Poems You Should Know: ‘Ode To A Nightingale’ by John Keats

John Keats (1795-1821) was one of the most innovative poets of the Romantic movement, and ‘Ode To A Nightingale’ is filled with the things the Romantics loved best: emotion, nature, death, and, in this case, drug use. It’s one of six ‘Odes’ composed by Keats in 1819 as a new variety of short(ish) lyric poem. Of the other five the best known today are probably ‘Ode On A Grecian Urn’ and one of my personal favourites, ‘To Autumn’. Continue reading “Poems You Should Know: ‘Ode To A Nightingale’ by John Keats”

On My Reading List: April 2017

I may have gotten a little carried away on my last visit to the local library, because my current reading list is long, very long, particularly when I still have around 400 pages to go in Vikram Seth’s ‘A Suitable Boy’ (which, to be fair, puts me over two thirds of the way through it). Still, at least it gives me a varied literary diet.

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Continue reading “On My Reading List: April 2017”

Author Profile: Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)

 

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Virginia Woolf 1902

Acknowledged along with James Joyce as one of the foremost Modernist writers, and by Simone de Beauvoir as one of the few female writers to have explored what she referred to as “the given” – the assumptions made about what a woman ‘is’ – Virginia Woolf is best-remembered today for a handful of her most prominent novels, but during her lifetime was also a noted essayist and critic.

 

She was born in London on the 25th of January 1882, into an upper middle class family with strong literary and artistic connections. Continue reading “Author Profile: Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)”

Local Culture: Artists Open Studios 2017

 

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Troll head sculpture by Raymond de la Haye, viewed in his sculpture garden in upper Aramoho
The last weekend in March and the first weekend in April saw the return of Artists Open Studios, a highlight of the Whanganui artistic calendar during which local artists open their studios to members of the public. This year almost eighty studios and over a hundred artists participated, so I was rather glad when the Significant Other (who hadn’t ‘done’ AOS before) went through the artists catalogue and highlighted a dozen studios which particularly interested him, as it spared me the agony of trying to decide. I did, however, insist on a visit to the studio of my favourite local artist, Tina Drayton. Continue reading “Local Culture: Artists Open Studios 2017”

Poems You Should Know: ‘Remember Me’ by Christina Rossetti

Written during the Victorian period, the combination of realism (death is sometimes described as the ultimate reality), intellect (‘remember’, ‘tell’, ‘counsel’, ‘pray’, ‘thoughts’), emotion (the poem is permeated by the melancholy which accompanies the death of a loved one), and symbolism (referring to death as ‘the silent land’) in ‘Remember Me’ is all characteristic of the writing of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, of which Christina Rossetti (1830-1864) was arguably one of the foremost poets. ‘Remember Me’ speaks from the point of view of a person contemplating their own death and exhorting their loved one to remember them after death – but not at the cost of their own continued life and happiness. It’s apparently a favourite at funerals.

Remember me when I am gone away,
         Gone far away into the silent land;
         When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
         You tell me of our future that you plann’d:
         Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
         And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
         For if the darkness and corruption leave
         A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
         Than that you should remember and be sad.

New Zealand Literature

mapofnewzealand.jpgThus far in this project I’ve rather neglected New Zealand literature, so I thought I should pay it some attention. Doubly rooted in the rich oral tradition of the indigenous Maori people and the equally rich literary tradition of Britain and Europe, New Zealand offers a great deal that is worth paying attention to. The following is little more than a taster of works by some of our most celebrated writers, arranged in chronological order. Continue reading “New Zealand Literature”

Recommended Read: Book List Challenges (Facebook page)

Like many people whose dominant learning style is Reading (VARK: Visual, Aural, Reading, Kinesthetic), I just love lists, so a Facebook page dedicated to lists of books to read, where you can check off the ones you’ve already read and compare your score to other users, is an extremely happy-making thing for me.

They have an increasing number of other lists as well, but book list challenges still feature regularly. One of my favourites, and one which was a starting-point for The Culture Project, was The BBC Book List Challenge, which apparently has nothing to do with the BBC but did the rounds of the internet a couple of years back with the sub-heading ‘the BBC believes you’ve only read six of these books.’ The average Goodreads user has a score of 23/100. I started at 38/100 in October 2014 and am now at 66/100, not counting all the other books I’ve read which don’t feature on this list.

What’s your score? Are you pleased with it? Surprised? Displeased? Let me know.

Poems You Should Know: ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling

There must be something about the late-Victorian certitude with which Kipling (1865-1936) expounds on the nature of masculine virtue which continues to resonate with men and women today, because in 1995 ‘If’ was voted Britain’s favourite poem in a BBC poll. There is no room here for weakness or indecision or ‘expressing your feelings’: in a manner as bracing as a good British northerly it’s all duty and valour and a stiff upper lip.

If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
.
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
.
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
.
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Kipling, in true Victorian style, had a male audience in mind when he wrote this poem, but I’ve never found that an obstacle to finding this poem personally inspiring. What do you think?

Playtime: ‘Waiting for Godot: a tragicomedy in two acts’ by Samuel Beckett

Waiting for Godot 3My latest area of exploration is the classics of theatre and, as with opera and ballet, I’m using the internet to compensate for the lack of conveniently live performances. My first ‘outing’ is Waiting for Godot, a play by Samuel Beckett (1906-1989), which premiered in 1953.

It’s a play where nothing happens. The two main characters, Vladimir and Estragon, are waiting for Godot. He did not come yesterday. He will not come today. But tomorrow, assuredly, he will come. Except that that’s the way it was yesterday, and the day before that, and, odds are, the way it will be tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after… Continue reading “Playtime: ‘Waiting for Godot: a tragicomedy in two acts’ by Samuel Beckett”