"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words. " ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Divine Homesickness:
If Only In My Dreams

A HOUSE WHERE ALL'S ACCUSTOMED CEREMONIOUS
"THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME, THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME"

********************

"When we are constantly focused on externals,
we are not centered, that is, we are not aligned
internally -- body, mind and soul.
Without that alignment,
we have a case of Divine Homesickness.
We feel empty and lost, always trying
to find our way Home . . . always
looking for something 'out there' to fill us up.
And nothing out there can."

from
The Little Book of Peace of Mind
by Susan Jeffers

Similarly, Anne Lamott writes that "all of the interesting characters I've ever worked with -- including myself -- have had at their center a feeling of otherness, of homesickness" (Bird By Bird, 200). From Jeffers, Lamott, and the following two passages, by Buechner and Rushdie, we can construct a poetics of divine homesickness, one that resonates strongly with me because I am from Missouri, I am from Kansas, not just metaphorically but actually.

The Child In Us
We weren't born yesterday. We are from Missouri. But we are also from somewhere else. We are from Oz, from Looking-Glass Land, from Narnia, and from Middle Earth. If with part of ourselves we are men and women of the world and share the sad unbeliefs of the world, with a deeper part still, the part where our best dreams come from, it is as if we were indeed born yesterday, or almost yesterday, because we are also all of us children still.

No matter how forgotten and neglected, there is a child in all of us who is not just willing to believe in the possibility that maybe fairy tales are true after all but who is to some degree in touch with that truth. You pull the shade on the snow falling, white on white, and the child comes to life for a moment. There is a fragrance in the air, a certain passage of a song, an old photograph falling out from the pages of a book, the sound of somebody's voice in the hall, that makes your heart leap and fills your eyes with tears.

Who can say when or how it will be that something easters up out of the dimness to remind us of a time before we were born and after we will die? The child in us lives in a world where nothing is too familiar or unpromising to open up into a world where a path unwinds before our feet into a deep wood, and when that happens, neither the world we live in nor the world that lives in us can ever entirely be home again, any more than it was home for Dorothy in the end either, because in the Oz books that follow The Wizard she keeps coming back again and again to Oz because Oz, not Kansas, is where her heart is, and the wizard turns out to be not a humbug, but the greatest of all wizards after all.

from Listening to Your Life,"The Child in Us * May 6"
by Frederick Buechner

Buechner analyzes the myth of Oz more thoroughly in Chapter 4 of his book, Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale. Likewise, author, Salman Rushdie employs the Oz metaphor when describing the impossibility of a backward quest for childhood innocence.

Out of Kansas
"So Oz finally became home; the imagined world became the actual world, as it does for us all, because the truth is that once we have left our childhood places and started out to make up our lives, armed only with what we have and are, we understand that the real secret of the ruby slippers is not that 'there's no place like home', but rather that there is no longer any such place as home: except, of course, for the home we make, or the homes that are made for us, in Oz: which is anywhere, and everywhere, except the place from which we began" (see more).
from Step Across This Line: Collected Nonfiction 1992-2002,
Essay #1: "Out of Kansas"
by Salman Rushdie

I still love to hear Karen Carpenter sing "I'll Be Home For Christmas, If Only In My Dreams," but I feel differently about this song than I used to. I used to think it was about people who weren't able to travel "home for the holidays" to be with everyone else. Now I'm more inclined to think it's about people who have to travel or have traveled, when all they really want is the privacy of their own home. There they are surrounded by all their loved ones, but what they crave is to be home alone -- if only in their dreams.

Not to be all bah - humbug about it, but now whenever I hear lyrics like "I'll Be Home for Christmas" or "There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays" or "There's No Christmas Like Home Christmas," my response is Precisely! Home. H - O - M - E. Not someone else's home. Not someplace that used to be home. Your own home. Where your heart is. As John Denver sings:

"Home is where the heart is,
and Christmas lives there too."
SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS FOR MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Saturday, 14 January 2012

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com


Outside Looking In

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Hap, Hap, Happiest Holidays

A HOUSE WHERE ALL'S ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
"THE NOWHERENESS OF THE TIME OF THE YEAR"

*******************

"HOPE IS THE THING WITH FEATHERS"

One of my favorite anonymous essays, "The Bad and Worse Sides of Thanksgiving," appeared in The New Yorker, twenty - some years ago. I wish I knew who wrote it, but so far Google has not been able to help me track down this information. The unnamed satirist declares that "At last it is time to speak the truth about Thanksgiving. The truth is this: it is not a really great holiday. Consider the imagery. . . . Consider the participants. . . . Consider also the nowhereness of the time of the year. . . . Consider for a moment the Thanksgiving meal itself. . . . What of the good side to Thanksgiving, you ask. There is always a good side to everything. Not to Thanksgiving. There is only a bad side and then a worse side."

Maybe, out of context, these words sound cynical, but no -- you must believe me -- reading this essay always lifts my spirits! Let's backtrack to the second consideration:

" . . . the participants, the merrymakers. Men and women (also children) who have survived passably well through the years, mainly as a result of living at considerable distances from their dear parents and beloved siblings, who on the feast of feasts must apparently forgather . . . usually by circuitous routes, through heavy traffic, at a common meeting pace, where the very moods, distempers, and obtrusive personal habits that have kept them happily apart since adulthood are encouraged to slowly ferment beneath the cornhusks, and gradually rise with the aid of the terrible wine, and finally burst forth out of control under the stimulus of the cranberry jelly!" ("Notes and Comments" section of The New Yorker, November 1978; reprinted in the 8th edition of Assignments in Exposition, 201 - 02)

A humorously tender and well - acted version of this exact scenario plays itself out in my family's favorite Thanksgiving movie, Home for the Holidays (1989). The wacky, loving, conflicted and gratifyingly realistic clan (living in a gratifyingly realistic house) is so perfectly cast that I have to list almost everybody: Anne Bancroft, Geraldine Chaplin, Claire Danes, Robert Downey, Jr., Charles Durning, Steve Guttenburg, Holly Hunter, Dylan McDermott. When they "forgather" and drink the terrible wine and eat the terrible jelly, the result is precisely as described above, right down to the disastrous carving of the turkey and the final confrontation between the two feuding sisters: "Well, we don't have to like each other, Jo. We're family."

