Orator tames the savage beast

JByronSchachner copy

illustrator: J Byron Schachner

 

The Story
By Fred Chappell
Once upon a time the farmer’s wife
told it to her children while she scrubbed potatoes.
There were wise ravens in it, and a witch
who flew into such a rage she turned to brass.
The story wandered about the countryside until
adopted by the palace waiting maids
who endowed it with three magic golden rings
and a handsome prince named Felix.
Now it had both strength and style and visited
the household of the jolly merchant
where it was seated by the fire and given
a fat gray goose and a comic chambermaid.
One day alas the story got drunk and fell
in with a crowd of dissolute poets.
They drenched it with moonlight and fever and fed it
words from which it never quite recovered.
Then it was old and haggard and disreputable,
carousing late at night with defrocked scholars
and the swaggering sailors in Rattlebone Alley.
That’s where the novelists found it.
 
“The Story” by Fred Chappell from The Yellow Shoe Poets: Selected Poems 1964-1999. © Louisiana State University Press, 1999

 

It was on this day in 1940 that Winston Churchill delivered a speech to the House of Commons with the famous line: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” The Battle of Britain was raging, and he was referring to the small group of the Royal Air Force who had successfully held off the much larger Luftwaffe, the German air force.
Churchill wrote all of his own speeches, and he was a gifted orator, but people thought that his vocabulary and style of speaking were old-fashioned. But after the beginning of World War II, Churchill’s dramatic rhetoric fit the mood of the country.
His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, served in the Parliament and was a talented debater, famous for making spontaneous speeches. Winston, on the other hand, labored over every speech. He brainstormed, researched, planned out the speech in his head, then dictated it aloud to his secretary. From there, he revised it several times and typed it up in what he called “psalm form.” His speeches looked like blank verse poetry on the page, so that the rhythm and pauses were laid out just how he wanted them. Before Churchill delivered a speech, he would practice over and over, sometimes in the bathtub.

Looking Back

MollySchaarIdle

illustrator:Molly Idle

Forseeing

by Sharon Bryan

Middle age refers more
to landscape than to time:
it’s as if you’d reached

the top of a hill
and could see all the way
to the end of your life,

so you know without a doubt
that it has an end—
not that it will have,

but that it does have,
if only in outline—
so for the first time

you can see your life whole,
beginning and end not far
from where you stand,

the horizon in the distance—
the view makes you weep,
but it also has the beauty

of symmetry, like the earth
seen from space: you can’t help
but admire it from afar,

especially now, while it’s simple
to re-enter whenever you choose,
lying down in your life,

waking up to it
just as you always have—
except that the details resonate

by virtue of being contained,
as your own words
coming back to you

define the landscape,
remind you that it won’t go on
like this forever.

At the Bowl

Schachner

illustrator: Schachner

snow flakes push cravings

for nitty-gritty munchings

shoulder to shoulder

Brain Grease

HayRouleaux

illustrator: Hay Rouleaux

Brain Grease

Go back to sleep.

Let the brain grease work.

Like Whitman, Rousseau, and JFK:

From grandfather politics come dreams and youth;

indelible images of Africa,

and a “Song of Myself”.

(see writersalmanac.org/December14,2015)

Definition #293 A Poetry Prose Piece

Walden Pond

Walden Pond

Simplicity

by Henry David Thoreau

Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as
two or three, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail …

I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time.
To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome
and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the
companion that was so companionable as solitude …

If one advances confidently in the direction of his
dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has
imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in
common hour …

A single gentle rain makes the grass many shades greener.
So our prospects brighten on the influx of better thoughts.
We should be blessed if we lived in the present always, and
took advantage of every accident that befell us. Sometimes, in
a summer morning, having taken my accustomed bath, I sat in my
sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in a revery, amidst the
pines and hickories and sumachs, in undisturbed solitude and
stillness, while the birds sing around or flitted noiseless through
the house, until by the sun falling in at my west window, or the
noise of some traveller’s wagon on the distant highway, I was
reminded of the lapse of time.

“Simplicity” by Henry David Thoreau from Walden. Public Domain.

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