Neil Hester

All poems © Neil Hester unless otherwritten

Name:
Location: North Carolina, United States

Friday, December 29, 2006

Great Notes on Greatness

Matrix trilogy, Naruto (anime series), Aristocats, Ogden Nash Bestiary poems, select cheesy Broadway songs. All these have two things in common as art; one, I enjoy all of them, and two, they aren't great works of art. By "great", I mean: "of outstanding significance or importance". Don't get me wrong; Matrix action scenes get me every time, Naruto is fun to watch, Aristocats is cute as can be, Bestiary poems make me laugh, and I sing cheesy Broadway songs all the time. Still, read: these are not great works of art. Nothing in particular has provoked me to make this point, I just decided to make it clear.

Second note, this one a personal opinion on greatness: media can be great in one subcategory of a dimension of media (i.e film), but not in another. In fact, this is mostly an important note for film. I believe it's fitting to note things such as: Beauty and the Beast is a great fantasy film (or perhaps merely a great children's film), but not a great realistic film (obviously). If the intent was to make a fantasy film, immediately declaring that film unfit for any form of "greatness" is absurd. Instead, consider this: how uniquely and acutely did the media achieve its aim in the intended form? You could divide film into fantasy and realistic (children's is an arguable category, too; expressing a theme to children is a totally different task, since you have to be far more obvious). Poignantly expressing ideas with subtlety and realism is important, but fantastic ventures have their own draw and merit; really, the two are so different that they need to be judged appropriately.

Y'know, I think that's it for today. Oh, right: eventually (in the vaguest and stretchiest sense of the word) I may start a photography blog. Photography is more a hobby than an obsession (that being poetry), so it'll have a pretty relaxed atmosphere. Happy New Year, and take care 'til next time (which will be, oh... New Year's ~_^),

~LAEvanesce

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Ditties and Whatnot

Firstly, I hope everyone had a fine Christmas (Eve); I spent happy time with family, played an angel in the Christmas pageant, took part in some music (in a CD, vocal, and violinistic sense), and had a generally good holiday. Now, where were we... ah, yes, ditties. Let's all jump off of our philosophical soapboxes for a moment and look at some lighter jazz. Included are: myself, Anonick, Ogden Nash, Edward Lear, and Lewis Carroll:

~~~

Cliché

A way to say in bland and rancid artistry
A feeling; Critics flee at mere perusal of these
Maladies. "Use them not!", the arbiters exclaim,
"Those platitudes that maim your precious poetry!"
The guilty party here is you and me.

By Neil Hester

~~~

The Turtle

The turtle lives twixt plated decks
Which practically conceal its sex.
I think it clever of the turtle
In such a fix to be so fertile.

By Ogden Nash

~~~

There was an Old Lady of Prague,
Whose language was horribly vague;
When they said, 'Are these caps?'
She answered, 'Perhaps!'
That oracular Lady of Prague.

By Edward Lear

~~~

The Ant

The ant has made himself illustrious
Through constant industry industrious.
So what?
Would you be calm and placid
If you were full of formic acid?

By Ogden Nash

~~~

Where?

Oh, where, I ask you, are the Nantucketeers?
Where have they been for all these years?
Or perhaps a Clerihewian;
Where have they been?
“Over there”?
Where?

By Neil Hester

~~~

There was once a man named Experiment
Whose whole life in the lab was spent
Since he never came out
His friend Science had to shout
"You don't exist if you don't come out!"

By Anonick

~~~

"How doth the little crocodile
   Improve his shining tail,
And pour the waters of the Nile
   On every golden scale!

How cheerfully he seems to grin
   How neatly spreads his claws,
And welcomes little fishes in
   With gently smiling jaws!"

By Lewis Carroll

LAEvaside: This poem is a parody of Isaac Watts' 'Against Idleness and Mischief', a very popular moralistic poem of the 19th century. [/laevaside]

~~~

Englishical Improv

Be vigiling when you use a nonsensing word
In this poemish literature you may have heard,
Opinioning on this gibberish will vary, be wary,
For englishical improv is skillingly scary
To englishical teachers quite intentful to
Give a seriousesque teaching to me and you.

