This is the book in question...
I hate to admit it, but she is right.
This summer I decided that I would read as many pieces of fiction as I read non-fiction. The first book was The Family Fang, about a family of performance artists and a mystery that is either a gruesome tragedy or the most elaborate of art. I just finished reading The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared, kinda Cocoon meets Forrest Gump.
To be sure, I am not going cold turkey on this whole reading for pleasure thing. I am reading a history of the Civil War and a book on classroom management with my eye on a commentary on Paul's Prison letters by NT Wright.
My next foray into fiction is the biggest departure yet. Poetry.
I need to admit that I don't think of myself as a poetry lover. I love the Psalms and can follow Shakespeare, but poetry is a too little navel gazing. A little too 'go live in the woods and make soap' where we'll live off fresh berries and sleep next to a fire as we listen to the crickets chirp.'
Me thinks I protests to much. (Look up the reference, its from a Shakespearian play Mel Gibson hasn't butchered.)
The answer to why I balk at poetry is because poetry is emotionally raw and I am not always a fan of emotionally raw. It can be idyllic and pastoral, but it can also be gut wrenching in both its simplicity and profundity. The book I selected is Poems That Make Grown Men Cry. 100 or so playwrights, actors, academics, all men, selected one poem--the poem they can't make it to the end of without 'glubbing up' as Brit Stephen Fry writes. I am only on the first few poems and I can already tell that this will be an all-summer book. I need to make my way through this book slowly. I have never heard of most of these poets before. Some are poems I have heard snippets of in movies by writers I have never really explored. After three poems, I am hooked. I supposed I should'nt be so surprised.
In college, I had a class where I was required to recite a poem. I remember shuffling my feet and mumbling that I didn't know any poetry and so the professor, Dr. Charles Parker, selected a piece by Milton, On His Blindness. I memorized it and performed it-- pretty well I thought. Chuck started creating a barricade with chairs all around me and told recite it now knowing that all I wanted was to be on the other side of the barrier, where everyone else was. The poem became a search for the way out. I can still remember the light coming on as I spoke the last line. This isn't a poem about resignation, but about hope. 'Thousands at his bidding...' has become a mantra to me that patience isn't given, its developed by trusting the Giver of barriers.
|318. On His Blindness|
|WHEN I consider how my light is spent|
|E're half my days, in this dark world and wide,|
|And that one Talent which is death to hide,|
|Lodg'd with me useless, though my Soul more bent|
|To serve therewith my Maker, and present||5|
|My true account, least he returning chide,|
|Doth God exact day-labour, light deny'd,|
|I fondly ask; But patience to prevent|
|That murmur, soon replies, God doth not need|
|Either man's work or his own gifts, who best||10|
|Bear his milde yoak, they serve him best, his State|
|Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed|
|And post o're Land and Ocean without rest:|
|They also serve who only stand and waite.|
In another class of Chuck's, I had to recite a soliloquy from Hamlet. Again, his choice. Claudius has killed his brother, taken both his brother's throne and wife and now wants to be forgiven as he prays in his chapel. Forgiveness requires repentance with the reality that Claudius will not only lose both wife and crown, but life as well. I really could care less about the whole of Hamlet, but I will watch a production just to see Claudius' prayer. I love this guy--I know this guy.
Claudius' prayer starts at about the 1.30 mark of this video.
I am still processing so I will let the silence speak for itself...
BTW--In case I forget, someone remind me to thank Dr. Parker...