Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Writing { and reading and publishing } ~

Tag Archives: poet

What Makes Us So Alike Is What Makes Us Human . . .


I’m a writer—blogger, novelist, short story scrivener, non-fiction essayist, poet; and it’s that last one that can cause so many avid readers to cringe.

Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman

Yet, due to the recommendation of my Best Friend, I’ve watched a video that does much more than show that “ordinary” folk can totally deal with poetry:

A film-maker set out to make a regional documentary and produced a Work of Art…

“Everyday” people in the U.S. state of Alabama willingly recited some of Walt Whitman‘s poetry…

Classic poetry became vernacular…

The simple became spiritual…

Some uncomplicated folk reached into the core of my heart…

And, it definitely made me cry…

You can read about the film-maker, Jennifer Crandall, and her project in The New Yorker; or, visit the project’s WebSite; but, I want to give you the engaging words of my Best Friend, author Jane Watson (interviewed here in November 2011 and December 2012)

~~~~~~~~~

“I have watched this short documentary at least twelve times, in fact I can’t stop watching it – every time I sit down to write I feel I must return to it. When I finally work out why it has affected me so much… I will probably write my own piece of prose to myself…

“I did not read Whitman much at University but I read some of his verse. I’m glad I did not read him when I was eighteen because now I can read him perhaps with more understanding.  I confess when I was young I had a prejudice about some parts of  Leaves of Grass.  As I watched this video poem of Verse 43, I lost this prejudice.  I loved the documentary, the words of the poem, the musicality of the verse, and the people who spoke it. By the end I had come to the conclusion that the Alabama voice is the most lyrical, poetic, and soul affecting I had ever heard.

“When everyday folks speak they make music.

“Interestingly enough the first reader in the video, Billy Wayne, told the documentary maker that he did not agree with some of Whitman’s words. So she asked him: then why did you read it? And he had a simple answer: because you asked me to.

“You might wonder why anyone would want to listen to people reading an unfamiliar poem, some of which they do not agree with, but Billy Wayne, I think, nails it. A poem is a gift… and the reading of its words is a gift to the listener. When Billy Wayne transforms from a shy elderly guy from the backwoods of Alabama, a prisoner of his failing health (he has to use oxygen and a motorised scooter sits out the front in the long grass near the rotting disused sofa), to a brave man seated straight before the camera reading words so carefully, something shifted for me so profoundly it has stayed with me since… I was connected to him and his fragile mortal tragedy in the most intimate way.

“Whitman says in the beginning of Leaves of Grass:

‘…For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you…’

“As we see the close up of Billy Wayne’s face, naked in all its courage, we see his inner essence and realise that the body matters so little. The beauty of the Alabama landscape captured by the wonderful camera work takes us out of this world and it seems that the film-maker is saying: ‘look, look beyond this …’ … just as Whitman was.

“I think Whitman would have really loved this documentary. It personifies his words:

‘…Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are millions of suns left),
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through the eyes of the  dead, nor feed on the spectres in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self…’

“We do listen to many sides in this documentary. We see the accusation in Anthony’s eyes as he tightens the nuts on his car tire and says: ‘…I know everyone of you, I know the sea of torment, doubt, despair, and unbelief…’

“We see the open, vulnerable face of young Diana, who, although exhausted from the heat and from cleaning the motel room of the documentary makers, reads her piece of verse until she faints…

“I am not going to apologise for going so overboard in my enthusiasm of this video. It has a quality that moves me deeply, which I will only do a disservice to, if I try to explain it too much.. so go watch it.”

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Bob Dylan? Nobel Prize? Literature?


You’ve probably heard that Dylan won the Nobel for Literature.

Bob Dylan - azkena rock festival 2010

Alberto Cabello from Vitoria Gasteiz ~ Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

What do you think—is he a “poet” or just a “lyricist”?

Speaking of his songs, here are Dylan’s lyrics from 1962 to 2016

And, here are a few snippets of the coverage of his Nobel.

From The Washington PostSomething is happening: Bob Dylan wins Nobel in literature:

“The startling announcement out of Stockholm was met with both euphoria and dismay.”

“He is the most influential songwriter of his time, who brought a new depth, range and complexity to rock lyrics and freed Bruce Springsteen, Joni Mitchell and countless other artists to break out from the once-narrow boundaries of love and dance songs.”

From The GuardianNobel prize in literature won by Bob Dylan – as it happened:

> music journalist Everett True: “Bob Dylan winning a Nobel Prize for Literature pays lip service to populism, the same way the establishment’s championing of Bob Dylan from the 1960s onwards has always paid lip service to populism while simultaneously serving to put the rest of us Great Unwashed firmly in our place, a slap across the face.”

> news wire service AFP: “Dylan’s name has often been mentioned over the past few years but we always thought it was a joke,” said the French novelist Pierre Assouline, who could not hide his fury at the Nobel committee.

“Their decision is contemptuous of writers,” he told AFP. “I like Dylan but where is the (literary) work? I think the Swedish Academy have made themselves look ridiculous.”

From Israel’s Haaretz—Bob Dylan’s Genius Doesn’t Lie in His Writing, Nobel Prize or Not:

“There’s no doubt Bob Dylan deserves the highest form of recognition, but awarding him literature’s most prestigious award threatens to deepen an existing distortion of his work: That he is a great writer who is also a singer.”

And, back to The Guardian for today—Nobel panel gives up knockin’ on Dylan’s door:

“The Swedish Academy says it has given up trying to reach Bob Dylan, days after it awarded him the Nobel prize in literature.

“’Right now we are doing nothing. I have called and sent emails to his closest collaborator and received very friendly replies. For now, that is certainly enough’, the academy’s permanent secretary, Sara Danius, told state radio SR on Monday.

“So far the American troubadour has responded with silence since he won the prize on Thursday.”

Finally, from QuartzTagore, not Dylan: The first lyricist to win the Nobel Prize for literature was actually Indian:

“…as Bob Dylan might croon, ‘The Times, they are mistaken.’

“A Bengali literary giant, who probably wrote more songs than him, preceded Dylan’s win by over a century. Rabindranath Tagore, a wildly talented Indian poet, painter, and musician, took the prize in 1913.

“The first musician (and first non-European) to win the Nobel Prize for literature, Tagore possessed an artistry—and lasting influence—that mirrored Dylan’s.”

So…

What’s your take on all this?

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13 to 19-Year-Olds Writing #Poetry !


Teen Poetry MOOC

Teen Poetry MOOC

Normally, I do a re-blog on Thursdays…

However, since yesterday I published a post about Emily Dickinson and also received an email from the International Writing Program at The University of Iowa about a free course in poetry writing, I must jump in and spread the word :-)

If you’re 13-19 years old… Well, I should let the IWP tell their own story:

#Flashwrite Teen Poetry MOOC

March 30-May 3, 2016: The IWP will offer its first MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) designed exclusively for teenage students. Writers age 13-19 are invited to write new poems and to share and discuss their work with fellow writers around the world. No writing experience is necessary: this MOOC will welcome new writers and challenge experienced poets. This MOOC will be taught here on NovoEd, a website for creative collaborative learning. Registration is free!

And, there’s this:

Early College Credit Opportunity

Students who complete this #Flashwrite MOOC may continue on to take an optional #Flashwrite Workshop for University of Iowa undergraduate credit.

May 16-June 13, 2016: Students who complete the #Flashwrite MOOC may enroll in an optional University of Iowa #Flashwrite Teen Poetry Workshop for one university credit. Each online workshop will be taught by a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop with a substantial teaching and publication record and will be limited to 15 students. Enrollment requirements: completion of the #Flashwrite Teen Poetry MOOC and payment of a $398 USD tuition fee.

For more info, Go Here


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If you don’t see a way to comment (or, “reply”) after this post, try up there at the top right…
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Something for Your Heart To Think About . . .


My Best Friend often surprises me—in the most delightful ways… 

Tree

Image courtesy of David Vives Coll ~ http://www.sxc.hu/profile/davidvives

She’s an author and immensely empathetic

There are things I do that affect her far beyond what I suspect

Today she sent me a Gift that I must share with you—whether you’re a Reader, Writer, Publisher, or some other amazing kind of person :-)

Before I pass on the Gift (which is the video below), let me introduce Coleman Barks, lauded interpreter of the poet Rumi, “considered by many to be the Shakespeare of the ancient Islamic world”.

And, here is the poem, read by Coleman in the video, that my Best Friend sent me

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How does a part of the world leave the world?
How can wetness leave water?

Don’t try to put out a fire
by throwing on more fire!
Don’t wash a wound with blood!

No matter how fast you run,
your shadow more than keeps up.
Sometimes, it’s in front!

Only full, overhead sun
diminishes your shadow.

But that shadow has been serving you!
What hurts you, blesses you.
Darkness is your candle.
