Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Painter Reads a Poem About Painters

One of my favorite poems to teach (not necessarily the students' favorite) is "Musee des Beaux Arts," by W.H. Auden, and yes, there needs to be an accent over one of those e's in Musee, but I've yet to discover how to include accents using the blog-machinery. The name of the poem is the name of a museum in Brussels, and the museum includes the main painting about which Auden writes, Breughel's "Icarus," which paints (literally) Icarus in a very unheroic, unmythical light. "About suffering," says Auden's poem, "they were never wrong,/The Old Masters." I like the poem because there are so many different things to do with it in class, including teaching it as an example of an ekphrastic poem--a poem about art, a kind of art different from poetry.

Here is a link to a nice video of painter Susan Hambleton discussing and reading the poem. The video was produced and directed by Louis Massiah and is part of the Favorite Poem Project.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SlbFQ5ZtjVY&feature=user

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Graphic-Novel About Senator Kennedy

A couple recent posts noted a favorite poem and a favorite song of Edward M. Kennedy's. Concerning literature about the late senator, writer Patrick Gavin at politico.com reports that a graphic-novel about Kennedy has been in the works but will now, of course, need to be revised.

The working-title of the novel, to be published by Bluewater Productions, is "Political Power: Ted Kennedy." Bluewater Productions has already published graphic-novels about Ronald Reagan and President Obama. Here is a link to Gavin's article:

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0809/26511.html

One of Senator Kennedy's Favorite Songs

As noted in an earlier post, a favorite poem of Senator Edward Kennedy's was Tennyson's "Ulysses." Today I discovered in an online article from Time that one of the senator's favorite songs was, yes, an Irish one, but no, not "Danny Boy":

'Speaking on Wednesday, former Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, an old friend of Kennedy's, revealed that one of the late Senator's favorite songs was "The Town I Loved so Well". The lyrics lament the decline of the city of Derry during Northern Ireland's 25-year sectarian conflict from a place of "happy days in so many, many ways" to a town "brought to its knees by the armored cars and bombed out bars." It was an apt choice of song for Kennedy, whose dealings with Northern Ireland were often linked to the city.'

(One may easily find the rest of the article online through the usual googlistic means, and I do hope you like that new adjective.)

When I taught in Sweden many moons ago, I met an Irish scholar who liked to sing a comic song called, "Burlington Bertie"; the reference to Prime Minister Ahern helped exhume that memory. The only line I remember is "I'm Burlington Bertie--I rise at four-thirty," meaning the man-of-leisure Bertie sleeps until late afternoon, I reckon.

From my youth, I seem to remember that one of John F. Kennedy's favorite songs was "Greensleeves." I wonder whether George Bush, President Obama, Dick Cheney, and Sarah Palin have favorite songs, and if so, what they are, and yes, I know I've just set up the stand-up comedians out there with some easy potential jokes.

I assume that politicians would have to think politically when selecting a favorite song to declare--rather like President's Obama's having to select a beer for the beer-summit with Professor Gates and the policeman. He made the safe choice, politically: Budweiser. One assumes he didn't become president by being a fool.

If asked about my favorite song, I'd first get boringly professorial and demand to know the categories, etc., and so forth, and yadda yadda. But if I answered straight from the shoulder, I'd say "Folsom Prison Blues" (or "I Don't Like It But I Guess Things Happen That Way") by Johnny Cash, and especially the former would not be a wise political choice. Nor, I presume, would "Bring on the Funk" by George Clinton and Parliament, but "Parliament" has to be one of the great band-names.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Worrisome Quatrain

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Worrisome Quatrain

I like to worry about
things I can't control.
It works as well as eating
from an empty bowl.



Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Senator Kennedy's Favorite Poem

According to a wide variety of online postings I've read today, "Ulysses," by Alfred Lord Tennyson, was apparently Senator Ted Kennedy's favorite poem. (On one site, a visitor reminded others that James Joyce had written Ulysses, but of course there is the poem by Tennyson and the novel by Joyce.) So I thought I'd post the poem, as borrowed with gratitude from the Victorian Web, which also supplied the notes following the poem:

http/:www.victorianweb.org


Ulysses

by Alfred Lord Tennyson

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.

I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: all times I have enjoyed
Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vexed the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honoured of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers;
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
As though to breathe were life. Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this grey spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle —
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and through soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil'd, and wrought, and thought with me —
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads — you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew

Tho' much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

[Tennyson's "Ulysses" first appeared in Morte D'Arthur, and Other Idyls. By Alfred Tennyson. London: Edward Moxon, Dover Street, MDCCCXLII. pp. 67. This, however, was a trial book, printed but not published. The first publication of the poem occurred in Poems by Alfred Tennyson. In Two Volumes. London: Edward Moxon, Dover Street. MDCCCXLII. pp. vii, 233; vii, 231. See "Chronology" in Henry Van Dyke's Studies in Tennyson (Port Washington, NY: Kennikat, 1920; rpt., 1966).

The text of the poem has been checked against the version in Victorian Prose and Poetry, ed. Lionel Trilling and Harold Bloom (New York, Oxford, and Toronto: Oxford U. P., 1973) pp. 416-418.

. . . And Speaking of Odes

. . . And speaking of odes, as the previous post did, the Poetry Foundation's site has a nice definition of and overview of the venerable form:

http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/5784

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Keats's Autumnal Gem


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American baseball player Reggie Jackson was dubbed "Mr. October" because he performed so well in several different World Series. Fair enough. But before that, poet John Keats might have earned the same moniker, or at least "Mr. Autumn," for having written his great ode, "To Autumn." I thought of the poem today as, like a lot of people, I caught that hint of fall--you know, something about the air-temperature, the look of some foliage, the knowledge that a tide of students is going back to school.

Here are the opening lines, which should be indented in a certain pattern (but the blog-machinery doesn't like to cooperate with that sort of thing):

I

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom friend of the maturing sun,
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines round the thatch-even run:
To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o'er-brimmed their clammy cells.


In this stanza as in the rest of the poem, Keats blends a deliberate, stately rhythm with a palpable sense of exuberance. The language of the poem itself seems almost to burst, full of ripeness. It's hard to achieve this kind of stateliness, common to odes, in contemporary poetry because there is a kind of demand for irony and cynicism. I happened to re-read the poem in Keats: The Complete Poems, edited by Miriam Allot, and published by Longman in 1970. The annotation of the poem reminded me taht the poem was written in September 1819 and was "the last of K.'s major 1819 odes" ( page 650).

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Few Words From Life

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A Few Words From Life

"I didn't make you any promises,"
said Life to the man. "You made them
and bounced them off a mirror you
named Life. You made those promises
yourself like a magician who forgets
his tricks are tricks." "Oh, I don't know,"
the man replied, "some of those illusions
I couldn't possibly have invented."


Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Traveling Cat

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Traveling Cat

He was a traveling cat. He raced
and slunk, padded and trotted, sleek
and balanced, tendons full of
saved up speed. He moved silently
except for a hiss or a yowl now
and then, or a tipped over can:
never his fault. Yes, he was a

traveling cat, moving from this to
that, from at to at, detecting
motion, smooth as lotion, reading
the air, decoding sounds sent
from everywhere. Itinerant and

cool, self-possessed and freely
feline--leonine, nined up with lives,
cagey but uncaged, guileless and wise
was the traveling cat.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Move-In Weekend For Freshmen

I'm on campus for a bit of official business, and the campus is populated chiefly people who look about 18 years old and people who look roughly 53 years old. The latter group looks a little worse for wear; members of the former group occasionally look like they can't wait for members of the latter group to leave, and to leave them to their first week of college. Alas, this is move-in weekend for first-year students at our particular venue of higher education.

