Monthly Archives: December 2013

2013 Melts Away

A John Clare poem to bid farewell to 2013.

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Standing in a Long Unemployment Line

Poet Philip Levine knows what it is to stand in a long line looking for work.

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In the Beginning Was the Word

The opening of the Book of John is poetry of the first order.

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The Return of King Peyton

The excitement over Peyton Manning is like that of the townspeople for Thorin Oakenshield in “The Hobbit.”

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Unemployment & “the Undeserving Poor”

Are those who will lose unemployment insurance tomorrow deserving or undeserving of support? George Bernard Shaw has something to say about that.

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Christmas Bird Count from Santa’s Sleigh

This joyous Scott Bates birdwatching poem imagines Santa’s Blitzen involved in Audubon’s annual tally.

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Where Are the Games of Yesteryear?

Christmas I shared “Ballad of the Games of Yesteryear” this past spring when my father temporarily lapsed into dementia. But he wrote it as a Christmas poem and so I’m posting it again as I mourn the first Christmas spent without him. Now that he is dead, the poem contains special meaning, echoing as it […]

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Dickens, We Need You (and Also FDR)

With unemployment insurance set to run out next week, it’s time to invoke Charles Dickens’ “Christmas Carol.” FDR did so.

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Duck Dynasty Patriarch as Pap Finn

Patriarch Phil Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” shares certain characteristics with Pap Finn.

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Lights As If Out of Nowhere

Joseph Brodsky wrote a series of Christmas poems, including this one

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Reflecting upon Football’s Carnage

What may be the greatest poem about American football focuses on its violence.

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Charlotte’s “Web Poetry” Saves Lives

In “Charlotte’s Web,” Charlotte’s poetry saves Wilbur’s life.

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Letters from Mrs. Santa Claus

Two Scott Bates Christmas poems show Santa on the move, thanks to the melting of the polar ice caps.

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The True Meaning of the Holy-Days

The seabird in this Scott Bates poem captures the true meaning of the holidays.

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Reconnecting with the Forest Spirits

Here’s a story of how Wordsworth allows a Myanmar student reconnect with the forest spirits of her childhood.

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Teaching Lit Crit as Autobiography

Literary criticism can be a form of autobiography. Knowing that can improve our teaching.

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Weeping, We Hold Him Fast Tonight

Christina Rossetti invokes Jesus’ parable of the ten virgins awaiting the bridegroom in this Advent poem.

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The Loneliness of the Long Distance Kicker

To honor Matt Praters 64-yard field goal, here’s William Meissner poem about a “Kicker’s Last Steps.”

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Feeling the Pinch During the Holidays

Barbara Kingsolver gives a vivid depiction of life for the working poor during the holiday season.

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Female Bildungsromans for College Grads

One of my students, studying the female bildungsroman, is studying Salinger’s “Franny,” Lena Dunham’s “Girls,” and other works.

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Lit’s Ten Most Likable Characters

My top ten likable characters.

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Think of Writing Essays as Method Acting

To teach writing about literature, think of your students as method actors.

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If Oz Became Modern Day America

This Scott Bates poem revisits the Land of Oz and finds that modern America has broken out.

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Dear God, Drive These Cruel Doubts Away

Anne Bronte’s moving poem shows her wrestling with deep spiritual doubts.

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Crossing (or Not) the Hellespont

I revisited Byron’s poem about swimming the Hellespont/Dardanelles after a friend tried the feat.

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Mandela Inspired the World

An Elizabeth Alexander poem to remember Nelson Mandela and a past post on how he turned to Shakespeare in prison.

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Debating Whether Lit Is Useless

I take issue with a “New Yorker” blog on whether or not literature can be considered “useful.”

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How to Make Your Dull Life Seem Magical

Does your life seem one long grind? Let Mary Oliver help you see it differently?

Posted in Oliver (Mary) | Tagged , | 2 Comments

GOP Whites Splitting? Huck Finn Says No

If “Huck Finn” has predictive value, the class tensions within today’s GOP will be papered over by racism.

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Life for the Poor Is No Crystal Stair

NYT columnist Charles Blow appears to be channeling Langston Hughes as he gives advice to the poor.

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He Will Come Like Crying in the Night

Christmas hope does not come without deep struggle at the darkest time of the year.

Posted in Williams (Rowan) | Tagged , , , | 1 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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