Monthly Archives: August 2013

The Thrill of Bird Watching

Sports Saturday I don’t know if bird watching is a sport or not, but it’s the activity that my recently deceased father engaged in for exercise. Although from his childhood he was nearly blind in one eye and couldn’t look straight up without experiencing vertigo, he was an excellent birder and just needed the tiniest […]

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In Defense of the English Major

Adam Gopnik makes a spirited defense of the English major in a recent “New Yorker” article.

Posted in Goethe, Johnson (Samuel) | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

What Light Verse Meant to Scott Bates

My father used light verse to stay optimistic in the face of a grim reality.

Posted in Bates (Scott) | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

Keeping the Civil Rights Dream Alive

Great Civil Rights moments are great. Movements are better.

Posted in Clifton (Lucille) | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Prevent Sexual Assault with Literature

If men are to overcome their predatory natures, they must become gentle-men. Literature can help.

Posted in Beowulf Poet, De Troye (Chretien), Sir Gawain Poet | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Poetry vs. Death’s Madness

In the face of death, poetry stands as a bulwark against dissolution, chaos, and madness.

Posted in Dickens (Charles), Dunnett (Dorothy), McGrath (Thomas), O'Driscoll (Ciaran), Vonnegut (Kurt) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Time for Silence

Silence can be a very powerful response to tragedy.

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Waiting for the Tide to Turn

Dickinson, Coleridge and Dickens come to mind as we await the moment of my father’s death.

Posted in Coleridge (Samuel Taylor), Dickens (Charles), Dickinson (Emily) | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Moving through Death’s Doorway

My father’s poem about Andersen’s “The Little Match Girl” is comforting me as he slides towards death.

Posted in Andersen (Hans Christian), Bates (Scott) | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Magnificent Women in the Sick Room

Tolstoy shows us deathbed vigils can spur us to a deeper engagement with life.

Posted in Donne (John), Eliot (George), Thomas (R. S.), Tolstoy (Leo) | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

My Father Piped Songs of Pleasant Glee

As I read my dying father poems from Blake’s “Songs of Innocence,” I relived cherished memories.

Posted in Blake (William) | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

The Rising Floodwaters of Sadness

My father is dying. One of his last acts was to find an A. A. Milne passage about Sewanee’s incessant rain for the local newspaper.

Posted in Milne (A. A.) | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

The Wife of Bath vs. Military Rapes

Perhaps Chaucer’s Wife of Bath has some good suggestions on preventing sexual assault in the military.

Posted in Chaucer (Geoffrey) | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Mary Is Called, the Parting Hour Is Come

Richard Crashaw celebrates the Feast of the Assumption with a feminized Christianity.

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The Boys of Summer

Fitzgerald’s baseball poem captures the sounds and the textures of the game.

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Hope and Disillusion in Egypt

Wordsworth’s “Prelude” captures both the hopes and disillusion that many have felt about the Egyptian revolution.

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

Fable of the Rose and the Vine

This Scott Bates fable sings the praises of individual vision.

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Parental Rule #1: Respect Your Child

“David Copperfield” enjoins us to respect the interiority of children.

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High Bouncing Lover, I Must Have You

Fitzgerald’s epigraph to “Great Gatsby” challenges us to live life to the fullest.

Posted in Fitzgerald (F. Scott) | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Novels for When We Need Them the Most

I read “David Copperfield” before entering high school. I didn’t know that it would anticipate some of my unhappy experiences there.

Posted in Dickens (Charles) | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

On Loving and Letting Go

Mary Oliver’s “In Blackwater Woods” instructs us in how to live and how to die.

Posted in Oliver (Mary) | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Dancing with the Rapids

White water canoeing serves as a ready metaphor for facing life’s challenges, hopefully with grace.

Posted in Crooker (Barbara) | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Getting Lost in One’s Research

A fanatical scholar loses himself–literally–in his research.

Posted in Bates (Scott) | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Kids Find Reading Tangible and Luscious

To teach kids to read by 3, use large flashcards with words that interest them.

Posted in Bronte (Charlotte), McCloskey (Robert) | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Are There No Emergency Rooms?

Scrooge asks, “Are there no workhouses?” Today’s GOP asks, “Are there no emergency rooms?”

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Compassion for the Poor Is Not Enough

Speaking with the head as well as the heart against oppressive class conditions is necessary in novels as in public policy.

Posted in Dickens (Charles) | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Castro As Lovelace, Knight As Clarissa

The dueling statements of Michelle Knight and her Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro were like a novel with multiple points of view.

Posted in Fowles (John), Richardson (Samuel) | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Sunset Call to Prayer

In this final week of Ramadan, Agha Shahid Ali describes the faith of his grandmother.

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Baseball Frees the Imagination

Baseball, like reading, encourages the imagination to soar.

Posted in Dacey (Philip) | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Memories of Summer Hiking in France

This summer poem by Scott Bates brings back childhood memories of hiking in the hills around the Mediterranean.

Posted in Bates (Scott) | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Do Animals Prefer Wilderness or Zoos?

Are aquariums housing orcas inhumane? Maybe, but Martel’s “Life of Pi” offers a perspective that should be considered.

Posted in Martel (Yann) | 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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