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Poetic Thinking 2016 | October 24, 2019

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The birth of the overman: a sonnet

The birth of the overman: a sonnet
Harry Desmond






how could you wish to become new unless you had first become ashes!
        — Zarathustra

This is the life that should not be for you.
Though you did everything you could and more
The stars of adamantine fate fell through
And led you to this solitary shore.
While once above a time you watched with eyes
Ablaze your destiny below, soul gleaming,
And strode across the seas and shallow skies
Of love and liberated peace, dreaming,
Now you doubt yourself at every turn.
What is it you should do? With what and why?
A brute mistake? What seraphim did spurn
Your offerings? And yet, though all’s awry,
Your boundless will decrees that you shall be
Godlike and free, in endless misery.


  1. Harry Desmond

    PS apologies for failing to think poetically by writing a sonnet :P

  2. Vivian Lam

    Wonderful poem. In his condemnation to utter freedom, is he made a being of poetic thinking?
    If we create a poem within a defined structure, what kind of thinking are we doing, then (if it’s not the poetic kind)?

  3. Harry Desmond

    Thanks Vivian. I very much like the idea that absolute freedom might in some sense be a purely poetic mode of being, although I hadn’t thought of my poem specifically in that way — goes along with our collective thoughts about the liberating aspect of poetic thinking. What I was trying to get at, I think (it’s hard to know precisely what one is “getting at” when one writes a poem), is that poetry and philosophy are in large measure responses on our part to our suffering and the apparent meaninglessness of our lives. Would we write poetry if we didn’t suffer, if we felt in no way inadequate? Would Nietzsche have written what he did if he had fitted happily into society like everyone else? Are all of these curious inventions of ours merely sophisticated ways to cope? Look at freedom from a different perspective, with Sartre, and it is dizzyingly horrifying…

    (My comment was merely intended to poke fun at Andrew’s notion that something is less poetic if it’s a sonnet; I decided to debate him poetically rather than philosophically ;) I don’t think poems lose out in terms of poetic thinking by being fixed-form.)

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