By Neil Hester

~~~~~~~

I'd say that's plenty for today. No rants, cultural points, or otherwise heavy material this time: fear not, I'll return with such things in due time. Actually, I'm running out of important th... ha! I doubt it. Anyhow, take care 'til next time,

~LAEvanesce

Saturday, December 23, 2006

'Tis the Night Before Christmas... Eve

'Tis, indeed. I now have a couple weeks off from school, so there'll be time to rest, write, and take it easy in general (which is time needed). Now, for a few things: firstly, as a nod to the work on which the title of this blog entry is based upon [/waveofprepositionalphrases], here's an audio collection for 'A Visit From St. Nicholas'. I'd say the Sam Lipten recording is the best (though not amazing), and, if you want to hear a little girl read parts of it, go for Grace and Brad Bush. Also, Jessica Schneider posed a Christmas sonnet and a positive review of It's a Wonderful Life on her blog. If you'd like to read more about Christmas (Eve), well... there you go. For carolers, here's a Christmas sing-along site and... ha! another sing-along site (Christmas-style).

Hmm... a few of my Christmas favorites, you say? For movies, I enjoy Miracle on 34th Street and Annie (I really need to watch It's a Wonderful Life). As for songs, my favorites are 'The Christmas Song (Chestnuts)', 'Sleighride', 'White Christmas', and 'Carol of the Bells' (among others). 'Jingle Bells' and 'Do You Hear What I Hear?' are two that really annoy me. No Christmas books in particular that come to mind at the moment, though I'm sure there's something...

Well, that's all for this entry; unfortunately, I have not written a Christmas poem and opt not to feature someone else's this time around. Hopefully something in that slew of links appeals to you; that said, take care and Merry Christmas!

~LAEvanesce

Monday, December 18, 2006

Gatsby's Great~

Over the past few weeks, I (and my peers) have been doing a unit over The Great Gatsby. Thank goodness we're reading something great, unlike last time (why would you read John Grisham's The Partner for an English class? Why?). Anyhow, Gatsby is among my favorite books now, though it seems that approximately four people (about 3-4% of the students who read it) actually enjoyed the book, which is a bad sign. This may, however, be attributed to the fact that we are required to highlight and annotate the whole book and turn the annotations in for a grade (which is a silly concept; quizzes are a better way to get people to read for details). If that's not it, then it brings me to wonder; do people understand the book? On a basic level, it has things teenagers are supposed to like: love, adultery, murder, and suicide. Then consider how marvelously the book is written, how deep the symbolism runs, how great the detached perspective of Nick is, or how profound a character Gatsby is. I'm not sure I really get it.

Anyhow, in a nod to Gatsby's profundity (and in a display of my appreciation of the book), I put effort into the poetry assignment given to us and wrote something worthwhile:

~~~

Gatsby
               ~F. Scott Fitzgerald

Spawned from a dream, he lives
In a reality far from others, and plucks
Flowers from the greenness of the night,
Perfect flowers more perfect than the seeds
From whence they came. He takes
This garden, the soil that roots for memories,
The place on which he pins his smiles
And plants his sighs. Everything lies
On the golden drop of petals.

She has fallen away from his world
To a rich reality sipped
From a sterling cup. Still, he speaks
Past her time, and charms her back
To where only minds have touched.

The heat is melting everything.
Smiles fall down fancy suits
And ash breaks light, burns leaves,
And sneers upon their gray domain.
The melting ash is everywhere.

Spread about the water, he partakes
Of the all-encompassing rest of men,
His innocent leave reckoned upon him
Beneath the silent eyes of God.

By Neil Hester

~~~~~~~

I'm pretty satisfied at this go; it turned out pretty well. Our English teacher had us mimicking the form of a Ted Kooser poem, "Abandoned Farmhouse", for the second time this year, which I hated, so I went up and asked her if I could just *write*. Fortunately, I got a yes; which is good, since it would be near impossible to write a poem as good as the above one in this form:

~~~

Abandoned Farmhouse

He was a big man, says the size of his shoes
on a pile of broken dishes by the house;
a tall man too, says the length of the bed
in an upstairs room; and a good, God-fearing man,
says the Bible with a broken back
on the floor below the window, dusty with sun;
but not a man for farming, say the fields
cluttered with boulders and the leaky barn.

A woman lived with him, says the bedroom wall
papered with lilacs and the kitchen shelves
covered with oilcloth, and they had a child,
says the sandbox made from a tractor tire.
Money was scarce, say the jars of plum preserves
and canned tomatoes sealed in the cellar hole.
And the winters cold, say the rags in the window frames.
It was lonely here, says the narrow country road.

Something went wrong, says the empty house
in the weed-choked yard. Stones in the fields
say he was not a farmer; the still-sealed jars
in the cellar say she left in a nervous haste.
And the child? Its toys are strewn in the yard
like branches after a storm - a rubber cow,
a rusty tractor with a broken plow,
a doll in overalls. Something went wrong, they say.

By Ted Kooser

~~~~~~~

Now, this isn't a bad poem; it's mediocre. The repetition gets really old (says, says, says! Stop saying things!), but there are a few nice phrases ("a good, God-fearing man", "a rubber cow,/a rusty tractor with a broken plow,/a doll in overalls"). It's also not too cliched. Still, I'm not sure why he feels the need to tells us that he lived with a woman and they had a child; couldn't he have just given us his details and let us infer these things? More than anything, most of the poem is devoid of excitement, which leaves it sitting between good and bad.

Enough about the poem, though: point is, writing in the "say say" form (as I've dubbed it) wouldn't have been so hot. She better let the class just write as they wish sometime during the year (leaning too far one way is a mistake, as I noted in my Foray Into Teaching Poetry), since writing in "say say" any more would be pretty sad. Take care,

~LAEvanesce

LAEvaside: I was watching a friend type her poem in the "say say" form during orchestra, and when she left I typed something along the lines of, "her cold eyes/Cast New Zealand into the flames of Mordor". Oh yeah. [/laevaside]

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Choice and Brooks; Bad and Good

I was sifting through the poetry section of my 10th grade Texas Literature textbook, and I came along a poem by Gwendolyn Brooks. Now, Gwennie's written some great stuff and some bad stuff, so I thought, "Great, I'm sure they picked out a great poem of Gwen's to show off here." Not so; they proffered "Horses Graze" instead.

~~~

LAEvaside: Okay, so there's not a single copy of this on the internet, it seems. That says something in itself, but don't worry; I'll get the poem up here soon. Oh, and even when I get the poem, this is staying.[/laevaside]

Horses Grazes

Cows graze.
Horses graze.
They
eat
eat
eat.
Their graceful heads
are bowed
bowed
bowed
in majestic oblivion.
They are nobly oblivious
to your follies,
your inflation
the knocks and nettles of administration.
They
eat
eat
eat.
And at the crest of their brute satisfaction,
with wonderful gentleness, in affirmation,
they lift their clean calm eyes and they lie down
and love the world.
They speak with their companions.
They do not wish that they were otherwhere.
Perhaps they know that creature feet may press
only a few earth inches at a time,
that earth is anywhere earth,
that an eye may see,
where it may be,
the Immediate arc, alone, of life, of love.
In Sweden,
China,
Afrika,
in India or Maine
the animals are sane;
they know and know and know
there's ground below
and sky
up high.

~~~~~~~

Question... why? It's not a particularly bad poem, but there are better poems of Gwendolyn Brooks to be had, famous works from her early days (when she actually wrote well). The above poem has good moments, but the quality of the enjambment is spotty and the repetition is heavily overplayed (Plath's 'Daddy', this ain't). If you don't believe me, try reading it like this: Why not this instead?

~~~

Horses Grazes

Cows graze.
Horses graze.
They eat
eat
eat.
Their graceful heads are bowed
in majestic oblivion.
They are nobly oblivious
to your follies, your inflation,
the knocks and nettles of administration.
They eat. And at the crest of their brute satisfaction,
with wonderful gentleness, in affirmation,
they lift their clean calm eyes and they lie down
and love the world.
They do not wish that they were otherwhere.
Perhaps they know that creature feet may press
only a few earth inches at a time,
that earth is anywhere earth;
that an eye may see, where it may be,
the Immediate arc, alone, of life, of love.
In Sweden, China, Afrika;
in India or Maine
the animals are sane;
they know there's ground below
and sky up high.

~~~~~~~

This version flows better because it is rid of some of the useless repetition and carries improved enjambment. I didn't add anything; only removed and rearranged. A couple changes are disputable (i.e. the last two lines as one), but the revised version is an overall improvement. Now, where were we... ah, right: why this poem? To quote myself, "Why not this instead?"

~~~

A Song in the Front Yard

I've stayed in the front yard all my life.
I want a peek at the back
Where it's rough and untended and hungry weed grows.
A girl gets sick of a rose.

I want to go in the back yard now
And maybe down the alley,
To where the charity children play.
I want a good time today.

They do some wonderful things.
They have some wonderful fun.
My mother sneers, but I say it's fine
How they don't have to go in at quarter to nine.
My mother, she tells me that Johnnie Mae
Will grow up to be a bad woman.
That George'll be taken to Jail soon or late
(On account of last winter he sold our back gate).

