Archive for the 'Religion' Category

Katherine Philips

October 22, 2007


(1632-1664)

Born Katherine Fowler
Father was a London merchant and a moderate Puritain
Married to James Philips, 38 years older than her, when she was 16
Began writing poetry shortly after she was married
Discovered by Henry Vaughan
Used “Orinda” as her pen name
Saw only 2 of her books in print
Died of smallpox

Quotations:

“Let the dull brutish world that know not love/ Continue heretics, and disapprove/ That noble flame; but the ferined know/ ‘Tis all heaven we have here below./ Nature subsists by Love, and they tie/ Thngs to their causes but by Sympathy. / Love chains the differing Elements in one/ Great Harmony, linked to the heavenly throne;/ And as on Earth, so the blest choir above/ Of Saints and Angels are maintained by love;/ That is their business and felicity,/ And will be so to all eternity./ That is the Ocean, our affections here/ Are bt streams borrowed from the fountain there;/ And ’tis the noblest argument to prove/ A beauteous mind, that it knows how to love./ Those kind impressions which fate can’t control,/ Are heaven’s mintage on a worthy soul;/ For love is all the arts’ eptome,/ And is the sum of all divinity./ He’s worse than beast that cannot love, and yet/ It is not bought by money, pains, or wit;/ So no chance nor design can spirits move,/ But the eternal desitny of Love.
For when two souls are changed and mixed so,/ It is what they and none but they can do;/ And this is friendship, that abstracted flame/ Which creeping mortals know not how to name./ All Love is sacred, and the marriage tie/ Hath much of Honor and divinity;/ But Lust, design, or some unworthy ends/ May mingle there, which are despised by friends./ Passion hath violent extremes, and thus/ All oppositions are contiguous./ So when the end is served the Love will bate,/ If friendship make it not more fortunate:/ Friendship! that Love’s Elixir, taht pure fire/ Which burns the clearer ’cause it burns the higher;/ For Love, like earthy fires (whch will decay/ If the material fuel be away)/ Is with offensiv smoke accompanied,/ And by resistance only is supplied:/ But friendship, like the fiery element,/ With its own heat and nourishment content,/ (Where neither hurt, nor smoke, nor noise is made)/ Scorns the assistance of a foreign aid./ Friendship (ike Heraldry) is hereby known:/ Richest when plainest, bravest when alone;/ Calm as a Virgin, and more innocent/ Than sleeping Doves are, and as much content/ As saints in visions; quiet as the night/ But clear and open as the summer’s light;/ United more than spirits’ faculties,/ Higher in thoughts than are the eagle’s ees;/ Free as first agents are true friends, and kind,/ As but themselves I can no likeness find.
– “Friendship” (in whole)

Robert Hayden

May 9, 2007

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(1913-1980)

Born in Detroit, was raised by a foster family next door to his mother
Struggled with severe nearsightedness
Greatly admired W.H. Auden
Taught until his death
Poet of elegance and restraint, wrote about such emotionally fraught subjects as lynching of African Americans during the civil rights movement, the transport of slaves from Africa to the New World and his own perplexity as a youth raised in a Detroit slum
Poetry condenses and evokes feelings and ideas in intricate sonic textures
Approaches highly charged subjects indirectly, even risking adoption of the voice of victimizer
One of the leading African American poets of the twentieth century
Became Baha’i in 1943, embracing a religion that teaches the unity of all faiths and peoples
Put to powerful use modernist aesthetic principles as concision, allusion, juxtaposition, collage, and symbolism

Quotations:

I
Jesus, Estrella, Esperanza, Mercy:
Sails flashing to the wind like weapons,/ sharks follwing the moans the fever and they dying;/ horror the corposant and compass rose.
Middle Passage:/ voyage through death/ to life upon these shores.

“10 April 1800-/ Blacks rebellious. Crew uneasy. Our linguist says/ their moaning is a prayer for death,/ ours and their own. Some try to starve themselves./ Lost three this morning leaped with crazy laughter/ to the waiting sharks, sang as they went under.”
Desire, Adventure, Tartar, Ann:
Standing to America, bringing home/ black gold, black ivory, black seed.
Deep in the festering hold thy father lies,/ of his bones New England pews are made,/ those are altar lights that were his eyes.
Jesus   Savior   Pilot   Me/ Over   Life’s   Tempestuous   Sea
We pray that Thou wilt grant, O Lord,/ safe passage to our vessels bringing/ heathen souls unto Thy chastening.
Jesus   Savior

II
Aye, lad, and I have seen those factories,/ Gambia, Rio Pongo, Calabar;/ have watched the artful mongos baiting traps/ of war wherein the victor and the vanquished
Were caught as prizes for our barracoons./ Have seen the nigger kings whose vanity/ and greed turned wild black hides of Fellatah,/ Mandingo, Ibo, Kru to gold for us.

III
Shuttles in the rocking loom of history,/ the dark ships move, the dark ships move,/ their bright ironical names/ like jests of kindness on a murderer’s mouth;/ plough through thrashing glister toward/ fata morgana’s lucent melting shore,/ weave toward New World littorals that are/ mirage and myth and actual shore.
Voyage through death,/ voyage whose chartings are unlove.

You cannot stare that hatred down/ or chain the fear that stalks the watches/ and breathes on you its fetid scorching breath;/ cannot kill the deep immortal human wish,/ the timeless will.

