For The Feminist Few – William Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley: Father, Mother, Daughter, Poet

 

 godwin_

 

William Godwin, father of Mary Shelley, and husband to Mary Wollstonecraft, her mother, wrote a book which has influenced many great poets and writers, and ought to influence many more.

Not in the sense of being a treatise, or bible of belief, but as fertile ground for what is inspiring and true in the entirety of the book.

An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice was written in 1793, during the French Revolution.  “Its powerful critique of the institutions of government and support for individual liberty of judgement raises profound questions about the nature of our duty to others that is still relevant today.” – https://global.oup.com/academic/product/an-enquiry-concerning-political-justice-9780199642625

“No work gave such a blow to the philosophical mind of the country as the celebrated Enquiry … Tom Paine was considered for a time as Tom Fool to him, Paley an old woman, Edmund Burke a flashy sophist. Truth, moral truth, it was supposed had here taken up its abode; and these were the oracles of thought.” – William Hazlitt, Spirit Of The Age

This book served the poet Shelley his entire life, as well as Byron and many others following.

https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/2785985-enquiry-concerning-political-justice-and-its-influence-on-modern-morals

 

 

In 1792 Mary Wollstonecraft  wrote  wollstonecraft A Vindication Of The Rights Of Women (With Strictures On Political and Moral Subjects), of which there are many great quotes to be derived. Such as “If women be educated for dependence; that is, to act according to the will of another fallible being, and submit, right or wrong, to power, where are we to stop?”

http://www.bartleby.com/144/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mary Shelley, with the benefit of inspiring suggestions from both Shelley and Byron, made her book maryshelley  Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus in 1818 when she was only 21.

All three of these books have a suggestive confluence together and apart; are revelatory for their own reasons, as such as was being created in those times when it may have been less difficult, or apparently so, for some great and unique literature to be created appears as obvious and transparent truths due not to the age but the authors’ abilities.

 

 

And all in a measure with one of the greats of poetry, Percy Bysshe Shelley, one of my most favorite poets ( along with John Donne, George Herbert, etc etc).

 

©Dean J. Baker

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Supposed Science Fiction – J.G. Ballard, ‘the poet of desolate landscapes’

‘the poet of desolate landscapes’

 

 

 

 

Fortunately for me I read some early Ballard in the ‘70’s before all the hype and surrounding mess over his work Crash, turned into a movie by Cronenberg.
He was called the ‘poet of desolate landscapes’ for a reason.
(http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/13/books/review/Lethem-t.html)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._G._Ballard

One of my favorite science fiction writers, along with Thomas Disch (particularly Camp Concentration), Philip K. Dick, and other individual books, such as A Canticle For Leibowitz. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Canticle_for_Leibowitz

Most people will recognize what Spielberg did with his quite wonderful autobiographical work, Empire Of The Sun. Excellent movie, wonderful book.

However, a book of interviews with Ballard is more than interesting and shows a prophet of the future now in his words.
Extreme Metaphors is a great compilation of the author in talks that are always interesting, and often revelatory.

Take this passage, from 1974 – (the year, not any particular book), in an interview conducted by Carol Orr, with the influence of Judith Merrill, whom I was fortunate to meet. (Along with Marian Engel, who wrote the great (and supposedly feminist) novel, Bear amongst other works, introduced by poet Gwendolyn MacEwen, to my surprise when I was first meeting Gwen, who introduced me by saying, “This is the poet I’ve been telling you about,” and having Marian interject, “Well, say something brilliant then, poet” to which I apparently satisfactorily replied since both Judith and Marian gave an approving, and raised eyebrows, nod to Gwen afterwards. *biography

“Threats to the quality of life that everyone is so concerned about will come much more, say, from the widespread application of computers to every aspect of our lives where all sort of science fiction fantasies will come true, where bank balances will be constantly monitored and at almost any given time all the information that exists about ourselves will be on file somewhere – where all sorts of agencies, commercial, political and governmental, will have access to that information.”
– Pg.58, Extreme Metaphors, How To Face Doomsday without Really Trying.
Reason enough to start to reading his books, let alone that book.

