W.B. Yeats is one of the greatest poets in the history of ever. I’ve only had the displeasure of meeting one person who doesn’t like Yeats and that guy is, in fact, an idiot. But what a lot of people don’t know is that some of Yeats’ greatest poems were inspired by a woman named Maud Gonne, and she… well. It seems she really didn’t return the sentiment.
Yeats and Gonne met when they were both in their early twenties and the romance (or lack thereof) lasted for almost the rest of their lives. She was an Irish revolutionary, and he was completely enamored with her, to the point of obsession. She was his Muse, really; references to her are rife within the poet’s embodied works. Yeats proposed to her four times throughout their lives… and each time she said no.
Depressing, right? Yeats is pretty much the poster child for unrequited love. By most accounts they were good friends and she was fond of him- she just didn’t want to marry him.
Things get a little weird after that. Yeats, in his fifties, decided that he really needed to get married and pass on the legacy of his poetic genes before he died. It was then that he decided to propose to Gonne’s daughter, who was in her twenties and who he had known all her life. Creepy, right? I guess he figured if he couldn’t get her mom he could get the next best thing (there’s a joke I can make about Twilight and werewolves and weird vampire babies here, but I will abstain). Luckily, she refused, and Yeats eventually married a nice woman named Georgie, with whom he shared a happy marriage with even though she was his dream girl.
My friend, who loves Yeats, told me once that he “is good with words, not women.” I think that sums it up quite nicely.
I spent a semester abroad in Europe last year, and it was the best experience of my life. Two of my friends and I went to Paris during our spring break, and while it was absolutely wonderful- I mean, it was PARIS!- we felt a little homesick. One day we were wandering around near Notre Dame trying to find our metro stop when, completely out of the blue, the name of this bookstore caught my eye. We were tired and grumpy and all of us were English majors, so we decided to walk in just to feel a little more at home. This was a habit, you see- there’s something horribly comforting about bookstores, even if the books aren’t in your language.
Imagine our complete shock and joy when we realized that it was an English bookstore. An English bookstore in Paris- it must have been divine intervention because it was exactly what we needed.
We were only in Paris for three days, but we returned to Shakespeare and Company as often as we could. I can’t even begin to describe the magic of the place. People left notes on every surface available; it was amazing to read the stories of other travelers who had been there before us.
If you’re ever in Paris and feeling a little lonely, hopefully you’ll accidentally stumble upon this store like my friends and I did. It really helps you realize that you are not alone.
Alright, I’ll admit it- I completely adore E.E. Cummings’ poetry. It seems like a lot of young adults who don’t know much about poetry do, because he’s “edgy” and “different” and writes very frankly about sex, which seems like the coolest thing when you’re a high school freshman and you have no idea what the hell that Frost guy is trying to say. (Sorry Robert, baby, I love you!)
A lot of those kids don’t know that Cummings has written over 2,900 poems, ranging from classical sonnets to almost unreadable free verse poems. The extent of their knowledge generally ends after they memorize a line or two from “i carry your heart with me,” which they recite soulfully to the girl they’re trying to date in order to sound romantic and sensitive (I have not done this because I am a girl and reciting lines of poetry to boys is NOT, as it turns out, a good way to get them to like you). You see, I just spent a semester working on a thesis project on E.E. Cummings, and after spending the last five months or so of my life up to my eyeballs in his poetry and criticism about his poetry, I consider myself somewhat of an expert on his work.
I’m not, of course. Not by a longshot. But I did pick up a thing or two.
“-in Just” is ostensibly a lighthearted poem written about the innocence of children playing during the springtime- however, the inclusion of the balloonman in the poem, who is old and, most worryingly, “goat-footed,” suggests that there is a darker threat constantly looming above this idyllic world. I mean, come on. What does the qualifier “goat-footed” remind you of? Pan the sex-addicted satyr? The devil? Yeah, not exactly the figures you’d want hanging around young kids, huh?
This isn’t one of his most popular or relatable poems, but it is one that I think exemplifies a lot of the themes that he included in his embodied works. Hopefully you all enjoy it as much as I do!
You can view the poem here: in Just-