie about his life, with steamy results! He wrote some pretty sexy poetry on his own (in wussy French), but as we all know poetry alone isn't sexy enough. But do you know what always ups the eroticism? Guns! They're like penises that kill people! Violence is the new sexy-- just check out this much-improved Arthur Rimbaud for proof:

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Second Comeback

The Second Coming

by William Butler Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre,

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,

Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Give Your Poets a Kiss!

We at Literary Makeovers look forward to a better world, one in which merchandising far outweighs the actual content of a poem or the talent of a poet. Imagine it: William Carlos Williams lunchboxes! High modernist trading cards! Baudelaire action figures, complete with ennui!

Until then, we can only hope to emulate the one band that has taken rock stardom to a whole new level.



Clockwise from upper left: Wallace Stevens, Ezra Pound, Marianne Moore, and T. S. Eliot

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester

Do you know what's boring? Reading poetry. Most of it is super lame and contains things like "metaphors" and "symbols" and "rhyme schemes" and other stuff that's totally hard to understand. But do you know what isn't boring? Porn! That's why when I'm forced to read poetry during National Poetry Month, I look for the smuttiest, nastiest, most disgusting verse around -- like the poetry of John Wilmot. He wrote poems with titles like "Signor Dildo" and took on such lofty subjects as premature ejaculation, getting drunk, having sex with whores, and getting drunk and prematurely ejaculating while having sex with whores! He was also super-lustful and seduced pretty much everyone he ever looked at. But the raunchy rake's sexiness was immensely improved upon when Johnny Depp played him in a movie! Sexy overload! (What was I thinking? I love poetry!)

You wouldn't kick him out of bed for giving you syphilis! (And he totally would have given you syphilis.)