Saturday, January 31, 2009

From Poetry magazine

A presto manifesto! In defense of rhyme. By A E Stallings.

To paraphrase Denis Leary

Russia, Germany, Romania -- they can have all the democracy they want. They can have a big democracy cakewalk right through the middle of Tiananmen Square and it won't make a lick of difference because ...

we've got the Williams sisters.

Therefore, we rule.

Friday, January 30, 2009

If I were sixteen today (1958): this weekend's Marianne Moore

I would, if I could, let little things be little things -- would be less susceptible to embarrassment. David Seabury says, "When you are saying, 'I can't be calm, I can't be calm,' you can be calm." Don't relive bad moments, or revive them for others, or be expecting more of them. To postponers, I would say, DO IT NOW; and to firebrands of impatience, ROME WAS NOT BUILT IN A DAY. "Superiority" is at the opposite pole from insight. Fashion can make you ridiculous; style, which is yours to control individually, can make you attractive -- a near siren. What of chastity? It confers a particular strength. Until recently, I took it for granted -- like avoiding "any drugs."

from The Complete Prose of Marianne Moore, p. 503


what time is it?it is by every star
a different time,and each most falsely true;
or so subhuman superminds declare

--nor all their times encompass me and you:

when are we never,but forever now
(hosts of eternity;not guests of seem)
believe me,dear,clocks have enough to do

without confusing timelessness and time.

Time cannot children,poets,lovers tell--
measure imagine,mystery,a kiss
--not though mankind would rather know than feel;

mistrusting utterly that timelessness

whose absence would make your whole life and my
(and infinite our)merely to undie

Two posts about anger

from the Orthodox Christian priest who blogs at Glory to God for All Things: Understanding Anger and Loving an Angry God. To be read, and perhaps to be re-read.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Two poets discuss the Psalms

This exchange may be of interest to some. Poets Peter O'Leary and Alicia Ostriker discuss the poetry of the Psalms; unfortunately, the translation they use in their correspondence seems a mite unpoetic (a version produced by one Robert Alter, attempting fidelity to the Hebrew).

The discussion is valuable (to me, at least) for the light it sheds on the art of translation, and for the other poets alluded-to (among them John Berryman and Walt Whitman; in fact, one of my favorite Whitman passages is quoted by Ostriker).

Interview meme

Here are the rules:
1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me".
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. (I get to pick the questions).
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post. (I guess you ask to be interviewed by putting a comment in the combox that says, "Interview me!")
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Five questions for me from Enbrethiliel of Sancta Sanctis:

1) If you were to write a Fan Fiction story, which movie, book or TV show would you take for your canon?

Hmm. Tough one. I'm not good at any kind of fiction, but a movie that I think is unjustly underrecognized is Johnny Stecchino starring Roberto Benigni. Maybe I'd try something with that!

2) If your favourite food were a poem, which poem would it be?

It would have to be something Italian and satisfying! Maybe the sonnet in Dante's La Vita Nuova that begins "Tanto gentile e tanto onesta pare / La donna mia ..." ("So gentle and so virtuous appears / My lady ...")

3) Which three songs would be essential to a road trip mix?

Easy one:
"Give Me One Reason" by Tracy Chapman
"Moondance" by Van Morrison
"How Soon Is Now?" by the Smiths

4) Would you rather have been named after Dylan Thomas or Bob Dylan? (I'm assuming Dylan is your real name!)

I chose my pen-name dylan to pay tribute to Dylan Thomas, who in spite of many personal flaws was a most compelling poet.

5) Where were you when you learned that Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger had been elected pope?

When I learned that Cardinal Ratzinger had been elected, I was in East Boston, Massachusetts, USA, on my computer. When the world learned he had been elected, I was at Boston Medical Center in the South End of Boston, accompanying my mom to a doctor's appointment. Pleasant weather that day, IIRC.

Thank you, Enbrethiliel!!!

Least religious states?

Caught it out of the corner of my eye, but apparently someone did a survey or study or poll and concluded that the least religious states in the Union are:

1. Vermont
2. Massachusetts
3. New Hampshire
4. Maine

Update: I accidentally flipped the order of #2 (NH) and #3 (Massachusetts). Oops! And it was a survey of the whole country.

New York and California nowhere to be found? Or was this a New England-only survey? I'll have to check again.

But Vermont doesn't surprise me; in places like Brattleboro and Putney (from what I saw twelve years ago), the religion is very much college-campus-style progressivism. (I can visualize the bookstores, much like Harvard's, with the shrines to Obama in the front windows. I can visualize whirled peas.)