Your boundaries are your quest.

I can explain this, but it would break
the glass cover on your heart,
and there’s no fixing that.

You must have shadow and light source both.
Listen, and lay your head under the tree of awe.

When from that tree, feathers and wings sprout
on you, be quieter than a dove.
Don’t open your mouth for even a coo.

When a frog slips into the water, the snake
cannot get it. Then the frog climbs back out
and croaks, and the snake moves toward him again.

Even if the frog learned to hiss, still the snake
would hear through the hiss the information
he needed, the frog voice underneath.

But if the frog could be completely silent,
then the snake would go back to sleeping,
and the frog could reach the barley.

The soul lives there in the silent breath.

And that grain of barley is such that,
when you put it in the ground,
it grows.

Are these enough words,
or shall I squeeze more juice from this?
Who am I, my friend?


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“…A Riddle Wrapped In A Mystery Inside An Enigma.”


That quote in the title comes from Winston Churchill—“Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”

But, this post isn’t about Churchill or Russia

It’s about a new archive site of the writings of Emily Dickinson.

In many ways, Emily, in her life and in her poetry, was a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma

I’ve been reading her poetry for many years and my well-used edition of her poems, though well-bound, has loose pages

Some of her poetry infuses me with immediate Light—some has been slowly dawning in meaning—some remains impenetrable

I’ll include two of my favorite poems at the end of this post.

From the Emily Dickinson Museum site:

“Emily Dickinson was born in Amherst at the Homestead on December 10, 1830. Her quiet life was infused with a creative energy that produced almost 1800 poems and a profusion of vibrant letters.

“Her lively Childhood and Youth were filled with schooling, reading, explorations of nature, religious activities, significant friendships, and several key encounters with poetry. Her most intense Writing Years consumed the decade of her late 20s and early 30s; during that time she composed almost 1100 poems. She made few attempts to publish her work, choosing instead to share them privately with family and friends. In her Later Years Dickinson increasingly withdrew from public life. Her garden, her family (especially her brother’s family at The Evergreens) and close friends, and health concerns occupied her.

“With a few exceptions, her poetry remained virtually unpublished until after she died on May 15, 1886. After her death, her poems and life story were brought to the attention of the wider world through the competing efforts of family members and intimates.”

The “virtually unpublished” nature of her poetry means there were only 13 pieces of her writing published in her lifetime

And, all the early publications of her work saw editors changing punctuation and even words to make her work conform to their expectations of what poetry should be

From the new Emily Dickinson Archive:

“Emily Dickinson Archive (EDA) provides high-resolution images of manuscripts of Dickinson’s poetry, along with transcriptions and annotations from selected historical and scholarly editions. This first release focuses on gathering images of those poems included in The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Variorum Edition, edited by R. W. Franklin These manuscripts vary from ‘scraps’ written on envelope flaps and pieces of wrapping paper; to drafts; to finished poems sent to friends or copied into the manuscript books called ‘fascicles’.”

A few of the nicest features of the site are the ability to keep a notes page for yourself, create your own reading list of poems, and download the images of Emily’s manuscripts.

The archive site links out to the Emily Dickinson Lexicon.

From that site:

“The Emily Dickinson Lexicon (EDL) is a comprehensive dictionary of over 9,275 words and variants found in the collected poems. Visitors to the website may search the lexicon to view alphabetical entries that consist of a headword with its inflected forms, part of speech, etymology, webplay, and definitions

“Her ‘loved Philology’ presents a close-knit diction that she crafted with allusions, ambiguity, antithesis, circumlocution, definitions, figures, idioms, kennings, metaphors, neologisms, polysemy, puns, symbols, and synonymy.”

That site also has the complete Noah Webster 1844 American Dictionary of the English Language.

N.B.: None of Emily’s works bore her signature

Here are two of my favorite poems by this astonishing individual:

While it is alive
Until Death touches it
While it and I lap one Air
Dwell in one Blood
Under one Sacrament
Show me Division can split or pare—

Love is like Life—merely longer
Love is like Death, during the Grave
Love is the Fellow of the Resurrection
Scooping up the Dust and chanting “Live”!

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There is a solitude of space
A solitude of sea
A solitude of death, but these
Society shall be
Compared with that profounder site
That polar privacy
A soul admitted to itself —
Finite infinity.

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