larryhammer: topless woman lying prone with Sappho painted on her back, label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (greek poetry is sexy)
Since All Knowledge Is Contained On Social Networks, a question for you all:

I'm noticing that most of the narrative poems I reread are by men. This … could stand correcting. There's Goblin Market of course, and Aurora Leigh plus Tighe's Psyche, though those two last are on the long side for casual reading.

What am I missing?

Can be new or old, though I'm more in the mood for older poetry at the moment -- I can save the modern/contemporary poems for another time.

---L.

Subject quote from "Gratiana Dancing," Richard Lovelace.
larryhammer: topless woman lying prone with Sappho painted on her back, label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (classics)
Over on DW=poetry, I recently hosted a week where I shared poems too long to share, as in book-length poems that could only be posted as an opening passage with links to the complete texts for further reading. Since it may be of interest to some people here, here's links to the posts. Possibly someone will find something excellent to read, or good enough to.

Psyche by Mary Tighe
The Lady of the Lake by Sir Walter Scott
Don Juan by George Gordon, Lord Byron
Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin (trans. Johnston)
Amours de Voyage by Arthur Hugh Clough
Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Metamorphoses by Ovid (trans. Humphreys)

(I of course have Things To Say about translations of Ovid, though that wasn't one of them, but that was outside my scope.)

---L.

Subject quote from "Half Asleep," School of Seven Bells.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (hiking)
Back from a week in Arches National Park and Natural Bridges National Monument, an overdue and much needed vacation (these last ten months have been rough). There was roadtripping and hiking slickrock and vegging in campgrounds. Unlike many past vacations, though, I don't have an extended trip report, poetic or otherwise. Instead, I return with a single verse:
blue sky
gibbous moon setting
behind red sandstone
---L.

Subject quote from "Level Up," Vienna Teng.
larryhammer: a woman wearing a chain mail hoodie, label: "chain mail is sexy" (chain mail is sexy)
It occurs to me that if you claim to be writing about events that no one has attempted to set down in neither prose nor poetry, you cannot also claim that it's all absolutely true because everything's taken from Turpin's contemporary account (with occasional additions gleaned from later historians).

This is not Ariosto's only rhetorical foul, nor even the worst* -- it warrants a free kick, perhaps, but not a yellow card. But it stands out, given the first claim is right up there in the second stanza of Orlando Furioso. It's like a bad tackle on the first pass of the game.


* I'm more than a little pissed about what Ricardetto did to Fiordespina -- that Ianthe wanted Iphis herorhimself, not Iphis's identical twin brother substituted in like instant coffee.


---L.
larryhammer: a woman wearing a chain mail hoodie, label: "chain mail is sexy" (chain mail is sexy)
It occurs to me that if you claim to be writing about events that no one has attempted to set down in neither prose nor poetry, you cannot also claim that it's all absolutely true because everything's taken from Turpin's contemporary account (with occasional additions gleaned from later historians).

This is not Ariosto's only rhetorical foul, nor even the worst* -- it warrants a free kick, perhaps, but not a yellow card. But it stands out, given the first claim is right up there in the second stanza of Orlando Furioso. It's like a bad tackle on the first pass of the game.


* I'm more than a little pissed about what Ricardetto did to Fiordespina -- that Ianthe wanted Iphis herorhimself, not Iphis's identical twin brother substituted in like instant coffee.


---L.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (frivolity)
I won't claim it's the best year ever, but there's some hillariously stinking turds among this year's Bulwer-Lytton Contest winners.

---L.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (frivolity)
I won't claim it's the best year ever, but there's some hillariously stinking turds among this year's Bulwer-Lytton Contest winners.

---L.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (for you)
The more of the Kokinshu I translate, the more I appreciate how an anthology editor's choices create another story, the one assembled out of the collection. Not that I haven't been doing that myself with mixes for a couple decades, but being forced to go through the grass-level details at a slow foreign-language-learner's pace has made clearer how the selection of what to include and exclude as well as arrangement affects the whole.

