Archive for July, 2014

Sabbatical Time

Good day, folks —

I have concluded that this “slough” (some might call it “writer’s block”) does not mean to end any time soon, so I had better go on a long, long, long mental vacation. Whether I will return is another question.

Anyway, I want to say “thank you” to the few who have taken time to read my various essays, poems, and stories.

I am definitely not shutting down this site, for three reasons: (1) my muse might return someday; (2) there are about three posts in my archives to which some people keep returning, and I want to keep the posts available for them; and (3) WordPress tells us that once you have locked the door on your site, you cannot get it open again.

Fare thee well,
Bob

Young Poems

©1961 By Bob Litton

NOTE TO READERS: I am in a mental slough right now, folks; so I have returned to some of my earlier writings…and I mean way earlier. While I was still in the air force and stationed on Okinawa, I checked out a novel by James Ramsey Ullman titled The Day on Fire from the base library. The book was a fictionalized biography of the late 19th century French poet Arthur Rimbaud, and it got me all fired up about writing poetry myself. As my regular readers should recall, one of my latest blog posts related the anecdote of my first attempt at poetry, when I was ten years old. But one brick does not a castle make. And, as I have read elsewhere since then, that novel also fired up other young poet wannabe’s.

Anyway, I subsequently read a volume of modern American poetry and discovered that, since I had left high school it seemed, America had turned away from rhyme and hammered hard on meter. Yet it was not really so recent. I have read T.S. Eliot’s remark that he hated paying attention to meter. The problem with “free verse”, however, as Robert Frost said, is that it is “like playing tennis without a net”. The fact is that rhyme, when it fortunately seems inevitable instead of forced, makes a poem more credible, more eligible for popular acceptance; and meter, when it is consonant with the meaning of the words, adds impact. The rhyming of long words is especially effective in humorous poetry: look through Byron’s “Don Juan” and you’ll see what I mean.

One of the new facts I learned about modern poetry, on Okinawa, is related, I believe, to the invention of the typewriter and its use by poets. The lines of some poets’ works, the anthologist said, were broken with the intent of guiding the reader’s eyes in such a way that, when read aloud especially, the lines would have a unique emphatic effect. I point to Hart Crane’s “The Bridge:Section IV: Cape Hatteras” as a good example of my point here.

Moreover, what was common in the poems I read was the amount of personal introspection among the poets, even to the point of “confessional poetry”. This, as I learned later, is typical of young poets. I’m afraid it too much affected me. But, it is true, there is a profound flowing of the blood and hormones in the 14- to 24-year-old set that can lead either to poetry or to drugs, sometimes both.

This introduction is longer than I intended it to be, but I felt it necessary to alert you to the fact that the following two poems were written by a boy-man either 19 or 20 years old. Yet I still hold onto them out of inexhaustible fondness, much as a man will cling to his teddy bear.

When I was young

When I was very young
I thought that the sun’s rays
piercing the clouds
were the eye of God
watching the acts of mankind.
I thought that the stars,
high and shining,
were the angel counter-parts
of those departed
k
eeping eternal vigil
over their loved ones.
I thought that God spoke
through the mouths of some men.
I was happier then.

 

Wise Counselor

                        There was one who did not smile
                        when the boy let out his heart
                        but listened intent the while
                        till counsel was asked.  In part,
                        this is what her wisdom said:
                        “You ask me if you’re too young
                        to love; if within your head
                        childhood’s dreams still rule your tongue.
                        You can love, and deeply, or
                        you may change your mind one day.
                        But youth is not the time set for
                        thought or throwing dreams away.
                        Be not so concerned, my friend,
                        about what may shortly end.”

Finis

NOTE TO WORDPRESS BLOGGERS: If you would like to comment on this post you need to click on the words “Leave A Comment” in small bold print just above the by-line. That will open a box down at the bottom for your comment. I welcome comments, even critical ones, as long as they are polite and related to the essay, story or poem within the post.
Thank you for reading.
BL

NOTE TO NON-WORD-PRESS BLOGGING READERS: WordPress has its program set up where only WP bloggers can register “likes” and “comments” on this page. However, if you are a non-blogger, I would be glad to hear any helpful criticisms you might wish to share and, therefore, have left my email address in the “About” page (see button above the title of this post). Please, no “snarky” comments, or I will have to delete it.
Thank you for reading.
BL 

 

Same Difference

©2014 By Bob Litton

Certain phrases and idioms over the decades have bothered me: I simply could not grasp the logic of them…at least not for a long time. One of these is “can’t have your cake and eat it, too”. Since, in my young brain, I had always seen “have” and “eat” as synonyms, the point of the idiom escaped me for years and years. It seemed to me that if you were having cake for dessert, you were at the same time eating it. Eventually, not many decades ago, I realized that the meaning of the word “have” in this context was “possess’ or “keep”. But, I thought, if it meant those equivalents, why not use them instead? The confusion is unnecessarily engendered. Thankfully, I did not hear the remark often and certainly never used it.

