Brief Highlights in the History of American Poetry

American FlagOkay, I’ll be honest, I tried to research and write a detailed history of American poetry, but I decided I couldn’t be bothered, so here instead is a selection of the really important bits. Continue reading “Brief Highlights in the History of American Poetry”

New Zealand Artist: Colin McCahon

Colin McCahon (1919-1987) is one of New Zealand’s most prominent artists. He was one of a group of artists who introduced Modernism into New Zealand, and is perhaps best-known for his large-scale works, often in muted, earthy tones or shades of black, white, and grey, which layered text over a background image.

McCahon Urewera Mural 1976
Colin McCahon, Urewera Mural, 1976

Continue reading “New Zealand Artist: Colin McCahon”

Opera in my Pyjamas: Peter Grimes

Peter Grimes posterThe accusation that opera is utterly unrealistic is hard to apply to Benjamin Britten’s (1913-1976) 1945 work ‘Peter Grimes’. Loosely based on a narrative poem by George Crabbe (1754-1832) it’s a tale of small-town gossip and prejudice and its devastating effect on the life of the social outcast Peter Grimes. Continue reading “Opera in my Pyjamas: Peter Grimes”

Local Culture: The Pohutukawa Tree

Pohutukawa-tree.pngFirst produced in 1957, New Zealand play The Pohutukawa Tree by Bruce Mason, tells a similar story to that of Patricia Grace’s Potiki. It’s the story of a proud matriarch, Aroha Mataira, the widowed heir to the chieftainship of the Ngati Raukura tribe and the mother of the last Maori family living on their traditional lands at the small township of Te Parenga. The rest of the tribe have long since sold their land to the Atkinsons, the Pakeha (White) landholding family who have dominated the area for three generations, and Mrs. Mataira and her two children, Johnny (18) and Queenie (17) work for the Atkinsons. Continue reading “Local Culture: The Pohutukawa Tree”

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”

Philosopher Profile: Plato (c.428-348 BCE)

 

Plato
Plato

“So,” the Significant Other asked me recently, “now that you’ve finished reading ‘The Republic’ when are you going to do a blog post on Plato?” It’s a fair question: Plato, along with Aristotle, who studied under him, effectively laid the basis for Western philosophy and was also massively influential in the development of Christian theology.

 

And yet in terms of biography we don’t really know a great deal about him. Even his name is only a nickname, meaning ‘broad’, and possibly referring to the shape of his head. His real name might have been Aristocles, but then again it might not. He was born into an aristocratic Athenian family. His family may have expected Plato to enter into politics himself, but instead he became a student of Socrates. Continue reading “Philosopher Profile: Plato (c.428-348 BCE)”

Paintings You Should Know: Caravaggio’s ‘The Death of the Virgin’, C.1602-06

2 Caravaggio Death of the Virgin 1604to06
Caravaggio, The Death of the Virgin, 1604-06

The interesting thing about this painting, beyond anything to do with the composition or the skill of the artist, is the fact that it was, and for some arguably still is, controversial to the point of outright offensiveness. Continue reading “Paintings You Should Know: Caravaggio’s ‘The Death of the Virgin’, C.1602-06”

Author Profile: Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881)

dostoyevsky-by-vasily-perov-1872
Dostoyevsky by Vasily Perov 1872

One of the greatest writers not only in Russia but in the world, Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote books which reflect a deep appreciation of human psychology, a profound interest in philosophy, and a devout Christian faith. His plots at times seem rambling to the point of chaotic, and his cast of characters extensive, but the reader is never left in any doubt that the author has a point and intends to make it.

Dostoyevsky was born in Moscow on 11th November 1821, to Mikhail Dostoyevsky, a doctor estranged from his family, who had expected him to become a priest, and Maria Nechayeva, who came from a family of merchants. He was raised in the family home in the grounds of the Mariinsky Home for the Poor, where his father worked, an upbringing which was steeped from an early age in the Christian faith and the literature of Russia and Europe: Pushkin, Goethe, Cervantes, Walter Scott, and Homer all joined the Bible in expected family reading. He had a ‘delicate constitution’ but a determined attitude which would see him in good stead in later life. Continue reading “Author Profile: Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881)”

Random Poem: The Journey of the Magi, by T. S. Eliot

This Sunday just passed marked Epiphany in the Christian calendar, the date when we remember the visit paid to Jesus by wise men from the East (the Magi, also known as the Three Kings) as recorded in the Gospel of St. Matthew (Matthew 2:1-12). Continue reading “Random Poem: The Journey of the Magi, by T. S. Eliot”

Treasure Trove: ‘Christmas Bells’ by Henry Wandsworth Longfellow

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.

sidney-e-king-capture-of-ricketts-battery
Sidney E King, ‘The Capture of Rickett’s Battery’

Although it has subsequently been adapted several times, with the more specific references to the War altered or omitted, the original runs as follows:

 

 

 

Continue reading “Treasure Trove: ‘Christmas Bells’ by Henry Wandsworth Longfellow”