Five-Phrase Friday (26): The Poet’s Paradox

Szymborska_Wislawa_PoemsNewandCollected_coverI just bought this book by Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska (1923-2012), winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996, called Poems, New and Collected (1998).

I’ve been wanting to get a collection of hers for years after sampling some of her work in the poetry section of a Borders book store.

I’m so glad I finally did.

Below are 10 poem titles that encourage my reading because they’re surprising, strange, mysterious, ironic, moving, or they touch on an idea I like.

(A bonus 5 phrases since we skipped last week to pay tribute to my dog.)

  1. Greeting the Supersonics
  2. Notes from a Nonexistent Himalayan Expedition
  3. Returning Birds
  4. A Palaeolithic Fertility Fetish
  5. Evaluation of an Unwritten Poem
  6. A Medieval Miniature
  7. The Onion
  8. No Title Required
  9. Elegiac Calculation
  10. Maybe All This

The book holds over 180 poems from 8 different collections published 1957-1997.

Approved Titles

Some of the collection’s poems I’ve read and enjoyed so far include:

  1. Coloratura (celebrates a bird’s song in the spirit of Keats‘ “Ode to a Nightingale”)
  2. Clochard (of spirits and statues)
  3. The Railroad Station (existential romance)
  4. Poetry Reading (funny, ironic)
  5. Over Wine (lyrical, intimate)

The Nobel Prize website also shares a selection of five Szymborska poems in English, Polish, and Swedish:

  1. Utopia
  2. On Death, Without Exaggeration
  3. The Three Oddest Words
  4. Possibilities
  5. The Joy of Writing

A readily noticeable theme of her work is the exploration of paradox, specifically the nature of being and nothingness (à la Sartre), absence and illusion, and their emotional impact in the context of relationships and chance. She embraces the mystery, the beauty, and the pain together with the unaffected voice and questing soul I look for in a great poet.

Using a variety of tones and modes from simple and conversational to Romantic and elegiac to experimental and abstract, Szymborska has fashioned a little poet-philosopher’s Eden.

Five-Phrase Friday (24): Book Menu 2016

Books I most want to read for the first time this year:

  1. Out of Africa by Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen) – the memoir of a Danish coffee-plantation owner, and sole manager after separation from her husband, in Kenya from 1914-1931; I’ve seen the film starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford many times and loved it.
  2. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys – “a work of strange, scary loveliness,” it is the prequel to Jane Eyre, with spoilers if you haven’t read Charlotte Bronte’s book first, which I have.
  3. Poems New and Collected by Wislawa Szymborska, Clare Cavanagh (translator) – a hypnotic poet. I still have to get my hands on this one, so I’ll use my birthday money.
  4. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte – This is a need perhaps as much as a desire.
  5. Let Me Off at the Top!: My Classy Life and Other Musings by Ron Burgundy / Will Ferrell. Hopefully a sufficient counterpoise to all this seriousness. I started the Author’s Note to this one last week, after getting the book from my brother for my birthday. I only got through half a page before I started laughing out loud. People’s names alone are hilarious. Read the summary penned by Ron himself at the above link.

I’d also like to finish all of the books I’ve been reading since last year–Middlemarch by George Eliot, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth; and all of the books I started last year but never returned to–Don Quixote by Cervantes, Catching Fire (The Hunger Games #2) by Suzanne Collins, Emma by Jane Austen, and, yet again, Diana Gabaldon’s novel Outlander. I’m more than half way through the first three, so, like, . . . any day now. We’ll see.

One reason I read so slowly is that I tend to read the classics with pen in hand, especially if it’s a copy I own that I can mark up. I like to communicate literally with books, writing marginalia on them and occasionally responding aloud. Literature lives, and breathes, and speaks. So I talk back.

As a student and teacher of literature, writing, and ideas, I also take notes. That means often re-reading large swaths of text in order to capture key insights, delightful writing, story element details, and other treasures.

I’m not much for pop fiction, so this is the reading life I have. If that means I may not get through much of my Goodreads to-read list, then so be it. I’d rather read thoughtfully, learn things, and savor ideas, images, and language than simply devour millions of words, only to pass them unabsorbed.

But I’ve always been a ruminant scholar; I chew my literary food. Some may find this process (or this metaphor) tedious, if not disgusting. Being partial to reading and writing poetry makes the approach work pretty well for me.

Along with typical time management challenges, I suppose dealing with intermittent brain fog and blurry vision may slow the pace a bit, too.

What kind of reader are you?

