Monday, October 28, 2013

A Poet You Should Know - Anna Akhmatova

Anna Andreyevna Gorenko, better known by the pen name Anna Akhmatova, was a Russian modernist poet, and is one of the most acclaimed writers in the Russian canon.
Why is she not better known to readers outside Russia? Because she was a woman? Because she died during the cold war and we just didn't pay attention? Even today it is difficult to find information online about Akhmatova. Either her work is not typically studied in the west, or the research and papers are not widely published. 
Akhmatova's work ranges from short lyric poems to intricately structured cycles, such as Requiem , her tragic masterpiece about the Stalinist terror. Her style, characterized by its economy and emotional restraint, was strikingly original and distinctive to her contemporaries. 
(Primarily purloined from The Source of All Things Knowable)

They Didn’t Meet Me
They didn’t meet me, roamed,
On steps with  lanterns bright.
I entered quiet home
In murky, pail moonlight.
Under a lamp’s green halo,
With smile of kept in rage,
My friend said, “Cinderella,
Your voice is very strange…”
A cricket plays its fiddle;
A fire-place grew black.
Oh, someone took my little
White shoe as a keep-sake,
And gave me three carnations,
While casting dawn eyes –.
My sins for accusations,
You couldn’t be disguised.
And heart hates to believe in
The time, that’s close too,
When he will ask for women
To try on my white shoe.
Anna Akhmatova

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

you're divine! said me

I love ee cummings
and I'm not exactly repulsed by tom hiddleston. 

mr. hiddleston's voice? 
sweet as bourbon, thick as wood smoke, deep as a blush.

and tom hiddleston reading this poem? aural sex.

Click to listen

may i feel said he - ee cummings
may i feel said he
(i’ll squeal said she
just once said he)
it’s fun said she
(may i touch said he
how much said she
a lot said he)
why not said she
(let’s go said he
not too far said she
what’s too far said he
where you are said she)
may i stay said he
(which way said she
like this said he
if you kiss said she
may i move said he
it is love said she)
if you’re willing said he
(but you’re killing said she
but it’s life said he
but your wife said she
now said he)
ow said she
(tiptop said he
don’t stop said she
oh no said he)
go slow said she
(cccome?said he
ummm said she
you’re divine!said he
(you are Mine said she)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Down Through the Chimney Comes Wotan

No poetry today but, instead, a bit of interesting history and mythology.

Recently I've been reading The Saxon Stories. A book series by Bernard Cornwell about the Danish invasion of Britain.

As you might imagine - if you had a lot of time on your hands and few, if any, hobbies - many references are made to Odin, the Norse god of war...and poetry.

The story goes that Odin, father of Marvel comics hero Thor, exchanged an eye for a long pull from the Well of Knowledge - and the gift of poetry. Which made me wonder if Odin had any daughters besides The Valkyries.

Because, let's face it, if you're going to have father issues, Poppa might as well have control over victory, death and wisdom...which sounds like a great short story...which led me, as it always does, to The Great Online Repository of all Things Mostly Accurate

There I found something seasonally-appropriate and crazy interesting: modern day Santa Claus is actually modeled after Odin:

Santa Claus is said to be largely based on Odin, merged with the Christian legend of Saint Nicholas of Myra. Most Christmas traditions in Germanic countries derive from celebrations of the pagan winter solstice holiday Yule as a result of the gradual merging of the two holidays.
Odin was recorded as leading a great Yule hunting party through the sky. Two books from Iceland... describe Odin as riding an eight-legged horse named Sleipnir that could leap great distances, giving rise to comparisons to Santa Claus's reindeer. 
(Furthermore) children would place their boots, filled with carrotsstraw, or sugar, near the chimney for Odin's flying horse, Sleipnir, to eat. Odin would then reward those children for their kindness by replacing Sleipnir's food with gifts or candy. This practice, she claims, survived in Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands after the adoption of Christianity and became associated with Saint Nicholas as a result of the process of Christianization and can be still seen in the modern practice of the hanging of stockings at the chimney in some homes.

Who knew?
Need a bit more timely geek goodness? Here's a tie-in with Gandalf:
In a letter of 1946 J.R.R. Tolkien stated that he thought of Gandalf as an "Odinic wanderer." Other commentators have also compared Gandalf to Odin in his "Wanderer" guise – an old man with one eye, a long white beard, a wide brimmed hat, and a staff.

Just to tie it all up neatly with a bow on top, Tolkien wrote a poem that beings in a familiar way.

Ho! Ho! Ho! To the bottle I go
To heal my heart and drown my woe
Rain may fall, and wind may blow
And many miles be still to go
But under a tall tree will I lie
And let the clouds go sailing by.

― J.R.R. TolkienHo! Ho! Ho! To the Bottle I Go, a poem found within the chapter, "A Shortcut to Mushrooms" from The Fellowship of the Ring.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Poppies and Dumplings

And there it is - nine days into Nablopomo we scuttled our own best efforts to achieve optimal success. (Failed)

But we're going to push forward here at Righteous Polka. Just because we're no longer in contention for a wreath of laurels - or jpg Badge of Completion - doesn't mean we give up. We have nothing if not a fighting - some might say combative - spirit.

Which brings us to today, Veterans Day in the U.S. and Remembrance Day in British Commonwealth countries.

A little background for the history-averse: On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month an agreement, The Armistice, was signed by The Allies and Germany, signaling the end of World War One.

"At 11 a.m. on 11th November 1918, the guns of the Western Front fell silent after more than four years continuous warfare.

Originally the day was known as Armistice Day but was renamed Remembrance Day after the Second World War." A war, you'll remember, also lost by Germany.

The strange thing is that I'm in Germany today, where St. Martin's Day (Martinstag/Martinmas) is celebrated on 11 November, and the focus is on goose and dumplings, not on poppies and wreathes and memorials.

And that feels surreal.

It isn't strange because I usually walk around with a paper poppy tucked into my coat lapel (Americans appreciate the tradition but don't follow it) or because I'm Outstandingly Patriotic.

It's the sitting here, with and among the descendants of the Other survivors and casualties of both World Wars. The soldiers whose military lives we watch, dramatized and reenacted on The History Channel.

Those Guys. The Bad Guys. Who, in reality, were not bad. The vast, vast majority of them were scared kids, following orders, just like our guys, The Good Guys.

Here I sit and watch children, grandchildren, great-great grandchildren go about their Sunday business presumably oblivious to the non-goose-related meaning of today and I wonder: When do they venerate their war dead? I have no idea. Just as they, probably, have no idea.

Yeah, completely surreal.

The City's Oldest Known Survivor of the Great War
By James Doyle
marches in uniform down the traffic stripe
at the center of the street, counts time
to the unseen web that has rearranged
the air around him, his left hand
stiff as a leather strap along his side,
the other saluting right through the decades
as if they weren't there, as if everyone under ninety
were pervasive fog the morning would dispel
in its own good time, as if the high school band
all flapping thighs and cuffs behind him
were as ghostly as the tumbleweed on every road
dead-ended in the present, all the ancient infantry
shoulder right, through a skein of bone, presenting arms
across the drift, nothing but empty graves now
to round off another century,
the sweet honey of the old cadence, the streets
going by at attention, the banners glistening with dew,
the wives and children blowing kisses.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Alabama Poet Laureate

This week Governor Robert Bentley commissioned Andrew Glaze, former Pulitzer Prize contender, as the state's Poet Laureate. Glaze will serve a 4-year term beginning in 2013.

About him, Robert Frost wrote, “I have high hopes for Mr. Glaze.” 

You see? Not all Alabama poetry is set to music...unfortunately Mr. Glaze is actually (shhhh!) a native Nashvillian, but graduated from Ramsay High School in Birmingham.

I wanted to post one of his poems, but cannot location one online.

And I can't hold my eyes open. So this is it. The lamest post of Nablopomo. 

You knew it had to happen eventually.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

With Me

It seems that every hobby, passion and special interest is shared and supported by a community.

Either online or in person, fighting beetle breeders, carved egg shell collectors and noodlers congregate and compare notes. They share tips and tricks, war stories and rare finds.

People who play with words are no different. Loathe as I generally am to get involved with organized anything, I find that I love spending time with other word people. Word people who are better with words than I am. Wordsmiths.

One of the loveliest, kindest, most generous and clever wordsmiths I know is Brooke. She recently married a truly good guy and wrote this poem for their wedding ceremony - and she has deigned to share it with us.

Brooke is a colleague and a friend, and this is her submission to Righteous Poetry Month.

by Brooke Bullman

Come walk with me
by the low unbroken fields
up the trail to wild wood
through the sand on gray rain beaches.

Be with me
in the light of every morning
in stony rivers cold and pure
in mountain balds of laurel, azalea, and sun.

Talk with me
while dinners are made
gold buttons are stitched
and children are held and soothed.

Stay with me
beneath dark new moons
down dim and lonesome roads
and through adventures lost.

Go with me
to the places on our lists
off the pale and sleeping maps
to thresholds of unimagined dreams.
Together we’ll go.
Places new, old, dark, bright, misty, unknown,
Go with me there—
together we are home.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day Prose

Everyone is busy watching exit polling this evening - present company included - so  let's take a quick look at a poetry format that doesn't require much explanation.

Free Verse is the great equalizer of poetry. It demands no meter, no rhyme and no specific pattern. Even if you have a tin ear and can't dance you can write a free verse poem.

Free verse is not my favorite format, but as a fan of the pragmatic I appreciate the straightforward way it tells a story...especially on Election Day when everyone is looking for  little less B.S.

My Mother Goes to Vote
By Judith Harris

We walked five blocks
to the elementary school,
my mother’s high heels
crunching through playground gravel.
We entered through a side door.

Down the long corridor,
decorated with Halloween masks,
health department safety posters—
we followed the arrows
to the third grade classroom.

My mother stepped alone
into the booth, pulling the curtain behind her.
I could see only the backs of her
calves in crinkled nylons.

A partial vanishing, then reappearing
pocketbook crooked on her elbow,
our mayor’s button pinned to her lapel.
Even then I could see—to choose
is to follow what has already
been decided.

We marched back out
finding a new way back down streets
named for flowers
and accomplished men.
I said their names out loud, as we found

our way home, to the cramped house,
the devoted porch light left on,
the customary meatloaf.
I remember, in the classroom converted
into a voting place—
there were two mothers, conversing,
squeezed into the children’s desk chairs.