Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Song from Shakespeare

I normally don't go in for anthologies, especially of the poem-a-day variety. But I picked up Poem for the Day (ed. Nicholas Albery) at a book sale after reading Cornford's "To a Fat Lady Seen from the Train." I've been catching up on the year and read a snippet of Shakespeare today, the latter half of which I had jotted down after reading it in an epigram to another poem a month or so ago. I like these little synchronicities of reading. So here it is, a thing of beauty, an ephemeral song about the ephemarality of youth and eros:

from Twelfth Night - Act Two, Scene Three

    O mistress mine, where are you roaming?
    O, stay and hear; your true love's coming,
    That can sing both high and low:
    Trip no further, pretty sweeting;
    Journeys end in lovers meeting,
    Every wise man's son doth know.
    What is love? 'tis not hereafter;
    Present mirth hath present laughter;
    What's to come is still unsure:
    In delay there lies no plenty;
    Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty,
    Youth's a stuff will not endure.

And a side note: though the Burnett compendium of A.E. Housman (which lists traceable influences and similar lines in other works) doesn't mention this song, I'm quite sure there is a link between youth's a stuff will not endure and Housman's breath's a ware that will not keep. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Thomas Hardy and the Color Run

In college, I binged on Thomas Hardy, reading all of his novels in a single semester. It's been a decade now but running the color run Friday brought The Return of the Native to my mind freshly as if I'd just read it. That's one of the joys of literature: what you read stays with you; you carry it around inside you, and, at certain times, it comes back in force.

In this novel, the jilted lover Diggory Venn turns to the road and the reddle trade. Reddle is a ocher powder used to dye ownership markings on sheep. "Reddle," writes Hardy, "spreads its lively hues over everything it lights on, and stamps unmistakably, as with the mark of Cain, any person who has handled it half an hour." On the color run, volunteers flung powder at the runners with great aplomb turning me into a veritable rainbow. One color-flinger hit me full force in the hip, such was his enthusiasm. By the end of the race and subsequent color mosh pit, I felt a bit like the unfortunate Venn, though died green rather than red. Luckily it only took a long hot shower for me to return (mostly) to my normal coloration.


"Reddlemen of the old school are now but seldom seen. Since the introduction of railways Wessex farmers have managed to do without these Mephistophelian visitants, and the bright pigment so largely used by shepherds in preparing sheep for the fair is obtained by other routes. Even those who yet survive are losing the poetry of existence which characterized them when the pursuit of the trade meant periodical journeys to the pit whence the material was dug, a regular camping out from month to month, except in the depth of winter, a peregrination among farms which could be counted by the hundred, and in spite of this Arab existence the preservation of that respectability which is insured by the never-failing production of a well-lined purse.

A child's first sight of a reddleman was an epoch in his life. That blood-coloured figure was a sublimation of all the horrid dreams which had afflicted the juvenile spirit since imagination began. "The reddleman is coming for you!" had been the formulated threat of Wessex mothers for many generations. He was successfully supplanted for a while, at the beginning of the present century, by Buonaparte; but as process of time rendered the latter personage stale and ineffective the older phrase resumed its early prominence. And now the reddleman has in his turn followed Buonaparte to the land of worn-out bogeys, and his place is filled by modern inventions."

Monday, June 16, 2014

Bonhoeffer and Blake

I've been reading Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a reflection on community. Bonhoeffer's human love and spiritual love align with William Blake's selfish love and sacrificial love in "The Clod and the Pebble." 

Compare Bonhoeffer's human love and Blake's pebblish love:

Human love seeks direct contact with the other person; it loves him not as a free person but as one whom it binds to itself. It wants to gain, to capture by every means; it uses force. It desires to be irresistible, to rule.


Love seeketh only Self to please,
To bind another to its delight,
Joys in another's loss of ease,
And builds a hell in heaven's despite.

Bonhoeffer's words on spiritual love are not so obviously aligned with Blake's cloddish love but the parallel is still there:

Because spiritual love does not desire but rather serves, it loves an enemy as a brother. It originates neither in the brother or in the enemy but the Word. Human love can never understand spiritual love, for spiritual love is from above, it is something completely strange, new, and incomprehensible to all earthly love.


Love seeketh not itself to please,
Nor for itself hath any care,
But for another gives its ease,
And builds a heaven in hell's despair.

Love calls us outward, beyond ourselves. Any other direction turns love into a well of gravity which will consume everything around before consuming itself. Blake and Bonhoeffer, two very different men bat at this concept, reaching the same insight, one that I'll call (the very unpopular word) truth

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

In Memoriam

Gertrude Petra Landrum
(June 10, 2011 - June 10, 2011)

My dear daughter,

In three years of mourning you, my grief has mellowed. I will always miss you but today my sadness is tempered with hope and with confidence that one day everything will be set right and made new, that the storms of life will pass and bring a joyful morning. This song speaks to that. Your grandfather played it for me when I was young and it's one of many songs I would have loved to play for you. So here it is. On that morning after the storm, we'll meet again. Happy birthday.

In Memoriam

Gertrude Petra Landrum
(June 10, 2011 - June 10, 2011)

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 

(Revelation 21:3-5)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Word Frequency - an alphabet of one-offs

An alphabet of single use words from my writing from over the past year:

A is for acridity, B is for balm, C is for chiropractor, D is for dehydration, E is for ether, F is for forsight, G is for gloss, H is for hymnody, I is for Instagram, J is for jealousy, K is for kitchen, L is for Lana Del Ray, M is for metaphor, N is for neon, O is for olive, P is for permanence, Q is for question, R is for rifle, S is for seasickness, T is for Tanquerey, U is for ugliness, V is for verbage, W is for wilding, X is for Xerox, Y is for Youtube, Z is for Zeus.

Poetic Obsessions III - Word Frequency

Life changes. We change our lives. Obsession drifts and reflects itself in the mirror of writing. I run a word frequency count every so often so as to see myself. These drafts cover the last year's writing. Put on a word document, the list runs to 47 pages of one word per line. 23 of those pages are one-offs. 

There's lots of alcohol this year and a suspicious number of animals hiding in the count. There's an odd number of knees but an even number of hips and breasts. And somehow, the story of a year:

14 glass, 10 deer, 9 grenadine, 8 zebra, 8 oneiros, 8 houses, 8 fields, 7 thirst, 7 tidal, 7 linen, 7 arabesques, 6 pomegranate, 6 mud, 6 green, 6 glistering, 6 girl, 5 sunbound, 5 shandy, 5 knees, 5 exile, 5 drunker, 5 drinking, 5 dreaming, 5 dog, 4 subdivision, 4 lemonade, 4 languorous, 4 intention, 4 hurricane, 4 hips, 4 foals, 4 breasts, 3 woman, 3 winters, 3 windows, 3 swans, 3 semaphore, 3 newscasters, 3 fragments, 3 chlorine, 3 bikini, 3 arctic, 2 waterslides, 2 tonic,  2 artichokes, 1 tuba, 1 passport, 1 milkyness, 1 marriage, 1 Kardashian, 1 fox, 1 ache