Human beings suffer. They torture one another. They get hurt and get hard. No poem or play or song Can fully right a wrong Inflicted and endured.
History says, Don’t hope On the side of the grave,’ But then, once in a lifetime The longed for tidal wave Of justice can rise up And hope and history rhyme.
So hope for a great sea- change On the far side of revenge. Believe that a further shore Is reachable from here. Believe in miracles. And cures and healing wells.
Call miracle self-healing, The utter self revealing Double-take of feeling. If there’s fire on the mountain And lightening and storm And a god speaks from the sky
That means someone is hearing The outcry and the birth-cry Of new life at its term. It means once in a lifetime That justice can rise up And hope and history rhyme.
It is the 21rst day, of the 21st year of the 21st Century. I feel better already….
by William Shakespeare
So is it not with me as with that Muse, Stirr’d by a painted beauty to his verse; Who heaven itself for ornament doth use, And every fair with his fair doth rehearse; Making a couplement of proud compare, With sun and moon, with earth and sea’s rich gems, With April’s first-born flowers, and all things rare That heaven’s air in this huge rondure hems. O’ let me, true in love, but truly write, And then believe me, my love is as fair As any mother’s child, though not so bright As those gold candles fix’d in heaven’s air: Let them say more than like of hearsay well; I will not praise, that purpose not to sell
Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and caldron bubble. Fillet of a fenny snake, In the caldron boil and bake; Eye of newt and toe of frog, Wool of bat and tongue of dog, Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting, Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing, For a charm of powerful trouble, Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and caldron bubble. Cool it with a baboon’s blood, Then the charm is firm and good
Something’s missing from the spirit of Halloween this year – oh that’s right – the fun. COVID 19 has kicked the proverbial stuffing out of the concept of having fun this year. I like Halloween. I enjoy having neighborhood kids come to my door and meet and greet parents throughout the night. I like the voluntary community spirit Halloween brings forth and the excitement of little children getting candy. What’s not to like about ghouls and goblin’s, witches and princesses, werewolves, clowns, monsters and super heroes visiting you with a big smile on their face. It pains me to be turning off my light this year, to not carve a pumpkin and generally ignore Halloween all under the guise of being responsible. When did responsibility have anything to do with a holiday that enables children to overdose on sugar?
On top of the just plain disappointment in general of turning my back on Halloween it’s the fact that this year is the perfect storm of total Halloweeness – it’s on a Saturday night with a full moon. Even in this current predicament, we should all feel compelled to go out and do a little howling. I’ll have to settle for making pumpkin bread and eating my mini Peanut M and M bags and mini Mounds bars in the dark.
Halloween is supposed to be a little bit campy, a little bit scary and a little bit naughty all rolled into one fun sized holiday, something Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, does well. So – if you are in need of a Halloween fun infusion, check out Elvira’s video below – singing her hit single (or is it a double?) – 2 Big Pumpkins. Happy Halloween!
By Kenn Nesbitt
We’re having a Halloween party at school. I’m dressed up like Dracula. Man, I look cool! I dyed my hair black, and I cut off my bangs. I’m wearing a cape and some fake plastic fangs.
I put on some makeup to paint my face white, like creatures that only come out in the night. My fingernails, too, are all pointed and red. I look like I’m recently back from the dead.
My mom drops me off, and I run into school and suddenly feel like the world’s biggest fool. The other kids stare like I’m some kind of freak— the Halloween party is not till next week.
Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,
The dear repose for limbs with travel tired;
But then begins a journey in my head
To work my mind, when body’s work’s expired:
For then my thoughts–from far where I abide–
Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee,
And keep my drooping eyelids open wide,
Looking on darkness which the blind do see:
Save that my soul’s imaginary sight
Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,
Which, like a jewel hung in ghastly night,
Makes black night beauteous, and her old face new.
Lo! thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind,
For thee, and for myself, no quiet find.
I have always had a hard time reading or hearing Shakespeare prior to starting this project. My mind doesn’t follow old English grammar and vocabulary easily. I get bogged down and frustrated following the plot and dialogue in the few Shakespeare plays I have seen live or movies made true to the old script I have watched. I am afraid that biased me fairly negatively towards his sonnets in the past. So it comes as a bit of a surprise that the longer Fourteen lines continues the easier it is for me to put myself inside Shakespeare’s sonnets. My enjoyment of his complicated and witty verse continues to grow.
My daily social distancing has not been particularly intellectual. I have retreated to the simple pleasures of popcorn, games and mindless TV. But the longer this goes on, the more restless my mind becomes and I can feel more serious pursuits starting to push towards the front of my mind as fall looms. Maybe my brain is starting to awaken again after sheltering in place for a bit.
