MurraysWorld  >  Chit Chat  >  Poetry and literature discussion
Pages: 1 [2] Reply

Poetry and literature discussion

Quote

I was nearly put off poetry for life because at school not only did we have to read them but give them an in-depth analysis as well.

You may appreciate this anecdote Aileen.

This is the first poem we studied on the first year poetry module when I was an undergraduate.

This Is Just To Say
By William Carlos Williams, 1883 - 1963

 I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

We read it and started to discuss it. Very quickly a guy in the seminar started to dominate the discussion with some very in-depth references to Freud - it turned out he was obsessed with Freud. This went on for what seemed like over half an hour until we're all getting bored and another guy - who would become my best friend - gets fed up and said 'or maybe they are just ****ing plums'.

Sometimes literary analysis gets too wrapped up in theory these days. Sometimes a plum is just a plum!
IP Logged
Quote

Unbelievable!  Fortunately at school we never took things that far, but then things were a little simpler in those days!  We had to do the same with Shakespeare - read and analyse one of his plays each year.  Can you imagine having to look at the same old play for months on end?  All this of course was because we were regularly tested in both Eng litt and well as language.
IP Logged
Quote

We had to do the same with Shakespeare - read and analyse one of his plays each year.  Can you imagine having to look at the same old play for months on end? 

That's basically what my job is! Only not on Shakespeare, that's someone else's job!
IP Logged
Quote

Yes, I should have added that it must have been equally boring for the teachers, and while we could move on to something else, they couldn't, apart from swapping the plays around just to have a little variety in their jobs, because unfortunately for them the curriculum was such that they had no choice but to teach what was set down in it.   
IP Logged
Quote

Yeah, paralysis through over analysis.
Plays were/are written to be watched And poetry to touch the emotions.
I once went to a  "History of Modern Art" course. One of the artists we looked at was Modigliani.  I loved Modigliani. The elongation of his necks was observed. Do you know, in all the time I'd  been looking his work, I'd never noticed those necks, I'd just admired the beauty of the shape/form.  It took me years to re-assemble Modigliani!
The course, in fact, turned out to be brilliant and taught me so much. It laid the foundations of  my love of art.
Fortunately  Whistle
IP Logged
Quote

We had to do the same with Shakespeare - read and analyse one of his plays each year.  Can you imagine having to look at the same old play for months on end? 
Think I was spared a whole year!  But I used to try to write critical reviews saying Shakespeare wasn't that good! Looking back I was clearly wrong, but I did expose that unfortunately they weren't really looking for original observations, but instead a list of points they'd already given us.
IP Logged
Quote

Rubbish! lol   What attracts you to Yeats though?

I was nearly put off poetry for life because at school not only did we have to read them but give them an in-depth analysis as well. Rolling Eyes  Many years later I joined a poetry reading group some friends were running and that revived my interest.

Hey, I'm even an English graduate. I don't know. I've always been repelled by the arts in general, especially theatre. Always seemed a sphere populated by wishy-washy liberals and body-pierced freaks. I was always drawn to sport but, sadly, my professional talents lay elsewhere and I had to earn a living by writing.

Pretentious over-analysis of literature drives me nuts. That plums example above is typical. The writer really was just writing about bloody plums. There's no need for any more conjecture.

But, for all that, I do like the mysticism and ethereality of Yeats. The Wild Swans at Coole is probably the best stuff.

Yeats has some stunning lines:

'O body swayed to music, O brightening glance, How can we know the dancer from the dance?'
[ Last edit by Grabcopy Today at 10:45 AM ] IP Logged
Quote

I'm a big fan of Woody Allen and he did a superb send-up of Yeats and the Irish Movement. He wrote a piece of analysis based on a poem called Beyond Ichor by Sean O'Shawn:

Viscous and Sons has announced publication of The Annotated Poems of Sean O’Shawn, the great Irish poet, considered by many to be the most incomprehensible and hence the finest poet of his time.

Beyond Ichor

Let us sail. Sail with
Fogarty’s chin to Alexandria,
While the Beamish Brothers
Hurry giggling to the tower,
Proud of their gums.

A thousands years passed since
Agamemnon said, “Don’t open
The gates, who the hell needs
A wooden horse that size?”

What is the connection? Only
That Shaunnesy, with dying
Breath, refused to order an
Appetizer with his meal although
He was entitled to it.

And brave Bixby, despite his
Resemblance to a woodpecker,
Could not retrieve his underwear
From Socrates without a ticket.

