Tag Archives: Poetry

Science Fiction Poetry

Poet

Since I enjoy poetry (I don’t write it) and enjoy Science Fiction, my research into the Hugo Wars uncovered an interesting fact. There’s no Hugo for Science Fiction poetry.

Now science fiction magazines have published poetry for almost a century now. The Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA) created its own awards, the Rhysling, to make up for this oversight. This award had been handed out continuously since 1978. If you look the award up, you’ll recognize some of the winners as authors you know.

This shouldn’t be a surprise. Poetry and speculative fiction have a long association. The medieval poetry of gods and monsters hold the stories of Siegfried and Beowulf. Bryon’s Childe Harold inspired two multi-book stories, one from Gordon R. Dickson and the other from Stephen King.

This, of course, begins another of those continuous discussions of ‘What is Poetry’ with an additional twist. What makes it SF poetry?

I won’t try to answer that. I don’t want to start any flame wars. However, I think I can point to a shining example that all of the SFPA would agree with. Their award is named after a fictional character, a poet, in a Robert Heinlein story, ‘The Green Hills of Earth’. The story is a biography of “Noisy” Rhysling and includes a song with the same name as the story. Here’s a bit of it:

Out ride the sons of Terra,
Far drives the thundering jet,
Up leaps a race of Earthmen,
Out, far, and onward yet —

We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth;
Let us rest our eyes on the fleecy skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.
–Robert A Heinlein

Is it poetry? I think so. Is it SF poetry? With rockets and space flight throughout the solar system it definitely is. What gives it such power? The poem’s strength lies in the emotional impact. Heinlein manages in a few lines to capture the homesickness of every person who has left his familiar world for another.

Go and search the Internet and find more Science Fiction poetry. With English the most spoken language in the world there must be a few thousand who will like Science Fiction poetry.

To see some of my short stories go to www.edwardmcdermott.net

All the connections

Have Gun

On the weekend I was watching an episode of “Have Gun Will Travel”, specifically Season 2 Episode 34 – Comanche. This was a half hour western television series from the 1950’s. If you want to watch it, go to YouTube where you can find all the episodes.

I’m not certain if watching a fifty year old television series says more about me or the current state of television. Stop laughing.

Now the main character on “Have Gun Will Travel” is a soldier of fortune named Paladin, who lives in San Francisco, and works all over the American west. His character is portrayed as a well-read, well-educated man, with a taste for the theatre. Usually he quotes some piece of writing during the show.

Sometimes I know the quote. However in this episode I didn’t. It ran as follows:

And when he fell in whirlwind, he went down

As when a lordly cedar, green with boughs,

Goes down with a great shout upon the hills,

And leaves a lonesome place against the sky.

Catchy isn’t it? I had to look it up. It turns out this is the last lines from a poem “Lincoln, Man of the People” by Edwin Markham who was the subject of one of my blogs earlier. I have a particular liking for another of his poems, ‘The Man with a Hoe’. I found the connection fascinating.

I decided to look up the writers for this series. There were 225 episodes, 24 written by Gene Roddenberry. Other contributors included Bruce Geller, Harry Julian Fink, Don Brinkley and Irving Wallace. This particular episode was one of three that was written by Irving Wallace. He is better known for his novels and the movies they inspired.

It’s get stranger. During WWII, Wallace served in the Frank Capra unit in Fort Fox along with Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss). So there’s only one degree of separation between Dr. Seuss and Gene Roddenberry of Star Trek fame.

Want some other connections? Movies from Wallace’s novels starred everyone from Paul Newman to Tom Selleck, to Jane Fonda, to Cloris Leachman. And this is another connection to me, because Tom Selleck started in ‘Three Men and a baby’ a picture I worked on as a movie extra.

For writers, the connections are many, complex and not always obvious at first sight.

To see some of my short stories go to www.edwardmcdermott.net

And Nobody Noticed

US Poet Laureate Philip Levine

This is an angry blog today. Why am I angry? I’m angry at the strange silly balance in our modern culture that raises some to exalted levels who have no talent and commits to obscurity the great voices of our age.

