Emily Dickinson on Facebook – Pamela Milne

A U3A friend, Ian, introduced me to a very amusing poem by Pamela Milne that imagined Emily Dickinson on Facebook. He obtained it from this link.

In the poem Milne mentions Emily using a tinted/photo-shopped version of the one famous daguerreotype (early photographic process). Here’s just the thing By Debra Styer to go with the poem.

EmilyDickinson

Emily Dickinson on Facebook

She posts many times a day.
Often during the night and early morning.
Photos of spiders and flies on windowsills,
her garden seen through her bedroom window,
her new tulle dress, flowers in a simple vase.
No poems.
Anyone who requests to be her friend, she accepts,
but she never clicks the Like button.
She never comments.
She never responds to messages.
She joins no groups.
Every weekend she changes her cover photo:
leaves of trees and bushes, surfaces of water,
things seen so close up as to be abstract.
But her profile photo is always the same one.
Sometimes she does something to it in Photoshop –
a tint, a filter, sepia – but still, the same.
Emily.

Pamela Milne

Here are Ian’s comments from a recent U3A Poetry meeting –

The idea of the quintessential recluse Emily Dickinson choosing to be on Facebook sounds oxymoronic at first like … but of course social media, artfully used, is a godsend for the true recluse. Pamela Milne’s sense of how Emily would/wouldn’t use Facebook, how she’d make so much of small things in her necessarily small world, is exquisite. Perfect, even. I went “Gosh!” with admiration when I read it. I can’t find a biographical word anywhere about Milne…so if anyone knows anything about her…

I too could find nothing on the Internet so if I find out more about her this Post will be amended.

Well, seclusion is highly topical with the virus restricting many people to limited space. Emily Dickinson would have no problems adhering to the restrictions! Perhaps those poetically minded or those involved in writing that are in forced confinement can use the time to produce some work. Another thought is the maintenance of a diary. For all those reading this Post and in forced seclusion I wish you well.

And the people stayed home – Kitty O’Meara

Roses.png

And the people stayed home And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.

And the people healed.And.in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.

Kitty O’Meara

This poem recently went viral so many have already read this untitled prose pandemic poem. I think the strong appeal is the positive optimism expressed, and seeing an eventual outcome in terms of a world healing – eventually a better place to live.

Staying at home has many positives outlined in the first stanza; a time for the world to stop and smell the roses. I like the thought of people meeting their shadows. To me this implied coming to terms with oneself, and a time for self-discovery, reflection and prayer.

The staying at home lifestyle could enable a change in thinking, and the world could start to be healed and the world could begin to progress in a healthier direction. In contrast perhaps by those who view the current status quo as a 24 by 7 all-expenses economic road to ruin?

But let it be known that the ‘old-world’, for all its people faults, was a beautiful place with marvelous people. And that the interim change despite world turmoil still emanates much beauty. And that the ‘new-post-pandemic world’ will be equally amazing. I hope you will be around to participate in that creation! I hope to join you!

The following background text on Kitty O’Meara was obtained from this link

Kitty O’Meara of Madison, WI … is the poet laureate of the pandemic. Her untitled prose poem, which begins with the line, “And the people stayed home,” has been shared countless times, on countless backgrounds, with countless fonts, since its first posting. It was most widely popularized by Deepak Chopra, and has since been shared by everyone from Bella Hadid to radio stations in Australia. The poem has become shorthand for a silver-linings perspective during the coronavirus outbreak—the hope that something good can come out of this collective state of “together, apart.”

Fittingly, the poem is proof of what O’Meara has chosen to do with herself while social distancing: Write. “And the people stayed home” was written in one sitting, the by-product of months of built-up anxiety while watching the pandemic brew on the news.
“I was anxious for the past few months. I knew this was coming and I couldn’t be of service,” O’Meara tells OprahMag.com. After years working in palliative care, O’Meara is especially concerned for her friends who still work in the health care profession and are on the frontlines of battling the virus.

