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dear Captain Poetry -- bpNichol

Not sure if this is as a poem about poetry, a poem about poets, or a poem about
love (and various approximations thereof). Maybe it's all the above. Or none.
Whatever. I like it anyway, so here goes...
(Poem #189) dear Captain Poetry
 dear Captain Poetry,
 your poetry is trite.
 you cannot write a sonnet
 tho you've tried to every night
 since i've known you.
 we're thru!!
        Madame X

 dear Madame X

 Look how the sun leaps now upon our faces
 Stomps & boots our eyes into our skulls
 Drives all thot to weird & foreign places
 Till the world reels & the kicked mind dulls,
 Drags our hands up across our eyes
 Sends all white hurling into black
 Makes the inner cranium our skies
 And turns all looks sent forward burning back.
 And you, my lady, who should be gentler, kind,
 Have yet the fiery aspect of the sun
 Sending words to burn into my mind
 Destroying all my feelings one by one;
    You who should have tiptoed thru my halls
    Have slammed my doors & smashed me into walls.

        Cap Poetry
-- bpNichol
from 'The Captain Poetry Poems', 1971.
Note that the occasional misspellings are intentional.

Before embarking on a dissection of this poem, you might want to read this brief

[Biographical Note]

bpNichol [real name: Barrie Phillip Nichol - t.] was one of Canada's most
challenging and innovative poets. His writing spans a remarkable range -- from
concise allegories on a single letter, on through to sound poetry, fiction,
theoretical investigations and culminating in his nine-volume poem The
Martyrology. Nichol's curiosity and his care of language provoke his readers to
embark on their own explorations into the language frontier.

Nichol died in 1988.

[Deep Analysis Begins Here]

Before anything else, I have to say that I just love the concept of Captain
Poetry - defender of the weak, protector of the poor, and guardian of our poetic
frontiers - the world needs more superheroes like him.

This is actually a rather mild poem for Nichol - not as outre as some of his
work, nor as overtly experimental. Perhaps that's the reason why it's also one
of his more popular ones - innovators constantly have to tread the thin line
between accessibility (and public acclaim; after all, even poets have to eat)
and originality.

But I digress. Back to the poem, folks, back to the poem.

The surface of today's poem is obvious enough; what's interesting (and what I
like about it, and about Nichol's poems in general [1]) is the host of self- and
meta-referential questions it raises about the Nature Of Poetry. I'm not going
to go into detail about every little hint or teaser he's thrown in, but do note
in passing the echoes of Shakespeare, Dylan Thomas and Thom Gunn. Understated,
but nice.


[1] though again, how can you _not_ like a poet who populates his world with
characters named St. Orm and St. Ranglehold [2]? Or who titles a book 'Not what
the Siren sang, but what the Frag ment'?
[2] both from 'The Martyrology', Nichol's greatest work.


Check out some examples of Nichol's visual poetry at
[broken link]


In the late 1960s, Nichol was part of a performance poetry group called the Four
Horsemen. A documentary about this group, titled 'The Sons of Captain Poetry',
was made in 1971 by no less a personage than Michael Ondaatje. So now you know.

46 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

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Eric Junard Dabon said...

Wow that's a cool poem.Those are words that create vivid images in my mind, it's wonderful. I would love to share mine . Here

I Believe in Love
We walked on a beach, the sands so white and soft
And never had we cared where the path goes
Every footprint we left, says we walked together, holding you close
Your hands were tender, warm and faithful

Then in a flash I glanced
Upon the leaves around swayed and danced
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I know it was cold, so I embraced you tightly

Softly you whispered your sentiments
Those words, “I Love You” turned rock to sediments
How sweet the ‘voice of an angel’ to hear!
Oh! Your love is so pure and clear

Yet I feared we may not last longer
For time told me daylight is not FOREVER
But we didn’t run when darkness chased our shadows
We stood as silhouettes waiting for dawns and tomorrows

I thought we’d be vulnerable in midnights
And be slaved in cowardice
Yes, we were doubtful when darkness blinded our eyes
Stranded on nameless space of truth and lies
But why could we feel more when eyes were closed?
Why do we need each other even more when we’re both gone?
Say I never believed in destiny
For I am driven by choice, not by destiny

But I’m not a man to deny this sweet reality
That with you. . .I Believe in Love!

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