Wednesday, September 22, 2010

do not go gentle into that good night

On a whim, my AP girls and I decided to wander into villanelles this morning. We started with David Huddle's "Roanoke Pastorale" and ended up comparing it to Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night." We talked about the fact that both poems mightily resist a straightforward interpretation, but that both are meditations on mortality. We looked up words like "green" and "frail" and "rave." We contradicted ourselves. We read aloud. We listened to an archaic-sounding Irishman read his poem aloud.
An hour and twenty later, my entire lesson plan was out the window. History. Weren't we supposed to talk about The Sun Also Rises and write an essay? Instead, we were lost in words and rhymes.
Best class of the year so far, entirely off the map.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

"Reading Hemingway" by James Cummins

Reading Hemingway makes me so hungry,
for jambon, cheeses, and a dry white wine.
Cold of course, very cold. And very dry.

Reading Hemingway makes some folks angry:
the hip drinking, the bitter pantomime.
But reading Hemingway makes me hungry

for the good life, the sun, the fish, the sky:
blue air, white water, dinner on the line...
Had it down cold, he did. And dry. Real dry.

But Papa had it all, the brio, the Brie:
clear-eyed, tight-lipped, advancing on a stein...
Reading Hemingway makes me so hungry.

I'd knock down Monsieur Stevens, too, if I
drank too much retsina before we dined.
(Too old, that man, and way too cold. And dry

enough to rub one's famished nerves awry,
kept talking past the kitchen's closing time!)
Reading Hemingway makes me so hungry...
And cold, of course. So cold. And very dry.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

a tough cookie

Hearing Jeannette Walls speak at Davis-Kidd about The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses this past week was an awe-inspiring experience. That woman is a living legend, and she did not disappoint. I'm only sorry I did not bring a notebook to record all her pearls of wisdom, but I remember a few. My favorite is her theory on endings. She and her mom were arguing one day about something - maybe Jeannette's writing - and Jeannette was afraid it wasn't going to work out. Her mom kept insisting that it would, and so Jeannette countered, "But what if it doesn't, Mom? Some things don't end well."

And that's when crazy, brilliant Rosemary Walls said, "Well that's when you know you haven't come to the end yet."

But here is my favorite part of the talk, and my favorite passage so far in Half Broke Horses, a novel about Jeannette's grandmother. Her grandmother learned to break horses when she was young, and her mother feared that she'd get hurt falling.

"...I got thrown plenty, which terrified Mom, but Dad just waved her off and helped me up.
'Most important thing in life,' he would say, 'is learning how to fall.'"

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Liking this one

Let me say first that I love fall. It has always signaled the beginning of a new year to me. However, I have had a series of interesting and not unrelated conversations with friends this weekend about the profound sadness some feel at this time of year: about the inevitable end of summer and all that that season entails; about the advent of fall, and with it, the pressure to succeed at school or work; and finally, about the art of bow hunting. (Not that I've tried this. Yet.) Somehow, and rather miraculously, all these things seem wrapped up in this gorgeous short story by Paul Murray, published today in The New York Times. I'm posting it here for posterity, and to remember this inbetween time of year when the sky couldn't be more blue.

"Back to School" by Paul Murray.