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Showing posts from January, 2009

The Influence of Satire in Renaissance Pastoral Poetry

To today’s reader, Pastoral poetry and theatrical works from the English Renaissance may remind us more of fairy tales and fables than pieces of great literature. The plays and poetry from this period are often relegated to the world of kitsch alongside porcelain shepherd and shepherdess salt and pepper shakers or the mediocre oil paintings of impossibly idealized bucolic country sides, second cousins to oil-on-velvet paintings of sad clowns and Elvis Presley. At first glance, the pastoral’s ruffle-clad shepherdesses and pan-flute-playing shepherds generally fail to garner much of our literary respect or stir much of our interest, however “first glance” may not be a close enough inspection of this particular genre. These seemingly quaint fables are not in fact what they at first seem. The very fact pastorals occupied some of the greatest poetic minds of the Renaissance should, but doesn’t always, imply the form at one time spoke to something deeper and more substantial than a pan flute

Prose Poetry and Al Zolynas ' " Our Cat ' s Fascination With Water "

"Our Cat’s Fascination With Water" by Al Zolynas utilizes strong images to describe the established morning routine of the speaker and his cat. Reading it we detect the presence of metaphor, vivid imagery, as well as emotional and personal viewpoints. All these things are familiar elements of poetry, and yet the piece looks like prose. It could easily pass as a paragraph out of a longer piece of writing or an example of micro fiction. Zolynas has told us a story. We picture him turning on the faucet for his cat’s entertainment and learn this has happened almost every morning for the last two years. The narrative covers the present and gives us a bit of history. To some extent there is even a plot; we can easily follow the sequence of events. These are all elements of narrative, but on the other hand the piece has the unmistakable feeling of poetry. Some argue prose poetry is a poetic form, others see it as a type of prose which draws upon poetic elements. Still others view it

Haiku Form in Anna Poplawska ' s " so many headstones "

so many headstones: so many more blades of grass Anna Poplawska In her article "Zen and the Art of Haiku", Anna Poplawska calls haiku "an expression of egolessness in which the poet turns outward to fully experience and capture the essence of being in a particular moment at a particular place". However, the simple description of something ordinary can also go beyond capturing that particular place and moment and allow an object or event to transcend itself and represent something universal. Poplawska's "so many headstones" haiku seems to capture a thought which might pass through our minds while standing in a graveyard. There are so many headstones, but also there are so many more blades of grass. A contrast is drawn between the dead and the living. In twelve syllables, nine words, or three lines, Poplawska conveys a message of hope and comfort for those who might be grieving; yes, some have died and left us but look how many live and grow around us. L

Shakespeare ' s Use of Pastorals

William Shakespeare made frequent use of the Pastoral, both through brief examples within works such as "Love's Labor's Lost" ("When icicles hang by the wall") or sustained examples like the play "As You Like It". Other plays by Shakespeare contain individual pastoral scenes, such as the bandits in "The Two Gentlemen of Verona". Each of these cases speak to the "deep European unease about power, urbanization, and the demands made for a new centralization" mentioned by Strand and Boland in "The Making of a Poem" (207). While many of Shakespeare's more popular plays contain readily apparent themes which an audience can easily relate to, the pastorals seem more elusive, are less popular, and are produced less often. It is difficult to feel sympathy for a group of characters who find refuge in nature, such as in "As You Like It". "When icicles hang by the wall" at first glance seems similarly quain

Blank Verse in William Shakespeare ' s Plays

At various times throughout my life I have had the good fortune to view, participate in, and even direct plays by William Shakespeare (or whoever wrote them, but that's another topic entirely). These plays have a well known little problem, the language. Early on I thought I had this little problem licked; I decided to read the lines as though they were simply written in prose. In other words, run all the lines together. The rule I made was simple, if you did have to pause anywhere (since actors sometimes do have to breathe), do it anywhere but at the end of one of those lines of verse. Unfortunately this technique saw me through the performance of a few different plays and the reading of several others. But often as we get older we start to realize the original way of doing something might actually be the right way, so I studied how to "do verse" when an opportunity to direct "The Two Gentlemen of Verona" came my way. What I learned about Shakespeare's iambi

Ballad Form in Emily Dickinson ' s Stanza " I died for Beauty - but was scarce "

Emily Dickinson's "I died for Beauty - but was scarce" is at first glance a "Stanza", however it borrows from the ballad form as well. Its place as a Stanza is secured by the isometric line lengths, although line lengths in a Stanza may be unequal as well, and by its ability to stand as a self contained entity. However, what Strand and Boland ( The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms ) refer to as "a suppressed narrative" tells a story with hidden levels, of two people whose similar actions in life have created a bond between them in death. This hidden narrative draws the stanza into the realm of the Ballad. Like a traditional ballad, "I died for Beauty - " delivers its short story in four-line stanzas. Also borrowed from Ballad form is a first and third line in each stanza with four stresses in iambic tetrameter, followed by second and fourth lines with three stresses, or iambic trimeter. Typical of the Ballad, Dickinson'

The Form Behind " Pantoum of the Great Depression " by Donald Justice

> In "The Making of a Poem", authors Mark Strand and Eavan Boland call the pantoum, like the villanelle and sestina, "game-like forms that circle in on themselves, changing the event as they narrate it" (53). The pantoum requires repetition, as do the villanelle and sestina, but where the villanelle demands the frequent repetition of two particular lines and the sestina repeats six end-words in a pattern called "lexical repetition", the pantoum gives us a rolling pattern of repetition which results in a rhythm reminiscent of an incantation. In "Pantoum of the Great Depression" by Donald Justice, these rolling patterns result in a feeling of forward movement, almost against our will. Each repetition digs to uncover yet another layer of meaning in the poem’s opening statement, "Our lives avoided tragedy simply by going on and on". Then after nine stanzas of four lines each Justice gives us a single-line stanza to complete the opening