When I moved into the dormitory at the college I first attended, the scheme was pretty simple. My parents dropped me off with 1 or 2 suitcases and a large trunk. I think they got out of the truck to help remove the luggage out, but then they said goodbye and drove away. I dragged the luggage into the dorm, found room and room-mate, and we had lift-off. There was no orientation program.

I was just trying to recall what the first legitimate or "serious" poem was that I wrote in college. I think it may have been one called "John Muir's Ghost," a short poem that dutifully followed through on the title and depicted Muir's ghost having a great time roaming freely in the Sierra Nevada. I think the first line was "John Muir's ghost gallops, glides, and slips." I still like the play of language in that line--the g's and p's and s's.

No sign of John Muir's ghost on move-in day, so I assume the ghost is still down in California.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Phylis McGinley on Robin Hood

I was browsing through a favorite anthology, The Oxford Book of Satirical Verse, edited by Geoffrey Grigson. I think I purchased it not long after it was published in hardback (1980) because I was beginning to work on a dissertation about satirical poetry written by British poets in the "Romantic" (earlier 19th century) period.

Here is one of the shortest poems in the book:

Speaking of Television: Robin Hood


by Phyllis McGinley

Zounds, gramercy, and rootity-toot!
Here comes the man in the green flannel suit.

Like a wee pin, the poem lets the air out of a TV version of Robin Hood, or perhaps out of the TV appearance of Errol Flynn's famous cinematic rendition. I'm inclined to apply the poem to Kevin Costner's extremely puzzling portrayal of RH.

But mainly I thought . . . what a great idea for a series of poems--two-line rhyming epigrams about things on TV, or on the Internet. So I'll toss the idea out there for an poets who want to have some fun with it, and yes, I understand that your slang may not include Zounds, gramercy, or rootity-toot.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

International Anthology of Poetry

The blogger Poefrika has just logged a nice post on Fire in the Soul: 100 Poems for Human Rights, published by New Internationalist, with the support of Amnesty International. Poefrika also mentions two Zimbabwean poets whose work is included in the book.

Here is a link to the site and the post:

http://poefrika.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

August Afternoon

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August Afternoon

A breeze off Puget Sound curls
around a corner of the abode,
rushes through a line of herbal
foliage--three kinds of mint,
a stout rosemary plant, parsley,
chives, oregano, thyme, and
leathery-leafed sage. The breeze
organizes an aromatic syndicate,
which bargains collectively with
a gardener's sense of smell
on an August afternoon.


Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Monday, August 17, 2009

Horizon

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Horizon

No one can measure the distance to
the horizon, only the distance from it.

The horizon doesn't exist, but it must.

One must determine the place between
high tide and low tide, then measure up

to the point from which one wants to

envisage the horizon, which is a fiction
resting on a line by the angle above sea-

level from which one overlooks ocean. Okay?

There is no fixed point to the horizon,
or to measurement, or to looking at the sea,

or even to living next to the ocean, a notion.

There is a sea, a coast, two tides, a triangle
tied to a plane on a sphere. Let's grant these,

please. There is no horizon, except insofar,
so far, as something seems to end out there

a certain uncertain distance from here. There

is no distance like show-distance to the horizon
because if one travels it, the distance, then

the horizon will have moved away. Nonetheless,

one is free to measure by the sea. They can't
take that away from thee. One is free to look

and to say, "Look, there's the horizon." Okay?

Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Strong Views

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Strong Views

On the narrow road rising steeply
to Sierra City's cemetery, a wry
sign notes, "Not A Through Street."
We set the headstone of a dead aunt
next to a rock wall her brother
built. We place beneath the concrete

a full bottle of whiskey, a
horseshoe, a deer antler, and
a piece of rose quartz. Otherwise,
the aunt's not represented here
except in our memories. Her
ashes travel up by an alpine
lake somewhere. The family's
idiosyncratic, you might say,

and tardy, even haphazard, with
its burial rituals. In fact, there
are no rituals, no funerals or
formalities. People get together
eventually, share some laughs
and glum grief, eat, and drink.

A panting black dog lies
in the truck watching us lay
the headstone. Later, the aunt's
remaining brothers will visit
the stone in the shade, have
a look, say a total of, oh,
seven words, maybe. For now,

we kid around in the cemetery,
get the job done, nobody's
business but our own. Goodbye
to Aunt Nevada. The smooth blue
stone, saved from an arastra,
gives the pertinent dates, her
other last name, and a nickname--
then mentions, "Strong Views."


Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Audible Is Laudable


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Audible Is Laudable

A crisper whisper would have been
audible to you. You wouldn't have
said, "What?" The whisperer wouldn't
have then withdrawn, mortified. You
wouldn't have made all those bad
guesses: Did she say, "Wild swans
used to be white, of course" or
"Michael wants you to rewrite
the reports"? or something else
entirely?
Why had she desired
to whisper? You can't ask her. She
has moved away from you to another
part of the room, is conversing
garrulously. Others look at you.
Again you say, "What?" but for
another purpose. You say it clearly.
They hear you. They say nothing.


Copyright 2009

Friday, August 14, 2009

Ford F-100 Coda

A correspondent from California who is familiar with the history of a particular Ford F-100 pickup (see previous post) observes the following:

"It should also be noted that for most of its life the F-100 rarely exceeded 40 mph so it's carbon production was very low when compared to the Ford Expedition behemoths that are rolling down the freeways of America every day at 75 or 80 mph."

Speed emits. I've never written that particular two-word sentence before; wow, that felt pretty good.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Cap and Trade: Bring It On!

Apparently one proposal for reducing carbon emissions is known as "cap and trade," a concept that, I gather, involves charging companies (for example) for emitting carbon but allows companies to trade "units" of carbon they have been allotted.

Another proposal, already enacted, involves giving people $4500 for so-called clunker automobiles if they spend the $4500 on a car that emits less carbon.

These policies converge directly on my 1969 Ford F-100 pickup (step-side style, short bed).

I'm ready.

My secret weapon is the odometer, which I, which no one, has turned back, in case you're wondering. The total miles on the odometer is now 52,480. Divide that number by 40 (years), and you get the resulting miles driven per year and carbon emitted per year. Not many miles, not much carbon.

My late father drove the pickup until 1997, so almost all the credit for low carbon emissions and minimalist driving must go to him. Most of the miles he put on the truck involved going to and from work as a carpenter and stone mason; going "to town" to pick up the mail and some groceries; going hunting, which essentially involved driving straight up into the mountains (much elevation, few miles); and going in search of gold.

However, at the insistence of the Ford F-100, I have maintained the minimalist philosophy. If you would emit less carbon, suggests the Ford, drive less. I know: it is a complex theory.

To echo lines from Treasure of the Sierra Madre, I don't need no stinking $4500 dollars for my "clunker" (a term the Ford and I find offensive, incidentally), and bring the cap-and-trade on, baby. I will amass units of carbon that I will sell to, well, I don't know to whom--Du Pont? California? NASCAR?

When I do occasionally drive the Ford into my favorite working-class shopping area in Tacoma, the Ford gets a lot of approving glances--from persons of all generations and from both genders, believe it or not. The truck is certifiably funky. It is an automotive poem.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Motorcycles, 2:10 a.m.

Motorcycles, 2:10 a.m.

At 2:10 a.m., it is too hot to sleep. An open
window reports the sound of motorcycles as they
rage away from saloons' parking lots at closing-
time and down a long dark hill out there. The
thought of a drunk riding an unmuffled engine

home and startling people all along the route
salts an insomniac's grim sense of humor. A
soused, solitary biker riding is a raucous
creature, a sad Nietzsche in bluejeans, the
gas-tank shaped like a stylized tear-drop,

the woozy rebel's jacket hand-sewn by a
tolerant, bemused aunt whose husband, an
insurance salesman and the step-father
of the lad, drives one of those silent
hybrid cars and must arise at 6:30 a.m.


Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Horse-Trail, High Sierra

Horse-Trail, High Sierra


Riding horses in the High Sierra, we take
trails threaded through hulking conifers,
bypass a Maidu/Washo ceremonial hill
covered with black gravel. Breezes off
Gold Lake wrangle scents of wildflowers,
thick aroma of skunk-cabbage, corn-lily,
and mountain misery. The horses snort
thin air. There's sign of bear.

Lightning felled a tree not long ago.
Now new thunder-clouds amass explosive,
creamy ambition over blue distant peaks,
east. Alpine meadows seem closer to
Paradise than most places, at least
in this easy summer's ride. The

sun-scalded cowgirl from Portola
leading the way shifts on the saddle
and hollers unsentimentally, "This
tree you're passing's over 300 years old."


Copyright 2009

Monday, August 10, 2009

Thoreau on August

Here's a quotation from Henry David "Hank" Thoreau (I think only a few of his Transcendentalist friends called him Hank) about the month of August:


"In August, the large masses of berries, which, when in flower, had attracted many wild bees,gradually assumed their bright velvety crimson hue, and by their weight again bent down and broke their tender limbs."
- Henry David Thoreau

I found the quotation, which amounts to a nice little prose-poem, at . . .

http://www.egreenway.com/months/monaug.htm

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Uncle Victor's Senility


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Uncle Victor's Senility


Uncle Victor's senility seemed comic then.
He was in fact a great-uncle, and we weren't
yet adolescents. He wore his hat when he took
a bath. He proposed marriage multiple times
to multiple nurses in the Old Folks' Home.

His skin was parchment-thin, the veins like
big blue roots. He trembled. We learned a new
word, "palsy." Now Alzheimer's and Dementia
name what we didn't know. Old Folks' Homes
are called Nursing Facilities. Victor woke

to memories scattered and broken in a meadow
of the mind. He picked one up, put it on his
head, took a bath, knew marriage was the logical
next step. To the vandals of Uncle Victor's
memory, we now say, "Shame on you."


Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom

Poem By The Side of the Road


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Poem By the Side of the Road

Here is a poem that lives
by the side of a road
in the form of a shack
with a tin chimney stack
and a recluse stirring inside.

Walk on the road past
the shack if you will; see fine
dust rise from your foot-fall,
and if you're brave, shout a call
to the recluse stirring inside.

A poem is a shack, and a
shack is a poem, or
so the tautology flows. What's true
of poems and shacks? Who knows?
The recluse stirring inside.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Mowers, Toes, and Phones

Mowers, Toes, and Phones

On a July day one barefoot American
teenager shouts into his phone outside
as another barefoot American teenager
is cutting grass close by with a snarling
power-mower. One of them needs to go
inside, and the other needs to put on
shoes, but only a fool would try to
tell them, so this fool, me, strolls by
and tries to enjoy the comedy and not
wince at the thought of those toes,
or of those ears owned by whoever's on
the other side of that shout, and I wonder
what marketeers created the category
"teenager," and I know one has to
have faith that young ones will grow
up and older ones will stay that way.
Yes, belief in maturation's based more
on faith than evidence, but by now
I'm a block away, and I don't have
to look at the toes inches away from
whirling steel blades or watch the
shouter compete with the voice of a mower.
A fool, I need to believe the two lads
will turn out all right, whatever than means.


Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom

ABC of Under-the-Influence, Part Two

A correspondent from the foothills of California, where the creeks have known to run with whiskey a time or two, has offered a supplemental ABC of inebriation (below). Also, I remembered that my parents' generation occasionally described a drunken person as being "three sheets to the wind," which (being a literalist) I used to associate with bed-sheets hanging on a clothesline but which I now assume refers to sails on a ship. I also remember the same generation speaking of someone's "going on a bender," meaning the person had gone on drinking for, let's say, a week, or for a lost weekend, like Ray Milland's character in the movie.