Parnell had the answer, but no
One would ask him the question.
No one but old Lafferty, whose
Lapis lazuli practical joke caused
A whole generation to take
Samba lessons.

True, Homer was blind and that
Accounted for why he dated those
Particular women.

But Aegnus and the druids bear
Mute testimony to man’s quest
For free alterations.

Blake dreamed of it too, and
O’Higgins who had his suit
Stolen while he was still in it.

Civilisation is shaped like a
Circle and repeats itself, while
O’Leary’s head is shaped like
A trapezoid.

Rejoice! Rejoice! And call your
Mother once in a while.
IP Logged
Quote

Here's the analysis of Beyond Ichor. You'll either love it or hate it.

Let us sail. O'Shawn was fond of sailing, although he had  never done it on the sea. As a boy he dreamed of becoming a ship's captain but gave it up when someone explained to him what sharks were. His older brother  James, however, did go off and join the British Navy, though he was dishonorably discharged for selling coleslaw to a bosun.

Fogarty's chin. Undoubtedly a reference to George Fogarty, who convinced O'Shawn to become a poet and assured him he would still be invited to parties. Fogarty published a magazine for new poets and although its circulation was limited to his mother, its impact was international.

Fogarty was a fun-loving, rubicund Irishman whose idea of a good time was to lie down in the public square and  imitate a tweezers. Eventually he suffered a nervous  breakdown and was arrested for eating a pair of pants on Good Friday.

Fogarty's chin was an object of great ridicule because it was tiny to the point of nonexistence, and at Jim Kelly's wake, he told O'Shawn, "I'd give anything for a larger  chin. If I don't find one soon I'm liable to do something  rash." Fogarty, incidentally, was a friend of Bernard  Shaw's and was once permitted to touch Shaw's beard,  provided he would go away.

Alexandria. References to the Middle East appear  throughout O'Shawn's work, and his poem that begins "To Bethlehem with suds . . ." deals caustically with the  hotel business seen through the eyes of a mummy.

The Beamish Brothers. Two half-wit brothers who tried to get from Belfast to Scotland by mailing each other. Liam Beamish went to Jesuit school with O'Shawn but  was thrown out for dressing like a beaver. Quincy Beamish was the more introverted of the two and kept a furniture pad on his head till he was forty-one.

The Beamish Brothers used to pick on O'Shawn and usually ate his lunch just before he did. Still, O'Shawn  remembers them fondly and in his best sonnet, "My love  is like a great, great yak," they appear symbolically as end tables.

The tower. When O'Shawn moved out of his parents' home, he lived in a tower just south of Dublin. It was a very low tower, standing about six feet, or two inches shorter than O'Shawn. He shared this residence with Harry O'Connel, a friend with literary pretension whose verse play The Musk Ox, closed abruptly when the cast was chloroformed.

 O'Connel was a great influence on O'Shawn's style and  ultimately convinced him that every poem need not begin, "Roses are red, violets are blue."

Proud of their gums. The Beamish Brothers had unusually  fine gums. Liam Beamish could remove his false teeth and eat peanut brittle, which he did every day for sixteen years until someone told him there was no such profession.

Agamemnon. O'Shawn was obsessed with the Trojan War. He could not believe an army could be so stupid as  to accept a gift from its enemy during wartime. Particularly when they got close to the wooden horse and heard giggling inside. This episode seems to have traumatized the young O'Shawn and throughout his entire life he examined every gift given him very carefully,  going so far as to shine a flashlight into a pair of shoes he received on his birthday and calling out, "Anybody in  there? Eh? Come on out!"

Shaunnesy. Michael Shaunnesy, an occult writer and mystic, who convinced O'Shawn there would be a life after death for those who saved string. Shaunnesy also believed the moon influenced actions  and that to take a haircut during a total eclipse caused sterility. O'Shawn was very much taken with Shaunnesy and devoted much of his life to occult studies, although he never achieved his final goal of being able to enter a  room through the keyhole.  

The moon figures heavily in O'Shawn's later poems, and  he told James Joyce that one of his greatest pleasures  was to immerse his arm in custard on a moonlit night.

Appetizer. The reference to Shaunnesy's refusing an appetizer probably refers to the time the two men dined together in Innesfree and Shaunnesy blew chickpeas through a straw at a fat lady when she disagreed with his views on embalming.

Bixby. Eamonn Bixby. A political fanatic who preached ventriloquism as a cure for the world's ills. He was a  great student of Socrates but differed from the Greek  philosopher in his idea of the "good life," which Bixby  felt was impossible unless everybody weighed the same.

Parnell had the answer. The answer O'Shawn refers to is 'Tin’ and the question is "What is the chief export of Bolivia?" That no one asked Parnell the question is understandable, although he was challenged once to name the largest fur-bearing quadruped extant and he said, ‘Chicken’, for which he was severely criticized.

Lafferty. John Millington Synge's podiatrist. A fascinating  character who had a passionate affair with Molly Bloom  until he realized she was a fictional character. Lafferty was fond of practical jokes and once with some  
corn meal and egg, he breaded Synge's arch supports.

Synge walked peculiarly as a result, and his followers imitated him, hoping that by duplicating his gait, they too would write fine plays. Hence the lines: "caused/A whole generation to take/Samba lessons."

Homer was blind. Homer was a symbol for T. S. Eliot, whom O'Shawn considered a poet of "immense scope but very little breadth." The two men met in London at rehearsals of Murder in the Cathedral (at that time entitled Million Dollar Legs). O'Shawn persuaded Eliot to abandon his sideburns and give up any notion he might have of becoming a Spanish dancer. Both writers then composed a manifesto stating  the aims of the "new poetry," one of which was to write fewer poems that dealt with rabbits.

Aegnus and the Druids.
O'Shawn was influenced by Celtic mythology, and his poem that begins, "Clooth na bare, na bare, na bare . . ." tells how the gods of ancient Ireland transformed two lovers into a set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.    

Free alterations. Probably refers to O'Shawn's wish to "alter the human race," whom he felt were basically depraved, especially jockeys. O'Shawn was definitely a pes simist, and felt that no good could come to mankind until they agreed to lower their body temperature from 98.6, which he felt was unreasonable.

Blake. O'Shawn was a mystic and, like Blake, believed in unseen forces. This was confirmed for him when his  brother Ben was struck by lightning while licking a  postage stamp. The lightning failed to kill Ben, which O'Shawn attributed to Providence, although it took his brother seventeen years before he could get his tongue  back in his mouth.

O'Higgins. Patrick O'Higgins introduced O'Shawn to Polly Flaherty, who was to become O'Shawn's wife after a courtship of ten years in which the two did nothing more than meet secretly and wheeze at each other. Polly never  realized the extent of her husband's genius and told intimates she thought he would be most remembered not  for his poetry but for his habit of emitting a piercing  shriek just before eating apples.

O'Leary's head. Mount O'Leary, where O'Shawn proposed to Polly just before she rolled off. O'Shawn visited her in the hospital and won her heart with his poem "On the Decomposing of Flesh."

Call your mother. On her deathbed, O'Shawn's mother Bridget, begged her son to abandon poetry and become a vacuum-cleaner salesman. O'Shawn couldn't promise and suffered from anxiety and guilt the rest of his life, although at the International Poetry Conference in Geneva,  he sold W. H. Auden and Wallace Stevens each a Hoover.
IP Logged
Quote

But to get serious again, here's another dose of the real Yeats:

An Irish Airman Foresees His Death

I know that I shall meet my fate   
Somewhere among the clouds above;   
Those that I fight I do not hate   
Those that I guard I do not love;   
My country is Kiltartan Cross,
My countrymen Kiltartan’s poor,   
No likely end could bring them loss   
Or leave them happier than before.   
Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,   
Nor public man, nor cheering crowds,
A lonely impulse of delight   
Drove to this tumult in the clouds;   
I balanced all, brought all to mind,   
The years to come seemed waste of breath,   
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.
IP Logged
Quote

But to get serious again, here's another dose of the real Yeats:

An Irish Airman Foresees His Death

I know that I shall meet my fate   
Somewhere among the clouds above;   
Those that I fight I do not hate   
Those that I guard I do not love;   
My country is Kiltartan Cross,
My countrymen Kiltartan’s poor,   
No likely end could bring them loss   
Or leave them happier than before.   
Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,   
Nor public man, nor cheering crowds,
A lonely impulse of delight   
Drove to this tumult in the clouds;   
I balanced all, brought all to mind,   
The years to come seemed waste of breath,   
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.


This one is doing the rounds at the moment, its as if it is the only piece of First World War writing by an Irish writer.
IP Logged
Quote

Like I say, I'm a pleb.
IP Logged
Quote

Like I say, I'm a pleb.

I didn't mean that at all. It is a great poem, but it is the go to poem for First World War Irish writing - I was commenting more on a general laziness within the current First World War centenary stuff. Some of my research is on that period so I'm alert to it all at the moment.
IP Logged
Pages: 1 [2] Reply