cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “Poetry”

Shakespeare Celeb:The Wit of Sonnet 130


Image result for sonnet 130

I admit most of this month’s tribute to Shakespeare has been focused on his plays, or at least I have admittedly grievously ignored his sonnets. This post shall attempt to make amends.

It’s impressive he wrote 154 sonnets, compared to writing 37 plays. It’s thought he wrote sonnets when the Puritans or the Health Department shut down the theatres, either for indecency complaints or plague control. There must have been some serious down time.

From fact finding, I discovered Shakespeare considered himself more poet than playwright, having first got his fame thing going with the publication of a couple of poems: “Venus and Adonis” (1593) and “The Rape of Lucrece” (1594). These got the attention of the Earl of Southampton who became Shakespeare’s patron. Scholars say other things about the Earl, but we shall not pursue the matter here.

Today I focus on one of Shakespeare’s sonnets. If you are interested in his full sonnet selection, go here:

Yes, I do have a favorite. Actually more than one. Sonnet 130, to me, captures the absolute wit of Shakespeare, especially this version. I’ll tell you why after you watch it.

At first, it seems as if the speaker is downgrading his lover. Instead of promoting her virtues he speaks of her unruly hair, less-than-fashionable hue of skin, and the fact that she treads instead of glides. Reeks means breathes, not stinks–a denotation clarification. In fact, what Shakespeare does is set it down that the speaker’s mistress is a human, not a goddess, which is something many of the sonnet writers espoused, that the women of their poetry were so perfect, so amazing, and as Shakespeare points out, so unreal. The woman of Sonnet 130 is not perfect, and doesn’t have to be to attain the speaker’s devotion.

The first half of the sonnet grinds away at her apparent imperfections, and the reader must think the speaker cruel and heartless. When the turn arrives, the shift in attitude (technically called the volta), clear down in the couplet, we discover the speaker said all that to say this:

And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
     As any she belied with false compare.

This is Shakespeare’s point: the sonnet had become this competition of writing with a practiced extemporaneous style, as if the subject were so inspiring, words just flowed from pen to paper. Basically, it came off as phoney baloney. Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130 speaker lays it down truthfully: “hey, my girl may not fit the Elizabethan Renaissance standards of beauty, but she’s my girl–talking about my girl.” She’s real. She’s not perfect. She makes me happy. Thank you, Bill. The purple prose of yesteryear , the false compare, does not speaketh the truth. Women, and men, are not perfect. There is beauty in imperfection, and Shakespeare tells us so.

 

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Word Nerd Confessions: September


I am smitten with a new-to-me word.

Let me first preface the unveiling of this word with a personal disclosure: if I were suddenly transformed into a flower it would be a sunflower. Their unique talent of keeping tuned in to the sun, turning their faces towards light, and following it throughout the day is something I understand.*

*sunflowers apparently follow the sun only when in the bud stage–once open they tend to face east, and this is attributed to protecting the seeds from the stronger rays of the south exposure (that is a smart flower!)

Here is a confession: I crave light. I revel in basking in sunlight. I have been accused of being a sun goddess (did not sound complimentary at the time), and I panic at the thought of being in a room without windows for a great length of time (my first year of teaching involved such a room). As long as I have daylight in some form I am content. Oh yay for my Happy Light.

I’m not keen on laying out in the sun for the sake of bronzing, yet I will do so, just to absorb the warmth, that therapeutic solar embrace. The tan is a by-product. I’m basically striving to store up remembrance of the sunlight for when winter hits my region. One student recently defined our winter as “except July and August”–slight exaggeration, but winters tend to be a solid six months around here.

Around October I wake up in darkness and finish the school day with the last rays setting. One teacher went to part-time because teaching in an interior room meant she never saw any light and it created havoc in her health. I have two windows in my present classroom and I am blessed and thankful.

Sunlight in winter. That’s a wonderful day. The snow can be up to the windows. The temperature can be dipping to stingy in warmth, yet if I can have the sun shine down and kiss my face before the cold requires covering, spring seems a reasonable distance I can bear.

So–

Apricity: the warmth of the sun in winter.

