Monthly Archives January 2023

Praise for the Invaded, Mutilated, and Beautiful World: Two Poems by Adam Zagajewski

Let’s face it: without hope and continual, sometimes rewarded longing for the world of love and beauty reflected in the faces of our mothers and her joyful cohorts from our first moments in the birth room, life would be a hard, hard slog. So much darkness, so much beauty.

It’s as if two exhausted boxers in the 35th round of a fight to the death keep probing and hoping for the merest, minuscule suggestion of acquiescence in the other so the question can be settled once and for all.

Polish poet Adam Zagajewski knew that slugfest well, beginning from his own birth in the city of Lwów, Poland, in June 1945. When he was barely four months old, Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union annexed Lwów in the carve-up by the Allied powers as World War II ended, placing Lwów into the newly founded Soviet Republic of Ukraine.

Stalin sent Zagajewski’s engineer father and family of four packing along with countless other professi...

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Brilliant Songs #35: “Hawai’i Aloha” by James McGranahan and Lorenzo Lyons

Hymns and anthems don’t generally make for great poetry of the kind we are accustomed to from poetically inclined songwriters such as Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Cole Porter, et al. (When you’re done here, click on this for a fun discussion on NPR of “10 Nobel-Worthy Lyricists Who Aren’t Bob Dylan.”)

The churchy and/or patriotically laden lyrics of hymns and anthems usually get too flabby with arcane devotional language and banal nature references stripped of any surprise imagery, intriguing word combinations or fresh metaphors that make good poetry shine.

So I will begin the 35th rendition of this “Brilliant Songs” series with the caveat that “Hawai’i Aloha” is not per se a brilliant set of lyrics worthy of a place in some Songwriters Hall of Fame, which I didn’t know existed until I looked it up just now.  (It’s in Nashville...

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O Life! O Sun! Robert Graves Evades the Jaws of War-Time Death

British writer Robert Graves came terribly close to joining the 9.7 million other soldiers who died in World War I when his body was tossed among mounds of corpses after it was evacuated from the battlefield and he was listed as officially dead, with notices sent to British newspapers and his family. A shell fragment had shot through his lungs at the Battle of the Somme in France. It was 1916, and he was 21 years old.

Graves went on to live another 69 years after almost literally coming back from the dead, and along the way he established himself as one of the leading figures in 20th century literature, with a prodigious output spanning the worlds of poetry, fiction, short stories and memoir.

He quit writing in his final dozen years only because Alzheimer’s disease descended upon him, robbing him, finally, of all memory.

He had been a deeply learned man, steeped in mythology, father of eight children from ...

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A Brief Excerpt on Beauty From Rollo May

“Beauty is the experience that gives us a sense of joy and a sense of peace simultaneously. Other happenings give us joy and afterwards a peace, but in beauty these are the same experience. Beauty is serene and at the same time exhilarating; it increases one’s sense of being alive. Beauty gives us not only a sense of wonder; it imparts to us at the same moment a timelessness, a repose—which is why we speak of beauty as being eternal…

“Early the morning in summers in New Hampshire I walk out to my studio on the far edge of the meadow as the morning mist hangs in the air. The sun rises and its yellow rays rest on the mist. There is no human sound, only the song of thrushes in the bushes...

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