A: Annihilated, aced, addled, ambushed

B: Blitzed, bent, bombed, blasted, bagged [in the bag], backed up, blind {blind drunk], blotto, brain dead

C: Confused, clogged, comatose

D: Detoured, damaged, dunked, (plus all of the hundreds of “drunk as…”)

E: Electrified, eighty-sixed, embalmed,

F: Feeling no pain, faced, fried, flattened, flaked

G: Gonzo, glocked, grossed out, gassed up, gone

H: Hijacked, high as a kite, half in the bag, haywire

I: In the weeds, in deep shit, in a puddle, invisible

J: Juiced, jammed up, jolted

K: Killed, knockered, kay-oed

L: Liberated, limber, lit to the gills, listing to port, lubed

M: Misty eyed, mellowed out, moronic, marinated, mummified

N: Nasty, nuked, nailed, numb

O: Over the edge, oiled, ossified,

P: Plastered, ploughed, pixilated, paralyzed, pickled

Q: Don’t know any “Q” words for drunk,
drugged, etc.

R: Roasted, ripped, rotten, ruined, rooted

S: Silly, stupid, skunked, slobbered, stinkin’ drunk, sauced, snockered (or schnockered), schwacked, sloshed

T: Toasted, tanked, throttled, totaled, thrashed

U: Undone, used up, unbalanced

V: Violated, varnished, vegetated

W: Wasted, wobbled, weirded out, woozy

X: Don’t know any “X” words for drunk, drugged, etc.

Y: Yanked, yellowed, yippy

Z: Zagged, zapped, zonked, zeroed out

Friday, August 7, 2009

An ABC of Inebriation

One interesting characteristic of most inebriated persons (and in this case, I'm using "inebriated" to refer to an altered condition created by a variety of substances, not just alcohol) is that they behave as if they are among the first persons in history to be inebriated. This is true of many college freshmen (to select but one of many groups). My generation of college freshmen--let's see, I think we began college around 1854--believed itself to be the discoverers of getting drunk, and I'm sure many freshmen in the Fall of 2009 across the globe will see themselves as discoverers of something new when they drink, smoke, etc.

Another oddity about inebriation is that, at least in the U.S., the language used to describe it is not complimentary. For example, people speak of getting "stupid," "smashed," "hammered," "destroyed," and so on. "Hey, dude, last night we got totally destroyed." I'm so happy for you! Dude.

At any rate, while I and my ancient auto were stuck in traffic (I was not inebriated), I got to thinking about an ABC of terms for getting drunk or stoned or high or whatever: inebriation in its broadest sense. So here's a list. When I have (at least as far as I know) invented a term, I have placed an asterisk beside it.

