Neil Hester

All poems © Neil Hester unless otherwritten

Location: North Carolina, United States

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Sargent: John Singer

In Portland, Oregon, 2005, I had the privilege of browsing a traveling exhibit carrying various children's portraits by John Singer Sargent. Before this point, I had not known who he was (visual art is not one of my main interests), but after spending a long period of time at his display, I was completely charmed by his beautiful portraits. When I arrived back home, I looked for his artwork on the internet and stumbled across a wonderful virtual gallery which I inevitably spent hours upon hours in. Not only are his portraits wonderful (though his portraits of children are still my favorites), but Sargent has done great work in landscapes as well (especially his Venetian works). I highly suggest you spend some time to visit the aforementioned virtual gallery; something there is sure to please.

While I'm here, allow me to list my favorites (with links):

Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose
Village Children
Garden Study of the Vickers Children
Essie, Ruby, and Ferdinand

Blue Gentians
In the Luxembourg Gardens
Shady Paths Vizcaya
Terrace at Vizcaya

A Morning Walk
Madame Roger- Jourdain
Lady with Parasol

The Four Doctors
Charles Deering

Rio dell'Angelo
The Grand Canal, Venice
The Libreria

Rehearsal of the Pas de loup


These I would rank as my absolute favorites. My personal collection is about 7 times as large, and the virtual gallery is several times that. Hopefully the exposure to John Singer Sargent was worthwhile to you; that said, take care 'til next time,


Sunday, August 27, 2006

Education Ain't Intelligent

Recently, it has been approved in Texas that another year of math and science be required to graduate. This is a ridiculous idea and will not increase the level of aptitude people carry into college. Hearing about this also led me to consider how the school system could be improved to better prepare students for college.

The idea behind requiring additional courses to graduate is that students will be more rounded and prepared for college. However, being a student myself, I can honestly say that adding additional courses does not necessarily equal more learning. If a student wants to learn a subject, three years has proven itself to be plenty (after all, there's nothing wrong with those who have found success in the past). However, if a student does not want to learn a subject, an additional year will result in another year of not learning about a subject that a student is not interested in. Also, it has been proven that students in extracurricular activities focus/perform better in school. Extra courses will cause some to drop out of these activities, and by extension will reduce some students' focus.

Despite taking the classes, the philosophy of a "well-rounded education" drops off at a certain point. I'm guessing most students find their niche by 10-11th grade. From this point forth, they will retain very little in classes they do not excel in, but retain quite a lot in classes they do excel in. Logically, their college degree (assuming they attend college; we'll hit that later) will focus on what they excel in. So, by extension, better preparing students for college should involve taking multiple courses they excel in and less courses they do not excel in, instead of dumping more generic classes on a mixed group of people in which some will retain little and others a lot.

One of the main wastes of time in high school is taking American History and World History again. I understand taking it once in junior high; that's great, everyone needs to be exposed to their past. Let's face it, though; history is very seldom useful in most occupations, or life in general. If I were to become an engineer, it would help more to get ahead on my math skills and take 1-2 extra math/engineering courses than to learn more history that I will inevitably forget 95%+ of by the time I'm 30 years old. If they want to better prepare students for college, specialized course schedules are needed.

Time to get down to a more technical view. Mandatory math and english courses should stay the same (the math being the current three years, not the future four years). Math, reading, and writing are essential, everyday skills. Mandatory social studies/history courses should end in 10th grade, with Geography. Mandatory science classes are questionable, but I would only go with two years: Integrated Physics and Chemistry, and Biology. This would provide basic exposure to three main fronts of science. Comparing this to the current system, a few courses are now free to specialization.

As mentioned earlier, most people ought to have found a niche by 10th-11th grade. With less mandatory requirements, students can focus on their strengths. Those strong in math could take 1-2 additional math courses, those strong in history could go ahead and take 2-3 extra history courses, and so on. More time for specialized courses, especially those in magnet schools, would also be available to those who have interests or strengths in these areas. Those unable to attend college for any reason would have time to take technical skills courses that will give them the ability to find better-paying jobs in the future, improving the overall work force.

