Archive for the ‘Dead Poets Rock’ Category

Defoe-daniel Daniel Defoe (1659 – 1731) is best known for writing Robinson Crusoe. He was also a satirist and he was put in stocks and had vegetables thrown at him for ridiculing the Tories, a conservative, pro-monarchy party of the time. The wooden stocks were called a pillory and, even to this day, ‘pillorying’ is a term used to describe mocking or abusing someone. Defoe earnt his place in the real pillory for writing a poem: The True-Born Englishman. Andrew Sullivan, The Atlantic, (See entry below) included extracts of Defoe’s poem in a recent article. Even today, the words ring true.

A true-born Englishman’s a contradiction

 In speech an irony, in fact a fiction

The Scot, Pict, Briton, Roman, Dane, submit,

And with the English-Saxon all unite …britian image

Fate jumbled them together, God knows how;

Whate’er they were, they’re true-born English now …

Since scarce one family is left alive,

Which does not from some foreigner derive.

by Daniel Defoe

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It is important to realise in this era of political spin that some of the greatest speeches ever given had impact because they expressed the profound truth and raw beauty of poetry. This is especially true of the speech given by Robert Kennedy delivered 4 April 1968 in Indianapolis, IN, following the assassination earlier that day of Martin Luther King (pictured left).

 #mce_temp_url# martin luther king

Race riots broke out in cities across America but not in Indianapolis. Robert Kennedy stood quietly before the distressed audience and spoke about someone close to him (His brother JFK) also being killed by a white man. But it was this poem by the Ancient Greek playwright, Aeschylus (525 – 456 BC)


that expressed the raw grief and crushing despair of that moment. Maybe, just maybe, finding the words to express such pain disarmed those who could only express their feelings through anger and violence. While this poem sites God it could have evoked Life. It is a universal poem about the human condition written over 2,500 years ago made tragically poignant by the assassination of Robert Kennedy two months later by a white man. 

My favorite poem, my — my favorite poet was Aeschylus.  And he once wrote:Robert_F_Kennedy_crop

Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget

falls drop by drop upon the heart,

until, in our own despair,

against our will,

comes wisdom

through the awful grace of God.

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The following is an extract of  Dorothy Porter’s poem, Thin Ice which you can download to view her reading the poem @   Sunday Arts Extras (Poetry Segment 30/09/07. Second Reading) or you can hear her read the full poem on the  Dorothy Porter Website.  Dorothy Porter has such a strong poetic voice you feel as if she is walking around in your head organising your thoughts.This can be frightening.  Nevertheless in a few lines she can capture like a fossil insect in resin convoluted emotions we often find difficult to express. The following extract about our mortality is made even more poignant by her recent death.

…we all have so much to bear 
the slip 
the slide 
the sense of the dark 
frigid nothing 
under our warm blooded mortal feet ice skating 2
but when the ice takes our young 
we know we’ll never have happiness 
or find our deluded footing 

Dorothy Porter

1954 – 2008

Dorothy Porter Tribute site  Dorothy Porter was a celebrated Australian Poet who, among other achievements, authored six collections of poetry, two novels for young adults and three previous TheBeeHut_0verse novels, AkhenatenThe Monkey’s Mask and What a Piece of Work. Her verse novel Wild Surmise published in 2002 was awarded the Adelaide Festival Award’s 2004 John Bray Memorial Prize for Poetry as well as the overall Premier’s Award, the first book of poetry ever awarded the prize.  The Monkey’s Mask won the Age Poetry Book of the Year Award and the National Book Council’s Poetry Award, was reprinted eight times and made into a film in 2000 starring Susie Porter and Kelly McGillis. Her posthumous book of poetry, The Bee Hut, was recently published by Black Inc and can be purchased for $24.95 through the publisher’s website: #mce_temp_url#

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200px-LangstonHughe_25This poem is extraordinary because it connects us across cultures, across eras and across oceans to the poet. The poet is Langston Hughes (1902 – 67). He has Native American, Black American, Scottish and Jewish ancestry. So  he had plenty to write about. IThis poem , however, connects us all to our shared humanity.

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up

Like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore

And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar overstorm

Like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Langston Hughes

Man-Gone-Down-       This poem can be found in Man Gone Down by Michael Thomas. #mce_temp_url#  The protagonist in the book has one black and one white parent and has two poets influencing    his narration of his life: T. S. Eliot and Langston Hughes.

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Poempig first became fascinated with Sufi poet, Rumi, 2 years ago when this poem was read over the radio. I do not know who translated this version. It is not in my copy of The Rumi Collection edited by Kabir Helminski. The power of this poem is that it speaks to all of us. Life is troubled. You do not decide which emotions will arrive at your doorstep each day. Yet each arrival can educate you about yourself.

This being human is a guesthouse

every morning a new arrival

a joy, a depression, a meannessRumi cover Correction

some momentary awareness

comes as an unexpected visitor.


Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture.

Still treat each guest honorably

he may be cleaning you out

for some new delight!


The dark thought, the shame, the malice

Meet them at the door laughing

and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

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This poem simply called Cats by Eleanor Fajeon can be found on many websites and blogs. It has captured the soft feel and texture of a cat as well as the idiosyncratic cat-lifestyle. But it also has a beat. So this poem has been turned into a Rap Song by Andrew Williamson’s Grade  4A   #mce_temp_url#


Cats sleep anywherewashercat_007329_tns

Any table, any chair.

Top of piano, window ledge,

In the middle, on the edge.

Open drawer, empty shoe,

anybody’s lap will do.

Fitted in a cardboard box,cat_curled_100714_tns

in a cupboard with your socks.

Anywhere! They don’t care!

Cats sleep anywhere.


by Eleanor Fajeon (1881-1965)sleep-cat-1_tns

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The First World War produced poetry made especially poignant by having been written by those at the war front. Yetfew poems of any length match the power of Rudyard Kipling’s couplet written as a response ot the loss of his son in that war:wwi

 “If any question why we died

Tell them, because our fathers lied.”


Rudyard Kipling

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