From the Seashore, by Anna Petrovna Bunina (1806)

Pelican Sunrise, by LouFCD @ Flickr

Pelican Sunrise, by LouFCD @ Flickr

In 1806, a Russian poet by the name of Anna Petrovna Bunina wrote something strange, and dark, and beautiful. She titled it, “С ПРИМОРСКОГО БЕРЕГА”, roughly translated “From the Seashore”. We read a translation by Pamela Perkins (in the Norton Anthology) early in our semester in my World Lit II class, and honestly it took a while to grow on me.

When it came time to begin work on our creative project for the semester, I turned to this piece for my inspiration. Since I’d been working on my photography it seemed natural to blend the two and see what happened.

The photo above is an outtake from that project. (As usual, all images in this post are linked to their respective Flickr page. For desktop-sized versions, click through to Flickr and then click the “All Sizes” button above each photo.)

I’m very tickled. In fact, I’m so tickled that although it’s usually my policy not to put my school work on the blog until after it’s graded and returned to me, I just can’t wait any more. You’re getting this before it’s even due. (This Thursday, for the record.)

The poem in its original Russian, an English translation by me, my photos from the project, and a few more outtakes are below the fold. (If you have religious nudity-related neuroses, no need to tell me about them, just move along. I don’t really care.)

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To the Virgins, to Make Much of Wooden Horses

My Instructor's remark.

My Instructor's remark.

This is my second reading and response for Paul Verlaine (read the first here). The poem I chose to read and respond to was “Wooden Horses”  (1874), wherein Verlaine takes aim at using a carousel as symbolic for life. While this could have been his best of the lot, the didacticism of his Victorian mores is as sophomorically simplistic as it is blatant. “Wooden Horses” has all the subtlety of a sixteen-pound sledgehammer wielded by a bridge troll.

He uses gross stereotyping to create a strawman version of hedonistic pleasure, with as much negative imagery as humanly possible. I was particularly annoyed by “… the fattest maid / riding your backs as if in their chamber”, roughly translated into modern English as “the big fat ho / fucking the wooden carousel horse like nobody’s business”. Could he be anymore derisive or crass? I found it offensive in the extreme, what with my modern feminist sensibilities and all. That kind of crap is uncalled for in any time period, though it’s pervasive in the writings of fuckaphobes throughout history.

Fuck you in your dead ass, Paul.

I cannot stress enough how much I disliked reading Verlaine. Trite and unimaginative, puritanical and offensive. These are not the traits I look for in a decent writer, much less a poet. Fortunately, we have moved on through Mallarmé and now we’re on to Chekhov, writers with a bit of sense and perspective.

The poem by Verlaine (again translated by C. F. MacIntyre) and my response in rhyming couplets lies below the fold.

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Sir, You Do Not Know the Moon

My instructor's remarks.

My instructor's remarks.

Paul Verlaine was a French poet whose 19th century work sort of straddled the Romantic and Symbolist movements. Critics seem to love the guy, but I found his stuff rather uninspiring. While the case has been forwarded that Verlaine only sounds trite and prosaic now because it’s old and been done over and over since then, I would argue that it had all been done before by better poets (The Bard of Avon comes to mind).

Our assignment for World Lit was to read two of the five offered (translated by C. F. MacIntyre) selections and write a paragraph in response to each. As I was bored to tears with him and his shallow fling, I went a bit creative with my responses. About the only thing I found interesting about Verlaine was the progression of his style over time.

For my first response, I actually read and addressed two related poems, “Moonlight” (1869) and “The White Moonglow”  (originally untitled from 1870). Those poems and my Sonnet in response lie below the fold. (Read the second reading and response here in another post.)

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A Modest Reponse

Sonnet XVIII, by Lou FCD @ Flickr

Sonnet XVIII, by Lou FCD @ Flickr

Back in the days of yore when I went to high school, there were two kinds of Literature classes: British and American. With few exceptions, our reading selections were confined to the standard pantheon of a select few dead white guys from England or the United States. Both classes were as predictable as the sunrise; Brit Lit started with Beowulf, then Chaucer‘s The Canterbury Tales, then one of Shakespeare‘s plays, and probably finished with DickensA Tale of Two Cities. Variety was defined by whether the class read Hamlet or Macbeth. Poetry hit the five or ten standards like an old country church. Not comparing thee to a summer’s day would have been like not singing “Amazing Grace”. American Lit did the same thing for literature on this side of the pond, with Poe standing in for the Bard (“The Tell Tale Heart” and “The Raven” were the old standards).

To round out my English requirements, lo these many eons hence, I took English 262 this semester. World Lit II looked like it would give me something new and fresh, and it’s already doing just that. Among our first selections was “A Modest Proposal: For Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public“, the 1729 political satire by Jonathan Swift. Of course, in my mind to this point, Swift = Gulliver’s Travels. No matter how hard pressed I might have been, that would have been his only work I could have named, his being Irish and all. I’d read it on my own time as a kid. We’ve since moved a bit further from jolly old England and are now reading pieces by Russians and Germans and (gasp!) some of them are even women not named Dickinson or Bronte.

Our first written assignment of the class was to write a response to A Modest Proposal, organically incorporating the answers to five of the six following questions in the response.

Smoothies for cannibals from DavidDMuir

Smoothies for cannibals, by DavidDMuir @ Flickr

  1. What is “the reading” about? Give the simple and most obvious answer. (Substitute title for “reading”).

  2. Is there an experience of your own of which “the reading” has reminded you? Describe it.

  3. What is the most important “word” in the “reading”? Look it up in the dictionary and define it. Explain your choice.

  4. What is the most important statement or line in the “reading”? Directly quote the line if it is short, and paraphrase if the quote is long. Use an in-text citation that lists the page number (or line number). Explain your choice.

  5. What word, not in the “reading,” would you say best explains the “reading”? Define the word and explain your choice.

  6. Pretend that the “reading” is not about the subject you mentioned in #1. Pretend that there is something else, less obvious, that the “reading” is about. What is this “something else”? Define the word and explain your choice.

My response, for which I received a grade of “check +” (oh how I loathe this system already!), lies below the fold. I suggest you read “A Modest Proposal” first, if you’re not familiar with it, to really understand what’s going on.

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