Monthly Archives: June 2016

Poetry Turns Prisoner’s Life Around

Reginald Dwayne Betts’s life was turned around when he encounter an anthology of African American poetry in prison. Today he is a graduate of Yale Law School and an accomplished poet in his own right. I share a poem written about Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old shot by Cleveland police.

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Workers of the World, Read! (Then Unite)

A “Washington Post” article argues that the arts are key in counteracting economic injustice. While this is true, the arts must be accompanied by smart politics to achieve this end.

Posted in Fitzgerald (F. Scott), Sidney (Sir Philip), Wharton (Edith) | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Envy, the Sin That Blinds

In this week’s poker essay by novelist Rachel Kranz, envy is described as the one deadly sin that gives no pleasure at all.

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Kipling Perfectly Describes Brexiteers

A “Guardian” article applies Rudyard Kipling’s poem “Dead Statesman” to those irresponsible politicians who brought about Brexit. The poem applies equally well to Donald Trump.

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

With Brexit, UK Betrayed Spirit of Chaucer

Brexit violates everything that Geoffrey Chaucer, Britain’s quintessential poet, stood for.

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Footprints on the Sands of Time

Longfellow’s “Psalm of Life” quotes from today’s Gospel reading–“let the dead bury their own dead”–in ways that help illuminate Jesus’s message.

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America’s Dream: We Contain Multitudes

My Trinidadian daughter-in-law today becomes an American citizen. I welcome her with an excerpt from Whitman’s “Song of Myself” that contains multitudes.

Posted in Whitman (Walt) | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Bringing an End to Bernie’s Romance

The Democratic Party has been striving to let Bernie Sanders down slowly, even as it separates him from his dream. It is like the way upper crust society in Edith Wharton’s “Age of Innocence” separates the protagonist for the scandalous woman he has fallen in love with.

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The Sewanee Gentleman & Related Poems

As the son of a professor at the University of the South, I grew up hearing about “the Sewanee gentleman.” A recent exhibit on the Sewanee gentleman includes poems by Robert Browning and Rudyard Kipling, which were used to reenforce the concept.

Posted in Browning (Robert), Kipling (Rudyard) | 3 Comments

How Poker Resembles Novel Writing

Playing poker involves taking constant risks. But so does a life well-lived and, for that matter, so does writing a novel. Novelist Rachel Kranz explains.

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Trump’s “Truth” Is Like Big Brother’s

Like Orwell’s Big Brother, Donald Trump has been allowed to define truth. We’re all paying for it.

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Listening for the Still Small Voice

Today, as we memorialize my mother-in-law, a simple Charles Wesley poem about how God talks to us through a “still small voice” seems particularly powerful.

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King’s Clown Rampaged in Orlando

Perhaps more than any other American writer, Stephen King understands such incidents as the Orlando massacre. The famous horror writer dreams America’s nightmares and appears prescient when they come true.

Posted in Beowulf Poet, King (Stephen), Milton (John) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Women vs. Unicorns in Poker, on Dates

In an blog post on the difficulties of handling male aggression, novelist Rachel Kranz looks at male behavior at poker tables, the mythology of virgins taming unicorns, and the rape perpetrated by Stanford swimmer Brock Turner.

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Push a Button, Get a Free Short Story

Grenoble, France now has vending machines that dispense free short stories.

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What Draws Kids to Eating Dramas

Eating stories enthrall my grandchildren because they reenact the childhood drama of separating from the parents and developing autonomous selves.

Posted in Bannerman (Helen), Carle (Eric), Longfellow (Henry Wadsworth) | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Grendel Strikes in Orlando

In what has become a grim tradition for this blog, I rerun my post on Grendelian violence in response to the Orlando mass killing at a gay bar.

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I Am a Glory That Cannot Unshine Itself

Clare Hogan’s poem about St. Teresa describes the saint shedding layer after layer until she becomes a “sheet of sunlight.”

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Trump’s Game of Thrones Invasion

Now that the Democrats have a presumptive nominee, the question is whether Bernie Sanders’s supporters will join Hillary. A “Game of Thrones” analogy points out what is at stake.

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Was T. S. Eliot a Key to Hillary’s Success?

As a college student at Wellesley in 1969, Hillary Clinton made multiple references to T. E. Eliot’s “East Coker.” Now as we watch her become the presumptive Democratic nominee, we can see how Eliot has helped her along the way.

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Donne Can Help with a Separation

Today is my 43rd wedding anniversary and, although Julia and I plan to be together for many more years, we will live apart next year. John Donne’s “Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” may help us out.

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Donne vs. Brexit: No Nation Is an Island

Donne’s “no man is an island” essay–Meditation 17–can be read as a commentary on the inadvisability of a British exit from the European Union (Brexit).

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Marianne Moore and Muhammad Ali

The American poet Marianne Moore was drawn to Muhammad Ali, who died Friday. Moore wrote liner notes for an album of Ali’s spoken poetry in 1963. Her poem “The Octopus” shows why would have drawn her to the boxer.

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Celebrate! The Month of Fasting Is Come

In this Ramadan poem by Rumi, the month of fasting is compared to a friend, an intoxicant, “a beautiful fortune,” a secret illumination, a plentiful harvest, and a silk outfit than one dons.

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Medicine & Lit, Working Together

Paul Kalinithi’s “When Breath Becomes Air” represents an ideal blending of science and the humanities, including literature. It’s a book we all should be reading.

Posted in Whitman (Walt) | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Doctor Faustus: Lessons in Grieving

After watching two students turn to Marlowe’s “Doctor Faustus” as they grieved the death of parents, I have come to see the play as a powerful meditation upon how we respond to death.

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  • 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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