Exploring 12 Days of Advent poetry

Cathedral Square Park & Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist decorated for Christmas

When I saw Christmas decorations and trees begin to populate Milwaukee’s Cathedral Square Park as early as November 1st, I thought, Is it that time of year already? Unbelievable. With this weekend’s snowfall, the Cathedral Square Park’s decorated Christmas trees looks particularly Decemberish.

Screen shot of internet search

Earlier this month I searched online for some Christmas card ideas. Imagine my surprise when the search displayed a block print I created five years ago.

It seems so long ago and so far away. So much has happened in those few short years that it is difficult to catalog. Curiously, I clicked in the Pinterest link. Then I read the original blog post. It is the most visited post on the blog.

For the last few years, I have received modest feedback on a post I published titled “Advent Poems (or the 12 days of Christmas poetry).”[1] The most intriguing comment regarded a poem by W. S. Beattie. I could not locate the poem online. And the mystery of it excited me. Are there really poems people read that are not on the internet? I thought to myself. A lovely thought.

This year, a digital trail lead me to a PDF file posted by the Brentwood United Reformed Church.[2] Here is the poem recommended by a reader with the preface that the poem’s topic regards the misuse of Advent.

Advent Longing
by W.S. Beattie
These are the greedy days.
It used to be
That Advent was a longing fast,
A time to feel our need
in faith and tingling hope
And keen-eyed looking forward.
Now we cannot wait
But day by day and week by week
We celebrate obsessively
Clutching at Christmas.
When at last it comes,
The day itself,
Our glass is empty.
We have held the feast
Already, and the news is stale
Before it ever reaches us.
We cheat ourselves.
Yet – somehow – still we hope
In these spoiled days
That there may be a child.

It is a humble poem with a good reminder.

Another reader suggested the inclusion of T. S. Eliot’s “Journey of the Magi.”[3]

CCCA’s The Advent Project

And yet another reader pointed me in the direction of Biola University’s Center for Christianity, Culture, and the Arts (CCCA) The Advent Project.[4] I truly enjoy CCCA’s Advent project as it includes art, literature, music and video.

I need to revisit my “12 Days of Christmas” poetry list. Maybe next year it will expand to a “24 Days of Advent” poetry list. For now, please enjoy reading 12 days of Christmas poems.

  1. December 14 – “Annunciation” by Denise Levertov
  2. December 15 – “Advent Calendar” by Rowan Williams
  3. December 16 – “Advent” by Donald Hall
  4. December 17 – “Mosaic of the Nativity (Serbia, Winter 1993)” by Jane Kenyon
  5. December 18 – “The God We Hardly Knew” by Óscar Romero
  6. December 19 – “The House of Christmas” by GK Chesterton
  7. December 20 – “Into The Darkest Hour” by Madeleine L’Engle
  8. December 21 – “The Winter Is Cold, Is Cold” by Madeleine L’Engle
  9. December 22 – “Nativity” by John Donne
  10. December 23 – “A Christmas Carol” by Christina Georgina Rossetti
  11. December 24 – “Mighty Mercy” by John Piper
  12. December 25 – “For Christmas Day” by Charles Wesley

NOTES:
[1] Advent Poems (or the 12 days of Christmas poetry) https://coffeehousejunkie.net/2012/12/13/2013-advent-poems-or-the-12-days-of-christmas-poetry/
[2] Brentwood United Reformed Church, The Courier, December 2014/January 2015. Accessed December 11, 2017. http://www.brentwood-urc.org.uk/The%20COURIER%20-%20Dec%20January%202015.pdf
[3] The Poetry Archive, T. S. Eliot, “Journey of the Magi,” accessed December 11, 2017. https://www.poetryarchive.org/poem/journey-magi
[4] Biola University, Center for Christianity, Culture, and the Arts (CCCA), The Advent Project, accessed December 11, 2017. http://ccca.biola.edu/advent/2017/#day-dec-7

Pageantry of vanity

It sort of overturns my apple cart when a script for an upcoming podcast — that I have worked on for months — seems to be summed up in under four minutes . . . on Youtube . . .

Quote: Most people believe that technology is a staunch friend

“. . . most people believe that technology is a staunch friend. There are two reasons for this. First, technology is a friend. It makes life easier, cleaner, and longer. Can anyone ask more of a friend? Second, because of its lengthy, intimate, and inevitable relationship with culture, technology does not invite a close examination of its own consequences. It is the kind of friend that asks for trust and obedience, which most people are inclined to give because its gifts are truly bountiful. But, of course, there is a dark side to this friend. Its gifts are not without a heavy cost.”

–Neil Postman

[Podcast] When the lights go out

06 June 2014 Podcast Cover

Listen now:

 

A light breeze from the south carries echoes of a recent place in memory. In this episode, stories about creative space, laptop versus hand-writing and more.

