Wednesday, 21 July 2010

An older attempt...

Clear links between people
are unlikely to develop without
obstacles; obstacles mean a storm
through which love...

Grows beyond the horizon, a part from the sea.

It bends and falls and bends
and yet, the reflection in the mirror/
mirror the in reflection the
seems unaltered. To me.

and to You? I guess. Despite
your reflection, your rosy cheeks
and enticing lips will fade
and Time in his ship will repossess

I love still and all love still and love is still.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Jealous women

Something random inspired by a trip to the National Portrait Gallery and the odd placing of portraits of Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots together.

The body of a weak and feeble woman left me many centuries ago,
But my heart remains,
Trapped within a canvas, behind the glass,
never defined in life by man,
No Dudley, no Alencon, No Anjou,
Even my father gave up that ghost

but always and forever by her,

In the frame next to mine

I have majesty, she mystery
I command this room, I dominate
the landscape and yet...

the faceless multitude stare at us both
Seeing me in the context of her,
They change in height and dress
We never do
They glance - slightly fearful at me
Whilst they smile at her

Does she still manage the magic?
The sensual charm from her darkened eyes?
Does she draw even these men to the enseamed sheets of her luxurious bed?

Would they kill for her?
Would they die for me?

I remain here
Always aware
as in life
of her majesty, of her sisterhood, of her divinity

I'll feel it seems forever the fall of the axe at Pontefract
Can she feel the sword on the neck of my mother?

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Heathcliff? Hero or Villain?


I am bound to come back to this over and over and over again because Wuthering Heights is my favourite novel. Just wondered about the general consensus on Heathcliff. Several questions;

1. Does he really wish he'd dropped Hareton?

2. Is his treatment of Isabella softened by Bronte's depiction of her as an idiot?

3. Does he commit necrophilia with Cathy's body?

4. Does the fact that he gives up on causing destruction towards the end means he is softened by Hareton and Cathy's relationship?

5. Does he cause Cathy's ghost to haunt the moor by his complaint at her death?

What do people think?

This is and always be my novel for making me feel better - if you've never read it, do so now, borrow my copy! Seriously... xxx

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Something more simple?

If I miss you

Softly, quietly

                  Would you rather you didn’t know?

If I want you

Before, after

                 Should I make sure you never know?

If I ask you

For honesty, intimacy

                Could it be that you can’t reciprocate?

Or should I just understand that you won’t?

Donne - poet or musician?

I believe this is a photograph taken of a port...Image via Wikipedia
I have just found this ( whilst doing some reading about John Donne and thought it was a really interesting way in which to look at his poetry. I am not at all musical, nor do I know a lot about Donne - who is someone I always intend to read more by -  but even without that expertise I can see the benefit of viewing some of his poems in this way. Whilst it is unlikely that the sonnets were set to music - partly because of their traditional form and partly because they contain their own lyricism, I do think that the use of questions frequent in lots of Donne's poetry - Woman's Constancy ( or the rhythm in the poem explicitly labelled Song ( encourage it to have a similarlity to the musical verse used by Shakespeare, for example, in Twelfth Night.

Also, having just finished Stanley Wells' 'Shakespeare: Sex and Love' he makes a lot of the idea that a 'little death' is a pun on an orgasm - if this is true does it offer other interpretations of Donne's already heightened sexual imagery - in Holy Sonnet X for example? (
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Monday, 12 July 2010

This was a recent collaborative effort but still a draft...

Soft Day surveys the silken ribbon’s final trail of light

And mourns the inevitable call of Night's alluring charm

The virgin resolve undeterred now as fingers of darkness

begin to trace the stars across the streaked and barren sky

Rebellious shadows move closer, the whispers of engulfing dark

the shameful liaison appeased by the familiar velvet caress

Yearning hands part the firmness of light's faded

lines and encroach upon the space hard and taut beneath

The patrolling moon surveys the now familiar scene

with a seductive wink that closes in a breathless sigh

The seeming slightest touch and the barely quivering clouds

Enough to provoke excitement in his cold and distant loins

At last! She falls and her capitulation welcomes chaos plunging in

The smooth and silken filament frayed by thrusts

of liquescent gold that darkens in the overpowering stream

And disappears behind the crimson sinful thread of maiden’s blood

Sunday, 11 July 2010

English Exams - Getting Easier?

Really interesting... Will have to decide what I think and come back to it though:

Romeo in love?

So I am currently reading Stanley Wells' 'Shakespeare, Sex and Love'  ( Not only does he show the unbelievable knowledge that makes him the pre-eminent Shakespeare scholar of modern times but it is incredibly easy to read. He does assume a certain level of knowledge from his readers but in all honesty I'd hate it if he didn't.( I still prefer Jonathan Bate - not sure what it is about his style but it makes me think he's the one I'd want to share a bottle of Sauvignon with.)