Garrison Keillor captures this same tension of home as where you live vs home as where you're from, in his sketch "Nine Lessons and Carols" (A Prairie Home Christmas). The "carols" are what you would expect: "I'll Be Home For Christmas," "No Christmas Like a Home Christmas," "There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays," and so forth. The "lessons" are about an extended family planning their annual get - together. Despite all the well - intentioned over - organizing, the center does not hold. As all the old conflicts re-surface, the "sensitive" youngest sister Jessica exclaims woefully, "I want to go home!" And stressed - out, edgy older sister Janice reminds her curtly, "Oh, you are home. Just make the best of it!"

Another holiday favorite, filled with a litany of family - centered wisdom, is Chevy Chase's Christmas Vacation. Yes, we know it's ridiculous, but it's a keeper! The mom, Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo) provides a role - model for how to live peaceably amidst a houseful of relatives: "I don't know what to say, except it's Christmas and we're all in misery" (i.e, "You are home, so make the best of it!").

The best lines come along when the holiday is crumbling apart, and the long - distance relatives decide to make an early departure. Clark / Chevy bars the way:

"Where do you think you're going? Nobody's leaving. Nobody's walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. No, no. We're all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here. We're gonna press on, and we're gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny f-----g Kaye. . . . Hallelujah! Holy shit! Where's the Tylenol?"

When Ben and Sam were little, I had a moment of misgiving about letting them hear Clark's use of the "f" word; but, otherwise, it was so much fun to watch this movie with them, I just crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. As they got older, I admitted my shame to them, but they were quick to reassure me that, having never been exposed to such diction before, they didn't even know that they'd just heard a bad word: "We just thought it was Danny Kaye's middle name!" (Yes, they also knew who Danny Kaye was thanks to numerous viewings of White Christmas."
In all of these narratives, the "worse side" is the family "melt - down." The "better side" is the hope of detente, if not resolution. Even the anonymous "Bad and Worse Sides of Thanksgiving," after the downward spiral, ends hopefully:

" . . . the gods are merciful . . . there is a grandeur to the feelings of finality and doom which usually settle on a house after the Thanksgiving celebration is over, for with the completion of Thanksgiving Day the year itself has been properly terminated . . . But then, overnight life once again begins to stir, emerging, even by the next morning, in the form of . . . window displays and . . . Christmas lighting . . . Thus, a new year dawns . . . the phoenix of Christmas can be observed as it slowly rises, beating its drumsticks, once again goggle-eyed with hope and unrealistic expectations."

I guess that explains why so many families have turkey for Christmas dinner, so soon after having it for Thanksgiving -- that roasted fowl piece de resistance is a symbolic Phoenix of Hope!

The Phoenix

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS FOR MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Falling Fruit, The Certain Spring

A HOUSE WHERE ALL'S ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
"PRODUCTIVITY" by Addison Jordan
ECONOMIC CONCEPT CALENDAR, NOVEMBER 2011
INDIANA COUNCIL FOR ECONOMIC EDUCATION
[click ICEE, scroll down to page 7 for calendar contest winners,
click winning entries link for a look at the 2012 calendar,
click illustration above to enlarge text for reading]


*****************************

"Now it is autumn and the falling fruit
and the long journey towards oblivion."
~ D. H. Lawrence ~

My last post, "Daffodils of Autumn" featured two seasonal songs by Adrian Henri, both dedicated to his predecessor A. E. Houseman (click or scroll down). Yet another of Henri's autumnal poems is dedicated to modernist poet and novelist D. H. Lawrence. Henri offers an "Epilogue" to Lawrence's long poem "The Ship of Death," a ten - part extended analogy, in which Lawrence writes bleakly of death as a choppy voyage into the unknown, rounded out with the faint promise of rebirth:

I
Now it is autumn and the falling fruit
and the long journey towards oblivion.

The apples falling like great drops of dew
to bruise themselves an exit from themselves.

And it is time to go, to bid farewell
to one's own self, and find an exit
from the fallen self.

II
Have you built your ship of death, O have you?
O build your ship of death, for you will need it.

The grim frost is at hand, when the apples will fall
thick, almost thundrous, on the hardened earth.

And death is on the air like a smell of ashes!
Ah! can't you smell it?

And in the bruised body, the frightened soul
finds itself shrinking, wincing from the cold
that blows upon it through the orifices.

III . . .

from IV
O let us talk of quiet that we know,
that we can know, the deep and lovely quiet
of a strong heart at peace!

How can we this, our own quietus, make? . . .

from V
Build then the ship of death, for you must take
the longest journey, to oblivion.

And die the death, the long and painful death
that lies between the old self and the new.

Already our bodies are fallen, bruised, badly bruised,
already our souls are oozing through the exit
of the cruel bruise. . . .

from VI
Piecemeal the body dies, and the timid soul
has her footing washed away, as the dark flood rises. . . .

from VII
. . .
Now launch the small ship . . .
launch out, the fragile soul
in the fragile ship of courage, the ark of faith . . .

from VIII
And everything is gone, the body is gone
completely under, gone, entirely gone. . . .

IX
. . .
Ah wait, wait, for there's the dawn,
the cruel dawn of coming back to life
out of oblivion.

Wait, wait, the little ship
drifting, beneath the deathly ashy grey
of a flood-dawn.

Wait, wait! even so, a flush of yellow
and strangely, O chilled wan soul, a flush of rose.

A flush of rose, and the whole thing starts again.

from X
. . .
And the little ship wings home . . .
and the frail soul steps out, into the house again
filling the heart with peace. . . .

Oh build your ship of death, oh build it!
for you will need it.
For the voyage of oblivion awaits you.


excerpts from "The Ship of Death"
by D. H. Lawrence

click here to read the entire poem
and here for further analysis of the poem

Henri responds to Lawrence's poem by personifying and embracing the Dark. He dispels the fear of a long dark late autumn night with an open invitation of hospitality and in-gathering:

Epilogue
(for D. H. L.)

