miss_s_b: (Mood: Evil love)
From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved, I loved alone.
Then- in my childhood, in the dawn
Of a most stormy life- was drawn
From every depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still:
From the torrent, or the fountain,
From the red cliff of the mountain,
From the sun that round me rolled
In its autumn tint of gold,
From the lightning in the sky
As it passed me flying by,
From the thunder and the storm,
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view.

Regular readers will know of my soft spot for Poe, both his poetry and prose. The above poem, Alone, is one of my favourites of his. Most people seem to read it as sad or scary - fancy feeling so lonely! - but I don't. It doesn't mention sadness or loneliness, just difference. I read it as a celebration of taking joy in things that others don't, looking up at that cloud in the sky and smiling at the shape of a demon when others just see a cloud... I like being different. All my little personality quirks (some of which may or may not be mental illnesses) are what make me me, instead of just a clone of some other person, and having joy and passion for the beauty of things that other people ignore is what makes life interesting. How boring would life be if we were all the same? Alone is one of the best articulations of that I can think of.

And, in my view, that's what poetry is for - tapping into raw emotion and giving it a voice. Sometimes that can be beautiful, sometimes it can be terrible (I defy anyone to read Dog's Death by John Updyke and not cry); sometimes it can be serious and political (Dulce et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen), and even when it's funny it can sometimes have a serious point (Disobedience by AA Milne); and sometimes it can just be gloriously affirmative (Warning by Jenny Joseph).

I have a deep love of quite a lot of poetry, and as such I object strenously to Govey's edict that all children should be forced to learn poetry off by heart that he has prescribed, because there is nothing surer to turn them off it. An appreciation of any particular poem is as individual as the person reading it. I used to love Dylan Thomas's almost musical whimsy till my English teacher made me dissect it. You can't force someone to like a poem, just as you can't force them to like a story, and in my view, you shouldn't try. But giving children the tools to discover and delight in poetry for themselves? That is a wonderful thing. It is here I mention with appreciation my junior school teacher Miss Nobbs, who did ask that we learn a poem to recite to the class once a week - but allowed us to choose the poem for ourselves. I remember causing a great stir one week with The Story of Augustus Who Would Not Eat His Soup, and one of my friends doing Jim by Hillaire Belloc. That kind of teaching is a wonderful, valuable thing.

I don't really understand people who say that they dislike poetry as if it is one distinct entity; it's like saying you don't like conversation, or pictures, or music, or books, or the internet. Poetry is simply a method of conveying an idea; I can understand not liking the idea, but not liking the medium seems odd to me. But then, as I said at the beginning, I'm an odd person. Perhaps one of you self-declared poetry dislikers could explain it to me?

National Poetry Day

Thursday, October 8th, 2009 11:08 pm
miss_s_b: (geekiness)
From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were---I have not seen
As others saw---I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I lov'd, I loved alone.
Then---in my childhood---in the dawn
Of a most stormy life---was drawn
From ev'ry depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still:
From the torrent, or the fountain,
From the red cliff of the mountain,
From the sun that 'round me roll'd
In its autumn tint of gold---
From the lightning in the sky
As it pass'd me flying by---
From the thunder and the storm,
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view.

Alone by Edgar Allan Poe. Happy National Poetry Day, everyone.



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miss_s_b: (Fangirling: Books)
I often talk about the influence my dad had on my cultural upbringing, but not so much my mum. Time to rectify that, I think. My dad (and my brothers) may have been the major influence on my film and TV tastes, but my mum (and one of my brothers) was the driving force behind my taste in music, and my mum and dad can share equal blame for my book geekery. Our house was crammed with books when I was growing up. Every room (including my own) had shelves, mostly floor to ceiling saving gaps for windows, and the shelving was haphazard enough for a girl to have much fun exploring. I've spoken before about the battered and much loved copy of The Complete Sherlock Holmes that came down via my dad from my grandad; I haven't before mentioned how it was my mum who introduced me to Poe.

When I was about [personal profile] amazing_holly's age, one of my brothers recorded Taste the Blood of Dracula for me off the BBC1 late Friday night horror slot. I don't fully know whether his motivation was benign or it'll be funny to terrify my little sister, but whatever it was he started something, because I loved it. I recruited my dad to tape the late night horror film every Friday night for me. Thus I got my first viewings of many of the Hammer and Amicus horrors that I adore to this day - a particularly fond memory is watching Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires with my dad and laughing uproariously at the one whose eyeballs come out and roll down his skull when he gets dusted. I also got a slew of the Corman/Price/Poe films.

Now, my mum is really squicky about horror stories, for various reasons, and if I ever wanted to watch one of these films, she would leave the room and go do something else. However, I happened to be watching Tales of Terror one day when she walked in and noticed what it was and didn't leave.

When it was over she told me how her mum used to love Edgar Allen Poe, and could recite The Raven by heart, and asked if I had read any of his stories? I hadn't. She found a battered old paperback called Tales of Mystery and Imagination, and a love affair was born. The stories that hit me hardest were The Tell Tale Heart, William Wilson, and Descent into the Maelstrom. I wanted more. Over the years on birthdays or christmas, there would be occasionally a new volume of collected Poeness, and because there are so many, they all had both old favourites and new things in.

One year, when I was 11 or 12, my auntie Susan took my mum to see The Mousetrap in London for her birthday present. My mum wanted to get me a souvenir because I hadn't been able to come along, and I was (and am) a big fan of Agatha Christie. The obvious place to go was Foyle's. She looked through the Christies, but couldn't remember which ones I had and hadn't got (and my Agatha Christie geekery is a tale for another day). Then she had a brainwave. She looked in the horror section. This was a big deal for her, because (as I mentioned) she really gets squicked by horror. There she found the Holy Grail. A gorgeously bound and beautifully illustrated hardback copy of Tales of Mystery and Imagination to replace the old paperback, which was now dropping to bits.

It was one of the best presents I ever got. I pick it up when I am down and it never fails to make me feel warm and comforted. It's not just a great book, it's a reminder of the love my mum has for me and I have for her, and of my grandma (who died before I was born), and her love for books and for my mum too. It's continuity and safety in book form. It's also a reminder that, as a parent, my mum would do things for me, even though it squicked her, or she didn't approve, because she knew I would appreciate it. That book is a representation of what a great mum I have, and how lucky I am.

Fast forward twenty years or so, and [personal profile] amazing_holly is starting to show an interest in books. I had just left her dad, and she needed comforting things. She needed to be reassured that everything was OK, that both her parents still loved her, and that she wasn't going to lose out on things. I was browsing the classic literature section in Waterstones in Leeds for something for myself, and my eye fell on a spine. It was fate...

So now [personal profile] amazing_holly is the proud owner of this. Some of the words are a bit big for her, yet, but she'll grow into it. But the illustrations are beautiful, and she already loves The Raven and Alone. Another generation of continuity...



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About This Blog

Hello! I'm Jennie (known to many as SB, due to my handle, or The Yorksher Gob because of my old blog's name). This blog is my public face; click here for a list of all the other places you can find me on t'interwebs.






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