Showing posts with label Poetry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Poetry. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A Library Haul

(Linking up with The Captive Reader's Library Loot event.)

I got a fantastic haul at the library!  This morning I decided I was going to the library and not leaving until I found at least a few books that I would actually read and enjoy.  After sulking through the fiction section and feeling sorry for myself because I couldn't find anything, I went to the nonfiction section on a whim, namely, the literature section.  And that was where I fell upon short stories and a bunch of other fascinating stuff.

I have always blown off short stories for some strange reason, but I have remedied that now.  Here's my list from this week:

1.) Scout, Atticus, and Boo: A Celebration of Fifty Years of To Kill a Mockingbird, Compiled by Mary McDonagh Murphy

2.) The Best American Essays from 2011, edited by Edwidge Danticat

3.) The Oxford book of American Short Stories, edited by Joyce Carol Oates

4.) The Pen/O. Henry Prize Stories from 2012, edited by Laura Furman

5.) The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms, compiled by Mark Strand and Eavan Boland-Just looked fascinating

6.) The Best American Humorous Short Stories, edited by Alexander Jessup

7.) 1491: New Revelations of the Americans Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann-Just a book that looked fascinating.

Whew!  So this month is officially short story month for me.  I'll be posting reviews of some favorite specific short stories, as well as the books that they come from throughout the month of June.  I'm really looking forward to it!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes

And here it is!  The Don Quixote post!  In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have written as much about reading it as I did, because I probably set all you readers up for a good analytical post, when I definitely don't have that in me.  Still, here is a post about my thoughts on Don Quixote.

So, Don Quixote.  I'll admit that I had my doubts.  It was long and I wasn't in the mood for a tome when I started it, but it's one of those classics that I really wanted to approach again for Classics Club-a wonderful motivator for this kind of thing.

Most people know the basic plot of Don Quixote.  However, here it is.  Don Quixote is divided into two parts-the first one being tales of his escapades and stories of the people around him.  The second is, well, I didn't love it.  I'll say more later.  Don Quixote is a fairly wealthy man living in La Mancha.  He adores exciting adventure stories full of chivalrous deeds.  And this, according to our narrator, is his downfall.  The books, or so we are told, turn his brain to mush so that he sees everything as part of his fantastic stories.  So, he proceeds to try to live his life as much like a chivalrous knight-errant.  He helps all the poor and needy, tries to win his love (a woman he barely knows), and perform brave deeds.  He takes along his trusty steed (a frail horse) and his side-kick (Sancho).

This part of the book was so fun-adventures and thrills, dangerous quests.  And, through it all, I began to see his world as Don Quixote did.  This is the part of the book that includes the famous windmill story.  For the first 1/8 of the book, I laughed at Don Quixote, with his silly adventures and his delusions.  I identified with Sancho, although at times I wondered why he didn't just leave Don Quixote. And then, something clicked.  I realized why Don Quixote was doing what he was doing.  I started to see a method to his madness.

By the second part of the book, things start to change.  Sancho is now tricking and lying to Don Quixote (for reasons that confused me for awhile, but that became clear later) and there are a slimy Duke and Duchess in on it.  They have convinced Don Quixote that his love has been put under an enchantment and that only he can perform all kinds of deeds to save her.  And so they cruelly send him on task after ludicrous task, which he performs tirelessly.

His imagined events become more and more insane, but, strangely enough, that actually made me empathize with him even more.  His imagination is a reaction to the world in which he is living.

This is where I grew sick of the book and went from smiling complacently to close to outrage.  The tormenting, the joy that all the people around him were getting out of tormenting him sickened me.  The brutal behavior displayed by so many people made me ache for Don Quixote and, all at once, I realized something.

Now, I know that this is not a new statement and that plenty of people have made this observation before.  But, I still was so struck by it. Don Quixote is the one in the right.  In the first part of the book, we are the complacent villagers watching his insanity, wondering why he can't just settle down and do things like everybody else.  By the end of the book, we are supposed to have realized that Don Quixote  is demonstrating the need for, and lack of, chivalry.  His willingness to do anything to help people, however deluded those actions may be, is admirable.  And we, the readers, are supposed to empathize with that.  Cervantes is making the observation that, in his culture, chivalry was being lost.

In the final chapters, Don Quixote is alone, exhausted, and sick.  It is in these final moments that he realizes that chivalry is dead, that his efforts have been in vain.  And then, he dies, leaving the reader to be brought back to reality by the narrator.

While this book often gets labeled as comic, I definitely didn't see it that way.  Well, maybe for the first section, but after that, I was left feeling melancholic and slightly wrenched by Don Quixote's life events and his last moments.

And that, I think is the sign of a wonderful writer.  I have almost no knowledge of 1600s Spain. And yet, Don Quixote speaks to our human condition-our desire for chivalry and bravery, though none of us would say that we particularly are longing for those things.  Cervantes's use of words and poetry and imagery brought goosebumps to my arms multiple times.

The translation I had was fantastic and I think that made a huge difference.  If you're interested in getting a copy of Don Quixote, I highly recommend the one translated by Edith Grossman.  She did what all good translators do-kept her voice in the background and Cervantes's in the front, simply giving the reader the impression of an enhanced view of the original author.  And then she had all kinds of fascinating notes at the end, which I really appreciated.

Do, please go read this book, if you're in the mood for a long classic.  It was worth all those days spent slogging through chapter and after chapter.  Now, on to Frankenstein!

Monday, April 20, 2015

After the Rain

After it came tumbling down
in fat, wet drops that made us sprint for the barn,
the rain stopped.

And we walked outside to see
the most beautiful rainbow 
arching across the pitch black sky.

Then I blinked, and it was gone,
leaving in its wake a sky,
turning blue with puffy clouds.

And the only signs that it had rained
were the rushing of the gutters
and the puddles on the soaked grass,

the muddy, wet feet,
the patch of sky in the puddle,
and the buzzard in the tree, drying his wings.

(This was a late afternoon poetry inspiration that came to me as I walked to the chickens.  A surprisingly unexpected post idea for me.  I think the beautiful day went to my head.)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Father's Day Poem

I had the worst time finding a suitable Fathers' Day Poem.   It couldn't be smarmy (you know the poems…the father portrayed as this strong, silent, perfect person), it couldn't be funeral (that's a surprisingly large amount of poems about Fathers) and it couldn't be grim and dark.  It's not like you can't find plenty of that when looking for Mothers' Day Poems, but there are still the occasional poems that are beautiful without being saccharine.  I was so pleased when I found this poem.  It's by no means perfect, but there are no bitter undertones, and no smarmity.

Only a Dad

Only a dad, with a tired face,
Coming home from the daily race,
Bringing little of gold or fame,
To show how well he has played the game,
But glad in his heart that his own rejoice
To see him come, and to hear his voice.

Only a dad, with a brood of four,
One of ten million men or more.
Plodding along in the daily strife,
Bearing the whips and the scorns of life,
With never a whimper of pain or hate,
For the sake of those who at home await.

Only a dad, neither rich nor proud,
Merely one of the surging crowd
Toiling, striving from day to day,
Facing whatever may come his way,
Silent, whenever the harsh condemn,
And bearing it all for the love of them.

Only a dad, but he gives his all
To smooth the way for his children small,
Doing, with courage stern and grim,
The deeds that his father did for him.
This is the line that for him I pen,
Only a dad, but the best of men.

I thought I would also quote this poem because it makes me laugh so much.

"You are old, Father William," the young man said,
"And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head --
Do you think, at your age, it is right?

"In my youth," Father William replied to his son,
"I feared it might injure the brain;
But, now that I'm perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again."

"You are old," said the youth, "as I mentioned before,
And you have grown most uncommonly fat;
Yet you turned a back-somersault in at the door --
Pray, what is the reason for that?"

"In my youth," said the sage, as he shook his grey locks,
"I kept all my limbs very supple
By the use of this ointment -- one shilling a box --
Allow me to sell you a couple?"

"You are old," said the youth, "and your jaws are too weak
For anything tougher than suet;
Yet you finished the goose, with the bones and the beak --
Pray, how did you manage to do it?"

"In my youth," said his father, "I took to the law,
And argued each case with my wife;
And the muscular strength, which it gave to my jaw,
Has lasted the rest of my life."

"You are old," said the youth, "one would hardly suppose
That your eye was as steady as ever;
Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose --
What made you so awfully clever?"

"I have answered three questions, and that is enough,"
Said his father, "Don't give yourself airs!
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Be off, or I'll kick you downstairs.

