Neil Hester

All poems © Neil Hester unless otherwritten

Location: North Carolina, United States

Monday, January 29, 2007

Half Hundred

Here we are, at the minorly monumental moment that is the 50th post of this blog. As of now, it's been a sharp ride. I appreciate those readers out there, and even moreso those who take it upon themselves to leave comments (feedback's good, y'know?), so go buy yourselves the dessert you shouldn't have. Or something like that. Anyhow, here's a few (read: ten) posts of importance in the previous twenty-five:


~*Five And Twenty~ The first of these quarterly posts; a link containing other worthwhile links.

~*PSAT- Pretty Savvy Aptitude Test~ Yes, there is educational satisfaction to be had in America. A positive (ov)review (that's a strange parentheses) of the PSAT.

~*Articles and Excerpts of: Hodophixuality~ Aside from the stunningly create name, this article details some interesting facts about homosexuality, child sexual abuse, and their (non)relation with one another.

~*Via Verse Immortality~ Exchange with Jessica Schneider about longevity through art. Features a poem by myself that uses a complex rhyme scheme (though the message is somewhat shallow).

~*Painting Poems~ Contains a good poem by Jessica Schneider (there she is again!) and one by myself (based on a John Singer Sargent portrait), as well as a little rant on combining art.

~*~Til~de~~ Self-explanatorily cool~

~*Looking Back- First~ As far as I know, my first poem.

~*Choice and Brooks; Bad and Good~ Why does Academia feed students inferior poetry? The literary felony detailed, in addition to a great Gwendolyn Brooks poem as well as a lesser one improved by myself (less is more!).

~*Reading- Poetry and Prose, Papayas and Paperclips~ A short article on the act of reading poetry. I might continue with more on this topic in future entries.

~*Man, Education is a...~ Sticking it to the collective man that is the group running the American educational system, with the help of Charles Murray.


That's all for now; here's hoping for another twenty-five worthwhile posts to come (at which point we will make the same wish again). Take care 'til next time,


Thursday, January 25, 2007

I Love Poetry

Love poems: Flatly put, it's extremely hard to write a good one, since, as Art Durkee notes in this post on subjectivity, first-person love poems are inherently clichéd, since we've all written them, and most (if not all) of us in quantity. Still, let's not forget that there is always the strong to be had amongst the (larger) weak group. First, let's look at a wonderful take by Kate Light:


Reading Someone Else's Love Poems

is after all. All we've ever done
for centuries - except write them - but what
a strange thing it is, after all, rose cheeks and sun-
hair and lips, and underarms, and that little gut
I love to nuzzle on, soft underbelly - oops -
that wasn't what I meant to talk about;
ever since handkerchiefs fell, and hoop-
skirts around ankles swirled
and smiled, lovers have dreamed their loves upon
the pages, courted and schemed and twirled
And styled, hoping that once they'd unfurled their down-
deep longing, they would have their prize -
not the songs of love, but love beneath disguise.

By Kate Light


Very playful approach, but a powerful end couplet. It's sort of a pseudo-sonnet, with the title being the first line (seeings as to how it reads as such). The poem also shows good usage of hyphenated enjambments (e.g. sun-/hair, down-/deep). Speaking of which, down-/deep longing is a great inversion of the clichéd "deep-down longing".


Sonnet 130

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask'd, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
   And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
   As any she belied with false compare.

By William Shakespeare


I originally encountered this poem courtesy of my 7th grade English teacher, Mrs. Hall (this one's for you!). The mistress in question is compared to others and found to be quite plain, but- the last couplet describes her as incomparable! Other than that, the music is nice, the rhymes natural. Now:


The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

By T.S. Eliot


A very famous poem, and a favorite of mine (I'm memorizing it piece-by-piece right now). Linked because, well, it's long, and I don't want to mess with all that text. It's full of energy, not to mention mystery (rather hard to interpret *everything*). Now, one courtesy of Dan Schneider:


You Are All Desire

My needs, they fall away from me. (Dull flesh-
can it convince itself?) They are: oxygen-
to flame each breath; sources of food and water-
to quell the instinctual ravening
brought by you; sources of clothing and shelter-
to protect my body from the world's duress.

My needs, they fall away from me. Not you,
my love, for you are verging on somethingness,
like the full beats of my growing heart, which falls
likewise itself, in infinite crashes
into conflagrations which are only all
that keeps my sonnetry in this small purview
which falls from me to you. Should you inquire:
   You are not a need. You are all desire.

By Dan Schneider


The most modern of the approaches so far, it details true needs in the first stanza, then notes that the loved one in question is *not* a need, and yet, because of this, is "verging on somethingness"; wants are, in a sense, more prevalent than needs. Despite the importance of the loved one and the thrill gained from him/her (don't assume the narrator is the author!), he/she is realized as a want, not a need. Hopefully I got that right (my interpretations can be shoddy sometimes), but regardless, it's a great sonnet.

LAEvaside: If the analysis seems a bit much for some of you, it's partly for readers less used to reading poetry, and partly practice for myself. Yes, poems explain themselves better than any summarization. At least, good ones do. [/laevaside]

I considered posting a love poem of my own, but, despite its strengths in music and end inversion, I feel it's rather cliché in certain parts and forced in one portion. Don't worry, though: I'll eventually get back to you with a love poem (in another post).

Take Care,

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Man, Education is a...

Please direct your attention to these articles, which I noticed via Dan Schneider's mailing list, credits to Don Moss: Intelligence in the Classroom, What's Wrong With Vocational School?, and Aztecs vs. Greeks. Now, please note this statement; America's educational system is screwed up. Yeah, I just bashed the whole thing. The three articles linked make some great points on what's wrong with the current educational program in America; let's interpolate a little bit to highlight some major points:

~~~~~Part I

Education is becoming the preferred method for diagnosing and attacking a wide range problems in American life. The No Child Left Behind Act is one prominent example. Another is the recent volley of articles that blame rising income inequality on the increasing economic premium for advanced education. Crime, drugs, extramarital births, unemployment--you name the problem, and I will show you a stack of claims that education is to blame, or at least implicated.

One word is missing from these discussions: intelligence. Hardly anyone will admit it, but education's role in causing or solving any problem cannot be evaluated without considering the underlying intellectual ability of the people being educated. Today and over the next two days, I will put the case for three simple truths about the mediating role of intelligence that should bear on the way we think about education and the nation's future.

Today's simple truth: Half of all children are below average in intelligence. We do not live in Lake Wobegon.

Bingo. Sorry, but some people are born smarter than others, and nothing can change that. Also, stop blaming everything on education; the nature of America's media (a topic for another time) has the largest effect in several of the aforementioned cases (it's cool to be a thug, remember?).

Even if she is taught to read every bit as well as her intelligence permits, she still will be able to comprehend only simple written material. It is a good thing that she becomes functionally literate, and it will have an effect on the range of jobs she can hold. But still she will be confined to jobs that require minimal reading skills. She is just not smart enough to do more than that.

Yep. The sad truth is that Shakespeare, Nietzsche, Shelley, etc. are lost on most people. Just about everybody I know hated reading The Great Gatsby and Romeo and Juliet for school; in Gatsby's case, it was the inability to appreciate the grand symbolism and the interesting characters. In Romiet's case, the outdated English caused problems with merely following the story.

~~~~~Part II

The topic yesterday was education and children in the lower half of the intelligence distribution. Today I turn to the upper half, people with IQs of 100 or higher. Today's simple truth is that far too many of them are going to four-year colleges.

America is obsessed with college; it's become incredibly "common" over time. College used to be more of an elite endeavor, something less pursued, but there's this bizarre idea that everybody's better off when they try to go to college. At school, it's all about college; we are not at all educated about alternate options (i.e. vocational school). Learning a specific trade would be more beneficial to a good percentage of those who attempt to attend college, but people are little-exposed to the option; instead, we have drones around us chanting, "You must go to college".

There is no magic point at which a genuine college-level education becomes an option, but anything below an IQ of 110 is problematic. If you want to do well, you should have an IQ of 115 or higher. Put another way, it makes sense for only about 15% of the population, 25% if one stretches it, to get a college education. And yet more than 45% of recent high school graduates enroll in four-year colleges. Adjust that percentage to account for high-school dropouts, and more than 40% of all persons in their late teens are trying to go to a four-year college--enough people to absorb everyone down through an IQ of 104.

Raw statistics that show too many people are attempting the climb.

[Teenagers] are in college to improve their chances of making a good living. What they really need is vocational training. But nobody will say so, because "vocational training" is second class. "College" is first class.