I recently got my hair cut for the first time since January. My stylist asked me; “how was your quarantine?” For a moment my mind couldn’t wrap itself around the question, realizing how chipper he was when he said it. I could tell he was brimming with excitement to share his experience, which was refreshingly upbeat. I let him do all the talking. In the end I did what midwesterners do, I simply didn’t answer the question as sometimes silence is better than being gloomily honest.
I wonder what my brain would look like in an MRI section right now? Would it look elegant and complicated as in the video below? Or would it look like a big bowl of popcorn, simple and satisfying but not particularly motivating. What does your brain look like right now? What colors is it radiating based on the current palete of your mind.?
Sonnet CXIII (113)
By William Shakespeare
Since I left you, mine eye is in my mind;
And that which governs me to go about
Doth part his function and is partly blind,
Seems seeing, but effectually is out;
For it no form delivers to the heart
Of bird, of flower, or shape which it doth latch:
Of his quick objects hath the mind no part,
Nor his own vision holds what it doth catch;
For if it see the rud’st or gentlest sight,
The most sweet favour or deformed’st creature,
The mountain or the sea, the day or night,
The crow, or dove, it shapes them to your feature.
Incapable of more, replete with you,
My most true mind thus maketh mine eye untrue.
When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see,
For all the day they view things unrespected;
But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee,
And darkly bright are bright in dark directed.
Then thou, whose shadow shadows doth make bright,
How would thy shadow’s form form happy show
To the clear day with thy much clearer light,
When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so!
How would, I say, mine eyes be blessed made
By looking on thee in the living day,
When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade
Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay!
All days are nights to see till I see thee,
And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.
One of the blessings of writing a blog is the opportunity for connection with people in the world you would never have had the opportunity to cross paths otherwise. Such is how I have come to have a copy of Scott Newstock’s new book How to Think Like Shakespeare. Newstock is is a professor of English and founding director of Pearce Shakespeare Endowment at Rhodes College. Newstock is a follower of Fourteen Lines and graciously sent me an advance copy.
The entire premise of the book is simple; if we could understand how genius arises, deduce where the ability to reshape the world through new ideas gestates, could we be more successful in opening doors into the vast potential of our own minds? Could we reshape education to greater assist the learning of every student’s inner Shakespeare? Hundred’s of years have passed since Shakespeare laid down his pen and yet what do we really know about his creative process? All we have is the evidence of his genius. Isn’t that true of every great writer, innovator, architect, scientist and artist? How much do we really understand where and how inspiration is conjured? It does not come from logic, or a sequence of numbers and equations to be added up, even when the outcome may look somewhat rigid or mathematical as in the form of a sonnet. Great art and science and innovation comes from a place beyond reason to inform and inspire reason. And in that way there are no formulas for learning it, but there are interesting insights to be had to step back and we think about thinking.
Newstock’s book is fourteen chapters on the essence of thinking. It is a playful, quote filled romp into the mind of Shakespeare. It is also an indictment on the failure of outcome based education and a plea to students and educators everywhere to remember one thing; the purpose of education is to learn how to think, not just to learn facts and process. For facts become irrelevant nearly as fast as they are minted.
If you would like a quick primer on some of aspects of the book, check out how Newstock playfully uses the metaphors around sonnet structure to help us look at the world differently. I have provided a link to his recent article below. And if you are a teacher or student and looking for a fun read this summer, check out his new book. I will close with another genius, William Wordsworth, who laid down his own thoughts on how to think like a sonnet, in a sonnet. Enjoy.
Nuns fret not at their convent’s narrow room;
And hermits are contented with their cells;
And students with their pensive citadels;
Maids at the wheel, the weaver at his loom,
Sit blithe and happy; bees that soar for bloom,
High as the highest Peak of Furness-fells,
Will murmur by the hour in foxglove bells:
In truth the prison, into which we doom
Ourselves, no prison is: and hence for me,
In sundry moods, ’twas pastime to be bound
Within the Sonnet’s scanty plot of ground;
Pleased if some Souls (for such there needs must be)
Who have felt the weight of too much liberty,
Should find brief solace there, as I have found.
The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.
Today, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.
Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay,
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.
Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears.
Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.
So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.
And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl’s.
The nature of pop culture is our hero’s are champions. Regardless if you’re an NBA fan, its hard to not admire Kobe Bryant. He was exceptional in ways few athletes are exceptional. He spoke 6 languages fluently, he was by all accounts an all in father, and he had lived his life passionately. His critics, which during his playing career were many, criticized he was selfish, he was too driven, but you don’t win 5 NBA championships, while jumping directly from high school to the NBA, by not being incredibly focused on your craft. Kobe played the game with a level of athleticism and competitiveness that is a rare skill. Kobe’s self proclaimed nickname, “Black mamba”, said it all, he was a fearsome opponent and a winner when the game was on the line.
