Iliad

Homer. The Iliad. Translated by Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Everyman’s Library, 1992.

If there is one thing I cannot stand it’s writing a review for a classic, especially one that has been analyzed eight ways to Sunday. I mean, I honestly do not think I can add anything new or enlightening to what has already been said. Everyone knows the story of Achilles, right? Having said all that I wish I could pull out a quote from something I wrote in high school or even college. I’m sure I was much more profound in my narrow minded, get good grades, academic-driven youth. Probably the most meaningful element of The Iliad continues to be its grandeur. It is an epic poem of enormous scope with the dominant theme of mortality. According to most other reviewers, translation matters. Everyone has a favorite version. I honestly couldn’t say I felt one way or another about the Fitzgerald translation I read.

Reason read: April is National Poetry month.

Author fact: Homer was a speech writer. He excelled at persuasiveness.

Book trivia: The Iliad andThe Odyssey go hand in hand.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Poetry: A Novel Idea” (p 186).


“The Road Not Taken”

Frost, Robert. “the Road Not Taken.” The Road Not Taken and Other Poems.New York: Dover Publications, 1993.

This is such a simple poem with such a complex meaning! But, having said that, how many people have used this poem to explain the things that they have done; the decisions they have made? My uncle read this poem at his brother’s funeral. His message was clear – my father, seven years his junior, chose a much different path than him or even the rest of the family. My father chose love over money. Happiness over family. My uncle offered this poem as an explanation for why they weren’t close as brothers but I also think he was (finally) voicing how proud he was of that courageous decision “to take the road less traveled.” It’s the last line that drives the point home. It has made all the difference. I know it did in my father’s short life.

Reason read: National Poetry Month. Need I say more?

Author fact: Robert Frost is one of the best known, best loved poets. We also associate Frost with New England but he was born in California.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Travelers’ Tales in Verse” (p 237).


“In My Craft”

Thomas, Dylan. “In My Craft or Sullen Art.” The Poems of Dylan Thomas. New York: New Directions, 1971. p 196.

The fact that Dylan Thomas needed to justify why he put pen to paper absolutely astounds me. This poem is all about the explanation behind the craft of writing. Why he writes should not need justification. I’d rather hear about what makes him write; what drives him to create.
Can I just say I love the word ‘rage’ in any context? It implies such a raw passion.

Reason read: April = National Poetry Month.

Author fact: Thomas also wrote a book called Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog, a collection of sequential autobiographical stories. Not on my list.

Poetry trivia: Dylan’s “In My Craft or Sullen Art” was turned into a knitting. Word for word. Crazy.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Poetry Pleasers” (p 187).
Just a note, because I am proud of this – I am almost finished with this chapter of More Book Lust. Just one more poem and I will be finished with “Poetry Pleasers.” Amazing.


“The Long Hill”

Teasdale, Sara. “The Long Hill.” The Collected Poems of Sara Teasdale. Cutchogue, New York: Buccaneer Books, 1996. p 152.

“The Long Hill” made me laugh and scratch my head all at once. As an avid walker I know what it’s like to anticipate the crest of a hill, to look forward to arriving at the top, only to miss it. Not sensing the highest point defies logic. Surely one would know when he or she has reached it! You expect grandeur to be at the pinnacle. Sara just shrugs and says she might as well continue down.
But there is also contradiction to her poem. She describes the beaten track and yet the hem of her gown was getting caught on brambles. No wonder she missed the top. She was too busy trying to free her gown! And why wasn’t she walking the beaten track? Wouldn’t she has noticed the top of the long hill if she had been paying attention?

Reason read: another poem for National Poetry Month…

Author fact: Sara Teasdale writes a great deal about New York. I’ll be reading more of her material at a later date.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Travelers’ Tales in Verse” (p 237). This poem marks the end of the chapter.


“Mandalay”

Kipling, Rudyard. Mandalay. Rudyard Kipling’s Verse: Definitive Edition. New York: Doubleday and Company, 1940. p 416.

“Mandalay” is like a song with a chorus. It could easily be set to music. Even the subject matter, a soldier imagining his Burma girl pining away him, is appropriate for a ballad. He is still in lonely London. In my mind’s eye this poem is visually stunning.

Reason read: Poetry month. Need I say more?

Author fact: Kipling has long been a childhood favorite of mine. I can remember wanting to meet Mowgli just so I could hang out with the animals.

BookLust Twist: Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Travelers’ Tales in Verse” (p 237).


“Sea Fever”

Masefield, John. “Sea-Fever.” Salt Water Poems and Ballads. Illustrated by Chas. Pears. New York: The MacMillan Campany, 1916. p  55.

As a girl who grew up by the sea no, surrounded by the sea as only small island living can be, I loved everything about John Masefield’s Salt Water Poems and Ballads. The version I picked up was published in 1916 and had the inscription, “Evelyn, from Cerisi (?) Estelle – Christmas 1916.” Awesome. The illustrations are beautiful (my favorite is on page 73). The particular poem I was to read, “Sea Fever” evoked so many different memories for me. What comes across the strongest is there is a real need to be on the water; a need that cannot be denied. Just give me a ship the narrator cries. It’s all he needs. From that he hears the gull’s cry and tastes the salt wind.

