One-Minute Book Reviews

February 19, 2009

The Myriad Reasons Not to Eschew Anthony Thwaite’s Witty Send-Up of the Rules for Writing in ‘A Move in the Weather’

Filed under: Poetry — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 4:44 am
Tags: , , , ,

Poems about poetry are often a sign that a poet is running out of gas. Two irresistible exceptions appear in A Move in the Weather (Enitharmon, 2003) by the British poet Anthony Thwaite, co-executor of the estate of Philip Larkin.

The first poem — ironically titled “Untitled” — wonders why writers so often fail to write the great works they believe they have in them. It concludes: “You know how it goes, you even know the title, / But an act of making / Is an act of breaking.”

The second poem is even better. “The Art of Poetry: Two Lessons” sends up the unofficial rules of writing poetry in a pair of sonnets that break the rules for the rhyme, meter, structure and development of sonnets. The first “lesson” begins:

Write in short sentences. Avoid
Unnecessary breaks. Strictly control
(Or totally eliminate) the adverb.
Eschew such words as “myriad” ….

These poems work partly because of their wit and because they are about more than poetry. Isn’t every “act of making” — in life as in literature — also an “act of breaking”? And Thwaite satirizes the rules imposed on all kinds of writers, not just poets. In the first sentence of this post, I broke a rule that journalism students defy at their peril: Don’t use the same noun or variations on it three times in a sentence. Some of their professors would say I should also have killed that cliché “running out of gas” and that “even” in the third paragraph. If you’ve read this far, doesn’t that tell you something about whether Thwaite is on the right track?

Read more about Thwaite and hear him read at the Poetry Archive www.poetryarchive.org/poetryarchive/singlePoet.do?poetId=36.

A Move in the Weather is available from the Poetry Bookshop Online www.poetrybookshoponline.co.uk/book-template.asp?isbn=1900564580.

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.twitter.com/janiceharayda

June 26, 2008

Why Isn’t Poetry Ever ‘a Good Read,’ Entertainment Weekly? Books the Magazine Left off Its List of ‘The New Classics’

Filed under: News,Poetry — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 2:00 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Isn’t poetry ever “a good read”? Entertainment Weekly has published a list of “The New Classics: The 100 Best Reads From 1983 to 2008”
www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20207076_20207387_20207349,00.html that I wrote about earlier today. An obvious omission deserves a post of its own: EW includes no poetry on its list of the “100 Best.”

My choices for the list would include Collected Poems: Philip Larkin (1989) by Philip Larkin and Anthony Thwaite, Richard Wilbur: Collected Poems 1943–2004 (2004) by Richard Wilbur and Late Wife: Poems (2005) by Claudia Emerson. What others should have appeared on it?

How many of you, for example, would like to send EW Larkin’s “This Be the Verse,” which begins: “They fuck you up, your mum and dad. / They may not mean to, but they do.”? Many sites purport to give the full text of the poem, but because most of those I looked at are either misquoting or plagiarizing it, I won’t link to them. But “This Be the Verse” appears in the Collected Poems, which is widely available at bookstores and libraries.

Update at 3 p.m.: Just to give a more prominent place to a point I make in the comments on this post: EW might have acknowledged the existence of poetry by listing Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (1990). I dislike the oxymoronic phrase “instant classic” — which I have criticized on this site — but if ever a book has proved that it deserves it, it’s this one. I left Oh, the Places You’ll Go off my earlier post only because many Dr. Seuss books are better, including Horton Hatches the Egg.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

January 3, 2008

Good Poems for High School Students (and Maybe for Yourself, Too)

Break, break, break,
On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
The thoughts that arise in me.

From Alfred Tennyson’s “Break, Break, Break”

By Janice Harayda

Looking for good poems for a teenager or for yourself? You’ll find them at Poetry Out Loud www.poetryoutloud.org, the home of National Recitation Project, a nationwide competition that encourages high school students to read poetry in class and elsewhere.

Teenagers who enter the contest must choose from among the 400 new and classic poems posted on Poetry Out Loud, which gives the full text of each and a short biography its author. Students can select work by fine contemporary poets such as Kay Ryan and Yusef Komunyakaa or warhorses like Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson (identified as “the famous hermit of Amherst, Massachusetts”).

Poetry Out Loud is also a good site for teenagers and adults looking for poems to read on their own (which you can find by clicking on “Find a Poem” in the “For Students” category). You might start with one of Alfred Tennyson’s best poems, “Break, Break, Break,” the first lines of which appear above. This brief lament for a lost friend has elements that may appeal to the most reluctant readers, including rhyme, clarity and a strong rhythm. “Break, Break, Break” also deals in part with a theme that’s easy for teenagers to identify with – the difficulty of expressing deep thoughts and feelings. And because it comes from a great English poet of the Victorian era, many students are less likely to have read in it in school than the work of American poets such as Frost and Dickinson.