Autumn
and leaves swirl at the roadside
splatter on windscreens
summer hopes gone
fears for the dark
the long night ahead
light ebbing to the slow horizon

"Autumn,
The falling fruit,
The long journey,"

Prepare for the dark
O bring it home with you
tuck it into bed
welcome him into your hearth
into your heart
the familiar stranger at the evening fireside

Wind howls in the trees
and toads curl into beds of leaves
night moves into day
moths into velvet
hedges brown with dying willow-herb

Open your door to the dark
the evening snow drift in unheeded
light dies from the sky
gather the stranger close on the pillow

seeds lie buried
safe under hedgerows
gather him to you
O gather him to you

Take the dark stranger
Cold under blankets
Gather O Gather
Alone in the darkness


Adrian Henri ~

For Lawrence there is the flush of rose, the cycle beginning again. For Henri there are the seeds, buried safely under the hedgerows. And in this next poem, there is the certain spring:

The Burning of the Leaves
Now is the time for the burning of the leaves.
They go to the fire; the nostril pricks with smoke
Wandering slowly into a weeping mist.
Brittle and blotched, ragged and rotten sheaves!
A flame seizes the smouldering ruin and bites
On stubborn stalks that crackle as they resist.

The last hollyhock’s fallen tower is dust;
All the spices of June are a bitter reek,
All the extravagant riches spent and mean.
All burns! The reddest rose is a ghost;
Sparks whirl up, to expire in the mist: the wild
Fingers of fire are making corruption clean.

Now is the time for stripping the spirit bare,
Time for the burning of days ended and done,
Idle solace of things that have gone before:
Rootless hope and fruitless desire are there;
Let them go to the fire, with never a look behind.
The world that was ours is a world that is ours no more.

They will come again, the leaf and the flower, to arise
from squalor of rottenness into the old splendour,
And magical scents to a wondering memory bring;
The same glory, to shine upon different eyes.
Earth cares for her own ruins, naught for ours.
Nothing is certain, only the certain spring.

~Laurence Binyon

The way Binyon places his trust in the certainty of spring is always linked in my mind with what Elizabeth Jennings says about the seasons: "We want the certain, solid thing" (you can read her poem "Song at the Beginning of Autumn" on my daily post from last September: Childhood Autumn).

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS FOR MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

Monday, November 14, 2011

Daffodils of Autumn

A FADING AUTUMN GARDEN
WHERE ALL'S ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
"COME CLOSE, MY LOVE, AND TELL ME / APRIL WILL NEVER END
THAT DAFFODIL LIKE GORSE BUSH / WILL LAST TO THE YEAR'S END"
~ Adrian Henri ~

************************

Detail of Daffodil Tiffany Lamp

Tonight at noon . . .
The first daffodils of autumn will appear
When the leaves fall upwards to the trees

~ Adrian Henri ~

Liverpool poet Adrian Henri (1932 - 2000), master of literary allusion and intertextuality, has written a couple of poems in response to earlier selections from A Shropshire Lad by modern British poet A. E. Houseman (1859 - 1936). The rhythmic accessibility of Houseman's poetry has inspired many a poetic comedian; but Henri, although he surely loved a joke, did not choose parody this time. In these poems, his touch is subtle and his sadness matches that of Houseman.

In poem XXXI, "On Wenlock Edge," Houseman takes in the forest, the huge hill, the windy gale, the River Severn, imagining the scene as it would have been centuries ago when it was the site of an ancient Roman city:

On Wenlock Edge the wood's in trouble
His forest fleece the Wrekin heaves;
The gale, it plies the saplings double,
And thick on Severn snow the leaves.

'Twould blow like this through holt and hanger
When Uricon the city stood:
'Tis the old wind in the old anger,
But then it threshed another wood.

Then, 'twas before my time, the Roman
At yonder heaving hill would stare:
The blood that warms an English yeoman,
The thoughts that hurt him, they were there.

There, like the wind through woods in riot,
Through him the gale of life blew high;
The tree of man was never quiet:
Then 'twas the Roman, now 'tis I.

The gale, it plies the saplings double,
It blows so hard, 'twill soon be gone:
To-day the Roman and his trouble
Are ashes under Uricon.


~A. E. Houseman

Adrian Henri feels Houseman's pain. That "old wind in the old anger," those selfsame "thoughts that hurt" the long ago Roman soldier -- and the more recently departed Houseman -- are now experienced by the contemporary wandering narrator:

A Song for A. E. Houseman
I walk the lanes of Wenlock
And dream about the night
Where every leaf is shrivelled
And every berry bright

In Wenlock Town the drink goes down
The laughter flows like wine
In Wenlock Town the leaves are brown
And you're no longer mine

Day turns to night in Wenlock
Laughter to early tears
Down by the hill I follow still
The path we walked this year

Come let it snow on Wenlock
Fall down and cover me
Happy I was in Wenlock
Happy no more I'll be.


Footpath on the SW end of the Wrekin
"Climbing the Wrekin. . . a steep pull up through the trees,
then at the top of the forest, the views open up . . .
to Wenlock Edge . . . and the Severn Valley."

*******************************************

Henri has also written a companion piece to go along with Houseman's tribute to the cherry in full bloom, "Loveliest of trees," one of the best known poems from the Shropshire Lad cycle:

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.


More realistically, Houseman observes in poem XXIX, ’Tis spring; come out to ramble," that the spring bulbs have a short season, barely a month: "there's the Lenten lily / That has not long to stay" and the short - lived daffodil "That dies on Easter day."

Whenever I read Henri's response to Houseman's woodland ramblings, I'm never quite sure which month or season has the prior claim. "April" is clearly featured in the title, but "cold November" and "chill October" play the trump card. Henri can't help projecting. He begins the vernal season with an inescapable sense of doom, already anticipating the decay of autumn. He counters every joyful image of springtime with the gloom to come -- and now it's here.

Thinking ahead to the inevitable passing of days and years, Houseman is determined to relish the cherry blossoms even more. He knows his days are numbered, but what's a poet to do? Hope for a long life and absorb as much loveliness as possible. Henri responds in kind, but with a heavier heart, imploring his beloved to convince him that all is not lost. To assure him that the daffodils will not be gone by Easter day but will, in fact, last out the year:

A Song in April
(another song for A.E. H.)

The buds of April bursting
Into the flowers of May
Await a cold November
Forgotten in the clay

The lambs of April playing
Are due to die in June
The loves of April laughing
Will come to tears too soon

The loves of April blossom
And last a summer long
Come close, for chill October
Will come to end the song

Come close, my love, and tell me
April will never end
That daffodil like gorse-bush
Will last to the year's end

That lambs will dance for ever
And lovers never part;
Come close upon the pillow
And still my restless heart.


~Adrian Henri



To accompany the daffodil imagery of
Liverpool poet Adrian Henri,
these beautifully drawn daffodils
are from the Botany collection at the
World Museum, Liverpool.
To send as e-cards, click
HERE (L)
HERE (R)


SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS FOR MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Monday, November 28, 2011

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

See also my previous Adrian Henri posts:Brush With Greatness

Holy Connection and Coincidence Batman!

Which Season: Summer or Fall?

Tonight at Noon, Equinox, Harvest Moon

Wartime Soldier, Wartime Child

Happy Batday

Friday, October 28, 2011

As Darkness Falls Into Light

ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
THE SHORTENING WINTER'S DAY IS NEAR A CLOSE















AFTERGLOW (L) & GLOWING SUNSET (R)
All three paintings by Scottish Landscape Artist,
Joseph Farquharson, 1846 - 1935

This past Sunday, I attended a choral evensong, one of my favorite autumn traditions. The service closed with the lovely hymn "The Day Thou Gavest," and the words and music of this evensong standard have been playing in my head ever since. You might also be familiar with the tune from Rick Wakeman's dramatic instrumental anthem for Anne Boleyn that Gerry pointed me in the direction of: click here to enjoy in concert! You will also find that a shorter version appears on Wakeman's CD The Six Wives of Henry VIII.

The music, "St. Clement," was composed either by the Rev. Clement Cotteville Schofield or by Sir Arthur Sullivan; and the lyrics were written by British hymnologist John Ellerton in 1870:

The Day Thou Gavest
(click to hear choral rendition)


The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended;
The darkness falls at Thy behest;
To Thee our morning hymns ascended,
Thy praise shall sanctify our rest.

We thank Thee that Thy church unsleeping,
While earth rolls onward into light,
Through all the world her watch is keeping,
And rests not now by day or night.

As o'er each continent and island
The dawn leads on another day,
The voice of prayer is never silent,
Nor dies the strain of praise away.

The sun that bids us rest is waking
Our brethren 'neath the western sky,
And hour by hour fresh lips are making
Thy wondrous doings heard on high.

So be it, Lord! Thy throne shall never,
Like earth's proud empires, pass away;
Thy kingdom stands, and grows for ever,
Till all Thy creatures own Thy sway.


by John Ellerton

This beautiful hymn ranks as one of the top choices for funeral music, and no wonder -- the first stanza is a perfect metaphor for the close of life, the end of day, and the sad reality that this conclusion rarely comes at our own behest, but at that of another, greater power. There's also a little bit of Ozymandias lurking in the last stanza -- sand more vast than any proud empire could ever hope to be.

Hong Kong Sunset

Beyond the first stanza, why do I like this hymn so much? Queen Victoria favored it as a fitting metaphor for her Empire "on which the sun never set." It was sung at her Diamond Jubilee in 1897 and again in 1997 when Britain handed control of Hong Kong to China. However, I have never counted myself an imperialist, nor do I claim to be a great proponent of the the church triumphant or the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.

What I hear in these lines -- and in the word church -- is a reference to the power of the universe, a much larger force than mere humanity, untainted by motive, striving not in its own best interest but just being, in a way that's difficult for an earthling to grasp. It feels to me like what The Prophet calls "Life's longing for itself."

Perhaps the Universe too has a longing for itself. The world longs to turn; the sun longs to set. This is precisely what Anne Sexton suggests in her poem "Lament." She offers this description of how the universe responds to a day of tragedy:

"The supper dishes are over and the sun
unaccustomed to anything else
goes all the way down."

The humans weep at the loss of a friend; the sun does not know any different.

The unsleeping church in Ellerton's hymn reminds me of the parental voice in the old Welsh lullaby, "All Through the Night," a song assuring us that love alone is keeping watch:

Soft the drowsy hours are creeping,
Hill and vale in slumber sleeping
Love alone its watch is keeping,
All through the night . . .

While the weary world is sleeping,
All through the night . . .


~ as sung by Connie Kaldor
on her CD Lullaby Berceuse


Another beautiful rendition of this lullaby can be heard in the Denholm Elliot film version of A Child's Christmas in Wales

The most beautiful close of day paintings that I know of are those by Joseph Farquharson who painted numerous vividly hued winter sunsets, all with such evocative names as "The Shortening Winter's Day is Near a Close" (at top), "Afterglow" and "Glowing Sunset" (see above), "Day's Dying Glow," "The Sun Had Closed the Winter's Day,"
and this one --
Glow'd With Tints of Evening

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS FOR MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Monday, November 14, 2011

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

Friday, October 14, 2011

Apples, Walnuts, Leaves

A HOUSE WHERE ALL'S ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
STILLEBEN MIT FRUCHTSCHALE
AT THE HANNOVER LANDESMUSEUM
BY PRAGUE ARTIST EMIL ORLIK (1870 - 1937)

*************************

Fairies and Elves Pick Apples
by English Illustrator Arthur Rackham, 1867 - 1939

An autumnal sense of resignation permeates the following poem by Robert Frost. I like the way that he is "done with apple - picking now" not because the job is entirely finished -- since, in fact, it's not: "there's a barrel that I didn't fill" and "may be two or three / Apples I didn't pick" -- but because he has just had enough; he's "overtired." Even though there may be a few odds and ends not yet tied up, the time for this particular enterprise has come to an end: "Essence of winter sleep is on the night."

Day after day of harvesting has worn a pattern of exhaustion into every waking and sleeping hour: "Magnified apples appear and disappear . . . My instep arch . . . keeps the ache . . . keeps the pressure of a ladder-round." Sometimes a task can wear a body down. A month or so ago, he was eager for such an abundant crop and could not bear the thought of even an ounce of waste; but enough is enough!

You might remember that the narrator in "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening," has "promises to keep, / And miles to go" before he sleeps. The narrator of "After Apple - Picking," however, has gone the distance and is craving, at last, some untroubled sleep. He refers in the last few lines to a hibernation, perhaps, or the long metaphorical sleep of death, "Or just some human sleep."

After Apple - Picking
My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.

And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.


Robert Frost , 1874 - 1963
Four-time Pulitzer Prize winning well - loved American poet

The narrator of another Frost poem brings a similar sense of mission to his chore. Gathering up "bags full of leaves," he makes "a great noise / Of rustling all day," but what does he have to show for it? Still, as with those apples considered imperfect for whatever reason, "a crop is a crop":

Gathering Leaves
Spades take up leaves
No better than spoons,
And bags full of leaves
Are light as balloons.

I make a great noise
Of rustling all day
Like rabbit and deer
Running away.

But the mountains I raise
Elude my embrace,
Flowing over my arms
And into my face.

I may load and unload
Again and again
Till I fill the whole shed,
And what have I then?

Next to nothing for weight,
And since they grew duller
From contact with earth,
Next to nothing for color.

Next to nothing for use.
But a crop is a crop,
And who's to say where
The harvest shall stop?


Robert Frost
(see also my earlier post )

Walnut trees at the end of our driveway, not our favorite,
yet I'm proud to say I've picked up thousands!
A crop's a crop, right?
(I'm also thinking green tomatoes here!)

Contemporary poet, Larry Levis, writes of yet another harvest, not apples, not leaves, but walnuts. As a crop, they may be less valuable than apples but more useful than dry leaves, if you have the patience to find a use for them. I wonder, in the poem, is it a black walnut tree, dropping an endless supply of the troublesome rough green nuts? Are the disenchanted lovers staining their fingers as they fill basket after basket?

Sadly, in this poem, the walnuts carry the connotation of fruitlessness. The weary act of gathering them represents the sad continuation of an exhausted romance, so dire that the couple is not even motivated to deal with the hopelessness of the situation. Such deliberation would require too much effort; instead, they proceed listlessly with no hope of change, only the dull promise of a future as bleak as the present:

We'll go on as always harvesting walnuts

on our hands and knees,
and die voicelessly
as a sedan full of cigar smoke
sinking under a bridge.
We'll turn slowly, flowers
in the mouths of drowned cattle
In a dawn of burned fields,
the sun disappoints you,
and the blight you begin to remember
is me.
Like an Alp overlooking a corpse
I explain nothing.


Larry Levis, 1946 - 1996
Award - winning American professor and poet

I'm done with apple - picking now.

We'll go on as always,
harvesting walnuts on our hands and knees.

For as long as I've known the work of Frost and Levis, these two phrases have rung together in my mind, connected by their tone of resignation. The apple - picker is resolved to call it quits, accepting the finality of a season that has run its course. But for the walnut - gatherers -- no resolution; just a repeating decimal of bleak indecision. Why are their hearts so heavy? Not entirely clear; not all is explained.

If you can, do try to harvest your crops, whatever they may be, with a happy heart.

The Large Walnut Tree at L'Hermitage, 1875
by French Impressionist Camille Pissarro, 1830 - 1903

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS FOR MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Friday, October 28, 2011

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sad September

A HOUSE WHERE ALL'S ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
Badminton House & Landscape Garden
Gloucestershire, England

and

Dryham Park

two of the houses used as filming locations for the movie
The Remains of the Day

" 'I was so fond of that view from the second-floor bedrooms overlooking the lawn with the downs visible in the distance. Is it still like that? On summer evenings there was a sort of magical quality to that view and I will confess to you now I used to waste many precious minutes standing at one of those windows just enchanted by it' "
(49).

Miss Kenton writing to Mr. Stevens
in The Remains of the Day
by Kazuo Ishiguro (b. 1954)

If you're searching for a house where all is "accustomed, ceremonious," there is surely no place more so than fictional Darlington Hall as portrayed in this bittersweet novel -- as well as the beautiful film version produced by Merchant Ivory (I recommend both).

Stevens, the butler, and his father, the elder Mr. Stevens, are "indeed the embodiment of 'dignity' " (34), while the housekeeper, Miss Kenton, exemplifies order and decorum in all that she does. It may not be an entirely happy household, but it is unquestionably a well - ordered one. From their youth, Stevens and Miss Kenton have devoted the better part of their lives to the flawless execution of their duties, to the exclusion of all other interests and connections. Now middle - aged, they allow themselves the brief luxury of examining whether or not the years of rigid service have been spent wisely; of awkwardly questioning what the future -- the remains of the day -- might hold besides "emptiness":

"But what is the sense in forever speculating what might have happened had such and such a moment turned out differently? One could presumable drive oneself to distraction in this way. In any case, while it is all very well to talk of 'turning points' one can surely only recognize such moments in retrospect. Naturally, when one looks back to such instances today, they may indeed take the appearance of being crucial, precious moments in one's life; but of course, at the time, this was not the impression one had. Rather, it was as though one had available a never - ending number of days, months, years in which to sort out the vagaries of one's relationship with Miss Kenton; an infinite number of further opportunities in which to remedy the effect of this or that misunderstanding. There was surely nothing to indicate at the time that such evidently small incidents would render whole dreams forever irredeemable" (179).

And speaking of the sinking realization "that a dream can die," here are a couple of sad September poems by two of my favorite poets, Sara Teasdale and Edna St. Vincent Millay, both of whom I often quote (see last September). In these poems, each narrator has built a house for love but reaped only disappointment for her effort. Millay responds with bitterness, Teasdale with resignation.

That was August . . . this is September . . .

Sonnet #9
Here is a wound that never will heal, I know,
Being wrought not of a dearness and a death,
But of a love turned ashes and the breath
Gone out of beauty; never again will grow
The grass on that scarred acre, though I sow
Young seed there yearly and the sky bequeath
Its friendly weathers down, far underneath
Shall be such bitterness of an old woe.
That April should be shattered by a gust,
That August should be levelled by a rain,
I can endure, and that the lifted dust
Of man should settle to the earth again;
But that a dream can die, will be a thrust
Between my ribs forever of hot pain.

by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892 - 1901)
from The Harp-Weaver and Other Poems, 1923

That was noonday . . . this is midnight . . .

At Midnight
Now at last I have
come to see what life is,

Nothing is ever ended,
everything only begun,

And the brave victories
that seem so splendid

Are never really won.

Even love that I built
my spirit's house for,

Comes like a brooding
and a baffled guest,

And music and men's praise
and even laughter

Are not so good as rest.


by Sara Teasdale (1884 - 1933)
from Flame and Shadow, 1920

And in closing, a couple of sad September songs:

1. Crescent Noon, also mentioned on my daily blog a few months ago

and

2. September Morn, thanks to a timely reminder from a facebook friend.

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS FOR MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Friday, October 14, 2011

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dolls in Literature

A HOUSE WHERE ALL'S ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
I like the American Express ad, where Tina Fey says that her "Most interesting souvenir" is "an Amish baby doll with no face." I wonder where she purchased hers? I found this pair at Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, and my neighbor John Woodin photographed them for my book jacket:

"Why shouldn't we, so generally addicted to the gigantic,
at last have some small works of art,
some short poems, short pieces of music
[. . .] some intimate, low-voiced, and delicate things
in our mostly huge and roaring, glaring world?"

~ Elizabeth Bishop ~

A few months ago, I had the good fortune to reconnect on facebook with one of my former professors, Dr. Herman P. Wilson. Back in the 70s, I was enrolled in several of Herman's classes, such as History of the English Language and Structural English Grammar, as well as some graduate reading seminars in Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, and D. H. Lawrence.

Upon learning what I had been doing since my days as his student, Herman did me the great honor of going out of his way to purchase my book and read it from cover to cover, a feat -- let me tell you! -- undertaken by very few. He was then kind enough to send me his response, as follows:

Hello, Kitti--

Throughout all my teaching career, as I've watched some of my students working on graduate degrees, I've always wanted those students to "go beyond me." I wanted them to pursue studies of writers / materials about which I have little or no knowledge.

You have fulfilled my desires. For that reason I am grateful for the opportunity to read your work. The "doll" as a literary topic had never occurred to me. I like to explore such new topics as I see references to them. So you have given me both personal and professional pleasure.

You have produced a scholarly study, for which you have done extensive research to support the theories and ideas which you develop. I'll take a guess: is the work your PhD dissertation? Had I been on your PhD faculty, had you invited me to be one of your readers and explained your research plans, I would have responded, "Yes, I'll be happy to be one of your readers, but you will need to educate me as we work together on your research. I have limited knowledge of your topic." You have provided me some education on the "doll" in literature. I now have beginner's knowledge of your subject matter.

I've worked with many of your sources--Swift, Hawthorne, Lawrence, Hoffman, Mansfield, Yeats, Atwood, French, Hardy, and Atwood. I'm aware of and have limited knowledge of the "psychiatric, psychological, theoretical linguistic" writers--Rank, Freud, Eco, and Lacan. You have enhanced my knowledge of both familiar and non-familiar writers.

Your prose is well written, with ideas carefully supported, and has a pleasant mixture of serious academic topics and delightful human interest stories of the "doll" in our world and in literature. A beautiful bit of irony: yesterday I went to the grocery store. While waiting for my driver, I noticed a woman, holding one hand of a little girl, whose other hand clutched a little doll to her childish breast. Simple? Yes, but that scene made me think of you and the work I was reading.

Thank you for a new, pleasant, delightful experience. I remember you as a careful writer; my reading of your work has strengthened that memory.

Peace, joy, and happiness ~

Herman


Needless to say, I was overwhelmed by the generosity of Herman's praise and the time he invested both in reading my entire book and in writing to share his thoughts. I will let his letter to me and my reply serve as today's blog post:

Dear Herman,

Thank you so much for reading my book! You have given me by far the kindest words, the highest praise, the most encouragement that I have ever received on that project, along with the support of my dissertation advisor, Dr. Leonard Orr. I was lucky to have him on my side; and you are so right -- if you and I had still been at the same institution, you too surely would have been on my committee and seen me through the long process!

At the first "guidelines for dissertations" meeting I attended at Notre Dame (Fall 1984), a rather uncheerful professor discouraged everyone in the room from attempting a "theme" study, such as "ships in literature" -- yes, that was the example he gave -- I have never forgotten! So I kept quiet about my "dolls in literature" idea, even though I had been longing to write a book on that topic, and slowly but surely amassing good examples, ever since reading The Women's Room back in 1978: Marilyn French's revealing image of the little Barbie serving as mother to the giant Baby doll had never left my mind.

I felt sure that doll imagery was powerful and important, but I began to doubt myself and fear that it was perhaps not a weighty enough topic for a dissertation, so I put the idea on hold and began casting about for a "single author" focus -- maybe Virginia Woolf? But nothing felt right and the time for submitting my proposal was drawing near (by now it was 1988).

Then, in a totally unrelated conversation, Leonard was describing his ideas for an article on animation, and I mentioned that one day -- in the distant future, after my dissertation -- I was going to write a book on dolls. He was astonished that I had never told him this before, for he had already been my advisor for several years. He asked me why I was struggling with research that didn't speak to my heart when all along I knew exactly what I wanted to do? I said, well, I thought maybe it wasn't important enough or academic enough, so I was hiding it under a bushel. He said, Nonsense! and loaned me Susan Stewart's amazing theoretical study, On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection and Jane Gallop's fascinating collection of autobiographical criticism, Thinking Through the Body .

Although I wanted to focus primarily on "the miniature," Stewart's inclusion of "the gigantic" reminded me of a long essay that I had written several years before on Victor Frankenstein's urge to create in his own image. At the time, it had been well received by a couple of my professors; so I pulled this old paper out of my "saved" file and it became a chapter in my dissertation.

I had also written a shorter paper called "Gulliver in the Dollhouse" for an 18th Century class that I took at Notre Dame. I received only a "B" on that paper because the professor felt that the idea needed a "larger theoretical context." Well, perfect! I now had that "larger context" -- so the Gulliver paper became another chapter. I had studied Yeats' poem ("The Dolls") in Irish Literature, and the D. H. Lawrence story ("The Captain's Doll") undoubtedly came from one of your classes, Herman. So I had a solid rough draft almost instantly, thanks to all those earlier inspiring courses and paper topics.

I finished the dissertation in 1990 and then in 1998 did the editing (not too much really) to repackage it as a book. Thanks for listening to this saga, Herman. And most of all, thanks for reading my study of the doll with so much patience, for responding to it so thoroughly, and for always encouraging me in the seriousness of my work.

Yours,

Kitti


**************************************************
PREVIOUS POSTS IN REFERENCE TO
THE MINIATURE & THE GIGANTIC:

The Mystery of the Matryoshka: Within Within Within

Fun Fall Food!

The Miniature & the Gigantic

Memoirs to Read in the Summertime

And my list ~ Dolls in Literature
~
on amazon's Listmania!

And lastly, the voice of a skeptic in this recent article
concerning the value (or not) of dissertations.


SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS FOR MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Ferry Connections

A HOUSE WHERE ALL'S ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
Ferry Cross the Mersey with Grandpa ~ Sam, Ron, Ben ~ Summer 1999

Ferry Cross the Mersey by John Haslam
as seen in the Crosby Herald

Ferry Cross the Mersey
(click to hear tune)

Life goes on day after day
Hearts torn in every way
So ferry cross the Mersey
'Cause this land's the place I love
And here I'll stay

People they rush everywhere
Each with their own secret care
So ferry cross the Mersey
And always take me there
The place I love

People around every corner
They seem to smile and say
We don't care what your name is boy
We'll never turn you away

So I'll continue to say
Here I always will stay
So ferry cross the Mersey
'Cause this land's the place I love
And here I'll stay
And here I'll stay
Here I'll stay


1960s hit in the UK & the USA
by Gerry and the Pacemakers
1983 cover by Frankie Goes to Hollywood

Needlecraft by Abacus Designs

Almost as enchanting as fairies at bottom of your garden is the adventure of riding a ferry boat, a magical crossing to a new shore of possibility. In addition to the romantic Mersey Ferry in Liverpool, the poets have also found great romance in the Staten Island Ferry and the Brooklyn Ferry.

The Staten Island Ferry is featured in the movie Working Girl, along with Carly Simon's inspiring hit:

Let the River Run
(click to hear tune)

We're coming to the edge,
running on the water,
coming through the fog,
your sons and daughters.

Let the river run,
let all the dreamers
wake the nation.
Come, the New Jerusalem.

Silver cities rise,
the morning lights
the streets that meet them,
and sirens call them on
with a song.

It's asking for the taking.
Trembling, shaking.
Oh, my heart is aching.

We're coming to the edge,
running on the water,
coming through the fog,
your sons and daughters.

We the great and small
stand on a star
and blaze a trail of desire
through the dark'ning dawn.

It's asking for the taking.
Come run with me now,
the sky is the color of blue
you've never even seen
in the eyes of your lover.

Oh, my heart is aching.
We're coming to the edge,
running on the water,
coming through the fog,
your sons and daughters.

It's asking for the taking.
Trembling, shaking.
Oh, my heart is aching.
We're coming to the edge,
running on the water,
coming through the fog,
your sons and daughters.

Let the river run,
let all the dreamers
wake the nation.
Come, the New Jerusalem.


Music and lyrics by Carly Simon
American singer, songwriter, musician

Sixty years before Simon's song, American poet Edna St. Vincent Millay captured the charm of the Staten Island Ferry in her poem "Recuerdo," about two light - hearted lovers and a kindly mysterious stranger who enters their life briefly on the ferry:

Recuerdo
(set to music by American composer John Musto)
We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable—
But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,
We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon;
And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon.

We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;
And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,
From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;
And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold,
And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.

We were very tired, we were very merry,
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
We hailed "Good morrow, mother!" to a shawl-covered head,
And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read;
And she wept, "God bless you!" for the apples and pears,
And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.


by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892 - 1901)
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1923

Recuerdo
-- I remember.

Millay remembers this night of innocent joy and hopeful recklessness. Who needs money! Right? Walt Whitman too remembers -- and foretells. The lyrics of Millay, Simon, and the Pacemakers seem to have been predicted already in Whitman's triumphant description of "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," in 1856:

Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes! how curious you are to me!
On the ferry-boats, the hundreds and hundreds that cross, returning home, are more curious to me than you suppose;
And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence, are more to me, and more in my meditations, than you might suppose . . .

The similitudes of the past, and those of the future . . .

What is it, then, between us?
What is the count of the scores or hundreds of years between us?"


To the passenger crossing the Mersey who sees the "People . . . rush everywhere / each with their own secret care," Whitman says, "Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd." To the "sons and daughters" of Carly Simon's song, the dreamers whose hearts are aching, Whitman says, "I too felt the curious abrupt questionings stir within me." To Millay's lovers, who watched the sun rise, "dripping, a bucketful of gold," Whitman says, "I too many and many a time cross’d the river, the sun half an hour high . . . the glistening yellow."

