In case you were wondering, it is entirely possible to have a memorial/funeral service with absolutely no religious overtones (or even undertones, or, frankly, tones). My estimate is that a bit less than half of the people there were atheists… a bit less than a third were openly atheist, though that is a hard thing to know.
I had a blatantly atheist speech prepared, but only on the condition that a drastically religious speech called out for mine. I was very happy to give my non-blatantly atheist speech. Along with many other heartfelt recollections, from many others.
All in all, it was beautiful.
Thanks for your patience.
… so I’ll be scarce to non-existent in digital form until at least Sunday.
Don’t let the pilot light go out.
It was just the other morning
When we heard the weather warning
And we tried to drag the pets downstairs, for shelter from the storm
I remembered, with a chortle,
I was young once, and immortal,
And defied the nearing twisters, playing Frisbee by the dorm
Ah, but real life can be frightening—
I’ve since lost someone to lightning—
So I run inside from thunder, though of course I know the odds
And I’m thankful to the science
Where it’s safe to put reliance
How much better than to fear we’re at the mercy of the gods
When off on the road, a motel room’s a swell room—
Big beds, lots of pillows, and acres to stretch—
But no, I was sleeping on couches, so “ouch” is
The travel review from this Cuttlefish wretch.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m a happy old chappy;
I saw lots of family, and had a great time
But damn, it is clear that I’m older; my shoulder
Is hurting—beyond either reason or rhyme
Now, several days back, I’m still hurtin’ for certain
I’d love for this torment to just go away
I’ve iced, I’ve tried meds, I’ve tried showers for hours
But strangely, I’m not even tempted to pray
You know—if it works when I choose it, I’d use it
But prayer has a record of failure or worse.
So, no, I won’t pray, though I’m moaning and groaning…
With Pain for my muse, I’m complaining in verse.
Just a quick note to say, don’t expect me around for the next week to 10 days; I have no idea whether I will even have internet access at all.
I expect this comment thread to be full of wonderful stuff when I get back. That’s a reasonable expectation for an internet comment thread, isn’t it?
Ok… A bit of confession…
A dear friend of mine in meatspace gave me a couple of books of translated Bengali poetry, which is frankly stunning stuff–it reminds me that even translated poetry is–or can be–actually poetry, not mere verse (longtime readers both will remember that I am a huge fan of poetry but do not claim to be a poet–I am a proud versemonger, a wordsmith, a cuttlefish); I am a huge fan of verse, but also a huge fan of poetry, which is a different thing entirely. Some of my favorite poems I have only ever read in translation, which is shame, really–in real poetry, every element matters, from the sound to the meaning to the associations to the very breaths one takes in reciting–translated poems cannot be expected to perfectly replicate every element.
I have tried, and failed miserably, to translate poetry–I have actually tried in three languages (Spanish, German, and Greek), with no success in the slightest. I try too hard to fit meter and verse, and meaning necessarily slips away; the author’s “voice”, perhaps the most important element of all, I disregarded entirely… and as a result, my translation attempts have been pathetic failures.
What I am trying to say is… translation of poetry is not easy. But I love it. My favorite poems are actually translations of Greek (better in the original) or Turkish (my favorite, which I’ve never heard in Turkish) poems. The strength to be able to choose which elements to keep, which to sacrifice… I admire it, but have never had that talent…
Go. Read This. Kausik Datta has beautifully translated an Indian (Bengali) poem, The Master And His Student. And it works. Wonderfully. Yes, I wish I spoke Bengali, to see how it compares to the original, but the translation works. It is playful, it is sweet, it is… well, as far as I can tell, perfect.
And I cannot convey how honored I am that he dedicates his poem to me; his translation, even in translation, is far more poetry than the verses I write here (I say that as a fan of poetry and–separately–a fan of verse), and I clearly do not deserve it…but out of pure self-interest, will gladly put it up on the mantel!
So today is, as far as you know, William Shakespeare’s 450th birthday (no one knows for sure, but it’s as good a day as any, and better than most, to pretend that it is). Which is cool. The odds are very much against anyone knowing I ever existed nearly 4 centuries from now (and if you exclude whatever future version of ancestry.com is in use then, the odds are even lower), but Shakespeare will be known for pretty much as long as people are known. If the last copy of any human book that ever exists is a version of one of Shakespeare’s plays, it would not surprise me (yes, assuming that I still exist to be surprised by the heat death of the universe), and if it is something else instead, more’s the pity. [Read more…]
Twice today, students asked questions that I had previously examined on this blog, such that my immediate thought was “oh, I’ll just recite this verse”. Which, of course, I did not. I gave a nice, thorough, completely prose response.
I need to get more people reciting my verses as answers to classroom questions, so that I can do so without raising suspicion.
In the future, anapestic tetrameter will replace powerpoint as the go-to presentation format.
I would write it in letters, eleven feet tall—
And how they would shine; they would glisten!—
The advice I once got, the most useful of all:
“Just shut the fuck up… and listen.”
and hey, it applies across any number of different contexts!