But I say it's fine Honest, I do
And I'd like to be a bad woman, too,
And wear the brave stocking of night-black lace
And strut down the streets with paint on my face.

By Gwendolyn Brooks

~~~~~~~

See now, this is a great poem. Strong music, a varied rhyme and rhythm scheme, and charming plain-spokenness. Now, try something for me; go to Google, and search, "'Horses Graze' Gwendolyn Brooks". Now, try "'A Song in the Front Yard' Gwendolyn Brooks." The latter has over 4 times as many instances, as well as several online copies. Really, such an experiment should be unnecessary (the latter poem is obviously much better), but there's your numerical evidence.

So, why do academics insist on promoting lesser (even bad) works when there are great things to be shown to the youth? I can understand why for bad poems from people who are *alive* ("Let's help each other out by exposing our terrible poetry to the world and corrupting the youths' literary minds!"), but Gwennie is dead, and has actually written a large deal of *good* poems. Shame on them.

Enough of my ranting: on to the abrupt conclusion. Take care 'til next time,

~LAEvanesce

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Looking Back- First

Every poet writes their first poem. As far as I am aware, my first poem was written when I was eight years old, in the 2nd grade (for the 1999 Arts Festival Young Author Competition). I won, which made me happy, I'm sure. I suppose you could technically consider it my first published poem as well, since it was included in the city's magazine. Sure, artistically it doesn't mean anything (just like any eight-year-old's writing), but I certainly enjoy reading it in retrospect:

~~~

Time

There are many ways to tell time.
You can tell time with a clock, dirt, stick or a rock.

There are many ways to time someone.
Roll a marble down a rail,
                            shoot an arrow down a trail.

You can tell time by the sun,
Under the sun you can have fun.

There are many different kinds of clocks.
Clocks can look like a beach with
                            lots and lots of rocks.

There are many ways to tell time.
You can even make time rhyme.

~~~~~~~

Hey, it's pretty good for an eight-year-old ^^ (that is, I assume; really, I haven't read any other eight-year-old's poetry lately) Still, I'd say we've come quite a ways since then; take care 'til next time,

~LAEvanesce

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Basketball, Concerts... Willie Shake?

This week I have 4 basketball games, a choir concert, and an orchestra concert mixed with homework, but I'm claiming this day to keep things in line. I realize this is a spare post, but hey, here's a great sonnet by old Shaky to entertain you while I'm away:

~~~

Sonnet 55

Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;
But you shall shine more bright in these contènts
Than unswept stone, besmeared with sluttish time.
When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
And broils root out the work of masonry,
Nor Mars his sword nor war's quick fire shall burn
The living record of your memory.
'Gainst death and all-oblivious enmity
Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room
Even in the eyes of all posterity
That wear this world out to the ending doom.
   So, till the judgment that yourself arise,
   You live in this, and dwell in lovers' eyes.

By William Shakespeare

~~~~~~~

Take care,

~LAEvanesce

Friday, December 01, 2006

December~

Well, we've tread upon yet another month, as December snows its way in (we got substantial snow [as in, blankets the grass] where I live for the first time in two years). First, some trivia on December, culled from Wikipedia's entry on December:

~~~

  • In Latin, decem means "ten". December was also the tenth month in the Roman calendar until a monthless winter period was divided between January and February.
  • The solstice called the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere and the summer solstice in the southern hemisphere occurs on dates varying from 20 December to 22 December.
  • December's flower is the narcissus or holly.
  • In Finnish, December is called joulukuu, meaning "month of Christmas", since about the 18th century. Earlier it was called talvikuu, meaning "month of winter".
  • In the old Japanese calendar, the month is called Shiwasu meaning "priests run"; it is named so because priests are busy making end of the year prayers and blessings.

  • ~~~~~~~

    And, of course, we know that an economic phenomenon occurs and everybody spends money, advertises, gives out samples, sets up donation areas, and does all kinds of other jazz (including Christmas jazz: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlmen and whatnot). I rather like Christmas music: Sleighride, The Christmas Song (Chestnuts), Carol of the Bells are especially nice, among several catchy and enjoyable tunes for the holidays. Anyhow, onto the couplet:

    ~~~

    Des Mempher

    Deciphered, dismembered December is time
    For pleasantries, presentries, rhyming, and rime.

    ~~~~~~~

    And so exists the fourth of twelve Month couplets. Best of wishes for December; take care 'til next time,

    ~LAEvanesce