Tag Archives: Shakespeare

My Year-End Search For Wisdom in Verse…

There’s probably a special word to describe the gap of time in between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. If there isn’t, there ought to be, and perhaps I’ll get the ball rolling by calling it a “pregnant pause”.

After all, the lead up to Christmas is always absolutely frantic, and then you have exactly a week to rest, recover, put the old year to bed, while developing either a word or a list of resolutions for the new year, along with strategies and tactics for implementation and success. After all, you don’t want to start the new year off with an instant fail, do you? Especially, after 2020! No, we need to do everything in our power to get 2021 off to a good start. Indeed, we could well need a magic wand.

So, after watching The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galaxy the other night, I decided I turn to the wisdom of British bard, Geoff Le Pard, who sent me his The Sincerest Form of Poetry a few months ago. In my usual well-intentioned way, I offered to write a review, and got side-tracked, and this “pregnant pause” at the end of what’s been the weirdest year I’ve ever had, seemed the perfect time to get on with the job.

I’ve lost count of how long Geoff and I have been bantering in the blogosphere. However, you can find Geoff at TanGental https://geofflepard.com/. I read and enjoyed his anthology online, and again once the hardcover version arrived in the mail. I really loved it, and it made a huge difference knowing him all this time.

However, as much as I enjoyed the poems, I was struggling to write my review. Although I’d reviewed his novels before, I found reviewing an anthology of poetry much more challenging. There were so many ideas inside, and what was I supposed to say? Why couldn’t he just write it for me, and I’d Australianize it to make it sound authentic? Of course, that’s cheating.

So, I decided to take a different approach.

Indeed, after I read The Sincerest Form of Poetry, I found myself questioning whether we still need poetry in the 21st Century. Or, has it become redundant, obsolete, and irrelevant? Indeed, has it gone the way of the chalkboard, a 35mm roll of film, the VCR, cassette tapes and by and large, the Christmas card? Taking a leaf out of Nietzsche’s book…Is poetry dead?

As a poet myself, my immediate response was: “Of course not!” The inner yearnings of the soul still matter, and are as relevant now as they’ve always been. Indeed, I’d even argue that we’ve needed poetry in 2020 more than ever, after Covid brought us to our knees.

However, even I’ve been corrupted by the forces of practicality, reason, and putting a meal on the table. As much as it’s good to ponder things, sometimes, you just need to get on with the job. Or, in the words of the Brits: “Keep calm and carry on!”

Moreover, it would also be fair to say, that there have always been people who have found poetry irrelevant, incomprehensible, alien drivel. There is also poetry that’s pretty dreadful, too, and doesn’t do us poets any favours. Not all poetry should see the light of day.

However, for me personally, when life isn’t going to plan for whatever reason, that’s when I turn to poetry for comfort, solace, connection, understanding, empathy as well as simply immersing myself in beautiful words.

So, 2020 and this dreadful covid pandemic, has been the perfect time for poetry.

Knowing Geoff, who is rather unassuming much of the time in his enchanting English way, he’d never set himself up as THE ultimate interpreter of life, the universe and everything. Indeed, he’d be rather aghast that I’m viewing his anthology through this light. However, for the first half of the anthology, Geoff repurposed poems which appeared in a collection of the greatest British poets compiled by the BBC for National Poetry Day in 1995. So, you’ve got a good chance of finding something meaningful in there somewhere.

Some of these poems and their progeny include:

Leisure – William Henry Davies Now – Dog At Leisure

How Do I Love You? – Sonnets From The Portuguese XLIII, Elizabeth Barrett Browning

This Be the Verse – Philip Larkin Now – Contradicting The Curmudgeon

Home Thoughts From Abroad – Robert Browning Now – Foreign Is Quite Ghastly.

If – Rudyard Kipling Now – If (Or When) The Truth Finally Dawns.

Christmas – John Betjeman Now – Christmas 2018

Upon Westminster Bridge – William Wordsworth Now – Dog Show.

Sonnet 130 – William Shakespeare Now – Only Skin Deep.

Sonnet 91 – William Shakespeare Now – Life Lessons (For An Englishman).

Twas the Night Before Christmas – Clement Clark Moore Now – We’re All Santas Now.

The Glory of the Garden – Rudyard Kipling.

…..

So, what wisdom have I gleaned from Geoff Le Pard’s book of verse?

Here goes…

“Come friend, reject facebook, texts and tweets

And all your social media conceits.

To win this war, you’ll need to be better,

Buy some stamps and write them a letter”.

In Christmas 2018, he asks:

“So what’s the point of Christmas time?

We have to ask ourselves

Surely it’s more than a cheesy rhyme

Sung by unpaid elves?

It’s time we took back full control

Of all to do with Xmas

We need to hold a people’s poll

And get out the vote for Brexmas.”

In Life Lessons (For An Englishman), which could well apply to rogue Australian women as well, he writes:

“Contentment’s path is clear, as was ever thus:

Always say you’re sorry and never make a fuss.”

I have gained much wisdom, support and understanding over the years through my friendship with Geoff. We used to belong to a blogshare called “One Thousand Voices for Compassion” which sprang up after the Paris bombings in January 2015, and tried to make the world a better place. We’ve also had a heart for fringe dwellers and those who don’t quite fit the norm or any approved prescription, which for better or worse, seems to include us. Through this time, my kids have almost grown up and his daughter recently got married and Geoff had the honour of walking her down the aisle. On top of this, we both have dogs, who I swear must be a tad dyslexic, and think they’re God.

However, before I head off, which indeed was my intention, I can’t help noticing these poems depict a world which is lusciously pre-covid. He’s out there walking his dog in the park without wearing a mask or being fined; and I’m not too sure how many folk are currently sharing his desire: “Oh, to be in England/rather than abroad…” Rather, I’d say now more than ever, the English wish they were in Australia or New Zealand, and especially well away from their more virulent form of the virus.

If that doesn’t entice you to at least wander over to check out Geoff’s blog and consider ordering The Sincerest Form of Poetry, I’m not sure what else I could do. I don’t think you want me to tap dance on the table. I hope you enjoy it!

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS I apologise that this review might be a little stilted, even garbled. It turns out this precious pregnant pause between Christmas and New Year’s Eve has been sabotaged by our teenage son who decided to clean up his room, by channelling everything into our loungeroom and tomorrow night we’re having a dinner party. OMG! It looks like Mt Vesuvius erupted and spewed her guts in an almighty blast. However, although we’re almost buried in his mess, his room is remarkably clear. Indeed, that’s the very sort of thing which inspires poetry, don’t you think?! However, somehow I’m stuck for words.

The Wake…Friday Fictioneers.

“The king is dead, long live the king!” Iris flung her arms around the legend she’d created. Despite all but proof they’d murdered the golden boy of Australian racing, Bob was now Lead Driver of the Red Bull Holden Racing Team and she was the Queen. It was just as the psychic predicted. In ten short days, Bob was going to win the Bathurst 1000 and be crowned the King of the Mountain. Yet, what was this spot stuck to the palm of her hand? No matter how hard she scrubbed, it wouldn’t wash away. It was driving her mad.

…..

If you’ve ever read Macbeth, you’ll realize that my contribution this week was based on Shakespeare’s tale of ruthless ambition and the pursuit of power at any cost. You see, I’ve been re-reading Macbeth this week, to help my son who’s getting his dose of Shakespeare like generations of school kids before him. Although I’d read Macbeth at school, I couldn’t remember anything more than “bubble bubble toil and trouble” and while he actively resists my efforts to help him with his homework, I thought it might help to talk it over. So far he hasn’t agreed, but I’m quite chuffed that I’ve almost reached the end.

It’s so much easier to understand Shakespeare now that I’m in my 40’s and could consult the great Google guru before I’d even read the text and had a frame of reference. Back in the day, all I had was my teacher who stood out the front spoon-feeding us understanding, which we memorized and regurgitated in essays. There was none of this thinking for yourself kind of stuff. My son is needing to create a picture book based on Macbeth. That’s a lot of thinking and I’d personally find having to draw as well write rather terrifying. That’s what illustrators are for.

By the way, the Bathurst 1000 is a 1,000-kilometre touring car race held annually on the Mount Panorama Circuit in Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia. It is currently run as a championship event for Supercars. Wikipedia

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by  Rochelle Wishoff Fields. Each week we write 100 words to a photo prompt. This week’s PHOTO PROMPT © Priorhouse. We’d love you to come and join us.

By the way, do you have any memories of encountering the joys of Shakespeare when you were at school? If so, I’d love you to share them in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Coffee! Coffee! Wherefore art thou, Coffee

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This weekend I’d like to invite you around to join me for  William Shakespeare’s 400 Death Day Party. Since I doubt Shakespeare was much of a coffee drinker, we’ll be having tea served in my Shelley tea cups with generous slabs of birthday cake…along with Tim Tams. No doubt Shakespeare would approve!

For those of you not embroiled in the Blogging A-Z April Challenge, we only have six more sleeps til the grand finale next Saturday when our all stops journey through the alphabet finally comes to an end for another year. My theme this year is Writing Letters to Dead Poets. This has become quite a philosophical journey as I ask them about the nature of happiness, the role of suffering, advice for young poets and a love of the natural world. My ignorance has been growing my the day!

Once again, I’ve posted An Alphabet Soup Post listing links through to posts A-T.

Since starting Letters to Dead Poets, I’ve retreated into my cave and switched off from the outside world as much as is possible being married with two kids on school holidays and two dogs desperate for walks at the beach. Indeed, I’ve just returned with two pooped pooches from the beach. Nothing like chasing the ball and running round with other dogs. Heaven help me if I show any sign of going out! I was lucky not to be wiped out in the stampede.

On Friday night Geoff and I went out for dinner at a Mexican restaurant on the local waterfront. The kids were staying with my parents for a few days and it was great to be able to kick back and converse. After not leaving the house for a few days immersed in my writing, I also needed to be pulled away. Do something else. Look beyond the screen and the four walls around me.

DSC_0918

Walking back to the car, we were stopped in our tracks. A huge cloudy galleon hovered   over the beach, silhouetted by the full moon. Mesmerised, we stared in awe and dashed home to get the camera and tripod.  By the time we came back, the clouds had changed and weren’t quite as breathtaking but the photos were still impressive. Geoff took most of them. He is much more technically adept than me and also has a excellent eye. We are both keen amateurs.

DSC_0910

We also spotted this very ambitious spider building its web across our backyard by night. It’s been dubbed “Bob the Builder” and “Luke Skywalker”.

I guess you could say things have been quiet when photographing spiders is one of the highlights of the week. That is aside from writing.

Tomorrow , will be ANZAC Day here in Australia. The 25th April commemorates the landing of Australian and New Zealand troops at Gallipoli, Turkey, during WWI. Geoff’s Great Uncle served at Gallipoli and his mother’s cousin served at Kokoda. The kids will be marching locally with their Scout Troop.

How has your week been? I hope things have gone well.

The Weekend Coffee Share is hosted by Part Time Monster and I encourage you to pop over for a cuppa via   the “Linkup Linky“.

xx Rowena

S- Shakespeare On Love 400 Years On.

Dear Rowena,

Thank you so much for thy letter. Deepest apologies for the fingerprints. All this birthday cake is a delectable feast and I’m shoveling in another mouthful as I write. By the way, these pens are an ingenious invention and so much easier to use than quills. In between mouthfuls of cake, I caught the Express to London and almost reached the heavens on the London Eye.

“When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.”

― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Now, if you had asked me how to stage a play and entertain a crowd, that I can do. However, I am not so sure about love and its very essence, except to say that: “the course of true love never did run smooth.” and that I have loved:

“Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.”

William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Yet, obviously there are poets better versed in love than I.

Brownings

So, I thought I would introduce to Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning. Despite vehement opposition from her father, they fell in love and  On September 12, 1846, while her family was away, they eloped and were married at St. Marylebone Parish Church. She returned home for a week, keeping the marriage a secret, then fled with Browning to Italy. She never saw her father again. Her best-known work, Sonnets from the Portuguese, chronicles their courtship and marriage.

Yet, despite their great love, they retained their personal writing styles.Mrs Browning once said: “I never wrote to please any of you, not even to please my own husband”. Moreover, noting her husband’s masculine style, she wrote: “you are masculine’ to the height — and I, as a woman, have studied some of your gestures of language & intonation wistfully, as a thing beyond me far! and admirable for being beyond.”

Anyway, I have scribed examples of their work and trust you will explore them further.

How Do I Love Thee?

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, — I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! — and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

 

Violin rose

A Red, Red Rose

 O my Luve is like a red, red rose

   That’s newly sprung in June;

O my Luve is like the melody

   That’s sweetly played in tune.

So fair art thou, my bonnie lass,

   So deep in luve am I;

And I will luve thee still, my dear,

   Till a’ the seas gang dry.

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,

   And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;

I will love thee still, my dear,

   While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only luve!

   And fare thee weel awhile!

And I will come again, my luve,

   Though it were ten thousand mile.

 Robert Burns

 

Well, Rowena, I’m off to the theatre tonight. I’m hoping a hat will suffice for a head.

Yours,

William Shakespeare.

References:

Kathleen Blake: The Relationship of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning

http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/ebb/ebbio1.html

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/elizabeth-barrett-and-robert-browning-elope

The featured image is Rodin’s Romeo & Juliet 1905.

 

 

S- Shakespeare Time Travels Four Hundred Years 1616-2016 #atozchallenge

Good Friend, for Jesus’ sake forbear
To dig the dust enclosed here:
Blessed be the man that spares these stones,
And curst be he that moves my bones.

Saturday 23rd April, 2016…NOT…1616!

Shakespeare! Shakespeare! Where for art thou, Shakespeare?

What a coincidence that I am writing to you on the 400th Anniversary of your death. Should I be wishing you a Happy Death Day? My apologies if that offends. Prior to writing this series: Letters to Dead Poets, I never had to think about such things. Indeed, it’s been quite awhile since I’ve written much of a letter at all, since we now have much faster forms of communication, which I don’t have time to explain.

