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Last Days and Poet Couples

I’ve been thinking a lot about poet couples lately. I guess there are only a handful of them that go back to the beginning of time, but I could be completely wrong. By poet couples I don’t mean two unrelated poets who together defined an era. I mean two married poets, brother and sister, father and son, etc. They don’t have to define an era, they just have to be in the history books.

There are a few I can think of off the top of my head. Percy and Mary Shelly (though Mary was a novelist, I’m including them), and Elizabeth Barret and Robert Browning. But there is one in particular I have been thinking a lot about.

This summer I have been battling skin cancer, and have come off the battlefield with five holes and incisions in my right leg.Last summer, my mother-in-law lost her too-brief battle with cancer. During that time, and often since, I have thought of Donald Hall and Jane Kenyon. They both fought their battle.  Donald Hall won his against colon cancer; Jane Kenyon, tragically, lost hers against Leukemia.  Hall wrote some really good poetry during these times, specifically what I have read that really touched me is his poem “Last Days” about Kenyon’s final days, the preparations they went through together to be ready (from a practical point of view), for the inevitable.

Perhaps I like this poet couple because of this connection of experience I have with them. I knew of their fights against their respective enemies, but didn’t think much of it until my mother-in-law got sick. But I did read “Last Days” before she got sick, and it brought tears to my eyes — and while my wife will tell you that isn’t hard to do, I hardly ever tear up when I read poetry.

Or perhaps because they are a modern poet couple, but whatever the reason, hats off to Donald Hall and Jane Kenyon. And a low heartfelt bow to boot. I am not going to bust “Last Days,” that almost seems sacrilegious. Since I am not busting it, I can’t really put the poem here, and maybe because of its length, I can’t find a link to it. But I strongly recommend reading it, if you haven’t already

Last Days and Poet Couples

I’ve been thinking a lot about poet couples lately. I guess there are only a handful of them that go back to the beginning of time, but I could be completely wrong. By poet couples I don’t mean two unrelated poets who together defined an era. I mean two married poets, brother and sister, father and son, etc. They don’t have to define an era, they just have to be in the history books.

There are a few I can think of off the top of my head. Percy and Mary Shelly (though Mary was a novelist, I’m including them), and Elizabeth Barret and Robert Browning. But there is one in particular I have been thinking a lot about.

This summer I have been battling skin cancer, and have come off the battlefield with five holes and incisions in my right leg.Last summer, my mother-in-law lost her too-brief battle with cancer. During that time, and often since, I have thought of Donald Hall and Jane Kenyon. They both fought their battle.  Donald Hall won his against colon cancer; Jane Kenyon, tragically, lost hers against Leukemia.  Hall wrote some really good poetry during these times, specifically what I have read that really touched me is his poem “Last Days” about Kenyon’s final days, the preparations they went through together to be ready (from a practical point of view), for the inevitable.

Perhaps I like this poet couple because of this connection of experience I have with them. I knew of their fights against their respective enemies, but didn’t think much of it until my mother-in-law got sick. But I did read “Last Days” before she got sick, and it brought tears to my eyes — and while my wife will tell you that isn’t hard to do, I hardly ever tear up when I read poetry.

Or perhaps because they are a modern poet couple, but whatever the reason, hats off to Donald Hall and Jane Kenyon. And a low heartfelt bow to boot. I am not going to bust “Last Days,” that almost seems sacrilegious. Since I am not busting it, I can’t really put the poem here, and maybe because of its length, I can’t find a link to it. But I strongly recommend reading it, if you haven’t already

A Poet’s Concert

Of the number of concerts I have gone to, one that stands out as one of my favorites was not of a singer/songwriter at all. Sekou Sundiata was completely unknown, at least to me, when I stepped into that very small local theater (normally a dance theater) in Washington, DC called Dance Place. Sundiata was a poet, and yet what I was about to see was apparently not a poetry reading. I had been invited by my step-mother, a poetry lover herself, and we both entered the house with a friend of hers and wondered what we were going to witness.

What I can best describe is that Sundiata put the spoken word to music. He did not sing. He did not try to speak to the rhythm of the music. He read his poetry, but great music served as an enhancement. Poetry does not music. Music is ingrained within poetry. With songs, on the other hand, the lyrics can hold no music, but rely on the musical instruments to provide it. Sundiata put together a hybrid of the two, where the electronic instruments served not as the music, but as the music enhancer. It was lovely to listen to. SO lovely in fact, the CD was purchased immediately following the performance.

Long Story Short came out in 2000, and I have listened to that CD in bursts ever since. I would forget about it for months, then play nothing but for the next few weeks. I keep waiting for the freshness to die, but it never does. I keep waiting for another year to pass and I find myself too old for that type of stuff, but I never am.

Unbeknownst to me, I recently learned that Subdiata passed away in 2007, at the young age of 58. But before he passed away, he managed to get interviewed in Bill Moyers’ (PBS’) The Language of Life. The interview was great, as they usually are when Moyers is the one asking the questions. Sundiata was not as famous as a Maya Angelou, but in a way, I like that better. I strongly recommend purchasing a CD to poetry lovers and music lovers alike.

In honor of Black History Month, here’s to you Sekou Sundiata!

Photograph courtesy of:

Valentines from Devere

Unlike popular understanding, science is based more on a process of probability than pure evidence. History is not really any different. While no one knows for absolute certainty, the general thought is Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare. But when you bring in the process of probability instead of evidence or fact (Shaksper = Shakespeare), the authorship question tilts as far away from Shakespeare as it can get.

Based on probability, I find it very difficult to believe an uneducated man who could barely sign his own name, never traveled outside England, and never came into contact with the royal court, could have written plays with such poetic precision about the royal court both within England and in faraway lands.

The plays are one thing; the sonnets are an entirely different animal. When you know about Edward Devere’s life, once again the probability of him writing these little poems is pretty easy to see. Shaksper-on-Avon? The probability isn’t even close.

These poems of love are a testiment to the author’s against-all-odds struggle for a relationship with whomever they were written for. And it is this unknowable — the person they are directed to — that keeps the authorship debate going.

I am not even going to try to list the pros and cons about the entire debate. That is entirely beyond the scope of this post. But the debate is quite dramatic, which fits well with the works of the author. De Vere lived quite the dramatic life. Shakesper, to an extent yes, but not so much.

I am an Oxfordian (one who believes De Vere is the true author), and quite a fan of William Shakespeare. I have not read very many sonnets. Quite a few, actually. But they are quite the collection of Valentines. Somebody was definitely loved by a man very capable of loving. And writing. To the recipient of such feelings, whoever they may be, Happy Valentine’s Day!