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Tag: Poetry

Review; Romantic Circle’s “Poets on Poets”

“Poets on Poets” is a complementary page to the highly praised scholarly website Romantic Circles. The blog is monitored by editors Tilar Mazzeo and Doug Guerra, who are affiliated with their parent website, published by the University of Maryland. The blog is also available as an iTunes podcast consisting of 144 poems. The project aims to connect contemporary poetry with that of the Romantic period, accomplishing the task in a unique way. The audio archive contains downloadable mp3 files consisting of modern poets reading some of their favorite poems from the age of the Romantics. The posts not only answer the question about what contemporary writers are reading from this period but how, “The Poets on Poets project is an audio archive that testifies to the continued importance of Romanticism in the contemporary poetry world.  The premise of the collection is simple: we have asked practicing poets from around the world to read a Romantic-period poem that they particularly admire and that has influenced the way in which they think about their craft.”

Along with the recording is text which might mirror that of the original author’s version or might not. The depth of analysis available thus becomes not only questioning why these modern writers chose what poems they read, but also questioning why they might have chose the particular stanza or stanzas to focus on. As a result, readers not only see what writers are still being inspired by, but the intricacies that go along when someone converts a poem into spoken verse, making it into more of a presentation than simply lines on a page. The resource is for anyone, including scholars or just casual fans of poetry. The site is fully functional but seems to have slowed down considerably in the past few years. What I have found to be really cool and interesting is the ability to assemble many of my favorite poems into a playlist on iTunes in which I can listen to whenever  I like.  All of the poems are accessible to the public without any type of subscription fee, making it a great resource for English teachers who want their students to not only see the lasting effects that Romanticism has had on the present day, but to actually hear it as well. Without this resource it would be somewhat difficult to ask contemporary poets who they currently read from this particular canon, something that I personally have thought much about. Many of the poems we have read for class are available in the archive making it readily apparent that the authors we currently enjoy are also alive and well to countless others in the 21st century.

Some of my favorite posts are John Casteen reading “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey” by William Wordsworth,  and V. Penelope Pelizzon reading from William Blake’s “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”.  The preface to the site by Jerome McGann is all about recitation as fine art, and uses quotes from authors we have studied in class, including one from Shelley that I particularly find to be insightful; that poetry “redeems from decay the visitations of the divinity in man,” and “Poets on Poets” surely aids in this resurrection as well.

-gH

(One addition in light of our current reading)

After reading “When I Have Fears” again and remembering how much I love it…

http://www.rc.umd.edu/editions/poets/mp3/mcnair_when.mp3

http://www.rc.umd.edu/editions/poets/mp3/salerno_when.mp3
(^this one is amazing)

http://www.rc.umd.edu/editions/poets/mp3/shankar_when.mp3

-gH

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Shelley and Mont Blanc; Existential Connections

In preparation for my upcoming essay I wanted to start pinpointing my thoughts on Shelley’s intricate poem “Mont Blanc” or Lines Written in the Vale of Chamouni. What makes this poem fascinating is the way in which the sublime connection of all things, something that in class we have had a lot of meaningful discussion about, is portrayed as a force that will at some times bring a person to a state of ecstasy (when they think of their own place in it all) but  may also throw people into a state of despair when they come to realize that although everything appears connected, our minds are isolated in our own thoughts on how this is so. The existential strain that runs through this poem is hard to overlook;

Thou art the path of that unresting sound –

Dizzy Ravine! and when I gaze on thee

I seem as in a trance sublime and strange

To muse on my own separate phantasy,

My own, my human mind, which passively

Now renders and receives fast influencings,

Holding an unremitting interchange

With the clear universe of things around;

That although we may at times see a crystal clear pattern with the way in which life huddles around itself, there is also a powerful force that drives us into the darkness and solitude of our own minds. What Shelley begins to do, is to explain this isolation as the result of the limitations placed upon us by language and communication. That we all must display our inner feelings like a painter with brushstrokes, or a carpenter with wood. Language becomes simply metaphor, and as a result we are lost in the translation. Shelley puts his poetic talents on display by writing about a very chaotic position that man is in, (alluding heavily to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave) but he does so in a way that captures the ineffable quality of his subject matter while at the same time being very calculated with the form, as if he was a madman trying utterly to find a pattern and make sense of it all.