In short, less mandatory classes to encourage higher specialization and focus on strengths is the proper way to improve the work force and get students ready for college. Unfortunately, the aforementioned "educational experts" prefer to simply add more courses, adding further rigidity to an already difficult path to graduation and forcing students to take courses that will ultimately be less than useful in the future.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Getting Back On My Feet

Folks, I apologize for the shortened (and lazier) entries I've had lately. Beforehand, let me warn you that this is another relatively quick go at posting. However, I do believe I will be back up on my time-feet soon enough; school's rough beginning is leveling out. That said, here's a more traditional poem of mine to prove that I don't just experiment around all the time:



Prayers fall away at bedside,
Covers shiver, part and fold.
I tumble, climb, and slide,
Then lie; the sheets are cold.

I try to tackle comfort,
To navigate the downy stage.
I change and disconcert
The awkward linens in my rage.

The clock hands follow moving time,
The body rests at ease,
But in my mind the tocsins chime;
My psyche disagrees.

Now my tepid bed reposes,
For the chassis wrestles not;
Still, the spirit proses,
I confess, I am distraught!

Asunder, frame and painting
Tear apart! The sky relaxes;
The weary sun is fainting,
But behold the moon; it waxes!

My spilling moon is full tonight,
An overflowing mess.
Fragments flood, I enter plight
Of broken, scattered stress.

A smoky skyline overlies
The briskly falling world.
At nadir waits a false demise,
A mortal trick unfurled.

The war progresses, vaguely set,
The salvos roar in storms, abound.
Fighting, frightened, spilling sweat
And blood. Embracing ground

And mud, dying...
Bed sheets scatter, drenched in panic.
Purgatory gone, arriving,
Now earthbound, spirit manic.

My berth is fevered, sick and wet,
My skin insists on weeping.
The piercing climax I forget
Within my shallow sleeping.

By Neil Hester


~No comment. Well, okay, one quick one that pops into mind. The roughly constructed second-to-last stanza, along with the two previous lines, are intentional. That said, take care 'til next time ^^


Sunday, August 20, 2006

Aesthetic Line- It's a Riot

Today, I'd like to pull into publicity this work: If You're Anxious for to Shine in the High Aesthetic Line. Also, here's a nice little article about the recitation/song/poem.

When I originally found this I didn't realize its origin and thought it was just a poem, but, after doing some digging (say, Googling and clicking the first link ~_^), apparently it's not. The former link I gave is the lyrics/poem, with the accompaniment. The latter is just a little write-up on this clever song. The reason for the link is because their formatting is better than what I could manage with my limited HTML skills.

Anyhow, this is an awfully fun piece; I encourage you to recite some of it out loud (and do it with some gusto!), especially since it was written for the stage. Until next time,


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A Poem On Poetry

Well, I’ve lost my ability to do consistent every-other-day posts (EOD posts, I suppose), due to the fact that school has begun and I’m extremely busy during schooltime (with the sports, orchestra, and homework). I’m sorry if you’ve gotten used to the EOD-ness of my blog, but posts may well become sporadic from time to time. Anyhow, on to the poem:


Forego the Poetry

Forego the poetry! The delightful elegance
And eloquence of their words
Brings confusion, emotion, and
Undesired thoughts!

Criticize the poet! The insightful elegies
And poesies they compose
Muddle the clear-cut, objective

Disregard the poem! These sprightful compositions
And creations brought about
By sagacious, poignant writers
Express cryptic truths!

By Neil Hester


I like self-made rhythmic patterns/forms, whether it be for rhyming or non-rhyming purposes. Also, writing poems about poetry/poets is obvious, but fun irony.

Once again, sorry for the decreased frequency of blog updates (and, by extension, a decrease in the length of some posts), but school > blog, since I have a feeling my school activities have a greater impact on my future than updating my blog =P


Friday, August 11, 2006

Poem I: Lighten Up

Copyleft in place, it's time to display something of my own:


Lighten Up

Such a sullen sigh this evening wears the world in which we daily dine;
Lighten, guys and lasses, lads and gals, I urge you, upwards we alight!

Perchance we might romance a rather lovely nightingale,
Though if we fail, a moonlit dance may serve to ease our ailing hearts;
A pleasing sort of artwork that is perfectly apart from any
Melancholy feeling or affair.

