Tag Archives: memory and smell

Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Music, when Soft Voices die”

10 Apr

ShelleyPortrait of Shelley by Alfred Clint (1819)

When you think Beat Generation do you also think Romanticism? No?? Don’t get tripped up by the overuse of the word “neon” and other supposed markers of so-called Beat poetry. Think more about their shared notions of colloquial language, intuition over reason, and spontaneity. Beat poetry is a natural evolution of Romantic poetry. (Caveat: “Beat Generation” and “Romanticism” are convenient labels, but the people associated with them wouldn’t identify themselves as being “members” of any sort of “movement.”)

I’ve written before about Beat poet Gregory Corso’s connection to one of my personal favorite poets, John Keats. Even more than Keats, though, Corso professed an admiration for Percy Bysshe Shelley. Corso is actually buried across from Shelley. While Allen Ginsberg (read last week’s post on Ginsberg’s Blake vision here)  is known for littering his poetry with the names of Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady, Corso wrote of Shelley in “I Am 25” and “I Held a Shelley Manuscript.” I love, love, love the language he uses in those poems and can relate to the theme of idolizing other poets who have gone before one’s time.

When thinking about possible poems to share with you for National Poetry Month, I decided on Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Music, when Soft Voices die” not just because of Gregory Corso’s love for Shelley but because it reminded me of the themes I’d found myself wonderfully entrenched in while recently reading Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way, a book the Beats also read—themes of memory and love and music and flowers. (Swoon, swoon, swoon.) Like Corso’s “I Held a Shelley Manuscript,” Shelley’s “Music, when Soft Voices die” sensually touches on what remains after death.

Without further ado, Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Music, when Soft Voices die”:

Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory;
Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.

Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heap’d for the belovèd’s bed;
And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
Love itself shall slumber on.

What’s your favorite poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley?

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My Material World Project: Hazelnut Eight O’Clock Coffee

18 Jul

The coffee at my office is undrinkable.  It’s not just that it’s often weak, it’s that it tastes like old coffee grinds.  Maybe I got a little spoiled from my previous job.  Prior to this job, I worked for a company that had an on-site chef, who often whipped up fresh juice combinations and smoothies in the test kitchen.  Even the employees’ kitchen was well-stocked with a wide variety of flavored coffees so I could select blueberry or cinnamon roll, depending on my craving.

I’m not a huge coffee snob.  I can enjoy a good cup of diner coffee.  But the coffee here just doesn’t cut it.  There’s a great Swedish coffee shop called FIKA, which I used to stop into on my way to work.  We Swedes know how to make coffee.  Lately, though, I’ve been making my coffee at home before I leave for work.  I’ve been taste-testing my way through different brands and flavors.  The last three bags, though, have all been what I grew up on:  Hazelnut Eight O’Clock Coffee.

My mom is a coffee fiend.  I don’t remember ever seeing her drink water when I was growing up.  It was always a hot cup of hazelnut coffee.  With the coffee machine always on, the kitchen had a warm, sweet smell to it.  To this day, the smell of hazelnut coffee relaxes me and makes me feel comforted.  It makes me feel close to my mom.

Since she lives in Greece and I live in New York, I don’t get to see her all that often.  Maybe it’s silly, but drinking the same brand and flavor that she always drank has made me feel a little closer to her these past few weeks.

This morning, as I was drinking a cup of horrid office coffee (it’s been one of those days when a single cup at home just isn’t enough…), I remembered a factoid I learned when I was reading up on Louie Psihoyos for the post I wrote on the photographer/film director and his efforts to save the whales: he was a major contributor to the UN-sponsored “Material World Project,” a traveling show of portraits of families around the world with their material possessions.  The above photograph is a shot of the coffeepot that my friend Mario gave me one year for Christmas (thank you!) and a bag of hazelnut Eight O’Clock Coffee that I took the other day.  The only thing missing is my mom.