Monthly Archives: July 2016

Chelsea’s Books and Female Ambition

Chelsea Clinton revealed that she talked to her parents about Madeleine L’Engle’s “Wrinkle in Time” and watched the mini-series of “Pride and Prejudice” with her mother. Both feature strong heroines but also show these heroines to be confined to traditionally female roles.

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Implore His Aid, in His Decisions Rest

The famous passage from Ecclesiastes–“All is vanity”–inspired a great poem by Samuel Johnson. Johnson’s final conclusion is that we can find happiness only in prayer.

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Wishing Hillary Godspeed

What are we to make of these charismatic men like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama supporting Hillary? I offer up Thomas Hardy and James Baldwin references to advance different interpretations.

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We Shall Not Look Upon His Like Again

Obama’s speech passing the baton to Hillary Clinton last night brings to mind a passage from “Hamlet.”

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Like Citizen Kane, Trump Lacks Substance

Why is “Citizen Kane” Donald Trump’s favorite film? Perhaps because he likes the way that the film glamorizes a narcissist like himself. We need to be careful about falling into this fascination, however. Such people make neither good journalists nor good presidents.

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Donald Trump as Citizen Kane

Donald Trump’s favorite film is “Citizen Kane.” Is he drawing on Kane’s campaign for governor in his demonization of Hillary Clinton?

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Stephen Gosson: Unhinged by Lit

Stephen Gosson, a 17th century Puritan and failed playwright, unloads virtually every poet revered in the 17th century. Though we dismiss his words today, they anticipated contemporary attacks on literature/

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Emily Dickinson’s “Smart Misery” of Doubt

Emily Dickinson struggled with religious doubt all of her life. Because she desperately wanted to belief, some of her poems show her faith being tested.

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The Mental Benefits of Forest Walking

Recent brain research notes that walking amongst trees is a powerful antidote to depression. Wordsworth knew this long ago.

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The Road Goes Ever On and On

Tolkien’s “The Road Goes Ever On and On” is a good poem for travelers returning home.

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Not Your Father’s Apple Cider

A visit to my cousins’ hard apple cider processing plant showed me that making the beverage has changed markedly since the days of John Keats and Robert Frost.

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The Tern from Turner, Maine

A fun poem about a liberated tern from Turner, Maine.

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Mustering Courage To Become Jane Eyre

I’m convinced that “Jane Eyre” helped give my great-grandmother the courage to leave her home and launch herself into the world as a governess.

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Stillness, One of the Doors of the Temple

The Biblical story where Jesus visits the home of Mary and Martha can be read as an injunction to eschew busyness and focus on God. This Mary Oliver poem captures the spirit of such a lesson.

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My Great Grandmother Read for Courage

Reading over the memoirs of my great grandmother, I have been impressed by how reading literature helped her get through the hard times. The authors included Tennyson, George Eliot, Susan Warner, and Charlotte Yonge.

Posted in Tennyson (Alfred Lord), Wilde (Oscar), Yonge (Charlotte) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Helms’s Attack on Marvell’s “Coy Mistress”

Tales of unexpected attacks against great literature: in 1966 Jesse Helms, later a rightwing North Carolina senator, attacked Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress” for providing male students a chance to talk about erotic matter in front of female students.

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Tales of the Wayside Inn

A visit to the Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Massachusetts made me aware of Longfellow’s collection “Tales from the Wayside Inn.” Like Longfellow’s storytellers, I had a good time there.

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Toni Morrison’s Caution about Black Anger

The killer of the Dallas policemen is not unlike Guitar in Toni Morrison’s “Song of Solomon.” Through Guitar, Morrison shows how black anger is corrupted by violence. She also shows, through the novel’s protagonist (Milkman), how black resolve is stronger than anger and can soar above the earth.

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Homer’s Warning about Revenge Killings

What will it take to bring peace between police and black communities? Homer has a vision of such a truce at the end of “The Odyssey” but it may not be realistic.

Posted in Clifton (Lucille), Homer, Silko (Leslie Marmon) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Simple Creed: Man’s Duty to Man

This poem about the Good Samaritan by Australian working class author Henry Lawson depicts the Samaritan as a figure from the outback.

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Marriage & Tennis, One and the Same

Maxine Kumin’s poem “Prolhalamion” is at once a celebration of marriage and tennis. I share it today to honor Roger Federer, who continues to dazzle long past the expiration date for tennis players.

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Trollope’s Melmotte Anticipates Trump

Anthony Trollope foreshadowed Donald Trump in the figure of Augustus Melmotte in “The Way We Live Now” (1875).

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Be Skeptical of Shakespeare’s Skeptics

Recent evidence further confirms what most Shakespeare scholars believe: that Shakespeare wrote the plays ascribed to him. The Bard’s social anxieties, however, may have communicated themselves to the skeptics, who play out their own anxieties as they attempt to tear him down.

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Shakespeare Was Malvolio

Recent research shows how much of a social climber Shakespeare was. The knowledge gives us new insight into characters like Malvolio and Othello.

Posted in Austen (Jane), Marlowe (Christopher), Shakespeare (William) | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

July 4th: Boundless Chrysanthemums

Two poems about fireworks for Fourth of July.

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Break Your Fast with Joy

This Rumi poem celebrates the end of Ramadan, which occurs Wednesday. Drawing on stories that are familiar to Jews and Christians, he talks about the light that has broken in.

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