“It sickens me/ to think of what I saw, of how these apes/ threw overboard the butchered bodies of our men, true Christians all, like so much jetsaam./ Enough, enough. the rest is quickly told:/ Cinque was forced to spare the two of us/ you see to steer the ship to Africa,/ and we like phantoms doomed to rove the sea/ voyaged east by day and west by night,/ deceiving them, hoping for rescue,/ prisoners on our own vessel, till/ at length we drifted to the shores of this/ your land, America, where we were freed/ from our unspeakable misery. Now we/ demand, good sirs, the extradition of/ Cinquez and his accomplices to La/ Havana.

I tell you that we are determined to return to Cuba/ with our slaves and there see justice done./ Cinquez-/ or let us say ‘the Prince’- Cinquez shall die.”
The deep imortal human wish,/ the timeless will.
Cinquez its deathless primaveral image,/ life that transfigures many lives.
Voyage through death/ to life upon these shores.

-Middle Passage

Journey of slaves across the Atlantic from Africa to the Americas
Poetic voice changes in each part

Philip Larkin

March 13, 2007

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(1922-1985)

Attended Oxford University, depticts his miseries as a student in the novel Jill
Worked as a librarian
Published only a few small books of verse
Repelled critics looking for radical novelty in technique
Pins out of his disillusionment some of the most emotionally complex, rhythmically polished, and intricately rhymed poems of the second half of the twentieth century
Offered and turned down poet laureate position in England
Tone is that of a man who has lost opportunities, failed to get the lover he wanted and found life less than it might have been
Belonged to the group known as the Movement, a revolt against rhetorical excess and cosmic portentousness
Disliked high Modernists

Quotations:

Talking in bed ought to be easiest, / Lying together there goes back so far, / An emblem of two people being honest.
Yet more and more time passes silently. / Outside, the wind’s incomplete unrest / Builds and disperses clouds about the sky,
And dark towns heap up on the horizon. / None of this cares for us. Nothing shows why / At this unique distance from isolation
It becomes still more difficult to find / Words at once true and kind, / Or not untrue and not unkind.

-Talking in Bed (in whole)

When I see a couple of kids/ And guess he’s fucking her and she’s/ Taking pills or wearing a diaphragm,/ I know this is paradise
Everyone old has dreamed of all their lives-/ Bonds and gestures pushed to one side/ Like an outdated combine harvester,/ And everyone young going down the long slide
To happiness, endlessly. I wonder if/ Anyone looked at me, forty years back,/ And thought,
That’ll be the life;/ No God any more, or sweating in the dark
About hell and that, or having to hide/ What you think of the priest. He/ And his lot will all go down the long slide/ Like free bloody birds. And immediately
Rather than words comes the thought of high windows:/ The sun-comprehending glass,/ And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows/ Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless.

-High Windows (in whole)

I work all day, and get half-drunk at night./ Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare./ In time the curtain-edges will grow light./ Till then I see what’s really always there:/ Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,/ Making all thought impossible but how/ And where and when I shall myself die./ Arid interrogation: yet the dread/ of dying, and being dead,/ Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.
The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse/ -The good not done, the love not given, time/ Torn off unused- nor wretchedly because/ An only life can take so long to climb/ Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;/ But at the total emptiness for ever,/ The sure extinction that we travel to/ And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,/ Not to be anywhere,/ And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.
This is a special way of being afraid/ No trick dispels, Religion used to try,/ That vast moth-eaten musical brocade/ Created to pretend we never die,/ And specious stuff that says No rational being/ Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing/ That this is what we fear- no sight, no sound,/ No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,/ Nothing to love or link with,/ The anaesthetic from which none come round.
And so it says just on the edge of vision,/ A small unfocused blur, a standing chill/ That slows each impulse down to indecision./ Most things may never happen: this one will,/ And realisation of it rages out/ In furnace-fear when we are caught without/ People or drink. Courage is no good:/ It means not scaring others. Being brave/ Let’s no one off the grave./ Death is no different whined at than withstood.
Slwly light strengthens, and the room takes shape./ It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,/ Have always known, know that we can’t escape,/ Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go./ Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring/ In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring/ Intricate rented world beings to rouse./ The sky is white as clay, with no sun./ Work has to be done./ Postment like doctors go from house to house.

-Aubade (in whole)

Aubade is a song or poem announcing the dawn

Robert Lowell

February 12, 2007

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(1917-1977)

Born in Boston, father was a naval officer
Cousin of Amy Lowell
Attended Harvard but transferred after two years, ending up at Kenyon College
Experimented with divergent styles, poems became ambiguous, Lowell was dissatisfied
Married novelist Jean Stafford after graduation, divorced and remarried Elizabeth Hardwick who he later divorced as well
Converted to Catholicism
Greatly disturbed by WWII, tried to enlist unsucessfully and slowly grew horrified
Attempted in middle age to break through his own formality and obscurity, tried to write about his own experience and more publicly
Gave up Christian symbols of early work, confronted important evens with courage and conviction, protested Vietnam War
Withdrew from political scene, moved to England and married writer Caroline Blackwood
Died in a taxi from New York’s Kennedy Airport
Poetry is confessional, presents himself as a unwieldy figure

Quotations:

‘The hot night makes us keep our bedroom windows open. / Our magnolia blossoms. Life begins to happen. / My hopped up husband drops his home disputes, / and hits the streets to cruise for prostitutes, / free-lancing out along the razor’s edge. / This screwball might kill his wife, then take the pledge. / Oh the monotonous meanness of his lust …. / It’s the injustice … he is so unjust- / whiskey-blind, swaggering home at five. / My only thought is how to keep alive. / What makes him tick? Each night now I tie / ten dollars and his car key to my thigh …. / Gored by the climacteric of his want, / he stalls above me like an elephant.’

