Tag Archives: poem

Tumblr blog – celebrities reading poetry

It’s that subject no one wants to study in English class. It’s that aisle in the bookstore that’s always empty. It’s that stuff that star-crossed lovers spout at each other through open windows.

Explains the author of this Tumblr, called SpeakCelebrity. Offering that poetry isn’t scary, “it’s exciting, and comforting, and new, and old, and it can be clear-cut or all jumbled up, but most of all, it’s human.”

I couldn’t agree more and it’s a delight to browse through the celebrities:

  • Al Pacino reading – “Sonnet 150″ by William Shakespeare
  • Meryl Streep – “In Vain” by Emily Dickinson
  • Morgan Freeman – “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley
  • Ralph Fiennes – “Ode to the Sea” by Pablo Neruda
  • Benedict Cumberbatch – “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll
  • Johnny Depp – “The Girl of the Ghetto” by Jim Morrison

My favorite so far is Benedict Cumberbatch – Sherlock Holmes in the BBC series – and Johnny Depp. Both invite you into the poem and let you forget the world around you.

Dig-in and enjoy - SpeakCelebrity.

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6 dark and scary illustrations of Edgar Allen Poe short stories from 1919

When Poe’s 1908 collection of short stories, Tales of Mystery and Imagination, was reprinted in 1919, a copy of the “deluxe” edition would cost you 5 guineas (in today’s money, that’s about 300 USA Fun Tickets).

The book was printed on handmade paper, bound in vellum, and lettered in gold. But its cost was mainly due to new illustrations: 24 full-page drawings by young Irish illustrator Harry Clarke, whose ink illustrations brought Poe’s characters to life with mesmerizing detail. Each copy was signed by Clarke, and according to rare book sellers, the edition topped Christmas lists in 1919.

These drawings invite dissection by the reader…

 


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Grading Obama’s love letters: women swoon, men see through them

What kind of grade would he (Barack Obama) have gotten for such T.S. Eliot analysis…a reading that was admittedly done without perusing the footnotes? We checked in with some current members of the Columbia English department.

Matthew Hart, who specializes in 20th- and 21st-century Anglophone culture with an emphasis on modernist poetry, was not terribly blown away, as he wrote in an e-mail.

Considered as homework, I’d give the future President a B-minus…the allusion is forced and the connection specious. You get this a lot when students try too hard. Still, I think that’s the point here. This isn’t so much literary criticism as flirtation.

The best part is at the end…this is what the letter’s really about. It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to use The Waste Land as a come-on. He gets a B+ for that.

Would a female professor grade Obama’s efforts any differently? We polled his colleague Sarah Cole, who just finished teaching a course on The Waste Land.

In these brief musings, President Obama shows himself to be a sensitive reader of Eliot’s great poem The Waste Land.

It is a poem of local brilliance and intensities, to which Obama responds with appropriate personal intensity.

I would praise it for its insights and sensitivity, would encourage the president to develop his ideas…

There you have it. Obama might not have done groundbreaking literary analysis, but his undergraduate prose managed to convince at least a couple of discerning women of his “insight and sensitivity”.

via NY Mag

Favorite Commercials: Robert Frost, poem, Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of the easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Account of a Visit From St. Nicholas

from The Troy Sentinel, December 23, 1823, p. 3

We know not to whom we are indebted for the following description of that unwearied patron of children–that homely, but delightful personification of parental kindness–SANTE CLAUS, his costume and his equipage, as he goes about visiting the fire-sides of this happy land, laden with Christmas bounties; but, from whomsoever it may have come, we give thanks for it. There is, to our apprehension, a spirit of cordial goodness in it, a playfulness of fancy, and a benevolent alacrity to enter into the feelings and promote the simple pleasures of children, which are altogether charming. We hope our little patrons, both lads and lasses, will accept it as proof of our unfeigned good will toward them–as a token of our warmest wish that they may have many a merry Christmas; that they may long retain their beautiful relish for those unbought, homebred joys, which derive their flavor from filial piety and fraternal love, and which they may be assured are the least-alloyed that time can furnish them; and that they may never part with that simplicity of character, which is their own fairest ornament, and for the sake of which they have been pronounced, by authority which one can gainsay, the types of such as shall inherit the kingdom of heaven.

For the Sentinel.

