Tag: Poetry

Doggerel Days of Summer: Boston Flights and Swedish Nights

 

Upheavals in life often leave us running, at once, for the new and the old. Unconfirmed reports say that I may have cut seven inches of my hair off, four days before flying home for the first time in almost eight months. I also may have downloaded two Longmire novels to my phone, and the second book of Winston Churchill’s The Second World War series to my Audible app. Tomas Tranströmer has played much the same role in my life, a touchstone for times good and bad, new and old. Laying in bed listening to a recitation of one of his poems a few nights ago was what inspired me to write this post initially.

While winning a Nobel Prize would be a breathtaking gift to most poets, for Tranströmer this attracted no small amount of criticism. As he was Swedish, some critics said, his mediocre poetry was being honored by a sense of national pride rather than for its merits. To me, this is complete stupidity. The Swedish former psychologist deserves far more attention than he gets in the English speaking world, for the beauty of his wordcraft and the profundity of his message. 

Group Writing: Conduct for the Good Life

 

Before we start, I just want to say that this is not doggerel. There is no such thing as doggerel in Khmer poetry, unless you count imperfect or near-rhymes as such. This is about chbab, which is one genre in Khmer poetry. Chbab is the Khmer word for law, but in poetry, it means code of conduct; it is referred to a series of didactic poems mostly composed by Buddhist monks to teach reading, writing, and morality in the monastery schools between the 15th to 19th centuries. But the origin of chbab dated back long before the arrival of Buddhism in Cambodia in the 3rd century CE. The oldest of these poems were passed down orally. They were only put on paper, or rather palm leaves, by Buddist monks near the end of the Angkor Era in the 15th century, when Hinduism was in decline and Khmer started to replace Sanskrit as the language of literature proper.

Most poems from the chbab genre are short, the shortest is only 27 stanza long. They deal with all kinds of themes, from how to raise children to how to safe-keep cultural heritage to how to take pride and feel enthusiastic in one’s own work. And their subjects range from etiquette to finance, education to marital issues to religion. As stated above, most of these poems were transcripted/composed by Buddhist monks, and as such, elements of Buddhism presented prominently in them, the oldest ones included.

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[ Note:  I posted this once before, and then I somehow messed it up, and it got deleted. So, if it sounds familiar — it is.] Thirty years ago, on August 2, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. I was driving up to Wyoming with my five children, ages 6-14, to a family reunion of my sisters […]

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As it turns out I generally like poetry but don’t read it as much as I could.  After reading this month’s Group Writing Posts seems the Ricochetti are well versed (see what I did there?) in poetry and why am I surprised, you all know a lot about a lot.  I’ve written a little doggerel, […]

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“Thinking” by Walter D. Wintle

 

I just discovered this brilliant poem.  I’m going to copy it and put it up right next to my copy of Teddy Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” speech.  I’m sure most of you Ricochetti are already familiar with this work, but for those who aren’t, enjoy:

“Thinking” by Walter D. Wintle

If you think you are beaten, you are;
If you think you dare not, you don’t.
If you’d like to win, but you think you can’t,
It is almost certain, you won’t.

A Day Late and a Doggerel Short: Rap and Henry VIII’s Tutor

 

I have spoken before of the fact that some “modern” developments in poetry are nothing new. For instance, rap battles are just an example of a much older practice known as “flyting” or “the dozens” or by any number of other names. Well, brothers and sisters, I am here to tell you that nothing about rap is new. As is said in Ecclesiastes, “There is nothing new under the sun.”

There is a relatively recent movie called Quartet about an elderly group of opera singers. One of the elderly gentlemen teaches a class about opera to kids. To get the kids interested and excited in opera, he first does research on what kids these days are listening to. In his lesson, he compares opera to rap and tells the youngsters that in rap, you bust a cap in a dude and shake out some rhymes, but in opera, you stick a knife in his back and sing an aria about it.

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Haiku, unrhymed poetic form consisting of 17 syllables arranged in three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables respectively. The haiku first emerged in Japanese literature during the 17th century, as a terse reaction to elaborate poetic traditions, though it did not become known by the name haiku until the 19th century. –Encyclopedia Brittanica……………………………………An example:Toward […]

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This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Dana Gioia, a poet, writer, and the former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. Dana discusses why the arts are so pivotal to the intellectual and civic development of America’s K-12 schoolchildren, allowing them to grow spiritually, emotionally, creatively, imaginatively, and even physically. He also explores how some of the specific skills students learn through music, drawing, poetry, and theater go well beyond traditional subjects. Dana explains why he believes the lack of arts education in our schools is a national problem, and addresses some misconceptions about why schools are not offering it. He delves into why poetry has such a profound connection to the human experience, and the many ways in which it builds self-confidence, emotional maturity, and can lead to intellectual transformation. Dana shares stories about learning from his Mexican-American mother to love the arts, teaching students to appreciate poetry at the University of Southern California, and the success of a national contest that he launched at the NEA, Poetry Out Loud. Throughout the interview, he treats listeners to recitations from Shakespeare and Poe, and concludes with a special reading of one of his own sonnets.

Stories of the Week: A new poll finds that 1 in 5 teachers say they are unlikely to return to their classrooms if schools reopen this fall, and in a separate poll of parents, 60 percent will likely pursue homeschooling options. A USA Today series highlights the benefits of high-quality dual-language programs to close achievement gaps among America’s five million English language learners, especially in states with a growing non-native population.

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“Freedom From Want” – Norman Rockwell, 1943   In his State of the Union address on the 6th of January 1941, in the height of World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt gave his famous Four Freedoms speech. FDR envisioned a future where all of humanity had these four fundamental freedoms: Preview Open

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It’s hard to imagine Samuel Johnson, the curmudgeon’s curmudgeon, writing a paean to spring. Johnson’s world was his beloved London, where he walked the cobblestones from ale house to coffee house, eating, drinking, reading, and arguing with his friends — the center of attention wherever he went. Johnson was overweight, disheveled and sometimes dirty (he […]

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Quote of the Day: The Mystery of Love

 

Yes, I have always come to the crucifix to pray,
But I never knew Jesus Christ and His love until to-day,
I sought by the feeble ray of the dim light of my mind;
But now it is dark, I learn by touch as they do who are blind.
I feel the pulse of infinite love beat feebly like my own,
And the heart of God confined in space to a little cage of bone.

I have often pondered this but have never understood
How hands which heal are stark and still, nailed to a piece of wood.
The love that makes, the love that mends, my own weak Faith could guess,
But not the love that wills to bear man’s utter helplessness,
The love in the womb, the love int he Host, the love in the burial bands,
The power and the gentleness of the love nailed fast by feet and hands.

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Here’s a short quarantine update from my neck of the woods: all public K-12, colleges, and universities are moving to online learning for at least two weeks. Activities, dances, sporting events, and concerts have all been cancelled. My mother’s assisted living center has locked down—no visits from anyone except in an emergency. We can drop […]

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Puppy Love

 

I didn’t get this posted for Valentine’s Day because I was out of town, but it’s too fun not to share. Every year I send out Valentine’s postcards to friends and family with an illustration done by one of my children. This year, my new daughter-in-law did the honors. I was hesitant to ask at first, but she seemed excited to be included in this family tradition. After years of asking my sons to remember to marry someone who would like me, I feel very blessed that (so far) they have listened! The dog in the illustration is my six-year-old puppy Inigo.

