Elen sila lumenn omentielvo!

Monday, May 02, 2016

National Poetry Month, day thirty

Guess what? I wrote this and forgot to publish it, until Roger goosed me. Oops.

Today ends National Poetry Month, and I considered writing some kind of summation, but I'll just leave it at this: Read poetry. It isn't hard and doesn't have to make you feel like you're back in English class. (Unless you liked English class, as I did, in which case, hey, it can totally feel like you're back in English class!)

Here is one of my favorite of Tennyson's poems, whose concluding lines are often quoted in inspirational settings. It's a wonderful paean to the eternal desire for new life and new experiences, even when we are nearing the dusk of our lives.

See you next April!

by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy'd
Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour'd of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!
As tho' to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

     This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,—
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro' soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

     There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil'd, and wrought, and thought with me—
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Symphony Saturday

Bruckner's Eighth Symphony (in C minor) is an enormous work, comprising nearly ninety minutes of music. The work is scored for enormous orchestra:

The 1887 version requires an instrumentation of three each of the following woodwind: flutes (the third doubling as piccolo), oboes, clarinets, bassoons (the third doubling as contrabassoon) – the triple woodwinds, however, only enter in the Finale (with double woodwind for the earlier movements) – in addition to eight horns, three trumpets, three trombones, a quartet of Wagner tubas, which double as Horns 5–8 in the Finale, and a single contrabass tuba, along with timpani, cymbals, triangle, three harps, and strings.

We've come a long way from the Mozart orchestra where you might not even have trumpets or timpani, haven't we?

The Eighth is the last symphony Bruckner completed (he left behind an unfinished Ninth), and as such, this work represents the apex of his symphonic powers. If you're attuned to Bruckner and his cathedral-like approach to orchestral sound in his gigantic symphonies, this is music of the highest order. (If not, well, I can't help you.) Unlike the Fourth, which is rather radiant throughout, Bruckner is grappling with real issues of darkness in the Eighth, which gives the work a lot of its epic feel.

Here is Bruckner's Symphony No. 8 in C minor. Go on its journey!

Next week: a retreat, of sorts.

Friday, April 29, 2016

National Poetry Month, day 29

If poetry is dead, as they say, why do so many people still write poetry? Why is there so much poetry in social media outlets like Tumblr and Instagram?

I'm guessing it's because poetry isn't dead.

Like many readers, I discovered the poetry of Lang Leav through Tumblr, where she posts her own work. She's not just a Tumblr poet, but rather an artist who has been honing her craft for years, but it's amazing how much of her audience -- for poetry, one of the oldest art forms -- comes from so recent a development as Tumblr.

Poetry absolutely abounds online. Is it all good? Of course not. But much of it is intended as poetry has always often been intended: a snapshot, through words, of the thoughts and feelings of a certain soul.

it is a terrible thing
to love the unreachable;

i found this out
on a friday night
where in a whole room of people
the world starts and ends
on your lips and
i knew i was staring at
the dusting of your freckles
but couldn’t resist

it is a terrible thing to love
your friends

i am burning alive
for it.


at the tender age of 23
i received the Nobel Prize
for daydreaming
and everyone applauded
a standing ovation
and then i woke up
standing in the kitchen in my underwear
in front of an open refrigerator
with one hand on the door
and the other loosely in my side
as if i was just looking for some midnight snack
i looked down
at my body
in the pale refrigerator light
didn’t remember how I got here
must have been sleepwalking again
didn’t even know
for how long i was standing there
but my body felt
intensely cold


*toying #rambles #light and love ☺️

A photo posted by Christopher Poindexter (@christopherpoindexter) on


A photo posted by All of my bullshit truths. 🔪 (@j.r.rogue) on

Hell no, poetry ain't dead.

Bad Joke Friday

Thursday, April 28, 2016

National Poetry Month, day twenty-eight

My favorite author, Guy Gavriel Kay, has a new novel coming out next month!