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©Dean J. Baker

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Alden Nowlan – Greatness in Poetry

nowlan_

 

 

 

 

 

Alden Nowlan is one of those poets whom I never got to meet, and always wish I’d been able to do so.

I first saw one of his poems when I was in high school. And as with that poem, his other poems: they always evoke, a ‘yes!,’ about honesty and the truth of things. Always memorable. You’ll find them repeating themselves at the least expected moments.
The poem that first struck me was his ‘Aunt Jane.’

Aunt Jane

Aunt Jane, of whom I dreamed the nights it
thundered,
was dead at ninety, buried at a hundred.
We kept her corpse a decade, hid upstairs,
where it ate porridge, slept and said its prayers.

And every night before I went to bed
they took me in to worship with the dead.
Christ Lord, if I should die before I wake,
I pray thee Lord my body take.

 

©Alden Nowlan

Just to be sitting in your own world and to have 8 lines smack you awake out of the blue, away from your concerns and take you to revelation so quickly, so easily, and with such delight – amazing.

But Alden has many, many poems of the kind that do so – surprising in their humility, strength and understanding. His are the works you could carry in a small book with you and find sustaining every time you looked.
He covers history, patriotism, and more all in a beautiful way.

One other:

Canadian January Night

Ice storm: the hill
a pyramid of black crystal
down which the cars
slide like phosphorescent beetles
while I, walking backwards in obedience
to the wind, am possessed
of the fearful knowledge
my compatriots share
but almost never utter:
this is a country
where a man can die
simply from being
caught outside.

©Alden Nowlan

 

Brilliant work.

And from Alden Nowlan, Selected Poems

A Poem About Miracles

Why don’t records go blank
the instant the singer dies?
Oh, I know there are explanations,
but they don’t convince me.
I’m still surprised
when I hear the dead singing.
As for orchestras,
I expect the instruments
to fall silent one by one
as the musicians succumb
to cancer and heart disease
so that toward the end
I turn on a disc
labelled Götterdämmerung
and all that comes out
is the sound of one sick old man
scraping a shaky bow
across and out-of-tune fiddle.

 

©Alden Nowlan

These poems of Alden’s are a few of the good, and representative of his best. You need the book to even begin to get an awareness of his greatness.
Robert Frost may be more well known, but for me Alden wins the laurels.

© Dean J. Baker

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Patrick Lane, a great Canadian poet – and his poem, Legacies

patrick-lane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Patrick Lane, a great Canadian poet. In the tradition of Al Purdy, and Charles Bukowski for those who are unfamiliar with great Poetry. The designation I use – the Canadian part, anyway – to specify country of origin.

Of course as to great and to a degree greatly unremarked poets except or even including within the country of their origins I would have to also mention Kenneth Patchen, whose book The Journal Of Albion Moonlight is not strictly poetry yet is poetry at the core. Something along the lines of Louis Ferdinand Celine‘s Journey To The End Of The Night, or his great Death On The Installment Plan. A few books, along with Djuna Barne‘s Nightwood and a few of Anais Nin‘s, with Blaise Cendrar’s ought to be de rigeur reading ( especially so his Moravagine).

Now of course these have nothing directly to do with Patrick Lane, but they are indicative of what greatness inspires in the fact of a joyful association and the discoveries made along the way.

One of his poems from The Collected Poems of Patrick Lane

Legacies

I’m smoking one of his cigars tonight
after this one
there’s only one left
a pack of cigars
Remington shaver
swagger-stick from the First War
and nothing else
legacies from the old man.

Once in all his eighty years
I saw him – father of my father,
forbear
passing my father to me
in one sudden moment
of a prairie night
begat
begat

and I sit here and smoke his cigar tonight
while I clean his earthly hairs
from the razor
sit and smoked
sit and consume legacies

© Patrick Lane

  • and that is just the first page…

Aslo, you might take note of his memoir – What The Stones Remember: A Life Rediscovered of which a few comments are:

“To read this book is to enter a state of enchantment.”—Alice Munro

“Patrick Lane has written a memoir of heartbreaking struggle that manages to be beautiful and encouraging, finding anchorage in what was once called Creation, the natural world and its unstinting promise of renewal.”—Thomas McGuane

