Sunday, October 19, 2014

Another little ditty...Can you guess who this is about?

Waiting for God*

We sit here
You and I

This bench
This tree

Sunlight wanes
Leaves fall

It's October
After all

     ~

You smell good
Is that perfume?

You tell me your story
and ask of mine

I sigh 
Know where I'm from
Where I'm going

Telling of it
Brings fresh pangs

     ~

It's simple
Grew up on a farm

We've all grown
Gone our separate ways

Funny thing,
We all joined the Force
Security mostly.

Doing our duty 
Punching the card

     ~

Somehow I've been thinking
of eternal things lately...

Like my time is coming

How about you?

Sorry, 
I shouldn't have asked

     ~

Your tears, your words
They encourage me

I dry mine
Sit tall

You say, "the end
is never THE END

THE END is our 
new beginning...

You are as compost
to my roots."

Somehow the concept
doesn't sound very romantic...

     ~

"By the way," I say,
"I'm a pumpkin you know."

She says smiling,
"I know."

"What's your name?"
I ask.

She says, "Um...Mum's
the word."

*the title is from a British sitcom


I really did witness this pumpkin and pot of mums side by side on a park bench - and they just begged for a story!  Enjoy!









Some exercises for analyzing and evaluating poems

     In Thomas Arp's book, Perrine's Sound and Sense, page 29 he has included a list, not exhaustive, of questions you can ask yourself as you read and analyze poems.  You may not be able to answer all the questions in any given poem, but it should help you and me nonetheless! Here they are:

1.  Who is the speaker? What kind of person is the speaker?
2.  Is there an identifiable audience for the speaker? What can we know about it (her, him or them)?
3.  What is the occasion?
4.  What is the setting in time (hour, season, century, and so on)?
5.  What is the setting in place (indoors or out, city or country, land or sea, region, nation,                hemisphere)?
6.  What is the central purpose of the poem?
7.  State the central idea or theme of the poem in a sentence.
8.  a.  Outline the poem so as to show its structure and development, or
     b.  Summarize the events of the poem.
9.  Paraphrase the poem.
10. Discuss the diction of the poem. Point out words that are particularly well chosen and explain why.
11. Discuss the imagery of the poem. What kinds of imagery are used? Is there a structure of imagery?
12. Point out examples of metaphor, simile, personification, and metonymy, and explain their appropriateness.
13. Point out and explain any symbols. If the poem is allegorical, explain the allegory.
14. Point out and explain examples of paradox, overstatement, understatement, and irony. What is their function?
15. Point out and explain any allusions. What is their function?
16. What is the tone of the poem? How is it achieved?
17. Point out significant examples of sound repetition and explain their function?
18. a.  What is the meter of the poem?
      b.  Copy the poem and mark its scansion.
19. Discuss the adaptation of sound to sense.
20. Describe the form or pattern of the poem.
21. Criticize and evaluate the poem. 

     Hope this list helps us as we seek to understand poetry in more than just a glance will do!  Mine the depths and find the treasures hidden there! 

Monday, October 13, 2014

The use of metaphor

     In language, we are not content in using abstractions.  In describing something, we typically use, "this......that," or, "like....as," etc.  Or as Luci Shaw puts it in her book, Breath for the Bones, "A metaphor, because of its implicit reality and force in one area of life, can transfer or carry over its meaning into another arena.  The image acts to bring sense and immediacy and relevance to the real-life situation it parallels."

     As a music educator, I constantly teach my students through the use of metaphor.  The example usually begins with this word, "Imagine...."  As a mom, AKA nurse, we ask our children to describe their bump or scrape... using metaphor.  It is true, we think in pictures! 

     Imagine.. (there I go with that word again!) your view of the world limited to a revolving globe, map or maybe a computer satellite image of a given place.  Or, imagine being in that given place.  Hearing the sounds of auto rick-shaws, street vendors yelling (selling!) their wares, horns continuously honking, bells on bicycles, radios blaring Hindu morning mantras and the Adhan from the mosques.  Seeing the street children and beggars, men in stuffy business suits, matrons in silk saris and young ladies with strings of fresh jasmine in their hair.  Color, color everywhere seeming more colorful against the red dirt!  Priests in saffron robes, spices cone-shaped in shops, fabrics, jewelry, brass and copper, shoes, carpets, and flowers everywhere.  Smells.... layer upon layer of kerosene and smog, oily street snacks, smoke and incense, fiery spices and sweet chai tea... This is the power of sensory metaphor.  Dry facts about population density and petrol prices do not transport you anywhere at all!  The artist, then, fills in all the detail.

     Abstract concepts always need metaphors to help explain them.  Truth, for example, we use words like core, root, rock, bottom.  Why?  Because symbols help tether this nebulous abstraction and we reel in the concept with concrete everyday language and illustration.  

     Once the artist has caught the fish (truth!), paradox comes into play.  Two sides to the coin appear and now we struggle to grasp hold of the one without losing the other.  For example, we are both living and dying.  Jesus made this statement when he said a seed after falling to the ground must first die before it roots and lives again. Elsewhere He says, to find our life, we should lose it.  Even Jesus is referred to as the Lamb and the Lion - two diametrically opposed examples!  

     Images are not meant to be abstracted, but seen and felt.  So as we write and deal with images, metaphor, paradox, we are showing how this part of creation relates to that.  Nothing is too untouchable or too sacred to explain or define.  God is at the center of all things and shows us, through Jesus, how all is sacred and useful and beautiful.  

     The poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins said, 

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
  It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;

and

Pied Beauty

BY GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS
Glory be to God for dappled things –
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                Praise him.
 

     

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A wee bit of me...

Word became flesh and dwelt among us
Your creation has now, for me, become word...

Saturday, October 4, 2014
Anastasia Island, FL


Beach, long and winding
dune, hillock
sea grasses taller than me
their golden pods tinkling like jewelry

Wide expanse
world holding its breath
one step over the last incline

Stop. Panorama of endless
sky, water and sand

Waves pound gushing foam
sucking water back
again. again. again.

My view is marred by
a huge beach umbrella
the young couple in love
place in front of me

Impossible. So I join my boys
collecting sharks teeth
joyfully we wash bits of black teeth
and discover...its faux shark teeth!

One beach umbrella attracts more
as this glorious day beckons

Squeals fly as sand in the air
shovels, buckets of water
sand castles

And then, as a soaring signal in the sky
Like a cardinal flitting about
is one solitary red kite
diamond-shaped with trailing ribbons

Captivated, I notice another
blue kite and blue and red
flags waving back

The play of unwieldy wind
and unyielding string
interact in this playful art


I also wrote this little poem after our fun day at the beach, seeing dolphin and my boys, with their daddy's help catch fish off the long ocean pier.


People.
People commenting.
People asking.
People complimenting.
People helping.
People showing.
People laughing.
People sharing.
People praying.
People advising.
People joking.
People




Sunday, October 5, 2014

How to Read a Poem

     If I were to go to wiki-how online, this is a question I would ask.  Along with whipping perfect meringue or understanding Albinoni's music.  When it comes to reading poetry, we need help!  Anything worth knowing needs proper study and understanding.  Not the least of which is poetry.  Here are some suggestions by our dear friend, Mr. Perrine, to help us from his Sound and Sense.

     1.  Read a poem more than once.  Imagine listening one time to Beethhoven's 5th Symphony and then saying you understand his music.  Repeated hearings give new discoveries each time!  Or, this quote by Perrine, "A poem is not like a newspaper, to be hastily read and cast into the wastebasket.  It is to be hung on the wall of one's mind."  Beautiful.

     2.  Keep a dictionary by you and use it.  Avail yourself of improving your vocabulary!  Recommended by Perrine is keeping a reference on Greek mythology and a Bible.  I also think a Latin lexicon is helpful.  Many of these resources are now available online.

     3.  Read so as to hear the sounds of the words in your mind.  Poems are written to be heard; its meanings conveyed both through sound and print.  Every word should be given special attention.  Read s-l-o-w-l-y, enunciate the words, sounding them out loud or lip-reading.  Allow the full weight of meaning each word possesses to sink like pebbles into the pond of your mind.

     4.  Always pay careful attention to what the poem is saying.  You may at the first read pay attention to grammatical facts.  A second or third read need ensue before venturing an audible read.  Imagine reading a poem as if on a roller coaster or train ride without noticing the passing scenery.  Take a walk, take a stroll through the poem and notice the budding leaf or interesting shell... in fact, pick it up and observe it!  This is how to take a poem!  Perrine says, "One should take the utmost effort to follow the thought continuously and to grasp the full implications and suggestions."

     5.  Practice reading poems aloud.  For this, you need at least an audience of one.  "Read it affectionately, but not affectedly,"  says Perrine.  The two extremes you want to avoid would be the monotone read or the overly eloquent read using funny voices.  "It is not necessary to put emotion into reading a poem.  The emotion is already there," so read naturally and sensitively.  Again, avoid the extreme of reading too fast or too slow.  But read slow enough for the meaning of the words to sink in.  Regular grammar within the poem should regulate how you read.

     Much more could be stated here.  But this will give us a start!  Happy reading!   

     

Friday, October 3, 2014

Studying the Masters: Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982)

     All forms of art: music, dance, painting... require the study of classical masters.  Poetry must bend the knee in this regard.  Or rather, I should bend the knee in studying them!  I hope you will join me and find real gems of meaning and pearls of wisdom in what we discover!
   
     We shall start with Macleish's famous poem: Ars Poetica.  The title is Latin for "The Art of Poetry,"  borrowed from Horace, who wrote a prose treatise in the first century A.D.  

Ars Poetica

BY ARCHIBALD MACLEISH
A poem should be palpable and mute   
As a globed fruit,

Dumb
As old medallions to the thumb,

Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges where the moss has grown—

A poem should be wordless   
As the flight of birds.

                         *               

A poem should be motionless in time   
As the moon climbs,

Leaving, as the moon releases
Twig by twig the night-entangled trees,

Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves,   
Memory by memory the mind—

A poem should be motionless in time   
As the moon climbs.

                         *               

A poem should be equal to:
Not true.

For all the history of grief
An empty doorway and a maple leaf.

For love
The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea—

A poem should not mean   
But be.


Archibald MacLeish, “Ars Poetica” from Collected Poems 1917-1982. Copyright © 1985 by The Estate of Archibald MacLeish. Reprinted with the permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
William Pratt writes thus about the poem,
MacLeish wanted to link the classical with the modern in his poetic "treatise" as a way of implying that the standards of good poetry are timeless, that they do not change in essence though actual poems change from age to age and language to language. His succession of opening images are all about the enduring of poetry through time, as concrete as "globed fruit" or ancient coins or stone ledges, and as inspiring to see as a flight of birds or the moon rising in the sky. The statements are not only concrete but paradoxical, for it is impossible that poems should be "mute" or "Dumb" or "Silent" or "wordless," which would mean that there was no communication in them at all; rather, what MacLeish is stating in his succession of paradoxical images is that the substance of poetry may be physical but the meaning of poetry is metaphysical: poems are not about the world of sensible objects as much as they are about invisible realities, and so the universal emotions of grief and love can be expressed in words that convey the experience in all its concreteness, yet the words reach into the visionary realm beyond experience, toward which all true images point. The final paradox, that "A poem should not mean but be," is pure impossibility, but the poet insists it is nevertheless valid, because beyond the meaning of any poem is the being that it points to, which is ageless and permanent, a divine essence or spiritual reality behind all appearances. MacLeish's modern "Art of Poetry" is a fulfillment of the three rules of imagism (be direct, be brief, and use free verse), of Pound's definition of the image, and at the same time of Horace's Latin statement on poetry, that good poetry is one proof that there is a permanence in human experience that does not change but endures through time.
from Singing the Chaos: Madness and Wisdom in Modern Poetry. Copyright © 1996 by the Curators of the University of Missouri

Forgive me for my own lack of observations for you today, but I really felt William Pratt, out of others I read, summed up the ideas the best.  I hope this broadens your understanding and enjoyment of poetry as it is doing for me! 
 
        

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

What is Poetry?

     My dear husband picked up a 9th edition of Perrine's Sound and Sense, revised by Thomas R. Arp at our local thrift store dive.  This book is divided in two parts.  The first: The Elements of Poetry, and the 2nd part: Poems for Further Reading.  What I like about this book is the variety and types of poetry both analyzed and recorded for pure reading pleasure!  For each genre of poetry, there are fit examples and questions asked of the reader about the poem.  Also, unfamiliar or archaic words are noted so one can look them up!  I feel as if I have found a gem!  I love poetry, read it, write it for years.... but yet, there is a treasure trove waiting out there!  I thought of finding some college or on-line poetry course.  But, to find the time!  Sigh!  Alas, not!  This book literally fell into our hands and I am ever so grateful for it!

     Back to my question, what is poetry?  I hearken to Perrine, "Poetry might be defined as a kind of language that says more and says it more intensely than does ordinary language." The concern of poetry is primarily with experience. Poets select, combine and reorganize from their own store of felt, observed or imagined experience.  This is turn creates new experiences for the reader - sharpened, focused and formed. It allows for a greater awareness to know the experience of others, and to understand our own experience better.

     How does poetry, then, relate to real life?  I say, experience!!!  In the space of a day, you can experience beauty and ugliness, clean and dirty, strange and commonplace, good and bad - even real and fantasy!  To make sense of this, one can transmit these feelings through the medium of art.  Even the painful and strange appear beautiful in art!  So, Perrine's sentiments match my own!

     I leave you with a poem.  Not my own, for I could scarce compare them to the greats!  I will in future as rusty pen becomes more fluid.  But, here is one from John Donne:

The Computation 

For the first twenty years since yesterday
I scarce believed thou couldst be gone away;
For forty more I fed on favors past,
And forty on hopes that thou wouldst they might last.
Tears drowned one hundred, and sighs blew out two;
A thousand, I did neither think nor do,
Or not divide, all being one thought of you.
Or, in a thousand more, forgot that too.
Yet call not this long life; but think that I
Am, by being dead, immortal. Can ghosts die?