Massachusetts does surprise me; you have plenty of tenacious Catholics, and others who have lapsed in every meaningful respect, but who still wouldn't dream of eating a hamburger on Ash Wednesday. New Hampshire is a bit of a shocker: Northern New Hampshire, especially, instills religious thoughts! And I don't know enough about Maine, but I think there's a similar hippie/earthy-crunchy vibe -- similar to Vermont, that is. (Yes, Maine has two Republican senators, but they're both pro-choice women. I think Vermont has a Republican governor, also "progressive" where it matters to progressives.)

But back to religion. I've mentioned only Catholics, but there are other denominations of Christianity, and other religions, that might find adherents among even the most incorrigibly "liberal." Heck, Catholicism has its incorrigibly liberal adherents! (Many of them can be found in this, the second "least religious state" in the survey!) So I don't know who did this survey, but I suspect that something's amiss.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Steam o' consciousness

[yes, "steam," as in the steam rising from the morning coffee, at six a.m., when the matter below was written]

The poet W. H. Auden was in the irreverent habit, in idle moments, of replacing references to God in Sacred Scripture with the phrase "Your mother." I have no idea why. But I do something similar with hymns, except my replacement-words are "Heather" (name of a very dear friend since childhood) or "belly." Therefore, "Good King Wenceslas" becomes:

Heather is a lib'ral kid
And she has a belly;
Heather likes gigantic squid,
I like Trappist jelly

Or something like that.

I think I have a two-year-older's attitude toward language, in my idle moments. Sounds are playthings. The actor/author Stephen Fry is like this, too. He wakes up with nonsense phrases on the brain, like "Hoversmack tender estimate" or "Gwendolyn Bruce Snetterton." And he'll repeat these words to himself while shaving, or something.

The Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, one Sal DiMasi (rhymes with "Tracy," I think), is stepping down for ... personal reasons. The possible ethics violations hanging over his head, of course, have nothing to do with it. I never liked the guy. One should never judge by appearances, but I think in his case I did. Something about his looks rubbed me the wrong way. Of course, we all can't be as telegenic as I am. Ha!

I no longer have a beard. When I had a beard, several years ago, I was told more than once that I looked like the bearded guy on Home Improvement (Richard Karn, later to be host of Family Feud).

Not all attractive women are near occasions of sin. (Some are near occasions of anger, because of their politics!) But some are just so sublimely beautiful and sweet, one merely marvels, and doth not covet.

Yes, I'm non-sequituring like it's going out of style!

If I ever get a dog (as is the case with Malia Obama, allergies would make that tricky), I'd name him or her Anathema. So I could say, "Anathema, sit! Good dog!" [Dreadful Latin pun which I must share with Sam, the Latin teacher.]

The blogger at Some Have Hats writes that she's heard only one anti-abortion homily since she's been a Catholic, and wagered with a friend last Easter that the homilist would say "gay" before he would say "Resurrection," and she won the bet. Here in libera-bibble Massachusetts, the situation is not so dire! Of course, not every priest is Fr D at St Agnes's (an exuberant traditionalist who has preached against not only abortion but contraception), but still ...

I need some grand summation to this post. It's getting a bit like my senior-year (high school) oral report on Dylan Thomas and William Blake, where I rambled off the cuff for 25+ minutes, carried by enthusiasm over my subject, but didn't quite know how to end. Robert Graves once ended a poem "at a careless comma," but that's been done. Eliot famously ended the world "not with a bang but a whimper." And the psalter ends with the phrase "Praise the Lord." If I were Rod Blagojevich, I'd end with a choice expletive! A three-letter word, as Joe Biden might say.

I'll end by stealing from Edward Estlin Cummings, on mortality and im-:

death,as men call him,ends what they call men
--but beauty is more now than dying's when

I'm linking to Andrew Sullivan

Apparently, one of the SSPX bishops whom Pope Benedict has restored to communion with the catholica is quite the unpleasant character. Maybe he has sound views on liturgy, but if what Sullivan tells us is true, I find myself wishing that the bishop could have been left "in the cold." (Although I don't know if his unpalatable views are excommunicable offenses, perhaps His Holiness could have restored the bishop to communion while simultaneously suspending his faculties.)

Of course, Andrew Sullivan would gladly see the Church transformed into the other extreme, with The Vicar of Dibley as Supreme Pontiff, but his concerns about Bishop Williamson (most of them, anyway) seem valid.