Seeking among the shadows that pass by,

Ghosts of all things that are

The difficulty going forward will be the question of how one must discern between Shelley writing about the beauty of the landscape, and the just as aesthetically pleasing way he writes about how his mind is simply an apparatus translating it all. I want to find out exactly what Shelley is saying about man’s position in the universe in relation to how his contemporaries defined it. What makes him different? What does Mont Blanc hope to accomplish philosophically? Socially? What about the existential nature of some of his lines? Do you agree with me that Shelley appears to be a modernist in the 19th century? And finally, what exactly is the “voice,” of the mountain? what are the Alps telling him?

-gH

Xanadu and the Love of Isolation

Samuel Taylor Coleridge seemed to have quite an afternoon when he wrote one of his most interesting and famous poems; Kubla Khan. What is thought to be words inspired by a laudanum daydream, turns out to be a poem about the isolation of the human mind amidst the unlimited powers of it’s facility; imagination. He writes,  “A stately pleasure-dome decree Where ALPH, the sacred river, ran Through caverns measureless to man Down to a sunless sea,” (670) which to me is reminiscent of the garden of Eden in which Adam and Eve enjoy holy pleasures of the natural world while at the same time being isolated to any form of humanity outside of themselves. What this implies is that Kubla Khan, who seems to be an alias for the universal Man, is building his own garden in which he may escape to, so that in turn, Coleridge himself is commenting on his own escape into the euphoria that accompanies opium, as well as the pleasure that constitutes the psychology of Dream. In more simple terms, Coleridge seems to find something holy and good in the escape unto his imagination. The vision is “A savage place! as holy and inchanted As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted By woman wailing for her demon-lover!” (670) savage probably meaning wild or ungoverned (according to the OED) or primal, helping the interpretation that this place is a form of reversion unto a more original kind of human good; that of the isolating nature of the human mind, something of unlimited imagination filtered and harnessed as a place only the dreamer and poet can truly see. As readers we are in awe at the beauty of endless rivers and sunless seas but only Coleridge has experienced this vision. However, the pleasure-dome is similar to images that everyone experiences in dream, linking the independent object of poetry with the independent objects of the rest of humanity’s dreams. The woman wails for her demon-lover, who represents the dualistic nature of man’s dissonant mind; demonic while at the same time good and loving. Coleridge finishes the poem with, “I would build that dome in air, That sunny dome! those caves of ice! … And close your eyes with holy dread: For he on honey-dew hath fed, And drank the milk of Paradise,” (671) positing that this dream was religious and the same time terrifying, for the imagination lets loose an awful power that is at the same time beautiful and down right scary. That drinking from the milk of paradise is unloosening the infinite power of man’s creative energy by escaping into an isolation that is so incredibly beautiful that it becomes almost impossible to accurately portray to a reader.

I recently watched a movie by Wes Anderson, called Moonrise Kingdom that echoes some of the ideas presented above. It is a love story between two younger children who run away from their families to a nature that is sublime in it’s beauty. The pair eventually reach a beach that is apply named Uncharted Cove in which they share their first kiss. It is not until the end of the movie that you realize that they have placed rocks on the beach that from the air reads “Moonrise Kingdom,” and that the community that retrieves the pair decide to remove the cove from the map of the island. This area of love is the main character’s own Xanadu, in which the cove becomes their own “dome of pleasure,” that only they have truly experienced. I became reminiscent of the poem because the isolation occurring with love is an isolation that two entities share, just as Kubla Khan’s Paradise is at the same time a connection to the natural world and a escape into the dreadful beauty of the human experience and psyche.

Does this reading remind you of the idea of Pantisocracy that we learned at the beginning of the course? What about dreaming connects one to one another? What I fail to talk about here is the anxiety of empire and the fact that this place Coleridge makes in his dream seems oriental, so do you agree with my Garden of Eden-type reading or is it more about the anxiety of empire? Watch Moonrise Kingdom sometime, it’s a wonderful movie made by a UT alum and let me know if you think that Uncharted Cove is in the same style or trope that many poets (including Coleridge) and utopian writers seem to really like talking about. And finally what does the milk of paradise seem to represent?

-gH

The life of things within the sylvan Wye

Until the breath of this corporeal frame, And even the motion of our human blood Almost suspended, we are laid asleep In body, and become a living soul: While with an eye made quiet by the power Of harmony, and the deep power of joy, We see into the life of things.”