-“To Speak of Woe That Is in Marriage” (in whole)

“It is the future generation that presses into being byu means of these exuberant feelings and supersensible soap bubbles of ours.” -Schopenhauer
Perhaps spoken from the Wife of Bath in “The Canterbury Tales”

Nautilus Island’s hermit / heiress still lives through winter in her Spartan cottage; / her sheep still graze above the sea. / Her son’s a bishop. Her farmer / is first selectman in our village; / she’s in her dotage.
Thirsting for / the heirarchic privacy / of Queen Victoria’s century, / she busy up all / the eyesores facing her shore, / and lets them fall.
The season’s ill- / we’ve lost our summer millionaire, / who seemed to leap from an L. L. Bean / catalogue. His nine-knot yal / was acutioned off to lobstermen. / A red fox stain covers Blue Hill.
And now our fairy / decorator brightens his shop for fall; / his fishnet’s filled with orange cork, / orange, his cobbler’s bench and awl; / there is no money in his work, / he’d rather marry.
One dark night, / my Tudor Ford climbed the hill’s skull; / I watched for love-cars. Lights turned down, / they lay together, hull to hull, / where the graveyard shelves on the town…. / My mind’s not right.
A car radio bleats, / ‘Love, O careless Love….’ I hear / my ill-spirit sob in each blood cell, / as if my hand were at its throat …. / I myself am hell; / nobody’s here-
only skunks, that search / in the moonlight for a bite to eat. / They march on their soles up Main Street; / white stripes, moonstruck eyes’ red fire / under the chalk-dry and spar spire / of the Trinitarian Chruch.
I stand on top / of our back steps and breathe the rich air- / a mother skunk with ehr column of kittens swills the garbage pail. / She jabs her wedge-head in a cup / of sour cream, drops her ostrich tail, / and will not scare.

-Skunk Hour (in whole)

Dedicated to Elizabeth Bishop because “re-reading her suggested a way of breaking through the shell of y old manner”
“The first four stanzas are meant to give a dawdling more or less amiable picture of declinging Maine sea town. I move from the ocean inland. Sterility howls through the scenery, but I try to give a tone of tolerance, humor, and randomness to the sad prospect.”

ONly teachin on Tuesdays, book-worming/ in pajamas fresh from the washer each morning,/ I hot a whole house on Boston’s/ “hardly passionate Marlborough Street,”/ where even the man/ scavenging filth in the back alley trash cans,/ has two children, a beach wagon, a helpmate,/ and is a “young Republican.”/ I have a nine monts’ daughter,/ young enough to be my granddaughter./ Like the sun she rises in her flame-flamingo infants’ wear.
These are the tranquilized Fifties,/ and I am forty. Ought I to regret my seedtime?/ I waws a fire-breathing Catholic C.O.,/ and made my manic statment,/ telling off the state and president, and then/ sat waiting sentence in the bull pen/ beside a Negro boy with curlicues/ of marijuana in his hair.
Given a year,/ I walked on the roof of the West Street Jail, a short/ enclosure like my school soccer court,/ and saw the Hudson River onece a day/ through sooty clothesline entanglements/ and bleaching khaki tenements./ Strolling, I yammered metaphysics with Abramowitz,/ a jaundice-yellow (“it’s really tan”)/ and fly-weight pacifist,/ so vegetarian,/ he wore rope shoes and preferred fallen ruit./ He tried to convert Bioff and Brown,/ the Hollywood pimps, to his diet./ Hairy, muscular, suburban,/ wearing chocolate double-breasted suits,/ they blew their tops and beat him black and blue.
I was so out of things, I’d never heard/ of the Jehovah’s Witnesses./ “Are you a C.O.?” I asked a fellow jailbird./ “No.” he answered, “I’m a J.W.”/ He taught me the “hospital tuck,”/ and pointed out the T-shirted back/ of Murder Incorporated’s Czar Lepke,/ there piling towels on a rack,/ or dwadling off to his little segregated cell full/ of things forbidden the common man:/ a portable radio, a dresser, two toy American/ flags tied together with a ribbon of Easter palm./ Flabby, bald, lobotomized,/ he drifted in a sheepish calm,/ where no agonizing reappraisal/ jarred his concentration on the electric chair-/ hanging like an oasis in his air/ of lost connections…

-Memories of West Street and Lepke (in whole)

In 1943 Lowell was sentenced a year in New York’s West Street jail for his refusal to serve in the army. Among the other psioners was Lepke Buchalter, head of Murder, Inc., an dorganized crime syndicate, who had been convicted of murder.

The old South Boston Aquarium stands/ in a Sahara of snow now. Its broken windows are boarded./ The bronze weathervane cod has lost half its scales. The airy tanks are dry.

The stone statues of the abstract Union Soldier/ grow slimmer and younger each year-/ wasp-waisted, they doze over muskets/ and muse through their sideburns…
Shaw’s father wanted no monument/ except the ditch,/ where his son’s body was trhown/ and lost with his “niggers.”

Colonel Shaw/ is riding on his bubble,/ he waits/ for the blessed break.
The Aquarium is gone. Everywhere,/ giant finned cars nose forward like fish:/ a savage servility/ slides by on grease.

-For the Union Dead

“Relinquunt Omnia Servare Rem Publicam.”: “They give up everything to serve the Republic”
Describes a monument depicting Robert Gould Shaw, commander of the first African American regiment organized in a free state, who was killed in the assault his troops led

James Baldwin

November 28, 2006

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(1924-1987) 

James Arthur Baldwin
American writer, noted for his novels on sexual and personal identity, and sharp essays on civil-rights struggle in the United States
Born in Harlem, New York City, son of a domestic worker and brought up in great poverty
Never knew his own father, his stepfather was cruel and a storefront preacher who died in a mental hospital
First short story was featured in the church newspaper at the age of 12
At age 14 , Baldwin became a preacher at the small Fireside Pentecostal Church in Harlem
Left home at 17 for Greenwhich Village to write
Most important source of literary support came from Richard Wright until Baldwin criticized his novel “Native Son” (from which Baldwin got the title for his novel “Notes of a Native Son”) in his article “Everybody’s Protest Novel”

“I knew Richard and I loved him. I was not attacking him; I was trying to clarify something for myself.”

Claimed to have traveled so much because it allowed him to clearly focus on American civilization
Died of cancer at the age of 63

“What societies really, ideally, want is a citizenry which will simply obey the rules of society. If a society succeeds in this, that society is about to perish. The obligation of anyone who thinks of himself as responsible is to examine society and try to change it and to fight it – at no matter what risk. This is the only hope society has. This is the only ways societies change.”

Everybody’s Protest Novel 1949

Essay attacking the kind of fiction, specifically Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Native Son, that had been written about the ordeal of the American Negroes

Quotations:

“Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a very bad novel, having, in its self-righteous, virtuous sentimentality, much in common with Little Women. /Sentimentality, the ostentatious parading of excessive and spurious emotion, is the mark of dishonesty, the inability to feel; the wet eyes of the sentimentalist betray his aversion to experience, his fear of life, his arid heart; and it is always, therefore, the signal of secret and violent inhumanity, the mask of cruelty. Uncle Tom’s Cabin – like its multitudinous, hard-boiled descendants – is a catalogue of violence.”

“But that battered word, truth, having made its appearance here, confronts one immediately with a series of riddles and has, moreover, since so many gospels are preached, the unfortunate tendency to make one belligerent. Let us say, then, that truth, as used here, is meant to imply a devotion to the human being, his freedom and fulfillment; freedom which cannot be legislated, fulfillment which cannot be charted. This is the prime concern, the frame of reference; it is not to be confused with a devotion to Humanity which is too easily equated with a devotion to a Cause; and Causes, as we know, are notoriously blood-thirsty.”

“It is this power of revelation which is the business of the novelist, the journey toward a more vast reality which must take precedence over all other claims.”

“The virtuous rage of Mrs. Stowe is motivated by nothing so temporal as a concern for the relationship of men to one another – or, even, as she would have claimed, by a concern for their relationship to God – but merely by a panic of being hurled into the flames, of being caught in traffic with the devil. She embraced this merciless doctrine with all her heart, bargaining shamelessly before the throne of grace: God and salvation becoming her personal property, purchased with the coin of her virtue. Here, black equates with evil and white with grace; if, being mindful of the necessity of good works, she could not cast out the blacks – a wretched, huddled mass, apparently, claiming, like an obsession, her inner eye – she could not embrace them either without purifying them of sin.”

“Our passion for categorization, life neatly fitted into pegs, has led to an unforeseen paradoxical distress; confusion, a breakdown of meaning. Those categories which were meant to define and control the world for us have boomeranged us into chaos; in which limbo we whirl, clutching the straws of our definitions.”

“The aim has now become to reduce all Americans to the compulsive, bloodless dimensions of a guy named Joe.”

“It is the peculiar triumph of society – and its loss – that it is able to convince those people to whom it has given inferior status of the reality of this decree…”

“The failure of the protest novel lies in its rejection of life, the human being, the denial of his beauty, dread, power, in its insistence that it is his categorization alone which is real and which cannot be transcended.”

Giovanni’s Room  1956

Baldwin explores the connection between race and sexuality 

Quotations:

“I had asked her to marry me before she went away to Spain; and she laughed and I laughed but that, somehow, all the same, made it more serious for me, and I persisted; and then she said she would have to go away and think about it. And the very last night she was here, the very last time I saw her, as she was packing her bag, I told her that I had loved her once and I made myself believe it. But I wonder if I had. I was thinking, no doubt, of our nights in bed, of the peculiar innocence and confidence, which will never come again, which had made those nights so delightful, so unrelated to past, present, or anything to come, so unrelated, finally, to my life since it was not necessary for me to take any but the most mechanical responsibility for them. And these nights were being acted out under a foreign sky, with no one to watch, no penalties attached – it was this last fact which was our undoing, for nothing is more unbearable, once one has it, than freedom. I suppose this was why I asked her to marry me: to give myself something to be moored to. Perhaps this was why, in Spain, she decided that she wanted to marry me. But people can’t, unhappily, invent their mooring posts, their lovers and their friends, anymore than they can invent their parents. Life gives these and also takes them away and the great difficulty is to say Yes to life.” 

“Then, for the first time in my life, I was really aware of another person’s body, of another person’s smell. We had our arms around each other. It was like holding in my hand some rare, exhausted, nearly doomed bird which I had miraculously happened to find.”

“And my father’s face changed. It became terribly old and at the same time absolutely, helplessly young. I remember being absolutely astonished, at the still, cold center of the storm which was occurring in me, to realize that my father had been suffering, was suffering still.
‘Don’t cry,’ he said, ‘don’t cry.’ He stroked my forehead with that absurd handkerchief as though it possessed some healing charm. ‘There’s nothing to cry abount. Everything’s going to be all right.’ He was almost weeping himself. ‘There’s nothing wrong, is there? I haven’t done anything wrong, have I?’ And all the time he was stroking my face with that handkerchief, smothering me.”

“For I am – or I was – one of those people who pride themselves on their willpower, on their ability to make a decision and carry it through. This virtue, like most virtues, is ambiguity itself. People who believe that they are strong-willed and the masters of their destiny can only continue to believe this by becoming specialists in self-deception. Their decisions are not really decisions at all – a real decision makes on humble, one knows that it is at the mercy of more things than can be named – but elaborate systems of evasion, of illusion, designed to make themselves and the world appear to be what they and the world are not.”

“‘I don’t believe in this nonsense about time. Time is just common, it’s like water for a fish. Everybody’s in this water, nobody gets out of it, or if he does the same thing happens to him that happens to the fish, he dies. And you know what happens in this water, time? The big fish eat the little fish. That’s all. The big fish eat the little fish and the ocean doesn’t care.’
‘Oh, please,’ I said. ‘I don’t believe that. Time’s not water and we’re not fish and you can choose to be eaten and also not to eat – not to eat,’ I added quickly, turning a little red before his delighted and sardonic smile, ‘the little fish, of course.’

‘Anyway,’ he said mildly, ‘I don’t see what you can do with little fish except eat them. What else are they good for?’
‘In my country,’ I said, feeling a subtle ware within me as I said it, ‘the little fish seem to have gotten together and are nibbling at the body of the whale.’
‘That will not make them whales,’ said Giovanni. ‘The only result of all that nibbling will be that there will no longer be any grandeur anywhere, not even at the bottom of the sea.'”

“Now the cabdriver asked us where we wanted to go, for we had arrived at the choked boulevards and impassable sidestreets of Les Halles. Leeks, onions, cabbages, oranges, apples, potatoes, cauliflowers, stood gleaming in mounds all over, on the sidewalks, in the streets, before great metal sheds. The sheds were blocks long and within the sheds were piled more fruit, more vegetables, in some sheds, fish, in some sheds, cheese, in some whole animals, lately slaughtered. It scarcely seemed possible that all of this could ever be eaten. But in a few hours it would all be gone and trucks would be arriving from all corners of France – and making their way, to the great profit of a beehive of middlemen, across the city of Paris – to feed the roaring multitude. Who were roaring now, at once wounding and charming the ear, before and behind, and on either side of our taxi – our taxi driver, and Giovanni, too, roared back. The multitude of Paris seems to be dressed in blue every day but Sunday, when, for the most part, they put on an unbelievably festive black. Here they were now, in blue, disputing, every inch, our passage, with their wagons, handtrucks, camions, their bursting baskets carried at an angle steeply self-confident on the back. A red-faced woman, burdened with fruit, shouted – to Giovanni, the driver, to the world – a particularly vivid cochonnerie, to which the driver and Giovanni, at once, at the top of their lungs, responded, though the fruit lady had already passed beyond our sight and perhaps no longer even remembered her precisely obscene conjectures.”

“Giovanni stared. ‘Mas tu es fou,’ he said mildly. ‘There is certainly no point in going home now, to face an ugly concierge and then go to sleep in that room all by yourself and then wake up later, with a terrible stomach and a sour mouth, wanting to commit suicide. Come with me; we will rise at a civilized hour and have a gentle aperitif somewhere and then a little dinner. It will be much more cheerful like that,’ he said with a smile, ‘you will see.’
‘But I must get my clothes,’ I said.
He took my arm. ‘
Bien sur. But you do not have to get them now.’ I held back. He stopped. ‘Come. I am sure that I am much prettier than your wallpaper – or your concierge. I will smile at you when you wake up. They will not.'”

“But they made me tense – with their ribaldries, their good-nature, their fellowship, the life written on their hands and in their faces and in their eyes.”

“I remember that life in that room seemed to be occurring beneath the sea. Time flowed past indifferently above us; hours and days had no meaning. In the beginning, our life together held a joy and amazement which was newborn every day. Beneath the joy, of course, was anguish and beneath the amazement was fear; but they did not work themselves to the beginning until our high beginning was aloes on our tongues. By then anguish and fear had become the surface on which we slipped and slid, lsoing balance, dignity, and pride. Giovanni’s face, which I had memorized so many mornings, noons, and nights, hardened before my eyes, began to give in secret places, began to crack.”

“Giovanni liked to believe that he was hard-headed and that I was not and that he was teaching me the stony facts of life. It was very important for him to feel this: it was because he knew, unwillingly, at the very bottom of his heart, that I, helplessly, at the very bottom of mine, resisted him with all my strength.”

“And what distinguished the men was that they seemed incapable of age; they smelled of soap, which seemed indeed to be their preservative against the dangers and exigencies of any more intimate odor; the boy he had been shone, somehow, unsoiled, untouched, unchanged, through the eyes of the man of sixty, booking passage, with his smiling wife, to Rome. His wife might have been his mother, forcing more oatmeal down his throat, and Rome might have been the movie she had promised to allow him to see. Yet I also suspected that what I was seeing was but a part of the truth and perhaps not even the most important part; beneath these faces, these clothes, accents, rudenesses, was power and sorrow, both unadmitted, unrealized, the power of inventors, the sorrow of the disconnected.”

“And this was perhaps the first time in my life that death occurred to me as a reality. I thought of the people before me hwo had looked down at the river and gone to sleep beneath it. I wondered about them. I wondered how they had done it – it, the physical act. I had thought of suicide when I was much younger, as, possibly, we all have, but then it would have been for revenge, it would have been my way of informing the world how awfully it had made me suffer. But the silence of the evening, as I wandered home, had nothing to do with that storm, that far-off boy. I simply wondered about the dead because their days had ended and I did not know how I would get through mine.”

“He smiled, ‘Why, you will go home and then you will find that home is not home anymore. Then you will really be in trouble. As long as you stay here, you can always think: One day I will go home.’ He played with my thumb and grinned.”

“‘I don’t see what’s so hard about being a woman. At least, not as long as she’s got a man.’
‘That’s just it,’ said she. ‘Hasn’t it ever struck you that that’s a sort of humiliating necessity?’
‘Oh, please,’ I said. ‘It never seemed to humiliate any of the women I knew.'”

“I began to realize it in Spain – that I wasn’t free, that I couldn’t be free until I was attached – no, committed – to someone.'”

“I may have been the only man in Paris who knew that he had not meant to do it, who could read why he had done it beneath the details printed in the newspapers.”

“I move at last from the mirror and begin to cover that nakedness which I must hold sacred, though it be never so vile, which must be scoured perpetually with the salt of my life.”

E. E. Cummings

November 27, 2006

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(1894-1962)

American poet and painter who first attracted attention for his eccentric punctuation
Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to liberal, encouraging parents
His father was a Harvard teacher and later a Unitarian minister
Educated at Cambridge High and Latin School, and from 1911 to 1916 he attended Harvard, where he met John Dos Passos
Became an aesthete, he began to dress unconventionally, and dedicated himself to painting and literature
During the last years of World War I, he drove an ambulance in France: indiscreet comments in the letters of a friend led to Cummings’s arrest and incarceration in a French concentration camp at La Ferté-Macé: later, he found out he had been accused of treason but the charges were never proved
Supported himself by painting portraits and writing for Vanity Fair
Was married three times
Believed that modern mass society was a threat to individuals
Interersted in cubism, and jazz (which had not became mass entertainment, and contemporary slang) an unorthodox form of language
Poetry expressed his rebellious attitude towards religion, politics, and conformity
Dealt with the antagonism between an individual and masses

Quotations:

am was.  are leaves few this.  is these a or / scratchily over which of earth dragged once / -ful leaf. & were who skies clutch an of poor / how colding hereless.  air theres what immense / live without every dancing.  singless on- / ly a child’s eyes float silently down / more than two those that and that noing our / gone snow gone
                      yours mine / .  We’re
alive and shall be:cities may overflow (am / was) assassinating whole grassblades,five / ideas can swallow a man;three words im / -prison a woman for all her now:but we’ve / such freedom such intense digestion so / much greenness only dying makes us grow

-am was.  are leaves few this.  is these a or (in whole)

up into the silence the green / silence with a white earth in it
you will (kiss me) go
out into the morning the young / morning with a warm world in it
(kiss me) you will go
on into the sunlight the fine / sunlight with a firm day in it
you will go (kiss me
down into your memory and / a memory and a memory
i) kiss me (will go)

-up into the silence the green (in whole)

anyone lived in a pretty how town / (with up so floating many bells down) / spring summer autumn winter / he sang his didn’t he danced his did.
Women and men (both little and small) / cared for anyone not at all / they sowed their isn’t they reaped their same / sun moon stars rain children guessed (but only a few / and down they forgot as up they grew / autumn winter spring summer) / that noone loved him more by more
when by now and tree by leaf / she laughed his joy she cried his grief / bird by snow and stir by still / anyone’s any was all to her someones married their everyones / laughed their cryings and did their dance / (sleep wake hope and then) they / said their nevers they slept their dream
stars rain sun moon / (and only the snow can begin to explain / how children are apt to forget to remember / with up so floating many bells down)
one day anyone died i guess / (and noone stooped to kiss his face) / busy folk buried them side by side / little by little and was by was all by all and deep by deep / and more by more they dream their sleep / noone and anyone earth by april / wish by spirit and if by yes.
Women and men (both dong and ding) / summer autumn winter spring / reaped their sowing and went their came / sun moon stars rain

 -anyone lived in a pretty how town (in whole)

these people socalled were not given hearts / how should they be?their socalled hearts would think / these socalled people have no minds but it / they had their minds socalled would not exist 
but if these not existing minds took life / such life could not begin to live id est / breathe but if such life could its breath would stink
and so for souls why souls are wholes not parts / but all these hundred upon thousands of / people socalled if multiplies by twice / infinity could never equal one)
which may your million selves and my suffice / to through the only mystery of love / become while every sun goes round its moon 

-these people socalled were not given hearts (in whole)

if there are any heavens my mother will (all by herself) have / one. It will not be a pansy heaven nor / a fragile heaven of lilies-of-the-valley but / it will be a heaven of blackred roses
my father will be (deep like a rose / tall like a rose)
standing near my
(swaying over her / silent) / with eyes which are really petals and see
nothing with the face of a poet really which / is a flower and not a face with / hands / which whisper / This is beloved my / (suddenly in sunlight / he will bow,
& the whole garden will bow)

