Monday, April 24, 2017

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Gerard Manley Hopkins is a name I doubt typical Americans recognize.  What a shame.  The Poetry Foundation calls him one of the top  three or four Victorian poets in the 1800's.
Hopkins recreated poetry as we know it.  He was unknown until nineteen years after his death.  What editors called "his strange, difficult new poetry" was an insurmountable obstacle for the vast readership of his day, and only three poems were ever published in his lifetime, and those by a dear friend.  How can a poet equal to Shakespeare and Dunne be so obscure?

He was torn between Christian duty as a Jesuit priest and warm, linguistically brilliant abilities as a poet.  He was an original master of poetic intensity, and yet depressed for much of his life, writing his so-called "Terrible Poems" from 1885-1889, but all the time wrestling with his piety and his natural craving to write perfect poetry.

He died in obscurity, but his inspired work became a "Hopkins Cult" through the 1930s and 1940s.  His versatility and artistic intentions made him desire the "wilderness of life," the wildness of the written word.  Does anyone reading this want an incredible adventure today?  Pull up Gerard Manley Hopkins and fall into a mystical, reverent frolic with the English language. -Karen

The Best Poems of the English Language  , edited by Howard Bloom, contains a selection of Hopkins' work, as does The Norton Anthology of Poetry.  Online, The Poetry Foundation is a wonderful resource on Hopkins, one of many poets collected there from around the world,  and Interesting Literature offers an article that collects ten of his best poems along with short analyses of each.  

Sunday, April 23, 2017

In Honor of William Shakespeare's Birthday: Sonnet 130

Please enjoy this superb reading of Sonnet 130:  "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun--" in honor of the Bard, born on (or near) this day in 1594.  The actor is Ian Midlane, of the BBC's Doctors.    -Barb

The Library's collection hold many Shakespearean treasures! Click here to browse.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Gustave Doré (Illustrator)

Modified Goodreads summary:  "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is the longest major poem by the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, written in 1797–98 and published in 1798 in the first edition of Lyrical Ballads. Along with other poems in Lyrical Ballads, it was a signal shift to modern poetry and the beginning of British Romantic literature. It relates the events experienced by a Mariner who has returned from a long sea voyage. The Mariner stops a man on his way to a wedding ceremony and begins to narrate a story. The Wedding-Guest's reaction turns from bemusement to impatience, fear, and fascination as the Mariner's story progresses.

My review: Great! Especially if you like long poems that tell a story. This is Coleridge's most famous masterpiece, and it has oodles of quotable lines. People quote this every day and don't even know that's what they are quoting.  

"Water, water, every where,

And all the boards did shrink;

"Water, water, every where,

Nor any drop to drink." 

The Ancient Mariner is required to tell his story to specific people - he knows them when he sees them. In the poem, the Mariner is telling his story to a guest at a wedding, and the guest is not very happy about it. I always felt sort of sorry for him, but in the end, the Wedding Guest benefited from the story - "A sadder and a wiser man/He rose the morrow morn". The Mariner wanders on to tell his story to someone else - his penance for killing the Albatross. Please note that this is NOT a cheerful story - it's a horror story at first, with a more or less happy ending. The descriptive verses, and the dialogue verses, flow together to make the tale very clear.

The DorĂ© illustrations are exactly the proper enhancements for the poem; the steel engravings allow fine detail that illuminates ghosts, angels, spirits and corpses perfectly.    -Lynne

The library has both the illustrated edition and an annotated version. Reserve a copy today!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Online Resources for Audio Poetry

For me, poetry comes alive, and becomes more meaningful, when I hear it read, and read well.  Fortunately, it's easy to find resources for spoken poetry online!  Here is a quick overview of some sites you might want to visit: 

Poetry Out Loud  is a website devoted to preparing students for an annual, nationwide, poetry recitation competition.  The site offers tools and examples to learn the art of recitation, and also includes many examples of spoken poetry to guide them, including recordings of poems by their authors or by actors and narrators.

The Poetry Archive is a site funded by the Arts Council of England, and allows you to look up streaming versions of poems, often read by their authors.  Downloads may also be purchased on the site as well, though the Shopping Cart bills in pounds! 

Once these sites have whet your appetite, you might want to explore The Library of Congress' Web Guide to Poetry Audio Recordings, a treasure trove directory of sites featuring poems from around the world. And if you're in the mood for something a little different, check out Poets Reading the News for poetry about and inspired by today's headlines.  This multi-media site features written verse, audio files, and videos that are often very personal responses to the news.  Links to news articles accompany the verse. 

I hope you might have some time to dive into these rich sites during April!   If you do go, please let us know what you think.   -Barb

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe by Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allen Poe has impressed many a reader with his dark, vivid imagery. Poe’s poem,“The Raven”, is no different. In this well-known work, the narrator describes a dark, haunting experience in which a raven taps at his window and watches over him as he sleeps. The bird symbolizes evil and terrorizes the narrator. The last line of the poem is unforgettable. The narrator explains, “And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor shall be lifted – nevermore!” Poe’s poem evokes a spine chill in every reader.

Poe wrote “The Raven” in 1845 and gained world-wide fame from the poem’s publication. As a literary pioneer, he was one of the first American writers to attempt to make a living from writing. He has also been described as the “father of the detective story” due to his use of the concept of deductive reasoning (, 2017).

“The Raven”, “The Fall of the House of Usher”, “The Tell-Tale Heart”, and many of Poe’s other works can be found in The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. Poe has always been a favorite of mine and ranks near the top with modern horror writers such as Stephen King. -- Jennifer

Friday, April 14, 2017

Croutons on a Cow Pie vol. 2 by Baxter Black

Goodreads summary:  Baxter's poems are about cowboys as they are surviving into the 21st Century where horses co-exist with cruise control and computers.

Baxter Black writes very funny poems, and equally humorous vignettes of cowboy life in the 21st century.  Both are very evident in this book.  Black was a large-animal veterinarian in rural Wyoming & Montana; now he describes himself as "full-time cowboy poet, ex-vet, starvin' cattle feeder, and sorry team roper", which pretty well sums up the subjects of his poetry as well.  Pick any page in the book and find entertainment.  He did a poem about using roadkill to make fur coats, to appease those who think it cruel to kill animals to use their skins/hides/fur:

"Make it a habit to pick up your rabbit
don't leave him to dry in the sun
For the sake of a garment, recycle your varmint
It's tacky to just hit and run"

This is his Solomon-like solution to satisfy the fur wearers and the PETA people. It's also hilarious. He also tells you how to tell farmers from ranchers, and has a cowboy's guide to vegetarians. To keep things balance, he also has a vegetarian's guide to cowboys.   If you are looking for some light verse to while the day away, or for an expression of the modern cowboy, Black is the poet for you.  I like his stuff quite a lot.  -Lynne

Reserve this book.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

In honor of Seamus Heaney's birthday: "Blackberry Picking"

Renowned Irish poet Seamus Heaney was born on April 13th, 1939 in County Londonderry, Northern Ireland.  A schoolteacher and lecturer at Queen's University in Belfast, Heaney published his first collection of poems, Death of a Naturalist, in 1966.  In 1995, he won the Nobel Prize in Literature.  His work encompasses themes of nature, beauty, and memory;  here is the author reading his poem, "Blackberry Picking."