So I had a fair bit of fun this week hosting [community profile] poetry this week, as this gave me the chance to create a sort of mini-anthology of poems talking to each other across times and traditions:

"Hyla Brook," Robert Frost
Kokinshu 53, Ariwara no Narihira
The chestnut casts his flambeaux, A. E. Housman
"A Quoi Bon Dire," Charlotte Mew
"The Inlaid Zither," Li Shangyin
Kokinshu 658, Ono no Komachi
There's a certain Slant of light, Emily Dickinson

Offered here on the chance someone might enjoy the resulting story.

---L.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (for you)
The more of the Kokinshu I translate, the more I appreciate how an anthology editor's choices create another story, the one assembled out of the collection. Not that I haven't been doing that myself with mixes for a couple decades, but being forced to go through the grass-level details at a slow foreign-language-learner's pace has made clearer how the selection of what to include and exclude as well as arrangement affects the whole.

So I had a fair bit of fun this week hosting [community profile] poetry this week, as this gave me the chance to create a sort of mini-anthology of poems talking to each other across times and traditions:

"Hyla Brook," Robert Frost
Kokinshu 53, Ariwara no Narihira
The chestnut casts his flambeaux, A. E. Housman
"A Quoi Bon Dire," Charlotte Mew
"The Inlaid Zither," Li Shangyin
Kokinshu 658, Ono no Komachi
There's a certain Slant of light, Emily Dickinson

Offered here on the chance someone might enjoy the resulting story.

---L.
larryhammer: Yotsuba Koiwai running, label: "enjoy everything" (enjoy everything)
One of the details I'm finding fascinating, as I work through the Kokinshu, is the little historical dramas that peep through the cracks. For example, over here, we have the first Fujiwara (and first commoner) to become regent, to his grandson Emperor Seiwa. Over there we have an imperial prince who was displaced in favor of his younger half-brother, Seiwa, and became a religious recluse. Next to the first we have a courtier who lost his patron when said prince retired from court life, with the result that he had to scramble for patronage for the rest of his life -- but was also freed to write in one of the most distinctive personal styles of the whole collection. Over yonder is a poet from a clan displaced by the Fujiwaras when they took control of the court -- one who, like the Fujiwara above, is grandfather to an emperor, but whose clan was powerful enough he is otherwise a completely obscure person. Brief glimpses of a random commoner amid the courtier aristocrats, an interesting lady-in-waiting or two, and a legendary beauty.

And then there's such bits as aristocratic snark, breakups badly handled, emo monks, and the previously discussed cinematic romanticism. Not to mention bad puns, tired conceits, witty repartee, and moments of great beauty.

The collection may be brief fragments concreted together of a refined world, and limited by that refinement, but within those limits it depicts a lot of life. With much to like.

---L.
larryhammer: Yotsuba Koiwai running, label: "enjoy everything" (enjoy everything)
One of the details I'm finding fascinating, as I work through the Kokinshu, is the little historical dramas that peep through the cracks. For example, over here, we have the first Fujiwara (and first commoner) to become regent, to his grandson Emperor Seiwa. Over there we have an imperial prince who was displaced in favor of his younger half-brother, Seiwa, and became a religious recluse. Next to the first we have a courtier who lost his patron when said prince retired from court life, with the result that he had to scramble for patronage for the rest of his life -- but was also freed to write in one of the most distinctive personal styles of the whole collection. Over yonder is a poet from a clan displaced by the Fujiwaras when they took control of the court -- one who, like the Fujiwara above, is grandfather to an emperor, but whose clan was powerful enough he is otherwise a completely obscure person. Brief glimpses of a random commoner amid the courtier aristocrats, an interesting lady-in-waiting or two, and a legendary beauty.

And then there's such bits as aristocratic snark, breakups badly handled, emo monks, and the previously discussed cinematic romanticism. Not to mention bad puns, tired conceits, witty repartee, and moments of great beauty.

The collection may be brief fragments concreted together of a refined world, and limited by that refinement, but within those limits it depicts a lot of life. With much to like.

