Saturday, March 31, 2012

Planetarium by Adrienne Rich

Thinking of Caroline Herschel (1750—1848)
astronomer, sister of William; and others.

A woman in the shape of a monster   
a monster in the shape of a woman   
the skies are full of them

a woman      ‘in the snow
among the Clocks and instruments   
or measuring the ground with poles’

in her 98 years to discover   
8 comets

she whom the moon ruled   
like us
levitating into the night sky   
riding the polished lenses

Galaxies of women, there
doing penance for impetuousness   
ribs chilled   
in those spaces    of the mind

An eye,

          ‘virile, precise and absolutely certain’
          from the mad webs of Uranusborg

                                                            encountering the NOVA   

every impulse of light exploding

from the core
as life flies out of us

             Tycho whispering at last
             ‘Let me not seem to have lived in vain’

What we see, we see   
and seeing is changing

the light that shrivels a mountain   
and leaves a man alive

Heartbeat of the pulsar
heart sweating through my body

The radio impulse   
pouring in from Taurus

         I am bombarded yet         I stand

I have been standing all my life in the   
direct path of a battery of signals
the most accurately transmitted most   
untranslatable language in the universe
I am a galactic cloud so deep      so invo-
luted that a light wave could take 15   
years to travel through me       And has   
taken      I am an instrument in the shape   
of a woman trying to translate pulsations   
into images    for the relief of the body   
and the reconstruction of the mind.
          by Adrienne Rich 1929–2012

RIP fierce grande dame of Twentieth American poetry.  Perhaps you'd disdain that moniker: so be it.  Whether or not you'd appreciate that title, you earned it.  Long may you reign.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Poem In Your Post: Dover Beach

The sea is calm tonight,
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night air!

Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.
Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Agean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.
The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.
Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
This classic Matthew Arnold poem from 1851 came to mind as I was preparing the culminating activities for our study of William Golding's Lord of the Flies.  Both works lead us on a journey from lightness into dark, and in both pieces the sea paradoxically inspires both hope and dread.  While the poem complements the novel, "Dover Beach" stands strong on its own, so I hope you enjoy it even if you don't happen to be pondering the allegorical and symbolic resonances of Ralph and Jack and Simon and Piggy.
This day's unfolding parallels the descent from joy into dread as well:  bright skies at waking gradually grayed over, and now relaxed errands are collapsing into a dreary afternoon as I confront the final chapters of Golding's dark novel before creating lessons for a hectic week to come.
How about this, though, to perk us all up?  Consider the book you're reading right now.  Which poem might pair well with it?  Share the book title and author here as well as the poem and poet, or post it on your own blog and share the link with us in the comments below.
p.s.  I found a lovely painting that Dedree Drees created in response to "Dover Beach".  Her painting carries the sense of fearful awe straining against hope that I was experiencing in both Arnold's poem and Golding's novel. Check it out here at her website.  Scroll down through quite a few evocative and skillful paintings until you find it.  If you keep the poem in your mind's eye, you'll pick it out immediately.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday Morning Must-Read: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Read the first chapter at Bloomsbury Publishing.

 The Song of Achilles came out earlier this month, so I'm re-posting my December review to remind you that if you do not get your own copy a.s.a.p., you will miss a stellar read.

Why must you read this novel? First and foremost, The Song of Achilles is one of those rare novels during which you immediately and persistently feel that blissful tension between

"I want to race through this page-turner as fast as I humanly can, it's so amazing!"


"I want to ration every page, every syllable so I can keep reading this book forever and never get to the end!"

That's a once or thrice a year phenomenon for me, and if that's true for you too, The Song of Achilles will likely enchant you.

What's it about?  Simple. It's a modern retelling of the life of Achilles, the great Greek hero of the Trojan War, as seen through the eyes of his best friend, Patroclus.  Their enduring and complex love for each other is cast against the dire machinations of their compatriots (and enemies) in this Iliad for our age.  Jealousy and passion, blood and desire and coming-of-age in a complex world of gods and men: that's what it's about too.

If all that doesn't set you leaping to pre-order, how about these additional features?
  • The fast-moving plot that intensifies and deepens page by page
  • Miller's clean, clear prose style enriched by the occasional gorgeous turn of phrase and rich-but-not-heavy-handed imagery, symbolism
  • It's an engrossing re-telling of a classic (The Iliad) that we all probably should have read by possibly didn't (I did, but hated it compared with The Odyssey) yet offered in a writing style and syntax that makes the content not merely interesting and accessible but provocatively contemporary as well.
  • It may challenge and deepen your ideas about the nature of love and war.  Certainly, you'll reflect on these twin pillars of human nature again and again as you read.
  • Miller's characters, fully drawn, carry their mythic personas into our contemporary world with perfect ease and relevance.
So then, the first book on your Spring 2012 list must be The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.  Do stop by in March to let me know how much you loved it too!


Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

I spent most of St. Patrick's Day reading and lesson planning for Lord of the Flies.  This classic Yeats poem rose in memory: an alternate dark confluence. 


Sunday, March 11, 2012

A brief hiatus: Breathing in, breathing out...

Friends and followers,

I know you are a patient lot, and so I do believe that you will humor me in this: I must take a brief hiatus to regain my breathing space, my stance upon the earth.

I'll be back, and I'm reading every day, as I know you are, so I hope you'll return when I do.

Until then, I hold you in great esteem and will be wishing you many fine moments until we return.

MFB sans language for a while,
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...