Poet's Pick April 23
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu: "A Receipt to Cure the Vapors"
Selected by Joan Naviyuk Kane
National Poetry Month 2018

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Joan Naviyuk Kane's Poetry Month Pick, April 23, 2018

"A Receipt to Cure the Vapors"
by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689–1762)

Why will Delia thus retire,
   And idly languish life away?
While the sighing crowd admire,
   ’Tis too soon for hartshorn tea:

All those dismal looks and fretting
   Cannot Damon’s life restore;
Long ago the worms have eat him,
   You can never see him more.

Once again consult your toilette,
   In the glass your face review:
So much weeping soon will spoil it,
   And no spring your charms renew.

I, like you, was born a woman,
   Well I know what vapors mean:
The disease, alas! is common;
   Single, we have all the spleen.

All the morals that they tell us,
   Never cured the sorrow yet:
Chuse, among the pretty fellows,
   One of honor, youth, and wit.

Prithee hear him every morning
   At least an hour or two;
Once again at night returning—
   I believe the dose will do.



* Joan Naviyuk Kane Comments:
Someone told me this week, in response to general chatter about my wholly appropriate distress at and during and with many situations, oh, say— lately—  that another person had texted them: “She knows everything. She sees everything. And she feels it all.” Anyhow, back to this poem, and to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. Lady Mary introduced variolation to Europe. She told Swift and Pope to stfu. She also wrote about micro-dosing. Many of her notions on translation remain valid and subversive. It is rumored that she did not dilly dally. Look at some of the rhetorical moves (question, supposition), allusion (hartshorn tea), Lacan, generalization. Of course, there’s music, too: w, s, assonance, consonance.

About Joan Naviyuk Kane:
Joan Naviyuk Kane’s most recent book is Milk Black Carbon. Honors for her work include a 2018 Guggenheim Fellowship, the Whiting Writer’s Award, an American Book Award, and the Donald Hall Prize in Poetry. A graduate of Harvard and Columbia, she is Inupiaq with family from King Island and Mary’s Igloo, Alaska. She lives with her family in Anchorage and teaches in the low-residency MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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