Wordsworth beautifully writes in “Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey,” of the nature and relationship between man with the world around him. I am heavily reminded of Emerson’s idea of how one becomes closer to “God,” by retiring to the seclusion of Nature and in what Wordsworth states as a “blessed mood,” becoming a Transparent Eyeball. What this means is that mind and body are not at all disconnected and because “God,” is something of the mind and since our bodies are contained within Nature but not limited to Nature then as a result man can become one and filter consciousness through a medium that is a intricately a part what it is conceiving. But really this is all just fancy talk for the idea that poetic purpose is not simply an aesthetic matter of meter and rhyme but in essence is the way in which man comes closer to their own form of “God,” which for Wordsworth and the Transcendentalists is nature contained within the heart of man. It seems quite clear that these “elevated thoughts; a sense sublime,” is the end result of introspection upon the mechanisms of love and the blissful recordings of man coming to terms with his own limitations of consciousness because of mortality while realizing that his spirit will rest eternally with the corporal feeding of the Divine Nature around him; that which will exist long after the poet is gone. Poetry thus becomes a blueprint for how man can come to terms with his eventually death by remembering that he is not only alive within the thoughts and memories of human beings but also that if Nature may lay us asleep in body and our thoughts can be made quiet by the power of harmony we in a sense have nothing to fear when only our body passes into the infinite but our mind remains transparent to the language that is the “God,” of the natural world.

What then is the true purpose of this poem and what are it’s rises and falls? Does this philosophy seem practical or is becoming a Transparent Eyeball really just superfluous imagination thinking that humans are anything more than animals? Or does being an animal that can think prove that whatever we may make a supported argument about is in essence true? Is “God,” within us? Did we create him so that he could be within us? Or is mind and body separate thus making “God,” a third party to the existence we have made upon the lonely planet Earth?

-gH

Wordsworth and the Art of Decay in “Old Man Traveling”

On the Principal Object of Poems;

Low and rustic life was generally chosen because in that condition the essential passions of the heart find a better soil in which they can attain their maturity, are less under restraint, and speak a plainer and more emphatic language: because in that condition of life our elementary feelings co-exist in a state of greater simplicity, and , consequently, may be more accurately contemplated, and more forcibly communicated; because the manners of rural life germinate from those elementary feelings; and, from the necessary character of rural occupations, are more easily comprehended: and are more durable; and lastly, because in that condition the passions of men are incorporated with the beautiful and permanent forms of nature… because such men hourly communicate with the best objects from which the best part of language is originally derived.”

Wordsworth clearly wishes to return to a primal language of humanity. In “Old Man Traveling,” it is the tranquility and decay of the animal that rests in his verse. This is not to say that Wordsworth considers humans base, or simply animals with a mind, but that to really create an impression upon the reader, poetry must present philosophical multiplicity wrapped up into a single, simple image of man in the throws of mortality. But why not focus upon the spontaneous overflow of emotion? Well he is, it is just not the emotion that one might think would accompany what I will call the “daffodil,” form of poetry. “Old Man Traveling,” strikes to the heart; the birds regard our subject not, for he is dead inside with the dying of his son, and nature must reflect upon this true condition of man. That we are utterly alone yes, because even our children may die in the hospital of Falmouth, but that as a result we are together in our isolation. Wordsworth accomplishes a clear picture of the chaotic communication between men and their world, while at the same time using this impact of symbolism to subdue our dwindling patience and composure so that we may learn to love a “peace so perfect that the young behold with envy, what the old man hardly feels.” The profit thus becomes unfiltered emotion, in the form of filtered tranquility and decay. This profit is a feeling of isolation, that reminds oneself that the translation of Death is the same for everyone, and in this we are together.

What do you guys think of the form of this poem? It seems one of the only ones from Wordsworth does does not have a easy to recognize meter or rhyme scheme? I think this poem is beautiful, but do you agree, I mean its pretty sad stuff, but sometimes that is the best example of human beauty, right? or better yet, do you agree when I say that Nature, in this poem, seems to wrap us in the warmth of her blanket only to whisper in our ear that the birds are busy pecking, and we are busy dying? Is that to pessimistic, or is there relief in knowing that the object of our journey is exactly to humble ourselves upon the love of our lowliness? Finally, Wordsworth writes often of the purpose of poetry, what is the purpose of this poem?

-gH

A Green Echo

Blake’s plate for Echoing Green

William Blake’s The Ecchoing Green is a poem towards the beginning of Songs of Innocence and of Experience. Besides being absolutely beautiful, the poem makes a statement about the song we call Life. The poem begins with the rising of the sun, which “make happy the skies.” The natural world’s awakening mirrors that of the people inhabiting it. “The sky-lark and thrush, The birds of the bush,” are metaphoric images for humanity which allow for the speaker of the poem to echo in the hearts of man very similarly to how poetry of Walt Whitman affects me. By weaving words together in a circular fashion, the cycles of every day life become a larger narrative as to the connection of reader and poet; or more simply man to man; alluded to in the lines, “They [old folk] laugh at our play, And soon they all say, Such such were the joys, When we all girls & boys, In our youth time were seen, On the Ecchoing Green.” The land becomes an eternal theatre, evergreen in the rise and fall of human action. The poem completes with the setting of the sun “our sports have an end,” and “like birds in their nest,” darken into seclusion as the green itself is deprived of sunlight. The play completes, and the curtain falls, only to rise again as the sun in the morning and man finds himself on his circular path around the heavens and the lowly oaks.

What kind of mindset does this poem put you at the beginning of Songs? Why might Blake wish to put you in that mindset? Do you (Whitman fans!) see a stylistic and philosophical similarity with this poem? Does the art for this poem help or hurt my interpretation of the poem? And finally, do you (Cummings fans!) see importance in how the color green seems to seep through the lines of this poem? Joan Baez sings All In Green Went My Love Riding

ALSO, I noticed that Bob Dylan’s A Hard Rain Is Gonna Fall has the same structure as Sir Walter Scott’s Lord Randal, it is well known that Dylan loved the Romantic Poets, (Keats is know to be a huge influence on him) so it makes sense that he would mimic Scott, and I wanted to write about why he might have, but I thought it might be important to know if you guys like Dylan, just so I feel that analyzing his lyrics will actually contribute to the larger efforts of our linked blogs. So do you think Dylan intentionally chose this poem because it’s message matches that of the song’s, or is it simply a stylistic tool?

-gH

Chasing Sublime Existence

Before advancing to the material I have been reading for class on Tuesday, I wanted to return to a sonnet that we read on our first day of class by Samuel Taylor Coleridge because I think it highlights an interesting juncture in Romantic thought where authors were deciding whether to deal straight up with the problems of a society in tumult or to push it all away and live a life of sublime ignorance along the banks of the Susquehanna River. In Pantisocracy (1794) Coleridge lays out a new social contract, one to be constructed under the poetic pretense that the political world of Europe had up to this point only created a society of servitude and oppression. The answer for Coleridge was a fascinating form of Romantic Escapism that was built around the idea of Paradise and Utopia, reminiscent of the Puritan colonization of America in which they believed that they were creating a new form of Eden. This egalitarian experiment was, for Coleridge, a chance for humanity to avoid the pitfalls of social and political movements like the French Revolution in which Reason and the Rights of Man were being murdered by the brutality of the Guillotine. The poem is as follows;

No more my visionary soul shall dwell
On joys that were; no more endure to weigh
The shame and anguish of the evil day,
Wisely forgetful! O’er the ocean swell
Sublime of Hope, I seek the cottag’d dell 
Where Virtue calm with careless step may stray,
And dancing to the moonlight roundelay,
The wizard Passions weave an holy spell.
Eyes that have ach’d with Sorrow! Ye shall weep
Tears of doubt-mingled joy, like theirs who start 
From Precipices of distemper’d sleep,
On which the fierce-eyed Fiends their revels keep,
And see the rising Sun, and feel it dart
New rays of pleasance trembling to the heart.
 

Coleridge sent this sonnet to fellow Pantisocrat Robert Southey in September 1794 but by the winter of 1795 the plan had all but collapsed under economic strain and philosophical impasse. But I think the idea is quite important for our class moving forward. Specifically for our definition of the sublime and our attempt to answer the question of whether or not literature should be used to shape the political world or to escape from it.

The new rays of the rising sun, bathing the Pantisocrats in the mind of Coleridge, reflects an idea that within poetry there is a small crevice in which one may crawl into and feel the warmth of what I will call Divine Nature; Love and Paradise in the imagination, trying to manifest itself into a Utopia formed to avoid the pains of life. Those that seemed to stem from human Reason, Revolution and Bloodshed.

The Romantics were true visionaries. There is no doubt about it. But was leaving England really the only choice they had? Is it better for writers to live in what they considered to be a toxic social system and attempt to find a way to inspire change or is the only answer chasing a new form of Sublime Existence?

-gH

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