Anger, deceit, snobbery, sex, madness: Tennessee Williams’ 1947 play about two sisters in a small flat in the French Quarter of New Orleans has it all.
The flat belongs to the younger sister, Stella, and her husband, Stanley (that Louisiana observes ‘Napoleonic law, whereby the property of the husband is the property of the wife, and vice-versa’ is a plot point), who are poor, passionate, and apparently happy – until older sister, Blanche, turns up, broke and needing a place to stay.
Recently a video popped up in my Facebook newsfeed. It was the story of Jamie Livingston, a New York-based filmmaker who, from March 1979 until his death on October 25th 1997, took a polaroid photograph each day. Taken together, these candid photographs chart the mundane and poignant story of a life lived in New York City just before the digital revolution.
The original website is a bit clunky to navigate, and to be honest I haven’t spent much time there, but the video is like a visit to an exhibition of Livingston’s work. He took the ordinary and showed its beauty, and to me that is one of the most wonderful things an artist can do.
Check out the video and let me know what you think.
Born at the close of the 19th century, Hemingway embodied, for good or ill, a type of masculinity seldom encountered in the West today. He was born and raised in Oak Park, Illinois, into a conservative middle-class family. His musician mother, Grace, endeavoured to teach him the cello, but his physician father, Clarence, seems to have been more influential, spending their family vacations teaching his son how to camp, hunt, fish, and generally love and thrive in the great outdoors. In high school he was involved in a number of sports, but also excelled in English and wrote for his school paper. Continue reading “Author Profile: Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)”→
The 20th century was a time of tremendous social change as people began to question, and then challenge, the hierarchical concepts which had previously shaped the social order. From the suffragettes of the early 20th century to the mid-century Civil and Women’s Rights movements to the LGBT activism of the late 20th century ideas about who should have power, and why, have changed in ways that our great-grandparents would probably have struggled to imagine. Continue reading “Poems You Should Know: Still I Rise”→
I first came across this poem as a Christmas carol adaptation by one of my favourite contemporary Christian bands, Casting Crowns (you can listen to their version here). Longfellow (1807-1882) wrote the original in 1863, in response to the American Civil War (1861-1865). It was an intensely personal poem: Longfellow’s eldest son, Charles Appleton Longfellow, had joined the War in the Union cause without his father’s blessing, and had later been seriously wounded in Virginia.
Although it has subsequently been adapted several times, with the more specific references to the War altered or omitted, the original runs as follows:
Best known for her 1969 autobiography ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’, which detailed the good, the bad, and the ugly of her life as a Black woman in 20th-century America, Maya Angelou was deeply steeped in both the Anglo-Saxon literary tradition of the likes of John Donne and Shakespeare and the contemporary work of African-American women poets like Anne Spencer and Jessie Fauset, who are largely unknown today. Perhaps as a result of this, a woman who was an ‘outsider’ by race, sex, and class was able to speak in a way that could reach those who might otherwise have overlooked her, and those like her. In 1993 she recited one of her poems, ‘On The Pulse of Morning’ at the inauguration of US President Bill Clinton. Continue reading “Poet Profile: Maya Angelou (1928-2014)”→
I read an interesting comment online recently which expressed the opinion that Christians who criticise modern worship music must be sad, lonely people who hate all music and live alone in silence with their dog. It’s probably fairly obvious from this blog that I in fact enjoy a wide range of music, including Christian music, but nonetheless I could level a number of criticisms against much (but by no means all) of the modern Christian repertoire. My key complaint, however, is the volume. Modern worship music, performed with modern electronic amplification, is often far too loud for comfort. And it’s not just me saying it…
One of my favourite hymns strikes a very different note, and it’s perhaps no wonder that it was written by a Quaker, as silence forms a key part of Quaker worship practise. The hymn is Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, and it was originally written as the climax of a poem by agriculturalist, journalist and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier of Massachusetts in 1872. It is traditionally sung to F. C. Maker’s tune ‘Rest’.
Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways!
Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives Thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise.
In simple trust like theirs who heard
Beside the Syrian sea
The gracious calling of the Lord,
Let us, like them, without a word
Rise up and follow Thee.
O Sabbath rest by Galilee!
O calm of hills above,
Where Jesus knelt to share with Thee
The silence of eternity
Interpreted by love!
With that deep hush subduing all
Our words and works that drown
The tender whisper of Thy call,
As noiseless let Thy blessing fall
As fell Thy manna down.
Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.
Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.
Also, I don’t have a dog. I have a cat. And chickens.