My dilemma is two fold. I am not sure yet how I feel about his interpretation of the sonnets (although his discussion of the lyrical poems - Venus and Adonis etc is really convincing) and therefore will probably come back to those at another point. More frustrating though is his convinction that R&J deserves a whole chapter on the basis that it is the play that deals with the concerns of love at the most impressive level in Shakespeare's canon. I am in all honesty shocked by this. I can't believe that Wells believes R&J to be an exploration of anything other than teenage hormones amazed by the novelty of lust. Whether Shakespeare himself included autobiographical elements in his plays is a topic too big for most of us to seriously comment on with any authority but it is true that he married a woman eight years his senior, having already got her pregnant, so it is logical to presume he knew about teenage sexual encounters. In my view, R&J is a story about obsession, infatuation and desperation - but not love. Shakespeare, as Wells acknowledges, opens the play not with the romantic sensibilities of finding 'a new heaven, a new earth' but instead with the bawdy exchange about maidenheads and naked weapons from Sampson and Gregory - not an auspcious beginning. He goes on to introduce a Romeo who mourns not just for the lack of Rosaline's fair touch but more for love itself. It is easy to see Romeo as a character who is in love not with his fair maid but with the idea of being in love. It is love who makes 'misshapen chaos from well seeming forms' not Rosaline herself and it is love that Romeo, at his most passionate, chastises. In Tom Stoppard's witty 'Shakespeare in Love' he has Joseph Fiennes playing the role of Shakespeare tell the actor who is playing Romeo that he can't give too much of his passion away in these early scenes before he even meets Juliet- but arguably this is exactly what Shakespeare did. The imagery of Act 1, Scene 1 where Romeo notes that 'Love is a smoke raised with the fume of sighs/Being purged, a fire sparkling in lovers' eyes;/Being vex'd a sea nourish'd with lovers' tears:' is replaced when he finally gains Juliet's approval with an analogy to schoolboys and their books - hardly an image containing the same level of intensity  (whilst usefully drawing our attention to Romeo's youth and inexperience.) Later in response to  the direct challenge put to Romeo about the fickle nature of his affections by Friar Laurence, the protagonist's reply is the difference between Juliet and Rosaline is not how he feels about them but 'she whom I love now/Doth grace for grace and love for love allow;/The other did not so.' So his commitment to Juliet is not more permanent or stronger than the feelings he had for Rosaline - they are just reciprocated. Rosaline never even appears on stage (at least in the original text - although many modern productions include her at the party scene,) so it beg the question 'why bother to include her?' The only argument surely, is that she illuminates Romeo's character and what we learn through this is that he is a fickle and melancholic young man who tends to  obsess over the idea of love rather than the reality of it.

In response to the criticism that Romeo's suicide can be taken as a testament to his feelings for Juliet - again I would point to the style in which Romeo makes this decision as well as the context. The dramatic pace Shakespeare needs at this point in the play may justify the convenient entrance of the apothecary but Romeo shows less doubt than Juliet when she is  drinking the friar's potion - from which she believes she will wake up. This again displays the impetuous nature of his character but also an awareness of the situation in which he now finds himself. Romeo has been banished from Verona (and presumably can not go to his family for help - although this remains ambiguous) , his reputation (which we know from Capulet's words earlier was pristine) is ruined and he is responsible for the death of both his best friend and his wife. Irrespective of whether life might be worth living without Juliet herself, it seems that this is a low point for other reasons too.

If Shakespeare really wanted to write the 'greatest love story of all time' then he could have attempted to do that (and arguably got closer with other plays) but what he gives us in R&J is an exploration of the idea of infatuation - intense, beautiful no doubt but fleeting and in its essence, youthful.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Has sex always sold poetry?

Just a quick thought but I'm reading 'Wildly Dangerous' by Catherine M Andronik. It's an introduction to the big 5 Romantic poets, aimed primarily at teenage girls (I'm guessing.) It details the biographical histories of Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, Byron and Shelley with some of their most famous poems inbetween chapters. It's quite well written considering the audience and has some nice 'human' touches but primarily it relies on the salacious details of the lives of these particular men - lots to choose from I know. Two thoughts initially struck me:
1.) I could write like this and it might be really good fun although not sure how much of a market there is out there - any ideas?
2.) These were really good anecdotes for getting my students interested in the poets next time I teach them - in the same way I use those about Shakespeare or Owen.

However, the second point made me realise that I was equally at fault as the writer of this book. Is it not enough to let the words of Byron or Shelley sell themselves? It is not as though the Romantics didn't make much of this element of the human condition in their writing, so why is it that I feel that I need the content of a tabloid newspaper to capture the imagination of their modern audience before I allow the words to do it? After all, 'She Walks in Beauty' ( remains one of the most amazing pieces of writing ever.

I could try to justify my behaviour by saying that all literature or in fact all topics need a human element to sell it but poetry by its nature is a reflection of humanity - especially that of the Romantics. So why does this remain the case?

Has poetry lost its mass appeal? Or is it more likely that the Romantics were famous then because they wrote poetry that reflected those same salacious stories? Or is poetry always about sex?
It's the Guardian but some useful stuff...

Getting Started

Essentially this is the opportunity for me to stop boring the people who would like to stay my friends and invoke literary discussion from the wider world (and implicitly within that some people who like poetry.) I feel there are important questions to be answered, such as:

1. Why did Shakespeare feel the need to include Pirates in Hamlet and then not allow us to see them?

2. Where was Byron in Stoppard's Arcadia?

3. Did Marlowe really try to put a dragon on stage in Dr. Faustus and if not, can we try?

4. Does anyone actually want Offred to escape at the end of Handmaid's Tale?

5. What was the curse in The Lady of Shalott?

6. Why in the world did Julia want to sleep with Winston in 1984?

7. What was the response of Duffy's lover to being presented with an onion?

8. Did Heathcliff kill Hindley? And why does that mean we don't love him any less?

9. Why did Stoker kill off the most charismatic character in Dracula? And how was it so easy?

10. Does anyone find Chaucer funny?

This is just to start with... thoughts?