I am working on a different project today, but I came across this amazing poem by E.A. Robinson (1869-1935), who won more than one Pulitzer Prize in poetry. It’s called “Zola,” and it so perfectly captures why I disliked Germinal at the same time I absolutely loved it. If you’ve read any Zola before, you have to read this poem. If you want to read Zola, same thing.
Even if you’ve never read Zola before, what do you think of this poem? Does it capture your thoughts about any novel or author you’ve ever read?
I had hoped that by waiting a week or two I’d know what I want to say about Love’s Labour’s Lost, but after all this time I still have very little to say. I worry that I feel this way because I read a free Project Gutenberg version of it, and as I read in Shakespeare on Toast a few weeks ago, that is not necessarily a good thing: not every version is created the same.
Love’s Labour’s Lost is an amusing Shakespearean comedy: light, pure entertainment. I found few memorable lines in the version I read, but it was an enjoyable plot. I also watched Kenneth Branaugh’s version of the play, which was a completely original take on it. I loved that he was able to reinvent the play, using Shakespeare’s own words, in a modern scene without too much pain.
The play is about the king of Navarre and his court — four men who take a vow of celibacy for three years while they pursue their studies, forbidding women to even enter their court. When the princess of France hears of this development, she and her court decide to visit and see what kind of reception they can receive. Of course, the young men fall secretly in love with the lovely ladies, despite the King’s decree, and when they all discover the other’s pining love, they decide they should abandon their pledge and flirt with the women. Crossed love letters and a group of women determined to mock the royal court ultimately result in the four young men failing to accomplish their goal of wooing the women, but it makes for an amusing ride for the audience as we watch it unfolding!
Branaugh placed this
mythical Basque kingdom and court in Europe in 1939, giving his lovebirds the tendency to burst into songs — Gershwin, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin. It’s a musical, it’s light. Is there any substance to it? Not a whole lot, but Shakespeare’s original didn’t have much either. There is a lot of play on words, most of it groan worthy. Apparently, Branaugh’s movie had less than half the original words as Shakespeare.
Love’s Labour’s Lost is the least often performed of Shakespeare’s plays. Nevertheless, I’m glad I gave it a try. It’s nice to know that even Shakespeare doesn’t do everything perfectly. Although, I will say that even this mediocre and less than impressive play still has delightful wordplay. Shakespeare didn’t do too badly.
I personally love poetry anthologies, and I have searched for something my son would also enjoy so he could learn to appreciate poetry as I do. We may have found a winner! Julie Andrews’ Treasury for All Seasons: Poems and Songs to Celebrate the Year (Little, Brown and Company, 2012) is a poetry anthology organized by month. Each season of the year and specific holidays have poems, and the pages are illustrated by Marjorie Priceman with child-friendly bright watercolor paintings. (more…)
I love good poetry anthologies for children or adults, and Read-Aloud Poems, edited by Glorya Hale (Black Dog and Levanthal, 2012) is a nice selection of poetry both classic and modern poems that parents and children can enjoy together. Raisin and I read a few poems each day for about a month, and he enjoyed them, as did I. I was impressed by the variety of types of poetry were represented in the volume, from Lewis Carroll to Shel Silverstein to Robert Frost and Maya Angelou.
The book is organized by general subject: poems that tell stories, poems about family, poems to think about. The only poems Raisin did not like were some of the longer poems that told a story: given his young age (he’s only 5), I don’t blame him. When poems go on longer than two pages, they are hard to follow. In general, though, the volume was fun to read through. Although no one poem stands out at the end of our reading together, I do recall a number of times silly poems made him laugh or he commented on concepts addressed in the poem. We certainly enjoyed reading through the collection of poems in Read-Aloud Poems.
Note: I read a digital copy of Read-Aloud Poems courtesy of the publisher via netgalley.com
For poetry month, I knew I wanted to read poetry, and since I’ve also been eager to return to the Greek classics, I thought I’d take the chance to dive in with Sappho’s lyrics, as translated by Anne Carlson in If Not, Winter.
Because Sappho’s poetry remains for us only in fragments, reading through Ms Carlson’s translations was an enjoyable reminder of the essential building blocks of poetic thought: word choice, simplicity, and metaphor, for example. (more…)