 

A Visit From St. Nicholas

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar plums danc’d in their heads,
And Mama in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap–
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter,
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below;
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his courses they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and call’d them by name:
“Now! Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer, and Vixen,
“On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Dunder and Blixem;
“To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
“Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys–and St. Nicholas too: [sic]
And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound:
He was dress’d all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnish’d with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys was flung on his back,
And he look’d like a peddler just opening his pack:
His eyes–how they twinkled! his dimples how merry,
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face, and a little round belly
That shook when he laugh’d, like a bowl full of jelly:
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laugh’d when I saw him in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And fill’d all the stockings; then turn’d with a jirk, [sic]
And laying his finger aside of his nose
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.
He sprung to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle:
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight–
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.
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Family History Day: a new American holiday

Would you like to celebrate a new holiday with me?

I call it Family History Day, or Ancestors Day. 

Let’s celebrate it right before Halloween with a variety of fun and somber rituals, pulled from the most popular festivals around the world:

  • Qingming festival from East Asia
  • Día de los Muertos from Mexico
  • The rituals of Shinto in Japan.

From each I have chosen the best elements and combined them together to form a truly marvelous holiday. One that, I hope, will accomplish the goal: to gain wisdom. Wisdom is an elusive foe, one that evades us all our lives. Sometimes we find it right before we die or after a great tragedy, but none of us have it on a daily basis. This holiday is an attempt to find wisdom every year by seeking out those in our past who had it, for just a brief moment. It also formalizes the search into a ritual that can teach us about family, honor, and respect. Here is how other cultures celebrate.

Qingming

The Qingming Festival, often called Ancestors Day, occurs on the Spring Equinox, usually around April 15, and is celebrated in many countries from China to Cambodia. “Celebrants remember and honour their ancestors at grave sites. Young and old pray before the ancestors, sweep the tombs and offer food, tea, wine, chopsticks, paper accessories, and/or libations to the ancestors.” “It is also the time when young couples start courting. Families go on outings.” There is also a rich history of honoring ones ancestors through poetry and painting.

English Translation:

The ceaseless drizzle drips all the dismal day, So broken-hearted fares the traveler on the way. When asked where could be found a tavern bower, A cowboy points to yonder village of the apricot flower.

Día de loe Muertos

Día de los Muertos, translates as Day of the Dead, is celebrated in Mexico over two days, November 1-2. The first day honors children and second honors deceased relatives. It is a fun and morbid holiday that celebrates death with joy. Families create candy and treats for children in the shape of skulls and skeletons.

Young ones get involved with costumes and skeleton dolls at parties with dancing and music. Adults visit cemeteries to “build private altars containing the favorite foods and beverages as well as photos and memorabilia of the departed.” Celebrated on the Catholic holiday All Souls Day, the intent is to encourage visits by the souls, so that they will hear the prayers and the comments of the living directed to them. Celebrations can take a humorous tone, as celebrants remember funny events and anecdotes about the departed.

Shinto

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Do not go gentle into that good night

[testimonial company="" author="Dylan Thomas, 1951" image=""]

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

Because their words had forked no lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright

Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,

And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight

Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, 

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,

Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

[/testimonial]

Or, if you prefer the audio version.

Rodney Dangerfield from Back to School.

A Poem: Signs the economy is picking up

Last week the bells were sounding alarm
The jobs report was down
Housing is still in a depression
The pundits are starting to talk double dip

But what about my report
Pennies on the ground
15x more pennies on the streets
I’m hauling in the copper

Strength in the economy?
Bums are now only taking silver
Drunks are letting loose their cents
Parents are telling children pennies are trash

How will you decide
Pennies on the ground
Fancy-pants wall street reports

A penny saved is a penny earned

The Weavers

No one saw the weavers
The makers of the golden shrouds
Designed for insularity
And woven for posterity

Theirs was a lovely secret
Kept in mirrors and the clouds
A culture based in couture
A foundation built of mortar

Their garments such a finery
And yet were worn by all
The crimson crest embroidered
In pockets no one saw

The fabric bore a fine sweet scent
The product of such sudor lent
A softness born of optic fears
Twice ripened over prudent years

No one saw the weavers
Toiling at their looms
No one saw the weavers
Not even in the tombs

The Northeasterly

A subtle wind teased,
northeast it came
down behind around me,

reticent and righteous, rife with
egalitarian flair,
withdrawing at its leisure as if playing with the air.

My senses took a notice, of its
continuous resurgence
as northeasterlies often do,

for the subtle winds that blow with
ease repeat their acts
elusively until you’re noticeably moved.

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