Howard McEwen

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2018 Reading Project-February Poetry

March 14th, 2018 · No Comments

Admittedly, I’m a traditionalist. But these modern poems wore me out in February. Ezra Pound told them to “make it new” but I wish they’d have just “made it better” or “kept making it good”.

Hart Crane I’m just not built for. Marianne Moore? My goodness, really? But William Carlos Williams shined for me. That was nice. Langston Hughes too. But I had to stop with the non-stop modernist and toss in some other poets just to keep from throwing a book against the wall.

So here they are with my first impressions.

February 1, 2018 Legend Hart Crane
It doesn’t ring with me. Or touch me. Because it’s dense or oblique?
February 2, 2018 Voyages Hart Crane Better than Legend but a bit sloopy and over the top.
February 3, 2018 The Bridge Hart Crane
Reading this my mind turned to those early American Film actors who spoke like Brits.
February 4, 2018 The Negro Speaks of Rivers Langston Hughes Thank GOODNESS…in ‘the vernacular’. Now THIS is a poem. 🙂
February 5, 2018 Song for a Dark Girl Langston Hughes “Gnarled and naked tree” hits me hard for some reason.
February 6, 2018 Life is Fine Langston Hughes
Fun but ok, I’m never satisfied, maybe I want a little more challenging.
February 7, 2018 The Red Wheelbarrow William Carlos Williams
A word painting, you can project onto it. I like it more the more I read it.
February 8, 2018 The Great Figure William Carlos Williams
Imagiste?!? I’m not sure why I’m enjoying WCW’s as much as I do.
February 9, 2018 Spring and All William Carlos Williams
Took a couple reads to get the rhythem. Is he the hemingway of poetry?
February 10, 2018 If Rudyard Kipling Poetry as advice column. Reminds me of Polonius.
February 11, 2018 This Is Just To Say William Carlos Williams I love these. True. Real. Peaceful.
February 12, 2018 Ozymandias Shelley I needed this today-feeling self-important in a negative way.
February 13, 2018 My Last Duchess Robert Browning
Spooky. Creepy. I wish more poems told stories. Even incomplete-good imaginative stepping off points.
February 14, 2018 Love’s Philosophy Shelley Simple love poem? In trying to read deeper, I annoy myself.
February 15, 2018 A Grave Marianne Moore No good video. No charm to it. Cold.
February 16, 2018 England Marianne Moore I guess if you call it what it is – an essay, Ezra won’t read it?
February 17, 2018 An Octopus Marianne Moore
Another essay. OK. I get it but just not for me. Qouting brochures?
February 18, 2018 Neutral Tones Thomas Hardy Cinematic, post-break up bitterness. Anger drips from it.
February 19, 2018 Silence Marianne Moore Readable, short, one long quote. Whatever.
February 20, 2018 The Fish Marianne Moore
I mean, I’m trying. I really am. Must be open. At least they’re rhyms
February 21, 2018 To a Snail Marianne Moore Again, I feel I’m reading an essay.
February 22, 2018 Sonnet 29 Elizabeth Barrett Browning Kind of hot. 🙂 She really likes the guy. Very nice.
February 23, 2018 To My Coy Mistress Andrew Marvell Fun. Beautiful. Cheeky….understandable. relatable.
February 24, 2018 Do Not Go Gentle In to that Good Night Dylan Thomas Pleading, plaintive.
February 25, 2018 Westminister Bridge William Wordsworth Very nice word picture.
February 26, 2018 London William Blake It’s a Monday. Not sure I’m up for 18th c. London’s misery.
February 27, 2018 [i carry your heart with me(i carry it in] e.e. cummings Sweet, not saccarine. Approachable.
February 28, 2018 When We Two Parted Lord Byron Breaking up is hard to do.

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2018 Reading Project – Poetry

January 31st, 2018 · No Comments

My 2018 reading project is not a particular author or writer but the vast field of poetry. I’ve never ‘gotten’ poetry but I have a feeling when I’ve tried it I’ve not been mature enough to enjoy it. Or open minded enough. Or simply taught well.

So I found a Yale lecture of Modern poetry and I’m starting there. The goal is one poem a day. I started before the New Year and am simply recording quicky “first impressions”. Here they are so far:

Date Read Poem Poet First Impression
December 19, 2017 Dulce et Decorum Est Wilfried Owen Asshole people
December 20, 2017 Mowing Robert Frost Just about working. The job is the poetry.
December 21, 2017 Out, Out Robert Frost Working is dangerous. Poem for the workshop
December 22, 2017 Birches Robert Frost Very Nice.
December 23, 2017 Home Burial Robert Frost Sad. How do people live after death of a kid.
December 24, 2017  Nothing read
December 25, 2017 Directive Robert Frost This poem makes me feel dumb, or young. Or both
December 26, 2017 The Road Not Taken Robert Frost Honest about old men.
December 27, 2017 Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening Robert Frost Sweet, lonely. One to keep going on.
December 28, 2017 The Gift Outright Robert Frost USA! USA! USA!
December 29, 2017 The Song of Wandering Aengus W.B. Yeats Romanitc fantasies can be nice.
December 30, 2017 Mending Wall Robert Frost
IF it doesn’t make sense, stop doing it. Nom atter what people say.
December 31, 2017 A Coat W.B. Yeats Yes! Paint this on a wall somewhere
January 1, 2018 The Fisherman W.B. Yeats Yes, Mr. Yeats. People are idiots.
January 2, 2018 Easter, 1916 W.B. Yeats I know too little history
January 3, 2018 The Second Coming W.B. Yeats Scary, disturbing
January 4, 2018 The Magi W.B. Yeats Glorious after re-reading in it’s antipathy to people
January 5, 2018 Leda and the Swan W.B. Yeats
I know too little mythology.Final question reminded me of the Crosses…did they know what they were doing?
January 6, 2018 Sailing to Byzantium` W.B. Yeats I identify with it a bit too much.
January 7, 2018 In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markievicz W.B. Yeats
Again, I know too little history. I enjoyed more once I educated myself.
January 8, 2018 Charge of the Light Bridage Tennyson
Sad but….juanty. The juanty glorifies too much for my taste. Not to reason why….to hell with that.
January 9, 2018 Two Songs from a Play W.B. Yeats
No video Fourth stanza…buddhism, hedonic adaptation. Round and Round
January 10, 2018 Vacillation W.B. Yeats
A mountain that can’t be climbed at work. Excerpts are nice advice
January 11, 2018 Crazy Janes Talks with the Bishop W.B. Yeats
Sing-songy. It took me a re-read. But I like the philosophy of Crazy Jane.
January 12, 2018 Lapis Lazuli W.B. Yeats I needed help again but good poem for bad times.
January 13, 2018 Channel Firing Thomas Hardy I liked this a lot. Poems with characters
January 14, 2018 In the Time of the Breaking of Nations Thomas Hardy “Time marches on….” Not sure I agree with this poem.
January 15, 2018 I Looked Up from My Writing Thomas Hardy
Hardy scolding himself….your life can’t/shouldn’t stop because another’s does.
January 16, 2018 Adlestrop Edward Thomas
A dialogue..Kind of reminds me of a Hemingway short story. I think I’d like to read more of him.
January 17, 2018 Blighters Siegfried Sassoon Angry much?! at the home front. Good image.
January 18, 2018 Louse Hunting Isaac Rosenberg A different WWI horror. Free verse, hard to get at for me.
January 19, 2018 Strange Meeting Wilfred Owen
Going to Hell…Wonderful. I like poems with narrative, honestly. Old habits.
January 20, 2018 Garden Hilda Doolittle
I like the idea of imagism…I need to get comfortable with the execution.
January 21, 2018 Sea Rose Hilda Doolittle I don’t find the repetition of words intensifiying, just limited.
January 22, 2018 Oread Hilda Doolittle Seems older, Romantic era? Again with the word repetition.
January 23, 2018 In a Station of the Metro Ezra Pound
1st thought- WTF? Second thought: It was only my expectations that gave me the first thought, not the poem.
January 24, 2018 Jewel Stairs Grievance Ezra Pound/Li Po
Repeat words again. No lover in the poem just the notes. A scene, an image.
January 25, 2018 River Merchant’s Wife: A Letter Ezra Pound/Li Po
The heart-hurt of 15. A way to access the fading memory of that, poetry.
January 26, 2018 The Seafarer Ezra Pound
Showing off over clarity? This made me colder….funny thought: he’s a whiner? If the sailing life is cold and lonely, get off the boat.
January 27, 2018 Canto I Ezra Pound Homer again. He’s at the root of it all, no?
January 28, 2018 The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock T.S. Elliot
How’s a 22 year old write like this? Cut’s too close to the bone for a man of my age and history.
January 29, 2018 The Waste Land: Burial of the Dead T.S. Elliot This poem is going to be a long, symbolic, allusive slog.
January 30, 2018 The Waste Land: A Game of Chess T.S. Elliot
I read a Christopher Hitchens Atlantic review calling this poem over rated….yeah. Agreeing right now.
January 31, 2018 The Waste Land: Parts 3,4, & 5 T.S. Elliot
Exhaustive and exhausting poem. It’s what people like me hate and what I need to learn.

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Done with Dickens

November 24th, 2017 · No Comments

I’m feeling a bit done with Dickens so I’m calling my 2017 reading project complete. I was feeling like I was coming up short then I did a bit word count math.

Great Expectations, 186,339 words
The Old Curiosity Shop 327,727 words
David Cooperfield 357,489 words
Oliver Twist 158,631 words
Tale of Two Cities 137,000 words

That’s 1,167,186 words…not including the partially read Our Mutual Friend and The Cricket on the Hearth.

I hate measuring by word count but I do think it’s a stat that helps give myself a bit of break.

So, good bye Mr. Dickens. At least for now. In 2016 I was intimidated by you. I was intimidated by your length and language and anachronisms.

But no more. I’m a fan – of your verbose style, your complicated plots and, mostly, your characters.

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My quarter thoughts on Our Mutual Friend

November 16th, 2017 · No Comments

I bailed on it after book 1 – 25% of the way through or so.