Furthermore: “Break, Break, Break” is a great tool for teaching teenagers about poetry because it is relatively easy to read but uses many techniques found in more challenging poems, including assonance, repetition, alliteration, and onomatopoeia. The first three words are an example of three-syllable foot with three stresses, known as a molossus.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

December 7, 2007

‘The Supreme Christmas Poem in the English Language’ Is … Quote of the Day (Reynolds Price)

This is the Month, and this the happy morn
Wherein the Son of Heav’ns eternal King,
Of wedded Maid, and Virgin Mother born,
Our great redemption from above did bring …

From John Milton’s “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity”

What is “the Supreme Christmas poem in the English language”? This must have been more of a stumper than I thought, because I asked the question Tuesday, and nobody got it right. I may have thrown you off by saying I’d give an American writer’s answer when the poem wasn’t written here. (Oh, sons and daughters of Cambridge! Where were you when a fellow Cantabrigian needed you?) The novelist Reynolds Price argues – and many others would agree – that the poem is John Milton’s “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity.” Price says of Milton and his poem:

“The most powerful early component of his genius became visible in December 1629. While on the winter vacation from his studies at Cambridge, he wrote his initial indispensable poem, an ode ‘On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity.’ It was, almost certainly, the result – only two weeks after his twenty-first birthday – of his eagerness to exhibit a first fruit of the high calling he sensed within himself. And in the freewheeling rhetorical rapture which pours out memorable phrases in joyous profusion, in its complex musical urgency, and its unquestioned Christian sense of God’s immanence in nature, the ode continues to be the supreme Christmas poem in the English language.”

Reynolds Price in an essay on Milton in the just-published Literary Genius: 25 Classic Writers Who Define English and American Literature (Paul Dry Books, $18.95, paperback) www.pauldrybooks.com, selected and edited by Joseph Epstein with wood engravings by Barry Moser. Price, the poet and novelist, is the James B. Duke Professor English at Duke University www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reynolds_Price.

The first lines of Milton’s poem appear at the top of this post. You can read the annotated full text in the Milton Reading Room on the Dartmouth College site http://www.dartmouth.edu/~milton/reading_room/nativity/index.shtml. Please note that on this template I can’t indent the lines as Milton did.

Did you know the answer to Tuesday’s question? An easy way to become better acquainted with Milton’s poetry is to go to the free site Cyber Hymnal and listen the hymn “Let Us With a Gladsome Mind,” which you can hear by clicking on this link: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/l/e/letuglad.htm. (You will hear the music immediately when you click.) The words to “Let Us With a Gladsome Mind” come from Milton’s poem with the same title, which he wrote when he was 15. You can read the poem and listen to the music simultaneously at Cyber Hymnal www.cyberhymnal.org, which also offers at no cost the words and music to thousands of other hymns, including religious Christmas carols.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

http://www.janiceharayda.com

July 20, 2007

Shocking News in Poetry! Philip Larkin Chases Harry Potter on WordPress News Front Page

Filed under: Poetry — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 5:00 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Can a dead English poet continue to hold his own against the boy magician?

Just looked at the top 50 posts of the day in the Entertainment category on the WordPress News Front Page www.news.wordpress.com … and here is a shocker. Philip Larkin is holding his own against Harry Potter. Fourteen of the top Entertainment posts on WordPress (including the top two) deal with the final installment in J.K. Rowling’s series. But clocking in at #42 (at about 3:45 p.m. Eastern Time) is the quote of the day from Larkin on One-Minute Book Reviews www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/07/19/. Larkin actually came in ahead of two of the Harry Potter posts. This can’t last, so if you’re a poetry-lover and could use a little cheer, check out the WordPress News Front Page now.

I don’t usually mention it when One-Minute Book Reviews makes it into one of those categories like “top blogs” or “top posts,” because it usually happens when I do a post on somebody like Mitch Albom, and I don’t want to depress you by pointing that out. But today may be the first day I’ve gotten there for a post about a writer I actually like, one of the great English poets of the 20th century (who earned his living as a university librarian). I may owe this partly to a nice link from Bookslut www.bookslut.com. Is a counterreaction to Potter mania already setting in?

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

The Rubric Theme. Blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 372 other followers

%d bloggers like this: