Neil Hester

All poems © Neil Hester unless otherwritten

Location: North Carolina, United States

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Taking a Look At...

...Various articles and features I have neglected due to oh-so-wonderful choir camp (nothing like the Chichester Psalms to get ya goin'): let's touch on some rather interesting jazz from the past couple weeks~

First off, if you visited in the past few days, you may have noticed the background (or lack thereof). Fortunately, I fixed that, and went the extra kilometer by changing up my header, profile (which you really ought to read), and, best of all, IE setup. Basically, my blog no longer scares IE browsers away with its atrocious appearance.

Now, to get my ego out of the way before featuring other people- I have been recently featured at Monsters and Critics twice: Low and High: What *is* Art, Anyhow? and 4 Poems by Neil Hester. Anthony Zanetti also has two features there: Blogs versus Print: Is there a prejudice? and 4 Poems by Anthony Zanetti. Finally, Whinza Ndoro is also featured with 2 Poems by Whinza Kingslee Ndoro. Note that I am promoting my friends; however, this is not without just cause. They are all very capable writers that are well worth the read, unlike many poets who are promoted/published by friends and editors.

Now, onto bloggity stuff. By far the coolest blog to have come along in a while is The Shameless Lions Writing Circle. Right now I'm on the Friends List, but I do hope that I will someday be able to adopt a lion; they're cute! Er, vicious! Either way, I want one. I'll feed it and groom it an... *ahem* In regard to the lions, Jess has a post concerning them (and hers, aptly dubbed Johnny Cash).

I realize this is a lot to digest in one go; therefore, I will refrain from hitting you with other interesting articles and bring them forth at a later time. That said, let's end with a poem:


Days In The Turkestan Desert

Our Russian prop plane has a busted right-
side engine. We’ve been waiting two
days for the motor to come. Aliki and I hike
a few hours. “Some tea?” Nomad Turks are cooking stew
and skewing lamb. A feast. We join. It’s cold.
One fellow asks me to wrestle. We talk Chinese.
Neither of us are good at it. I fold
my wallet in my shirt, seize
his leg. We roll. Everyone is laughing. When
I’m licked, Aliki and I thank everyone again
for good food and we wander to a small
abandoned mosque. It’s a stone eyeball. We climb
inside. Goathorns in the sand, God in the wind through all
the small broken windows. Peace dazes time.

By Willis Barnstone


I'm still in sonnet mode. The sonnet really is a beautiful (and accessible) form. Jess told me I need to write a villanelle; I've written two, actually, but they're bad, and therefore relatively useless beyond some experience with the form. Anyhow, sorry for the absence of words; take care 'til next,


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Three Quartered

Well, folks, here we are at post #75, nearly eleven months after the creation of the blog. As of now, it's been a fun ride; thank you to all you readers for answering back and giving me a reason to write that goes beyond self-fulfillment. That said, let's look back on some selections from the previous quarter of posts:


~*Half Hundred~ The second quarterly post.

~*Jealousy, Lily, Ballroom, Rose~ Another painting poem, as well as a brief writeup (and link) on jealousy in the arts.

~*A Reflection on "A Reflection on..."~ The original and final drafts side to side- a terrible poem next to a rather good one.

~*Typo(logy/graphy)~ A look at typology tests and unique typography in poetry. The article features e.e. cummings and Jason Sanford, among others.

~*TAKS- Tertiary Abomination of Kayaks and Snails~ A brief criticism of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, followed up by a link to a very interesting article on energy conservation in Japan.

~*Si(tes/ght)~ Are you losing your eyesight? If not, I certainly hope you begin sometime in your life. Why? Well...

~*Songs (and Singer[s]) of Innocence~ A look at William Blake's wonderful "Songs of Innocence" series, as well as a couple poems in my own "Songs of Innocence" (a tentative title for the series).

~*Low and High: What *is* Art, Anyhow?~ Tattoing. Sculpture. Game design. Music. Comic strips. Poetry. Really, though, what *is* art?


Only twenty-five more posts 'til 100. Exciting, isn't it? Take care 'til next,


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Low and High: What *is* Art, Anyhow?

Sculpture. Painting. Music. Cinema. Poetry. These are forms that all take their place as legitimate and respectable mediums; everyone considers these to be "art".

Tattooing. Game design. Sitcoms. Children's fiction. Comic strips. These are... well, what do you think? Well, these mediums aren't on the same level as the ones you listed at the beginning. That's true. Now, tell me, are they legitimate art forms? Um...

I'll go ahead and answer this one for you; yes, everything listed above is a legitimate art form (I left out some other mediums I consider art, but that's a pretty decent list). Some people are unwilling to accept this. Let me make this clear: These are not on the same tier as any of the major mediums I listed first. However, these "lower" forms of art (and they are lower, but still very worthwhile) meet the criteria for art:


art [ahrt] -noun
1. the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.