---L.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (for you)
The ten best jokes of the year, according to this year's Edinburgh Fringe anyway. (via a coworker)

Description outsourced to Aaron Cohen: "So you're thinking, "It's getting late, I'm winding down the day, maybe I should watch some videos." And then you watch this snowboarding trailer with a metal soundtrack, avalanches, and a BEAR. Cripes, maybe you should just watch this one tomorrow morning instead of coffee." Trailer for The Art of Flight.

From @sam_tanner_: "An apostrophe is the difference between a business that knows its shit and a business that knows it's shit" (via [livejournal.com profile] cranky_editors)

... in your sad desperate loneliness / yet you left me swimming in circles as you rescued yourself

---L.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (for you)
The ten best jokes of the year, according to this year's Edinburgh Fringe anyway. (via a coworker)

Description outsourced to Aaron Cohen: "So you're thinking, "It's getting late, I'm winding down the day, maybe I should watch some videos." And then you watch this snowboarding trailer with a metal soundtrack, avalanches, and a BEAR. Cripes, maybe you should just watch this one tomorrow morning instead of coffee." Trailer for The Art of Flight.

From @sam_tanner_: "An apostrophe is the difference between a business that knows its shit and a business that knows it's shit" (via [livejournal.com profile] cranky_editors)

... in your sad desperate loneliness / yet you left me swimming in circles as you rescued yourself

---L.
larryhammer: animation of the kanji for four seasonal birds fading into each other in endless cycle (Japanese poetry)
Because [livejournal.com profile] janni dared me:


The truth about poetry, not!Kokinshu edition:


    O bush warbler,
do not cease your singing!
    For with songs of spring
I too, my friend, am only
trying to pick up some chicks.

---L.
larryhammer: animation of the kanji for four seasonal birds fading into each other in endless cycle (Japanese poetry)
Because [livejournal.com profile] janni dared me:


The truth about poetry, not!Kokinshu edition:


    O bush warbler,
do not cease your singing!
    For with songs of spring
I too, my friend, am only
trying to pick up some chicks.

---L.
larryhammer: topless woman lying prone with Sappho painted on her back, label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (poetry)
Yes, I've been reading Elizabethan sonnet sequences. No, I don't know why. Yes, there's a lot of them -- they were quite the fad in the early 1590s. No, I don't know why. Yes, they were rather a mixed bag. No, that'd be for the usual reasons -- everything is a mixed bag.

Recently read:

Delia, Samuel Daniel -- Previously noted.

Idea (1619 edition), Michael Drayton -- One of the three best. I especially like that Drayton rarely loses sight of the ostensible purpose of the sequence, to seduce, and most sonnets are acts of rhetoric trying to convince someone of something -- his beloved, himself, his audience. This gives the poems a dramatic tension (and makes some, such as the famous "Since there's no help," all but early forms of dramatic monologue) that's lacking in far too many of his contemporaries -- Shakespeare and Sidney being the notable counter-examples. Note that you really want to read the 1619 edition: Drayton revised over much of his career, generally for the good -- and more, this is where "Since there's no help" first appears. Fortunately, this last means it's the most readily available edition.

Amoretti, Edmund Spenser -- As versecraft, this is wonderful, and I appreciate that it's a sequence with not only an overall plot but, for once, a happy ending. I have to wonder, though, whether systematically recasting the imagery of the Petrarchan tradition in Christian terms is a worthwhile project. Not that Petrarch's Canzone wasn't deeply Christian in matter and manner, but aside from the spiritualizing effects of love, which was already in the air, those parts are not what got abstracted by his epigones. Ultimately, I'm convinced of Spenser's desire to honor his fianceé but not of his passion for her. Also, the guy needed therapy for his obsession with eyes. Srsly -- it's kinda creepy.

Astrophil and Stella, Philip Sidney -- The first and still, as far as I'm concerned, the best sonnet sequence in English. As a work of art, it has not only technical and rhetorical brilliance, it has drama. And a linear plot. And characterization. And even gives his object of obsession a voice in the verse, however small. Not to mention, it set the genre -- not that Sidney wasn't the inheritor of centuries of Petrarchanism, but he imported not just its full form but gave it a tighter form. (Disclaimer: I don't know enough about French models to know what innovations he might have taken from them.) He also experiments in small, ringing changes on variant sonnet forms -- though I also especially like arguments with details of the Petrarchan tradition (he does not fall in love at first sight, nor exhibits the classic symptoms of a Young Man In Love) while otherwise constructing himself in that tradition. Sidney's poetic persona gives the impression is of an intelligent and sensitive young man with a tendency to self-dramatize, writing as much for catharsis as anything else. This could be annoying, but the dramatizing is used to create actual drama, and he uses his gift for colloquial syntax to give his confessionalism a conversational tone. (Significantly, the romantic crisis is related in third person, not first, and that even that distancing breaks down at the end of the scene.) All in all this is, to use the technical term from lit-crit, Good Stuff.

Chloris, William Smith -- It's kinda obvious, really: sonnet cycles and pastoral poetry are both all about the lover's complaint, so why not combine the genres? The result is recommended only for readers with a high tolerance for the conventional machinery of pastorals -- whining shepherds, disdainful nymphs, fluffy flocks, et cet. It's also thoroughly conventional on the sonnet cycle side. The craft is melodious enough to warble it up into the ranks of the second-rate, but only barely.

Sonnets, William Shakespeare -- Gah, what a mess this is. Some of the best poetry written in English mixed with obvious early drafts, salted through with second and third thoughts that are realized not by revising but by starting another poem -- without discarding the first version. The order is manifestly inadequate -- it's a jumbled bag, not a sequence. But that's what we have, incomplete as it is. The tenor is non-Petrarchan mixed with anti-Petrarchan, and the texture is word-dense and image-drunk -- very much not the norm for the genre. If it even is of the genre. Also, the grinding misogyny gets a bit tiring after a while. Just an eensy-weensy tiny bit.* Withal, magnificent and imperfect.

Not finished: Lodge's Phillis (got bored), Griffin's Fidessa, More Chaste Than Kind (tin ear), Constable's Diana (in progress).

If you read only one, read Sidney's -- possibly after a generous selection of Will's greatest hits, but ahead of reading him entire.


* If the font Sarcasm Oblique is not installed on your computer, this phrase may not display correctly.


---L.
larryhammer: topless woman lying prone with Sappho painted on her back, label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (poetry)
Yes, I've been reading Elizabethan sonnet sequences. No, I don't know why. Yes, there's a lot of them -- they were quite the fad in the early 1590s. No, I don't know why. Yes, they were rather a mixed bag. No, that'd be for the usual reasons -- everything is a mixed bag.

Recently read:

Delia, Samuel Daniel -- Previously noted.

Idea (1619 edition), Michael Drayton -- One of the three best. I especially like that Drayton rarely loses sight of the ostensible purpose of the sequence, to seduce, and most sonnets are acts of rhetoric trying to convince someone of something -- his beloved, himself, his audience. This gives the poems a dramatic tension (and makes some, such as the famous "Since there's no help," all but early forms of dramatic monologue) that's lacking in far too many of his contemporaries -- Shakespeare and Sidney being the notable counter-examples. Note that you really want to read the 1619 edition: Drayton revised over much of his career, generally for the good -- and more, this is where "Since there's no help" first appears. Fortunately, this last means it's the most readily available edition.

Amoretti, Edmund Spenser -- As versecraft, this is wonderful, and I appreciate that it's a sequence with not only an overall plot but, for once, a happy ending. I have to wonder, though, whether systematically recasting the imagery of the Petrarchan tradition in Christian terms is a worthwhile project. Not that Petrarch's Canzone wasn't deeply Christian in matter and manner, but aside from the spiritualizing effects of love, which was already in the air, those parts are not what got abstracted by his epigones. Ultimately, I'm convinced of Spenser's desire to honor his fianceé but not of his passion for her. Also, the guy needed therapy for his obsession with eyes. Srsly -- it's kinda creepy.

