|Design by Toni Ig|
Once there was a little boy whose name was Robert Reese,
And every Friday afternoon he had to speak a piece.
So many poems thus he learned, that soon he had a store
Of recitations in his head and still kept learning more.
And totally forgot the piece he was about to speak.
His brain he cudgeled, not a word remained within his head
And so he spoke at random, and this is what he said!
It was the schooner Hesperus and the breaking waves dashed high?
Why is this forum crowded? What means this stir in Rome?
Under the spreading chestnut tree, there is no place like home.
Shoot if you must this old gray head, King Henry of Navarre!
If you’re waking call me early. To be or not to be?
The curfew shall not ring tonight! O woodman spare that tree!
Charge Chester, Charge! On Stanley, On! And let who will be clever.
The boy stood on the burning deck, but I go on forever!
His elocution was superb, his voice and gestures fine;
His schoolmates all applauded as he finished the last line.
“I see it doesn’t matter,” Robert thought, “what words I say,
So long as I declaim with oratorical display.”
Or a dry wheel grate on the axle-tree;
And that would set my teeth nothing on edge,
I hope some of you have enjoyed a chuckle. I’m going back to jotting notes in notebooks…
|Has someone suggested Prunes?|
We were off to the races with the limericks. I’ve forgotten most of them (“Good!” my family might say) but a few came back, and I am happy to share:
On myself (NOT biographical):
A hazel-eyed cookie named Wilder
Met a plausible scamp who begilder.
He was nabbed by a Copper
For Conduct Improper –
And posting his bail really rilder
Then, laughing at Elizabeth and Richard Taylor’s flatulent endeavor that barged down the Nile and sank, I came out with these:
And, finally, this:
You can breathe now – I don’t recall any more.
At this moment.
I wrote poetry, once upon a time. I still do, actually, when the mood strikes me. Generally, now, the mood that strikes me is puckish and what I write is humorous.
|Grandpa at 90|
I was remembering, recently, a time when my grandfather was sitting in my mother’s living room and mulling things over. He was matter-of-fact. He always was, with a puckish sense of humor. I remember him laughing at some hobbling fellow who had told him that when Grandpa reached 60, as he had, he’d like to lean on a cane. Grandpa was in his late 70s then.
He was in his nineties that evening, a WWI veteran, a musician, a fly fisherman, gardener – my Grampa. He was talking about life, and he said that young men think of all the things they want to do in the future, while an old man like him knows that the future contains his departure.
Grandpa lived to be 100 years old plus a month. His last words to me, when I hurried to the hospital to see him, were ‘I love you!’. He died in his sleep.
On the evening I mentioned, I started thinking, and I ultimately wrote a poem. I like the form of a sonnet, and that is what I wrote. My grandfather loved it. And I lost it in the course of many moves. I didn’t have a computer at that time, just paper.
It was entered in a poetry contest of sorts (the kind where you ‘win’ and get to buy a volume of poetry that contains your effort. I didn’t bother) and then it was lost.
Recently, I tried to find it. My mother went through all her papers – no luck. But she gave me a number of old poems, which I put away. Last night I was sorting through them – and here it is, not lost forever and regretted, but complete, tying the past to the present.
Today I am sitting in my usual seat, looking up the hill after a rainy night. The soil is no doubt soft enough that I can dig up that big Norway Maple in my front yard. the one that keeps dropping leaves in autumn.
|17 year old BJ on the right|
I can reach my teacup, but it is a stretch. There is a sort of roadblock between me and its brown, hot goodness.
In this photo, large, black, with a face full of white whiskers, he is on the right. I’m celebrating old love because BJ (‘Black Jack’, a Bombay) will be turning 17 years old on Wednesday.
Dawn love is silver,
Wait for the west.
Old love is gold love –
Old love is best
lifting a cup of tea this morning for old BJ
(Note: Frida, beside him, is nine years old…) http://www.linkytools.com/basic_linky_include.aspx?id=179014
I was a poet at one time. Actually, I still am – to a degree. I spent a college weekend reading six plays by Shakespeare and ended up walking around thinking in Iambic Pentameter. It isn’t hard. Conversational English falls into it without a lot of effort. In fact, it lends itself very readily to blogging –
It tickles me, to think that I may yet
Ape the Bard, and let my verses fly
Through this strange blog thing, there to smite the eye
Of th’unwary visitor come by
To pause and find refreshment in this spot.
But wilt thou find such rest? – I fear thou’llt not!
