Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Shakespeare

Our Conversation Moves through Grammar toward Learning and Magic . . .

We’ve been having a conversation on this blog for 5 of the last 16 days—every Monday and Wednesday… Blog Conversations

The last go-round went into the shades of meaning of two phrases and how they lend themselves to explaining different approaches to our experience of reading.

I ended up saying:

Reading, with concentration and empathy, will help you escape into books as well as escaping with books—you can live inside the book; and, you can internalize the book’s world to help shield you from
“The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune…

Which lead on to two comments, the first from Australia, the second from England (I’m over here in the U.S.A.…):

“The only grammar I learnt at school came from learning a foreign language. I learnt how to write by reading a lot and then under the care of a wonderful teacher, who, every day of my school life, asked for a paragraph of creative prose from each member of the class. We always wrote it in class and then read out what we had written. One day a student stood up and asked: ‘Why do you make us write such unhappy pieces?’ The teacher smiled and said: ‘I have never given you any topic to write about. You have written what you are feeling.’ It was true: we were confused adolescents. We escaped into our own little worlds and the rest of the class escaped into the small worlds we had created…we had never heard of transitive or intransitive :-)”

“I suppose I knew about transitive and intransitive when I did A level English but those phrases about books can be interpreted just as well without understanding grammar. After a while some readers just seem able to feel how to write, and read, without knowing too much grammar, which is why the new emphasis on grammar rules in Junior School English is a waste of time. By all means teach punctuation and discuss nouns, adjectives and adverbs, but what else do most people need? I agree with reciting tables (and poetry). Children will find that useful when, like me, they have forgotten most of the grammar they learned at school.”

So, before I add to the conversation proper, I’ll explain the title of this post—Our Conversation Moves through Grammar toward Learning, and Magic . . .

I got “learning” and “magic” from the etymology of Grammar:

“late 14c., ‘Latin grammar, rules of Latin’, from Old French gramaire ‘grammar; learning’, especially Latin and philology, also ‘(magic) incantation, spells, mumbo-jumbo'”


Both of those comments (from Australia and England) came from accomplished authors…

The first noting that grammar was only an experience related to learning a foreign language and the second putting grammar in the closet of things not worth a tremendous amount of attention…

I’ve even heard, from an English teacher in college, that the grammar we use in English is taken directly from Latin—weird, eh?

Yet, the first commenter brought up a glowing remembrance of writing creative paragraphs (an implied use of grammar) and the second made reference to understanding the structure of language by Feel, through experiencing it, while forgetting any grammar learned…

I am certain there are folks who spent many hours of their lives studying grammar, and continue to think about it for hours, and use what they learned and pondered—building a written piece from its bare skeleton out—applying the flesh as a mere necessity to hold the bones…

And, there are a flock of folks who are somewhere between that last group and our two accomplished authors…

Then, there are the crowd who one might call language fundamentalists—blowing themselves up in public over rigid ideas of what words are for…

Sure, there are some who write things poorly—concatenations nearly impossible to read—swerving all over the highway of meaning…

And, finally, those who put words down because something Magic, deep inside, moves them to relate creations that can enspell us into other worlds…

So, from confused and sad adolescents, pouring out their hearts, paragraph after paragraph, to those who’ve “forgotten” their “grammar” yet still tell stories—moving through Grammar toward Learning and Magic…

By the way, my favorite definition of Magic, from the Oxford Dictionary of English is:

very effective in producing the desired results

I’m sure I’ll eventually move away from so much etymologizing…

Still, once again, we’ve had some sort of “conversation” here…

And, if you feel like adding your thoughts and/or feelings to it, do, please, leave a comment :-)
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An Evolving Blog-Conversation . . .

Books inside you I first announced I’d be trying to stimulate Conversations on this blog back on February 12th

Two readers actually made comments that led to my post on Feb. 14th

This was followed by a response to one commenter on the 19th

And, because of that same commenter, I was able to respond, carrying the conversation further on the 21st

I should mention to readers just arriving here that these conversational blog posts are on Mondays and Wednesdays (and, in around 17 weeks, also on Fridays...).

I reblog on the other days; but, if the conversational format keeps working, we could have them more often…

And, as I indicated, something else happens here on Fridays, for awhile yet—the Story Bazaar

So… Books inside you

There was a comment on that post on the 21st—it relates to the post’s title—Escaping with Books ~ or ~ Escaping into Books—and, here’s that comment:

“In the title of this post the first, intransitive, use of the verb ‘escaping’ means the narrator is escaping from some unnamed threat and is taking the books with them. The second use of the verb ‘escaping’ is transitive so the books then become the object of the sentence and the narrator is actually going into the books to escape from the horrors of the world? Feel free to argue with me. I just felt my brain implode, rofl.”

There’s no way I’ll argue with this reader…

First, I’m old; and, when I was in high school, we learned to diagram sentences—an aid to understanding grammar and syntax…

However, in spite of that learning aid (which I haven’t used in many decades…), my overriding education in those structural elements of language came from omnivorous Reading

And, during the last 7 years of publishing this blog, my research has stumbled over plenty of articles that, for me, seem heavy-handed about what is “Correct” writing…

I write From my vast reading’s “memory” of structure; and, I write To the sound of the sentences…

So, transitive and intransitive can keep their names and I’ll happily comment on that reader’s Interpretation of the two halves of that post’s title…

Escaping with Books = “…taking the books with them.”

