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Five things on a Friday

1. I've been reading quite a lot of poetry lately. For grown-up poems, I've been reading that new Neruda book I blogged about as well as re-reading Ted Kooser's Valentines. In the kidlit arena, I've been reading the finalists for the CYBILS awards, since I'm one of the judges for the poetry category. Very good stuff on the short list this year.

2. The Airborne Toxic Event has a new single, "Changing", which has a major hook to it. "I am a gentlemen" is STUCK IN MY BRAINRADIO. I've heard it once in concert and once on the radio and now I'm hooked - can't believe I can't buy it until February, but it was kind of the band to post the track on YouTube!

3. I backed my computer files up today. I mention it in case it's something you need to do too - it can be so easy to let these things slide, somehow, isn't it?

4. On Tuesday, my friend Lisa and I are to see & hear author Brad Meltzer speak at the Free Library of Philadelphia. I'm looking forward to it - and it will make my second theatre-like cultural event this month, so I'm exceeding that particular well-filling goal!

5. January 19th marked the occasion of Edgar Allan Poe's 202nd birthday. Blogger Jef Otte came up with "Five weird ways to celebrate", which is presented in countdown format. Number five, entitled "Creeping", is:

In Tell-Tale Heart, perhaps the most famous of Poe's stories, the narrator spends all night slowly creeping toward his neighbor, who is lying asleep in his bed, intent upon murdering him. Today, try spending a couple of hours creeping toward the guy in the cubicle next to you on your rolly chair. If he says anything, shine a penlight in his vulture eye.

I happen to find #1 ("The cask") hilarious, despite it being very, very wrong: "Invite a friend over. Get him drunk. Bury him alive in your basement."

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( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 21st, 2011 09:23 pm (UTC)
To me poetry is kind of a read it now and again sort of thing. Though I sure wouldn't mind a copy of Vampire Haiku (and the other two) and would probably read those more like a book.

What draws you to poetry?

I enjoy it sometimes, but I think it has to be the right kind. Epic, story poetry, I like that. Sometimes I like other bits and pieces that are beautiful or moving, but I'm kind of picky about it. Maybe I just don't know enough to read it properly?
Jan. 21st, 2011 09:52 pm (UTC)
Ooh! *rubs hands with glee* I sense a conversation in the offing!

I love the imagery and the language and (where used & done well) the meter and rhyme. I love words, and have a rather large vocabulary. I love how there can be a bunch of words that mean almost the same thing, but each has a slightly different shade of meaning that makes them very different.

I am less fond of an epic poem than I am of shorter works, generally. Here is one of the poems from Ted Kooser's Valentines:

"The Hog-Nosed Snake"

The hog-nosed snake, when playing dead,
Lets its tongue loll out of its ugly head.

It lies on its back as stiff as a stick;
If you flip it over it'll flip back quick.

If I seem dead when you awake,
Just flip me once, like the hog-nosed snake.

Is that not charming? It may also be the only poem in the book in metred rhyme. He wrote that one as a Valentine. For his wife. I love how the last line echoes the children's prayer, "If I should die before I wake . . . " And the humor. And the imagery.

Also, I believe everyone can read poetry. The trick is finding things you like.
Jan. 21st, 2011 10:00 pm (UTC)
Vocab... yep... I gots it... lol. Read a lot and you can't help but pick up a large dose of vocabulary.

I get what you're saying about how the words can be crafted (love words, love them love them) into beautiful imagery. I guess maybe I just don't find the right poems.

The one you posted is super cute. And that is neat how it reflects the childhood prayer. I used to say it as a kid myself.

Maybe most of the poetry I just "happen" across is more of the emo stuff or things that don't really make sense to me. If I had happened across the poem in your example I suspect I would have kept reading.

I've written two poems. One was short about a pie and one was slightly longer about Arabian Horses.

So what's your favorite poem ever?
Jan. 21st, 2011 10:29 pm (UTC)
I must tell you that I am incapable of picking a favorite anything. I will tell you what some of my favorite poems are, and include some lines from them, okay? (You can find them all on my blog, usually with explanations, by the by).

I adore "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot, which I've posted several times. It is about a man talking to his own reflection as he gets ready for a party, and begins:

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question . . .
Oh, do not ask, "What is it?"
Let us go and make our visit.

There are so many great, great lines in that poem. *love* I also like "The Wasteland" and Old Possum's Book of Cats (whence come the lyrics to the musical, CATS).

One of my very favorite poets is William Butler Yeats. I cannot pick a favorite of his poems, but the icon to this comment comes from "The Second Coming", which begins:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

He had an interesting life view and theories on history, and I adore quite a lot of his poetry. You'll find a bunch of it if you click his name in my tags.

Another of my all-time favorite poets is Robert Frost. So very, very many poems to love. So many levels of meaning, although you can skim the surface of his poems and they make sense without the levels and layers. Here's a bit of one of my favorites of his poems, "The Oven-Bird". These lines come from the end:

The bird would cease and be as other birds
But that he knows in singing not to sing.
The question that he frames in all but words
Is what to make of a diminished thing.

Speaking of skimming the surface, you would probably love Billy Collins, who is a sort of modern-day Frost. He is sometimes dismissed for being too accessible and scorned by some elitist poets for being too popular. I think he's brilliant. Here's the conclusion of his poem, "Introduction to Poetry":

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.
Jan. 21st, 2011 09:33 pm (UTC)
I wish I had seen this post earlier. I would have perched and nevermored all day. :)
Jan. 21st, 2011 09:52 pm (UTC)
Re: Nevermore
I know, right?

The mental image of someone slowly creeping up on their cubicle-mate cracked me up, I must say.
Jan. 21st, 2011 10:02 pm (UTC)
Re: Nevermore
Jan. 21st, 2011 10:16 pm (UTC)
What if you don't have a cask??
Or a basement?
I always enjoy your posts.
Jan. 21st, 2011 10:31 pm (UTC)
You are out of luck if you lack a basement, but I suppose a few bottles work well instead of a cask. (The Cask of Amontillado is a disturbing story, no?)
Jan. 22nd, 2011 06:19 pm (UTC)
All his stories are a bit disturbing, but delightfully so.
Love that Billy Collins poem, also Mary Oliver (who is also "too accesible"), Sharon Olds, Edith Sitwell, all I can name just now. My brain is going "Nope, I'm not going to give you that name, or that one, or that one..." Cracks me up.
Jan. 22nd, 2011 10:27 pm (UTC)
Kay Ryan, perhaps? She's one of my recently acquired favorites.
Jan. 23rd, 2011 12:29 am (UTC)
I just ordered her from the library. Thanks for the suggestion.
Jan. 21st, 2011 10:42 pm (UTC)
Just checked for the first time in ages -- the backup ran last night as scheduled. Thanks!!

I'm seeing Elizabeth Strout Tuesday night. Should be good!
Jan. 22nd, 2011 12:08 am (UTC)
Ooh! I bet she'll be interesting to hear. (Confession: I've read nothing by Strout OR Meltzer, but I'm always up for attending author events.)
Jan. 21st, 2011 10:48 pm (UTC)
Ok, I love the conclusion to Billy Collins' intro to poetry poem. That rocks... and is how I felt about a lot of the "classics" we had to read in High School. Call me shallow, but why can't Old Man and the Sea be about a guy and a fish? Why does it have to be anything deeper? (Sometimes I think Hemingway is laughing in his grave at all the people looking for meaning in that story. And giggling in glee at all the students who are tortured with it every year. Don't get me wrong, I mostly enjoyed it the first time I read it. By the 6th time I had to read it for school I was totally done with it) Maybe that's why a lot of poetry annoys me. I had to analyze too many books in school.

I can dig someone who is dismissed for being to accessible... shouldn't he be praised for that?

Robert Frost is ok. He always seemed a little pretentious to me though. I guess a lot of poetry seems a little pretentious.

Oh, I love cowboy poetry. Here's a good site as it explains some of the more esoteric terms: http://www.cowboypoetry.com/ I haven't explored it a lot because I just found it, but it seems really neat.

Jan. 22nd, 2011 12:16 am (UTC)
You might want to see if your library has a copy of Sailing Alone Around the Room, which is a nice overview of Billy Collins's work - it has poems skimmed from several different earlier collections, as well as some new material. I especially recommend "Another Reason Why I Don't Keep a Gun in the House", "Advice to Writers", "Taking Off Emily Dickinson's Clothes", and "Dharma" from that collection. You can find most of them online, too.

Frost himself might be a bit pretentious. Much of his poetry is not. In fact, he suffered from some of the same criticisms as Collins - too accessible, too popular, etc. (Folks like T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound resented him, and vice-versa.) In fact, Frost's poem "Choose Something Like a Star" is both a tribute to Keats and a swipe at Eliot. I love feuding poets.
Jan. 22nd, 2011 05:32 pm (UTC)
Sorry about the delay in response. I went to work and it was late when I got home.
I may have to give Frost another try. I'll check out some of the other ones you recommended too.

Jan. 23rd, 2011 01:08 pm (UTC)

Thanks for the reminder. I backed up my computer files yesterday. I don't do it often enough.

Elaine M.
Jan. 23rd, 2011 05:20 pm (UTC)
I am glad to have been of service!
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 24th, 2011 02:40 am (UTC)
To my knowledge, you don't partake of alcohol, so getting you intoxicated is right out. Creeping up on you or intoning "nevermore", however, still seems do-able.
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )

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