Friday, July 15, 2011

Poetry Friday

I've been thinking about Dido and Aeneas today, so here's some lyrics from Purcell's Dido's Lament.

When I am Laid In Earth

When I am laid, am laid in earth,
may my wrongs create
No trouble, no trouble in, in thy breast.
Remember me, remember me, but ah!
Forget my fate.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Still Life

Maybe two months ago, I saw the film Brief Encounter. I was devastated. But i've been feeling devastated a lot lately. Things are weird. But Brief Encounter...I haven't been able to get away from it. Last week, I think it was, I couldn't take it anymore and bought the Noel Coward play it was based on - Still Life. It arrived today and I couldn't not just sit down and read it. Which I did immediately, ignoring everyone.

This is a play of restraint. Alec and Laura meet when she gets something in her eye at the train station and he (a doctor) helps her get it out. One accidental meeting, and then another. And before long they are in love. But they're both married with children. (In the movie Laura says, "I was happily married until I met you" or something like that.). In the end, he and Laura agree it's best if Alec moves with his family to a new job in Africa. At their last meeting, a silly gossip friend of Laura's shows up, and Alec and Laura can only shake hands.

There were many parts that got in particular that is so personal right now I won't quote it just so I can keep it to myself. But here is one that I'm willing to share:

ALEC: ...Please know that you'll be with me for ages and ages yet - far away into the future. Time will wear down the agony of not seeing you, bit by bit the pain will go-but the loving you and the memory of you won't ever go- please know that...I love you with all my heart and soul.

LAURA: I want to die - if only I could die.

ALEC: If you died you'd forget me - I want to be remembered.

LAURA: Yes, I know.

This play is a comfort to me right now- there's so much going on. I will carry this around with me for awhile...physically and emotionally.

Poetry Friday

I said this was coming back, and here it is! Listening to Britney Spears "Hold It Against Me" and posting poetry...I can't make this stuff up.

To Mark Anthony in Heaven
by William Carlos Williams

This quiet morning light
reflected how many times
from grass and trees and clouds
enters my north room
touching the walls with
grass and clouds and trees.
trees and grass and clouds.
Why did you follow
that beloved body
with your ships at Actium?
I hope it was because
you knew her inch by inch
from slanting feet upward
To the roots of her hair
and down again and that
you saw her
above the battle's fury-
clouds and trees and grass-

For then you are
listening in heaven.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Poetry Friday

A long time ago, I was doing a series called "Poetry Friday." I've been thinking about starting it up again. While going through my blog files and drafts and things, I came across the following post I never published from 2008. I've been thinking about this poem lately, so I figure what the heck - I'll post it now. Without further ado, the reinstitution of Poetry Friday...on a Monday.

I know I said that I wouldn't often post my own poems (which I don't write anymore), but today I am going to again. I happened to catch "The Universe: Parallel Worlds" or whatever it was called on the History Channel on Tuesday night. I wish I understood physics/astrophysics/ cosmology. But what they were talking about reminded me of a poem I wrote 8 years ago. The basic premise is here described by Max Tegmark in a 2003 article for Scientific American:

"Is there a copy of you reading this article? A person who is not you but who
lives on a planet called Earth, with misty mountains, fertile fields and
sprawling cities, in a solar system with eight other planets? The life of this
person has been identical to yours in every respect. But perhaps he or she now
decides to put down this article without finishing it, while you read on.

"The idea of such an alter ego seems strange and implausible, but it looks as if we will just have to live with it, because it is supported by astronomical observations. The simplest and most popular cosmological model today predicts that you have a twin in a galaxy about 10 to the 1028 meters from here. This distance is so large that it is beyond astronomical, but that does not make your doppelgänger any less real. The estimate is derived from elementary probability and does not even assume speculative modern physics, merely that space is infinite (or at least sufficiently large) in size and almost uniformly filled with matter, as observations indicate. In infinite space, even the most unlikely events must take place somewhere. There are infinitely many other inhabited planets, including not just one but infinitely many that have people with the same appearance, name and memories as you, who play out every possible permutation of your life choices."

Here's the poem:

Infinite Amount of Chances
"If you accept that the universe is infinite, then that means there's an infitite amount of chances for things to happen...if there's an infinite amount of chances for something to happen, then eventually it will happen - no matter how small the likelihood." - Alex Garland

Am I with you now?
Can you feel me kiss you goodnight?
Sleepwalking I stumble into your bedroom

Infinately we are together - you and I
In the darkness of every star's a sun with planets
Makes you feel small

Out there you are holding my hand thru periodic sadnesses
Somewhere at sometime you were or will be allowed to love me -
I will be allowed to love you

Infinity is a button on my calculator
And tonight I am lost and alone
Knowing one day you will find me
No matter how small the likelihood

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Professor Unrat

Lately, I seem to be knee deep in German or German-related books. Bust be something in the German literary psyche that's calling to me lately. Don't know what else it could be. So, for that unknown reason, I recently lighted on Heinrich Mann's 1905 Professor Unrat, made famous by Marlene Dietrich's breakout performance in the film adaptation, The Blue Angel.

Unrat, which translates into something close to "garbage" - my version translated it as "mud" - is a tyrannical professor, vilified by his students and former students who insist on tormenting him constantly. He hates - HATES!!!! - being called by his nickname, and will seek out everyone that calls him that and mete out whatever punishment he can. They shout at him in the street, mocking him everywhere.

His arch nemesis is a student named Lohmann, who actually makes a point never to call him "mud" - he's above it somehow. One day, Lohmann turns in his notebook after an exam and Unrat notices a poem tin it addressed to an actress, Rosa Frohlich. Boys in the school are not supposed to be dilly dallying at theaters, and so Unrat sets out to catch Lohmann and his two accomplices. Unrat searches the town for where this infamous Rosa may be, and he eventually finds her at the Blue Angel. His goal is simple: bring down Lohmann by catching him in after-hours dalliances with a woman of low-repute. But that's not what happens. Rosa, instead, catches Unrat.

The students know what's up, and because of it Unrat completely loses control. He eventually is forced to leave his post and uses all his money catering to Rosa. Lohmann resurfaces, Unrat tries to kill him and really just ends up stealing his wallet. As he runs down the street, he is like always tormented with insults. Unrat's unwavering righteousness - his need to ruin those who have mocked him - is excellently portrayed. A very powerful story.

Though I love The Blue Angel (which is why I cannot help posting the clip at the bottom - her expressions in the German version are much better than the English), the motivation behind Unrat is completely different between film and novel. Though at first he really is interested and flattered by Rosa (called Lola Lola in the film), in the novel his undoing is his absolute desire to ruin everyone and he is able to do so via his relations with Rosa. In the film, it's his devotion to Rosa/Lola herself that is his undoing without mention of his overriding obession. That just gets him into her dressing room. Both work and both knock your socks off, but for different reasons.
With that, here you go: