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[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

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[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in] is probably the first E.E. Cummings poem I ever came across. I fell in love with it then. It’s so beautiful and effortless, simple and deep. I think it’s one of the most romantic of all poems and superlative in it’s embodiment and encapsulation of love’s transcendent power.

It’s always been one of my favorites. I had a hard time not including it in my Poetry Month Celebration blog post, last year, but I’d limited myself to only choosing one of my favorite poems from each of my favorite poets, so I went with [love is more thicker than forget]. I figured it was a lesser known poem.

Then, in May, I came across this video. It’s one of the best analyses of a poem, I’ve ever come across. It may seem a little long, but it’s well worth the time.


It starts off with a recording of Cummings, himself, reading the poem and then goes on to  analyse the poem and how it relates to Cummings and his poetry in a broader sense. It’s fascinating, especially the part where it shows how brilliantly Cummings used parentheses to overlap and add another level of depth to the poem and, also, where it touches on Cummings’ views on love and truth and how they can only be “known” by being experienced.

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“…Cummings believes that truth and poetry and love cannot be comprehended, only experienced. With his poetry and all it’s intense experimentation, he attempts to short circuit our impulse toward knowing so that we might experience language anew.”

I think Cummings certainly found a way to allow the reader to experience the beauty of “truth and poetry and love” through this poem.

This video definitely gave me a much deeper appreciation for this poem and for Cummings’ poetry, in general, and I’ve been wanting to blog about it for almost a year now. I figure, with yesterday being Valentine’s Day, today is a good day to. 🙂

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There Are Two Kinds of People…

My sister sent me this cartoon the other day, she thought it was perfect for me. It was. 🙂 It resonates and makes me laugh, because it’s literally the exact way I’d put it, if I had to.

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I may or may not have been guilty of doing this to a few books as a child, but, until a few months ago, I hadn’t actually seen anyone do this to a book in years. I can’t remember exactly where I saw it, if it was in-person or on the internet. I just remember feeling a jolt and shudder of shock and horror, then disappointment in the owner and terribly sorry for the book! 🙂 Haha.

I understand why people might want to dog-ear a book, i.e., you have a few places you want to keep track of and you want to find them easily (I often end up using two or three bookmarks in one book). Still, once dog-eared, always dog-eared. Books that are well-read and loved naturally get well-worn and dog-eared, but there’s no need to deliberately speed up the process. 😦 If you want your book to have a long and happy and healthy life, it’s really in your best interest to find a slip of paper to use instead (I even use tissue and napkins when I have nothing else on hand), or buy or make a bookmark, or buy a pack of sticky-note-flags. Your books will thank you and will last longer too. 🙂

Poetry Month Celebration

Because it’s always lovely to get a good poem recommendation.

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A little while ago, I discovered (via The Golden Echo) that April is National Poetry Month and that there’s a tag (via The Edge of the Precipice) to help us celebrate. It looked like fun and I wanted to participate. So I sat down to write this post and then realised National Poetry Month might just be an American thing and I might need an I’m-not-American-so-I-don’t-officially-qualify-but-I’m-celebrating-anyway disclaimer. I decided to check with Google and discovered that, as of 1999, National Poetry Month is also celebrated in Canada every April, so I can officially celebrate. Thanks, Wikipedia. 🙂

–The Questions–

What are some poems you like?

I’ll keep this to one poem per poet, even though it’s difficult when it comes to E. E. Cummings, and especially difficult when it comes to  T. S. Eliot and Gerard Manley Hopkins. These are some favorites that immediately come to mind.

Sonnet 116 by Shakespeare
The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo” by Gerard Manley Hopkins
“The Ballad of Reading Gaol” by Oscar Wilde
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T. S. Eliot
“Mad Girl’s Love Song” by Sylvia Plath
[love is more thicker than forget] by E. E. Cummings

It’s funny, I just noticed several happy coincidences between these titles. There seems to be some sort of trend of three: three of these titles include the word “love”; three start with the word “the”; three have a version of the word “song” in the title.  🙂

What are some poems you dislike?

