Rufus Wainwright Sings Sonnet 20, Happy Birthday to the Bard

Rufus Wainwright en un concierto en Madrid en ...

Rufus Wainwright , Madrid ,2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not only is it St. George’s Day today, and the night before Poem-in-your Pocket Day, but it is also the birthday of William Shakespeare. Well, it may not be the exact day, but it’s pretty close since he was apparently baptized on the 2 6th of April. Willy would be 450 years old today, but you probably already know that since the internet and airwaves have been full of Shakespeare quotes all day.

So in honor of the Bard we bring you a sonnet, only fourteen lines so it’s the perfect size to take with you on PIYP Day tomorrow. This one was sent to me by a good friend today and I thought it might be a unique way for us to celebrate here on the blog. I’m not sure if I’ve had any of Rufus’s music on the Dad Poet before, but I definitely should in the future.

You’ll find the text below this video of Rufus Wainwright who put the sonnet to music. According to my friend Jody he did about 10 of these for an opera company in Germany but only recorded a small handful of them. She was lucky enough to hear him play all of them at Carnegie Hall two years back, just Rufus, the piano and William Shakespeare set to music. Would love to have been there myself.

Happy St. George Day; Happy William Shakespeare Day and Poem-in-your-pocket Eve!

SONNET 20

A woman’s face with Nature’s own hand painted
Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion;
A woman’s gentle heart, but not acquainted
With shifting change, as is false women’s fashion;
An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth;
A man in hue, all hues in his controlling,
Much steals men’s eyes and women’s souls amazeth.
And for a woman wert thou first created;
Till Nature, as she wrought thee, fell a-doting,
And by addition me of thee defeated,
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
But since she prick’d thee out for women’s pleasure,
Mine be thy love and thy love’s use their treasure.

–William Shakespeare

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Flashback Friday, Matthew MacFadyen Does Poems

matthew_macfadyen

Matthew Macfadyen (Photo credit: mundo Floser)

I know, the recent trend is Throwback Thursday, but as a poet, I just cannot do it. Too many other meanings to “throwback.” When I was a kid dad took us fishing, and the fish that were too small got thrown back. I cannot help associate throwbacks with things that are not worth keeping, things that must be tossed away as insufficient. Sorry, that’s how my mind works, despite the latest lingo.

I prefer to Flashback, old-fashioned as that sounds in the oh-so-hip world of the interwebs. Be happy that I don’t Flashdance. That would be a disaster, though it would probably be a viral sensation: Poet/Blogger Flashdances to Yeats! Now, that’s an idea. . .

Anyway, yesterday it was a delightful discovery to me to find a video of Samuel West performing a Tom Vaughan poem called “Proposal.” Click back and check it out. It’s only a minute and it’s a treat. Hopefully I’ll be able to find them on CD somewhere. If anyone sees the source on Amazon or Ebay or such, please let me know in the comments.

Mr. West got me thinking of these little clips I shared a couple of years back of Matthew MacFadyen dramatizing poems. And let’s face it, Matthew MacFadyen is not a Throwback. He’s what we call in technical fishing terminology a Keeper. There are more to this series, but the only ones I can find on YouTube are the following three, a heartbreakingly beautiful reading of Yeats, an uplifting interpretation of a Shakespeare sonnet, and a fun portrayal of a William Carlos Williams piece.

Enjoy!

 

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A Thursday Love Poem, Samuel West Makes a “Proposal”

It’s the third Thursday of (inter)National Poetry Month and we have yet to indulge ourselves in a Thursday Love Poem. Well, we are overdue, aren’t we? We started this occasional feature back in October with the poem which serves as its flagship piece, “Thursday,” by Edna St. Vincent Millay. If you want to get an idea of what a Thursday Love Poem is here on the Dad Poet, just remember the example Vincent set.

THURSDAY

AND if I loved you Wednesday,
Well, what is that to you?
I do not love you Thursday–
So much is true.

And why you come complaining
Is more than I can see.
I loved you Wednesday,–yes–but what
Is that to me?

The Thursday Love Poem is often not a love poem at all, and when it is it’s certainly not a Valentine’s greeting card verse. Tonight we have a piece written by Tom Vaughn that fits the bill, called “Proposal.” It is performed here by Actor Samuel West. I don’t know the name of the actress, but I’d like to find out. What she does with her eyes in this one minute sketch is award material. I’ll have to do some research to find where this came from.

As usual you will find the poem printed below the video. For a bit more fun, be sure to click on the link in the poet’s name above. I think you’ll enjoy reading his bio, not to mention other poems.

Don’t forget the Related Articles at the bottom of this post! Mine are never auto-generated; I always hand-pick them in order to give you the most bang for your Dad Poet Bucks. This time you’ll find links to three other Thursday Poems you might have missed.

Proposal 
by Tom Vaughan 

Let’s fall in love — 
In our mid-thirties 
It’s not only 
Where the hurt is. 

I won’t get smashed up 
Should you go 
Away for weekends — 
We both know 

No two people 
Can be completely 
All-sufficient. 
But twice weekly 

We’ll dine together 
Split the bill, 
Admire each other’s 
Wit. We will 

Be splendid lovers, 
Slow, well-trained, 
Tactful, gracefully 
Unrestrained. 

You’ll keep your flat 
And I’ll keep mine — 
Our bank accounts 
Shall not entwine. 

We’ll make the whole thing 
Hard and bright. 
We’ll call it love — 
We may be right.

 

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April Snow and Some School Bus Poems

English: Picture of a Flip Mino HD video camera.

Should I add a donate button so I can upgrade my equipment?

Actually, I think we escaped this year with barely a flurry. Wait. I may be speaking too soon, the forecast I’m looking at on my tablet has rain with a low of 28° F this Tuesday and a slight chance of a flurry. And that’s despite a ridiculous summer preview today with a high just over 80. Sigh. I am hoping the rest of the month is just spring. I need some spring, and I have no desire to skip ahead to summer already. Let’s not wish my time away prematurely, alright?

So I mentioned before that last Sunday I was the guest poet at a local historical spot called The Joseph Priestley Memorial Chapel. They do a secular service of music and poetry on the first Sunday of each month and I was lucky enough to be asked in for National Poetry Month.

There was some lovely music on the old pipe organ and the piano by Hope Kopf. We enjoyed readings from the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, Sara Teasdale. Sara couldn’t be there in person though, something about the award having been given in 1918, but my heavens, George Manning, the gentleman who stood in for her, has a marvelous and resonant reading voice!

Next month it will be my dear friend Ann Keeler Evans reading at Priestley. I’ve featured Ann here several times before, including this fantastic street poetry reading for the International Day of the Girl. If you’re in the area, I’ll sit in your pew (That sentence looks far worse in print than it sounded in my head).

In the following video clips I cut out a couple of poems and much of the babble, though there really wasn’t much of that. I’ve attempted to give only a little background, and let the poems speak for themselves as much as possible. Mostly I read from the manuscript I am submitting around for an upcoming chapbook called The School Bus Poems. The second video is a little longer, but the two of them together will take up less than ten minutes of your time. Thanks for indulging me.

It was a fun morning, and one of the first really beautiful days of spring here. No snow, but yes, lilies and crocuses were starting to bloom, right out front of the chapel. So the opening short poem was quite appropriate. I apologize for the background noise, as it is still only a little Flip Mino camera I am using. They don’t even sell those things anymore!

 

 

 

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You Don’t Even Like Poetry, or Do You?

This Week in Poetry, Even for Non-Poets

From "Eating Poetry"

Mark Strand, from “Eating Poetry”

I am truly tickled to see so much being written about poetry during this (inter)National Poetry Month to an audience outside the traditional poetry scene. Often people who claim to dislike poetry merely had a bad experience, likely in high school, as Billy Collins likes to say “the place where poetry goes to die.” But it may be that people who don’t care for poetry have just never had it presented to them well, or that it has been so long that they don’t remember. I could be more cynical about pop culture, but I get so caught up in that hope thing.

Last week the Huffington Post published “7 Poetry Collections for Every Type of Reader.” While that title is ambiguously more expansive than its article delivers, the seven books suggested are indeed appropriately excellent suggestions for various kinds of readers who might otherwise not read poems at all. I give the article a good score for starting with a book of Kay Ryan poems, and including some scraps of images from Emily Dickinson who wrote on everything from napkins to receipts. Bonus points for including the mention of Frank O’Hara’s “Having a Coke with You.”

Also of note was Flavorwire’s “50 Essential Books of Poetry that Everyone Should Read.” Granted, I wish they had included Yeats, and you’ll quickly notice an “essential” favorite of your own that has been left out, but it’s impossible to cover every highlight in 50 books. So if you have books to add to it, I encourage you to write a follow-up post and link to it in the comments. Still, the rationale behind their selections is sound, and you will find many solid recommendations in their list, whether they be for you yourself, or for your friend who thinks he “hates” poems.

Looking Back

Nearly two years ago I wrote a blog post that still gets hits and attention, and shows up in my “most popular” posts stats, so I went to give it a visit today and realized that in the comments there were some excellent points that I seemed to have missed. I don’t know if anyone will get the message that I replied to them two years later, but I just couldn’t help myself.

The post entitled “Why (Even We) Hate Poetry” was an extension of this discussion started by J. Lynn Sherridan on her blog Writing on the SunTo boil it down we mainly discussed two extremes of the poetry world, or maybe I should say what passes as poetry. First we agreed we hated what she called “goobery poetry.” Here’s what she had to say about that:

I hate rainbow poems unless they’re for kids or all in fun. I hate bubble bath poetry. I hate reading a poem and feeling like I need to scrape the sentiment off with a spatula.

It took me the longest time to figure out why. I think it’s because some poems just don’t ring true. A love poem can be beautiful but it must sound sincere and authentic. Not contrived.

But we also seemed to agree that while poetry takes some effort to really grasp as opposed to simply enjoying a passing listen, we also hated the idea of difficulty for difficulty-sake poems, especially when in an attempt to avoid over-sentimentality are so stand-offish as to feel completely without guts or soul. Here is a bit of what I had to say about that:

I am not against difficulty or challenge. But the challenge and difficulty like all aspects of art should be appropriate to the art at hand, and not be difficult just for the sake of difficulty itself. It’s that arrogance that I read in some of these modern philosophical pieces that pisses me off. You can almost hear the poet saying, “Hah! I bet that you won’t get that, and anyway you’ll need a dictionary to read my writing, because I just proved I’m smarter than you.”

This sort of thing seems to be less prevalent than I recall from the workshops and early slams of the late nineties and 2000s, but I am still puzzled by how frequently I read in very reputable and respected literary journals poetry that is so. . . I don’t know, lifeless? I don’t wish to contribute to the anti-elitist cliché, but the flowery ornament of intellect and thesaurus is, when it comes down to it, just as fake and flat, just as horrible and unlovely as the flowery sap of insincere greeting card sentiment.poultry

Even if the form is precise, the language lovely, the music, the meter, the sound. . . there must be some sense, something in it that pulls or kicks at our gut, or am I missing the point of art? My point is that both saying something and saying it splendidly are important. Even the nonsense of Lewis Carrol and Kenneth Koch has an emotional sense, that for lack of a better description, feels right, or surprises while it fulfills. The language must say something, even if it is ambiguous, that moves us, and it must say it in a way that recognizes itself as language (to borrow favorite professor Stephen Whitworth‘s phrase). Good poetry is not merely form and intelligent language, not merely a word-puzzle, but also a human event, even if only a small one.

I really like the way RKHouse put it:

I don’t look for a poet to impress me that he is smarter than me. There are a lot of people who are smarter than me that can say things that are difficult for me to understand. I look for a poet to impress me that he has more artistic imagination and vision and has the power to make me wonder how long it took to work with all those words in order to tell that story and at the same time make it rhyme or have rhythm or alliteration. Impress me by being able to work at multiple levels and bring it all together in ways that leave me standing bowed over in humbled wonder at the beautiful artistry of the act of creation.

And I would like to add that the reward should be worth the effort put into the task. I don’t want to bust my knuckles open breaking into a safe only to find a five dollar bill, unless that five dollar bill is somehow the most beautiful five dollar bill the world has ever seen, or maybe it’s the first five dollar bill that my father ever earned at the business that supported our family through difficult times.

Ah, but there it is, sentiment again. Why are poets afraid of it? Probably because most don’t do it well; it comes off as false or preachy, immature, and it’s delivered without skill or ingenuity. Maybe it is cliché, stated in words we’ve heard it over and over. So make it new, as Pound said. But don’t give up the human part of the humanities. Poetry is more than mere artifice.

In a recent blog post that I will try to come back to this week, Scott Edward Anderson put it this succinctly: “Poetry should be neither a Rubik’s cube nor a road sign.” I perhaps should have quoted him and left it at that. 

Nebulous Promises for the Week Ahead

I have mentioned that I want to share with you some of the many exciting things happening for National Poetry Month for both writers and readers, but there is just so much of it, and so much I’ve been catching up on myself. I will attempt to link up to a few of the folks I admire in hopes that you’ll enjoy the ride and maybe find a bit of inspiration for your own self there, whether it be to write or to enjoy the reading.

Speaking of reading, someone in  one of the above discussions that I linked to had mentioned the importance of reading poetry out loud. I have done some readings in the past of poets whose work I adore (maybe a hundred and forty on YouTube, and I think more than fifty on Soundcloud). Since this is the first NPM in a while that I haven’t directly participated in the challenges, either of sharing or composing, I promise to repost a few of my favorites.

And since a dear friend of mine promises to sick the “old Nazi” Ezra Pound on me for turning it into a verb, “Poem on!”

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Barbara Brownskirt Sets the Example

National Poetry Month

National Poetry Month (Photo credit: djwudi)

I tried to reblog this video the other night, but for some reason the video wouldn’t play so I had to delete it. When I went back to find it again, I lost track of what blog I had found it on in the first place, so I don’t know if the technical problem ever got solved. So whoever you are, if you are reading this now, thank you so much for introducing me to this brave lady, this “Poet of the People,” as she is called (by herself as best I can tell).

I don’t know where she is from exactly, as she just burst on the scene from the masses of humanity about two months ago, as far as I can tell from her YouTube channel, to become the writer in residence at bus stop 197.

On this (Inter)National Poetry Month many of my friends are engaging in multiple variations of the NaPoWriMo challenge to write a poem a day for the whole month of April. Do you wonder where there inspiration comes from? Does it baffle you how they do it? Well, Barbara Brownskirt shows us in the following video how it’s done. She lives and breathes her poetry morning to night. This is how the poets do it. This is Barbara Brownskirt, Poet of the People.

 

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National Poetry Month Readings

View of my town.

View of my town.

Well, I said I’d try, right? And if you don’t remember what I said last time, or don’t know what I mean, it’s just as well. Remember how I said I hate to apologize about not posting when I could be posting?

So how goes National Poetry Month in your neighborhood? It’s now becoming international poetry month, officially with Canada taking part, and unofficially with countless others all over the globe joining in the celebration.

So since I have not yet started to share the great stuff my friends are doing on WordPress and elsewhere for the thirty-day festival of lines, why not tell us a bit about what you are up to?

Tomorrow morning I’ll be “guest poet” at the historic Priestley Chapel here in my hometown of Northumberland. I’ll be reading poems from my (hopefully) first chapbook, The School Bus Poems. The manuscript is finished, aside from a few tiny edits I made in pencil today as I poured over it at the sub shop. It’s going out to several chapbook contests, so wish me luck; send good vibes; light a candle, however you try to bribe the powers that be. I don’t mean about the reading; I’m a ham, so I’ll be fine. I mean about the publication.

I’ve been doing months of research now, reading, catching up on what literary magazines and poetry journals are out there, what styles they like, and whether they might be interested in my work. I’ve also been researching various poetry contests, and first chapbook awards, and their previous recipients. It’s been fun and engrossing getting out of my shell, though it’s put me into a bit of a different kind of shell, one that involves reading more than writing, so I’m coming down off that egg (hey, some metaphors sound better in your head than they look in print, don’t they?) and not only editing and polishing my previous work, but writing new poems as well.

I think by now I have at least two other chapbooks worth of material. It seems that the popular thing now, what most chapbook competitions are looking for is a “project,” a body of work that is thematic. Luckily the skeletons of such themed projects are just falling together from twenty years of obsessively writing about my obsessions, but with enough variation to keep them from becoming too predictable I think. My plan is to have two or three out there vying for editors’ attention in hopes of getting one of them published this year. Big dreams, yeah, I know.

Brian and I at Poetry Under the Paintings.

Brian and I at Poetry Under the Paintings.

I’ll also be reading again this week with my favorite bunch of poets at Faustina’s Gallery in Lewisburg for the April Poetry Under the Paintings gathering. If you are local and haven’t popped in yet, we’d love to see you. You are not required, but encouraged to read. And the poems you share need not be your own. Feel free to read whatever you like. We just get up one person after another and read a poem at a time between bouts of friendly applause and a shared love of poetry read aloud. We normally go through the circle at least thrice.

And that is happening on Thursday, the 10th of April. Usually we meet every second Thursday, and you can follow that on our Facebook page. Next month PUP will be celebrating our two-year anniversary and we’ll be planning something special for that. Don’t ask me what, as it will spoil the surprise. Okay, and yes, you’re right, I really have no idea yet what that surprise will be. But don’t you see how that makes it all the more surprising?

Okay, back to my previous question; what are you doing to celebrate National Poetry Month? Go on and brag and share and spread the joy in the comments.

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