Poetry of Catastrophe

Two riders were approaching, and The wind bega...

Image by daveeza via Flickr

Is it true that after the Holocaust, there could be no more poetry?

Or is poetry the language we need to talk about catastrophe?

Moby Lives (the books and writing news and commentary blog of Melville House Books) has an interesting post on the poetry of catastrophe.

I immediately thought of 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.
The Second Coming, first stanza, William Butler Yeats

The first stanza is brilliant. The second one, not so much, with an apocalyptic vision of the coming Beast that cannot top the one in Revelations. Do the poets of catastrophe usually go too far, as Yeats does here?

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?
The Second Coming, second stanza, William Butler Yeats

What is your favorite poetry of catastrophe?

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