According to Merriam-Webster.com:

n. Apricity appears to have entered our language in 1623, when Henry Cockeram recorded (or possibly invented) it for his dictionary The English Dictionary; or, An Interpreter of Hard English Words. Despite the fact that it is a delightful word for a delightful thing it never quite caught on, and will not be found in any modern dictionary aside from the Oxford English Dictionary.

Another source defines it as:

the feeling of the sun on one’s skin in winter.”

Katie Williams,Tell the Machine Goodnight (2018)

And that is why this word from yesteryear needs a campaign to retrieve it out of the archaic word vaults and pin it up on the contemporary lines of expression.

Ah–Winter Sun

To feel the sun on my skin to offset the challenge of winter

Apricity: the bestowing of the sun’s restorative kisses, to bring warmth and sustenance to the gates of that bleak city called winter

An offering. A reprieve. A promise.

PADding About with Poetry


Teaching poetry to a class of teens is almost intimidating as being the student learning the language of metaphors and similes and alliteration and such.

For one thing there is the DWA

factor–Dead White Authors.

Occasionally I detect a certain resentment of having to study the antiquated language and suspect ideas of people who lived in times current adolescents have a difficult time relating to, especially when many of these authors were among the 1% of their day. Understanding that religion revolved around one belief and not a myriad seems wrong to some of many students.

Getting students to remove their 21st century hats in order to not be hindered by Frost using “queer” when describing how the speaker’s horse thinks it’s strange to stop in the middle of the woods is a little challenging but not insurmountable.

Another challenge is getting students to embrace poetry as a necessity. Actually, for that concern I have a ready reply:

If you can figure the meaning of a poem and explain it in such a way it is comprehensible to others, you will no doubt succeed in other endeavors in life, such as presenting a new scientific concept to your co-workers or even putting together that bike in a box for your kid some day.

I do sympathize with my students about the saturation of 18th and 19th century poems we tend to study, especially in AP Literature. This is why I subscribe to services that provide a poem everyday. It’s like those word a day subscriptions except more words and they sometimes rhyme.

Over the past few years I have amassed quite a collection. Now what? Aha! I pulled together a monthly menu and created a PPT what I call the PAD–Poem A Day. While I take attendance, students read the poem on the projector screen and then discuss some aspect. Most of these poems are contemporary and the topics, as well as formats, tend to be more relatable for my students.

The other day we covered Robert Bly’s moon poem. I then had students find three objects in the room and describe them in a new way. The best one involved calling our box fan a meditation counselor since it had the ability to provide a cooling off whenever we were heated up. Nice.

I remember Robert Frost and his puzzled horse in fifth grade and I have taught it to my tenth graders and seniors. I’m hoping once we have chatted about meaning and metaphor they will think poetry is lovely as they move through life. My hope is they’ll carry a verse in their pocket or be able to pop out a ready line to fit any occasion.

Late Night: for Elizabeth Bishop


Teaching poetry to high school students often means becoming a student as I study to learn enough about the poem and the poet to actually teach it with clarity.

Most of our poems are pre-19th century, with a healthy scattering of 20th century. Among the modern poets I’ve come to appreciate is Elizabeth Bishop. My tribute to her:

Late at Night: for E. Bishop
2016 by C. Muse

The air lays warm
A sentry fan dutifully sways a rhythm 
Rising from bed to search for cool

Couch–second decision

Floor board creaks

Quick flick of kitchen light
Reveals nothing but mistaken thoughts

Drowsy wakefulness 
leads to
Scrolling searching somnolent advice

Suddenly a slice of darkness shades the window
Tension relaxes upon realization:

The local moose

Familiar with her fish and keys and even the Marvel of a stove
The moose ushers in sleep as it ambles across the road.


Check out Elizabeth Bishop and her poems here

 

POETRY WORKSHOP


Both my sophomores and seniors are in the midst of studying poetry. I like poetry. Lots.

Image result for i like poetry tshirt

image: zazzle

However, I understand the deeper truth in the popular saying:

Truth is like poetry..most people hate poetry.

