Saturday, July 31, 2010

Sigh No More

So I was thinking about Much Ado About Nothing for some or all of the following reasons:

1. Mary Lee was talking about it on her blog and on Twitter.
2. It's one of my favorite Shakespeare plays. So very many great lines.
3. I'm working on my mysterious Shakespeare poems.

And I went back and read through my posts on the play (where I laughed at my own jokes and cringed at/edited out a few typos), and Benedick's line near the end about man being "a giddy thing" called to mind a lyric from a song by Mumford & Sons, a band that has been in heavy rotation on my iTunes of late. In a song entitled "Sigh No More".

And yes, there's a song called "Sigh No More" in Much Ado, but the lyrics to Mumford & Sons don't use Shakespeare's words. Except that they DO! Instead of simply taking Shakespeare's lyrics, Mumford & Sons has borrowed from here and there within the play to create their own lyrics. "Serve God, love me, and mend" comes from Benedick's conversation with Beatrice in which they discuss being in love. You can listen to the Mumford & Sons song here. (I'm also extremely fond of "Little Lion Man", "The Cave", and "Winter Winds", although the whole album is pretty great.)

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Friday, July 30, 2010

The lowest trees have tops

Enraptured as I am with my new project, which I am calling (for the time being, and without saying much more about it) the Shakespeare poems, it's no wonder that I found myself dialing up Sting's The Journey and the Labyrinth on my iPod, listening to the music of Elizabethan composer, lutenist and possible treasonist, John Dowland, accompanied by prominent lutenist Edin Karamazov.

Today's post is short, but hopefully sweet as well. At least I believe the poem is sweet, in a slightly melancholy way (typical of Dowland's own lyrics as well, and perhaps a hallmark of that particular time).

The lowest trees have tops, the ant her gall
by Sir Edward Dyer

The lowest trees have tops, the ant her gall,
The fly her spleen, the little spark his heat:
The slender hairs cast shadows, though but small,
And bees have stings, although they be not great;
  Seas have their source, and so have shallow springs;
  And love is love, in beggars and in kings.

Where waters smoothest run, there deepest are the fords,
The dial stirs, yet none perceives it move;
The firmest faith is found in fewest words,
The turtles do not sing, and yet they love;
  True hearts have ears and eyes, no tongues to speak;
  They hear and see, and sigh, and then they break.

Form: This poem is written in what is known as Venus & Adonis stanza, a name taken from Shakespeare's epic poem. It uses iambic pentameter (five iambic feet per line, taDUM taDUM taDUM taDUM taDUM) and a rhyme scheme of ABABCC.

The poet, Edward Dyer, was a courtier during the time of Elizabeth I. He was a contemporary of some poets I've mentioned in past posts, including his friend, Edmund Spenser, Christopher Marlowe and Sir Walter Raleigh, Ben Jonson, William Shakespeare, and more. He is believed to have been a Rosicrucian based on his study of alchemy. (One of the leading Rosicrucians of the day was Francis Bacon.) Dyer's best-known poem is "My Mind to Me a Kingdom Is. You can read that poem at or elsewhere online.

For my part, I prefer "The lowest trees have tops, the ant her gall." I especially love the line "And love is love in beggars and in kings." *swoon*

I wish I could have found a better video to embed for you, but this one will have to do:

You can, as always, find other Poetry Friday entries for today by clicking the button below.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

I have a new project

Technically, I have two of them, with a third that I am deliberately tabling for while. I started one just as I finished the Jane Project - it's a poetry collection for middle grade readers, and if I can pull it off, it will be excellent fun.

The newest one sort of fell in my lap. Okay, technically, my friend Sara Lewis Holmes whispered it in my ear (sort of) in a recent email. And her suggestion took root and flourished, and I've started a new poetry collection for YA readers. And yes, dear marketplace, I know that collections for older readers never ever sell. That will not deter me from writing this particular collection. I have stuck my fingers in my ears and sung "la la la la" about that bit of marketing information, in hopes that this collection proves the exception to that particular "rule."

And no, I'm not (yet) telling you what either collection is about. But I foresee this YA one moving along at a much faster pace than the middle-grade, because I am quite frankly ON FIRE about this idea. So much so that I've started writing it even though I'm not yet done my revisions on the middle-grade collection I wrote late last year. I am, however, requiring one revised poem for the collection I call the Body Poems (such a crap working title - and so very off-target) each day before I move to the Shakespeare Poems. (Oh no! Did I just tell you what I'm working on? *skips off to play with words*)

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare

Hey! It was Wednesday today! How's about some Shakespeare? It's a reprise from National Poetry Month 2009.

Sonnet 18*
by William Shakespeare

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wanderest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st:
  So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
  So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

*The sonnet was actually untitled. It is given a number from a collection of his works, the sonnets he wrote (and which were preserved) numbering over 100. It is often referred to as well by its first line, "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?"

As all Shakespearean sonnets do, this follows the rhyme scheme ABABCDCDEFEFGG.

This is one of the many poems written for the "fair youth" for whom Shakespeare wrote so very many of his sonnets. It seems likely that the youth was a male, and quite possibly Shakespeare's patron. Whether Shakespeare had an actual romance with the fair youth or not remains an unresolved matter.

Sonnet 18 opens with a comparison: the youth is compared to a summer's day, and found superior. In fact, the first eight lines examine the notion that seasons come and go and sometimes their weather is unpleasant, but the youth is found entirely superior. The "turn" in this sonnet comes in the 9th line, with the word "But", which contrasts the fading away of summer with the beauty (physical and otherwise) of the youth. "But thy eternal summer shall not fade/Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st": Your youth and beauty won't fade, and you'll keep possession of the fairness that is yours (ow'st is probably a variant of the verb "to own" here). Shakespeare goes one further: Not only will the youth not fade, he will not be forgotten. The final couplet (inset a wee bit) explains why: I've written a poem about you to remind everyone through the ages.

Shakespeare's words proved prescient, in that his words continue to be read and cherished hundreds of years later. And even though the precise identity of the fair youth cannot be determined, in some ways, our continued recitations and readings of the poem keep his memory alive, I suppose - it must be so, at least, for Shakespeare said so.

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Monday, July 26, 2010

The Unsinkable Walker Bean by Aaron Renier

Right there, at the top of the cover, is a blurb from Brian Selznick, author/illustrator of the extremely engaging The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which I hear is going to be a movie starring (wait for it) people including Ben Kingsley, Jude Law, and Christopher Lee. And there was much rejoicing! But I digress. The Selznick blurb says "Be prepared. You're going to love it."

Well, Mr. Selznick, let me tell you something. You were absolutely correct! It only took a few pages of this graphic novel to capture my attention (and affection) hook, line and sinker. (See what I just did there?) It opens with a boy (the terribly clever Walker Bean) interacting with his grandfather, who is telling him wild stories - like the Princess Bride, only not, because in this case, Walker and his grandfather are about to become part of the story.

I frankly don't want to tell you all that much about the plot, except to say that involves pirates, cursed skulls, sea-crab merwitches, rat-like monkeys, corrupt naval officers (including Walker's own father - *shakes fist at Walker's father*), a girl called Genoa who has some funny-looking ears, a boy named Gustavo Cuchillo (called "Stiv"), a dog named Perrogi, an eye-patch wearing granny/cook who has a mechanical teapot named "Stout" to do her bidding (Stout slices, dices and julienne fries - but wait! there's more!). There are inventions and contraptions and devices. There are adventures and misadventures and mishaps. There are maps and a forgotten language that can be decoded using a handy-dandy drawing on page 103. There is, quite obviously, far more going on here than meets the eye and, moreover, there is obviously an entire history leading up to this book, including folklore and legends and songs.

And the art. Oh, the art. *swoon* The contraptions and devices are so cool, and the images are all made of awesome. And Alec Longstreth, who did the color, was a genius. All the dark blues and blacks and greys of the night shots are terrific. And the cover image above isn't nearly as awesome as the actual cover, on which the words "Walker Bean" are not yellow print, but gold foil (or whatever it is one uses on covers).
You can see some of the inside spreads in Aaron Renier's blog post about the book, and you can see more by going to, you'll be able to "look inside the book" and see actual pages. Although - here. You can look at one page here, okay?

This book is, I am sorry to tell you, not available until September.

But if you like graphic novels and/or pirates and/or legends and/or adventures and/or sea goddesses/monsters/myths and/or Atlantis, put this on your must-buy list. Meanwhile, I shall continue to quietly gloat over the review copy that the good folks at :01 (First Second) were kind enough to send me.

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Monday, July 05, 2010

Tanita Davis's Coretta Scott King speech

Remember how I've said many times now how brilliant my friend Tanita's speech was at the Coretta Scott King awards breakfast? The word that most often comes to my mind when I think of her and her speech is "magnificent". And now you can sort of see for yourself. It's not a video of her speech, which would convince you in a trice, but it's her approximation of what she said. And I can tell you that her approximation matches my wobbly memory of the morning.


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