Flyting: More than 1,500 Years of Rap Battles

 

Battle Rap. Have you heard of it? It’s a fairly new thing that started in the 1980s, I am told. In fact, Wikipedia says:

Rap battle is generally believed to have started in the East Coast hip hop scene in the late 1980s. One of the earliest and most infamous battles occurred in December 1982 when Kool Moe Dee challenged Busy Bee Starski – Busy Bee Starski’s defeat by the more complex raps of Kool Moe Dee meant that “no longer was an MC just a crowd-pleasing comedian with a slick tongue; he was a commentator and a storyteller” thus, rendering Busy’s archaic format of rap obsolete, in favor of a newer style which KRS-One also credits as creating a shift in rapping in the documentary Beef.

Let America Be America Again

 

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

— Langston Hughes, excerpt from “Let America Be America Again,” written in 1925

Unselfing, Marys and Marthas: Winter of Discontent, or Mind of Winter?

 

“One must have a mind of winter… And have been cold a long time… not to think / Of any misery in the sound of the wind,” the January wind. So says Wallace Stevens in his poem, The Snow Man. Misery and discontent aren’t identical, but a series of small miseries — unrelated to wintry weather — means February snuck up on me this year, almost as if January never happened, so misery must do for my “winter of discontent”. To “the listener, who listens in the snow,” hearing the sound of the wind, the poem promises if he becomes “nothing himself” he’ll “behold[] / Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.” People “cold a long time” can go numb, of course, and numbness is a kind of “nothing” obliterating misery. But numbness seems insufficient for a “mind of winter”.

For our own survival, we see winter’s cold as hostile. Our success as biological beings depends on our sensing discomfort, in order to mitigate risk before it’s too late. Concern for our own comfort is a form of self-regard that isn’t optional, if we care to live. Nonetheless, necessary self-regard is still self-regard. A mind of winter leaves self-regard behind. And so, it sees wintry beauty — the snowy, frozen world lit with “the distant glitter / Of the January sun” — simply because it is there to see, irrespective of what it might mean to the self. Winter in itself isn’t hostile, just indifferent: self-regard makes the indifference seem hostile. A mind of winter is “unselfed”.

Group Writing: 19th-Century Discontent

 

Elizabeth Barrett Browning.jpgDISCONTENT
Light human nature is too lightly tost
And ruffled without cause, complaining on–
Restless with rest, until, being overthrown,
It learneth to lie quiet. Let a frost
Or a small wasp have crept to the inner-most
Of our ripe peach, or let the wilful sun
Shine westward of our window,–straight we run
A furlong’s sigh as if the world were lost.
But what time through the heart and through the brain
God hath transfixed us,–we, so moved before,
Attain to a calm. Ay, shouldering weights of pain,
We anchor in deep waters, safe from shore,
And hear submissive o’er the stormy main
God’s chartered judgments walk for evermore.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

On first glance, Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1805-1855) would seem to have lived a life of privilege and fortune, with little room for discontent or unhappiness anywhere. Her family, which resided in the north of England, was extremely wealthy on both sides, the result of both inheritances and ownership of Jamaican sugar plantations. As the oldest of twelve children, she had a very comfortable upbringing, well-educated, and encouraged in her love of poetry-writing by her mother, who kept every one of her daughter’s notebooks, giving us a fascinating glimpse into Elizabeth’s stylistic and philosophical development as she aged.

By her mid-teens though, she’d become an invalid, suffering with disabling headaches and a loss of mobility. Subsequently, she developed chest and lung pain (probably some form of tuberculosis, combined with a neurological disorder causing frequent and temporary paralysis), and she became dependent on laudanum to ease her pain. As with most drug dependencies, a vicious cycle ensued; and the drugs that eased her suffering on the one hand, made her more frail on the other, and as did many people unfortunate enough to be plagued with complaints of the lungs, her family began a search for more agreeable climes. They moved around the country looking for sun and warmth (rather futilely, if one knows anything about British weather). After the drowning death of her brother in a yachting accident in Devon, she and her family moved to Wimpole Street in London, where the almost-bedridden Elizabeth became an advocate for women’s rights and child labor reforms, and found solace in religion, in which she and her family dissented from the established church.