 

Five-Phrase Friday (19): In My Loving Arts

For the end of the year, and to make up for posting late (well, it was Christmas Day, after all), I’ve collected a year-end finale of five sets of five pop culture things I love. Usually represented in the form of a phrase, these are only samples of the many objects of my admiration. So here they are in no particular order.

I. Five titles of some of the most endearing Scottish folk songs Bear McCreary uses in the Outlander Starz TV Season One Original ScoreSheet_music_comin_thru_the_rye_duckduckgo_photostock

  1. “Comin’ Thro’ the Rye,” which supports at least three different scenes in the series
  2. “Maids, When You’re Young Never Wed an Old Man” – in two different scenes and speeds: Jamie’s drunken evening and Jamie’s hangover the next morning, both in ep112 “Lallybroch”
  3. “My Bonnie Moorhen” in Jenny and Claire’s part of ep114 “The Search”
  4. “Weel May the Keel Ro” – described by composer Bear McCreary as a “fun jig” for the first part of Claire and Murtagh’s search in the same episode
  5. “Sleepy Maggie” – for the up-tempo rescue  sequence in ep116 “To Ransom a Man’s Soul”

II. Five of the novels I have most enjoyed (that I hadn’t already read)

since early 2011:

  1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – 4/5
  2. 1984 by George Orwell – 4/5
  3. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner – 4/5
  4. Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon (4th novel in the Outlander series) – 4/5
  5. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote – 5/5

III. Five favorite movies I have seen recently (I’ve got lots to catch up on, especially from 2014):

  1. Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens – 5/5
  2. Still Alice – 4/5
  3. The Martian – 4/5
  4. Spy – 4/5
  5. Guardians of the Galaxy – 4/5

IV. Five of my favorite alternative music hits from 2015 – heard on SiriusXM’s AltNation:

  1. “Trip Switch” by Nothing But Thieves
  2. “Leave a Trace” by Chvrches
  3. “First” by Cold War Kids
  4. “Sedona” by Houndmouth
  5. “Now” by Joywave

V. Five of my new favorite TV shows (not necessarily new shows–in order to have a life, I’ve limited my exposure):

  1. Outlander
  2. Penny Dreadful
  3. Archer
  4. Parks and Recreation
  5. the prospect of watching Netflix shows one day, as well as Orphan Black, The Americans, and season two of Outlander

I hope you are counting your diverse blessings, too, and that they number well over 25, as mine do. I wish you all the best in 2016. Now and always, may the phrases be with you.

Five-Phrase Friday (17): Hark! The Herald

This week, I highlight five cozy little Yuletide tunes from a delightful jazz/blues Christmas album. The crossover folk band Over the Rhine released Snow Angels in 2007. Bejewelled with the smooth, smoky pipes of vocalist Karin Bergquist, my top five from the record follow. Ranging from sacred to sinful, all of the album’s tunes fit well together for a seasonal soundtrack or to warm you on a cold winter’s night.

This top-rated Over the Rhine albums on Amazon will make a great Christmas, Chanukkah (this weekend or next year), Kwanzaa, or music-lover’s gift.

So fill your mug with hot cocoa, throw in a peppermint stick, sit by the cracklin’ fire (or one of those crackling scented candles), and wrap your ears around these December-lovin’ beauties. Follow the link for a sample.

  1. “Darlin’ (Christmas Is Coming)” – gentle swingin’ into the holidays
  2. “Little Town” – a lovely variation on “O Little Town of Bethlehem”
  3. “Here It Is” – a jolly, driving-rock love testimonial
  4. “North Pole Man” – steamy blues that far outstrips “Santa, Baby”
  5. “Snow Angel” – a sweet commemorative ballad
The other great tunes on the album:
“White Horse” – a waltzing Christmas lullaby (“Hush now, baby . . .”)
“One Olive Jingle” – a jazzy “Jingle Bells” with slurry (drunken?) vowels
“All I Ever Get For Christmas is Blue” – slow, plaintive blues
“New Redemption Song” – a halting Christian folk anthem
“Goodbye Charles” – a Charlie Brown-like piano tribute to Charles Schultz
“Snowed In With You” – sensual, bluesy jazz like a tame night-club tease
“We’re Gonna Pull Through” – a slow, wistful ballad of solace

Originally from Cincinnati, where I first learned of them, the band also released an album called Ohio in 2010. Their most recent record is Blood Oranges in the Snow (2014)

Additional Over the Rhine CDs I own and enjoy:

The Trumpet Child, 2007
Films for Radio, 2001
Good Dog, Bad Dog, 2000 version

 

Happy Holidays, Baby.