For Whitman, the ferry boat is a microcosm of all that has been, all that is, all that is yet to come. Reading the twentieth century verses of the writers who have joined with Whitman in praise of the ferry, it seems that he was right: "Fifty years hence . . . A hundred years hence, or ever so many hundred years hence . . . Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry with the swift current, I stood."

quoted passages from Crossing Brooklyn Ferry
by Walt Whitman, 1819 - 1892
American poet, essayist, journalist, humanist

We gave her all our apples; we gave her all our pears . . .~ Combined McCartney Family Artistic Endeavor ~
acrylic on cardboard, late 1990's ~

Previous Posts Concerning Liverpool
Birds of Pray, August 14, 2009
Liver Building, Cunard Bldg, Port of Liverpool Bldg
(photographed from the Mersey Ferry)

Happy Batday, April 28, 2010
The Overhead Railway

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS FOR MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ode to Josef: Nine-Lived and Contradictory

A HOUSE WHERE ALL'S ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
Look at Josef! Such a little genius!
One snowy afternoon in December 2000, Ben, Sam,
and their friends Sarah and Ethan,
decorated this box for him and stuck him inside
(just above his head, you can see that it says "Josef's House").
How did he know precisely where to step?
Right in the paw prints that they had drawn for him!

*********************

Taken during the same snowfall, December 2000
Josef appears to be about half the size of Sam at the time!

A year later, as part of a classroom assignment, Ben decided to write a poem about our dear old long - lived (1988 - 2007) Josef:

THE CAT
This cat lies down, not moving.
Contemplating. Why? What? When?
Will the world end today?
Tomorrow, now, then?

The Universe is great.
The cat knows its ways,
lying down, on my bed.
The sun flashes its rays.

Where did they come from?
Humans, I think they are called.
Interesting what they have done
with this planet, what they’ve hauled.

Well, they feed me, not what I want,
but they give me enough.
Sometimes it’s fun and entertaining.
Sometimes it’s boring and tough.

They give me a box of cardboard.
They give me a queen-sized bed.
They give me my own curtain.
They put me at their head.

But still I contemplate
The Universe. I know
they want to: tough!
They give me food and go.


by Ben McCartney, age 11
29 January 2002, 6th grade

And a few months later, Sam followed suit:

MY CAT
My cat is lazy and loving.

That is my cat, loves meat,

so sleepy but adventurous.

But no matter what,

my cat I love.

No not a thing --

he can scratch,

he can bite,

he can reject his meat.

I love him!


by Sam McCartney
August 2002, 4th grade


As I have a mentioned before (No One With A Nose / Wise Fool), when Ben and Sam attended St. Peter's School in Philadelphia, they were required to memorize and recite a poem every month. They became quite adept at managing increasingly long works, and I often urged them to choose from among my old favorites, such as these two, which I used to enjoy teaching as a Freshman English exercise in comparison and contrast:

CURIOSITY
may have killed the cat; more likely
the cat was just unlucky, or else curious
to see what death was like, having no cause
to go on licking paws, or fathering
litter on litter of kittens, predictably.

Nevertheless, to be curious
is dangerous enough. To distrust
what is always said, what seems,
to ask odd questions, interfere in dreams,
leave home, smell rats, have hunches,
do not endear cats to those doggy circles
where well-smelt baskets, suitable wives, good lunches
are the order of things, and where prevails
much wagging of incurious heads and tails.

Face it. Curiosity
will not cause us to die--
only lack of it will.
Never to want to see
the other side of the hill
or that improbable country
where living is an idyll
(although a probable hell)
would kill us all.
Only the curious
have, if they live, a tale
worth telling at all.

Dogs say cats love too much, are irresponsible,
are changeable, marry too many wives,
desert their children, chill all dinner tables
with tales of their nine lives.
Well, they are lucky. Let them be
nine-lived and contradictory,
curious enough to change, prepared to pay
the cat price, which is to die
and die again and again,
each time with no less pain.
A cat minority of one
is all that can be counted on
to tell the truth. And what cats have to tell
on each return from hell
is this: that dying is what the living do,
that dying is what the loving do,
and that dead dogs are those who do not know
that dying is what, to live, each has to do
.

by Scottish Poet Alastair Reid, b. 1926

more about Alastair Reid
(additional blog post)


Both the dog and the cat are admirable characters, rising above discouragement, discounting the naysayers, embracing their personal and political freedom. They have tales worth telling. The independent cat tells the truth about his nine lives, his near - death experiences, and the cost of curiosity -- the "cat price." The dog trots freely and fearlessly, facing reality: "a real realist / with a real tale to tell / and a real tail to tell it with." What excellent role models they are!

DOG
The dog trots freely in the street
and sees reality
and the things he sees
are bigger than himself
and the things he sees
are his reality
Drunks in doorways
Moons on trees
The dog trots freely thru the street
and the things he sees
are smaller than himself
Fish on newsprint
Ants in holes
Chickens in Chinatown windows
their heads a block away
The dog trots freely in the street
and the things he smells
smell something like himself
The dog trots freely in the street
past puddles and babies
cats and cigars
poolrooms and policemen
He doesn't hate cops
He merely has no use for them
and he goes past them
and past the dead cows hung up whole
in front of the San Francisco Meat Market
He would rather eat a tender cow
than a tough policeman
though either might do
And he goes past the Romeo Ravioli Factory
and past Coit's Tower
and past Congressman Doyle of the Unamerican Committee
He's afraid of Coit's Tower
but he's not afraid of Congressman Doyle
although what he hears is very discouraging
very depressing
very absurd
to a sad young dog like himself
to a serious dog like himself
But he has his own free world to live in
His own fleas to eat
He will not be muzzled
Congressman Doyle is just another
fire hydrant
to him
The dog trots freely in the street
and has his own dog's life to live
and to think about
and to reflect upon
touching and tasting and testing everything
investigating everything
without benefit of perjury
a real realist
with a real tale to tell
and a real tail to tell it with
a real live
barking
democratic dog
engaged in real
free enterprise
with something to say
about ontology
something to say
about reality
and how to see it
and how to hear it
with his head cocked sideways
at streetcorners
as if he is just about to have
his picture taken
for Victor Records
listening for
His Master's Voice
and looking
like a living questionmark
into the
great gramophone
of puzzling existence
with its wondrous hollow horn
which always seems
just about to spout forth
some Victorious answer
to everything


by American Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, b. 1919

more about Ferlinghetti
(additional blog post)

Little Nipper, the RCA Victor Dog

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS FOR MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Sunday, August 28, 2011

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com