Author Archives: Robin Bates

The Wine of Love Is Music

Spiritual Sunday I attended a joyous Des Moines wedding yesterday, one where the bride, an avid runner, wore running shoes. The groom is a runner as well. Things promise well. Here’s a lovely wedding poem by the 18th century poet James Thomson, author of The Seasons and “Rule, Britannia.” I send it out to all […]

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Alabama Returning Women to Doll’s House

Friday I’m missing much of the news as I travel across country but managed to hear about Alabama threatening doctors who perform abortions with 99-year prison sentences. Here’s a post I wrote four years ago about how state legislatures are infantilizing women. I managed some optimism then but, with Gorsuch and Kavanaugh now on the […]

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Music Only Poets Can Hear

Thursday As I’m currently traveling, I’m reposting an essay I wrote seven years ago about a poem by Xavier University’s Norman Finkelstein, whom we dined with last night. Norman was my best friend in graduate school and this may be my favorite of his poems, perhaps because I too am in love with Kenneth Graham’s […]

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Swift on the Separation of Powers

Wednesday As Donald Trump seeks to neuter Congress while at the same time welcoming autocrats to the White House, we find ourselves praying that Democrats, NeverTrumpers, and others who love our Constitution can successfully push back. It’s a battle we see dramatized in Gulliver’s account of the flying island. The executive power in this instance […]

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R.I.P. Doris Day, America’s Sweetheart

Tuesday To honor Doris Day’s memory, who died yesterday at 97, here’s a John Updike poem. When he wrote it at 76, Updike was having a hard time admitting that Day was 86. Our memories of movie stars remain forever young, even though time itself moves on. Oscar Levant once joked that he knew Day […]

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Old Friends Recall the Midnight Chimes

Monday When Julia and I reunited with my senior Carleton roommates recently, I found myself thinking of the reunion that concludes Henry IV, Part II. To be sure, our memories didn’t involve loose women we had encountered in our youth. Nevertheless, there was an elegiac feel to our gathering as there is in the play. […]

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To My First Love, My Mother

Spiritual Sunday Christina Rossetti honors her mother with this unorthodox sonnet that speaks for itself. The “blessed glow” of Mother Love “transcends the laws/ Of time and change and mortal life and death.” Apparently Rossetti’s mother encouraged her in her sonnet writing, giving the poem additional resonance. Happy Mother’s Day to the many mothers in […]

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The School Where I Studied as a Boy

Friday As I will miss my first St. Mary’s commencement in almost four decades tomorrow (excluding sabbatical years), I send out this Yehuda Amichai poem to my former students who will be graduating, as well as to all those others around the world about to matriculate. It’s that time of year when, like the Israeli […]

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Grendel’s Mother, Archetype of Grief

Thursday I report today on a memorable encounter I had with an African American alum upon my first post-retirement return to St. Mary’s College of Maryland. I was talking with a former colleague when Candace looked in and began reminiscing. I didn’t recognize her, even after she told me her name, but something clicked when […]

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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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