What if I told you that on February 14th of this year a man died? This man had been appointed Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. His awards include the following:

  • Academy of American Poets Wallace Stevens Award,
  • Pulitzer Prize for Poetry,
  • National Book Award for Poetry,
  • Los Angeles Times Book Prize,
  • Levinson Prize from Poetry magazine,
  • Guggenheim Foundation fellowship,
  • National Book Award for Poetry,
  • National Book Critics Circle Award,
  • Harriet Monroe Memorial Prize from Poetry,
  • Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets,
  • American Academy of Arts and Letters Award,
  • Frank O’Hara Prize.

However, his passing was too insignificant for the likes of Fox News, and CNN.

Philip Levine started working in the Detroit car factories at the age of fourteen. He didn’t stay there. He finished high school and went to University for a Bachelor of Arts which he completed in 1950. Then back to the ‘Stupid’ jobs for Chevrolet and Cadillac.

He wrote poetry about working in a Detroit auto factory.

Maybe in a century or two, when the world has forgotten Leslie Gore, and E.L. James, it will remember Philip Levine, and his portraits of working class Americans will be enjoyed.

Library of Congress

To see some of my short stories go to www.edwardmcdermott.net

 

 

Grace Darling

Grace_Darling_Thomas_Musgrave_Joy

Grace Darling was an English lighthouse keeper’s daughter, famed for participating in the rescue of survivors from the shipwrecked Forfarshire in 1838. In the early hours of 7 September 1838, Darling spotted survivors on Big Harcar, a nearby low rocky island. She and her father William determined that the weather was too rough for the lifeboat to put out from Seahouses (then North Sunderland). They took a rowing boat (a 21 foot, 4-man Northumberland coble) on a long route that kept to the lee side of the islands, a distance of nearly a mile. Darling kept the coble steady in the water while her father helped four men and the lone surviving woman, Mrs. Dawson, into the boat.

Darling became a celebrity. Gifts including fifty pounds from Queen Victoria amounted to seven-hundred pounds. Painters flocked to her island to capture her image. Marriage proposals arrived with every mail.

However, the story doesn’t have a happy ending. Grace Darling died of tuberculosis in October 1842, at the age of twenty-six.

And as you might suspect, there’s a poem in the works. The question was should I include the one by Wordsworth or by Swinburne? You read and decide.

Swinburne

Wordsworth

To see some of my short stories go to www.edwardmcdermott.net

 

Danegeld

Danegeld?

Gold for the Danes.

After the Viking victory at the Battle of Maldon in Essex, Sigeric the Serious, Archbishop of Canterbury, and the aldermen of the south-western provinces, advised Æthelred the Unready to buy off the Vikings, to pay them to go away. (Got to love those names.)

In 991 the English made a payment of 3,300 kg of silver. In 994 the Danes returned and laid siege to London. Once more, the English paid Danegeld to make them go away. In 1002 and 1007 more payments. In 1012 the Vikings accepted 17,900 kg of silver to go away, but only after sacking Canterbury and killing its Archbishop. No, it wasn’t Sigeric the Serious who died in 994, but one of his successors.

In 1016, Canute, became the first Danish King of England. The Danegeld failed to keep the Danes away.

This fact of history might have been forgotten, but in 1911, Rudyard Kipling published the following poem. Why then and why this topic? In 1911, Kipling had long been predicting a war with Germany. Ten years earlier he became involved in the debate over the British response to the rise in German naval power known as the Tirpitz Plan to build a fleet to challenge the Royal Navy. He published a series of articles in 1898 which were collected as “A Fleet in Being”.

Perhaps Kipling realized his poetry had a greater impact than his political writings.

 

Rudyard Kipling

Dane-Geld

A.D. 980-1016

It is always a temptation to an armed and agile nation
To call upon a neighbour and to say: —
“We invaded you last night–we are quite prepared to fight,
Unless you pay us cash to go away.”

And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
And the people who ask it explain
That you’ve only to pay ‘em the Dane-geld
And then you’ll get rid of the Dane!

It is always a temptation for a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say: —
“Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
We will therefore pay you cash to go away.”

And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
But we’ve proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
You never get rid of the Dane.

It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
For fear they should succumb and go astray;
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to say: —

“We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that pays it is lost!”

