My European Romanticism professor had an interesting anecdote today. This is not an unusual occurrence–he has many, many wonderful anecdotes. There should be a book of just his anecdotes. This isn’t even one of his more intriguing anecdotes, actually. But we were talking about how German Romantics theorize about poetry a lot, but don’t actually write very much, as opposed to English Romantics, who write a ton of poetry, and theorize about it less. And the professor brought up this time when he was in a class in Europe, somewhere (I missed the beginning of the story), and the other students were from scattered places around Europe–England, France, Germany, Netherlands, you get the picture. Anyway, for some reason, they got on the same topic–why the English write poetry and the Germans write ABOUT poetry. Just by way of demonstration, he asked us to raise our hands if we’d ever attempted to write poetry, whether or not we even showed it to anybody or thought it was good or anything. Every single hand went up. Including mine. And he said that was typical among English-speakers. However, when he mentioned that to this German guy in his anecdote, the German guy was totally shocked at the idea of having tried to write poetry. Apparently it never occurred to him or his countrymen to do it. We didn’t come to any conclusions as to why this might be. But it’s interesting.
I especially find it interesting that, yes, I had to raise my hand. I don’t consider myself any sort of a fiction/poetry writer now. I just don’t think I’m creative in that way. But I once wrote a poem about a movie I liked, when I was about twelve. And I wrote some haiku last week. Yes. Last week. I like writing haiku, oddly enough, though I’ve only done it a few times. It’s very tightly structured and it’s all about capturing a single moment. And I like that. Now, it wasn’t good haiku, of course–making only 12-17 syllables (depending on who you listen to about how to write English-language haiku) really meaningful is harder than it sounds. But here’s one from the park on Saturday:
Warmed by the sun,
A squirrel sleeping.
I’d never seen a squirrel asleep before. But there he was, in the crook of a branch. I thought he was dead or something, except I guess he would’ve fallen off, but then his head moved just a bit. I watched him for probably ten minutes. He woke up then, and started checking out other branches on the tree, but it was funny–like he wasn’t fully awake yet. He’d go to a different branch and sit there perfectly still for a few minutes, then crawl up to another branch. No running, no jumping. I went back to reading, and the next time I looked up, he was gone.
I’m still not too enamoured of Romantic poetry (although we read a great one by Victor Hugo today, where he compares his revolution of using natural language in poetry with the French Revolution; really funny), but I’m totally all about Langston Hughes, who we’re reading in the Harlem Renaissance class. I misspoke a few days ago when I said he was “pretty communist.” He was never a member of the Communist Party. However, he was “pretty leftist” for a while. A lot of his 1930s poems are very proletarian and radically revolutionary. But they’re very powerful and resonant…and for that time in history, it’s really not surprising. There were a TON of Communists running around in the 1930s, and Hughes, for example, seems to have been interested in Communism mostly because of its promises of racial equality (and also economic equality; the two issues were very closely intertwined for him), and because he was so very against fascism, especially after being a war correspondent in the Spanish Civil War. Anyway. I keep feeling like I have to defend him, because I really love his writing (his prose is really good too), even when I don’t necessarily agree with his politics. And anyway, I’m a little bit of the position that in theory, communism would be a good plan, if only this dad-blamed original sin didn’t get in the way. But it does, so that’s that.
I’ve been working on a paper about Hughes (and, yes, his leftist poetry), and we all know what working on papers means. Procrastinating through playing with WordPress themes! But not on this blog. Or not yet. I’m really, really close to switching, but the one I’ve got in mind is a four-column theme, and will thus require lots of modding to get all my sidebar elements properly placed. Over spring break perhaps. But I’ve been sort of on-again, off-again playing with using WordPress as a Content Management Solution (or System? I know it’s CMS, but I’m not sure what it stands for…) at wordpress.the-frame.com (I know, creative subdomain, right? Told you I wasn’t creative), and have turned it into a sort of mini-anthology of Stuff I Like. Which now includes several Langston Hughes poems. There will almost certainly be more, once I’ve read the rest of the Collected Poems, which will be tomorrow night. After the final paper is turned in. But you should go check out the Hughes poems I’ve got up there so far. Most of these are from the 1930s, so several have strong leftist content. Also, they’re decidedly not politically correct for our time period. Just so’s you know. Some of his poems work better with explanation, so if you’re going “Whoa, how can she like THAT?” ask me and I’ll tell you the history behind it. (Hey, I want the three biographies I read to be good for something!)