Tag Archives: poets

When You Meet a Kindred Spirit, reach out to them… especially when they are about saving our threatened language. Meet Huck Gutman.

Proudly presented from www.writerssecrets.com Article Series

Author’s program note. I’m going to do something different today, something occasioned by my discovery (compliments of The Boston Globe, September 21, 2011) of Huck Gutman. The theme “music” for this article will be an instrument we all have — the human voice — this time wielded by a master of delivery, Robert Frost.

Many years ago, over a half century in fact, I used to ride my bike from the tiny hamlet of Belmont, Illinois into the nearest town, Downers Grove, so I could sit in the cool recesses of the public library. I had many objectives and purposes there, books, of course, always books. But there were the records made by authors and by those very special authors called poets, one of which was recorded, and most memorably, by Robert Lee Frost (1874-1963).

I can recall to this day Frost’s reading of “The Pasture,” a selection from his volume “North of Boston,” published in 1915. It begins so…

“I’m going out to clean the pasture spring; I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away (And wait to watch the water clear, I may); I sha’n’t be gone long. — You come too.”

I doubt I can convey to you now — though I shall try — just how evocative, how thrilling the simple words, powerfully rendered, “You come too”, were to me, for I was a boy who longed to see the world and meet its people, and here was an invitation to accompany this special man who had a simple mission he made seductive…

“I’m going out to fetch the little calf That’s standing by the mother. It’s so young, It tottered when she licks it with her tongue. I sha’n’t be gone long. — You come too.”

Oh, how I wanted to go… and I believe Huck Gutman wanted to go, too. Before you meet him, go to any search engine and listen to Robert Frost read, especially “The Pasture,” then return here for I want you to meet Huck.

Sensitivity and a love of words from an unlikely place — the Capitol.

Huck Gutman is what Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables to you) would call a “kindred spirit.” She, an author too, loved words and would have written Gutman a nice note complimenting his labor of love; she would have deemed it an act of lexicological solidarity to be lavishly complimented… I agree.

Huck Gutman, a civilized man.

Gutman is 67 years old, an age at which many seek the joys of retirement — travel, golf, socially sanctioned sloth subsidized by Social Security… but Gutman has other fish to fry. This long-time professor at the University of Vermont (where I myself gave many workshops in business success) now serves as chief of staff to the Senate’s most “out there” liberal, Vermont’s Bernie Sanders. Since the senator has his hands full resurrecting America’s anemic Left, Gutman is kept busier than most of his administrative peers. But he makes time for another occupation, one which keeps him grounded and of good cheer… he is an avatar of words and of words properly read… particularly the diamond-sharp words of poets.

And he has set himself the (perhaps Sisyphean) task of building civil bridges in the epicenter of internecine political warfare through the love of poetry, of words, and of language. Whew! This is truly a labor of love… but one bringing a special joy to the growing cadre of those who like the likable Huck… and appreciate what he is doing. His e-mail list includes 1,700 readers who include all the Senate chiefs of staff, several White House staffers, university presidents, academics, journalists, and former students.

His point is simple, profound, and absolutely necessary to the well-lived life: “It’s to remind them there are other things than the debt ceiling and Social Security.” Amen.

Here’s how he does it…

Every couple of months or so, Gutman, on leave from the university, makes time to find and circulate a poem. It may be from Ancient Greece, Shakespeare, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, or William Carlos Williams — there are no limits but one: it must be a poem by a master, a poem that can (if properly read) read well.

Gutman, educator to his fingertips, presents the work with one admonition. “LISTEN to the poem.” “The worst thing to do with a poem is to try to get at its meaning. We have done an absolutely horrendous job in teaching people how to read poems.” I go even farther than Gutman here… we have done the same horrendous job teaching people — and not just students either — to read prose, novels, letters, speeches, too.

Gutman’s solution is to encourage his audience to read for enjoyment, just as they would listen to music. Gutman is right, but reading his carefully considered selections, for all he gives his readers a few directional signals, is not enough. They need to read aloud, one of the great joys our speed-reading culture has left behind, to the detriment of human communication and meaning.

The marvelous human voice.