I'm thinking that maybe I need to sit down and write a really good Fathers' Day Poem.  I have my dad to thank for a lot of my love of reading.  He has never liked fiction, but he read lots of wonderful children's books to my brother and me.  I can still remember listening to him read and sobbing over Aslan's death in The Chronicles of Narnia.  It was my first experience of enjoying a sad part of a good book.  Anyway, happy Fathers' Day to all of you whatever you're doing and whoever your fathers/father figures are.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

"My Mother Read to Me"

I had a mother who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea,
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth,
"Blackbirds" stowed in the hold beneath.

I had a Mother who read me lays
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every boy has a right to know.

I had a Mother who read me tales
Of Gelert the hound of the hills of Wales,
True to his trust till his tragic death,
Faithfulness blent with his final breath.

I had a Mother who read me the things
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings--
Stories that stir with an upward touch,
Oh, that each mother of boys were such!

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be--
I had a Mother who read to me.
-By Strickland Gillilan

Happy Mothers Day to all of you and in particular to my own mother!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Billy Collins

To finish up my poetry reading month, I read The Apple That Astonished Paris by Billy Collins.  Collins's poetry has always stirred and impressed me.  Collins uses words like no other poet has ever used them.  There's something timeless about his style; it's definitely modern (no rhyming, modern themes), but yet it makes so many references to timeless things that it isn't really modern poetry at all.

I thought that I would quote one of Collins's poems about books because it is so fitting for my blog and it also is a review of the book unto itself.
Billy Collins

Books   by Billy Collins

From the heart of this dark, evacuated campus
I can hear the library humming in the night,
a choir of authors murmuring inside their books
along the unlit, alphabetical shelves,
Giovani Pontano next to Pope, Dumas next to his son,
each one stitched into his own private coat,
together forming a low, gigantic chord of language.

I picture a figure in the act of reading,
shoes on a desk, head tilted into the wind of a book,
a man in two worlds, holding the rope of his tie
as the suicide of lovers saturates a page,
or lighting a cigarette in the middle of the theorem.
He moves from paragraph to paragraph
as if touring a house of endless, panelled rooms.

I hear the voice of my mother reading to me
from a chair facing the bed, books about horses and dogs,
and inside her voice lie other distant sounds,
the horrors of a stable ablaze at night,
a bark that is moving toward the brink of speech.

I watch myself building bookshelves in college,
walls within walls, as rain soaks New England,
or standing in a bookstore in a trench coat.

I see all of us reading ourselves away from ourselves,
straining in circles of light to find more light
until the line of words becomes a trail of crumbs
that we follow across a page of fresh snow;

when evening is shadowing the forest
and small birds flutter down to consume the crumbs,
we have to listen hard to hear the voices
of the boy and his sister receding into the woods.

And there is all the review that is needed for this wonderful poet.  I highly recommend anything that Collins has written.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

How the Poetry Went

In a previous post, I told you all about the poetry I was going to read.  Well, it was slightly overambitious, but I did get two of the poetry books read.

1.  Longfellow- I'm glad I actually read this whole book.  The poetry, particularly the nature poetry, was just beautiful.  I loved that, even though those poems were so old, they were still meaningful today.
I gave an overview of what I thought of Longfellow in this post, so I won't say any more.

2.  Billy Collins-  Once I realized that I just wasn't going to get around to reading all of the poetry that I had on the list, I picked up a slim volume of Billy Collins poetry.  I have heard and read Billy Collins's poetry many times, so I knew what a treat I was in for.  If you are a poetry foot-dragger like me, one of his books is the place to start.  I'm going to do a real post about this book because it was so enjoyable.

So I may not have quite reached my goal, but I did a little dabbling in poetry for April, so I was pleased with the results.  I may continue to read a book of poetry throughout the year, and if so I'll keep you updated on my poetry reading adventures.

Friday, April 11, 2014

My First Poetry Reading Finished

The first book I turned to in my poetry reading month was a beautiful old book of poems by Longfellow.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, in large part because I am such a romantic and this poetry is nothing if not romantic.  Each morning, I sat down with a hot cup of something and read a few poems.  I was amazed how quickly I read through the book.
This isn't the edition I have, but it's all I could find.