I don’t usually finish poems that don’t interest me. If I do, I tend to immediately forget them, so it’s a bit difficult to name names. However, (and this may make me seem like a philistine) there is one poem I’m not very keen on: Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken“.

My problem isn’t really with the poem itself, but more with it being ‘the [poem] not taken’ in context by so many people. As I’ve said in another post, it bothers me when things get taken out of context and given a meaning that is not even close to (or the opposite of) what the author was actually saying. The popularity of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” seems to lie in the fact that most people only, or mainly, remember the last three lines and forget the last two lines of the second stanza, as well as the first two lines of the last stanza.

Are there any poets whose work you especially enjoy?  If so, who are they?

T. S. Eliot and Gerard Manley Hopkins. E. E. Cummings interests me greatly, but I can’t really say I’ve read enough of his poetry to put him in that “special” category.

Do you write poetry?

Maybe.

Have you ever memorized a poem?

Yes. Most recently, T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”. Last year, in September, I started memorizing T. S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men”, but got busy and forgot about it…this is a good reminder.

One of these days, I hope to memorize “The Waste Land” and all four poems in Four Quartets. (If I had enough time I’d probably memorize most of T. S. Eliot’s poetry 🙂 .) I would also like to, someday, have memorized all six poems I mentioned in reply to the first question. One down, five to go. 🙂

Do you prefer poetry that rhymes and had a strict meter, or free verse?  Or do you like both? Do you have any particular poetry movements you’re fond of?  (Beat poets, Romanticism, Fireside poets, etc?)

I don’t have a particular preference.  For me, it isn’t at all about form, it’s all about what the poet is saying. I think good poetry happens when the poet says something, not just because he can, but because he has to. There’s this great quote by Robert Frost that goes:

“A poem…begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness. It is a reaching-out toward expression; an effort to find fulfillment. A complete poem is one where an emotion finds the thought and the thought finds the words.”
–Robert Frost, letter to Louis Untermeyer (1 January 1916)

A good poem is something that says ‘just what I mean’; it’s an expression of emotions and truth in a way that you never knew you’ve always wanted to say; it’s about using words to paint a magnificent scene (be it glorious or tragic) that everyone knows, but no one has quite seen before. A good poem happens when raw, honest, beautiful, terrible feelings and thoughts find the right words to embody them. As a result, a good poem makes you think. A good poem makes you feel something.

———

Well, that was fun. To be honest, when I started this post, aside from my great love for T. S. Eliot and Gerard Manley Hopkins, I didn’t think I was a poetry fan per se. Now that I’ve finished, I realise I’m more of a poetry fan than I thought. 🙂

Do you have any favorite poets or poems? Any poems or poets you especially dislike? If so, I’d love to hear about them.

Reading The Brothers Karamazov #1

Brothers Karamazov, Richard Pevear, Larissa Volokhonsky, Dostoevsky

About two months ago, a friend was going to have a month off. So he told me to give him a big reading project, which we could then discuss the next time we met. Fyodor Dostoevky’s The Brothers Karamazov had been sitting on my shelf and at the top of my priority reading list for years, but I’d been waiting till I could cut out a chunk of time to tackle it. This looked like the perfect opportunity. So I suggested The Brothers Karamazov (along with a disclaimer that, realistically, I probably wouldn’t be able to finish it in a month, but it was worth a start).

Two months later and, I haven’t finished, I’m about 2/5 into the book. But I’m not worried about taking my time. This isn’t a book I want to rush through.

One of the last books I read was Kurt Vonnegut’s SlaughterHouse-Five. In it, one of the characters says…

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“Rosewater said an interesting thing to Billy one time about a book that wasn’t science fiction. He said that everything there was to know about life was in The Brothers Karamazov, by Feodor Dostoevsky. ‘But that isn’t enough any more,’ said Rosewater.”
Kurt Vonnegut
Slaughterhouse-Five

Is everything there is to know about life really in this book? Maybe. Is it really not enough any more? I don’t know. 🙂

What I do know is, Dostoevsky was a master at understanding, expressing and exploring human nature and the human experience. And this–his last book–is him at his finest. Every chapter is in some way an exploration of, or insight into, some form of psychology, philosophy, or theology. And many chapters are brimming with food for thought.

In light of that, and because The Brothers Karamazov is such a long book, I thought it would be interesting to try something different. So I’m going to try to blog about my reading experience, as I read, instead of waiting until I’ve finished reading all 800 pages. After all, “A short pencil is better than a long memory.” I’m hoping this will be a good way to note and journal my thoughts, so that I won’t forget them. I’m not exactly sure how I’ll go about it, but I have a few ideas. 🙂

Gerard Manley Hopkins–Easter

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Seek God’s house in happy throng;
Crowded let His table be;

–Gerard Manley Hopkins

I never thought I’d come across a poet I liked as much as T. S. Eliot, but I have. His name is Gerard Manley Hopkins and the more I read him, the more I’m struck by his brilliance. I’ve been meaning to blog about him for two years now, so I suppose this Easter is a good place to start.

This isn’t, by far, my favorite Hopkins poem, but it’s probably my favorite Easter poem. I think it perfectly sums up the joy, hope, happiness and celebration of Easter. Hopkins is especially good at evoking emotions, be they jubilant or despondent. In this case, you can feel the jubilation in every stanza and the imagery is splendid.

Easter

Break the box and shed the nard;
Stop not now to count the cost;
Hither bring pearl, opal, sard;
Reck not what the poor have lost;
Upon Christ throw all away:
Know ye, this is Easter Day.

Build His church and deck His shrine,
Empty though it be on earth;
Ye have kept your choicest wine—
Let it flow for heavenly mirth;
Pluck the harp and breathe the horn:
Know ye not ’tis Easter morn?

Gather gladness from the skies;
Take a lesson from the ground;
Flowers do ope their heavenward eyes
And a Spring-time joy have found;
Earth throws Winter’s robes away,
Decks herself for Easter Day.

Beauty now for ashes wear,
Perfumes for the garb of woe,
Chaplets for dishevelled hair,
Dances for sad footsteps slow;
Open wide your hearts that they
Let in joy this Easter Day.

Seek God’s house in happy throng;
Crowded let His table be;
Mingle praises, prayer, and song,
Singing to the Trinity.
Henceforth let your souls always
Make each morn an Easter Day.

–Gerard Manley Hopkins

Happy Easter! 🙂

C. S. Lewis Out of Context

Came across this C. S. Lewis quote on a popular Facebook page today.

Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose.

My first thought was, Oh, nice, they’re quoting C. S. Lewis. This was immediately followed by, Wait a minute. Isn’t that quote from the The Four Loves and wasn’t C. S. Lewis paraphrasing St. Augustine and disagreeing with him?

Yep, C. S. Lewis out of context. The point C. S. Lewis was actually making was this:

IMG_1638rsTo love at all is to be vulnerable.

What bothers me is how the first quote is now floating around the interwebs as a pithy aphorism by C. S. Lewis–garnering tens of thousands of likes (God knows how many dislikes) and thousands of shares, less than 20 hours after it was posted–when what C. S. Lewis was really saying was the complete opposite. Thanks, internet!

The only reason C. S. Lewis even said, “Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose” was so that he could disagree with the sentiment. And the point he was making wasn’t about happiness, it was about love. Sadly, people who see this quote and disagree with it, as C. S. Lewis did, could end up thinking, as one commenter put it, “That’s B.S., C.S.” 😦 when, in fact, they are probably the ones who, most likely, agree with what C. S. Lewis was really saying. Ah, the irony!

Some quotes can be taken out of context or given new meaning and they still work, with respect to the author. Not this one. In this case, context is everything. (By the way, if you, dear reader, have come across any quotes similarly taken out of context, I’d be interested to hear about it. Feel free to post in the comments below.) I’ll get off my soapbox now.

Here is the quote in it’s full context. It’s long, but if you read to the end, you shall be rewarded with wisdom. 🙂 The last paragraph is one of my favorite C. S. Lewis quotes. Actually, if you have the time and opportunity, I  heartily recommend that you read The Four Loves. It’s C. S. Lewis at his finest and chock-full of original thought, profound insight and wisdom.