“A tough, lovely book.”—Margaret Atwood

So do look for his work, and enjoy a great Canadian poet. Patrick Lane. Take note that there is even a book where 55 poets celebrate his work: https://www.amazon.com/Because-You-Loved-Being-Stranger/dp/1550171011

© Dean J. Baker

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Sweetness – by Stephen Dun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just when it has seemed I couldn’t bear
one more friend
waking with a tumor, one more maniac

with a perfect reason, often a sweetness
has come
and changed nothing in the world

except the way I stumbled through it,
for a while lost
in the ignorance of loving

someone or something, the world shrunk
to mouth-size,
hand-size, and never seeming small.

I acknowledge there is no sweetness
that doesn’t leave a stain,
no sweetness that’s ever sufficiently sweet ….

Tonight a friend called to say his lover
was killed in a car
he was driving. His voice was low

and guttural, he repeated what he needed
to repeat, and I repeated
the one or two words we have for such grief

until we were speaking only in tones.
Often a sweetness comes
as if on loan, stays just long enough

to make sense of what it means to be alive,
then returns to its dark
source. As for me, I don’t care

where it’s been, or what bitter road
it’s traveled
to come so far, to taste so good.
© 1989 by Stephen Dunn

Stephen Dunn, “Sweetness” from New and Selected Poems 1974-1994. Copyright © 1989 by Stephen Dunn.

A truly great poet – with  any number of fine books to choose from.

©DeanJBaker

 

Fishnet by Robert Lowell

 

 

 

 

Any clear thing that blinds us with surprise,
your wandering silences and bright trouvailles,
dolphin let loose to catch the flashing fish. . . .
saying too little, then too much.
Poets die adolescents, their beat embalms them,
The archetypal voices sing offkey;
the old actor cannot read his friends,
and nevertheless he reads himself aloud,
genius hums the auditorium dead.
The line must terminate.
Yet my heart rises, I know I’ve gladdened a lifetime
knotting, undoing a fishnet of tarred rope;
the net will hang on the wall when the fish are eaten,
nailed like illegible bronze on the futureless future.

©Robert Lowell

-excerpt from The Dolphin

Just read the first two lines and know that is not only about poetry but also about how
poetry in the world is recognizable, and the contrary is true: what isn’t poetry is known as well.

The brilliant use of metaphor matched with the physical aligning into discovery: how important poetry is when with only a few lines
endless senses of intellect, art, and personal renewal can be seen and pursued in a manner that the world itself would never allow, and thus must be and remain an object of delight and study,
because in that moment of poetry where the lines resound the reader is forever altered.

For those interested in literary trivia, ‘Dolphin’ is the nickname by which Lowell would often refer to his wife.

Fitting then that I came across this volume and others I relate to it such as For Lizzie And Harriet,   Day By Day and History among others of Lowell’s great works.

©Dean J. Baker

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The Canadian Authors Meet by F. R. Scott

frscott1

 

 

 

 

Expansive puppets percolate self-unction
Beneath a portrait of the Prince of Wales.
Miss Crotchet’s muse has somehow failed to function,
Yet she’s a poetess. Beaming, she sails

From group to chattering group, with such a dear
Victorian saintliness, as is her fashion,
Greeting the other unknowns with a cheer—
Virgins of sixty who still write of passion.

The air is heavy with Canadian topics,
And Carman, Lampman, Roberts, Campbell, Scott,
Are measured for their faith and philanthropics,
Their zeal for God and King, their earnest thought.

The cakes are sweet, but sweeter is the feeling
That one is mixing with the literati;
It warms the old, and melts the most congealing.
Really, it is a most delightful party.

Shall we go round the mulberry bush, or shall
We gather at the river, or shall we
Appoint a Poet Laureate this fall,
Or shall we have another cup of tea?

O Canada, O Canada, O can
A day go by without new authors springing
To paint the native maple, and to plan
More ways to set the selfsame welkin ringing?

©F.R.Scott

Frank Scott has many fine poems, but this one I think applies not only to Canadian authors…

©Dean J. Baker

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