I suppose this statement is saying truth is found in poetry, yet while most people desire the truth, they really don’t want to hear it. Connect this epiphany to poetry. If poetry represents truth, then people don’t want to hear or read poetry.

Welcome to my world.

(Most of) my students don’t want to hear, read, and most of all, study poetry. I make them anyway. Yes, I’m that kind of teacher.

I do try to make it a bit more fun, (after all I did dress up like Mary Poppins for homecoming week) by adding clips and such that discuss the importance of poetry or I present poetry in an paradigm shifting way.

Do you know that if you write poetry you could become a famous award winning writer?

Beyond analyzing and writing responses to poetry, I have students create their own poetry. Here is a mini-poetry workshop from my Creative Writing I files:

REPETITION POETRY
1.Pick a word or short phrase for the first line
2.Add a word or phrase to it for the second line
3.Take the ending line to create the consecutive lines, adding a new word or phrase each time until poem reaches a satisfactory conclusion.

In the garden there is a tree.
And in that tree is thinking spot.
And in that thinking spot are my daydreams.
And in my daydreams are pathways.
And on those pathways are choices to make.
And from those choices to make I will decide.
And from those decisions will become my destiny.

And from that destiny I will live my life.

And I will live my life always dreaming, always thinking.
I am thankful for trees.
                                                                     pdw

I have
I have a
I have a nap
I have a nap hiding
I have a nap hiding in
I have a nap hiding in my
I have a nap hiding in my backpocket
I have a nap hiding in my backpocket and
It found me.
                                                   pdw

DEFINITION POETRY
Take any word or concept or topic and define through a mix or poetical flow and concrete definition to better understand what it is all about, especially on a personal level.

Grammar is the spine
Of prose and all we know
That is called language,
Which can be spoken
Or written down.
And all those nouns
And verbs
And prepositions
And modifiers that often dangle
And nominative clauses that
Sometimes tangle
Up
Our understanding
Are the vertebrae.

And without our vertebrae
There would be not enough spine
To stand us up.

So it is with language.

                                            pdw

SECRETS REVEALED POEM
All of us carry secrets.  Some should stay hidden and some can be released. Secrets Revealed poems help ease the burden of confession in a light-hearted manner.  Secrets can be real (“I ate the last piece of cake and blamed it on my cousin Bobbie”) to creative (“I am Captain America’s favorite niece”)

Chocolate Cake Ache
It’s said secrets nestle in our stomach like tasty morsels,
yet, I don’t think that can be said for stolen chocolate cake.

For there it sat like a lump,
like a great big chocolate bump
of guilt.

Oh, it was tasty: fork-licking, hit-the-spot, lick-my-lips, glad-I-ate-it tasty,
until the realization settled down on top of that confectionary indiscretion.

“The last piece?”
“I don’t know.”
“Maybe Bobbie.”
“Yeah, I think she did.”

For undisclosed penance I passed on dessert that night.
And I do like tapioca pudding.

“Sure, Bobbie—you can have mine.”

Unexpressed confession, even though it is rerouted through unexplained acts
of sudden generosity,
does not relieve the ache of stolen chocolate cake.

This I know.
                                                    pdw

INSIDE, UNDERNEATH, AND BEYOND
This is a poem of exploring matters contained within, or underneath, or beyond something everyday, or even unexplained.  Choose something to explore and decide which direction of discovery to investigate: will it be to dive inside to see what makes it tick, or will it be a burrowing sense of exploration where layers are removed and examined, or does the exploration go beyond known boundaries?

Inside all poems
Is a question
And inside this question
Is a quest

The poet rides out

on a journey to find
the meaning
or an answer–
or maybe to hear
an echo of reply
from one who seeks
an answer to the
same question quest.
                                                  pdw

Underneath
is not a place I like to be
places especially not chosen
would be:

underneath our house–
dank earth of spider habitat
bug haven and perhaps where
the neighbor’s cat did hide and done died.

No, not under the house.

Not under the sea either–
All fishiness, and no way to breathe.
Sharks and stingrays and eels—oh, my…

And thanks, but no for caves.