Tattooing? Even if you're put off by the idea of body art (which I enjoy observing, even if I don't personally want anything done on me), you can't deny the artistic value of technically sound visual art just because it's done on skin. I actually find that the human body makes a unique canvas in that it possesses many different curves, colors, and densities.

Game design? I'm not going to argue artistic value for early games like Pac-Man, Pong, and Space Invaders. They're fun, but that's the extent of their value. However, there came a point in game design where video games began to contain character development and a detailed plot, just like a play or a novel. There are beautiful scenes, relationships, and narratives to be had in certain genres of video games (and recent graphic and audio capabilities don't hurt); generally, I can't argue artistry for genres such as sports and fighting, but when you get to role-playing and adventure games that contain a worthwhile story... it's art. Architecture and game design are common in that the technical aspects must be solid for functionality; achieving artistry is secondary, but wholly possible.

Children's fiction? Okay, so they're not super-academic and complex like "real" fiction. However, to draw emotion from a child is a totally unique challenge; it's not easy to write so simply and still work the imagination and create beauty. I seriously doubt Verne or Twain could just sit down and write a really good children's book. In contrast, Dr. Seuss is an incredible children's poet/writer. No, he doesn't write like Crane or Rilke! In his own right, though, he is a great artist.

Sitcoms? Just because they're primary purpose is to make you laugh (often in a ridiculous fashion) doesn't mean that aesthetics can't come into play. Sitcoms are capable of going beyond comedy; after all, narrative and character development do still exist in sitcoms, right?

Comic strips? Like sitcoms, the purpose is laughter, daily snickers and chuckles. Like sitcoms (moreso, in my opinion), a comic strip can rise above the ordinary and poignantly express emotion and beauty. Calvin and Hobbes is a personal favorite of mine; it really manages to tug on you in some cases. Also, strips like Calvin and Hobbes and Peanuts offer a highly developed child's perspective; when Calvin finds an injured squirrel, worries about it, and finds out it died the next morning, it has a real impact and rises above slapstick comedy and one-liners. Now, let's look at this little exchange:


Calvin: A painting. Moving. Spiritually enriching. Sublime. "High" art!

The comic strip. Vapid. Juvenile. Commercial hack work. "Low" art.

A painting of a comic strip panel. Sophisticated irony. Philosophically challenging. "High" art.

Hobbes: Suppose I draw a cartoon of a painting of a comic strip?

Calvin: Sophomoric, intellectually sterile. "Low" art.


And so, we reach the concept of "low" and "high" art. Oh, and it's funny. However, how do you compare the "low" to the "high"? Let's move on...

Since I just mentioned Calvin and Hobbes, note this statement from its creator, Bill Watterson, which is quoted from "The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book", directly below the strip I referenced above: "I would suggest that it's not the medium, but the quality of perception and expression, that determines the significance of art. But what would a cartoonist know?" This is true. Some interpret this as stating that all mediums are on the same level. I disagree: while the strip would support this argument at first glance, the strip is really just a jab at "high" artists looking down on whom they consider "low" artists (e.g. [bad] painters looking down on [good] photographers). Watterson is simply noting the quality of art takes precedence over what medium is uses. A great poem is more artistically significant than a great comic strip. A great comic strip, however, is far more important than a bad poem. True? Definitely.

But Neil, comic strips aren't "real" art, right?


Take Care,

Friday, June 08, 2007


Okay, so my blog performance may be slipping. Y'know, though, that's the great thing about blogging; I can write when and what I want, and the most anyone can do is stop reading my blog or offer nonconsequential complaints. Anyhow, on to June...

  • June is named after the Roman goddess Juno, wife of Jupiter and equivalent to the Greek goddess Hera.
  • Midsummer is celebrated in Sweden on the third Friday in June.
  • Philippine Independence Day is on June 12.
  • June is National Rose Month in the United States; the majority of the Portland Rose Festival also occurs in June.
  • No other month begins on the same day of the week as June.
  • June's birthstone is the pearl, Alexandrite, or moonstone.
  • June 31st is Weasel Stomping Day according to "Weird Al" Yankovic. The day, however, does not really exist.

Couplet? Of course:


June Snug

With April and May, June’s a woman snug,
But June’s the only one that’s a lady bug.


Only two more months before the circle is complete! The quality of Month Couplets does vary, though, so I might do reworks of some months (like March). As for other writing, I've worked on some sonnetry, painting poems, and Hester Songs of Innocence. Y'know maybe I should find a new name for that series; Lyrics of Puerility? Songs of Juvenescence? Salad Days Ballads?...