It just wasn’t clicking with me and, to be honest, I think I’m tired of reading….Dickens. I’m not holding against myself too much. That’s 5 novels in a year. I just couldn’t see myself (I am in a sickly period right now with a chronic headache) having to PUSH myself through the novel at the end of the year and with the holidays.

So I’ve switched to some of his Christmas books – maybe just one – I’ve already started “The Cricket on the Hearth”….nice, light, and happy – I hope. I can’t do with much more abuse or abandonment or the like that Dickens normally offers up.

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My thoughts: Great Expectations

November 16th, 2017 · No Comments

The beginning of the passage on Dickens in Clifton Fadiman’s “A Lifetime Reading Plan” begins by just reciting Dicken’s characters. The names bring to mind images and scearios and plots unlike any other authors.

Likewise, I don’t think I’ll ever forget Pip or Uncle Joe or Estella or the convict or – mostly – Miss Havisham.

The man could create vivid characters and complex plots that keep me propelled through 300,000 words.

I do think I have a preference for novels like this one and Cooperfield – a straight narative build around one character. Maybe that’s just my limited attention span or maturity but I get a bit exhausted by the litany of characters in some of the other novels and lean heavily on online character lists when one that pops up 20,000 words later baffles me.

I see no downside to the novel.

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Reading The Old Curiosity Shop

August 31st, 2017 · No Comments

Like most of Dickens that I’ve read this year, the characters are now as real as people in my past to me. The guy could write. And naming a character Dick Swivveler is awesome.

But I grew angry at the book. The central villain is supposed to be Quilp. And he’s awful and wonderful to read. However, the true villain of the book was the grandfather. A man who drove his younger brother away, fired and almost destroyed good-hearted Kip and exposing him to Quilp and the Brasses and then drags Nell around the country until she puts her foot down too late, and dies.

Then afterward, the guy is treated with sympathy and kindness where as his gambling addiction, narcissism and self-centeredness destroyed lives throughout the book.

And it’s not like Nell’s death was a great sacrifice for a greater good. It just was the consequence of her grandfather’s selfishness. Ugh!

I like stories of sacrifice and overcoming and the little bit of overcoming in the book was Dick, and that didn’t seem like much of a journey. I mean, he ends up being a good guy after being a bit questionable but….oh well…I’m still angry and the grandfather not drowning with Quilp!

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Thoughts on David Cooperfield

July 28th, 2017 · No Comments

I enjoyed almost all of the 357,000 or so words of David Cooperfield. Overly long? Possibly. In places. Possibly it’s just immersive.

I was sad when I finished it and regretted never having read it before. I wondered if maybe I wasn’t mature enough to read it. Or patient enough. Usually, I stick with short, direct fiction – Hemingway-esque.

But I’ve come to appreciate the epic-ness (in size) of longer fiction through Dickens.

Cooperfield is a much better novel than Twist of Two Cities – both of which I liked. Its characters and their quirks (and names – Murdstone is perfect), its insights in humanity/the human condition.

I may have observed this before but I can relate to Dicken’s Victorian characters so much better than I can American, 21st century fiction.

Maybe because with all his exaggerations, his stories are just more realistic.

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Beekeeping 2017

March 28th, 2017 · No Comments

So I have one hive. It’s in my back yard and it made it through the winter. Glory Bee!

This past weekend I put a fourth box on the bottom of the (Warre) hive and will let them be until spring of 2018.

I’ve also got three nucs ordered up for delivery in April and May. One will go to Vickie, not sure of the others.

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Thoughts on Oliver Twist

March 28th, 2017 · No Comments

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film adaptation of Oliver Twist.

So I assumed it was about a poor orphan making good int he work.
But I was wrong.

What Oliver Twist, the novel, is is a crime novel.

Oliver Twist, the character, just serves as the McGuffin for the story of the London underworld.

Oliver isn’t much of a protagonist. He just hopes around being cheery and sometimes pitiful. The most gumption he offers up is asking for me. And that’s in the first few pages of the book!

The action is really with Monks, Fagin, the Dodger, Bill Sykes and the dreadfully done murder of Nancy. And that bit about the suicidal dog!?!?

I’ve a giant biography of Dickens sitting on my bookshelf at home that I’ll get to reading sometime and there I’ll try to figure out why Oliver is not only the title character but even in the book.

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Thoughts on A Tale of Two Cities

February 15th, 2017 · No Comments

So I have been fearful of Dickens. At some point I tried him and became intimidated.

Then a couple Christmases again I read the Carol and this year decided that if I could do Tolkien and Austen, I could do Dickens.

Am was pleasantly surprised.

I started A Tale in December thinking I’d just wet my toe in him before making my 2017 reading plan ‘official’ but within a few days I was 25% done and on my way.

Why I thought it was going to be a tale of geopolitical intrigue, I’ve no idea. Why I thought the language difficult, no idea. Archaic in some spots but with a Kindle app to refer to, not difficult.

The overall impression I got from the book was how amazingly plotted it was. There’s not a scene or character in the book that doesn’t figure in the climax and ending in some way. There’s no waste whatsoever. I’ve read supposedly complicated spy and crime fiction that wasn’t tied together so closely.

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