We have now begun to deal, to feel, in fairy tale ordeals;
The ceiling has departed, we have started,
Let us saunter on with limits left behind!

A daughter here is deftly spinning straw to gold,
As golden locks bear clawing hands that walk the golden stair.
The fairest maiden of them all is laden with an apple,
Or a pumpkin made for ballroom-set soirees, or maybe made
For chapels set for perfect wedding days.

But oh, I’ve more than said enough for ladies lovesome;
Let us mosey through a gruffer, not-so-fluffy fare.
Beware the wolf who blows, who goes
For pigs and hooded girls! And too, be wary for
The giant baking bread with bones
And giant gingerbread abodes that tend to house a lousy fate
That never seems to bode so well for those who stay and wait.

...And now, my dear companions, I must say to you, adieu,
For time has ambled on, and so, the night begins anew,
Though if you wish, then you may stay up here, and save the view,
Enlightened by your fairy tale; it’s not yet overdue.

By Neil Hester


This poem is important because it highlights one of the techniques I have great interest in: internal rhyme. Though it is used sparingly, internal rhyme is rarely focused upon, and it's something I've been tinkering with for a while now. Emphasizing rhymes within lines adds a great deal of liveliness to verse, which can be useful (particularly in light verse; internal rhyme sometimes becomes overwhelming in serious poems).

Oh, and a note on the above; there are 10 references to specific fairy tales. Can you pin them all? ^^


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Copyleft! Copyup! Copydown!

Actually, this is really just about copylefts (I doubt there *is* such a thing as a copyup or a copydown). Scroll down to the bottom of this blog. See the "(CC) Some Rights Reserved"? That's my copyleft, courtesy of Creative Commons [/alliteration]. I got this idea from Anonick of The Limericker, since he got one for his blog shortly before I followed suit (I think it was spades). You can read my explanation of it, or go here for further details. Before you make any moves, be sure to also read this wonderful article that talks about copylefts among other things.

Basically, my work can be used for commercial purposes so long as I am credited appropriately (y'know, mention my name and whatnot, by Neil Hester). Derivative works will be tolerated, but only if they are shared under the aforementioned terms. That's it, pretty much. I like the terms, personally; I'd love for my work to be exposed by others~

It's a good idea (kudos to Anonick for the spark), I suggest that any other bloggers who deal in any form of art consider benefiting from a copyleft; it's the left (or right) decision!

Monday, August 07, 2006

On The Fallacy of Meter

Today (or rather, tonight) I would like to direct all poets to this article: Dan Schneider- Robinson Jeffers, & The Metric Fallacy Me'-ter. Stressed, unstressed. Strong, weak. Light, dark. Up, down. Yin, ya... er, yeah, meter, stressed and unstressed, strong and weak syllables.

That's what we all learned in school. Of course, I'm sure we've all noticed (at least subconciously) that it's not quite that simple. Sure, I suppose you *can* divide into strong/weak syllables, but that doesn't do full justice to the complexity of language. Say delegation. Or elasticity. Or supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (even though the sound of it is really quite atrocious). Notice the multiple different levels of stress, more than two different kinds? I thought so.

Really, for basic teaching purposes I suppose it's not too criminal to use basic meter, stressed/unstressed, strong/weak, but for most poets to keep clinging onto the idea that words are *really* made up of two stresses isn't good, since one of the reasons (other than alliteration, assonance, etc.) different lines with the "same" metric pattern sound different is because, often times, they really *don't* have the same metric pattern. Also, it'd probably be a good idea if English teachers touched on the fact that it's not actually as simple as weak/strong in reality, but that there are several levels of stress in language. Then again, since this either isn't a fully conscious realization in poetry, or people just like ignoring it, I suppose getting things straight in the teachers' heads would be necessary first.

I didn't give any serious thought to this aspect of poetry until reading this article; hopefully it'll do some good for you.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Kim Randell Article; Response

I was reading this blog and found this article, which deserves to be pulled into a greater light:


Poetry - A Declining Art?

"One of the reasons for the decline in the popularity of poetry today may be the prevalence of writing in freer forms of the art.
No more rigid structure of line and verse, no rhyming couplets and quatrains.
Odes, sonnets and ballads no longer seem to have expected forms.
The very texture of the thoughts behind the words has apparently become the poems in some of these new evolutions and such forms of expressive language and thought totally lose the general public.
We have all been brought up and educated with “classical” metred and rhymed structures, from pre-school to University ( nursery rhymes to Shakespeare), from television “jingles” to popular music, and anything without the repeating and organised patterns that we’ve all learned to recognise as poetry, will tend to be dismissed as prose, albeit written and laid out in an unfamiliar non-prosaic manner.

Our bodies and lives run to many rhythms from heartbeat to circadian to celestial.
Our songs whether Bach, Handel, Abba or Puff Daddy are rhythmic and their lyrics rhyme, so to my mind it is not surprising that the modern and experimental poets are given short shrift by the general public if their work is not to expected shapes.
Shakespearian Iambic Pentametre, for example, is a copy of the rhythm of the human heartbeat. John Masefield’s use of rhythm and rhyme in poems such as “Cargoes” enhances the word pictures of the various vessels in the poem.
One could define classic poetry as a “song without music” which suggests the requirement of recurrent themes of sound and structure. Take these rhythms away and the free-flowing shape of modern poetic writing is rejected by the majority of our peers as directionless, shapeless and untenable (the Universe is full of finite and recognisable shapes and thus shall be our poetry).

Today’s poetry scene has become asymmetrically bi-polar.
On the one hand a small group of modern poets and supporters with their new definitions of poetry, and on the other hand a massive public which is still being fed and educated with rhyme and rhythm, and whose expectation is more of the same.
Modern poetry, if thought about at all, is being perceived by ordinary folk as an exclusive domain for the erudite few, a past-time for unkempt and bearded introverts, or in its worst form, absolute rubbish. We all know where the money is, and so professional promotion also supports the expectations of the greater public.

What is most ironic is that the classical poet is not always recognised now by his modern peers and thus is denied their encouragement and support, which, in turn, denies the paying public the poetry they expect.
Poetry to the man in the street has now become a dying and irrelevant art form restricted to dusty halls of learning and old libraries.

Renaissance for the art form rests, in my opinion, with the classical styles the greater public expects. A collection of contemporary classical poetry could contain a few introductory modern poems as a means of educating the public to the newer forms of poetry, and so everyone would benefit from this inclusive, non-partisan approach.

My oldest son, when he was just thirteen, told me that he was discouraged by his English teacher from writing in rhyme that year, as he and his peers had not developed sufficient language skills in her opinion. How will he and others develop those skills and disciplines without encouragement at an earlier age by their teachers?
Free form styles rule in school!

So, as very few people in educational institutions appear today to be promoting the necessary English language skills and dedicated craftsmanship needed for production of classical poetry styles, the situation for poetry in general is going to continue to deteriorate.
For those of you who say, “But look at the recent increase in the numbers of our poets,” I will say, “But look at the even greater increase in our general population!” The ironic twist mentioned above will continue screwing contemporary poetry as a whole into the ground whilst the craft and skills of classical poetry writing are being allowed to dissipate."
© Kim Randell 2006


After reading this rather interesting write-up I felt inclined to give a fairy long comment:


As for the title, agreed. Poetry is declining in quality (it's increasing in quantity, but really; who cares?). I find it interesting that your 13-year-old is being discouraged from trying to write in rhymed/rhythmic form, but I suppose it makes sense as far as easy/hard goes. Writing bad free verse takes less effort than writing bad classical/form poetry. Writing good free verse, however, is just as difficult as writing good classical/form poetry. Since 13-year-olds are pretty much going to write all bad poetry, it's easier to assign free verse.

I suppose teachers don't want to push children too hard in practicing a dying art; that's doesn't help. It's good for them to try writing in more restricting forms; all kids should try writing to see if there's potential and to experience the struggles involved in using certain forms. Too bad most teachers probably don't like poetry themselves.

Recognition as a classical/form poet is more difficult because poetic Academia is corrupted with "movements" (Confessionalism, Surrealism, etc.) which are generally more easily supported by free verse (especially if the writers aren't talented). [Note: Academia may have more of an effect in America, I'm not sure.] On top of that, movements care more about what you say, not how well you say it, hence why I mentioned people without talent working their way into the system (Academia) by saying the right things, politically or otherwise, in their poems.

