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Howard McEwen http://www.howardmcewen.com Novelist -- Beekeeper -- Cocktails -- Book Reviews Thu, 05 Apr 2018 15:00:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.6 2018 Reading Project-March Poems http://www.howardmcewen.com/2018/04/05/2018-reading-project-march-poems/ http://www.howardmcewen.com/2018/04/05/2018-reading-project-march-poems/#respond Thu, 05 Apr 2018 15:00:00 +0000 http://www.howardmcewen.com/?p=2445 March is when I decided I’d had enough of the Modernist. I spent a few days finishing out the Yale Lectures I had been watching on them, made some notes and ‘banked’ the poems for later on should I be unable to tackle poems. This helps my obsession with completing things. And gets those inhuman (unhuman? anti-human?) modernist behind me.

And with that I enjoyed Dickinson and went down a brief rabbit hole on Philip Larkin who I enjoyed and identified with too much. Baseball Opening Day brought a classic.

Overall, I think I’ll just try to mix up the style of poetry I read. There were some thing enjoyable in the Modernist but I understand the alienation of poetry from the public that occured. And it wasn’t the public’s fault.

March 1, 2018 No Second Troy W.B. Yeats
Like Neutral Tones or yesterday’s, I enjoy these harsh heart-aches
March 2, 2018 When I Buy Pictures Marianne Moore Requires re-reading. First impression is “Uh?”
March 3, 2018 The Paper Nautilus Marianne Moore Understood more once I figured out what a paper nautilius was.
March 4, 2018 The Farmer’s Bride Charlotte Mew Tragic story nicely told.
March 5, 2018 Sunday Morning Wallace Stevens I like the old image of reading the paper on Sunday morning.
March 6, 2018 The Poems of Our Climate Wallace Stevens
A nice description of Buddhist unsatisfactoriness/Hedonic adaptation
March 7, 2018 The Man on the Dump Wallace Stevens
This feels self-indulgenty for some reason. What’s wrong with clarity?
March 8, 2018 The Auroras of Autumn Wallace Stevens I sense (or impose?) touches of a Buddhist outlook/perspective.
March 9, 2018 Large Red Man Reading Wallace Stevens
Buddhism again? Embrace the now. The future is not reality. Now is.
March 10, 2018 Gubbinal Wallace Stevens Good to say to myself when I go all negative.
March 11, 2018 Mid-term Break Seamus Heaney Again, love poems with narrative. Then art and grace are a plus.
March 12, 2018 Digging Seamus Heaney I’ve found a favorite poet possibly.
March 13, 2018 The Soldier Rupert Brooke
Boo! Pro-war. I just can’t enjoy it really. Second stanza seems…muddled somehow.
March 14, 2018 The Good Morrow John Donne
Ambivalent about this one. I like the intent, not the execution fully. Maybe the language.
March 15, 2018 Toads Philip Larkin This one made me smile broadly. And grimace grimly.
March 16, 2018 Toads Revisited Philip Larkin I could hear what my voice could become if I let it.
March 17, 2018 Refugee Mother and Child Chinua Achebe Tragic but didn’t hit me as hard as it should.
March 18, 2018 The Poem that Took the Place of a Mountain Wallace Stevens
A writer’s poem. I like it. Something to read, re-read when I write again.
March 19, 2018 The Plain Sense of Things Wallace Stevens
I’m not sure I understand fully but feel the need to revisist this poem often in the years to come.
March 20, 2018 The Casualty Seamus Heaney While good, the topical, political just doesn’t appeal to me.
March 21, 2018 Not Ideas About the Thing but the Thing Itself Wallace Stevens A simple, beautiful picture of spring.
March 22, 2018 Porphyria’s Lover Robert Browning A good one…Bobby B sure was dark. Again, I like narrative.
March 23, 2018 Prelude: Boat Stealing Episode William Wordsworth
I love this. Fits with my viewpoint. We know nothing. Don’t fear it, however.
March 24, 2018 The Garden by Moonlight Amy Lowell Is this about yearning for a kid? I liked “Moon spikes shafting….”
March 25, 2018 A Primitive Like an Orb Wallace Stevens Not for me. I like “The lover writes, the believer hears….” bits
March 26, 2018 She Walks in Beauty Lord Byron
My first thought seems condescening: sweet. But I don’t mean cheaply saccarhine
March 27, 2018 The Lady of Shalott Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Narrative, characters, Up my alley. AND many perspectives can be taken.
March 28, 2018 Lady Lazarus Sylvia Plath The Nazi stuff is a bit rough on me. Too much for her?
March 29, 2018 Because I could not stop Death Emily Dickinson I like the image this creates for me.
March 30, 2018 Casey at the Bat Ernest Lawrence Thayer
It’s Opening Day. I don’t appreciate baseball but I do enjoy stories
March 31, 2018 The Raven Edgar Allan Poe Again, I like narrative. Crowd pleaser, me pleaser.
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Charles Bukowski The Loner http://www.howardmcewen.com/2018/04/02/charles-bukowski-the-loner/ http://www.howardmcewen.com/2018/04/02/charles-bukowski-the-loner/#respond Mon, 02 Apr 2018 17:25:49 +0000 http://www.howardmcewen.com/?p=2443 16 and one-half inch
68 years old
lifts weights
body like a young
Boy (almost)