-if there are any heavens my mother will (all by herself) have (in whole)

O sweet spontaneous / earth how often have / the / doting
fingers of prurient philosophers pinced / and / poked
thee / , has the naughty thumb / of science prodded / thy
beaty     . how / often have religions taken / thee upon their scraggy knees / squeezing and
bufferting thee that thou mightest conceive / gods / (but / true
to the imcomparable / couch of death thy / rhythmic / lover
thou answerest
them only with
spring)

-O sweet spontaneous (in whole)

Christina Rossetti

October 24, 2006

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(1830-1894)

Youngest child in the Rossetti family: all four children became writers
Father was an exiled Italian patriot who wrote poetry and commentaries on Dante, believing his poems were ancient conspiracies: her mother was an Anglo-Italian who worked as a governess
Household was a gather place for Italian exiles, full of conversation of politics and culture
Life changed after her father became blind: family’s economic situation worsened, Rossetti’s health deteriorated, she and her mother and her sister became intensely involved with the Anglo-Catholic movement within the Church of England
For the rest of her life she governed herself by strict religious principles
Fiance reverted to Roman Catholicism and Rossetti broke off the marriage- refused to marry her second suitor because he seemed insufficiently concerned with religion
Lived a quiet life, occupying herself with charitable work
Poetry is a complex representation of the religious themes of temptation and sin, and redemption by vicarious suffering
Demonstrates her affinity with the early aims of the Pre-Raphaelite group
Consciousness of gender in poetry
Wrote poetry of deferral, of deflection. of negation, whose very denials and constraints give her a powerful way to articulate a poetic self in critical relationship to the little that the world offers
Uses a coy playfulness and sardonic wit to reduce the self and preserve for it a secret inner space
Virginia Woolf described the distinctive combination of sensuousness and religious severity in Rossettie’s work:

“Your poems are full of gold dust and ‘sweet geraniums’ varied with brightness; your eye noted incessantly how rushes are ‘velvet headed,’ and lizards have a ‘strange metallic mail’ -your eye, indeed, observed with a sensual pre-Raphaelite intensity that must have surprised Christina the Anglo-Catholic. But to her you owed perhaps the fixity and sadness of your must… No sooner have you feasted on beauty with your eyes than your mind tells you that beauty is vain and beauty passes. Death, oblivion, and rest lap around your songs with their dark wave.”

Jerome McGann calls Rossetti

“one of nineteenth-century England’s greatest ‘Odd Women.'”

Quotations: 

‘Dear, you should not stay so late, / Twilight is not good for maidens; / Should not loiter in the glen / In the haunts of goblin men. / Do you not remember Jeanie, / How she met them in the moonlight, / Took their gifts both choice and many, / Ate their fruits and wore their flowers / Plucked from bowers / Where summer ripens at all hours? / But ever in the noonlight / She pined and pined away; / Sought them  by night and day, / Found them no more but dwindled and grew grey; / Then fell with the first snow, / White to this day no grass will grow / Where she lies low: / I planted daisies there a year ago / That never blow. / You should not loiter so.’ 

Golden head by golden head, / Like two pigeons in one nest / Folded in each other’s wings, / they lay down in their curtained bed: / Like two blossoms on one stem, / Like two flakes of new-fall’n snow, / Like two wands of ivory / Tipped with gold for awful kings. / Moon and stars gazed in at them, / wind sang to them lullaby, / Lumbering owls forbore to fly, / Not a bat flapped to and fro / Round their rest: / Cheek to cheek and breast to breast / Locked together in one nest.

She gorged on bitterness without a name: / Ah! fool, to choose such part / Of soul-consuming care! / Sense failed in the mortal strife: / Like the watch-tower of a town / Which an earthquake shatters down, / Like a lightning-stricken mast, / Like a wind-uprooted tree / Spun about, / Like a foam-topped tree / Spun about, / Like a foam-topped watersoup / Cast down headlong in the sea, / she fell at last; / Pleasure past and anguish past, / Is it death or is it life?
Life out of death.

Laura would call the little ones / And tell them of her early prime, / Those pleasant days long gone/ Of not-returning time: / Would talk about the haunted glen, / The wicked, quaint fruit-merchant men, / Their fruits like honey to the throat / But poison in the blood; / (Men sell not such in any town:) / Would tell them how her sister stood / In deadly peril to do her good, / And win the fiery antidote: / Then joining hands to little hands / Would boid them cling together, / ‘For there is no friend like a sister / In calm or stormy weather; / To cheer one on the tedious way, / To fetch one if one goes astray, / To life one if one totters down, / To strengthen whilst one stands.’

-Goblin Market

Gerard Manley Hopkins

October 24, 2006

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(1844-1889)