A: altered, avalanched* ("Oh, man, we got totally avalanched last night.")
B: bombed, blasted, baked
C: clobbered, crazy
D: drunk, damaged, destroyed
E: eroded* ("Jeez, we drank tequila all night and got very eroded.") I tested this descriptor on an audience, and the audience thought it was "dumb." I think it's a droll term, but drollery often fails.
F: the obvious one is "effed up," which is pretty funny when you think about it; what are those new to English to think of this? "We drank innumerable beers last night and got effed up." Really? How exactly does that work? "Fried" is one I've heard, too. Also "footless," as in "footlessly drunk."
G: giddy--hmmm, not very good; glad? No. Obviously, I'm having trouble with G.
H: Hammered; high.
I: Well, "inebriated." Also (under the) "influence". I've always thought this term was too soft. When someone gets drunk, drives the wrong way on a highway, and kills people, "influence" doesn't quite measure up. By the way, what is the condition of "ebriation"? "Honest, officer, I'm ebriated, not inebriated."
J: jacked? jolly? jacked up? joyous* ("Dude, we smoked some weed and got joyous.")
K: Kebobbed*? Knackered?
L: loaded, loopy, looped
M: mashed?
N: neutralized*?
O: obliterated; oppressed* ("Dave and I got a bottle of rum and got extremely oppressed, man.")
P: Pissed (a Britishism, I believe).
Q: Quarked*. I rather like this one. Quenched? I like this one.
R: Roaring drunk. This was a term I heard from my parents' generation. Rummy. Ravaged.
S: Ah, so many. Stoned, stupid, smashed, soused, silly, etc.
T: Trashed.
U: Unhinged*? Unbelievably drunk? That's cheating, using an adverb.
V: This is a tough one. Verved*? Vegetative? Vectored? "Hey, man, you want to go get vectored?"
W: wrecked, wiped out, whacked, etc.
X: Oy, this is tough. Xylophoned*?
Y: Young*. You know, like when old people get high, they feel young, so the next day, they say, "Hey, we got really young last night."
Z: zapped, zonked.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Highest Form Of Art


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(Image: Mount Everest)
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Highest Form of Art

"I regard," said the famous novelist,
"tragedy to be the highest form of art."
We were meant gravely to absorb this
highest form of her opinion. One among
us, however, sneezed. Another, a
notorious literalist, believed
a makeshift sculpture on Mount Everest
to be the highest form of art. A
third believed tragedy to be the lowest
form of the raw deal offered by Life.

None of us spoke, though, until later.
We knew enough not to disagree publicly
with a famous, highly paid literary
guest, who seemed to be running a mild
royal fever; who appeared to be slightly
flushed with her current stature,
the highest form of her reputation.


Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom

Fleeting Real


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Fleeting Real

There will always be time to talk
of politics, money, and law. Speak
of one, and you speak of all three.
See the gray cat sitting on a blue
chair? That's where we might begin.

We might also speak of hand-carved
spoons, fossils in a dream, or languid
lovers' restless fingers. The rest
is history, a kind of tidied up
lie or a molten sack of evil,
depending upon your point of skew.

A millenium's sadness sways
when a horse smells lightning.
Let's imbibe words on matters
such as these. The fleeting is
the real, as is a fantasy of
reeling in a moment that glanced
at memory's bait, declined to bite,
and dove to settle in the murk
far below an angler's flaccid geometry.


Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom

Snapshot

The OED online tells me that "snapshot" (as a noun) goes back to the early 1800s in print and referred then to a more-or-less un-aimed shot using a gun. However, the word took on its photographic meaning not long thereafter, whereas I'd expected this connotation (now a denotation) to come from the early 20th century:

[1860 HERSCHEL in Photogr. News 11 May 13 The possibility of taking a photograph, as it were by a snap-shot{em}of securing a picture in a tenth of a second of time.]

(Quoted from the OED online)


Snapshot

By any means, capture an image,
mark an instant's interplay between
light and facial shape. Shuffle the image
off into memorabilia, through which
someone may sort or rummage some day
not soon. Whoever it is will wonder
whose image was captured back then,
back here, where at the gathering
we think we know who's here, what
they're wearing, what they show. So
yes, of course, take an image from
the flow, stabilize it in one of
the ways we know. Store it, for it
may be of interest one day, could be.


Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Bear Nearby

Bear Nearby

Tonight a bear's at the perimeter,
beyond where cabin-lights dissolve.
The animal breaks brush and gulps air,
snorts, working hard, and we hear this.
We glance up at Ursa Major above
the Sierra Buttes, a risen massif.

We figure the bear's breaking down
an apple tree now and gorging--wild
and deliberate, focused and irascible.
We don't walk closer. The bear doesn't
advance. There's a distance to be kept.

There's a fascination in the dark,
which entertains a big invisible mammal
whose family's lived here since before
any human named constellations or
eavesdropped on night's business.


Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom