Monthly Archives: April 2017

YOU, DOCTOR MARTIN

Anne Sexton

YOU, DOCTOR MARTINYou, Doctor Martin, walk

from breakfast to madness. Late August,

I speed through the antiseptic tunnel

where the moving dead still talk

of pushing their bones against the thrust

of cure. And I am queen of this summer

hotel or the laughing bee on a stalk
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of death. We stand in broken

lines and wait while they unlock

the door and count us at the frozen gates

of dinner. The shibboleth is spoken

and we move to gravy in our smock

of smiles. We chew in rows, our plates

scratch and whine like chalk
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in school. There are no knives

for cutting your throat. I make

moccasins all morning. At first my hands

kept empty, unraveled for the lives

they used to work. Now I learn to take

them back, each angry finger that demands

I mend what another will break
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tomorrow. Of course, I love you;

you lean above the plastic sky,

god of our block, prince of all the foxes.

The breaking crowns are new

that Jack wore. Your third eye

moves among us and lights the separate boxes

where we sleep or cry.
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What large children we are

here. All over I grow most tall

in the best ward. Your business is people,

you call at the madhouse, an oracular

eye in our nest. Out in the hall

the intercom pages you. You twist in the pull

of the foxy children who fall
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like floods of life in frost.

And we are magic talking to itself,

noisy and alone. I am queen of all my sins

forgotten. Am I still lost?

Once I was beautiful. Now I am myself,

counting this row and that row of moccasins

waiting on the silent shelf.
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An early reminder that we’ll be reading and discussing the poetry of Anne Sexton on July 27.

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‘Waiting for the tale to begin’

R. S. Thomas
‘Waiting for the tale to begin_
rs_thomas_collected_poems

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ROBERT FROST: DARKNESS OR LIGHT?

By Joshua Rothman

Robert Frost

Robert Frost

Fifty years ago today [January 29, 2013], the poet Robert Lee Frost died, at the age of eighty-eight. Though Frost is thought of as a contemplative New England poet, he was born in San Francisco, and named for the Confederate general Robert E. Lee. As Raymond Holden explained in his 1931 New Yorker Profile of Frost, Frost’s father, William, was “an ardent Democrat and States’ Rights man.” Father Frost had tried to enlist in the Civil War on the Southern side, but was rejected because he was too young. “By the time Robert was born,” Holden writes, “the elder Frost was booming around San Francisco in a top hat, whooping up everything that was Democratic and belittling everything that wasn’t.” The young Robert Lee Frost grew up in politics; William Frost wrote for the San Francisco Bulletin, where a political enemy once took a shot at him through the window. “Around election time, the boy’s father used to dress him up in fancy costume and make him ride on floats in political parades or pound along in some torchlight procession getting sparks in his hair. Once when Father Frost was running for the office of something like tax-collector, Robert tagged around after him into all the saloons, helping to tack up election placards.”
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Read the complete article
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An early reminder that we’ll be reading and discussing the poetry of Robert Frost on May 25. Please bring your own choice of a poem by Frost, and if you wish, post it first on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly. Please see the SCHEDULE PAGE for selections to-date.

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Shakespeare, Dickens, Wren, Austen, Hardy, Turner: in praise of … the English

Eileen Battersby marks St George’s Day with a kaleidoscopic celebration of our noisy neighbour’s contribution to world culture

Eileen Battersby

Shakespeare, Dickens, Wren, AustenToday is believed to be Shakespeare’s birthday, or so 18th-century biographers decided as his baptism took place on April 26th. April 23rd is most certainly the date upon which he died in 1616, aged 52, having produced a body of work which almost single-handedly defines literature.
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Any nation, rampaging imperialism aside, which can claim William Shakespeare is entitled to feel rather self-satisfied. By dying on his birthday he confirmed an innate flair for exits as well as entrances. Shakespeare was the complete showman: he knew about stagecraft, made clever use of historical sources, knew the art of spinning a great yarn and how to entertain an audience and could challenge the emotional range of all actors (and continues to do). Shakespeare remains the test of any serious actor.
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His feel for imagery is second to none. Shakespeare was a poet blessed with theatrical flair and a rare understanding of the social hierarchy and most particularly he was a psychologist, attuned to the vagaries of human nature. As if that was not enough to be celebrating, today is also St George’s Day. Ironically it is not a public holiday in England. In fact St George, depicted through the ages on horseback slaying a dragon, probably never even saw one. Many countries acknowledge a St George. Yet he is England’s national saint.

Read the complete article
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A final reminder that on this Thursday, April 27 we will be reading and discussing poetry and other literature about, or inspired by, Shakespeare, his works and characters.

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Two sonnets for Shakespeare 400

By Wendy Cope

Two sonnets for Shakespeare 400My Father’s Shakespeare

My father must have bought it second-hand,
Inscribed “To RS Elwyn” – who was he?
Published 1890, leather-bound,
In 1961 passed on to me.
November 6th. How old was I? Sixteen.
Doing A level in English Lit.,
In love with Keats and getting very keen
On 
William Shakespeare. I was thrilled with it,
This gift, glad then, as now, to think
I had been chosen as the keeper of
My father’s Shakespeare, where, in dark blue ink,
He wrote, “To Wendy Mary Cope. With love.”
Love on a page, surviving death and time.
He didn’t even have to make it rhyme.

On Sonnet 18

So long as men can breathe and eyes can see” –
You don’t assume we’ll be around for ever.
You couldn’t know that “this gives life to thee”
Only until the sun goes supernova.
That knowledge doesn’t prove your words untrue.
Neither time nor the advance of science
Has taken anything away from you,
Or faced down your magnificent defiance.
That couplet. Were you smiling as you wrote it?
Did you utter a triumphant “Yes”?
Walking round the garden, did you quote it,
Sotto voce, savouring your success?
And did you always know, or sometimes doubt
That passing centuries would bear you out?
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Specially commissioned by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
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Listen to The Poetry Archive’s 400 Collection containing recordings of twenty sonnets read by ten major poets.  Each poet has chosen a favourite sonnet by Shakespeare and, inspired by that sonnet, has written a new sonnet of his or her own.
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A reminder that on April 27 we will be reading and discussing poetry and other literature about, or inspired by, Shakespeare, his works and characters. Please bring your own selection of this genre for discussion and, if you wish, post it first on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for selections posted to-date.

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On the Fifth Day

Jane Hirshfield

Jane_HirshfieldThat common ground between poetry and science is what poet Jane Hirshfield sows with splendor in her poem “On the Fifth Day,” written for the 2017 March for Science in Washington, D.C., protesting the anti-fact, anti-truth, anti-science political climate of the current American administration.
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On the fifth day
the scientists who studied the rivers
were forbidden to speak
or to study the rivers.

The scientists who studied the air
were told not to speak of the air,
and the ones who worked for the farmers
were silenced,
and the ones who worked for the bees.

Someone, from deep in the Badlands,
began posting facts.

The facts were told not to speak
and were taken away.
The facts, surprised to be taken, were silent.

Now it was only the rivers
that spoke of the rivers,
and only the wind that spoke of its bees,

while the unpausing factual buds of the fruit trees
continued to move toward their fruit.

The silence spoke loudly of silence,
and the rivers kept speaking,
of rivers, of boulders and air.

In gravity, earless and tongueless,
the untested rivers kept speaking.

Bus drivers, shelf stockers,
code writers, machinists, accountants,
lab techs, cellists kept speaking.

They spoke, the fifth day,
of silence.

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Rowan Atkinson & Hugh Laurie – Shakespeare and Hamlet

Rowan Atkinson & Hugh Laurie - Shakespeare and HamletRowan Atkinson & Hugh Laurie – Shakespeare and Hamlet
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A reminder that on April 27 we will be reading and discussing poetry and other literature about, or inspired by, Shakespeare, his works and characters. Please bring your own selection of this genre for discussion and, if you wish, post it first on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for selections posted to-date.

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Monty Python – Hamlet

Monty Python does Hamlet
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Monty-Python-does-HamletA reminder that on April 27 we will be reading and discussing poetry and other literature about, or inspired by, Shakespeare, his works and characters. Please bring your own selection of this genre for discussion and, if you wish, post it first on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for selections posted to-date.

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William Shakespeare in Yeats’s Irish Revival

There is no great literature without nationality, no great nationality without literature. —W. B. Yeats, Letters to the New Island

William Shakespeare in Yeats_s Irish RevivalTo illustrate the confluence of culture and politics which had, over the course of the nineteenth century, implicated Shakespeare’s works within the framework of nationalist ideologies, two anecdotes should here suffice. Both concern 1916, a year of enormous significance in both Irish and English nationalism. On Easter Monday, 1916, Patrick Pearse and his followers led an armed insurrection in Dublin against British rule, seizing key buildings in the city center and proclaiming the existence of an independent Irish nation. Three months later, across the English Channel on the battlefields of northern France, July 1916 brought carnage on an industrial scale during the Somme Offensive. Both the battles of the First World War and the military engagement (and subsequent executions) of the Easter Rising have, of course, received much historical attention, and both are often regarded as watersheds in the political consciousness of England and Ireland, respectively. After 1916, no longer could British citizens disregard the human cost of modern war. In Ireland, 1916 ushered in a version of Irish nationalism hitherto championed by a minority, so that, as Richard English writes, the “most emphatic achievement of 1916 was to destroy a constitutional, parliamentary, conciliatory version of nationalism (a nationalism founded on the principles of compromise, trust, tolerance, and opposition to political violence or coercion).” As ever in the history of Irish nationalism, political violence proved divisive, in this case further separating Ireland’s “two political communities,” nationalist and Unionist.
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This, however, is a book about literary nationalism, and accordingly, the events with which I am concerned are not military, but cultural. That being said, they are decidedly political. The year 1916 was also the tercentenary of the death of William Shakespeare. On Wednesday of Easter week, the pro-Union Irish Times greeted Dublin’s citizenry— at least those who read the Times— with the following headline: “How many citizens of Dublin have any real knowledge of the works of Shakespeare? Could any better occasion for reading them be afforded than the coincidence of enforced domesticity with the poet’s tercentenary?” Under military curfew, following the Rising, acquiescent Times readers might well have been asking themselves, which of Shakespeare’s plays does fit these tumultuous times? Julius Caesar, perhaps, with its dramatization of conspiracy, coup, and murderous, fickle crowds of the angry and confused; or might it have been Henry V, a play whose ironic chorus can only comment upon, and not halt, the imperialist vigor of an English monarch rampant?
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The opening two paragraphs from Yeats, Shakespeare, and Irish Cultural Nationalism by Oliver Hennessey.
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A reminder that on April 27 we will be reading and discussing poetry and other literature about, or inspired by, Shakespeare, his works and characters. Please bring your own selection of this genre for discussion and, if you wish, post it first on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for selections posted to-date.

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The Planet on the Table

Wallace Stevens

The Planet on the TableAriel was glad he had written his poems.
They were of a remembered time
Or of something seen that he liked.
Other makings of the sun

Were waste and welter
And the ripe shrub writhed.
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His self and the sun were one

And his poems, although makings of his self,
Were no less makings of the sun.
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It was not important that they survive.

What mattered was that they should bear
Some lineament or character,
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Some affluence, if only half-perceived,

In the poverty of their words,
Of the planet of which they were part.
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The Planet on the Table” is another Wallace poem with a Shakespearean reference.
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Ariel’s Song in The Tempest; Act 1, Scene 2:

ARIEL (sings)

Full fathom five thy father lies.

Of his bones are coral made.

Those are pearls that were his eyes.

Nothing of him that doth fade,

But doth suffer a sea-change

Into something rich and strange.

Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell

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A reminder that on April 27 we will be reading and discussing poetry and other literature about, or inspired by, Shakespeare, his works and characters. Please bring your own selection of this genre for discussion and, if you wish, post it first on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for selections posted to-date.

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