allegro for shooing of the police
adagio for washing the body
scherzo for soft laughter and tears
rondo for covering the body with good earth
“My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun; // Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;…”
Some time ago Minnie (Dancing that is, not Mouse) was given this poem, and a project brief. Her mission? To write a poem in response to Sonnet 130, from the view of the poem’s subject: Shakespeare’s Mistress.
After a little collaborative effort, she ended with this:
“An arc or circle that exhibits in concentric bands the colors of the spectrum…”
“Medicine, law, business, engineering; these are noble pursuits, and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love; these are what we stay alive for.”
– Mr Keating
Earlier this week, as I fancied I found myself with enough time on my hands, I decided to head to 1950s Vermont and catch up with Robin Williams as Mr Keating, an English teacher on a journey to inspire his students through the medium of poetry. Aside from the aforementioned gem he offered up (which I somehow found myself in firm agreement with, despite paradoxically also being reminded I probably ought to have been studying), Dead Poets Society is unsurprisingly littered with snippets from great poetry as well.
Frost, Tennyson, Byron and Whitman, to name but a few, all get offered a moment of glory in the film, and while it is no doubt well deserved, I couldn’t help but wonder at all the other remarkable wordsmiths who could’ve too done well with a spot on centre-stage. To that end dear reader, I offer you a poem I stumbled across from a poet just as renowned in some parts of the world as those I’ve already mentioned. Though admittedly his work below is in a translated form, Keating’s themes of beauty, romance, love, are still all artfully present, and have been wonderfully woven together to form the first on his list of what makes life worth living: poetry.
I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.
“No one realises how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.”
– Lin Yutang
“Your turning cold on me is terrible, I can’t believe it, it’s as if I’d woken up and found the lake had suddenly dried up or drained away into the ground.”
Having recently been in a bit of a reading rut, of late I’ve found myself turning away from the more conventional novels on my reading list, and opting for plays instead. This in turn has lead me away from my To-Be-Read pile entirely, and towards a longstanding favourite: Chekhov’s ‘The Seagull’.
Now though it is obviously a multi-layered piece, at its heart, it tells the story of a young playwright and his doomed relationships with the women that surround him. And so if you asked me to summarise the play in oh, say, fourteen lines, I think I would end up with something that went a little like this:
“I love life; I love each day, // I love when sunlight starts to stray // Through swaying trees, then pirouettes // Enhancing dancing silhouettes.”
I first encountered JM Robertson’s poetry a little over ten years ago, when I found myself in possession of his book ‘Words of an Edinburgh Lad’. It was, amongst others, and in particular, his poem entitled ‘I Love Life’ that somehow made a home amongst the clutter of a teenage mind, vivid imagery determined to remain unforgotten despite the years that went by.
What was it about Robertson’s poetry that made it more arresting than its prosaic counterpart?
“Time is a storm in which we are all lost. Only inside the convolutions of the storm itself shall we find our directions.”
William Carlos Williams said it well when he compared time to a chaotic force to be reckoned with. With the eye reputedly it’s calmest point, and convolutions of the storm far more testing, it is easy to see why he believed it is in these convolutions, or difficult times, that we are shaped, and emerge with a sense of direction.
For each person ‘convolutions of the storm’ will appear in different sizes and on different occasions; alas, it is that time of year again where I find myself facing some of mine.
“Then Space – began to toll, // As all the Heavens were a Bell, / And Being, but an Ear,”
My favourite lines in Emily Dickinson’s ‘I felt a Funeral, in my Brain’, the first time I read them, I was struck by imagery of starry galaxies being poured down a golden ear horn, into a waiting ear. Her poetry was dark, and bleak, and yet rhythm and lexical choice had been woven together to produce such simplistic beauty I was inspired.
This inspiration manifested itself during a biology class where the teacher set us several tasks. One of them was to write a poem / rap / song / conversation entitled ‘Doctor – is there anything that can be done about my bronchitis?’ Drawing on Dickinson’s poem, I ended up with this: