Lord, What Fools These Mortals Be!

16 08 2007

Fools, NOT! Frances and I trekked to NYC last night to see Shakespeare in the Park. Every summer, the Public Theatre stages productions of the Bard’s plays in Central Park’s open-air venue, the Delacorte Theatre. Performances are free of charge to anyone with enough perseverance to wait in line for tickets.

So we waited, eating our deli sandwiches, people-watching, and catching up after a busy summer. We arrived about half an hour later than I had expected and were a tad anxious about getting in. Luck was on our side, however. We scored tickets in the front row of the center of the theatre!!! Thank you to the people who didn’t show!!

The production, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, was fabulously done with the play-within-a-play actors absolutely stealing the show! They put on their comedic tragedy, a mockery of sorts of Romeo and Juliet,  so effectively that the house roared with laughter. Jay O. Sanders plays Nick Bottom, the pompous troupe player whom Puck turns into an ass and with whom Titania, the fairy queen, is magically induced to fall in love as a vengeful trick by Oberon, the fairy king. You’ll probably recognize his face.

Jay O. Sanders

A note to my poet readers, here’s what Shakespeare says about poets in Act V, Scene 1.

The lunatic, the lover and the poet
Are of imagination all compact:
One sees more devils than vast hell can hold,
That is, the madman: the lover, all as frantic,
Sees Helen’s beauty in a brow of Egypt:
The poet’s eye, in fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.

Many thanks to The Bard for giving shape, habitation and names to his timeless imaginings. I was jovially entertained!


Maya, Courage, and Rainbows in the Clouds

18 05 2007

My friends Frances, Jan and I went to NJPAC to hear Maya Angelou last night. Wow! I didn’t know one person could have so much impact. When the curtain lifted I had the sense that I was in the presence of a “somebody.” I’ve seen a number of solo performers on that same stage – Bill Cosby, David Sedaris – and solo performers on other stages, most notably Robin Williams at Lincoln Center. But, none of them gripped the audience the way Maya did and with only the radiance of a warm smile.

 I expected emotion and intensity from this woman. If you’re familiar with any of Maya’s work or know anything at all about her life, you know that passionate she is and shallow she is not. What startled me, though, was the vast depth of her soul and a sure sense of spirituality that emanates from her. I felt almost as though I was sitting in a house of worship rather than a secular although beautiful performing arts theatre.  It was truly moving.

As it turns out, Maya’s themes last night, “rainbows in the clouds,” courage, humor,  racism, sexism, were not new. When I got home, I googled Maya and “rainbows in the clouds” and found that many of her talks over the last 5+ years centered on these topics. Her message has been a steady drum beat – don’t despair, don’t be defeated, don’t give up, rise up, stand up, do what’s right, but do it with compassion and respect and, above all, humor.

She recited many poems to illustrate her points. I’ve included links to a few. She read 2 poems written by Paul Laurence Dunbar, A Negro Love Song and Sympathy, which is the original inspiration for Maya’s autobiography I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings that catapulted her into the national spotlight. In a light moment, she read Health Food Diner, a sarcastic look at her own struggle with smoking. She also read A Brave and Startling Truth, which she wrote for and read at the ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the United Nations.

Maya, being the consummate storyteller that she is, entertained us with numerous humorous recounts of her life experiences including a very moving story about her Uncle Willie and his far-reaching effect on her and others as he strove to teach her times tables and one about how she came to travel in her own bus.

It was an evening no less grand than the lady herself, truly inspirational and very uplifting. If you ever have a chance to hear her live, jump at it.

Happy Mother’s Day

13 05 2007

My apologies to Maya Angelou for including this tribute in its entirety. But, I searched and searched and could not find it in print electronically anywhere. I found one interview with Diane Sawyer where Maya talks about her poem and her thoughts on love and mothering. You can read about that here.

It’s a lovely tribute. Happy Mother’s Day to all who “mother” someone in their lives. 

Mother: A Cradle to Hold Me

It is true
I was created in you.
It is also true
That you were created for me.
I owned your voice.
It was shaped and tuned to soothe me.
Your arms were molded
Into a cradle to hold me, to rock me.
The scent of your body was the air
Perfumed for me to breathe.

During those early, dearest days
I did not dream that you had
A larger life which included me,
Among your other concerns,
For I had a life
Which was only you.

Time passed steadily and drew us apart.
I was unwilling.
I feared if I let you go
You would leave me eternally.
You smiled at my fears, saying
I could not stay in your lap forever
That one day you would have to stand

And where would I be?
You smiled again.
I did not.
Without warning you left me,
But you returned immediately.
You left again and returned,
I admit, quickly.
But relief did not rest with me easily.
You left again, but again returned.
You left again, but again returned.
Each time you reentered my world
You brought assurance.
Slowly I gained confidence.

You thought you knew me,
But I did know you,
You thought you were watching me,
But I did hold you securely in my sight,
Recording every movement,
Memorizing you smiles, tracing your frowns.
In your absence
I rehearsed you,
The way you had of singing
On a breeze,
While a sob lay
At the root of your song.

The way you posed your head
So that the light could caress your face
When you put your fingers on my hand
And your hand on my arm,
I was blessed with a sense of health,
Of strength and very good fortune.

You were always
The heart of happiness to me,
Bringing nougats of glee,
Sweets of open laughter.

I loved you even during the years
When you knew nothing
And I knew everything, I loved you still.
Condescendingly of course,
From my high perch
Of teenage wisdom.
I spoke sharply to you, often
Because you were slow to understand.
I grew older and
Was stunned to find
How much knowledge you had gleaned.
And so quickly.

Mother, I have learned enough now
To know I have learned nearly nothing.
On this day
When mothers are being honored,
Let me thank you
That my selfishness, ignorance, and mockery
Did not bring you to
Discard me like a broken doll
Which had lost its favor.

I thank you that
You still find something in me
To cherish, to admire, and to love.

I thank you, Mother.
I love you.

Poetry Update

25 04 2007

I just finished updating The Poets’ Notebook if any of you want to follow the meanderings of a poetry club.  We read a number of really cool poems including I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud which is William Wordsworth’s famous poem about daffodils. And the best part about that is that several folks have written parodies of it which were presented as well. And the best parody by far is the Wordsworth Rap done to rap music by the Cumbria Tourism association in England to promote the Lake District which is the landscape that inspired Wordsworth’s poem.

Check it out. Not only is it a catchy rap with a great video, but the rappers have an unmistakeable British accent!

A New Blog is Born

13 03 2007

So the poetry club now has a blog of its own so that all can follow along with what we read. And, all you closet poets can safely stay in the closet and still share your opinions from the comfort of your own private PC.

 The more the merrier. Please check it out and let me and us know what you think! It’s called The Poets’ Notebook.

 And if you have any good ideas for a name for the club, let me know!

No Joy in Mudville…Erh, I Mean Lewisburg

10 03 2007

Oh well…things don’t always go as planned. Sadly, the Bison were not victorious last night.  They fell short against the Holy Cross Crusaders 74-66. Read a write up about it here. But one third of the “raucous” fans were clad in orange….we do love our Bison!!

But this occasion does bring to mind a poem. Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s Casey at the Bat.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;

The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,

And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;

But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.

Closet Poets

5 03 2007

So we held our first official meeting yesterday of our new poetry club, and I’d call it an unqualified success! I must admit it was a little awkward at first. But, once we all gathered up the nerve to admit, albeit a little sheepishly, that we each liked poetry of one flavor or another, we were off and running.

Everyone brought a favorite poem.
Some brought two.
And after a little hem-hawing,
The verse well it flew.

So fast and furious were our comments,
We nearly turned blue.
So many fun and ponderable moments,
Who really knew?

Yes. We were 9 altogether and enjoyed classics and modern, well known and more obscure. I was both surprised and not surprised at the diverse set ot tastes. We were a diverse group of people. But we all shared a common thread.

We each enjoyed poetry but have never really spent a lot of time talking about the imagery, the construction, the rhythm, and how it makes us feel. So once we came “out of the closet” as it were about poetry, we really enjoyed ourselves.

 I’m looking forward to our next gathering.