But shalt run screaming through the teaming web
(But soft! Dear reader, didst thou notice that
Two rhymes I did cram in that one short line??
Harrow and alack! The knack is back!!!)
——- But I digress ——-
Alas! What can I do to shake this curse
That turns my maunderings into wretched verse?
The answer is, of course, to take pity on everyone and get back on track.
I started to say that I wrote a lot of villanelles and sonnets, Shakespearean and Spenserian, and I still do, more from a sense of humor. I wrote a sonnet about the ABNA (Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award) contest that’s going on right now. I’ll post it at the bottom of this post if anyone is hardy enough to want to read it. Look for the asterisks. ***
|The Bard, with beard, wishing he had a laptop|
But anyhow, I was looking for one of my poems to put in a blog post about Richard III. It was published in the spring of my Junior year in college, when I was on the editorial board of an award-winning literary magazine put out by the University. No, it did not win any awards during my watch.
I had been fascinated by Richard III. I thought he had been the victim of a really dirty smear job. The treatment he received – his body and his reputation both – were disgraceful. From what I could see, he had been an admirable man. I had written a series of poems about him, told from the points of view of various people – Henry VII, his nephews who died in the Tower, his brother Edward… I thought they were pretty good, and so did the folks on the magazine. They were published.
I graduated, lost my copies, didn’t have a computer (no one had a computer then), the poems were lost. One day a while back I stumbled across the digital archives of my university – and the publication was there. Well! That was good to know. I filed that bit of information away.
|Statue of Richard III in Leicester|
Today I sat down to write about Richard III. I was planning on opening with the advertisement of the City of York after Richard’s death, in which, in the teeth of the new king, they described Richard’s death as foul murder. I remembered the first two lines of Richard III’s poem:
It grieves my soul to be maligned thus,
So spurned, so scorned by all who know of me
But know me not…
Potentially harmless, I’d say. I buckled down, located the digital archive, pulled up the poem – and grabbed my chin as it bounced off the floor. The poem was terrible. Dreadful. So full of posturing and artsiness, I wanted to squirm. And that monstrosity was out there under my name for anyone to see until the stars grew cold or computers rose up in revolt. It would fit right in – it was revolting!
You have to write really good poetry to call yourself a poet, because the bad stuff – like Dame Edith Sitwell’s work – is truly, truly atrocious and stays with you. I am not happy to see that garbage of mine out there, but it’s digital and digital is nearly eternal.
Think about it.
…and now my ABNA Shakespearean sonnet:
|Facepalm from Trajan’s Column, Rome|
*** That I had thought to join this festival
of writers of all sorts, both good and ill
Poetasters, posers – scribblers all
Upon these boards -alas! – our guts to spill!
Exhaustion dims the mem’ries of the pain-
we greet The Knight’s thread: “All about the pitch!”
We throw ourselves into the fray again –
And learn, alas, the striving’s still a —
(hm. Insert a word that rhymes with ‘pitch’ that might be deleted by Amazon)
Two weeks remain, and now the questions come –
What? How? When? Where? Does anybody KNOW???
“Read FAQs?” some cry, “Why, that’s just DUMB!”
But then they do, and shout “Oh no! Oh, WOE!!”
Squeals of outrage – how the feathers fly!
What genre? What word count? What should I choose??
Some shriek ”Tis so unfair to me! O Why??’
While the vet’rans soothe their souls with shots of booze.
The scramble starts, the shrieks at morn’s first light!
The dread day dawns, clock-watchers pitch their books –
While others, red-eyed, snatch a last rewrite –
“Cheats!” “Wretches!” “Fudgers!” “Ay me!” “I’ve been rooked!”
All this takes place – but why? Ah! Who can say?
We chase our stars and even kneel to pray –
That some of us be crown’d by Amazon
And say to all the rest “Get hence! Begone!”
Someone sent me a link to this presentation some years ago. It is a virtual tour of a Chinese landscape scroll ‘Along The River During the Ching-Ming Festival’. This is a theme and depiction that is considered a classic, and the Imperial Palace Museum has at least six similar scrolls.
This one has been digitized (if that’s a word) and the link will take you to a panorama of the scroll.
Move your mouse to the left and the scroll will unroll before you. You can control the speed. From time to time you will encounter an area enclosed by a square. If you click on it, the scene will open into a three-dimensional, animated vignette. It is very cleverly done, and too beautiful not to share.
Here is the link:
Along the River during the Ching-Ming Festival
…and here is a snapshot from the scroll: