April 24, 2022

Writing the Day Podcast

In April 2021, I started doing podcasts of some of the poems that I have been writing and posting on another personal site called Writing the Day  That site began in 2014 when I decided to try a daily poetry writing practice. I wrote 365 poems that year in my invented form. I have continued the practice though now on more of a weekly basis.

The website has followers and gets regular visitors and I assume some of the podcast followers are those same people - though perhaps the podcast has a different audience. It's hard to know about who is connecting to these virtual forms of poetry. 

It doesn't have a large audience but, for now, I enjoy writing the poems and doing the podcasts. There are now more than 800 poems on the website, so there is much that could be recorded. The poems are brief and so are the readings. Some have additional information about the poem but most of them clock in at just a few minutes.  

I record the poems using Anchor and you can listen to them at Anchor, but right now most visitors are listening at Spotify - which isn't surprising since it is a very popular app, though probably more associated with music. The podcast is also available on Google Podcasts, Apple PodcastsPocket Casts, RadioPublic and Breaker.  They are all free, as are the apps to listen.

Any thoughts? Have you listened? Leave a comment. 


April 22, 2022

The Poet Buried Standing Up

Memorials in Poets Corner (2013).jpg
Memorials in the South Transept of Westminster Abbey, Poets' Corner
 CC BY-SA 3.0Link

In 1065, Westminster Abbey was consecrated. It was the project of King Edward the Confessor, but Edward himself was sick on this day and couldn't come to the ceremony and died a few days later. The next year William the Conqueror was crowned in the Abbey, a tradition that has continued to this day with a few exceptions. 

There is one section of the Abbey known as the Poets' Corner. The first poet buried there was Geoffrey Chaucer in 1400. It wasn't because he was a poet. It was because he had an administrative position with Westminster and lived near the Abbey. 

Then in 1599 poet Edmund Spenser was buried near Chaucer and, after that, it was considered a place for writers. Samuel Johnson, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning, Rudyard Kipling, and many more are buried there.

Ben Jonson (c. 1617), by Abraham Blyenberch; oil on canvas painting at the National Portrait Gallery, London
Ben Jonson      Public Domain, Link

Ben Jonson was William Shakespeare's contemporary. He has what might be the most famous epitaph in the Abbey: "Oh rare Ben Jonson." It has been claimed that the inscription could also be read "Orare Ben Jonson" (pray for Ben Jonson), though there is a distinct space between "O" and "rare."

Though he is buried in Westminster, it's not in Poets' Corner. Another oddity is that he is the only person buried there standing upright. 

The popular story goes of that burial oddity is that when the Dean of Westminster talked to Jonson about being buried in Poets' Corner, Ben replied, "I am too poor for that, and no one will lay out funeral charges upon me. No, sir, six feet long by two feet wide is too much for me; two feet by two will do for all I want." The Dean promised he could have it. 

When Jonson died in poverty in 1637, he was definitely buried upright, as some workers found out in 1849 when they accidentally dislodged his burial spot and his skull, with some red hair attached, rolled down from a spot above his leg bones.

A monument to Jonson was erected in about 1723 by the Earl of Oxford in Poets' Corner which has a portrait medallion and the same inscription as on the gravestone. It seems Jonson was to have had a monument erected by subscription soon after his death but the English Civil War intervened.

Reposted from One Page Schoolhouse

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April 6, 2022

Hello Laura. Farewell Writer's Almanac

I was saddened to learn that Garrison Keillor will be ending The Writer's Almanac program this spring. I have listened to that daily program since it began in 1993 - first as a radio program and later as a podcast. I was fortunate to have several of my poems featured on the show. Each day, you got a poem read aloud in his good radio voice with some almanac-style notes on things about the day, mostly about writers.

Today, for example, you learn about poor Petrarch and his unrequited love for his sonnet muse, Laura.

"It was on this day in 1327 that Italian poet Petrarch first set eyes on “Laura,” the ethereal woman he would use as his muse for more than 300 sonnets. He met Laura on a Good Friday at St. Clare Church in Avignon. Some historians think she was a woman named Laura de Noves, a married woman, and mother, and most agree she never responded to Petrarch’s overtures. She died during the Black Death of 1348. The first 263 poems Petrarch wrote for her are known as the Rime in Vita Laura. After she died the remaining poems were known as Rime in Morte Laura. Petrarch’s works for Laura laid the groundwork for the sonnets of the Elizabethan era. Shakespeare would not be Shakespeare without Petrarch."

About his unconsummated love for Laura, Petrarch wrote:

“In my younger days, I struggled constantly with an overwhelming but pure love affair — my only one, and I would have struggled with it longer had not premature death, bitter but salutary for me, extinguished the cooling flames. I certainly wish I could say that I have always been entirely free from desires of the flesh, but I would be lying if I did.”

Apparently, the Almanac just wasn't paying its way and Garrison Keillor is leaving radio in favor of writing. He has a full shelf of books written already and lots of audio collections. Many of those concern his fictional town, Lake Woebegone, and come from his long-running radio program A Prairie Home Companion

How many radio shows became major motion pictures? PHC did - directed by Robert Altman with Keillor, Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Kline, Lindsay Lohan, Virginia Madsen, John C. Reilly, Maya Rudolph, Meryl Streep, and Lily Tomlin. Wow!

He still writes frequent columns, and newsletters and has a new audiobook, Serenity at 70, Gaiety at 80, coming out, (here is a preview) so he hasn't given up on reading aloud to us.

The show's ending leaves a poetry gap that I hope someone else fills.

More about Petrarch and his poetry

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April 3, 2022

Prompt: Bed Sonnets

When I saw Carol Ann Duffy's poem "Anne Hathaway," I confess that my first thought was that it was about the actress with that name. No, it is about William Shakespeare's wife, or more specifically about the bed he left her in his will.

He gave his wife, Anne Hathaway, his second-best bed. On the surface, that seems like an insult. Beds and other pieces of household furniture were often the sole bequest to a wife because the common practice was for the best things to go to the children and the second-best to the wife. (see Anne's bed)

Duffy's poem is a sonnet written by Anne to her husband, the man known for his sonnets. It is about that second-best bed. It seems very appropriate to use a sonnet form for this topic and having Anne write the poem is a nice turn.

It's not a formal sonnet, though it has 14 lines and a closing heroic couplet. We have called for sonnets twice before. Once for sonnets in one of the sonnet forms (2013) and earlier we asked for sonnets that were less adherent to the forms but that focused on a specific topic (1999). You might look at those earlier issues for information about the sonnet forms and examples.

This month the call is for sonnets concerning beds. That is one piece of furniture that suggests many things - sleep, dreams, sex, escape, laziness...

Our minimal sonnet requirements are 14 lines and a concluding couplet. You may go for a full rhyme scheme, one of the sonnet forms, the 8 lines with a turn to the concluding 6, or any allusions to sonnets. 

Deadline: April 30, 2022


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