Anyway, I’ve brought you a cup of tea and a piece of cake so you don’t miss out on your celebrations entirely while we chat. You can even blow out the candle.

Click here to view London in 1616 at the time of Shakespeare’s Death.

While others are coming here thinking about 400 hundred years ago, I’m here to ask you about love. I don’t know whether you are the ultimate authority on love but you’ve certainly been much quoted on the subject. Indeed, 400 years later after you died, you’re still famed for your sonnets on love, which have definitely stood the test of time.

SONNET 18

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st;
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

William Shakespeare

Many would say this opportunity has been wasted on me. That there’s a plethora of Shakespearean scholars and experts who would “die” to have just five minutes with you and are far more deserving. They could finally quiz you about the “Forgotten Years” and have all their conspiracy theories answered. I also wouldn’t mind having a bit of a look at now and then, exploring London 1616 and now. However, unfortunately this tour is well beyond my capabilities as I live on the other side of the globe. By that, I don’t mean the Globe Theatre, Rather, I live in Australia on the other side of the Earth. Rewinding the clock 400 years, this won’t mean a thing to you. However, you might have heard of The Great South Land or Terra Australis. Indeed, for all I know, you might believe the Earth is flat.

By the way, you’d be incredible surprised to know people have actually landed on the moon and there’s currently a telescope zooming beyond the outer reaches of our solar system.  Of course, it will never reach a star but we’ve been getting some magnificent photos.

Anyway, I digress.

Returning to your views on love, my husband and I had Sonnet 116: recited at our wedding:

Us-crop2

Our Wedding Day….The Happiest Day of My Life. I smiled so much, my face hurt!

Let Me Not To The Marriage of True Minds.

 Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments. Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove.

O no! it is an ever-fixed mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wand’ring bark,

Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.

Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle’s compass come;

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error and upon me prov’d,

I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.

 William Shakespeare

As time’s gone by, these words have gained a deeper resonance and meaning. After all, it’s all very well to fall madly and deeply in love with a mirage. However, what is the secret to staying in love as the image fades and reality sets in? Nobody is perfect and so often opposites attract, just as surely as opposites repel. Why engaged couples might feel overwhelmed planning a wedding and financially crippled by the expense, that’s nothing compared to what lies ahead when those two separate lanes merge. Oh boy! That’s one very bumpy road through unchartered terrain. So, perhaps, we should stop asking why marriage fails and start asking how it’s survived?

Naturally, I started to wonder about your love sonnets. So full of love, surely there had been some incredible romance worthy to also inspire what must be the greatest love story of all time: Romeo & Juliet.

Shakespeare's_family_circle

Shakespeare with his family circle.

Unfortunately, my search came up rather short. Although you married Anne Hathaway and had a family, that marriage seemingly lacks the spark to light the fire. After all, when it came to your Last Will and Testament all you left her was your “second best bed”

So, were these sonnets simply made up and make believe? Something you conspired to put bread on the table and pay a few bills? Or, like so many of your plays, did they take their lead from someone else and the flame burned in another writer’s heart?  No matter which way I look, you remain a mystery.

That said, apparently you did write this for Anne:

Sonnet 145 Those lips that Love’s own hand did make

Breathed forth the sound that said ‘I hate’
To me that languish’d for her sake;
But when she saw my woeful state
Straight in her heart did mercy come,
Chiding that tongue that ever sweet
Was used in giving gentle doom,
And taught it thus anew to greet:
‘I hate’ she alter’d with an end,
That follow’d it as gentle day
Doth follow night, who like a fiend
From heaven to hell is flown away;
‘I hate’ from hate away she threw,
And saved my life, saying ‘not you.’

William Shakespeare.

So, once again writing these letters to dead poets has become complicated, confusing and yet again, I am finding that the  more I discover, the less I know. As Shelley wrote:

“The more we study, the more we discover our ignorance”
― Percy Bysshe Shelley

However, Shakespeare, when you leave people in the dark and play so hard to get, when you emerge you might find, that there’s no one left.

Mind you, your mystique has hardly impinged on your fame. Indeed, all these conspiracy theories have kept you alive.

Anyway, on that note, I must bid you adieu. Unfortunately, question time is over and my train’s about to leave.

Yours sincerely,

Rowena

PS: Do you know what happened to your head? Apparently, recent scans have shown that it’s no longer in your grave. Do you have any idea where it went? No doubt, you’re even haunting the thief in death!

Further Reading:

To find out about Shakepeare’s:  400 Year Celebrations

Shakespeare’s Missing Head: http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2016/mar/23/shakespeare-stolen-skull-grave-robbing-tale-true