Monthly Archives: April 2010

Dancing to a Bright Star

Film Friday As this is Friday, I begin with a discussion of a film.  But as it is also the tenth anniversary of the drowning death of my 21-year-old son Justin, I plan to digress.  I trust you will allow me to embark on a bit of a ramble. The film I have chosen is […]

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The Choice: To Die or to Go on Caring

Yesterday we buried a long-time friend, 98-year-old Maurine Holbert Hogaboom, a New York actress who had retired to southern Maryland.  Tomorrow we commemorate the tenth anniversary of the death of my oldest son Justin.  April, a month of new beginnings, has too often proved cruel as well. Nature often works ironically.  Justin, feeling joyous on a […]

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Stepping over Every Dark Thing

John James Audubon, White Egret If life seems hard at the moment, I have a poem that may lift you up: Mary Oliver’s “Egrets.” Oliver is, if not the most popular poet writing in America today, at least among the top five. Her poems often function as prayers to a divine spirit running through nature. In […]

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The Damned Human Race

Last Wednesday was the 100th anniversary of Mark Twain’s death.  To mark the occasion, Ben Click, our enterprising department chair, set up a panel to discuss what Twain had to say about  “race, religion, politics, and the ‘damned human race.’”   On the panel were Peter Sagal, star of National Public Radio’s “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell […]

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Gambling at Goldman? Shocked, Shocked!

“I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” Captain Renault famously exclaims in Casablanca, only then to be secretly presented with a bribe from the winnings.  Why did this scene come to mind when I heard about the shenanigans of Goldman Sachs this past week? It did so, I suspect, because […]

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I Sing of a Maiden

Spiritual Sunday Here’s a lovely spring poem from the Middle Ages about the conception of Jesus. Jesus enters Mary as “stille” (quietly) as April dew falls upon the grass. Mary is described as “makelees,” an adjective which (according to the Norton Anthology of British Literature) is a three-way pun: spotless, matchless, and mateless. I love how […]

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Jackie Robinson, Poetry in Motion

Jackie Robinson steals home  Sports Saturday In the memorial service held at St. Mary’s College for Lucille Clifton two weeks ago, I learned that she had three special heroes: Martin Luther King, Muhammad Ali, and Jackie Robinson. Robinson, of course, was the African American player who broke the baseball color line in 1947, which he […]

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Rethinking Dirty Harry Vigilantism

Film Friday I’m fascinated by how films function as social barometers and am wondering what kinds of films will characterize the Age of Obama.  Maybe Clint Eastwood’s Grand Torino (2008) is some kind of harbinger. (Spoiler alert: I will be revealing the end of the film.) One career trajectory I never could have imagined (not […]

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Uncomfortable Books that Help Us Grow

Streep and Kline in Sophie’s Choice  A recent survey of the Tea Party movement has revealed that the movement is overwhelmingly white, educated, middle class and conservative, and people are now studying what it all means.  I love this post Ta-Tehisi Coates, a senior editor for The Atlantic. As occurs in the world of the […]

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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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