 To end this story: President Ronald Reagan read this poem at a meeting of the National Security Planning Group in 1985.

 

To see some of my short stories go to www.edwardmcdermott.net

Aclaimed poets you never heard of

Poetry is a funny topic. Although it was probably the first human literature and probably predated even writing, we see almost none today. Most famous poets including Lord Byron had to pay to publish their writing. While the words may stir the heart, and live forever, the writers are often forgotten.

No, I don’t write poetry. I have a great respect for those that do and read more than a little of it. However, I lack the patience a poet needs.

The other day I went looking for poetry on the Internet and found more than I could read in the rest of my lifetime. It appears that poets continue to self-publish. Today they use websites. So I tried a different tactic. Instead I went looking for poets. I turned to the term Poet Laureate. This is a poet officially appointed by a government or conferring institution, who is often expected to compose poems for special events and occasions.

There are Poet Laureates for a number of countries, a number of American States, and sometimes cities, or universities. Lots of alternatives. You might search for this term for your own country. So I started with Canada.

What a disappointment. Canada only began the practice in 2001. All the Canadian poets I am familiar with from school and other reading would never have had this opportunity.

The list of Canadian Parliamentary Poet Laureates is a follows:

  •     George Bowering (2002–2004)
  •    Pauline Michel (2004–2006)
  •    John Steffler (2006–2008)
  •    Pierre DesRuisseaux (2009–2011)
  •    Fred Wah (2011–2013)
  •    Michel Pleau (2014–present)

I won’t be publishing any of their poems but you might want to search the internet for them.

More on this later.

 

 

To see some of my short stories go to www.edwardmcdermott.net

 

Should Old Acquaintance

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and days of long ago?

CHORUS:
For days of long ago, my dear,
for days of long ago,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for days of long ago.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
and surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for days of long ago.

CHORUS

We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since days of long ago.

CHORUS

We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine†;
But seas between us broad have roared
since days of long ago.

CHORUS

And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give me a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for days of long ago.

CHORUS

We can thank the Scottish poet, Robert Burns, for this ode to the passing year. He in his turn started from an old song that he recorded from an old man.  Indeed, a similar ballad “Old Long Syne” was originally printed in 1711 by James Watson.  Here’s that one so you can compare them yourself.

Should Old Acquaintance be forgot,
and never thought upon;
The flames of Love extinguished,
and fully past and gone:
Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,
that loving Breast of thine;
That thou canst never once reflect
On Old long syne.

CHORUS:

On Old long syne my Jo,
On Old long syne,
That thou canst never once reflect,
On Old long syne.

 

To see some of my short stories go to www.edwardmcdermott.net

The Land of Poets and Rebels

Eire, Ireland. It has been the land of poets and rebels for more than a thousand years. Perhaps that is the reason that every generation has had its rebel songs. I want to talk about one such song, “My Dark Rosaleen”. You might know the words. It begins:

O MY Dark Rosaleen,
Do not sigh, do not weep!
The priests are on the ocean green,
They march along the deep.
There’s wine from the royal Pope,
Upon the ocean green;
And Spanish ale shall give you hope,
My Dark Rosaleen!
My own Rosaleen!
For the complete text, go here.

http://www.bartleby.com/101/664.html

Or you might remember hearing someone singing it. Here’s John McCormick:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hE04wYivfI0

Like most Irish I know the song. My father would sing it, along with a raft of others. Then I discovered the poem.
James Clarence Mangan wrote the poem which was published in The Nation in 1846. Actually, this was one of three translations of an older poem from Gaelic to English.

1846 was a beginning of the Great Famine that would see the sons and daughters of Erin leave or die in numbers beyond imagining. During the famine approximately one million people died and a million more emigrated from Ireland, causing the island’s population to fall by between 20% and 25%.

Although the potato crop failed, the country was still producing and exporting more than enough grain crops to feed the population. Records show during the period Ireland was exporting approximately thirty to fifty shiploads per day of food produce.

The 1690 Penal laws were still in effect. To speak of rebellion would bring death. The memory of the rebellions of 1798 and 1803 remained in the minds of the ruled and the rulers.

Mangan’s poem is a love song, a love song to the country that was not a nation. In this he was tapping into an older Gaelic poem ‘Róisín Dubh’.

Rosaleen translates as little Rose. The song is named after Róisín Dubh, probably one of the daughters of Hugh O’Neill, earl of Tyrone in the late 16th Century. The song is reputed to have originated in the camps of Red Hugh O’Donnell (1572 – 10 September 1602). He led a rebellion against the English from 1593 to 1603 which has been called the Nine Years War.

A more recent translation of this poem was created by Pádraig Pearse. He was one of the leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916 and died before a firing squad on May 3, 1916. You can find that translation here:

http://www.omniglot.com/songs/irish/roisindubh.htm

So the song to the little dark Rose spans three hundred years and, two languages. At one end is Red Hugh O’Donnell, and on the other is Pádraig Pearse.

To hear the original in Gaelic:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdskdLV4MWY

www.edwardmcdermott.net

The Man who wrote ‘The Man with a Hoe’

I found this fascinating. I knew the poem but not the author until I looked him up in Wikipedia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edwin_Markham

A Poet  Laureate for the state of Oregon and now most of his work has been forgotten. Do you want to read more of his poetry?

Outwitted

by Edwin Markham (1852-1940)

He drew a circle that shut me out —
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!

For further poems go to :

http://www.poemhunter.com/edwin-markham/

 

To see some of my short stories go to www.edwardmcdermott.net

 

 

 

The Man with a Hoe

This is a particular Parlor Poem that my father made me memorize. He  believed in the memorization of poetry and could recite poetry for hours. I lack that capacity.

The poem is as follows

The Man with a Hoe

by Edwin Markham

Bowed by the weight of centuries he leans
Upon his hoe and gazes on the ground,
The emptiness of ages in his face,
And on his back, the burden of the world.
Who made him dead to rapture and despair,
A thing that grieves not and that never hopes,
Stolid and stunned, a brother to the ox?
Who loosened and let down this brutal jaw?
Whose was the hand that slanted back this brow?
Whose breath blew out the light within this brain?

Is this the Thing the Lord God made and gave
To have dominion over sea and land;
To trace the stars and search the heavens for power;
To feel the passion of Eternity?
Is this the dream He dreamed who shaped the suns
And marked their ways upon the ancient deep?
Down all the caverns of Hell to their last gulf
There is no shape more terrible than this–
More tongued with cries against the world’s blind greed–
More filled with signs and portents for the soul–
More packed with danger to the universe.

What gulfs between him and the seraphim!
Slave of the wheel of labor, what to him
Are Plato and the swing of the Pleiades?
What the long reaches of the peaks of song,
The rift of dawn, the reddening of the rose?
Through this dread shape the suffering ages look;
Time’s tragedy is in that aching stoop;
Through this dread shape humanity betrayed,
Plundered, profaned and disinherited,
Cries protest to the Powers that made the world,
A protest that is also prophecy.

O masters, lords and rulers in all lands,
Is this the handiwork you give to God,
This monstrous thing distorted and soul-quenched?
How will you ever straighten up this shape;
Touch it again with immortality;
Give back the upward looking and the light;
Rebuild in it the music and the dream;
Make right the immemorial infamies,
Perfidious wrongs, immedicable woes?

O masters, lords and rulers in all lands,
How will the future reckon with this Man?
How answer his brute question in that hour
When whirlwinds of rebellion shake all shores?
How will it be with kingdoms and with kings–
With those who shaped him to the thing he is–
When this dumb Terror shall rise to judge the world,
After the silence of the centuries?

The poem that inspired this poem is current part of the in the collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum.

 

To see some of my short stories go to www.edwardmcdermott.net

Parlor Poetry

During the 19th century, most home entertainment was created by people at home. Some sang, others played instruments. However, no matter how lacking in talent, anyone with a voice could recite poetry.

The poems they recited were simple ones, easy to memorize, and ones that conveyed strong emotions. Some were written by the likes of Edgar Alan Poe, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Others were written by poets known only for a single work. If you see such a collection in your library or bookstore, pick it up.

 

To see some of my short stories go to www.edwardmcdermott.net