In fact, anywhere it’s dark.
Dark is underneath and where the light
Cannot be–

You’ll not find me.
pdw

 

SNAPSHOT POEMS
The idea is to write with imagery and detail in a way that it places the reader in that particular moment of time.  Actual photographs can be chosen for inspiration as can a reflective moment.  Employing the senses, playing with figurative language such as alliteration, onomatopoeia, internal rhyme can help create a moment rich with remembrance.

AIRPORT
The crowd swelled, receded, and swirled
Around you

Yet you did not pay heed

To the push and jostle
Of the nameless faces.

Anticipation’s scent lingered in the air.

Shuffle and adjustment of frustration, excitement
Mingled and settled
As the one face in a million became spotlighted
As he traversed the passenger-smoothed steps

Into your arms.
                                              pdw

Poem of the Month: Moons


I do like moon poems.

image: Morguefile

To the Moon [fragment] by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

Art thou pale for weariness
Of climbing Heaven, and gazing on the earth,
Wandering companionless
Among the stars that have a different birth,—
And ever changing, like a joyless eye
That finds no object worth its constancy?

Poem of the Month: of Roads, Readers, and such


A recent post discussed how David Orr points out how America has misread Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” which I now have stuck in my brain as being titled “Two Roads.” Another discussion could be voting for which should be the real title.

As I add to my Poem of the Day PPT for my students, I came across a Carl Sandburg poem that resonated with Frost’s poem about experience. This led to an article about revisiting poems that have created the cringe factor due to overuse since being introduced to them in elementary school and this led to another poem about connecting with readers. I enjoy this particular poem’s title since it harkens to Bronte’s use of addressing her audience as “Dear Reader,” something we as writers unconsciously do as we include others as we write.

Enjoy this excerpt and follow the link for the entire poem

Dear Reader by Amy Gerstler

Through what precinct of life’s forest are you hiking at this
moment?
Are you kicking up leaf litter or stabbed by brambles?
Of what stuff are you made? Gossamer or chain mail?
Are you, as reputed, marvelously empty? Or invisibly ever-
present,
even as this missive is typed? Have you been to Easter Island?
Yes?
Then I’m jealous. Do you use a tongue depressor as bookmark?

I wonder if Charlotte would have used a tongue depressor as a bookmark?

image: http://www.thefamouspeople.com

POM: April 29


Emily. Emily. How amazing is the ability to capture a moment for all of us to wonder and appreciate centuries later. And to think your poems lay hidden, languishing until a sister realized they needed freedom not a burial.

A lane of Yellow led the eye (1650)

Emily Dickinson
A lane of Yellow led the eye
Unto a Purple Wood
Whose soft inhabitants to be
Surpasses solitude
If Bird the silence contradict
Or flower presume to show
In that low summer of the West
Impossible to know—

POM: April 27


I live in an area that definitely provides all four seasons–five, if mud, the one between winter and spring, counts. I couldn’t imagine living in an area where reading about snow through a Robert Frost poems is the closest a student would get to experiencing it. Although I am definitely not a fan of snow, it’s tedious place in our seasonal line up reminds me how much I appreciate the wondrous, warm, sunny days once they again make their appearance.

To days and lives spent in the false days of winter provided by glimpses of bad weather here is a poem that explores snow from a different perspective:

The Poetry of Bad Weather

POM: April 25


John Donne, Metaphysical poet, definitely challenges our perception of death with his “Death Be Not Proud.”  Death is not seen as a bully, a villain,  nor even anything to actually fear. Donne portrays death as a coward, in that it cannot act upon its own accord, needing an agent to perform. He presents death as merely a comma, a breath into the next life. This Holy Sonnet is a stunning portrait of his faith.

Another portrait, one more contemporary is by Dean Rader. He presents our transition as a reuniting. How welcome is an embrace, the meeting of child and parent after a long journey apart? Beautiful.

Alternate Self-Portrait 

by Dean Rader

One day

I will drift

into darkness

and know it

perhaps

the way a son

recognizes a mother

after he has returned

from many years

of travel

understanding

the new distance

is neither

beginning nor

end

only stillness

 

Copyright © 2015 by Dean Rader. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 30, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

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