It is warm enough to finally open the windows and let the Spring air fill the house. The first segment touches on that in a story titled “Creative Space.” Recently, the village where I currently live experienced the first tornado of the year. Everyone is fine. Thankfully, the only dangerous weather was thunder, hail, and rain. But it got me thinking of our culture’s dependency on electricity and technology. “When the lights go out” is the second segment. The third segment answers listeners’s question in “An audience of one.” The final segment for this episode is titled “Life is lived as a messy first draft.”

This episode’s unofficial sponsor is The Steaming Cup located in the beautiful downtown area of Waukesha, Wisconsin. For more details, visit TheSteamingCup.com.

Very special thanks to Lee Tyler Post for permission to use his song “Life Without Fences” in between segments. I first heard his music on The Great America Music Hour hosted by Jerry Jodice. Learn how to get any or all of Lee Tyler’s six studio albums on his website LeeTylerPost.com.

Listen on:
PodOmatic: coffeehousejunkie.podomatic.com
SoundCloud: soundcloud.com/coffeehousejunkie

Or subscribe on:
RSS Feed: RSS Feed
iTunes: iTunes

 

Is poetry dead? or can poetry matter?

Is Poetry Dead?

Earlier this year a quiet and quite active discussion took place in a small corner of the public square. It began with Alexandra Petri’s article “Is Poetry Dead?” [1] John Deming immediately responded with an “Open Letter to Alexandra Petri.” [2] A Few days later, Richard Higgs tossed the question to a group of poets and writers. [3] The topic was actively discussed for months.

Alexandra Petri asked “Is poetry dead?” Referencing Richard Blanco, she writes, “. . . poetry, a field that may very well be obsolete.” She continues:

I say this lovingly as a member of the print media. If poetry is dead, we are in the next ward over, wheezing noisily, with our family gathered around looking concerned and asking about our stereos.

In her article she offers some harsh yet reasonable analysis: “These days, poetry is institutionalized. Everyone can write it. But if you want a lot of people to read it . . . there are a few choked channels of Reputable Publications.”

John Deming immediately replies to this “attack on American poetry” by stating that there are more than “2,000 books of poetry are published each year in the U.S.” He did not reveal where he got that number, but I suspect much of those poetry books are independent or small press publications. Further, knowing intimately how the publishing business works, I suspect that the majority of those poetry books published do not exceed press runs of more than 500 copies. With all due respect to Mr. Deming, his open letter is more a reaction to Ms. Petri’s article and less a defense of American poetry’s life (or death). He does offer a pointed question for both Ms. Petri and for poets: “. . . what kind of ‘change’ [do] you mean. Literal political change?”

Can poetry effect change?

Years ago Dana Gioia asked “Can Poetry Matter?” in his essay published in The Atlantic Monthly [4] [5] I will not go into a lot of detail about his essay because I do not want to spoil his conclusion, but I do encourage you to read it. Mr. Gioia’s question is a better question than Ms. Petri’s. Introducing great poetry in school is part of the equation as well as encouraging the love of reading books to children. Mr. Gioia offers other ways to promote the reading of and love of poetry. The Academy of American Poets published a report years ago that stated that adults who purchase and read poetry books were introduced to poetry at an early age.

Alexandra Petri does present some valid concerns. Like Ms. Petri, I have attended poetry readings where “the attendees were almost without exception students of the poet who were there in the hopes of extra credit.” For that matter, I’ve been that poet (like Charles Bukowski) [6] reading to an audience of “. . . friends, . . . other poets / and the handful of idiots who have wandered / in / from nowhere.” Mr. Deming makes some equally valid points that poetry is “far from obsolete . . .” As someone in the publishing industry I know that poetry books do sell, but not as well as fiction or non-fiction. But lack of book sales revenue does not mean that poetry books are not effective or revolutionary. How many memoirs or novels have you read that feature a few lines of poetry as an epigraph printed at the beginning of the work?

I am convinced that there is a large audience of people that do not know that they enjoy poetry. They have to be introduced to great poetry. The fact that the August 31, 2013 issue of the New York Times featured a large front page photo of the poet Seamus Heaney (printed above the fold in contrast to a small photo of the President of the United States below the fold) testifies to the relevance of poetry in America. [7] Can poetry effect change? The poem “The Names” by Billy Collins was read before a special joint session of Congress in 2002 commemorating the victims of 9/11. [8] Can poetry matter? These are just two examples that attest to it’s impact (if ever so little) in our culture.

NOTES: [1] Alexandra Petri, “Is poetry dead?,” The Washington Post ComPost, January 22, 2013, accessed January 29, 2013 http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/compost/wp/2013/01/22/is-poetry-dead/
[2] John Deming, “Open Letter to Alexandra Petri,” Coldfront Magazine , January 22, 2013 accessed January 29, 2013 http://coldfrontmag.com/news/open-letter-to-alexandra-petri?goback=%2Egde_1651527_member_208175181
[3] Richard Higgs, “Is poetry dead? Washington Post blog article, and a brilliant response,” LinkedIn Poetry Editors & Poets Group, January 25, 2013, accessed January 29, 2013 http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Is-poetry-dead-Washington-Post-1651527.S.208175181?qid=64a426de-d879-42c3-b90d-5c25b99fe691&trk=group_most_popular-0-b-ttl&goback=%2Egde_1651527_member_208175181%2Egmp_1651527
[4] The Atlantic Monthly; May, 1991; “Can Poetry Matter?”; Volume 267, No. 5; pages 94-106.
[5] Dana Gioia, “Can Poetry Matter?,” The Atlantic Monthly, May, 1991, accessed January 29, 2013 http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/unbound/poetry/gioia/gioia.htm
[6] Charles Bukowski, “poetry readings,” The Writer’s Almanac, September 11, 2008, accessed January 29, 2013 http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/index.php?date=2008/09/11.
[7] “The New York Times pays tribute to Seamus Heaney,” TheJournal.ie , August 31, 2013, accessed September 25, 2013 http://www.thejournal.ie/new-york-times-seamus-heaney-1063056-Aug2013/
[8] “Poet Billy Collins Reflects on 9/11,” PBSNewsHour, accessed September 25, 2013 http://www.poetryfoundation.org/features/video/301

The origin of Friday the Thirteenth

The origin of Friday the Thirteenth, as told by Damond Benningfield, comes from Norse mythology.[1] He writes:

First comes the fear of the number 13. According to one tale, 12 Norse gods held a banquet at Valhalla. A thirteenth god — Loki, the spirit of evil — tried to attend…

If you believe that the Norse have little impact on modern culture other than to inspire Marvel comic book movies (and an Emmy nominated television series on the History channel, Vikings), keep in mind the days of the week are named after Norse gods (Tiu’s Day, Woden’s Day, Thor’s day and Freya’s day). Here’s what Benningfield writes about Freya’s day:

Mythology says that when Norse tribes converted to Christianity, Freya was called a witch and banished to a mountaintop. There, every Friday, she hosted a coven of 11 other witches plus the devil — 13 in all — to plot vengeance against her former believers.

So, TGIF. And while you are in enjoying the day, give a listen to Óláfs Saga Tryggvasonar in the Viking language.[2]

NOTES:
[1] You can read the details at Star Date, “Friday the Thirteenth”: http://stardate.org/radio/program/friday-thirteenth
[2] Learn from the Viking Language series: https://soundcloud.com/viking-language/lesson-3-5-l-fs-saga

Book Launch for Look Up Asheville Collection II

Look Up Asheville II by Michael Oppenheim and Laura Hope-Gill

Tonight at 6:30 p.m. the Look Up Asheville II book launch begins at the Battery Park Champagne Bar/Book Exchange. Join the festivities for the launch of Look Up Asheville II featuring photography by Michael Oppenheim and essays by Laura Hope-Gill. Poet Robert Morgan writes: “Look Up Asheville II takes us into the heart of the city’s diverse and colorful history, scene of its current flourishing culture.”

From the event invitation: “Look Up Asheville II features more architectural details captured by local photographer, Michael Oppenheim, accompanied by historical essays by Laura Hope-Gill, with a Foreword by premier author and poet Robert Morgan (Gap Creek, Lions of the West, Terroir). Designed by Michele Scheve, Look Up Asheville II does more than inform readers and viewers of the architectural, social and creative history of Asheville; it celebrates all these with stories and luminous images. The new book contains Asheville’s grand Bed and Breakfasts and more of the exquisitely built churches, inns, museums and downtown treasures.”

Representing nations through poetry

Today, I followed a link to a web site that I rather enjoy — the United Nations of Poetry. Serendipitously I found the link and learned that it presents a catalog of international poets. I noticed, however, that some nations are missing from the list. For example, Germany is not represented. Consider including German language poets Durs Grünbein, Michael Hofmann and Sarah Kirsch. Also notably missing are Polish and Russian poets. Vera Pavlova makes a good addition to the United Nations of Poetry representing Russia. For Poland, Eugeniusz Tkaczszyn-Dycki might make a good contribution. And last, but not least, add Greek poet Dimitris Varos to the list of poetry dignitaries. One thing that is unique to the United Nations of Poetry is the inclusion of poets from America representing the indigenous peoples.

Why is this important? I think C. S. Lewis wrote that literature “irrigates the deserts that our lives.” Along that line of thinking, to know and understand the inner life of a nation or culture is to explore the fertile literature of their poets and writers. Film tends to present caricatures and stereotypes of Germans, Russians and Americans, but literature plumbs the depth of cultural nuances. For example, you might miss the significance of the shamrock and the lily in a film about two brothers in North Ireland. In a novel, the weight of those two images will elucidate the drama between the two siblings, and a reader will come to realize that the tensions between two brothers are often the same between nations.

Quote: Modern art is a disaster area…

Quote: Modern art is a disaster area…

(via Room 116) Link

Call me a snob, but really, we’re a nation of dunces

“The shrinking public attention span fostered by video is closely tied to the second important anti-intellectual force in American culture: the erosion of general knowledge.”

Link The Dumbing Of America