And, of course, everybody wants go first class, right? It's the cool thing to do.

~~~~~Part III

In professions screened for IQ by educational requirements--medicine, engineering, law, the sciences and academia--the great majority of people must, by the nature of the selection process, have IQs over 120. Evidence about who enters occupations where the screening is not directly linked to IQ indicates that people with IQs of 120 or higher also occupy large proportions of positions in the upper reaches of corporate America and the senior ranks of government. People in the top 10% of intelligence produce most of the books and newspaper articles we read and the television programs and movies we watch. They are the people in the laboratories and at workstations who invent our new pharmaceuticals, computer chips, software and every other form of advanced technology.

Combine these groups, and the top 10% of the intelligence distribution has a huge influence on whether our economy is vital or stagnant, our culture healthy or sick, our institutions secure or endangered. Of the simple truths about intelligence and its relationship to education, this is the most important and least acknowledged: Our future depends crucially on how we educate the next generation of people gifted with unusually high intelligence.

It's true, and the top 10% needs special educational attention, but that goes against America's idealistic views on equality. Some people want to believe that everyone has potential to do/be what they want, but it's not true. I'm never going to be a professional athlete, nor will I ever be a world-class violinist. I am capable of writing good poetry, which is something most people are incapable of, regardless of how much they wish or try. That's just how it is.

How assiduously does our federal government work to see that this precious raw material is properly developed? In 2006, the Department of Education spent about $84 billion. The only program to improve the education of the gifted got $9.6 million, one-hundredth of 1% of expenditures. In the 2007 budget, President Bush zeroed it out.

Ridiculous. That's all I'm saying.

The encouragement of wisdom requires a special kind of education. It requires first of all recognition of one's own intellectual limits and fallibilities--in a word, humility. This is perhaps the most conspicuously missing part of today's education of the gifted. Many high-IQ students, especially those who avoid serious science and math, go from kindergarten through an advanced degree without ever having a teacher who is dissatisfied with their best work and without ever taking a course that forces them to say to themselves, "I can't do this." Humility requires that the gifted learn what it feels like to hit an intellectual wall, just as all of their less talented peers do, and that can come only from a curriculum and pedagogy designed especially for them. That level of demand cannot fairly be imposed on a classroom that includes children who do not have the ability to respond. The gifted need to have some classes with each other not to be coddled, but because that is the only setting in which their feet can be held to the fire.

Very true. I've been in a class that's got the right idea (Gifted and Talented), but trust me, I never hit a wall there. Really, there wouldn't be much social consequence in dividing out special classes are particularly intelligent people: by middle school (or even before then), everyone knows who the smart ones are, and there really isn't as much jealousy or prejudice present as some people seem to think. Noone's feelings will be hurt if you group together all the high-IQ folk and chuck quantum physics at them.


That's several of the major points; all three articles are solid and make great points on the flaws of American education. I've a huge concern for the education of the next generation, for I am experiencing the entire process first-hand, and it's aggravating, frustrating, and at times, downright appalling. How can the people upstairs be so stupid?, I often ask myself. Guess some people are incapable of seeing clearly; or did they just get a bad education?

Take Care,

LAEvaside: A related article, courtesy of Dan Schneider. [/laevaside]

Monday, January 15, 2007

Quickie, 'Cause I'm Lazy

Yeah. Y'know, I just realized that I never linked to this superb article, so here it is. Everyone one should read it, but young writers (like me!) moreso than others. Another reason it's superb is because I'm in it (though that's mostly just cool to me). Now, a poem from myself, this one of more consequence than the one in the previous post (and one of my personal bests as of now):


Ou La Mort

I was told to, bar what they sing,
Squeeze my longings to a point
That pins the edge. Of nothing
I speak of; of nothing I take
Everything that is left to behold.
Such is taken by eyes that cease
To shun the dead horizon,
The curve that mocks sanity
In its (im)purest form:

God of the civil razor, he laughs
Before the dawn, his daily draw
Of red stench, common and quick,
Laced with the cheers of men
And children, dying to see
Life pass a terrific door and flee.

My name is on a program.
Everything exploded: my longings,
My lungs against the zeal of men
Who urged me (in a sense) to be
With and one of theirs. They cry,
Liberté, égalité, fraternité!, and I
Bellow out of mind, but sane,
Ou la mort!, and die.

By Neil Hester


The French Revolution is pretty cool, y'know, with the guillotines and whatnot. I'm not really a morbid guy or anything, but guillotines are cool, starting with the cool name, and progressing with the cool design, and the fact that I have a distinct memory of a (cool) guillotine in the childrens' show Wishbone slicing cabbages in half instead of dismembering heads. Good times.

LAEvaside:Wishbone is a great kids' show; it exposes great literature to children in an easy-to-understand and cute fashion, but doesn't make any attempt to sugarcoat negative aspects of the storyline. Also, never was there a better talking dog (with the Taco Bell chihuahua coming in at a close second). Too bad they don't show it very often anymore. [/laevaside]

