Thursday, April 19, 2018

Poetry Thoughts 2018: John Greenleaf Whittier's "Proem" and "Songs of Labor"



Although sometimes his grammar is a bit archaic and forced, and he has a tendency to use antiquated language such as "thine" and "thou," I really enjoyed the section of The Oxford Book of American Verse devoted to the poetry of John Greenleaf Whittier. Here are a couple of his poems and my thoughts:

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Poetry Thoughts 2018: Robinson's "Eros Tyrannos"


A common poem assigned in lit classes when I was in college was My Last Duchess by Robert Browning. In this poem the narrator is a Duke who is giving a tour of his home, points out a portrait of his “last Duchess” (which means she hasn’t been his only Duchess), and the rest of his monologue makes it clear that he not only counts the portrait among his many trophies, but also the woman who holds that position. It’s a rather creepy, sexist, socially critical poem, and despite its morbid subject matter I liked it for addressing a part of life that often gets swept under the carpet.

Eros Turannos by Edwin Arlington Robinson is the first poem since college that has given me the same sort of vibe. When I searched for a translation I found the title means “Love the King” in Greek, though I would interpret it more as tyrant than king, taking the poem’s contents into consideration. In fact, from my one semester of New Testament Greek I took in high school (thanks, Mom!) I would say that it should rather be interpreted as "tyrant love."

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Poetry Thoughts 2018: Introduction


It took me a few years, but at the beginning of 2018 I finally finished The Oxford Book of American Verse. From Anne Bradstreet to Robert Lowell, for over 1,100 pages, I sampled what the literary critics and poetry enthusiasts considered the best of American verse in 1950.

Contrary to how I treat my other books, I often break the no-tampering rule and allow myself to write (with pencil, mind!) in them. This is the way I can keep track of my initial opinions and perceptions, and as needed diagram the meaning of some of the headier works. Unlike prose, I have found that my opinion of specific poems or poets may change over time.