When Bryant won the Oscar for best short, I checked out the video. I am not a big NBA fan, rarely watching games until the end of the playoffs. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. It is a poem, a love song, to a sport that enabled him to be his best self. With Kobe and Gigi’s tragic deaths, Dear Basketball is a touching epitaph.
No longer mourn for me when I am dead
Than you shall hear the surly sullen bell
Give warning to the world that I am fled
From this vile world with vilest worms to dwell:
Nay, if you read this line, remember not
The hand that writ it, for I love you so,
That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot,
If thinking on me then should make you woe.
O! if, I say, you look upon this verse,
When I perhaps compounded am with clay,
Do not so much as my poor name rehearse;
But let your love even with my life decay;
Lest the wise world should look into your moan,
And mock you with me after I am gone.
Was Edgar Allen Poe life as unconventional as his poetry and writing or has time allowed for Poe to be re-imagined in his own words? Poe’s life certainly would not fit into the conventions of today. He married his first cousin when she was 13 and he was 27. I think we would call that a pedophile today, not an eligible bachelor. She died eleven years later from tuberculosis. Poe died only two years after following her death under somewhat murky circumstances. In 1849, Poe went missing for five days and was found incoherent and delirious. He was taken to a Baltimore hospital where he died soon after at the age of 40. Typical of the time, No autopsy was performed and the cause of death was listed as a vague “congestion of the brain” and he was buried two days later. This rather unusual description opened the door for crack pots and scholars, (or are those the same thing?) to propose everything from murder, to carbon monoxide poisoning as the reason for his death. It doesn’t really matter, dead is dead. Poe doesn’t get enough credit for the quality of his writing and the varied contributions he made to literature. Poe grew up in desperate poverty and he wrote in true fashion as his vocation and made a living at it. I think he deserves more credit than he sometimes receives as a poet and writer.
by Edgar Allan Poe
It is not death, that some time in a sigh
This eloquent breath shall take its speechless flight;
That some time the live stars, which now reply
In sunlight to the sun, shall set in night;
That this warm conscious flesh shall perish quite,
And all life’s ruddy springs forget to flow; —
That verse shall cease, and the immortal spright
Be lapp’d in alien clay, and laid below: —
It is not death to know this, but to know
That pious thoughts, which visit at new graves,
In tender pilgrimage will cease to go
So duly and so oft, and when grass waves
Over the past-away, there may be then
No resurrections in the minds of men!
“Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.”
Let Those Who Are In Favour With Their Stars
by William Shakespeare
Let those who are in favour with their stars
Of public honour and proud titles boast,
Whilst I, whom fortune of such triumph bars,
Unlook’d for joy in that I honour most.
Great princes’ favourites their fair leaves spread
But as the marigold at the sun’s eye,
And in themselves their pride lies buried,
For at a frown they in their glory die.
The painful warrior famoused for fight,
After a thousand victories once foil’d,
Is from the book of honour razed quite,
And all the rest forgot for which he toil’d:
Then happy I, that love and am beloved
Where I may not remove nor be removed.
If you are not a baseball fan, then you have missed a stellar year. It’s not too late, the play-offs start next week and its going to be a post season with high caliber baseball. Never can I remember so many good teams battling until the final game for both a play-off birth and for home field advantage. There are several dominant teams who are expected to win, the Dodgers in the National League and the Houston Astros and Yankees in the American League. But the hottest teams in baseball right now are potential wild card teams; the Milwaukee Brewers, gamely rallying after their superstar Christian Yelich went down for the season with a knee injury and Rays, A/s and Indians who all have played fantastic down the stretch, though only two of them will make the wildcard game.
However it is the Minnesota Twins who most surprised me this year. They are on pace to win 100 games for only the second time in their club history. They have won with a rag tag assortment of starting pitchers, cast offs by and large and rehab projects, along with a lineup that has hit a startling 301 home runs as of Thursday. The faithful Twins fans hoped they would do better than last year, but I don’t think anyone thought that they would be as good and as entertaining as they have been. Will this team win it all and bring home a world series championship to Minnesota? My heart says I hope so, but my head says they don’t have enough starting pitching and are prone to too many errors fielding for this team to make a deep run in the playoffs. They will likely play the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs and the Yankees have won a staggering 13 straight post season games against the Twins. But streaks eventually end and sometimes the underdog rises up and does the impossible, win.
Congrats to this 2019 team and best of luck in the post season. Regardless if they win or lose, its been a fun year being a fan and I can’t wait to see what this team with a little more pitching might accomplish in 2020.
