Wednesday, 17 July 2013

8 - McLaverty/Whitman/Jonson

Short story
Michael McLaverty (1904-1992) The Poteen Maker, from the Irish book.
This is a lovely short story from the perspective of a man looking back on his boyhood in a tiny two-roomed school, and on his teacher, Mr Craig, who was poor but inventive. It doesn’t look back through rose-petal glasses, but a great deal is left to the reader to work out, but all the clues you need are there. It’s one of those stories you could read a dozen times or more, and you’d still be finding something new in it.
A new word: flivell, as in ‘flivell the pages of a book’. Another: ploofed, as in ‘the snow ploofed against the window.’
Poteen maker, means a brewer of very strong alcohol. I had to google this before I fully understood the story. Had a good chuckle.

Poem
Walt Whitman, I Hear America Singing, written in 1891, A very different poem to those I’ve been reading, as it has no rhyme. It does feature repetition and there is a strong rhythm, although it isn’t regular. Women are practically an afterthought, with only one line, and it’s probably extraordinary for the time that Whitman even acknowledged their existence. There are some great images, of the men at their various trades. Singing? This must be a metaphor for something. The buzz of industry perhaps? Each one is a cog in the industry that is America, and each has his or her own niche, and makes a unique contribution. I like Whitman.
I remember once introducing a modern poet to the poems of Walt Whitman, of whom he had never heard, and his comment was: ‘oh, he’s a long line poet.’ That was it.

Essay
Ben Jonson (1573-1635), On Bacon, Dominus Verulamius, from the Harvard Classics. Jonson paints a picture of Francis Bacon that makes me want to build a time machine so I could hear him speak. He must have been an extraordinarily charismatic man. It’s interesting in light of what I said a couple of days ago, that Jonson, speaking around 400 years ago, says this:
‘Now things daily fall, wits grow downward, and eloquence grows backward...’ Having done a few Shakespeare plays and studied several more, I’m not sure it’s just an older person having a jaundiced view of the next generationthe language in the Renaissance was richer, and the vocabulary was larger, and their knowledge of history and mythology was far and above the present knowledge. We’ve been dumbed down for at least the last 400 years!
Writing
Nothing fictional today. I had a big editing job, a small editing job, and a gig to write some non-fiction articles. After all that I’m too bushed to write anything worth the ink or paper. (I write my first drafts longhand with a fountain pen, real ink, and real paper, with no help (or slow-computer hindrance) from Bill Gates or his contemporaries.)

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