Friday, June 29, 2018

Today's poem by W. H. Auden (and today's video)

I am woefully (isn't that the best word?!) behind in writing blog letters and in reading other blogs. I haven't even read the June entries in the books by Susan Hill and Gladys Taber. I haven't had a chance to write back to the recent comments. It has been a full month without much time for reflection. But I wanted to pop in this evening and share a poem. I quoted two lines of it here, that were in Hill's April chapter. Just now I was watching series 5, episode 3 of Endeavour, and someone spoke more lines. I went right to my book of Auden's Collected Poems, and read the whole poem aloud. I thought some of you might like it as well as I do.

Night Mail
(Commentary for a G.P.O. Film)
by Wystan Hugh Auden 

This is the night mail crossing the Border,
Bringing the cheque and the postal order,

Letters for the rich, letters for the poor,
The shop at the corner, the girl next door.

Pulling up Beattock, a steady climb:
The gradient's against her, but she's on time.

Past cotton-grass and moorland boulder
Shovelling white steam over her shoulder,

Snorting noisily as she passes
Silent miles of wind-bent grasses.

Birds turn their heads as she approaches,
Stare from bushes at her blank-faced coaches.

Sheep-dogs cannot turn her course;
They slumber on with paws across.

In the farm she passes no one wakes,
But a jug in a bedroom gently shakes.

Dawn freshens, Her climb is done.
Down towards Glasgow she descends,
Towards the steam tugs yelping down a glade of cranes
Towards the fields of apparatus, the furnaces
Set on the dark plain like gigantic chessmen.
All Scotland waits for her:
In dark glens, beside pale-green lochs
Men long for news.

Letters of thanks, letters from banks,
Letters of joy from girl and boy,
Receipted bills and invitations
To inspect new stock or to visit relations,
And applications for situations,
And timid lovers' declarations,
And gossip, gossip from all the nations,
News circumstantial, news financial,
Letters with holiday snaps to enlarge in,
Letters with faces scrawled on the margin,
Letters from uncles, cousins, and aunts,
Letters to Scotland from the South of France,
Letters of condolence to Highlands and Lowlands
Written on paper of every hue,
The pink, the violet, the white and the blue,
The chatty, the catty, the boring, the adoring,
The cold and official and the heart's outpouring,
Clever, stupid, short and long,
The typed and the printed and the spelt all wrong.

Thousands are still asleep,
Dreaming of terrifying monsters
Or of friendly tea beside the band in Cranston's or Crawford's:

Asleep in working Glasgow, asleep in well-set Edinburgh,
Asleep in granite Aberdeen,
They continue their dreams,
But shall wake soon and hope for letters,
And none will hear the postman's knock
Without a quickening of the heart,
For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?

July 1935

You will see that under the title of the poem it says (Commentary for a G.P.O. Film). I looked it up and it stands for General Post Office. When I searched for a copy of the poem to put here, one of the results was a 1936 documentary on YouTube called Night Mail. The poem is recited at the end. It is only 25 minutes long, and I couldn't understand all the words, [addendum - I didn't mean I couldn't understand the words of the poems, but the voices of the men] but oh, what a treasure. How lucky we are to be able to see such things via the internet. A little miracle really. You may watch it here:

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Today's picture/Week one CSA flowers - 2018

And the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) flower season has begun!

Monday, June 25, 2018

Donald Hall's death

I'm so very sorry about this. I have been a fan for a good part of my life, and have written about him a few times here on the blog.  Here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Donald Hall, US poet laureate and prize-winning man of letters, dies at 89

  • Daughter confirms death at home in New Hampshire
  • Hall was known for work on love, loss, baseball and the past
In a 2006 photo, Donald Hall, author of numerous poetry books, poses in the barn of the 200-year-old Wilmot farm that has been in his family for four generations.
 In a 2006 photo, Donald Hall, author of numerous poetry books, poses in the barn of the 200-year-old Wilmot farm that has been in his family for four generations. Photograph: Jim Cole/AP

Donald Hall, a prolific and award-winning poet and man of letters who was widely admired for his sharp humor and painful candor about nature, mortality, baseball and the distant past, has died. He was 89.
Hall’s daughter, Philippa Smith, confirmed on Sunday that her father died on Saturday at his home in Wilmot, New Hampshire, after being in hospice care for some time.
“He [was] really quite amazingly versatile,” said Hall’s friend Mike Pride, editor emeritus of the Concord Monitor newspaper and a retired administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, adding that Hall would occasionally speak to reporters at the Monitor about the importance of words.

Hall was US poet laureate in 2006 and 2007. Starting in the 1950s, he published more than 50 books, from poetry and drama to biography and memoirs, and edited a pair of influential anthologies. He was a baseball fan who wrote odes to his beloved Boston Red Sox, completed a book on pitcher Dock Ellis and contributed to Sports Illustrated. He wrote a prize-winning children’s book, Ox-Cart Man, and attempted a biography of Charles Laughton, only to have the actor’s widow, Elsa Lancaster, kill the project.
The greatest acclaim came for his poetry, for which honors included a National Book Critics Circle prize, membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a National Medal of Arts. Although his style varied from haiku to blank verse, Hall returned repeatedly to a handful of themes: his childhood, the death of his parents and grandparents and the loss of his second wife and fellow poet, Jane Kenyon.
“Much of my poetry has been elegiac, even morbid, beginning with laments over New Hampshire farms and extending to the death of my wife,” he wrote in a memoir, Packing the Boxes, published in 2008.
He at times resembled a 19th-century rustic, with untrimmed beard and ragged hair. His work reached back to timeless images of his beloved home, Eagle Pond Farm, built in 1803 and belonging to his family since the 1860s. He kept country hours for much of his working life, rising at 6am and writing for two hours.
For Hall, the industrialized world often seemed an intrusion, such as a neon sign along a dirt road. In the tradition of TS Eliot and other modernists, he juxtaposed classical and historical references with contemporary slang and brand names. An opponent of the Vietnam war, he was ruthlessly self-critical. Nakedly, even abjectly, he recorded his failures and shortcomings and disappointments, whether his infidelities or his struggles with alcoholism.
The joy and tragedy of his life were his years with Kenyon, his second wife. They met in 1969, when she was his student at the University of Michigan. By the mid-70s they were married and living at Eagle Creek.
“We sleep, we make love, we plant a tree, we walk up and down/eating lunch,” he wrote.
But Kenyon was diagnosed with leukemia and died in 1995, when she was 47. Hall never stopped mourning her and arranged to be buried next to her, beneath a headstone inscribed with lines from one of her poems: “I BELIEVE IN THE MIRACLES OF ART, BUT WHAT PRODIGY WILL KEEP YOU BESIDE ME?”

President Barack Obama presents a 2010 National Medal of Arts to poet Donald Hall, at the White House.
 President Barack Obama presents a 2010 National Medal of Arts to poet Donald Hall, at the White House. Photograph: Charles Dharapak/AP

In the 1998 collection Without, and in many poems after, Hall reflected on her dying days, on the shock of outliving a woman so many years younger, and the lasting bewilderment of their dog Gus, who years later was still looking for her.
Hall was born in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1928, but favored Eagle Pond over the “blocks of six-room houses” back home. By 14 he had decided to become a poet.
He published poetry while at Phillips Exeter Academy and formed lasting literary friendships at Harvard, including with fellow poets Robert Bly and Adrienne Rich and with George Plimpton, for whom he was the first poetry editor at the Paris Review. He met Daniel Ellsberg and would suspect well before others that the leaker of the Vietnam war documents known as the Pentagon Papers was his college friend.
Hall studied at Oxford and became one of the few Americans to win the Newdigate Prize, an honor given to Oscar Wilde, John Ruskin and others. He returned to the US in the mid-1950s and taught at schools including Stanford and Bennington. He was married to Kirby Thompson from 1952 to 1969, and they had two children.
Hall’s first literary hero was Edgar Allan Poe and death was an early subject. In recent years, as Hall entered the “planet of antiquity”, many of his elegies were for himself.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

German's Sweet Chocolate Brownies

Gosh, I haven't posted a recipe for, or even visited, Weekend Cooking for ages. I mean to, and think of it every Saturday, but I just haven't had a chance. You are probably familiar with German's Sweet Chocolate Cake, and I made it with Hazel Nina in November 2015. The recipe is here, if you are interested. Today I made the brownies.

German's Sweet Chocolate Brownies

Melt over very low heat - one 4-ounce package of Baker's German's Sweet Chocolate and 1/4 cup butter. Let it cool some.

I used the mixer but you could do all this by hand.

Mix together:
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat in the chocolate-butter mixture.

Stir in 1/2 flour. I used 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry and 1/4 cup all-purpose.
Stir in 1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts. I used walnuts.

Add to greased 8x8 inch pan with parchment paper in it.

Bake in pre-heated 350º f. oven for 25-30 minutes.

Carefully remove the parchment paper and cool the brownies on a cooling rack.

These were excellent!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Today's home video - Bob Ross mug

This is the coolest thing ever! One day a Bob Ross video suggestion turned up on Tom's YouTube app. He thought Hazel might like it. Well, she did! And has been painting ever since. She talks as she paints, just like Bob Ross. Today Margaret and Hazel gave this mug to Pop.