The Love of Poetry

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is CURFEW

Seeing this prompt, one might launch into the latest news in the US, but my thinking goes to that old poem, “Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight,” written by an imaginative sixteen-year-old girl from Michigan in 1867, Rose Hartwick Thorpe.

This story supposedly took place during the English War of the Roses. A young woman’s sweetheart is imprisoned for some fault and sentenced to be shot that night at the ringing of the curfew bell. Our young heroine, trusting General Cromwell will pardon him — but Cromwell may come too late — rushes to the church sexton and begs him not to ring the curfew bell.

The sexton insists on doing his duty and turns her away, so she sneaks into the bell tower and when the sexton pulls the rope to ring the bell, she declares that, “Curfew must not ring tonight,” and grasps the bell clapper. Bashed back and forth, she bravely holds on until the sexton gives up. When Cromwell arrives, hears her story and sees her injuries, his heart is touched and he pardons the young man.

This poem was one of Queen Victoria’s favorites, according to Wiki.

It may seem odd that this old poem instantly comes to me, but the penchant is genetic. I love poetry, my Mom F (nee Vance) loved poetry; apparently her mother and father enjoyed reciting long epic poems; and her Grandmother Smith likewise. My Vance uncles were keen storytellers and cousin Linda is working on her own tales, having written down most of her Dad’s stories. I don’t know if there’s actually such a thing as a poetic gene, but evidence would lean that way.

It used to be that school children were given long poems to memorize; this task was supposed to sharpen young minds. Often the verse came with a dash of humor, like this one by Anon., to sweeten the effort:

“The little boys were awfully strong
when Father was a boy.
They’d weed the cornfields all day long
when Father was a boy.
And when the day at last was o’er
they’d go and do up every chore,
Then come and beg to work some more
when Father was a boy.”

I believe young minds were improved by this exercise. Moreover, the concept in a good poem can ripple for centuries. Writers and speakers still echo the sympathetic wisdom of Bobby Burns in his poem, Ode to a Mouse:

“The best-laid plans of mice and man go oft astray
and leave us not but grief and pain for promised joy.”

“Older Than Dirt”

I was talking with a friend yesterday and she asked me if I felt a year older now. No, not a whole year older. However, I just came across a file while scrolling through my DropBox and as I reread it, I realized that I, too, am “older than dirt.”
Renee Boomer shared these thoughts about eight years ago. They’re surely worth posting again. I hope they give you youngsters under fifty a smile today, too.

Man reflectingMy husband always tells the grandchildren that he is ‘older than dirt’. They find that quite funny. When I was approaching my sixtieth birthday they looked at me and said, “Gamma, now you will be ‘older than dirt’ just like Papa.
Ha-ha. They will have their turn.

Old-Time Memories

When my Dad was cleaning out my grandmother’s house he brought me an old Royal Crown Cola bottle. In the bottle top was a stopper with a bunch of holes in it. I knew immediately what it was, but my daughter had no idea.
She thought they had tried to make it a salt shaker or something. I knew it as the bottle that sat on the end of the ironing board to ‘sprinkle’ clothes with because we didn’t have steam irons. Man, I am old!

How many of these do you remember?
– Head lights dimmer switches on the floor.
– Ignition switches on the dashboard.
– Pant leg clips for bicycles without chain guards.
– Soldering irons you heat on a gas burner.
– Using hand signals for cars without turn signals.
— Ice boxes and home delivery of ice.
— Galvanized steel bath tubs.
Toy doll in tub

Here’s an official Older Than Dirt Quiz :
Count all the ones that you remember not the ones you were told about.
Then see your rating at the bottom. 🙂

Candy cigarettes
Coffee shops with table-side juke boxes
Home milk delivery in glass bottles
Telephone party lines
Newsreels before the movie
TV test patterns that came on at night after the last show and were there until TV shows started again in the morning. There were only 3 channels — if you were fortunate!
Peashooters
Howdy Doody
45 RPM records
Hi-fi’s
Metal ice trays with lever
Blue flashbulb
Cork popguns
Studebakers
Wash tub wringers

If you remembered 0-3 = You’re still young
If you remembered 3-6 = You are getting older
If you remembered 7-10 = Don’t tell your age
If you remembered 11-15 = You’re older than dirt!

I might be “older than dirt” but those memories are some of the best parts of my life!

Remembering When…

The Your Daily Word prompt for today is EMINENT:

According to Merriam-Webster this means:
1: exhibiting eminence especially in standing above others in some quality or position : prominent
2 : standing out so as to be readily perceived or noted : conspicuous
3 : jutting out : projecting

Here’s my musing on the topic. Not really a poem, but rather an oldie’s ramble down memory lane

Beaver
Pixabay

Remember “buck teeth”?
Those prominent beaver-like
incisors nobody has these days
thanks to the workmanship
of orthodontists and braces?

And “Leave It To Beaver”
back before the name
became politically incorrect
or considered offensive
even though it was, sort-of,
but that was life back then.

Are you old enough to recall
scenes where and moms and dads
were considered eminently wise
and allowed to advise
their attentive offspring?
That was life back then.

Explosive

The Ragtag Daily Prompt for today is EXPLOSIVE

Sadly, the first phrase that came to me was EXPLOSIVE temper. My Dad F had an explosive temper, which led to scenes I don’t want to revisit. Apparently my Uncle Danny had an explosive temper, too. I thank God often that automobiles have replaced horses. While there were many kind owners, too many of those poor animals had to suffer the wrath of a cruel master with a whip and a violent temper.