“I was getting kind of sad. There was nothing I could do. I couldn’t help my friends. I was very worried about them. My husband said: ‘Write. Just write again,’” O’Meara recalls.
So, she did. “I just kind of sat down and wrote it,” O’Meara says matter-of-factly, crediting “spirit” with the process. “I saw the maps of the receding pollution over China and Europe. I thought, ‘There you go. There’s something of blessing in all suffering.’ And I thought with my passionate love for the Earth, maybe that’s one good thing.”
Immediately after writing, O’Meara shared this poem with her friends on Facebook. “I post stuff like that all the time. I usually don’t get a lot of response,” O’Meara says. “But this found its niche.”

That’s an understatement; the poem resonated with people instantly. Soon, a Facebook friend asked to share the poem with her own followers, and within three days of posting, her husband, encountered the poem elsewhere on the Internet. Kitty O’Meara had officially gone viral.

The top image – Autumn roses from our Garden

 

The Afternoon Sun – C P Cavafy – Analysis

The Afternoon Sun

This room, how well I know it.
Now they’re renting it, and the one next to it,
as offices. The whole house has become
an office building for agents, businessmen, companies.

This room, how familiar it is.

The couch was here, near the door,
a Turkish carpet in front of it.
Close by, the shelf with two yellow vases.
On the right—no, opposite—a wardrobe with a mirror.
In the middle the table where he wrote,
and the three big wicker chairs.
Beside the window the bed
where we made love so many times.

They must still be around somewhere, those old things.

Beside the window the bed;
the afternoon sun used to touch half of it.

. . . One afternoon at four o’clock we separated
for a week only. . . And then—
that week became forever.

C P Cavafy (1863 – 1933)
translated by E Keeley

I liked this poem on a first reading. The last stanza had a poignancy that only comes from an intimate personal separation. Grief is rekindled by returning to a house and entering a specific room known well from years ago.

Looking at each stanza and the structure of the poem …

S1 – The first sentence tells it all – this room is significant. And the rest of the stanza states what unfortunately has happened to the house.

S2 – This one line stanza returns to the room, and the poet’s familiarity. It has its own space making the one line stand out in thought. We can imagine the person standing at the open door looking into the room and the emotive response as memories flood back.

S3 – Then what follows is a detailed description of how the room used to be – every item gradually brought to the forefront of memory compared to the new look of the room. And then the significant last sentence, remembering the bed near the window where love took place.

S4 –A one line reflection thinking about the items in the room and what happened to them. Time has taken away physical things as well as emotional loss. Again the one line has space making it stand out in thought.

S5 – The bed has now become the main focus of the poem, and how the sunlight played on half of it. Sunlight has wonderful associations and so to the bed of course. And we can imagine the scene without the need for specifics. And the fact that the sun only touched half of the bed just as coming back only touches part of the original experience.

S6 – And then that poignant statement of the partial separation that became the forever. There is no need for any explanation on why this has happened. The reader can bring to mind his or her own personal experience of intimate loss. So both reader and poet share an emotional intensity.

I like the way this poem is structured as the reader walks-through an instant in life. It is a poem of place as well as grief and memory. The poet goes back to a place of great significance. And when we do this we take our time to absorb the new environment holding the image of the past in the mind as a reference. This is why I like the two one line stanzas because they create a sort of time delay in the reading of the event as it unfolds.

For interest, here is a clip of a sung version of this poem in Greek by Yannis Petritsis. It  might bring an emotional response akin to that experienced from reading the poem. (There are subtitles in English.)

C P Cavafy was an Egyptiot Greek poet, journalist and civil servant. He is one of the most important figures in Greek poetry, and in Western poetry. His poems are, typically, concise but intimate evocations of real or literary figures and milieu that have played roles in Greek culture. Uncertainty about the future, sensual pleasures, the moral character and psychology of individuals, homosexuality, and a fatalistic existential nostalgia are some of his defining themes. He was a perfectionist, obsessively refining every single line of his poetry. He left 155 poems plus more that were incomplete. His mature style was a free iambic form, free in the sense that verses rarely rhyme and are usually from 10 to 17 syllables. In his poems, the presence of rhyme usually implies irony.

And more on C P Cavafy fom Wikipedia

I must add as a follow-up that there is a time to move on and look to the future, hard as it might be. And although the world is changing rapidly fast, the new-all-different tomorrow will always provide opportunities to enrich us with joy.

 

Being Infectious – a personal exchange!

Smiling Is Infectious

Smiling is infectious,
you catch it like the flu,

When someone smiled at me today,
I started smiling too.

I passed around the corner
and someone saw my grin.

When he smiled I realized
I’d passed it on to him.

I thought about that smile,
then I realized its worth.

A single smile, just like mine
could travel round the earth.

So, if you feel a smile begin,
don’t leave it undetected.

Let’s start an epidemic quick,
and get the world infected!

Jez Alborough ? see Note below  (1959 –

It is a fact that smiling appears contagious – and of more importance makes us happier … well we need something to counteract the emotional response to COVID-19!

… smiling is contagious. And according to the ‘facial feedback hypothesis’, which postulates that facial movement can affect emotional experience, smiling can actually make us feel happier – (Reference – The Contagious Power of Thinking: How Your Thoughts Can Influence the World by David Hamilton)

Note – In some Internet Sites this poem is identified incorrectly as one of Spike Milligan’s poems. I have no record of Spike Milligan and this work (Reference – The Compulsive Spike Milligan edited by Norma Farnes). Admittedly it is the sort of thing Spike Milligan  would write. But from the following comment on the Internet this poem appears to be the work of Jez Alborough who posted …

the author is not unknown, it is by jez alborough. I am the author. It was publihed in my collection of poetry back in 91 called shake before opening. It has also been republished in a few poetry collections, aleays credited to me. I have mo idea why other people have beed credited with it, i’d appreciate itif you correct this. Thanks, jez

Jez was born in Kingston upon Thames in 1959. He went to art school in Norwich and then set about entering the competitive world of children’s books. Jez has now written and illustrated over thirty picture books for children, he was runner up of the 1985 Mother Goose Award with his first book Bare Bear. Jez lives in London with his Danish wife.

And of course finding happiness is up to you 

Smile – A one Word Poem

Arthur Stace was an alcoholic but when he attended a Christianity meeting he was totally besotted by the word ‘Eternity’ and what this word represented. From then on he spread this word by writing it in copperplate with chalk on footpaths in and around Sydney. He did this for 35 years from 1932 to 1967 and became known as ‘Mr Eternity’.

A Wikipedia link

Awhile ago I was in a hurry to write a poem so I decided to choose just one word –

SMILE

But in order to spread this SMILE to the masses I have thought it wise not to embark on a similar promotion spree. As an alternative I thought some words might suffice for all to read – hence the following ….

My One Word Poem
(Dedicated to Arthur Stace who took ETERNITY to be understood)

The first and last line
starts and ends
at the next word.

SMILE.

Go back to the first line.

Short though it be, and like Arthur’s
this poem is an endless journey!
that’s right – you’ve got it
Smile!

But why are you down here,
Ok, you don’t like to read in circles
I guess I will have to repeat things
so – just for you
Smile!

Now, have you finally ingested it?
I mean – is it fully understood
analysed and sunk in
more than skin deep!
Smile!

Now that’s better!
if there’s one thing I hate
not to be fully understood
and have no response –
it is only the one word!

SMILE.

Richard Scutter

… and of course there is another way to disseminate my message when walking down the street!

… and interestingly what word would you choose (I guess love is already taken)

The Mower – Philip Larkin – Analysis

The Mower

The mower stalled, twice; kneeling I found
A hedgehog jammed against the blades,
Killed. It had been in the long grass.

I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.
Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world
Unmendably, Burial was no help:

Next morning I got up and it did not.
The first day after a death, the new absence
Is always the same; we should be careful

Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.

Philip Larkin (1922 – 1985)

Unmendably – unamendable

We looked at this poem at our U3A Poetry Appreciation Session. The importance of the punctuation was mentioned in any reading of the poem. And comments were made on the word unmendably this being the central word of the poem – when something happens that can never be mended and in this case due to an innocent accident.

And immediate grief is defined so eloquently in that opening line of the third stanza – Next morning I got up and it did not. It is the absence of presence, the empty space that is so hard to accept. There is such irony in the words – is always the same when of course the whole point is that it is not the same but will always be different.

An interesting discussion ensued on whether the last two lines were needed and perhaps the poem should have ended after the third stanza. Is the enjambment after-thought really needed? And after all PL was not unkind to the hedgehog, in fact he was quite kind and used to feed it. Perhaps he is thinking of a human relationship where he would not like to see a sudden death and where he owed that person a little kindness and some mending needed.

Philip Larkin on Wikipedia.

O thou whose face hath felt the Winter’s wind- John Keats – Analysis

O thou whose face hath felt the Winter’s wind

O thou whose face hath felt the Winter’s wind,
Whose eye has seen the snow-clouds hung in mist
And the black elm tops ‘mong the freezing stars,
To thee the spring will be a harvest-time.
O thou, whose only book has been the light
Of supreme darkness which thou feddest on
Night after night when Phoebus was away,
To thee the Spring shall be a triple morn.

O fret not after knowledge- I have none,
And yet my song comes native with the warmth.
O fret not after knowledge- I have none,
And yet the Evening listens. He who saddens
At thought of idleness cannot be idle,
And he’s awake who thinks himself asleep.

John Keats (1795 – 1821)

A draft copy of this sonnet was sent to his friend John Reynolds on today’s date the 19 February. His friend was suffering from pneumatic fever. He wanted to ‘lift a little time from his shoulders’. Apparently the song of a thrush heard while Keats was out walking was the inspiration for this poem.

It is the only unrhymned sonnet that Keats wrote. It forms the traditional break after the first eight lines – after the full stop, and I have inserted a blank line at this point.

Feddest – feed perhaps
Phoebus – Greek God of light; God of prophecy and poetry and music and healing.

John Reynolds was obviously going through a very dark time. It is appropriate that he mentions the absence of Phoebus, the inability of his friend to write. His illness is conceited to darkness in nature and that Spring will be a great happening – and two lines stress this – a harvest-time and a triple morn.

The last six lines stress the lack of knowledge on the illness and its progression. Again two lines are involved – O fret not after knowledge – I have none, but independent of this his song comes native with warmth.

The last lines give hope that although he, John Reynolds, may think of death in terms of idleness and sleep he is actually awake – and will live, hopefully.

John Keats on Wikipedia

The Waking – Theodore Roethke – Analysis

The Waking

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

Theodore Roethke (1908 – 1963)

This iambic pentameter villanelle was written in 1953. The poem suggests the nature of life and an approach to living through experience.

In a villanelle the repetitive lines appear together in the last two lines –
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go

These are the key lines that emphasise the main thought concept.

How can you wake to sleep … it seems a contradiction … perhaps what he is saying is that even when awake he is never fully aware … never fully appreciative, so in away asleep of all that is around him as he leads his life … so life is a process of awareness and enlightenment? To take my waking slow … this might be a plea to enjoy life as you live!

Another view to the phrase I wake to sleep … indicating a reluctance to face life for whatever reason?

We learn by going … by life-experience … and hopefully we go where we have to go … do we have an ordained path? … a path specific for us to follow? … how do we work out where we have to go? … only by going and following our heart.

In the third stanza there is a humbleness and respect for others when they are involved – I shall walk softly there.

We think by feeling … I think in a way this is true in that our thinking and feeling go hand in hand and as we think we know and experience a ‘yes this is right’ response within. And life throws many situations at us that cause emotional reaction needing thoughtful response. Whether we are fated is another matter.

In the fifth stanza Great Nature is a beautiful guiding force in growth … but we do not know how, how the tree takes light or light takes the tree.

And in the last stanza – What falls away is always. And is near … experience continually falls away fixed … we cannot change the past … but it may be near to us in how we continue to live especially when we have made a few regrettable decisions.

Theodore Roethke on Wikipedia