Once poets are in the system, they can throw together doggerel and publish it, and people will buy it because you're "good", since you're in the system. It's easier to throw together free verse, especially if you need to say something specifically. Of course, most of the time they fail to say it well, defeating the purpose of writing it in "poetry" (read: prose broken into lines) in the first place. Because of this system, free verse is taking over contemporary poetry. Woo!

I'm more bothered by bad poetry prevailing over good poetry due to Academia's political "you promote me and I'll promote you!" system, but hey; most of the bad poetry I speak of is in free verse, and good classical poetry is mostly in rigid forms, so we're almost talking about the same thing ~_^

Kudos on the article, I may quote it/link it om one of my entries (it deserves more light) and put my response under it. Enjoyable read to those it concerns ^^



The current development of poetry is pretty alarming; higher quantity, lower quality. That doesn't work in art. That works a lot better in, oh... food? =P

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Lewis Carroll


'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves,
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal blade in hand;
Long time the manxome foe he sought —
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
He chortled in his joy.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And mome raths outgrabe.

By Lewis Carroll


...As pulled from “Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There”, the second of Lewis Carroll’s two masterful works, the first being “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”. Here's a good link to visit for help with the portmanteaus and other odd words in the poem (as well as variations of the poem; I like the Wall Street one in particular, and the "spellchecked" one is good for laughs). Finally, here's a Muppets version of Jabberwocky; a classic for a classic (or maybe I just like Muppets too much ^^)!

While these are technically “children’s works”, they are worth a read regardless of age. There are a lot of parallel or additional meanings hidden, but even without regard to those, the prose is absolutely delightful. If you’d like to take a peek (or don’t find reading books on the internet annoying) you can go here for an electronic version that contains the original pictures and artwork by others. To end, here’s another poem of Carroll’s; he’s labeled as a “nonsense poet”, but some of his stuff is kinda morbid when you really think about it:


My Fairy

I have a fairy by my side
Which says I must not sleep,
When once in pain I loudly cried
It said "You must not weep"

If, full of mirth, I smile and grin,
It says "You must not laugh"
When once I wished to drink some gin
It said "You must not quaff".

When once a meal I wished to taste
It said "You must not bite"
When to the wars I went in haste
It said "You must not fight".

"What may I do?" at length I cried,
Tired of the painful task.
The fairy quietly replied,
And said "You must not ask".

Moral: "You mustn't."


Don’t do anything! Some would say that’s worse than death.


So... Do You Have Homophobia?

It’s seems like nowadays, since gay issues have become more public and controversial, that a lot of people (perhaps this is a conservative state thing) are taking the stance that they’re "homophobes". Chances are, though, that you’re probably not; maybe you’re a little uncomfortable are gay folk, but I doubt very many people have an actual "fear" of them. Dan Schneider came up with a much better term (Behind Homosexual Biases); "homotaedium", which would translate into "disgust or wearisomeness" for "same" or gay people.

Let’s get this straight; I’m not telling anyone that they should feel uneasy around homosexuals. Most do, and that’s natural. However, seeing as to how most of us don’t fear gays (despite some claims), our feelings should be suppressable (fear isn’t easily manageable; uneasiness is). There’s really no reason to give especially biased treatment to anyone who’s come out of the closet since, besides their sexuality (which is mostly irrelevant to us), there’s nothing special about them that couldn’t also occur in a straight person. They’re people who may or may not have traits that are likeable and may or may not contribute to society, and should be judged by those standards.

Another sub-fear/uneasiness people seem to have is the idea that a gay person is going to hit on them. If they know you’re straight, it probably ain’t happening. After all, would you hit on a gay person if you knew they were gay? Obviously it’s not gonna go anywhere ~_^ If, by chance, someone does make a pass, *then* you can get uneasy and back off (or tell them off~), but it’s not even worth thinking about until it happens; do you worry about getting into a lethal wreck every time you hop in a car? Possible, but unlikely.

That’s a rap; you don’t have to be gay around gays, but running away is pretty sad, y’know?