Monthly Archives: March 2013

A Breathing Palace of Leaves

Many of Mary Oliver’s nature poems enact a version of the crucifixion and resurrection.

Posted in Oliver (Mary) | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Chicago’s Harpies Take Down LeBron

The thuggish way that the Chicago Bulls ended the Miami Heat’s streak recalls Oliver Wendell Holmes’s “harpies of the shore.”

Posted in Holmes (Oliver Wendell) | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Tragicomedy of High School Dating

“She Stoops to Conquer” captures all the pain of adolescent dating failures.

Posted in Goldsmith (Oliver) | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Drones Put Heaven in a Rage

This Scott Bates poem protesting aerial killing machines could apply to today’s drone program.

Posted in Bates (Scott), Blake (William) | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Hell Comes in All Shapes and Sizes

Literature is strewn with hot hells and cold hells. A “New Yorker” article lists a number of them.

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Same Sex Marriage–Good but Not Enough

Rachel Kranz’s “Leaps of Faith” affirms same-sex marriage but questions prioritizing it over other GLBT issues.

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Life as a Stage Coach Ride

America is in many ways like the stage coach rides described by Samuel Johnson and Henry Fielding.

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Palms before My Feet

This Chesterton poems recounts Palm Sunday from the donkey’s point of view.

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The Zen of Athletic Greatness

An old Taoist poem may capture some of the seemingly effortless transcendence of the greatest athletes.

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Reading Steinbeck While Getting a Ticket

As I waited for the cop to write me a ticket, I glanced through Steinbeck’s “The Pearl.”

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It’s Spring and the Balloon Man Whistles

Here’s a delightful e.e. cummings poem to celebrate the first day of spring.

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Novels: Training Ground for Citizenship

Novels have an inherently liberal dimension in that they get us to identify with people very different from us.

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Rugged Self Reliance w/Government Help

Often those most reliant on government help spend the most time talking about self reliance.

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Jane Austen: Feminine AND Feministy

In my student’s eyes, there’s no contradiction between Austen the satirist and Austen the romance writer.

Posted in Austen (Jane), Radcliffe (Ann), Scott (Sir Walter) | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fleeing God (a.k.a. the Hound of Heaven)

Francis Thompson’s huanting “Hound of Heaven” captures the fears who of those who think of themselves as unworthy of love.

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Poetic Excuses for Losing at Tennis

Between the motion and the act of my tennis game falls the shadow. Translation: too much thinking.

Posted in Eliot (T.S.), Robinson (Edward Arlington), Shakespeare (William) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A 17th Century Comedy Addressing Rape

The Right Wing’s “war on women” is affecting the way my students read Aphra Behn.

Posted in Behn (Aphra) | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Joy Recollected: High School English

Meeting up with an old high school English teacher brought memories flooding back.

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Through WWII, My Father Carried Poetry

Literature played a major role in my father’s World War II experiences.

Posted in Bates (Scott), Caldwell (Erskine), Graves (Robert), Hemingway (Ernest), Hersey (John) | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Sexual Intercourse Began in 1963”

Philip Larkin describes how the Beatles changed Britain’s social mores fifty years ago.

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The Critic Sees No Farther than Behind

Here’s a poem challenging criticism that undermines the poet.

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Out There the World Is Cruel and Loud

The Prodigal Son is a fruitful story for artist projection.

Posted in Housman (A. E.), Kipling (Rudyard), Nesbitt (E.), Scott (Sir Walter) | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Makin’ Jump Shots

Michael Harper’s “Makin’ Jump Shots” has echoes of escape from slavery.

Posted in Harper (Michael) | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Sam Spade Gambles with the Filibuster

Is the GOP filibuster like a Sam Spade-Kasper Gutman negotiation? Is Obama like the Queen of Hearts in his drone program?

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Voldemort, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up

In terms of developmental psychology, “Harry Potter” is structured around a clash between successful and unsuccessful identity formation.

Posted in Rowling (J. K.) | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Bloggers Confused Like Novelists of Old

Bloggers are facing confusion about rules similar to that faced by early novelists.

Posted in Fielding (Henry) | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Pope Retires but Keeps Perks? Hmm

Some of Pope Benedict’s retirement demands sound like King Lear’s.

Posted in Shakespeare (William) | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sometimes Whites Need Voting Rights Act

Steinbeck reminds us that it is not only people of color who have had their voting rights infringed.

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The Bush of Faith Resists the Flames

Yakov Azriel’s poem on Moses and the burning bush contrasts scorching fire with nourishing faith.

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Lakers Disappoint, Time for Memories

A Garrett Hongo poem about the 1980’s Lakers allows us to temporarily forget our disappointment with this year’s team.

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My Grandson, a “Best Philosopher”

Having grandchildren has changed my perspective on Wordsworth’s “Intimations of Immortality.”

Posted in Wordsworth (William) | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments


  • 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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