Monthly Archives: June 2009

Poetry Standing Firm in the Face of Fire

“But maybe stories and poetry can help open our minds to possibilities that are very real but extremely hard to see; and in that sense, they can be very practical.” – Rachel Kranz in a response to yesterday’s post I love the two responses to yesterday’s post (from the two major women in my life) […]

Posted in Behbahani (Simin), Stowe (Harriet Beecher), Tennyson (Alfred Lord) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Poetry on the Streets of Tehran

As protest roils Tehran’s streets, even in the face of a brutal crackdown, poetry is making itself heard. This past Saturday National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition interviewed poet Simin Behbahani, known as the “lioness of Iran,” who read a poem she had composed about the tyrannny of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The NPR website also […]

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Emily Dickinson’s Deathbed Fly

Okay, here is a second post on poems about small winged pests, written in honor of President Obama’s cool and cold-blooded killing of a fly. When I was a child, I used to enjoy the poem about “the funny old lady who swallowed a fly.” It is one of those repetition poems, with a new […]

Posted in Dickinson (Emily), Donne (John), Golding (William), Grimm Brothers, Swift (Jonathan) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

John Donne’s Seductive Flea

Georges de La Tour, Woman Catching a Flea, c. 1638. Oil on canvas. In case you haven’t heard, the news media was buzzing last week over a CBS interview with President Obama where he nailed a fly that was bothering him. I thought I’d have fun in today’s entry and talk about the symbolic use […]

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Striving to Emulate Little Lord Fauntleroy

Children, when they start developing a sense of self, discover that there is a preset gender program they are expected to conform to. For some this is not a problem, but others feel constrained by their assigned designation. It’s not always that girls want to be boys and boys girls. Sometimes they just want to […]

Posted in Burnett (Francis Hodgson) | Tagged , , , | Comments closed

Dreaming about Ozma of Oz

After reading my post on how we can examine our favorite children’s classics to gain self insight, my colleague Barbara Beliveau in the St. Mary’s economics department mentioned how much she enjoyed L. Frank Baum’s second Oz book, entitled The Marvelous Land of Oz (1904), when she was growing up. This was always my favorite […]

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Biology and Poetry Love Gender Diversity

After a week of discussing how literature can help us handle anger and violence, I return to Twelfth Night and the slippery issue of gender identity. This too is grabbing national headlines these days (what a time we find ourselves in!) as Americans battle over same sex marriage, “don’t ask don’t tell,” and other concerns […]

Posted in Shakespeare (William) | Tagged , , | Comments closed

Cormac McCarthy’s Apocalyptic Vision

When we say that our safety trumps all other considerations, we lose touch with something that is far more meaningful. Sometimes we need a novel as grim and stark as Cormac McCarthy’s “No Country for Old Men” to be clear what is at stake.

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Poetry Battling Despair

Odin’s Valhalla, Dwelling Place of the Einherrar, artist unknown  While the major focus of this blog and website is looking to literature to see if it can provide solutions to life’s problems, at times I wonder if I am just engaging in wishful thinking. What if there are no solutions and literature is just whistling […]

Posted in Beowulf Poet | Tagged , , | Comments closed


  • 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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