I started with the first section, called Voices of the Night.  The poetry, mostly concerning nature, was so  pleasant to read.   The second section was my favorite.  It was poetry written by Longfellow when he was 19 and younger.  The poetry is so joyful and full of energy, and the tone is somewhat simpler than the first section, which was written when Longfellow was older.  It was interesting to see his writing progress.
As I read through this poetry book, I kept turning to the front, musing
about this picture of Longfellow's face.  Does he look
grandfatherly, or does he look stern and forbidding?  I can't decide.

I skipped over two ballads that Longfellow translated.  Next up was the Lord's Supper.  Since we are in Lent right now, it seemed especially fitting.  I might even pull it out again later on next week before Easter.  The other two pieces of poetry that I read were ballads.  The first, Evangeline.  I have a fondness for Evangeline because Anne of Green Gables makes reference to playing and reading Evangeline.  My last selection was The Song of Hiawatha.  I was amazed at how much I enjoyed it.  While I was reading it, I kept thinking, "This seems so familiar.  Why do I recognize this?"  Then I realized, I read this in 8th grade and remembered enjoying the tale put to poetry.  This morning I finished up by reading a few poems at the back of the book titled, "Miscellaneous".
Longfellow as a young man.

I'm starting a new book today, which seems fitting, as I'm starting a new year.  My birthday was yesterday.  I'd love to share pictures, but there are so many faces in them, that I think I shouldn't.  I will just say that it was a lovely birthday and, if I can find any food pictures, I'll post them.

Monday, April 7, 2014

An April Day

We took the first walk in our woods yesterday!
                                                       When the warm sun that brings
                                                seed time and harvest, has returned again, 
                                                   ' tis sweet to visit the still wood,
                                             where springs the first flower of the plain.

                                                          I love the season well,
                                     when forest glades are teeming with bright forms, 
                                         nor dark and many-folded clouds foretell
                                                    the coming-on of storms.

                                               From the earth's loosened mould
                                     the sapling draws its sustenance, and thrives; 
                                    though stricken to the heart with winter's cold, 
                                                    the drooping tree revives.
                                                         The softly-warbled song
                                    comes from the pleasant woods, and colored wings
                                                 glance quick in the bright sun, 
                                             that moves along the forest openings.

                                                    When the bright sunset fills
                                   the silver woods with light, the green slope throws
                                          its shadows in the hollows of the hills, 
                                                and wide the upland glows.
                                                  And, when the eve is born, 
                                       in the blue lake the sky, o'er-reaching far, 
                                    is hollowed out, and the moon dips her horn, 
                                                  and twinkles many a star.

                                               Inverted in the tide, 
                          stand the gray rocks, and trembling shadows throw, 
                                 and the fair trees look over, side by side, 
                                          and see themselves below.
A beautiful green fern growing in a bank.
Spring is here, folks!
                                      Sweet April! -many a thought
                              is wedded unto thee, as hearts are wed; 
                           nor shall they fail, till, to its autumn brought, 
                                        life's golden fruit is shed."
-An April Day by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, from my poetry reading this morning.

Friday, April 4, 2014

National Poetry Month

So I'm not really into the themed month thing (Oh look!  National Broccoli Month!  Notepaper Month!  Light Socket Month!)  So, I exaggerate, and, in its defense, the themed month phenomenon has given awareness to many good causes.  However, I saw that April is National Poetry Month on a blog and though, "Hey!  I need to read some poetry!"  I read voraciously, but for some reason, poetry just never makes it onto my list.  Poetry requires reading in completely different way from books.  It requires full attention and the willingness to not always "get" what the point is the first time.  However, poetry is beautiful and I can't remember the last time I picked up a book of poems.  So, here's the list of books that I'm going to read.  I own all of the books, so this goes into my goal of reading more books that I own.  At the end of the month I'll write about how my poetry reading experiment went.    

1.  Collection of Poems by Maya Angelou
This isn't the edition I have, but this is the only picture I could find online.
2.  Poems by Longfellow
Just a boring modern edition.  I have a gorgeous old edition
that smells delightfully musty.
3.  Selected Poems by William Butler Yeats

4.  Collected Poems by Emily Dickinson

5. Poetry by Robert Frost

6. The Apple that Astonished Paris by Billy Collins
And that concludes my poetry list for April.  I've decided to do my poetry reading first thing in the morning over breakfast, starting with Longfellow.  I'm looking forward to my month with the poets!