Oct 31, 2011

Shakespeare's "That Time of Year" and Kooser's "A Letter in October"

Blogspot is fighting me; please ignore the odd spacing. Besides, it's easier on the eyes, I guess.

Here are two poems in which the authors see autumn as a way of, and a cause for, looking inward. Please don’t be overly swayed in by the fact that Shakespeare wrote the older poem, a sonnet. The other writer, Ted Kooser, was the U.S. poet laureate in 2004-2006, so some important people think he can sling some verbal hash in his own right. Here’s the new twist. I want people to vote for the poem they prefer. Wait!  There’s more. You need to vote twice. 

 1.  Which poem do you like better?

 2.  Which poem do you respect more? That is, which is the better poem, whether or not you prefer it?

 Your answers to 1 and 2  may be the same, or not. If you’re a good person in the best of all worlds, including cyberspace, you’ll also talk a bit about why you answered as you did. And if you don’t, you flunk.


Sonnet LXXIII: That Time of Year thou mayst in me Behold by William Shakespeare : The Poetry Foundation

 A Letter in October by Ted Kooser : The Poetry Foundation


Hannah Stephenson said...

I'm reading them back and forth, back and forth.....

I like them both....they are both about introspection, and both consider some surprising contrasts (that dying fires glow, for example, or that looking out prompts looking in).

I can't decide! The Kooser stays with me longer.

How about Tithonus (http://www.online-literature.com/tennyson/730/) or Skunk Hour (http://people.virginia.edu/~sfr/enam312/2004/lowell.html)?

Banjo52 said...

Hannah, thanks! Let's hope somebody else gets in on it. I talked some, not exhaustively, about "Skunk Hour" here back on July 10 and 13, 2011. It led to an important train of thought for me--too much for here, maybe more on another post. I think I see the comparison you're after.

I remember liking "Tithonus" back in the day. I'll try it again, with fresher eyes. Thanks for the link.

Anonymous said...

Shakespeare's hero had a rollicking time up until now, probably denied himself few pleasures, wrung all the experiences he could from life, and, rather graciously I think, is saying his good-bys.

In A Letter in October, the narrator sounds more passive. I have a sense of the moment, but not the man.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

I don't relate to fall as a time of death. I'm crazy for the light, the Santa Annas, the changing colors and the long shadows. It's a break from the endless LA summers which I estimate to be around 8 months.

So as not to flunk...I don't like Shakespear. Maybe that admission will get me tossed. It's the old English. When spoken I could never keep up. Every sentence so tricky and full. Exhausting really. 'll go with Kooser.

"no more than my face, mirrored by darkness, pale and odd,"

I can get with that

Ken Mac said...

William who? Magical photos!

Brenda's Arizona said...

Question 1. Kooser.
Question 2. Kooser.

Oh, do we need to explain why?

Brenda's Arizona said...

Are you going to see the movie "Anonymous", Banjomyn? I'd love to read your review.

RuneE said...

Being over 60 myself and having had aheart transplant seven years ago, I can appreciate both of them. I'll have to vote for Shakespeare for both your questions. And why? He has retained a positiveness in the face of the unavoidable. He sees the power in what has been, what is and what may come.

somewords said...

Yeah, I like the Kooser poem better but mostly because of the generational shift in sensibilities. Shakespeare wanted to describe what was true about himself ("in me behold") using the convenient metaphor of fall. Kooser's narrator is so confused about self, that he gets spooked with his own reflection in the window. While both writers may agree with "know thyself", our contemporaries might add "know that the self knows very little."

Having said this, contemporary modesty may be chic baloney. I suspect that RuneE who has faced something as real as a heart transplant, connects to Shakespeare as having the authoritative poem.

Brenda's Arizona said...

somewords, I agree with you. I was feeling a bit sheepish for not sticking with Shakespeare after reading RuneE's comment. As a college kid, Shakespeare would have won hands down. Now? Kooser because it isn't a struggle to read? Or because it says it more simply?

This morning, at our house, drinking coffee and looking out the window, I can feel what Kooser is saying. It's cold this a.m. Our animals are blowing a bit of frost out their nostrils as they breath. The garden? It is still a simple paradise. But there is no dwelling here, my reflection tells me.

Shakespeare sonnet is awesome upon re-reading. But when the word DEATH is thrown out there, the whole speed down-shifts. Death. The end.

And then I think of RuneE. WOW.

Banjo52 said...

Good conversation! I think this has been really interesting and hope you all do too. I've tried to add my two bits as today's post (Nov. 6). Maybe I still prefer the Shakespeare--how does anyone beat his closing couplet? But the majority have sent me back to Kooser, and it's been a really good experience.

As for Elizabethan English, I wouldn't want Shakespeare "translated" into modern English, yet I know what an obstacle his language can be.

Brenda, I keep meaning to read a couple reviews of Anonymous, then I forget. We'll see.

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