Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Barely Libelous Tale of Lie Berries

This idea came to me because of the way that people say the word 'library'. At work we had to refer to multiple libraries. Every day someone would say something about 'lie berries'. After a while I got to thinking about lie berries and what would happen if you ate them.
The poem is not about 'The Library', but notice that I mention eight literary works produced by five different authors.  It's got its own built in Library.  It's the only poem I know that should come with a bibliography.

The Illuminating Tale of Bat Trees

There was a man I used to work with who couldn't say the word "Battery". He called them "Bat Trees". One day he asked for bat trees for his flesh-light. 'Flesh-light' made me think of 'Fireflies'. That's what inspired me to write 'The Illuminating Tale of Bat Trees'.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Giggling about Googling for Zane Poets

"I want to test my strength, my power. But I need restraint."

I open with a quote from Zane Grey because I need restraint or maybe 'restraints'. I wanted to see where I showed up in a Google Search. So, because I didn't want to be too specific, I entered "zane poem" in the search box. I wasn't expecting 6,650,000 results.

The things I learned opened my eyes to a whole world of weirdness. There are dozens of poets named Zane and many of them are women. There's Zane Blythe Dalton, Thomas Zane, Gabrielle Zane, Zane Parks, Frank Zane (the body builder), Zane Jessica Holter, Matt Zane, Zane Parsi, Shafin de Zane, Zane Ivy, Zane Sterling, Zane Grogan, Samuel Zane, Zane Crawford, Tom Zane, Zane Remick, Zane Kunning, Zane Stein, Zane Trae Kearney, Parker Zane Allen, Zane Berzina, Zane Johnson, Serafina Zane, Zane Cabrera, Zane Jacobs, Lisa Zane, Zane Frost and finally a 2nd grader named Zane Henry. I read a review which said the poetry on Steven Zane's new CD is excellent.  So many Zane poets, I never would have thunk it.

David Bowie came into the list with the lyrics to "Buddha Of Suburbia".

Day after
Day after
Day after
Zane, Zane, Zane
Ouvre le chien

Is the last line really translated as "Open Dog" or "Open's the Dog". My French is not that good, but really?

Here's one for the books "The Meaning of Nursing Practice in the Stories and Poems of Nurses Working in Hospitals: A Phenomenological Study" was co-authored by Zane Robinson Wolf. She's not a poet, but it is a book of poems. The topic is a mouthfull.  It's a phenomenological study, I should have got that right away.  I had to look it up.  I made a link.

This next poem comes with a "Parental Discretion is Advised" label. It came up in my Google Search with the quote: "... hard-core, coochie-eating Zane metaphors with screams knocking walls, ..." Drawing a blank on what a "coochie-eating Zane metaphor" might be, I had to go there.
Here is a link to the poem "About Black Men". Seriously, it's nasty.

There still was the question of the "Zane metaphors", so the next eye opener was finding out that there is a woman, named Zane, who writes racy novels. That's where the "metaphors" were coming from. I needed to know that. I already knew there's a porno movie company call the Zane Entertainment Group. So I was already on guard when I found "ZANE'S SEX CHRONICLES POETRY SLAM". "Zane's Sex Chronicles" is a Cinemax TV show. They never called me.

For something a little more reserved try Zane's Poetry Corner. There seems to be no content. Just some advertising and a note saying, "Simple. Put your poetry here." Sorry to say that one Zane poet let me down.

Finally I come to "Zane's poem for Summer" a cute poem by a guy named Zane to a girl named Summer. I couldn't find his last name.

Zane's Poem for Summer

Purrrrrr - rrrrrrr - rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.
[Right-front paw stretch "x" ]
Purrrrrr - rrrrrrr - rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.
[Left-front paw stretch "x" ]
Purrrrrr - rrrrrrr - rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Kiss the Brow of Alice

Paul Laurence Dunbar, the son of ex-slaves, was the first African-American to become a nationally famous poet. When his mother was a slave, she heard the family she worked for reading poems and came to love poetry. With his mother's encouragement, Dunbar began reciting and writing poetry when he was only six. Much of his work is written in the dialect of the turn-of-the-century black community in America, often using dialect to convey character.

After High School, he became an elevator operator in Dayton while working to establish himself as a writer. He was twenty when he gave the welcoming address for the Western Association of Writers, on his birthday in 1892. It was his first public reading. James Newton Matthews, a soon-to-be friend of Dunbar's, wrote to a newspaper praising Dunbar's work. The letter was reprinted across the country and drew much welcome attention to the struggling poet. The moment seemed right, so Dunbar decided to publish 'Oak and Ivy', his first collection of poetry. Still working as an elevator operator he sold his book, for a dollar, to people who rode the elevator.

Dunbar moved to Toledo in 1895, where he began reciting his poems at local libraries and literary gatherings. It was there that he published his second book, 'Majors and Minors'. It was the second book that propelled him to national fame.

Dunbar married Alice Ruth Moore, a young writer and teacher (the subject of the following poem). He took a job at the Library of Congress, but found it tiresome. He left to write and recite full time. Dunbar was prolific and wrote a large body of poems, essays, novels, short stories and even a play. He died from tuberculosis at the age of thirty-three.


KNOW you, winds that blow your course
Down the verdant valleys,
That somewhere you must, perforce,
Kiss the brow of Alice?
When her gentle face you find,
Kiss it softly, naughty wind.

Roses waving fair and sweet
Thro' the garden alleys,
Grow into a glory meet
For the eye of Alice;
Let the wind your offering bear
Of sweet perfume, faint and rare.

Lily holding crystal dew
In your pure white chalice,
Nature kind hath fashioned you
Like the soul of Alice;
It of purest white is wrought,
Filled with gems of crystal thought.

Easy Goin' Feller

THER' ain't no use in all this strife,
An' hurryin', pell-mell, right thro' life.
I don't believe in goin' too fast
To see what kind o' road you've passed.
It ain't no mortal kind o' good,
'N' I would n't hurry ef I could.
I like to jest go joggin' 'long,
To limber up my soul with song;
To stop awhile 'n' chat the men,
'N' drink some cider now an' then.
Do' want no boss a-standin' by
To see me work; I allus try
To do my dooty right straight up,
An' earn what fills my plate an' cup.
An' ez fur boss, I'll be my own,
I like to jest be let alone,
To plough my strip an' tend my bees,
An' do jest like I doggoned please.
My head's all right, an' my heart's meller,
But I'm a easy-goin' feller.

To the Blown Rose . . .

For being such a short poem "The Sick Rose" has endured unending speculation and interpretation since it was first published in 1794, in Blake's collection titled 'Songs of Experience'.

One blogger suggested that, "He's talking about how having lust for someone and not love can be completely destroying. Having just sex with someone is hard because feelings always get involved and it's hard to keep them under control, but if the other person doesn't love you back its obviously going to be heartbreaking." One even goes as far as, "The love would be between two people and the woman became pregnant and because of that he leaves her. She is sick because the baby she now has, and it destroys her life".

Here's the way one student suggests breaking down the poem.
The rose is a beautiful woman
The worm is an evil man
They fall in love
Their love is strong
He worships her
She doesn't love him
He goes mad
She dies

I'm putting these suggestions here for purposes of comparison. I have no idea how anyone got the 'break down' given above. I haven't found "He worships her and she doesn't love him, he goes mad, she dies" in the words to the poem even when I stretch my thinker. I believe that there is a lot of projection going on. Still others believe that the 'Rose' represents England and the 'Worm' the corruption of church and state which are spoiling the country.

There is much speculation that the 'Rose' represents the female and the 'Worm' represents the male. This notion falls closer to what I was taught when first introduced to the poem, that it is the story of a girl losing her virginity. The 'worm' is invisible because it is like 'the elephant in the room', it's something we don't talk about in polite company. It 'flies in the night' because that's when people generally get naked together and the 'worm' let out of it's cage, so to speak. The "howling storm" represents the passion of lovemaking. What's destroyed, by his "dark secret love", is her innocents. Nobody goes mad, nobody dies.

It is such a short work that it will be forever left to the reader to interpret. If he had given us one more stanza, the meaning might have been more obvious. But then, we might not still be talking about it two hundred years later. I hope you enjoy "The Sick Rose" by William Blake.

The Sick Rose

O Rose, thou art sick!
The invisible worm
That flies in the night,
In the howling storm,

Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

This blog title comes from 'Antony and Cleopatra' by Wm. Shakespeare, "To the blown rose they stop their nose, who knelt unto the bud."

Monday, August 2, 2010

Tapped for Duty

The haunting melody of "Taps" gives me goose bumps. It is intimately connected with the passing of someone who gave their lives in service to others. Someone who was running in, while the rest of us were running out. There are no "official" words to "Taps". But, there are words to "Taps". Whether they are "official" or not they are fitting tribute to the memory of our fallen heroes.

The urban legend goes that during the Civil War, a Union soldier heard a wounded man moaning out on the battlefield. He then risked his own life, crawling on his stomach through the gunfire, then managed to pull the wounded man back to the Union lines. Only when he lit a lantern did he see that it was his own son and that he was dead.

The next day the grieving father asked his superiors for permission to give his son a full military burial. Once that was granted he asked if he could have an Army band play at the funeral. This request was denied because the funeral was for a Confederate soldier. They did relent enough to allow one musician to play. The father then asked a bugler to play a series of musical notes he had found on a scrap of paper in his dead son's pocket. They say the notes he played are what came to be known as "Taps", too bad it's not true.

In July of 1862, while in camp at Harrison's Landing, Virginia; Brig. Gen. Daniel Butterfield created "Taps." Wanting a less harsh bugle call for signaling the end of the soldier's day, he scribbled some notes on the back of an envelope. Then he worked with his brigade's bugler to transform the melody into what is now known as "Taps."

As the brigade bugler, Private Oliver Willcox Norton. later wrote of that occasion:
General Daniel Butterfield ... showing me some notes on a staff written in pencil on the back of an envelope, asked me to sound them on my bugle. I did this several times, playing the music as written. He changed it somewhat, lengthening some notes and shortening others, but retaining the melody as he first gave it to me. After getting it to his satisfaction, he directed me to sound that call for 'Taps' thereafter in place of the regulation call. The music was beautiful on that still summer night, and was heard far beyond the limits of our brigade. The next day I was visited by several buglers from neighboring brigades, asking for copies of the music, which I gladly furnished.

"Taps" was quickly taken up and soon was being sounded by both Union and Confederate buglers.


Day is done,
Gone the sun,
From the lakes,
From the hills,
From the sky,
All is well,
Safely rest,
God is nigh.

Fading light,
Dims the sight,
And a star,
Gems the sky,
Gleaming bright,
From afar,
Drawing nigh,
Falls the night.

Thanks and praise,
For our days,
Neath the sun,
Neath the stars,
Neath the sky,
As we go,
This we know,
God is nigh.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Little Orphan Typo

The very first poem I remember hearing and the first poem that I memorized was "Little Orphan Annie" by James Whitcomb Riley. My Mother used to recite this poem when I was a child. Of all of the poems I've ever read this one has had the mostest impact on my writing. In case you think you just found a typo, Riley was known as the Hosier Poet and wrote many of his poems in dialect. Including the word "mostest" in this poem. But there is a typo.

When it was written in 1885, "Little Orphan Annie" was titled, "The Elf Child". By the time Riley sent it to the publishers the title was "Little Orphan Allie". "Annie" was a typo. The typesetter misread Riley's handwriting. So "Little Orphan Allie" became "Little Orphan Annie". Riley only discovered the error after the book was published, so it was too late to change it back. So, the typo stayed in.

"Little Orphan Allie" was a real person. Her name was Mary Alice Smith. They called her "Allie". Her mother had died, her father was fighting in the Civil War and her grandmother became too ill to care for her. At the same time, James' father wanted to find someone to help his wife in raising their children.

So in the fall of 1861, when James was 12, Mary Alice came to live at the Riley home. The family would provide her room and board and Mary Alice would do chores around the house. She was 11 years old. Mary Alice stayed less than a year with the Riley family. But while she was there she had the habit of telling fantastic stories, which James liked. During the evening hours she used to entertain the children with stories of goblins and ghosts. By the time she left, she had become a permanent fixture in his mind. They never saw each other again.*

Here's the way that I read "Little Orphan Annie".

* In later life Riley searched for Mary Alice for years. He placed ads in newspapers all over the country looking for her. Then, when he was 96, the daughter of Mary Alice saw his advertisement and putting two and two together contacted Riley to say that "Little Orphan Allie" had been found. The two childhood friends then corresponded by mail and arranged to meet. Sadly he died before the reunion could take place.