Take Care,

Friday, June 01, 2007

Songs (and Singer[s]) of Innocence

Well, I decided to look into William Blake's Songs of Innocence for two reasons: one, I enjoy the child-like approach more than any other, and two, I've been told by Dan that a couple of my poems resemble such songs. After reading about 20 of them, there are some interesting segments and a few excellent poems, but some of Blake's songs are rather lightweight. Sure, I can enjoy them, but there is quite a bit of fluff to be had in certain selections. Let's look at 3 Songs of Innocence:


The Schoolboy

I love to rise in a summer morn
When the birds sing on every tree;
The distant huntsman winds his horn,
And the skylark sings with me.
Oh, what sweet company!

But to go to school in a summer morn,
Oh! it drives all joy away;
Under a cruel eye outworn
The little ones spend the day
In sighing and dismay.

Ah! then at times I drooping sit,
And spend many an anxious hour;
Nor in my book can I take delight,
Nor sit in learning's bower,
Worn through with the dreary shower.

How can the bird that is born for joy
Sit in a cage and sing?
How can a child, when fears annoy,
But droop his tender wing,
And forget his youthful spring?

O, father and mother, if buds are nipped
And blossoms blown away,
And if the tender plants are stripped
Of their joy in the springing day,
By sorrow and care's dismay,

How shall the summer arise in joy,
Or the summer fruits appear?
Or how shall we gather what griefs destroy,
Or bless the mellowing year,
When the blasts of winter appear?

By William Blake


The music of this piece is very nice (well, it is lyrical), drawing from the benefits of the form. The last stanza adds a level of depth to the poem and gives it purpose. Now, let's look at one of the more famous SoI:


The Lamb

Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Gave thee life & bid thee feed
By the stream & o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, wooly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?
Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?

Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee,
Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee:
He is callèd by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb.
He is meek, & he is mild;
He became a little child.
I a child, & thou a lamb,
We are callèd by his name.
Little Lamb, God bless thee!
Little Lamb, God bless thee!

By William Blake


Let's be fair; the music is pretty good, although the repetition can be a bit much, and there's an interesting inversion of sorts in the second stanza. However, there's quite a bit of fluff here (a la lamba?) that's quite unnecessary, unless I'm missing something. The title is also rather bland (but hey, it's a song!). Now, how about this one?


A Cradle Song

Sweet dreams, form a shade
O’er my lovely infant’s head;
Sweet dreams of pleasant streams
By happy, silent, moony beams.

Sweet Sleep, with soft down
Weave thy brows an infant crown.
Sweet Sleep, Angel mild,
Hover o’er my happy child.

Sweet smiles, in the night
Hover over my delight;
Sweet smiles, mother’s smiles,
All the livelong night beguiles.

Sweet moans, dovelike sighs,
Chase not slumber from thy eyes.
Sweet moans, sweeter smiles,
All the dovelike moans beguiles.

Sleep, sleep, happy child,
All creation slept and smil'd;
Sleep, sleep, happy sleep,
While o’er thee thy mother weep.

Sweet babe, in thy face
Holy image I can trace.
Sweet babe, once like thee,
Thy Maker lay and wept for me,

Wept for me, for thee, for all,
When He was an infant small.
Thou His image ever see,
Heavenly face that smiles on thee

Smiles on thee, on me, on all;
Who became an infant small.
Infant smiles are His own smiles;
Heaven and earth to peace beguiles.

By William Blake


Music is, once again, extremely strong (Blake doesn't have any problems with that); there is some interesting repetition (e.g. "dovelike sighs" to "dovelike moans"), but this poem is on a sugar high; "sweet" occurs 11 times, often in cliché situations. I realize it's a song, but I still find the repetitive embellishment with heavy religious overtones to be a bit much.

I appreciate Blake's Songs of Innocence; there's fine poetry to be had, and, once again, they heavily apply my favorite tone. I'm writing my own "Songs of Innocence", somewhat, sans the religious focus and the long, super-fluffy poems (Blake cued me to repeat "fluff" a few times to make my entry stronger). "A Difficulty in Parenting" falls under my idea of a SoI, as do these two poems (I may as well throw something[s] of my own out there):


The History of Dragons

"And that is how the mighty prince
Slew the fearsome dragon."
I read, and ever since
It seems there’s fighting to be done.

My boys encounter readily
The dreadful dragon hordes,
And nick the books of history
With little wooden swords.


The Entertained

The wheeling song is sounding near;
A chill for children, street to street.
Quit your play and trail the ear
That hears a sweet and papered treat!

–It leaves them, nigh empyreal;
The day resumes as it began,
Though other work seems less ideal
Than that of the man in the ice cream van.


Take Care,