First publication of his poems was made accessible to readers 29 years after his death
Most poems celebrate the wonders of God’s creation
Were known only to a small circle of friends during his lifetime
Praised for his striking experiments with meter and diction
Widely hailed as a pioneering figure of ‘modern’ literature and unconnected with fellow Victorian poets
Often grouped with twentieth-century poets
Born near London into a cultivated family in comfortable circumstances
Attended Oxford and was exposed to the Broad Church theology of one of his tutors
White at Oxford Hopkins wrote poems in the vein of John Keats but burned most of these writings after his conversion: drafts survive
Entered the Roman Catholic Church: suffered estrangement from his family
Because a Jesuit priest
Appointed professor of classics at University College in Dublin
Felt everything in the universe was characterized by what he called ‘inscape’: the distinctive design that constitutes individual dynamic identity: Each being in the universe enacts its identity and the human recognizes the inscape of other beings in an act he terms instress: the apprehension of an object in an intense thrust of energy toward it that enables one to realize its specific distinctiveness- all of this leads on to Christ, for the individual identity of any object is the stamp of divine creation
Poetry enacts this celebration of identity
Hopkins seeks to give each poem a unique design that captures the initial inspiration when he is caught by his subject
Creates compounds to represent the unique interlocking fo the characteristics of an object
Disrupts conventional syntax, coins and compounds words, and uses ellipsis and repetition to represent the stress and action of the brain in moments of inspiration
Uses new rhythm to give each poem a distinctive design
Believed that sprung rhythm was the natural rhythm of common speech, written prose and music
In early poems, beauty of individual objects brings him close to God but in late poems the distinctive individuality comes to isolate him from God
In the ‘terrible sonnets’ he cannot escape a world solely of his own imagining
Yeats calls Hopkins’s poetry

“a last development of poetical diction.”

Quotations:

I caught this morning morning’s minion, king- / dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding / Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding / High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing / In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing, / As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding / Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding / Stirred for a bird, -the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!
Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here / Buckle! And the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion / Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!
No wonder of it: sheer plod makes plough down sillion / Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear, / Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.

-The Windhover – To Christ our Lord (in whole)

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 all trades, 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.

-Pied Beauty (in whole)

Pied means of two or more colors in blotches, variegated

Margaret, are you grieving/ Over Goldengrove unleaving?/ Leaves, like the things of man, you/ With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?/ Ah! as the heart grows older/ It will come to such sights colder/ By and by, nor spare a sigh/ Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;/ And yet you will weep and know why./ Now no matter, child, the name:/ Sorrow’s springs are the same./ Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed/ What heart heard of, ghost guessed:/ It is the blight man was born for,/ It is Margaret you mourn for.

-Spring and Fall (in whole)

To a Young Child

Wallace Stevens

June 16, 2006

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(1879-1955)

American Modernist poet
Held a successful career in law
Main output came at a fairly advanced age
Concerned with interplay between imagination and reality and the relation between consciousness and the world; believes god is a human creation; uses musical free verse and sensuous, significant imagery recalls Symbolism
Gave few readings, associated with few poets; Strong dislike for T.S. Eliot’s poetry
A Lucretian poet, celebrating a cosmos centered upon inevitable entropy and death

“After one has abandoned a belief in God, poetry is that essence which takes its place as life’s redemption”

Quotations:

Complacencies of the peignoir, and late / Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair, / And the green freedom of a cockatoo / Upon a rug mingle to dissipate / The holy hush of ancient sacrifice. 

Shall our blood fail? Or shall it come to be / The blood of paradise?  And shall the earth / Seem all of paradise that we shall know? / The sky will be much friendlier then than now, / A part of labor and a part of pain, / And next in glory to enduring love, / Not this dividing and indifferent blue.

Death is the mother of beauty; hence from her, / Alone, shall come fulfilment to our dreams / And our desires. Although she strews the leaves / Of sure obliteration on our paths, / The path sick sorrow took, the many paths / Where triumph rang its brassy phrase, or love / Whispered a little out of tenderness…

-Sunday Morning

Beauty is momentary in the mind- / The fitful tracing of a portal; / But in the flesh it is immortal. / The body dies; the body’s beauty lives. / So evenings die, in their green going, / A wave, interminably flowing.

-Peter Quince at the Clavier

Call the roller of big cigars, / The muscular one, and bid him whip / In kitchen cups concupiscent curds. / Let the wenches dawdle in such dress / As they are used to wear, and let the boys / Bring flowers in last month’s newspapers. / Let be be finale of seem. / The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.
Take from the dresser of deal, / Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet / On which she embroidered fantails once / And spread it so as to cover her face. / If her horny feet protrude, they come / To show how cold she is, and dumb. / Let the lamp affix its beam. / The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

-The Emperor of Ice-Cream (in whole)

It was her voice that made / The sky acutest at its vanishing. / She measured to the hour its solitude. / She was the single artificer of the world / In which she sang.  And when she sang, the sea, / Whatever self it had, became the self / That was her song, for she was the maker. Then we, / As we beheld her striding there alone, / Knew that there never was a world for her / Except the one she sang and, singing, made.

-The Idea of Order at Key West
See Poetry Speaks

Between the thing as idea and / The idea as thing. She is half who made her. / This is the final Projection, C.
The arrangement contains the desire of / The artist. But one confides in what has no / Concealed creator. One walks easily
The Unpainted shore, accepts the world / As anything but sculpture. Good-bye / Mrs. Pappadopoulos, and thanks.

-So-And-So Reclining on Her Couch
See Poetry Speaks

Tell X that speech is not dirty silence / Clarified. It is silence made still dirtier. / It is more than an imitation for the ear.
He lacks this venerable complication. / His poems are not of the second part of life. / They do not make the visible a little hard.
To see…

-The Creation of Sound

Throw away the lights, the definitions, / And say of what you see in the dark
That it is this or that it is that, / But do not use the rotted names.
How should you walk in that space and know  / Nothing of the madness of space,
Nothing of its jocular procreations? / Throw the lights away. Nothing must stand
Between you and the shapes you take / When the crust of shape has been destroyed.
You as you are? You are yourself. / The blue guitar surprises you.

-The Man with the Blue Guitar (in whole)