Astrophil and Stella, Philip Sidney -- The first and still, as far as I'm concerned, the best sonnet sequence in English. As a work of art, it has not only technical and rhetorical brilliance, it has drama. And a linear plot. And characterization. And even gives his object of obsession a voice in the verse, however small. Not to mention, it set the genre -- not that Sidney wasn't the inheritor of centuries of Petrarchanism, but he imported not just its full form but gave it a tighter form. (Disclaimer: I don't know enough about French models to know what innovations he might have taken from them.) He also experiments in small, ringing changes on variant sonnet forms -- though I also especially like arguments with details of the Petrarchan tradition (he does not fall in love at first sight, nor exhibits the classic symptoms of a Young Man In Love) while otherwise constructing himself in that tradition. Sidney's poetic persona gives the impression is of an intelligent and sensitive young man with a tendency to self-dramatize, writing as much for catharsis as anything else. This could be annoying, but the dramatizing is used to create actual drama, and he uses his gift for colloquial syntax to give his confessionalism a conversational tone. (Significantly, the romantic crisis is related in third person, not first, and that even that distancing breaks down at the end of the scene.) All in all this is, to use the technical term from lit-crit, Good Stuff.

Chloris, William Smith -- It's kinda obvious, really: sonnet cycles and pastoral poetry are both all about the lover's complaint, so why not combine the genres? The result is recommended only for readers with a high tolerance for the conventional machinery of pastorals -- whining shepherds, disdainful nymphs, fluffy flocks, et cet. It's also thoroughly conventional on the sonnet cycle side. The craft is melodious enough to warble it up into the ranks of the second-rate, but only barely.

Sonnets, William Shakespeare -- Gah, what a mess this is. Some of the best poetry written in English mixed with obvious early drafts, salted through with second and third thoughts that are realized not by revising but by starting another poem -- without discarding the first version. The order is manifestly inadequate -- it's a jumbled bag, not a sequence. But that's what we have, incomplete as it is. The tenor is non-Petrarchan mixed with anti-Petrarchan, and the texture is word-dense and image-drunk -- very much not the norm for the genre. If it even is of the genre. Also, the grinding misogyny gets a bit tiring after a while. Just an eensy-weensy tiny bit.* Withal, magnificent and imperfect.

Not finished: Lodge's Phillis (got bored), Griffin's Fidessa, More Chaste Than Kind (tin ear), Constable's Diana (in progress).

If you read only one, read Sidney's -- possibly after a generous selection of Will's greatest hits, but ahead of reading him entire.


* If the font Sarcasm Oblique is not installed on your computer, this phrase may not display correctly.


---L.
larryhammer: animation of the kanji for four seasonal birds fading into each other in endless cycle (kigo)
Ah, the tradeoffs in the balance beam of translation. Finding equivalents in the target language of the sense, tone, and formal patterns of the original is challenging enough when it's Latin or Spanish -- with Japanese, unlike those languages, because the ordinary word order is reversed from that of English, a direct translation reverses the order of images and imagery, which often enough are in a deliberate progression. Sometimes it's a fiendishly difficult poser. Fun, of course -- any problem worth solving is. But still a poser.

An example, to work with something concrete: poem 12 from the Kokinshu, an early 10th century anthology. This is from book I, the first book of spring, and in the progression of the seasons things have barely gotten under way: in the poems before it, we've heard the bush warbler sing, but snow has continued falling and the plum trees have not yet bloomed, though not for want of wishing. First the romanized original:
tanikaze ni
tokuru kôri no
himagoto ni
uchi-izuru nami ya
haru no hatsuhana
Taking it word by word, to show the ordering:
valley + wind | <-(agent)
melt-> | ice | <-of
crevice + each | <-(location)
with-small-motions + exit-> | wave | ?
spring | <-of | first + flower
A lot of compounds -- agglutinative language and all that. Grammatically, this is head noun ("waves") modified by a relative clause ("that spurt out of each crevice of the ice") stacked with a second relative clause ("that melts in the valley wind"), followed by a particle expressing doubt, here conveyed by the question mark, followed by another noun + modifier ("first flowers of spring"). In outline, "is A = B?" with the "is" left unstated. In straightforward English, this might come out as:
    The waves that spurt out
from each of the crevices
    in the ice melting
beneath the valley breezes --
might they be spring's first flowers?
This smoothly replicates that long first clause, but makes a hash of the progression of substantives -- wind-melt-ice-crack-spurt-wave, moving from high to low, from general to local, from cause to effect. One way to fix that is to take things line-by-line, something like:
    In the valley wind
the ice has started melting,
    and from every crack
little waves are spurting out --
might they be spring's first flowers?
Leaving aside the unwarranted "started" added to fit the form ("little" can be defensibly extrapolated from the verbal prefix uchi), this replicates the imagery down and along, but at the expense of turning a long noun phrase into two choppy independent clauses.

So which is better? Which is more "faithful"? What does "faithful" mean when it comes to translations? Much ink and phosphor has been expended on these questions, with no firm answer. I have my own biases of course, but I'm curious -- what do you think?

[Poll #1620205]

---L.

ETA: A way to avoid that "started" is to key something of the apparent setting: "the river ice is melting".
larryhammer: animation of the kanji for four seasonal birds fading into each other in endless cycle (kigo)
Ah, the tradeoffs in the balance beam of translation. Finding equivalents in the target language of the sense, tone, and formal patterns of the original is challenging enough when it's Latin or Spanish -- with Japanese, unlike those languages, because the ordinary word order is reversed from that of English, a direct translation reverses the order of images and imagery, which often enough are in a deliberate progression. Sometimes it's a fiendishly difficult poser. Fun, of course -- any problem worth solving is. But still a poser.

An example, to work with something concrete: poem 12 from the Kokinshu, an early 10th century anthology. This is from book I, the first book of spring, and in the progression of the seasons things have barely gotten under way: in the poems before it, we've heard the bush warbler sing, but snow has continued falling and the plum trees have not yet bloomed, though not for want of wishing. First the romanized original:
tanikaze ni
tokuru kôri no
himagoto ni
uchi-izuru nami ya
haru no hatsuhana
Taking it word by word, to show the ordering:
valley + wind | <-(agent)
melt-> | ice | <-of
crevice + each | <-(location)
with-small-motions + exit-> | wave | ?
spring | <-of | first + flower
A lot of compounds -- agglutinative language and all that. Grammatically, this is head noun ("waves") modified by a relative clause ("that spurt out of each crevice of the ice") stacked with a second relative clause ("that melts in the valley wind"), followed by a particle expressing doubt, here conveyed by the question mark, followed by another noun + modifier ("first flowers of spring"). In outline, "is A = B?" with the "is" left unstated. In straightforward English, this might come out as:
    The waves that spurt out
from each of the crevices
    in the ice melting
beneath the valley breezes --
might they be spring's first flowers?
This smoothly replicates that long first clause, but makes a hash of the progression of substantives -- wind-melt-ice-crack-spurt-wave, moving from high to low, from general to local, from cause to effect. One way to fix that is to take things line-by-line, something like:
    In the valley wind
the ice has started melting,
    and from every crack
little waves are spurting out --
might they be spring's first flowers?
Leaving aside the unwarranted "started" added to fit the form ("little" can be defensibly extrapolated from the verbal prefix uchi), this replicates the imagery down and along, but at the expense of turning a long noun phrase into two choppy independent clauses.

So which is better? Which is more "faithful"? What does "faithful" mean when it comes to translations? Much ink and phosphor has been expended on these questions, with no firm answer. I have my own biases of course, but I'm curious -- what do you think?

[Poll #1620205]

---L.

ETA: A way to avoid that "started" is to key something of the apparent setting: "the river ice is melting".

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