Good rant. By the way, if you miss the more focused, aggressive articles that seem nonexistent lately, do not despair; I'm just tired and busy. I'll come back with some attack-mode articles eventually, don't worry. Take care,


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Poem, Links... Plink(s)?

Okay, this is somewhat of a lazy entry; I have a couple more important topics in mind, but meh. Basketball's a glutton for time. So... first, links to several interesting, enlightening, or smiling articles written in the past few weeks: Shelley, Chriscats, and Poetitles from Jessica Schneider, and Sargent (to my Singer), Critique, and Enjambment from Art Durkee. And yes, I am leaning on other people to provide interest for me this time. "Bite me." And yes, I did just quote someone. Anyhow, the whole blog-to-blog thing helps everyone in the end, so hey~ I suppose this post would hold greater value (what value?) if I posted something of my own, so here ya go:


Advice to the Stout

To those of a fearsome, Goliath descent
That retain a Davidian mind:
Do not ever venture to represent
A hunk of the dim-witted kind,

For power is broader than muscles alone;
Be large in your culture and wit.
With both is strength; it’s not unknown
Athena made Hercules knit.

By Neil Hester


It's not exactly Ozymandias, but good for a smile. Take care 'til next,


Saturday, January 06, 2007

Reading- Poetry and Prose, Papayas and Paperclips

Before we start, let's note something first; to me, poetry's primary function is to be read silently, on paper, as written. Not out loud. There's nothing *wrong* with reading poetry out loud (heck, since the beginning of time [well, writing] poetry has been spoken and written), but poetry is first and foremost a private experience. Others will disagree, but that's how I see it. 'Course, great poems succeed in both directions~ Also, despite my beliefs, I sincerely enjoy reading poetry out loud; it's fun. Now, to the bulk of this post...


Reading poetry. It's different from reading prose for one reason: enjambment (line breaks). Also, don't read into the papaya-paperclip comparison further than the fact that the two are different; I just thought it sounded cool. Modern poetry, on the other hand, is somewhat like tofu. Er, sorry. Where were we?

While a sentence in prose is just that, a sentence in poetry holds meaning as fragments, as well as a whole. Plowing through a poem without regard to line breaks is a quick way to lose meaning and, in some cases, create an awkwardness in the poem's music. Occasionally, pushing straight forward to the next line can be a good way to gain momentum vocally, but more often than not enjambment is best paid (close) attention to. Firstly, I'd like to lay down my personal interpretation of the hierarchy of punctuation (from short to long pause):


none, hyphen(ated word), comma, semicolon, colon, period/!/?, dash/tilde, ellipsis, stanza break


Art Durkee also did one of these recently, quoted below:

So, in poetry, one might develop a hierarchy of notational pauses, for reading; for example: from short to long, line-break, extra space, comma, semicolon, colon, dash, period, stanza break. Obviously, other hierarchical orders of punctuational notation are just as feasible.

As he noted in the last sentence, other orders are feasible (i.e. the switched position of the period and dash in relation to mine). The numerical difference between these different sorts of breaks may only be a few tenths of a second, but it's an important detail.

Moving on: pay attention to the end punctuation. If it ends with an exclamation point, at least attempt excitement. Question mark? Ask the line, don't tell it (y'know?). Some questions are kinda rough to read out loud, and open to interpretation as to when you should start asking instead of telling. Here's a good example from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock:


Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?


There are a few ways to handle a long question like this; from here, it's preference and instinct. The period has several subtle connotations, so that's also something left to interpretation.

There are other, smaller things to address in reading poetry, such as fluctuation of vocal tone and pitch, but that's something learned by experience (as well somewhat of an innate skill). Still, the next time I hear people read Beowulf like it's a John Grisham novel...


Monday, January 01, 2007


New Year's, right? It is? Really? Good. Now, let's look back at last year with some numerical statistics. First, blog stats (starting from July 29, the birthdate of this blog):


  • 2 blog titles (original; LAEvanesce: Opines)
  • 44 articles (1 deleted; an accidental blank article)
  • 2034 visitors
  • 4 month articles
  • 43 sidebar quotes (if I counted right)


...And now, some other statistics:


  • 53 poems
  • 98 poems to date
  • 1 music parody (a lot, I know)
  • 3 items on Cosmoetica
  • 0 magazine publication submissions


I'd say that's enough of that. It's been a good year, no? Now, onto to your normal program, the monthly Month entry. It's January (apparently), so let's look at some trivia:


  • Traditionally, the original Roman calendar consisted of 10 months, totalling 304 days, winter being considered a monthless period. Around 713 BC, the semi-mythical successor of Romulus, King Numa Pompilius, is supposed to have added the months of January and February.
  • Australia Day in Australia and Republic Day in India both occur on January 26.
  • January is National Soup Month in the United States.
  • January's flower is the carnation or snowdrop.
  • In leap years, January always begins on the same day as April and July.


And now, the customary Month poem:



Once winter had nary
A January.


...As noted by the first Trivia entry. That said, here's wishing everyone a Happy New Year's: take care 'til next time,


LAEvaside:This post contains a record number of lists: three~ [/laevaside]