One reason I love Kay's writing is his luminous prose, which is greatly informed and shaped by his love of poetry and verse. Some years ago, Kay (or GGK as his fans call him) released a collection of his own poems, Beyond This Dark House, and below is a selection from that collection.

Wow...Poetry Month is almost over....

And Diving
by Guy Gavriel Kay

Late night
in a cold bed,
far away.

Yesterday I dreamed
that you had died,

arcing from a bridge
to black water.

I arrived too late
and diving,

could only bring
your body back to be
whitened by moonlight.

I was crying, holding
your still hands.

Late night,
cold bed, telling myself
I do not love you,

remembering your voice,
your hands in my hair.

Something for Thursday

In the "Wow, that is a Weird Cover!" department, we have...and I have video proof below that I am not making this up...the depressing song "Leader of the Pack" (in which the bad boy from the wrong side of town gets mad when his girlfriend is forced by her parents to dump him so he goes driving off angrily and gets killed in a wreck), covered by Twisted Sister. Ayup.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

National Poetry Month, day twenty-seven

Are song lyrics also poetry?

This isn't quite as easy a question as it seems up front. Here's an interesting article on the subject, and a key point is this:

Words in a poem take place against the context of silence (or maybe an espresso maker, depending on the reading series), whereas, as musicians like Will Oldham and David Byrne have recently pointed out, lyrics take place in the context of a lot of deliberate musical information: melody, rhythm, instrumentation, the quality of the singer’'s voice, other qualities of the recording, etc. Without all that musical information, lyrics usually do not function as well, precisely because they were intentionally designed that way.

Song lyrics, then, should not be assessed as a whole outside of their intended musical context, at least according to this particular view. I'm somewhat sympathetic to this, but I also think that it's too easy to undervalue lyrics as well. I've been guilty of this in the past, to the point that many times, I've completely ignored lyrics in songs, in favor of the musical elements.

Lyrics, though, almost always use the same literary devices that poetry uses. Lyrics employ rhyme schemes; they can make use of literary allusion; they have rhythm -- in fact, they really must have rhythm (or meter). So...are song lyrics poetry? I'll say this: I think it's far easier to make the case that they are than it is that they are not.

Here are some that I like. These are taken from musicals, but I think the point can stand for any musical genre.

The Sadder by Wiser Girl For Me,
from The Music Man,
by Meredith Willson (YouTube)

No sweet and pure, angelic lass or me.
That kinda gal can spin a web you see
She trades on wholesome innocence galore.
But it's my independence that she's trading for
The only affirmative she will file
Refers to marching down the aisle.
No golden, glorious, gleaming pristine goddess--
No sir!
For no Diana do I play faun.
I can tell you that right now.
I snarl, I hiss: How can ignorance be compared to bliss?
I spark, I fizz for the lady who knows what time it is.
I cheer, I rave for the virtue I'm too late to save
The sadder-but-wiser girl for me.
No bright-eyed, blushing, breathless baby-doll baby
No sir.
That kinda child ties knots no sailor ever knew.
I prefer to take a chance on a more adult romance.
No dewy young miss
Who keeps resisting all the time she keeps insisting!
No wide-eyed, wholesome innocent female.
Why, she's the fisherman, I'm the fish you see?
I flinch, I shy, when the lass with the delicate air goes by
I smile, I grin, when the gal with a touch of sin walks in.
I hope, and I pray, for Hester to win just one more "A"
The sadder-but-wiser girl for me.
No giggling ice cream soda drinker out to hook you line and sinker
No honey brooded beaconing siren
I plug me ears and I grab my horns and I flee
I cheer and I boo at the puritan hearted aun jeune
I yearn, I long for the women who's pa says what went wrong
I root and I clap for the dame in the gown less evening strap
The sadder-but-wiser girl's the girl for me.
The sadder-but-wiser girl for me.

C'est Moi
from Camelot
by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe (YouTube)

Camelot! Camelot!
In far-off France I heard your call.
Camelot! Camelot!
And here am I to give my all.
I know in my soul what you expect of me,
And all that and more I shall be.

