The Principle of Beauty

keatscharcoalovalOne of the most beloved among English poets is a man who died at the young age of twenty-five. John Keats was an English Romantic poet and despite his tender years, he was a master of imagery. It’s amazing to me that during his short life, he published only fifty-four poems. These weren’t silly, insignificant works (speaking to myself, here) but strong, robust poems of substance.

Keats wrote a series of odes for which he has earned some fame. Among these odes, Ode On A Grecian Urn was published anonymously in 1820. Through his use of classical Greek art, Keats contemplated transcendent concepts like the soul, nature, eternity, and as Ode On A Grecian Urn clearly shows, the curious relationship between Beauty and Truth.

Finding the sonnet form too constrictive for his tastes, Keats turned elsewhere and chose the ode form as his means for poetic expression. Continue reading “The Principle of Beauty”

What Is Truth?

Gathering for dinner one night last week, my Beloved and I were already seated when our four-year-old grandson H. arrived at the table in a rush, clearly hungry. Before lighting in his chair, he reached out to snatch a biscuit from the basket. My Beloved redirected the boy’s hand while asking, “Did you wash your hands?”

H. responded confidently, “Yes.” Then, without hesitation, he snagged a biscuit, turned his head away and in a stage whisper added, “Last week.” (Needless to say, the rest of us had a hearty laugh.)

Because H. had helped me prepare dinner, I knew he had washed during the previous hour … but had played outdoors just minutes before, so his overall cleanliness was doubtful.

As I reflected on his assertion, I had to admit he’d been technically accurate. He hadn’t actually lied when answering his grandfather’s question affirmatively. My Beloved had failed to specify before you came to the table just now.

Children learn early how to skirt the truth. They see deception modeled for them almost everywhere. With their sponge-like absorption of everything they see and hear, it shouldn’t surprise us when they lie with laughable boldness. Continue reading “What Is Truth?”

Losing Arts?

Two articles from The New York Times came to my attention over the weekend. The first, Poetry:  Who Needs It? arrived via email from my brother-in-law. He knows my love for poetry; he’s also a voracious reader … during those moments when he absolutely must take time out from golf! (I’m honored he includes as part of his reading.)KeepCalm

The author (William Logan) of Poetry: Who Needs it? expresses thoughts I advanced in an April post. Logan’s essay states the perceived problem well and seems to hope for a more poetry-friendly (my words) approach in education. His tongue-in-cheek suggestions for elementary-school curriculum (before the age of 12) resembles the movement that advocates for educating children in a free-range setting.

For my part, I remember a time when poetry readings were common … not just the coffee-house, drug-induced ramblings of hippies (though I do remember those). I’m talking about poetic readings as one aspect of a school program or as part of a social gathering. Even in school classes, we were required to memorize certain poems, and subsequently recite them in front of our class members. Children who didn’t have a father like mine (see yesterday’s post relating his recitations) could be certain to have minimal exposure to poetic and dramatic delivery on a semi-regular basis.

Logan’s “blue-sky proposal … making them read poetry” isn’t likely to resolve the public’s general attitude in favor of poetry. However, I’m inclined to believe print publications (where published poetry often appeared) declining over time to continue publishing poetry resulted from negative editorial attitudes toward poetry and the public gradually adopted an identical mindset. (Rhetorical question:  Was this the the first shoe to drop in coarsening our culture?)

Schools have followed suit; whenever education dollars have been reduced or education belts even lightly tightened, dollars devoted to the humanities are usually the first to feel it; oftentimes programs are discontinued entirely. (While this devaluation of humanities predates Common Core, a perusal of the CC standards doesn’t foster my optimism. I’ll address CC concerns in a future post.) Continue reading “Losing Arts?”