Tag Archives: literature

Words, words, words …⤴

from @ blethers

I've been reading. Of course, there's never a time when I don't have a book on the go, but that's fiction. As it's Lent I've tried to be a tad more disciplined, and to that end saved up a book that I bought some months ago. At the time, I posted online that it had been a bargain - and it was: it cost me about £70 less than its published price.

Saturday's Silence is an academic study of my favourite poet's work with reference to Holy Saturday, the day between Good Friday and Easter Day. And when I embarked on the introduction, I found myself nodding in agreement with much that the author had to say, about poetry in general and Thomas in particular. And it's not that I've stopped agreeing as I move through the body of the argument - quite the reverse.

I'm struck by how intense, line-by-line scrutiny of a poem kills that poem stone dead. This isn't a new thing floating into my consciousness - it's something I was terribly aware of when I was teaching English lit, and especially teaching poetry. But in my latter, more experienced days, I had learned the trick of teaching the "how" rather than the "what" - teaching the basics of poetic understanding* via snippets of examination so that the individual pupils could do it for themselves, and reach the point where it would be in the first instance instinctive, even if further study produced deeper and more detailed appreciation. It was that approach, I believe, that had S4 boys (15-16 years old) learning and loving poems by not only Thomas but also John Donne, reciting them off by heart and lovingly examining what it was that had so attracted them.

I've never really stated all this on paper before. Perhaps it's struck me as blindingly obvious without my labouring the point. But why I'm doing it now is because I've linked it in my mind, thanks to Richard McLauchlan, with religion, with faith itself and the nature of faith.

Think of all the tedious sermons you've listened to in your day. (Obviously, I'm addressing a somewhat targeted audience here - you know who you are...) Do you ever consider, perhaps when you give up actually paying attention, what's wrong with them? I bet some of them at least were lectures, telling you what words in the bible signify in terms of what you, the punter, ought to believe.  Lectures, instead of actual communication, kill faith as dead as academic study kills a poem.

I'm not going to chase this further. I want to emerge with today's little epiphany which is probably more of a realisation of something I've known for decades.

Prose can kill.

Which is why poetry is important, why the practice needs to be done to acquire the eyes with which to grasp it.
Which is why I approach faith as the poet, or as the lover of poetry who spots symbolism at a hundred paces.
Which is why music is so important.
Which is why it was a combination of music and poetry that brought me to faith.

I'll finish the book. It's had the merit of taking me to revisit some dearly loved poems, to feel once again the sudden stab of recognition that Thomas's last lines can so often create. But it's the poetry that matters.

Always.


*I'm talking here about such technical features as caesura, enjambement - all the stuff you make a part of your perception so that you don't need to think about it.

Reading Macondo #FLMacondo⤴

from @ ¡Vámonos!

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 07.55.27I’ve spent part of each week during the summer holiday taking part in a MOOC  run by FutureLearn. Their courses are free and run throughout the year and I recommend them. I took part in a course on Dyslexia and Language Learning in May and thoroughly enjoyed it. You can find out more about my thoughts and findings on that course here, and apply to join the course when it is next run here.

This course was entitled Reading Macondo: the Works of Gabriel García Márquez

Explore why the author of One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of the 20th century’s leading writers in this free online course

I’d read some GGM as part of my Spanish studies at school, and then for fun later on, and the course immediately appealed as I enjoyed the books I’d read and wanted to discover more. I have to say that rereading them, guided by the magnificent tutors on the course, has been very revealing and rewarding too, and I’ve discovered so many links and parallels in the work of GGM that I’m more than ever convinced of his genius!

Here’s an introduction to the course (shared from the FutureLearn site)

We began by looking at GGM’s novellas: in week 1 we considered La H0jarasca / Leaf Storm and  in week 2, El Coronel no tiene quien le escriba / No One Writes to the Colonel.

Next, in week 3,  we looked at a selection of the short stories contained in Los Funerales de la Mamá Grande / Big Mama’s Funeral.

In week 4 we moved on to consider La Mala Hora/ In Evil Hour, a short novel that is GGM’s first attempt at writing something longer.

And in weeks 5 and 6 we reached his ‘masterpiece of global literature’, Cien Años de Soledad / One Hundred Years of Solitude.

As with the Dyslexia course, I’ve sketch noted each week and shared the finished notes on Twitter and with the course participants via the comments facility on the site, and I thought I’d share them here all together.

Week 1 - The structure of La Hojarasca

Week 1 – The structure of La Hojarasca

 

Week 1 - La Hojarasca/Leaf Storm

Week 1 – La Hojarasca/Leaf Storm

 

Week 2 - El Coronel no tiene quien le escriba / No one writes to the Colonel

Week 2 – El Coronel no tiene quien le escriba / No one writes to the Colonel

 

Week 3 - Los funerales de la Mamá Grande / Big Mama's funeral

Week 3 – Los funerales de la Mamá Grande / Big Mama’s funeral

 

Week 4 - La Mala Hora / In Evil Hour

Week 4 – La Mala Hora / In Evil Hour

 

Week 5 - Cien años de soledad / One hundred years of solitude

Week 5 – Cien años de soledad / One hundred years of solitude

 

Week 5 - Personajes en Cien años de soledad / Characters in One hundred years of solitude

Week 5 – Personajes en Cien años de soledad / Characters in One hundred years of solitude

 

Week 6 - Tiempo en Cien años de soledad / Time in One hundred years of solitude

Week 6 – Tiempo en Cien años de soledad / Time in One hundred years of solitude

I was very excited to see this note at the end of week 6:

You may be pleased to know that we will be offering a second FutureLearn course on the work of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, which will examine The Autumn of the PatriarchChronicle of a Death ForetoldLove in the Time of CholeraThe General in His LabyrinthOf Love and Other Demons, and some short stories. We will contact you with more details about the new course once it has been announced.

This will be another course from the University of Los Andes on Gabriel García Mearquez, and this time it will look at how his work developed and changed course after Cien años de soledad. I just hope that it coincides with another break from work as I need time to read and reflect that I’m not sure I have in term time!