Alas, Postumus, the swift years slip away. Those words are one translation of the opening line of the 14th Ode in the second book of Horace’s carminas, or songs: Eheu fugaces, Postume, Postume/labuntur anni… * For me, it’s his most moving piece, a bittersweet acceptance of mortality; the inevitability of age and death. Something no one in his or her sixties cannot help but think about. And about which Horace wrote several times. Many of Horace’s poems are moving; very … click below for more!
Horace and Me, subtitled Life lessons from an Ancient Poet, is a recent book by Harry Eyres (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 2013) about his efforts to connect the dots of his modern life to meaning via the ancient circuitry of a classical Latin poet. It attracted me because these past few years I have been reading such classics – albeit without the classical education or Latin learning of Eyres and other writers who have recently returned to the Latin and Greek authors. Any … click below for more!
These old bones; You wouldn’t think they’d cut a rug jitterbug dance between the rain drops but once I could. Once I did. Danced to the music, lover in hand, that time in the park when we didn’t care laughing in the face of the storm. The rain, the wind, splashing in the grass. The music was all in our heads, our breath, our hearts beat with the tunes we sang inside. I remember every line, every lyric. These old … click below for more!
Among my collection of many (many!) vintage song books and song sheets, I have a bundle of patriotic music from WWI. I was browsing through them again this week and found several songs written and published during the war, either as songs for the soldiers (usually cheering them on to war or hoping for their safe return) or songs for those left behind to express their patriotic fervour. I thought it might be appropriate to show some of them to … click below for more!
I was perhaps 11 or 12 when I first encountered Oscar Wilde’s play, Salomé. Some of it, at least. At the time, I knew nothing of Wilde, his writing, or even much about theatre in general. After all, I was in grade seven or eight. It would be a few years before I encountered (and developed a passion for) Shakespeare and other playwrights. But Wilde I actually discovered first. Faced with the dramatic challenges of their own – my mother was either … click below for more!
Today, March 21, is World Poetry Day. Do you care? Not that I’m cynical about poetry – I think it’s important stuff. Poetry is far more important than, say, hockey. The Kardashians. The Oscars. The budget. The latest iPhone or iPad. A cute puppy or kitten video on Facebook. The latest anti-science fad. Or fad diet. It’s even more important than the US election. But that’s a hard sell to a culture with the average attention span lower than that of a … click below for more!
One hardly expects poets to generate spirited debate in the media these days*, but they did, not that long ago, well within my own lifetime. Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) was one of those who sparked great, passionate emotions in people, for both his writing and his leftist politics. And in his own country, Chile, he was the equivalent of a rock star for many years. Even his 1971 Nobel Prize for Literature was controversial: the award noted Neruda was a “contentious … click below for more!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQTRX23EMNk I’ve been reading a biography of Leonard Cohen, recently: the 2012 I’m Your Man, by Sylvie Simmons. It’s an interesting journey through the life and thoughts of an exquisite artist who is, by nature, somewhat reclusive and stays out of the spotlight, but is deeply dedicated to his art. I don’t normally read “star” bios or autobiographies – frankly they often seem contrived and the lives portrayed, no matter how gussied up in prose, merely shallow. Most of them I categorize as … click below for more!
Even though our local uke group, CPLUG, is not currently meeting, the songbook has not died. I have updated it with new arrangements and made a few editorial changes to the older content this past fall and winter. I, of course, continue to play the ukulele every day. If you don’t know this songbook, it’s a mix of more than 100 tunes ranging from traditional folk music to the 1980s, most of them arranged by me, with some that include … click below for more!
I was surprised to read a recent piece in the New York Post that suggests a poem I have long loved was actually not what I thought it was about. It was one of those epiphanies that made me reassess my attitude not only towards the poem but towards what I had assumed it meant. The poem is Robert Frost’s famous piece, The Road Not Taken. You might remember it as “The Road Less Travelled” by which it is sometimes … click below for more!
Last weekend, while watching the delightful movie, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, I heard Bill Nighy make a wedding speech that included lines from one of my favourite poems: Ulysses by Alfred Lord Tennyson. I recognized it immediately and it made me open the poem and read it again. The poem was written by Tennyson in 1833, but not published until 1842. I can’t recall exactly when I first read it, but it was in high school, in the 1960s. … click below for more!
Most of Don Marquis’ Archy pieces were written in lowercase. The literate cockroach, we learned, would stand on the typewriter and dive, head first, onto the keys. But this way, he couldn’t use the shift key to get capital letters or punctuation (he did get capital letters, once, when Marquis left the shift-lock on the machine one night; Archy wrote about it in a 1933 piece called ‘CAPITALS AT LAST‘). But I’ve always felt one of the best pieces to … click below for more!
I see a lot of silly folks who claim their own small spine’s Sumeru, the sacred mountain that supports the universe. Piss ants, gnawing away at a noble tree, with never a doubt about their strength. They chew up a couple of Sutras, and pass themselves off as Masters. Let them hurry and repent. From now on no more foolishness. This is poem XI* from Master Shih Te, a hermit on Cold Mountain; contemporary of and close friend to the Tang … click below for more!
April is National Poetry Month in Canada. I don’t know if this gets widespread acknowledgement much less appreciation among the public and in the schools, but it should. Poetry is an important part of our cultural lives, although it seems to me our collective passion for it has waned over the past few decades. I blame MTV, video games, rap music, Stephen Harper and cuts to education budgets. And maybe the phase of the moon. Whatever the cause, we seem … click below for more!