Monthly Archives: March 2012

Obamacare: Forcing Soufflé on Everyone

Is the Supreme Court playing Potter to Obamacare’s George Bailey? Will Woody Allen’s version of French tyranny (soufflé and croissant at every meal) be the end result?

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Adrienne Rich’s Final Dive

In “Diving into the Wreck” Adrienne Rich surveyed the wreckage of post-World War II relationships and charted new paths.

Posted in Rich (Adrienne) | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Using Donne to Defend Same Sex Marriage

John Donne’s impatience in “The Canonization” could be that of same sex couples who want to get married and wonder about all the fuss.

Posted in Donne (John) | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Science Tells Us Lit Helps Us with Life

Recent brain research indicates that fiction helps us “understand the complexities of social life.”

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Trayvon Martin, Another Emmett Till

The killing of Trayvon Martin reminds me of Emmett Till and a poem written about Emmett’s youthful innocence.

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The Partner of Her Loneliness

In “She Who Reconciles,” Rilke celebrates the gentle yet empowering guest.

Posted in Rilke (Rainer Maria) | Tagged | 1 Comment

Family Melodrama, Iranian Style

The Oscar-winning Iranian film “Separation” builds complication upon complication as families wrestle with difficult conditions.

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March Madness, Frisbees, and Spring

In this Scott Bates poem, the poetry of basketball is surpassed by the poetry of frisbee throwing.

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Such Singing in the Wild Branches

On a beautiful spring morning when she is startled by birdsong, Mary Oliver describes a merging with nature where she “began to understand what the bird was saying.”

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King Lear’s Sexual Epithets vs. Women

It’s not only Rush Limbaugh and Bill Maher who are use sexual epithets to denigrate women. King Lear does it too.

Posted in Shakespeare (William) | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Enough with Fixating on Female Sexuality

Rachel Kranz’s fiction shows how to step up with acquaintances use offensive sexist language.

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Depth of Sea, Firmness of Rock, God

The magnificent poet attributed to St. Patrick looks to nature to provide images for God’s strength and support.

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Falstaff and the Stolen Valor Act

Shakespeare’s Falstaff would be in violation of the Stolen Valor act, now being challenged before the Supreme Court.

Posted in Shakespeare (William) | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Lost in America – A Van Winkle Moment

Patrick Logan, freelance writer and regular reader of this blog, sent me a marvelous essay about cultural dislocation that he wrote for the Manchester Union Leader. (I’ve made reference to previous articles that Patrick has written here). Patrick uses the famous Washington Irving story abut Rip Van Winkle to process his own shock when, returning […]

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Bold Traveler, Set out for Ithaka (or Paliki)

Historical research suggests that Odysseus’s island may have been Paliki, not Ithaka. Cavafy’s poem “Ithaka” informs us that it doesn’t matter.

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War’s Human Costs (So Rethink Iran)

Levertov’s “What Were They Like” gives us a poem that may help dampen hysteria about going to war with Iran.

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Plucking Out the Fangs of Hate

Gibran’s version of Jesus driving the moneychangers from the temple wonders how he pulled it off.

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The KKK Is So 20th Century

The KKK, propelled into prominence by a cutting edge social medium, is ironically faltering because of its inability to keep up with social media.

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Books as Friends, Good but also Bad

Theorist Wayne Booth compares the impact that books have on us to that of friends. Some friends have a good influence, some not.

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Rough Winds Do Shake the Buds of March

Crazy weather swings have been messing with our spring flowers, bringing to mind Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18.

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Mitt (who told lies and was burned to death)

Mitt Romney’s lies, like those of Hilaire Belloc’s Matilda, make one gasp and stretch one’s eyes.

Posted in Belloc (Hilaire) | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Ulysses: Do Not Go Gently into Retirement

A discussion of Tennyson’s poem “Ulysses” led a group of senior citizens to conclude that it’s about a man who is experiencing difficulties transitioning into retirement.

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Queen Esther: Just an Ordinary Woman

Rachel Barenblat’s poem about Queen Esther brings her down to earth and in the process makes her far more interesting.

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Putting a Human Face on Immigrants

“A Better Life” puts a human face on illegal immigrants, something the United States sorely needs.

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Campaign 2012: Assorted Lit Allusions

Literary allusions are flying fast and free in this primary season.

Posted in Blake (William), Bunyan (John), Carroll (Lewis), Hawthorne (Nathaniel), Melville (Herman), Milne (A. A.) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

    Please feel free to e-mail me [rrbates (at) smcm (dot) edu]. I would be honored to hear your thoughts and questions about literature.

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