A knight of the Table Round should be invincible,
Suceed where a less fantastic man would fail.
Climb a wall no one else can climb,
Cleave a dragon in record time,
Swim a moat in a coat of heavy iron mail.
No matter the pain, he ought to be unwinceable,
Impossible deeds should be his daily fare.
But where in the world
Is there in the world
A man so *extraordinaire*?

C'est moi! C'est moi, I'm forced to admit.
'Tis I, I humbly reply.
That mortal who
These marvels can do,
C'est moi, c'est moi, 'tis I.
I've never lost
In battle or game;
I'm simply the best by far.
When swords are crossed
'Tis always the same:
One blow and au revoir!
C'est moi! C'est moi! So adm'rably fit!
A French Prometheus unbound.
And here I stand, with valour untold,
Exeption'ly brave, amazingly bold,
To serve at the Table Round!

The soul of a knight should be a thing remarkable,
His heart and his mind as pure as morning dew.
With a will and a self-restraint
That's the envy of ev'ry saint
He could easily work a miracle or two.
To love and desire he ought to be unsparkable,
The ways of the flesh should offer no allure.
But where in the world
Is there in the world
A man so untouched and pure?
(C'est moi!)

C'est moi! C'est moi, I blush to disclose.
I'm far too noble to lie.
That man in whom
These qualities bloom,
C'est moi, c'est moi, 'tis I.
I've never strayed
From all I believe;
I'm blessed with an iron will.
Had I been made
The partner of Eve,
We'd be in Eden still.
C'est moi! C'est moi! The angels have chose
To fight their battles below,
And here I stand, as pure as a pray'r,
Incredibly clean, with virtue to spare,
The godliest man I know!
C'est moi!

The Last Night of the World
from Miss Saigon
by Claude-Michel Schoenberg and Alain Boublil (YouTube)

In a place that won't let us feel
In a life where nothing seems real
I have found youI have found you

In a world that's moving too fast
In a world where nothing can last
I will hold you
I will hold you

Our lives will change, when tomorrow comes

Tonight our hearts drown the distant drums

And we have music, all right
Tearing the night

A song
Played on a solo saxophone
A crazy sound
A lonely sound
A cry that tells us
Love goes on and on
Played on a solo saxophone
It's telling me
To hold you tight
And dance
Like it's the last night
Of the world

On the other side of the earth
There's a place where life still has worth
I will take you

I'll go with you

You won't believe all the tings you'll see
I know 'cause you'll see them all with me

If we're together, that's when
We'll hear it again
A song
Played on a solo saxophone
A crazy sound
A lonely sound
A cry that tells us
Love goes on and on
Played on a solo saxophone
It's telling me
To hold you tight
And dance
Like it's the last night
Of the world

Dreams were all I ever knew

Dreams you won't need when I'm through

Anywhere we may be
I will sing with you
A song

So stay with me
And hold me tight
And dance
Like it's the last night of the world

Alexander Hamilton
from Hamilton
by Lin-Manuel Miranda (YouTube)

How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a
Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a
Forgotten spot in the Caribbean by providence
Impoverished, in squalor
Grow up to be a hero and a scholar?

The ten-dollar founding father without a father
Got a lot farther by working a lot harder
By being a lot smarter
By being a self-starter
By fourteen, they placed him in charge of a
Trading charter

And every day while slaves were being slaughtered and carted
Away across the waves, he struggled and kept his guard up
Inside, he was longing for something to be a part of
The brother was ready to beg, steal, borrow, or barter

Then a hurricane came, and devastation reigned
Our man saw his future drip, dripping down the drain
Put a pencil to his temple, connected it to his brain
And he wrote his first refrain, a testament to his pain

Well, the word got around, they said, “This kid is insane, man”
Took up a collection just to send him to the mainland
“Get your education, don’t forget from whence you came, and
The world is gonna know your name. What’s your name, man?”

Alexander Hamilton
My name is Alexander Hamilton
And there’s a million things I haven’t done
But just you wait, just you wait...