kept his head
and drunk port wine
from half-gallon jugs

kept the chain on the
windows boarded

you had to give
a special knock
to get in

he had brass knucks

he had a chest like a
never lost his

never swore
never looked for

never married after the death
of his only


worked crossword
kept up with the

that 16 and one-half inch

for 68 he was

all those boards
across the windows

washed his own underwear
and socks

my friend Red took me up
to meet him
one night

we talked a while

then we left

Red asked, “what do you

I answered, “more afraid of death
than the rest of us.”

I haven’t seen either of them

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2018 Reading Project-February Poetry http://www.howardmcewen.com/2018/03/14/2018-reading-project-february-poetry/ http://www.howardmcewen.com/2018/03/14/2018-reading-project-february-poetry/#respond Wed, 14 Mar 2018 19:32:43 +0000 http://www.howardmcewen.com/?p=2439 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 http://www.howardmcewen.com/2018/01/31/2018-reading-project-poetry/ http://www.howardmcewen.com/2018/01/31/2018-reading-project-poetry/#respond Wed, 31 Jan 2018 20:07:47 +0000 http://www.howardmcewen.com/?p=2430 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 http://www.howardmcewen.com/2017/11/24/done-with-dickens/ http://www.howardmcewen.com/2017/11/24/done-with-dickens/#respond Fri, 24 Nov 2017 15:31:53 +0000 http://www.howardmcewen.com/?p=2422 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 http://www.howardmcewen.com/2017/11/16/my-quarter-thoughts-on-our-mutual-friend/ http://www.howardmcewen.com/2017/11/16/my-quarter-thoughts-on-our-mutual-friend/#respond Thu, 16 Nov 2017 17:47:31 +0000 http://www.howardmcewen.com/?p=2420 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 http://www.howardmcewen.com/2017/11/16/my-thoughts-great-expectations/ http://www.howardmcewen.com/2017/11/16/my-thoughts-great-expectations/#respond Thu, 16 Nov 2017 17:44:28 +0000 http://www.howardmcewen.com/?p=2418 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 http://www.howardmcewen.com/2017/08/31/reading-the-old-curiosity-shop/ http://www.howardmcewen.com/2017/08/31/reading-the-old-curiosity-shop/#respond Thu, 31 Aug 2017 18:54:49 +0000 http://www.howardmcewen.com/?p=2414 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 http://www.howardmcewen.com/2017/07/28/thoughts-on-david-cooperfield/ http://www.howardmcewen.com/2017/07/28/thoughts-on-david-cooperfield/#respond Fri, 28 Jul 2017 17:17:55 +0000 http://www.howardmcewen.com/?p=2411 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 http://www.howardmcewen.com/2017/03/28/beekeeping-2017/ http://www.howardmcewen.com/2017/03/28/beekeeping-2017/#respond Tue, 28 Mar 2017 17:33:32 +0000 http://www.howardmcewen.com/?p=2408 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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