Most every day I write an article; the subject range is unlimited. Like all authors I like to have these articles (which can easily double as scripts) read and read widely. But I also insist on them being read aloud, each and every word

My experiment in reviving the joys of recitation started in our online Live Business Center where 24-hour-a-day monitors give out effective business advice… and also read my newest article or any of the hundreds of classics. I must confess: there was a universal, almost rebellious opposition to this innovation by the people who had to read the word aloud. What a mess!

They mispronounced words they’d used since grammar school.

Tripped over anything longer than a couple of syllables.

Disdained the helpful dictionary… making even more errors.

Moaned, groaned, complained that they were being “forced” to learn.

Killed every inflection, every intonation, every emphasis and so rendered brilliant prose banal.

Tossed necessary punctuation away… and thus forced the collision of words which to provide full meaning, needed careful enunciation and precise delivery.

It was brutal, excruciating, painful… . But I knew, despite the squawks and maledictions, I knew, I say, what I was about. I insisted on my point and moved forward word by liberated word. To great effect…

Now monitors take pride in reading these articles… and reading them well by mastering the text, individual words they have not previously encountered, including the mot juste which can make or break a composition. This article, starting today, will enter the repertoire… to touch people worldwide who are charmed, enchanted, comforted and enlightened by the human voice properly used.

Last words (for today) for this fellow New Englander and his romance with words.

Thank you… thank you for allowing all the poets you have carefully selected to speak again and anew, profoundly, passionately, resoundingly. For this you have been rightly praised. Let me add these words to your plaudits. They are from Joachim Du Bellay (1522-1560) “Heureux qui comme Ulysse qui fait une belle voyage.” You deserve such a voyage, and with the multitudes of poets who travel with you, will always be welcome wherever you go.

* * * * *

About the Author

Dr. Jeffrey Lant is known worldwide. He started in the media business when he was 5 years old, a Kindergartner in Downers Grove, Illinois, publishing his first newspaper article. Since then Dr. Lant has earned four university degrees, including the PhD from Harvard. He has taught at over 40 colleges and universities and is quite possibly the first to offer satellite courses. He has written over 50 books, thousands of articles and been a welcome guest on hundreds of radio and television programs. He has founded several successful corporations and businesses including his latest at …writerssecrets.com

His memoirs “A Connoisseur’s Journey” has garnered nine literary prizes that ensure its classic status. Its subtitle is “Being the artful memoirs of a man of wit, discernment, pluck, and joy.” A good read by this man of so many letters. Such a man can offer you thousands of insights into the business of becoming a successful writer. Be sure to sign up now at www.writerssecrets.co

More can be found on Dr. Lant on his author page at: http://www.amazon.com/author/jeffreylant/

Watch for his new series “In My Own Voice” Assorted Selection of Readings From My Collected Works.

Dr. Jeffrey Lant read aloud for your listening pleasure.

A gift to you from Dr. Jeffrey Lant to help in your writing endevors

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Celebrating National Poetry Month

National_Poetry_monthposterCome celebrate with us National Poetry Month

Inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996. Over the years, National Poetry Month has become the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets celebrating poetry’s vital place in our culture.

-from the Academy of American Poets site also source of the photo.

What better way to celebrate then by sharing our poetry or favorite poets.

Here’s one of mine

Also check out previous post on poetry at:

http://writerssecrets.com/the-joy-and-lifelong-comfort-in-a-parents-voice-some-thoughts/

http://writerssecrets.com/of-spring-love-and-national-poetry-month/

Share your poetry and favorites in the comment box below.

Get a FREE Copy of “How to Be a Writer Who Makes Money, Flies High and Dazzles the Folks Back Home. Oh Yeah!” by Dr.Jeffrey Lant Get Your FREE Copy CLICK HERE

 

The joy and lifelong comfort in a parent’s voice. Some thoughts.

Proudly presented from www.writerssecrets.com Article Series

Author’s program note. It happened when I was deep in a brown study on some suitably recondite conundrum of cosmic significance. There, walking along the uneven sidewalk that lines the Common, there right in front of me I saw two lucky people who only had eyes for each other. Their presence was arresting; taking me immediately out of myself, focusing full attention on them, two people learning just how exciting and fulfilling togetherness can be.

You’re skipping ahead of me now I daresay. You’re  expecting one young thing entwined with another, in love perhaps, or making good progress thereto. But if you think this, you’d be wrong, quite utterly mistaken. For the two people I saw, and could not take my eyes off, were a young father and his young daughter. He looked to be on the sunny side of thirty; she was three or four. And a more enraptured couple I did not see that day… nor had I seen for long before. They only had eyes for each other.

The young father was in the process of enchanting his daughter; he was very much in the middle of not merely telling her a story… but acting it out. His animals were not just words from his mouth. They lived! They moved! They entranced! He didn’t merely talk of their movements… he moved as they would in life, going where they meant to go…. and to show her deep and sincere appreciation for his constant efforts and exertions… she laughed, completely, merrily, with a glee she had already mastered… and which she spent liberally, recompense for her adored father.

No wonder I couldn’t take my eyes off this scene of radiance and sunshine. I could only wish them both one thing to make what they had perfect… and that was the gift of clear memory.

Unbidden tears.

After a minute or two my way diverged from theirs; they went on without thought or recognition or acknowledgement that such a one as me even lived. And whether it was because of this thought or one like it, I felt tears. It’s the kind of thing that happens to too many silly old buffers if they’ve dined unwisely but too well or dwelt too long on things that might have been… and why they squandered so many opportunities, because they were certain they’d come again, but didn’t.

6 or 7 or so, the softest hands, the most caressing voice.

Then my own memory yanked me as it so often does these days. And I was not pining about might-have-beens and loves I tossed away without thought, doubt or pangs. Instead I heard a voice I knew as well as my own, a voice that represented all I valued and had every reason to be grateful for. Her voice. And this voice didn’t just rise from memory. I heard it because she was there with me again… and everything was there, just as it should be. And just as it all sounded sixty years ago and more.

“My little love, do you feel a little better? I have something you’ll like.” And she always did. A book. A tale carefully considered  before being read to me; sometimes one she knew I loved; sometimes one she was certain I would come to love, because she already did. Thus in her own soothing hands she would bring me, between covers, pages sometimes not yet cut, the unimaginable riches of the world, sometimes when I was ill; sometimes to sooth the way to dreamless slumber. And no matter how much she gave me, there was always more summoned by her practised magic. But the real magic did not come between covers with uncut pages; nor even with tales of mesmerizing effect. The supremest spell was the one wrought by her voice and a few deft movements which denoted care, craft, artistry and above all else, love.

“By the shores of Gitche Gumee.”

Given a moment or two, a hint and a clue, I could probably name everything she read to me… not just because of the lyric power of the authors’ words but because of her voice. Its cadence. Its resonance. Its sonority. Its shear beauty and allure. Each word counted and so she neglected no word. Each line counted and so she delivered each line. Each paragraph counted… and so not a single paragraph was overlooked or forgotten. Thus, she rendered one of our favorites; “The Song of Hiawatha” by my near neighbor on Brattle Street, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, published to universal acclaim in 1855.  I can hear her now… see her… she lives on as I hear her reading the words she loved:

“By the shores of Gitche Gumee, By the shining Big-Sea-Water, Stood the wigwam of Nokomis, Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.”

But her magic was by no means exhausted, hardly even begun. For now she told me to close my eyes, to see the shores of Gitche Gumee, the shining Big-Sea-Water, the wigwam, and most of all Nokomis, Daughter of the Moon Nokomis. And as she bade, so I did until these were no longer mere words, but grand vistas, places of consequence and truth. Such was the magic of her voice.

“But there is no joy in Mudville.”

One of her favorites, which became one of mine, was “Casey at the Bat”, “A Ballad of the Republic Sung in the Year 1888.” It was written by Ernest Thayer, and first published in “The San Francisco Examiner” on June 3, 1888. No voice ever delivered it with greater gusto and the American idiom than she, perhaps because she was a zealous supporter of her hapless Cubbies, the Chicago Cubs. Thus, as she spoke she made every captivating gesture:

“Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright; The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light, And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout; But there is no joy in Mudville — mighty Casey has struck out.”

“And the highwayman came riding.”

Over the years, in sickness and in health, her voice unlocked one treasure chest after another… Thomas Gray, Tennyson, Frost,  Sandburg, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Robert Browning, Dylan Thomas… but this was always one of her favorites, for her dramatic sense worked well with Alfred Noyes, the great poet of the empire on which the sun never set, ruled by the Great White Queen after whom my grandmother was named.  He published it in 1906, and it made him a world figure.

“The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees, The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas, The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor, And the highwayman came riding — Riding — riding — The highwayman came riding up to the old inn-door.”

And, as was now usual, she closed my eyes and opened my mind’s eye to see the ghostly galleon, the ribbon of moonlight, and the highwayman, “a bunch of lace at his chin”, the highwayman who kept riding, riding, riding. With every word, with every image, she helped make me the man I am today. Your children deserve as much from you, and as you love them, do so; for this is one certain way to ensure not just their constant improvement but that you and your voice descend to them and keep you a forever living presence in their lives.

Envoi.

For the musical accompaniment to this article,  I’ve selected the brilliant suite composed by Nicholai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1888. It is called “Scheherazade”. It’s the story of a shrewd woman whose ability to keep the Sultan amused by telling stories kept her alive. Based on “One Thousand and One Nights,” my mother loved it from its opening bass motif to every evocative note that follows. She was always happy to acknowledge the talents of other wizards and soothsayers. You’ll find it in any search engine. Go now and play it. Its richness enriches this article… and will do the same for you.

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant

About the Author

Dr. Jeffrey Lant is known worldwide. He started in the media business when he was 5 years old, a Kindergartner in Downers Grove, Illinois, publishing his first newspaper article. Since then Dr. Lant has earned four college degrees, including the PhD from Harvard. He has taught at over 40 colleges and universities, quite possibly the first to offer satellite courses. He has written over 30 books, thousands of articles and been a welcome guest on hundreds of radio and television programs. He has founded several successful corporations and businesses including his latest at …writerssecrets.com

 

His memoirs “A Connoisseur’s Journey” has garnered eight prizes that ensure its classic status. Its subtitle is “Being the artful memoirs of a man of wit, discernment, pluck, and joy.” A good read by this man of so many letters. Such a man can offer you thousands of insights into the business of becoming a successful writer. Be sure to sign up now at www.writerssecrets.co

Check out Dr. Jeffrey Lant’s Author Page at Author Central for all his latest books, events and blog posts.

Go to: http://www.amazon.com/author/jeffreylant/

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Maya Angelou lashes out on paraphrase at the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial… and she’s right.

From www.writerssecrets.com Famous People Series

In Celebration of Black History Month

Author’s program note. To understand the point of this article, the point of Maya Angelou’s complaint about paraphrasing the great words of one of history’s most influential speakers on his very monument, you must love both language and precision. And above all you must love the truth.

At age 83, Angelou is an honest woman. She is a truth-telling woman. And is a woman who understands and can wield with effect the right words in the right order. Most people will call her a writer, and a writer she is. But I prefer to call her a poet, for she is that, too.

A poet is a person who strives to deliver maximum impact with minimum words… who labors with the demons of truth, the difficulties of language and who works obsessively (for every poet is obsessive) with delivering just the right meaning… and this is difficult.

To such a person, gifted with the scourge of outrage, the loutish behavior of the officials in charge of the new national memorial to the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. is deeply painful… and thoroughly outrageous. Not least because in true loutish fashion, they did not have a clue that their seemingly innocent action would produce justifiable rage.

But before we dig into that, I want you to hear Maya Angelou, poet, read from her acclaimed works, for few poets have won so much recognition as she… listening to the woman as she reads her words will make it clear why. Go to any search engine. Listen to the cadence, feel the way she caresses the language, loving each word tenderly before she delivers it to an expectant world. She is in love with language and the mighty power of language… and she is at war with the unenlightened who by killing language, obliterate meaning and leave us the poorer.

The background.

On February 4, 1968, Martin Luther King gave a haunting sermon at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church. In it he discussed the eulogy he might and should be given in the event of his death. Death and prophesy were in the air that day; tensions were high on both sides of the Civil Rights question, those who embraced it and its leader and those whose every word bespoke an adamantine opposition. The people, and not just those in the congregation, were unsettled, anxious, and needed the balm of comfort…

… and so the mahatma of the movement, moved to the pulpit none could grace as he, and he spoke, as he always spoke, from a heart, this time burdened with thoughts of eternity and of frail humanity. He wished to admonish, enlighten, and above all prepare them for a reckoning with a destiny he felt was his — and theirs.

This is what he said…

“If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.”

And the people knew their revered leader was talking about his legacy and about what they must do to ensure his right and proper recognition and that his message of justice and of peace endure when he was not present.

Two months later, this prophet of equality and righteousness, was gunned down … and so entered History.

His words and his monument.

In due course the nation chose to honor the man and, above all else, to honor his message, in a great civic temple in the nation’s capital. On the soaring walls of this edifice designed for the ages, key passages from his world-changing thoughts would be etched, thereby indicating to even the most casual of visitors what was important and what they must strive to recall and even cherish. The words of his sermon at the Ebenezer Baptist Church were selected… then mangled, insulted, diminished by the very folk charged with revering and protecting the great man’s legacy. These by eviscerating his words became the killers of his message. Little men, they took it upon themselves to rethink, rewrite, and paraphrase what was already perfect and needed no help from them to ring out resolutely for the ages.

Paraphrase.

The culprits of this drama, the monument’s organizers, decided to paraphrase the original, searing words from a man sensing the culmination of his life and work… and so rendered in stone the crucial words from his last Atlanta sermon thus:

“I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.”

Thus they outraged the man, his message, his meaning. For what they chose to engrave in the stone was profoundly different from King’s remarks and purpose. These people, thinking of the good they were doing, instead were transgressing on matters high and mighty, matters they should have left alone.

Why did they do it?

They could not fit the famous passage in the space provided by the architect… they did not wish to leave it out… and so they decided upon the expedient of paraphrase. In so doing they rewrote the passage, gave it quotation marks so readers would wrongly assume the words were accurate, and so they slaughtered what they were charged with preserving. To read the dictionary definition of paraphrase is to see how greatly they erred:

“a restatement of a text, passage, or work giving the meaning in another form.”

But these words, from this man, spoken at such a time and place needed tender care… never to be altered or tampered with.

Imagine if you will what would have happened if the organizers of the Lincoln Memorial, hard by Dr. King’s, had paraphrased the Gettysburg Address, so…

“87 years ago, our ancestors created a great nation of liberty where all men are created equal..

Now we’re in a civil war to test whether this great nation with its great ideas can continue to exist…”

Simply paraphrasing great Lincoln’s great words makes it instantly apparent what an outrage paraphrasing can be… and demonstrates why the diminished words and their diminished meaning must instantly be removed. If space can be found for them, so much the better, but, if not, the right thing must be to take them down at once.

The organizers will of course complain about the extra work, the inconvenience, and especially the cost. They will also tell you that they ran their ludicrous and insulting plan to paraphrase before the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, which was overseeing the design. They, Philistines all, had no problem with the proposal, thereby indicating their unfitness for their work.

Here the honesty and rage of the poet enter. For Maya Angelou knows that “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the word was God.” (John 1-1). This is known by every poet, and is surely Angelou’s abiding creed. It is also Our Saviour’s whose words “Noli me tangere” (John 20-17), so disregarded by the monument’s organizers, are so very apt and must constitute the last word on the matter.

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

* * * * *
About The Author

Dr. Jeffrey Lant is known worldwide. He started in the media business
when he was 5 years old, a Kindergartener in Downers Grove, Illinois,
publishing his first newspaper article. Since then Dr. Lant has earned
four college degrees, including the Ph.D. from Harvard.

He has taught at over 40 colleges and universities, quite possibly the
first to offer satellite courses. He has written over 20 books, thousands
of articles and been a welcome guest on hundreds of radio and television
programs.

He has founded several successful corporations and businesses
including his latest at …writerssecrets.com

His memoirs “A Connoisseur’s Journey” have garnered five prizes
that ensure its classic status. Its subtitle is “Being the artful memoirs
of a man of wit, discernment, pluck, and joy.” You’ll enjoy the read by
this man of so many letters.

Such a man can offer you thousands of insights into the business of
becoming a successful writer.

Be sure to sign up now at www.writerssecrets.com
To celebrate Dr. Jeffrey Lant’s 69th birthday we’re
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