I glanced at her and took my glasses
off–they were still singing. They buzzed
like a locust on the coffee table and then
ceased. Her voice belled forth, and the
sunlight bent. I felt the ceiling arch, and
knew that nails up there took a new grip
on whatever they touched. “I am your own
way of looking at things,” she said. “When
you allow me to live with you, every
glance at the world around you will be
a sort of salvation.” And I took her hand.
Do you have a muse? An unseen force that stirs your creativity, guides your voice, puts words on the page, or paint on a canvas with a clarity that goes beyond your conscious mind? I have written about my muse before, it is a force that is real and can leave me awestruck at times. Part of what makes it special is my muse visits infrequently. Most of the time I am left to my own devices and writing is plain hard work.
What’s the most unusual thing your muse has ever told you? What is the most unusual thing you have ever told your muse? Is your muse male, female, non-binary, non-human? How often does your muse visit? What will you say next time it does?
by William Shakespeare
How can my muse want subject to invent,
While thou dost breathe, that pour’st into my verse
Thine own sweet argument, too excellent
For every vulgar paper to rehearse?
O! give thy self the thanks, if aught in me
Worthy perusal stand against thy sight;
For who’s so dumb that cannot write to thee,
When thou thy self dost give invention light?
Be thou the tenth Muse, ten times more in worth
Than those old nine which rhymers invocate;
And he that calls on thee, let him bring forth
Eternal numbers to outlive long date.
If my slight muse do please these curious days,
The pain be mine, but thine shall be the praise.
So ghostly then the girl came in
I never saw the turnstile twist,
Down where the orchard trees begin
Lost in a revery of mist.
And in that windless hour between
The last of sunset and the night,
When fields give up their ebbing green
And two bats interweave their flight.
I saw the turnstile glimmer pale
Just where the orchard trees begin.
But watching was of no avail,
Invisibly the girl came in.
I took one deep breath of the air
And lifted up my heavy heart;
It was not I who trembled there,
But my immortal counterpart.
I knew that she had come again
Up through the orchard through the stile,
Without a sign to tell me when,
Though I was watching all the while.
I asked my friend, “what’s this I hear about you entering hospice?” She answered, ‘What do you think about it?” I said, “I think I trust you know what’s best.” She replied, “It’s all just part of the process.”
by William Shakespeare
Tired with all these, for restful death I cry,
As to behold desert a beggar born,
And needy nothing trimm’d in jollity,
And purest faith unhappily forsworn,
And gilded honour shamefully misplaced,
And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,
And right perfection wrongfully disgraced,
And strength by limping sway disabled
And art made tongue-tied by authority,
And folly, doctor-like, controlling skill,
And simple truth miscalled simplicity,
And captive good attending captain ill:
Tired with all these, from these would I be gone,
Save that, to die, I leave my love alone.
The forward violet thus did I chide:
Sweet thief, whence didst thou steal thy sweet that smells,
If not from my love’s breath? The purple pride
Which on thy soft cheek for complexion dwells
In my love’s veins thou hast too grossly dyed.
The lily I condemned for thy hand,
And buds of marjoram had stol’n thy hair:
The roses fearfully on thorns did stand,
One blushing shame, another white despair;
A third, nor red nor white, had stol’n of both
And to his robbery had annex’d thy breath;
But, for his theft, in pride of all his growth
A vengeful canker eat him up to death.
More flowers I noted, yet I none could see
But sweet or colour it had stol’n from thee.
I think Shakespeare is using violets as a metaphor and not in a literal sense, but violets are the scent thieves of the flowering kingdom. The smell of violets comes from terpenes and a ketone chemical compound called ionone. Violets have a sweet scent but it’s not overpowering. This is because of a curious chemical property that creates their ethereal quality. Violets smell binds to our scent receptors after stimulating them, temporarily rendering them numb. It’s why the smell of violets can only be smelled for a few moments. However, if you take a few breaths, the smell will return because the receptors register the stimulus again.
I planted violets in my garden over the weekend because they bring early spring cheery colors and are nearly impossible to freeze out in May. Given that there was a few snowflakes overnight it was a good call to not plant to many annuals yet and to wait another couple of weeks to get the geraniums in the ground.
by Alice Dunbar-Nelson (1875 – 1935)
I had no thought of violets of late,
The wild, shy kind that spring beneath your feet
In wistful April days, when lovers mate
And wander through the fields in raptures sweet.
The thought of violets meant florists’ shops,
And bows and pins, and perfumed papers fine;
And garish lights, and mincing little fops
And cabarets and songs, and deadening wine.
So far from sweet real things my thoughts had strayed,
I had forgot wide fields, and clear brown streams;
The perfect loveliness that God has made,—
Wild violets shy and Heaven-mounting dreams.
And now—unwittingly, you’ve made me dream
Of violets, and my soul’s forgotten gleam.