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Mark Olival-Bartley studied applied linguistics at Hawaii Pacific University, attaining B.A. and M.A. degrees in Teaching English as a Second Language, and poetry at the City College of New York. He is now writing a dissertation on the sonnets of E. A. Robinson at LMU, where he tutors composition alongside editing flyers on poetry and style. His poems and translations have appeared in journals on both sides of the Atlantic. He is the resident poet at EcoHealth, where his science-themed verse is regularly featured, and a senior copyeditor at Review of International American Studies. He also teaches at Münchner Volkshochschule and leads the Amerikahaus Literaturkreis.

20160929

Ode to Medieval Poets

by W. H Auden
Chaucer, Langland, Douglas, Dunbar, with all your
brother Anons, how on earth did you ever manage,
     without anaesthetics or plumbing,
     in daily peril from witches, warlocks,

lepers, The Holy Office, foreign mercenaries
burning as they came, to write so cheerfully,
     with no grimaces or self-pathos?
     Long-winded you could be but not vulgar,

bawdy but not grubby, your raucous flytings
sheer high-spirited fun, whereas our makers,
     beset by every creature comfort,
     immune, they believe, to all superstitions,

even at their best are so often morose or
kinky, petrified by their gorgon egos.
     We all ask, but I doubt if anyone
     can really say why all age-groups should find our

Age quite so repulsive.  Without its heartless
engines, though, you could not tenant my book-shelves,
     on hand to delect my ear and chuckle
     my sad flesh:  I would gladly just now be

turning out verses to applaud a thundery
jovial June when the judas-tree is in blossom,
     but am forbidden by the knowledge
     that you would have wrought them so much better.

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