Escaping into Books = “…actually going into the books to escape…”

I agree, in principle, with both interpretations.

I do, however, see another interpretation for Escaping with Books:

Perhaps it can mean not only physically carrying a book in one’s escape but also carrying what the book, as a whole, Means to the reader…

I know the books I’ve read with great interest and identification, especially those I’ve read a number of times, are always With me; and, they definitely help me when I need to Escape from the pressure of today’s cultural idiocies—escape while I’m in the very midst of those idiocies


Still in a frame of mind that won’t argue with my reader’s interpretation of “Escaping with Books ~ or ~ Escaping into Books”, I could pose this idea:

Reading, with concentration and empathy, will help you escape into books as well as escaping with books—you can live inside the book; and, you can internalize the book’s world to help shield you from
“The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune…


If I’ve made any sense for you in this post, I welcome Your comments, so I can continue down the road of this blog’s conversational trail………
If you don’t see a way to comment (or, “reply”) after this post, try up there at the top right…
Visit The Story Bazaar
Best Source for “Book Promotion” Ideas
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“The Queen, my lord, is dead.”

Shakespeare obviously holds a high rank in the literary world.

Shakespeare and Macbeth

Image Courtesy of ralu home ~

Even if Shakespeare wasn’t Shakespeare but some other person, that person holds high rank.

Something else obvious—that person’s writing can bore many people and has inspired many more…


I’ve been holding on to an article since April and today seemed like the right time to share it.

It appeared in Poynter.

It was written by Roy Peter Clark, writer, editor, writing instructor, and senior scholar and vice president of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies.

The article’s title is The Shakespeare sentence that changed my writing – and can change yours .

As usual, I’ll only excerpt a bit of it to encourage you to take the link and explore it fully…

After a warm introduction to the play that quote appears in—Macbeth—and his personal involvement with it, Clark introduces his fascination with Shakespeare’s sentence:

“This obsession began with the realization that Shakespeare did not have to write the sentence that way. He had at least two, if not three other choices:

• The Queen is dead, my lord.
• My lord, the Queen is dead.
• And if the messenger had been Yoda of Star Wars fame, Macbeth may have had to deal with: ‘Dead the Queen is, my lord.’

“As you examine those three alternatives, recognize that there is nothing ‘wrong’ with them. All four versions stand up to the scrutiny of Standard English, even though Yoda’s version seems awkward and eccentric. In all four sentences, the six words are the same. They just roll out in a different order.”

Then, he gives his reasons for why “The Queen, my lord, is dead.” is the best:

  • A momentous announcement, the death of a queen, is made public in six quick words.
  • The sentence has a clear beginning, middle, and ending – praise be to commas!
  • The subject of the sentence – “The Queen” – appears immediately. Any sentence with such a beginning carries important news.
  • The least significant element in the sentence “my lord” appears in the middle, the position of least emphasis.
  • The slight delay between subject and verb holds a nanosecond of suspense.
  • The most important phrase, “is dead,” appears at the end, the point of greatest emphasis.

Again, I encourage you to go read the full article, since it’s much more than a lesson in the construction of sentences…

Plus, if you do read the whole thing, you’ll discover what Clark says about William Faulkner :-)
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Poetry and Painting on Google Plus :-)

You can check out my thoughts and feelings about social media on this blog.

As it stands now, I’m only utilizing Google Plus, though I do consider blogging a form of “social media” :-)

I met a woman on G+ named Lena Levin—eagerly look forward to her posts and the Luscious images of her paintings

This image, from the Sonnets In Colour portion of Lena Levin’s blog, is her rendition of
Shakespeare’s Sonnet 10: Sonnet 10: Shall hate be fairer lodged than gentle love?

For shame deny that thou bear’st love to any,
Who for thy self art so unprovident.
Grant, if thou wilt, thou art beloved of many,
But that thou none lov’st is most evident:
For thou art so possessed with murderous hate,
That ‘gainst thy self thou stick’st not to conspire,
Seeking that beauteous roof to ruinate
Which to repair should be thy chief desire.
O! change thy thought, that I may change my mind:
Shall hate be fairer lodged than gentle love?
Be, as thy presence is, gracious and kind,
Or to thyself at least kind-hearted prove:
Make thee another self for love of me,
That beauty still may live in thine or thee.

This woman is quite prolific and doesn’t just paint Shakespeare; though, she does have a separate site called Shakespeare in colour.

She recently wrote a post called, Rainer Maria Rilke. Letters to a Young Poet.

Let me give you a few excerpts (which I, personally, feel relate to All writers):

“…I want to focus on one particular thought, which appears in the very first letter… Quite a common situation, played out a gazillion of times both in real life and in literature: a young artist addresses an older one with the ultimate question, ‘Am I a poet? Should I be doing this? Am I any good?'”

“…Rilke gives what seems like the only possible answer: don’t seek the answer to this question from the outward world; rather, look deep inside yourself.

“…this obviously presupposes the existence of some other you, different from the you who asks; this other you knows the answer, you just have to listen to it.”

“Why should one take its ‘answer’ as the ultimate truth?”

I’ll leave her argument there

She expounds some fascinating ideas in the full post and I do hope you click through and read it :-)

One last thing I’ll do is share another of her paintings:
Lily buds
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