As I typed in the word, my thought switched to EXPLOSIVES, their usefulness in building our country. Megatons of mountain rock blown away to make a path for the railroad track and then the highways.

Now I recall the explosions we all love to see, and watching the International Fireworks Competition in Montreal. There! It turns out there is something good to be said for EXPLOSIVE.

Fireworks.DacNinhBui

Image from DacNinhBui — Pixabay

Wonderland

The Ragtag Daily Prompt  this morning is WONDERLAND.

I encountered this word several different ways during my childhood, the first being through the well known song, “Walking in a Winter Wonderland.” I’m happy to say the a warming trend has kicked in here on the prairies and the temp has risen ten degrees. It’s now -21 C here, with almost no wind —and next week is supposed to be warmer yet. Wonderful! Snow tends to lose its wonderland sense after the middle of January.

I also recall an old 45rpm record my cousin’s wife owned. The song, instrumental only with a trumpet lead, was called “Wonderland by Night.”  (Blessings on the ever helpful Wiki, who tells me this tune was recorded in July 1959.) As a girl I often wondered whether there was a real place called Wonderland and where it was. I assumed this would be somewhere in California, where all wonderlands are located, right?

Or was the song a takeoff from the popular children’s story, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland? The writer Lewis Carroll—in reality Charles Lutwidge Dodgson—delighted not only the real Alice, but millions of other girls and boys since, with his delightful tale of adventure.

I was curious to know if Dodgson invented the place name, but it seems he only made use of the word. His book was published in 1865, whereas the word wonderland made its debut in English in 1790, according to Merriam-Webster, who defines it as a place that is filled with things that are beautiful, impressive, or surprising.

And that ends my knowledge of the subject. You’re welcome to pop over to the RAGTAG Community and read what other bloggers have written. Better yet do a post yourself and share your impressions of WONDERLAND.

Haiku: A Quick History

Haiku & Senryu History

from comments by Alan Summers,
compiled by Christine Goodnough

Most people who know about haiku think of masters like Basho and his famous poem about the frog jumping into the pond. Or the tender-hearted, melancholic Issa who knew so much sorrow in his life. Haiku master Alan Summers, who has spent decades studying this form of poetry, offers the following background for this style of poetry.

Are haiku verses all about nature?

Pre-haiku, as written by Basho et al, were seasonal poems, more than being nature poems. They might be about a human society celebration, the coming of age of boys, children, or Matsuri, which are holidays, religious days or farming events.

When haiku came about, in the 1890s, it was caught in the old medieval mindset, but on the edge of the 20th century, when trains and factories were starting to be built. So I think of haiku, which really came into its own just before WWII and post-WWII, reflecting the industrial revolution and huge changes in human society.

The intimate relationship with the seasons, coming from the pre-Industrial Revolution era when people were super-aware of the slightest shift into the next part of a season, meant that folks would write little postcards with a seasonal reference. Sometimes this was just a note or a hello, and not always poetry. But when haikai poetry came about, the common and popular and normal practice of mentioning the change in a season in conversation, gossip, or greeting cards, also became part of the tiny haikai poems.

In the shift toward haiku, just before the 20th century, writers often used the seasonal ‘mention’ although post-WWII when the industrial revolution morphed into the various technological leaps in warfare and general manufacture, different topics would be added. Of course, as they moved into computer technology and robotics, these would be naturally added.

So nature, or natural history, is often part of a haikai verse in some aspect, but this is only part of the body of haikai poetry.

When Shiki did his reformation of haiku and tanka, little changed for a decade or two, then those society-changing world wars we seem to love for some reason, shifted haiku into its own genre, away from the chains of the medieval hokku and earlier haikai verses penned by Basho et al.

Haiku has been known in the West almost as long as in Japan, interestingly enough. The French were the very earliest to pen haiku very early on in the 20th Century.

See: Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years (W. W. Norton 2013)
ed. Jim Kacian, Philip Rowland, Allan Burns; plus Introduction by Billy Collins
Click here for link.

What is senryu?

This was another verse from the big group poem collaboration called Renga, which spawned both hokku (similar to haiku) and the verse named after its most successful propagator.

Senryu was the nickname or pen-name of a poet who was famous for this particular style of verse in the group poetry writing activity called renga, and later, under Basho, the increasingly popular renku. Both renga and renku are the most complicated and intricate poems in the world, with more rules than you could shake a stick at!

Senryu verses were sometimes written to mock the growing haiku writers and, before haiku came about, the various haikai verse writers who wrote hokku.

A good test of what makes the verse a senryu: CLICK HERE.

For more reading, check out these articles & free books:

To learn more about the various forms of Japanese poetry, check out Call of the Page

Why haiku is different and Basho never wrote them in English: Click Here

More than one fold in the paper: Kire, kigo, and the vertical axis of meaning in haiku: Click Here

Free eBook:
Senryū: An Application to be a) human
by Alan Summers

Free eBook:
Kaneko Tohta:Selected Haiku With Notes and Commentary – Part 2 – 1961–2012

There are also a number of online haiku journals where you can find great examples of Japanese poetry:
Troutswirl, cattails, The Heron’s Nest, Wales Haiku Journal, etc.