Dusting off your Shakespeare for Valentine’s Day sounds like a great idea. The Bard’s famous words are tried and tested — they’ve been working for four hundred years. But are you sure you know what they mean? And are you sure that’s what you want to say? Continue Reading ›
Nobel prize winner Seamus Heaney, “The most important Irish poet since Yeats,” passed away in Dublin early this morning. He was 74.
In the short time since his death, tributes have poured in from all over the globe. But all eyes are on the people of Ireland, whose loss of a national treasure is deeply felt. President Michael D. Higgins, himself a published poet, has spoken of Heaney, “the presence of Seamus was a warm one, full of humour, care and courtesy – a courtesy that enabled him to carry with such wry Northern Irish dignity so many well-deserved honours.” It is that Irish dignity that Higgins credits with boosting national confidence after the economic downturn the nation suffered in 2010.
He carried with him an Irish legacy, born of rural county Derry, that will live on in poems like “Digging” and “Field Work.” Taoiseach Enda Kenny spoke for all of his country when he said the death of Heaney was a “great sorrow to Ireland… “For us, Seamus Heaney was the keeper of language, our codes, our essence as a people.”
Listen to Heaney’s 1995 Nobel lecture below:
Under my window, a clean rasping soundWhen the spade sinks into gravelly ground:My father, digging. I look down…Between my finger and my thumbThe squat pen rests.I’ll dig with it.
T.S. Eliot once observed that “genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.” This is a sentiment that “guerrilla” poets embrace. Guerrilla tactics, whether in war or in art, often rely on hit-and-run assaults, leaving the subjects of their surprise attacks a bit dazed and hopefully more aware.
This week, the website Flavorpill (by way of booooooom.com) published a variety of guerrilla poetry projects that are sneaking poetry into the lives of the largely unsuspecting public. Here are ten of the best:
1. Scottish artist Robert Montgomery installs subversive poetry on billboards, stripping away the large-scale ads for his black-and-white text. Other poems are set on fire. The anonymous works about modern life offer a moment of reflection, away from the consumerist gaze.
Four adaptations of poems set to music: some tender, some bizarre, all personal homages to poems and their masters. Enjoy!
Composed by Israeli singer-songwriter Efrat Ben Zur.
I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us — don’t tell!
They’d banish — you know!
How dreary to be somebody!
How public like a frog
To tell one’s name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!
“Sonnet 49″ by Pablo Neruda
The best loved love poet as sung by jazz artist Luciana Souza.
It’s today: all of yesterday dropped away
among the fingers of the light and the sleeping eyes.
Tomorrow will come on its green footsteps;
no one can stop the river of the dawn.
No one can stop the river of your hands,
your eyes and their sleepiness, my dearest.
You are the trembling of time, which passes
between the vertical light and the darkening sky.
Last week I caught a live show called “The Moth.” Perhaps you’ve heard of it? It’s a little like a live version of This American Life–ordinary people (some aspiring writers and performers, many not) headline a show in which they each have five minutes to tell a true story on a theme. On the night I was lucky to spectate, the theme was simply “The Deep End.” Performer after performer came to the stage to relay their amazing true tales, which could at once be heartwarming, thrilling, bitter, hilarious, somber, you name it. The stories ranged everywhere from a woman’s return from rehab, to a honeymooning couple’s view from a Nepali mountaintop, to a wife’s desperate plea to stop her husband from taking a bullet for the sake of his Native ancestry. There wasn’t a badly told story amongst them, which meant that what I took from this show was the understanding that everybody has a great story to tell. What most of us need is the guts to tell it, of course, but also the right medium through which to tell it.
For you that may be The Moth (which accepts applications to appear on its main stage year-round, by the way) or it may be by leaving a piece of your art out on the street, waiting to be discovered. It may be through Twitter, WordPress, or Instagram. The important thing is that sharing art is as creative an endeavor as making it.
And if you’re studying the arts, that’s an important lesson to take away. Don’t involve yourself merely in the admiration of others’ art. Be involved in the creation of it. You’ll find a whole new respect for the arts that you study.
Check out this calendar for a Moth show in an area near you. Who knows? Maybe you’ll have the guts to get up and tell that story that’s burning inside of you.
And if you’re in LA, I’ll see you at the Moth on the West Side this Tuesday!
How to turn your next Google search into poetry.
The Dadaists of the 1920s developed an interesting poetic technique you may have tried yourself, that of cutting up a text and rearranging its words to create a whole new work. Yes, before you crafted dirty limericks on your fridge with a packet of word magnets, respected authors and poets turned to the technique, from William S. Burroughs in the 1960s, to Jonathan Safran Foer with Tree of Codes.
But why turn to newsprint and scissors in the manner of a kidnapper composing a ransom note, now that we have search engines to create mash-up poetry for us? Below are examples of the sometimes funny, philosophical, and even romantic results of punching a few search terms into Google, which are all collected in the enviably brilliant tumblr Google Poetics.
A Greek deity-esque conception.
Deep thoughts from Google.
Why, Google? Whyyy?
Google Maps might help you with that.
And a special eNotes original:
Only Chuck Norris can save you.
Why not see what poetic genius you can generate in your web browser? Try your hand and post your results in a comment for us!
It’s voting time! In the spirit of the culmination of the presidential election tomorrow, below is a list that highlights historic presidents’ more poetic attributes. Ever wondered whose poetry Thomas Jefferson cozied up with? Or which past president favored the eccentric Welsh poet Dylan Thomas? Read on to find out…
George Washington and Phillis Wheatley
He was the first president of the United State, she was the first African-American woman to publish a collection of poetry. In 1776, she sent Washington a poem that praised the general’s leadership. In reply he told her that, were she ever in town, he would “be happy to see a person so favoured by the Muses.”
Now here, now there, the roving Fancy flies,Till some lov’d object strikes her wand’ring eyes,Whose silken fetters all the senses bind,And soft captivity involves the mind.
I feel like oneWho treads aloneSome banquet-hall deserted,Whose lights are fled,Whose garlands dead,And all but he departed!
Ae night the storm the steeples rocked,
Poor Labour sweet in sleep was locked,
While burns, wi’ snawy wreeths upchoked,
Or thro’ the mining outlet bocked,
Down headlong hurl.
“The paper I copied it on kept wearing out, and I kept recopying it. I don’t know how many times, twenty or thirty, I expect,” Truman reportedly told the journalist Merle Miller, adding that he “had a lot more faith in poets than reporters.”
Love took up the glass of Time, and turn’d it in his glowing hands;Every moment, lightly shaken, ran itself in golden sands.Love took up the harp of Life, and smote on all the chords with might;Smote the chord of Self, that, trembling, pass’d in music out of sight.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)To the land vaguely realizing westward,But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,Such as she was, such as she would become.
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.