Favorite line, “I must go down to the seas again.” Let me repeat it. I MUST go down to the seas again. Amen.

Reason read: Last time I checked April was National Poetry Month…still.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Travelers’ Tales in Verse’ (p 237).


“Lepanto”

Chesterton, Gilbert Keith. “Lepanto.” Louis Untermeyer, ed. Modern British Poetry. New York: Harcourt Brace & Howe, 1920.

The real Battle of Lepanto took place in 1571. Chesterton’s poem reads like an army marching to war even though the real battle was fought on the high seas. The cadence is like a chant and the words pulsate with feeling.  It’s a regular as the tide moving in and out.  Don John of Austria.

Favorite words, “dim drums throbbing.” Don’t you just love it? In urban times it would be someone honking their girl down from the apartment, a cranked up bass stuck in traffic a few miles away.

Reason read: April is National Poetry Month.

Author fact: G.K Chesterton was a journalist, a novelist, an essayist, a publicist, a lyricist, and a poet all in one.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Travelers’ Tales in Verse” (p 237). Here, Pearl seemingly makes a mistake. She calls the poem “Lepants” when everything I’ve read called it “Lepanto.”


“The Listeners”

De La Mare, Walter. “The Listeners.” The Collected Poems of Walter De La Mare. London: Faber and Faber, 1979. p 84.

Have you ever read this poem before? I mean, really read it? Read it out loud and see what happens. It’s full of mystery. Who is this grey-eyed stranger banging on a door by the dim light of the moon? What does he want? His horse waits patiently while he continues to “smote upon the door.” He has kept his word but what did he promise and to whom? Lastly, who is listening? Who hears this exchange between the grey-eyed mystery man and the door he bangs upon? It’s definitely a favorite poem for the month of April!

Reason read: April is still National Poetry Month.

Author fact: Walter is best known for his poem “The Listeners.” I can see why.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Travelers’ Tales in Verse” (p 237).


“Golden Angel Pancake House”

McGrath, Campbell. “The Golden Angel Pancake House.” Spring Comes to Chicago. Hopewell, New Jersey: Ecco Press, 1996. p 5.

I loved this poem. This has got to be one of my favorites read so far this year.  It reminded me of Natalie Merchant’s song “Carnival” off her 1995 album, Tigerlily. In “Carnival” Natalie pays homage to New York City and I see Campbell McGrath doing the same thing for his hometown of Chicago in “The Golden Angel Pancake House” (which is a real restaurant, by the way). The imagery is amazing. I can just see this group of friends stumbling out of a bar at closing time. It’s way early in the morning and they are prowling the streets looking for a place to eat. The sights and sounds are chaotic and gripping. A freak show.

Favorite line, “a troupe of toothless, dipsomaniacal clowns.”

Reason read: It’s still April and I’m still reading poetry. Obviously.

Author fact: As I mentioned before McGrath is from Chicago.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Kitchen Sink Poetry” (p 139).


“Road and the End”

Sandburg, Carl. Complete Poems. “The Road and the End.” New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc. 1950. p 43.

I see a solitary traveler planning to face whatever comes his way on his journey. He has anticipation of the road ahead and the hours spent going down it. I say anticipation…for he hasn’t left yet. “I SHALL” indicates a plan to do so. The capitalization indicates a determination; a desire to convince someone (maybe himself?) he will eventually leave. It’s a nod to nature. Perfect timing for the changing seasons and hopefully, the warmer weather.

I took this poem personally as I have been slow to start training for my 60 mile cancer walk at the end of May. The apathy I was feeling spread into neglecting my favorite charity event. For the first time in five years I haven’t walked down my road of training the way that I should be by now…to say nothing of the fund raising (which sucks, by the way).

Favorite line, “in the silence of the morning.” Can anyone guess why?

Reason read: April is National Poetry Month…as I’ve said before.

Author fact: Carl Sandburg died two years before my birth. He is the second Chicago poet I’ve read this month.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Travelers Tales in Verse” (p 237).


“Ithaca”

Cavafy, Constantine. The Complete Poems of Cavafy. “Ithaca.” Translated by Rae Dalven. New York: Harcourt Brace and World, Inc., 1961.

When I first saw the poem name “Ithaca” I thought I would be reading about Ithaca, New York. Silly me.

This was a poem I reread a few times. Not because it was taxing or troublesome, far from it. I just love the admonishment behind the words. It the advice given to someone traveling to Ithaca, Greece. The message is pretty simple and one we have heard before – it’s not the destination, but the journey. The unknown adviser is asking for the journey to be important. “But do not hurry the voyage at all” (p 36). Savor the way as you go.

Author Fact: Cavafy’s full name was Constantine Petrou Photiades Cavafy. How’s that for a nice Alexandrian name? Another interesting fact (according to Wikipedia) is that he was born and died on the same day, April 29th.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Travelers’ Tales in Verse” (p 237).