When he was ten his father split, full of it, debt-ridden
Two years later, see Alex and his mother bed-ridden
Half-dead sittin' in their own sick, the scent thick

And Alex got better but his mother went quick

Moved in with a cousin, the cousin committed suicide
Left him with nothin’ but ruined pride, something new inside
A voice saying

“You gotta fend for yourself.” [COMPANY]
“Alex, you gotta fend for yourself.”
He started retreatin’ and readin’ every treatise on the shelf

There would have been nothin’ left to do
For someone less astute
He woulda been dead or destitute
Without a cent of restitution
Started workin’, clerkin’ for his late mother’s landlord
Tradin’ sugar cane and rum and all the things he can’t afford
Scammin’ for every book he can get his hands on
Plannin’ for the future see him now as he stands on
The bow of a ship headed for a new land
In New York you can be a new man

In New York you can
Be a new man—
In New York you can
Be a new man—



Just you wait!

Just you wait!

In New York you can be a new man—

In New York—

New York—

Just you wait!

Alexander Hamilton

We are waiting in the wings for you

You could never back down
You never learned to take your time!

Oh, Alexander Hamilton

When America sings for you
Will they know what you overcame?
Will they know you rewrote the game?
The world will never be the same, oh

The ship is in the harbor now
See if you can spot him

Another immigrant
Comin’ up from the bottom

His enemies destroyed his rep
America forgot him [COMPANY]
Alexander Hamilton

Waiting in the wings for you

You never learned to take your time!

Oh, Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton…
America sings for you
Will they know what you overcame?
Will they know you rewrote the game?
The world will never be the same, oh

Just you wait

Just you wait

We fought with him

Me? I died for him

Me? I trusted him

Me? I loved him

And me? I’m the damn fool that shot him

There’s a million things I haven’t done
But just you wait!

What’s your name, man?

Alexander Hamilton!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

National Poetry Day, day twenty-six

If love has a rival for the most frequent theme in poetry, I suppose it's likely death. Poets have been grappling with the mystery of death for as long as they've been grappling with the mystery of love, and there are times when they meditate on both subjects in the same poem.

Walt Whitman seems to think of death as the ultimate journey, and that only upon death can a soul enter its truest nature:

Darest thou now O soul
by Walt Whitman

Darest thou now O soul,
Walk out with me toward the unknown region,
Where neither ground is for the feet nor any path to follow?
No map there, nor guide,
Nor voice sounding, nor touch of human hand,
Nor face with blooming flesh, nor lips, nor eyes, are in that land.

I know it not O soul,
Nor dost thou, all is a blank before us,
All waits undream'd of in that region, that inaccessible land.

Till when the ties loosen,
All but the ties eternal, Time and Space,
Nor darkness, gravitation, sense, nor any bounds bounding us.

Then we burst forth, we float,
In Time and Space O soul, prepared for them,
Equal, equipt at last, (O joy! O fruit of all!) them to fulfil O soul.

Another view of death can be found in this amazing poem by Christina Rossetti. She describes death as a destination to which we all come, and she frames it as a comfort: an inn at the end of a long day's journey, an inn that cannot be missed by the side of the road. She doesn't describe the inn in specific terms -- I suppose it could be something rather like the Bates Motel -- but I always picture Rossetti's inn as a brightly lit place where warm welcomes are given to those who arrive.

by Christina Rossetti

Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
    Yes, to the very end.
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
    From morn to night, my friend.

But is there for the night a resting-place?
    A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
    You cannot miss that inn.

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
    Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
    They will not keep you standing at that door.

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
    Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
    Yea, beds for all who come.

A far, far bleaker view of death can be found in this 11th century Chinese poem:

by Mei Yao-ch'en (1002-1060)

Heaven took my wife. Now it
Has also taken my son.
My eyes are not allowed a
Dry season. It is too much
For my heart. I long for death.
When the rain falls and enters
The earth, when a pearl drops into
The depth of the sea, you can
Dive in the sea and find the
Peal, you can dig in the earth
And find the water. But no one
Has ever come back from the
Underground Springs. Once gone, life
Is over for good. My chest
Tightens against me. I have
No one to turn to. Nothing.
Not even a shadow in a mirror.