Then there is the appellation: “pointy-headed intellectual”. By the time I was twenty I had to “come out of the closet” and blushingly admit that I was an “intellectual”; but did that mean my head formed some sort of point? I examined myself in a mirror: No, no cone shape. Finally, one day I heard a youth counselor point me out to another young man and say, “There! See that forehead? That’s what I mean by ‘high-brow’.” Ah ha! They were referring to the space between my eyebrows and the line of my hair! What if I had been bald? Further along in years, I learned that the phrase was usually applied derogatorily to someone who read a lot of big-word books, spoke in complete sentences, and probably was a liberal politically.

Of late, because of the world’s confounded condition — and our own local situation — I have seen that another common, paradoxical idiom, “same difference”, very much applies. The Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites, for instance, see their religion’s history contradictorily: one claims Mahomet’s mantle was intended to fall on this man; the other says, no, it was meant to be inherited by another man. And they quarrel over which theological texts are valid, just as the Jews and Christians have done. But their common practical approach to resolving the matter is to grab all the power and territory their group can and kill all the people who disagree with them.

Same difference.

Here in the United States, the phrase is just as applicable. Look at Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address (March 4, 1865), for instance, wherein he compared the North and the South this way:

“Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes his aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully.”

Same difference.

On a possibly lighter and yet broader note, I considered the urge within each generation to look and act radically different from their parents’ generation. I recall how the magazine articles and preachers’ sermons in the 1950’s raged against my generation for our ducktail haircuts, raucous music, and swiveling hips. Now all that seems humorously childlike compared to the tattoos; nose, lip and eyelid rings; and tattered jeans young people are sporting. And their music? Oh, my god, there is no melody and the lyrics(?) are just repetitive syllables yelled over and over again: “Celebrate, celebrate, listen to the music/Celebrate, celebrate, listen to the music/Celebrate, celebrate, listen to the music…” and so on ad nauseam. The singers are not there to enunciate a meaningfully substantive content; they are there to provide another instrument: their voices. It makes me wonder what their children will devise to outrage them. Of course, the initial impulse is to come up with something new — some innovations in music, dress or anything else — to distinguish them from the previous generations. But the only way they seem to be able to do that is to be extreme in some form — to outrage, just as their parents did.

Same difference.

Well, that’s all for now. Have to go meet Ecclesiastes at the pub for few beers. And forget.

Finis

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: If you would like to comment on this post you need to click on the words “Leave A Comment” in small bold print just above the by-line. That will open a box down at the bottom for your comment. I welcome comments, even critical ones, as long as they are polite and related to the essay, story or poem within the post.
Thank you for reading.
BL
NOTE TO NON-BLOGGER READERS: WordPress has its program set up where only WP bloggers can register “likes” and “comments” on this page. However, if you are a non-blogger, I would be glad to hear any helpful criticisms you might wish to share and, therefore, have left my email address in the “About” page (see button above the title of this post). Please, no “snarky” comments, or I will have to delete it.
Thank you for reading.
BL

“Shout-Out” For New Pop Music Blog

By Bob Litton

This blog post is aimed primarily at my “Followers” — or at least the several of them whose own blogs are about music, of all genres. However, non-bloggers might be interested in it, too.

An old friend (and my former supervisor at the Half Price Books flagship store in Dallas) started a blog about pop music this morning. His name is Steve Leach, and he not only is knowledgeable about the history of American pop music, particularly jazz and rhythm-and-blues, but he is also an adept writer.

On my own initiative, not at Steve’s instigation, I am urging my readers to give him at least one attentive read. His first post is not long, but it is long enough to get his central points across. He even reveals a pleasant sense of humor in the anecdote about his granddaughter’s request for titles of songs about summer. He told me he plans to write two posts a week (good luck with that!), picking a theme, as in today’s theme of “Summer”, and discussing songs from the past that concerned such themes.

Steve told me he would appreciate civil comments. He would like to develop colloquies about his choices of memorable music from the 1920’s to the 1980’s — from novelty tunes to R&B. If you have any add-to’s or helpful criticisms of what he has chosen, he will be glad to attend. He has written a very cogent “About 2” page that goes into a bit more detail than I have represented here. Check him out.

Here is the URL to Steve’s blog; just click on it and you will get there instantly:   www.songsonatheme.com

Have a good day!
BL

 

 

 

 

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