Apr 26, 2010


Mockingbirds can get so noisy that I guess I'm glad there are none in my neighborhood. This guy in Florida charmed me, however, and vice versa.

I got the shots when I managed to sweet-talk him (her?) into holding still. We had a conversation of several minutes, an affair of mutual respect and intellectual interest. He said he was a nightingale and therefore favored Keats. I didn't have the heart to correct him--what's in a name? Instead, I listened intently to his point of view, which was more interesting than the right answer on the test would have been.

I plan for those remarks to be preparation for the next post in a day or two. We'll see. Mocking-bird. Listening. Patience. Respect. Longing for death and, through it, immortality.

Here is "Ode to a Nightingale," perhaps a bridge to the confessional poets. If you haven't read it for a long time, get comfortable--and think of something happy to do afterward.

Ode to a Nightingale by John Keats : The Poetry Foundation [poem] : Find Poems and Poets. Discover Poetry.

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Brenda's Arizona said...

As I recall, this poem laments the death of John's brother Tom. Throughout it, John confesses his own wish to escape life... and how the nightingale is immortal. How am I doing, Prof. Banjomyn?

I confess, it is amazing how as a Junior in college, in my English Romantic Writers class, this poem almost made sense. Now I want to cry out "Get over it, John!" YIKES! I pulled out the text book we had for the ERW class - you probably know it. The book's pages are like soft vellum, and each blank spaces on each page are filled with my excited notes and thoughts. Since then, I have gotten over it.

You suggest something happy to do after re-reading this poem? I am off to the dentist... I guess some poet somewhere would construe this as a happy thing to do!

I love your mockingbird photos. But I wondered - are you mocking this poem? Gotta ask, haha!

Anonymous said...

With the romantics, sometimes I'd skim the poem to the end, and the end would punch me somewhere near the heart. So then I'd have to start at the beginning and read carefully.

gothpunkuncle said...

This guy belongs more under your Mississippi John Hurt post, but he is kinda mocking John Prine (and singing alone in that vast cyber-darkness.) Some trusted friend probably told him he should:


Banjo52 said...

Brenda, I think you've got the overview (I didn't remember the biz about Tom as specific to this poem, but I don't doubt it).

Another hair to split: the nightingale too will die, but it's the bird's SONG, not his body, that the speaker is enchanted by. Like other music or art, the song, the idea and memory of it, will last.

Aren't you glad you kept those texts with your notes (I love that they're "excited" notes) in the margins? Let's see the Internet match that. Was it the Norton Anthology? Ah, memories.

The happy dentist might be material for Russel Edson . . . Or Frank O'Hara?

AH, I hear. At one point I came back to "Nightingale" after years away from it and felt I'd been hit in the gut with something heavy and broad. But it's all so subjective.

Other work that once caused strong reactions--Wordsworth, Dylan Thomas, much of Keats--has lost its whammy for me. But the fact that it IS that subjective is not a reason to dismiss the sacred cows (or birds) of others, including the young. I try to be careful about that, sometimes fail.

GPU, are you picking your friends wisely?

But seriously, singing alone in cyber-darkness is quite an image! Some strong lyrics in that song, not to mention the performance by someone who can carry a tune along with the gravel in the throat, which might not always seem true of Mr. Prine.

Prine, Cohen, Dylan, Johnny Cash--what is it with the late 20th century and singers who SEEM to be hitting only 2 or 3 notes but in fact are right on? Is that even a little bit accurate?

Lately I've stumbled onto some Elvis on the radio, and say what you will, that guy hit the notes and had a voice that didn't have to fake itself for uniqueness. One year I actually watched a fair amount of American Idol and was struck, again, by how obviously faked the emotions were that those younguns injected into the songs, no matter how accurate or strong their voices were.

Brenda's Arizona said...

Norton Anthologies of English Writers, part 1 and part 2 were my freshman year in college.

By Jr. year, we were up to English Romantic Writers by David Perkins.
Just Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Landor, Hazlitt, Hunt, Byron, Shelley, Clare and Keats. 1265 pages of romantic poetry. Sigh...

I TOTALLY missed the happy dentist part. Last I remember he was committing suicide or some such act? Lead me back, please!

The Prine/Cohen/Dylan, etc. songs are gut hitting, yes. Enough so that I have to replay to truly listen - and then replay to memorize, then replay just because I love 'em so. Remember record players that allowed you to leave the 'arm' up so the record would constantly replay? (I only know this because we still have one)

Brenda's Arizona said...

I forgot to remember this quote, one I used to believe:

"For awhile after you quit Keats all other poetry seems to be only whistling or humming."
--F. Scott Fitzgerald

Banjo52 said...

And Brenda, the influence of Keats on the Fitzgerald of Gatsby seems major. Not sure I ever thought of it before, and the quote is new to me, so many thanks.

Dentists: Hiker mentioned a while back that dentists, maybe like poets, have a high rate of suicide.

I remember Perkins as a name among the scholars (primarily on Romantics?), but not that anthology.

Like a fool, I gave up on my old stereo when I caved into CDs. I cannot picture the automatic arm you refer to . . .

Banjo52 said...

"Not sure about Keats-Fitz." . . . except of course for the title Tender Is the Night. Maybe I figured Fitz. got that from Bartlett's Famous Qs or something?

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