There is one method of dissuading us from inordinate love of the fellow-creature which I find myself forced to reject at the very outset. I do so with trembling, for it met me in the pages of a great saint and a great thinker to whom my own glad debts are incalculable.

In words which can still bring tears to the eyes, St. Augustine describes the desolation into which the death of his friend Nebridius plunged him (Confessions IV, 10). Then he draws a moral. This is what comes, he says, of giving one’s heart to anything but God. All human beings pass away. Do not let your happiness depend on something you may lose. If love is to be a blessing, not a misery, it must be for the only Beloved who will never pass away.

Of course this is excellent sense. Do not put your goods in a leaky vessel. Don’t spend too much on a house you may be turned out of. And there is no man alive who responds more naturally than I to such canny maxims. I am a safety-first creature. Of all arguments against love, none makes so strong an appeal to my nature as “Careful! This might lead you to suffering.

To my nature, my temperament, yes. Not to my conscience. When I respond to this appeal, I seem to myself to be a thousand miles away from Christ. If I am sure of anything I am sure that His teaching was never meant to confirm my congenital preference for safe investments and limited liabilities. I doubt whether there is anything in me that pleases Him less. And who could conceivably begin to love God on such a prudential ground — because, so to speak, the security is better? Who could even include it among the grounds for loving? Would you choose a wife or a friend — if it comes to it, would you choose a dog — in that spirit? One must be outside the world of love, of all loves, before one calculates. Eros, lawless Eros, preferring the Beloved to happiness, is more like Love Himself than this.

I think that this passage in the Confessions is less a part of St. Augustine’s Christendom than a hangover from the high-minded Pagan philosophies in which he grew up. It is closer to Stoic “apathy” or neo-Platonic mysticism than to charity. We follow One who wept over Jerusalem and at the grave of Lazarus, and, loving all, yet had one disciple whom, in a special sense, he “loved”. St. Paul has a higher authority with us than St. Augustine – St. Paul who shows no sign that he would not have suffered like a man, and no feeling that he ought not so to have suffered, if Epaphroditus had died. (Philippians ii, 27.)

Even if it were granted that insurances against heartbreak were our highest wisdom, does God Himself offer them? Apparently not. Christ comes at last to say “Why hast thou forsaken me?”

There is no escape along the lines St. Augustine suggests. Nor along any other lines. There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

I believe that the most lawless and inordinate loves are less contrary to God’s will than a self-invited and selfless protective lovelessness. It is like hiding the talent in a napkin and for much the same reason. “I knew thee that thou wert a hard man.” Christ did not teach and suffer that we might become, even in the natural loves, more careful of our own happiness. If a man is not uncalculating towards the earthly beloveds whom he has seen, he is none the more likely to be so towards, God whom he has not. We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to him; throwing away all defensive armour. If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as the way in which they should break, so be it. –C. S. Lewis (The Four Loves, pgs 110-112)

Mere Coincidence?

So, Tom, you know how yesterday, on the phone, I told you that I just started studying this book on philosophy and you told me all about your travels, including how you saw the world-famous Book of Kells, in Ireland? (Sadly, I’d never heard of the Book of Kells before, and also didn’t understand, at first, what you meant by it being an “illuminated” manuscript. You very kindly explained it all to me.)

Well, today I pulled out the book I’m studying, A Beginner’s Guide to Ideas, and imagine my surprise, when I flipped it open to this. It just happens to be the only page in the book with parts of medieval illuminated Latin texts and I swear I’ve never seen or opened up to it before.

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And then, to top it off, for the first time in over two weeks, I pulled out my George MacDonald: An Anthology (Edited by C. S. Lewis) to read a quote or two. I picked up where I had last left off, and this just happened to be the first quote:

And if we believe that God is everywhere, why should we not think Him present even in the coincidences that sometimes seem so strange? For, if He be in the things that coincide, He must be in the coincidence of those things. Annals of a Quiet Neighborhood by George MacDonald

Mere coincidence? Perhaps a touch of providence… 🙂