(translated by Kenneth Rexroth, from the collection World Poetry

I am currently reading an amazing poetic exploration of death, Edgar Lee Masters's Spoon River Anthology. The book is a collection of free-form verse epitaphs for the denizens of a small town called Spoon River. In each epitaph we learn why each person died, and many other things as well, as death -- the ultimate leveler in status, since everyone from the Mayor to the town drunk will die -- allows people to tell the truth, or at least their version of it. Some characters' deaths are attributable to the callous actions of others, but then we read the others' own epitaphs and get a different side of the story. Or, in the case of Minerva Jones, we get this:

Minerva Jones
from Spoon River Anthology

I AM Minerva, the village poetess,
Hooted at, jeered at by the Yahoos of the street
For my heavy body, cock-eye, and rolling walk,
And all the more when "Butch" Weldy
Captured me after a brutal hunt.
He left me to my fate with Doctor Meyers;
And I sank into death, growing numb from the feet up,
Like one stepping deeper and deeper into a stream of ice.
Will some one go to the village newspaper,
And gather into a book the verses I wrote?—
I thirsted so for love
I hungered so for life!

Now, this seems pretty clear that Minerva Jones died after being violently assaulted, perhaps raped, by Butch Weldy. But what does Butch Weldy have to say about his own demise?

Butch Weldy
from Spoon River Anthology

AFTER I got religion and steadied down
They gave me a job in the canning works,
And every morning I had to fill
The tank in the yard with gasoline,
That fed the blow-fires in the sheds
To heat the soldering irons.
And I mounted a rickety ladder to do it,
Carrying buckets full of the stuff.
One morning, as I stood there pouring,
The air grew still and seemed to heave,
And I shot up as the tank exploded,
And down I came with both legs broken,
And my eyes burned crisp as a couple of eggs.
For someone left a blow—fire going,
And something sucked the flame in the tank.
The Circuit Judge said whoever did it
Was a fellow-servant of mine, and so
Old Rhodes' son didn't have to pay me.
And I sat on the witness stand as blind
As lack the Fiddler, saying over and over,
"I didn't know him at all."

That's not how Weldy goes, but anyway, it might be karma, or it might not. But it's telling that Weldy has absolutely nothing to say about Minerva Jones. He starts right off with "after he got religion," which might imply that he's managed to forgive himself for whatever he did to Minerva. That's pretty convenient, as she's dead.

Finally, one of my favorite poems, no matter that it's about death. A.E. Housman's famous poem is a testament to the fleeting nature of achievement in the face of eternal death, and the fact that very few of us get to die when our lives are spent and when we are truly going to rest.

To an Athlete Dying Young
by A.E. Housman

The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

Today, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay,
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.

Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears.

Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.

So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.

And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl’s.

Monday, April 25, 2016

National Poetry Month, day twenty-five

John Keats wrote this wonderful sonnet, not about Homer, but about reading a specific translation of Homer. This fascinates me. The poem is also a powerful statement on how a great work of art can transform our perceptions, even of something we have seen many times before.

On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer
by John Keats

Much have I travell'd in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star'd at the Pacific—and all his men
Look'd at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

Banning plastic bags?!

Before we get into banning plastic bags, here's what happens to reusable paper bags in Casa Jaquandor!

DIE EVIL PAPER BAG! DIE DIE DIE!!! #Cane #DogsOfInstagram #greyhound


Sunday, April 24, 2016

National Poetry Month, day twenty-four

We're down to the last seven days of National Poetry Month, so why not a bit of the Bard?

From Much Ado About Nothing
by William Shakespeare

Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more.
     Men were deceivers ever,
One foot in sea, and one on shore,
     To one thing constant never.
Then sigh not so, but let them go,
     And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
     Into hey nonny, nonny.

Sing no more ditties, sing no more
     Of dumps so dull and heavy.
The fraud of men was ever so
     Since summer first was leafy.
Then sigh not so, but let them go,
     And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
     Into hey, nonny, nonny.