Monday, December 31, 2007


by Neha Nambiar

The man sat at the table, his steady gaze never leaving the door… did it really happen? Was it all over? Hadn’t his life just begun? What was it? He couldn’t tell anymore, he didn’t know. "Am I even alive!” he shouted out. He always knew things would go wrong… they were bound to, but this?

As a child he always 'knew' he would be famous. Or rather was supposed to, he saw himself giving interviews and answering questions. He saw himself inspiring the youth. "19 and already there! Susheel Sain does it all…" Susheel Sain does it… yes, that’s what he did. Everything. Everything wrong? But was doing nothing at all, doing everything wrong? What was he thinking, what was he saying? Every sound, movement was just a blur, the world seemed surreal now…he didn’t even know he was breathing… didn’t remember he was supposed to. All he could think of now was the fact that he was supposed to be famous. Ha! WAS GOD MOCKING HIM RIGHT NOW? “GOD! WHERE ARE MY PRAYERS NOW, WHAT HAPPENED TO MY FAITH LORD... WHAT?” HE’S 30 NOW….Susheel Sain -- his name, Susheel... The sound of his name kept repeating inside… That voice! Who was it! His mother flashed in front of him. His heart took a giant leap…ma….a huge thump caught hold of all his emotions he wanted his ma…"Ma”... “Ma” is all he said….ma. "You didn’t do anything wrong ma… don’t worry"

Over protective perhaps, but just another mother? Nah! His mom was the best ever! A woman so self sacrificing, he had never seen… pa was a good man too, a little disconnected but pa was good… “My idol” as he wrote in his journals. He always felt a little guilty, writing in a journal, he didn’t need one -- Ma and pa were the best. He had no issues… women. Yeah well growing up, those alien creatures always gave him the jitters. “How can men be expected to talk to women? They were scary!” But he found his woman, it was the first time he wasn’t afraid… the first time he lost his virginity. The first time he felt like there was someone, a woman. If not better, as divine as his ma. For the first time. “Paro! What’ll they do! What’ll I do!? Ma help! Paro help!” he spoke. The sound of sirens magnified to a thousand times more, made the hair on his skin stand. He was freezing, his fingers numb. He was now aware of the world around him. Where was he? He began to rub his hands together for some warmth...his hand! He shrieked. He jumped and hid under a broken table in the dusty room… shivers went down his spine. He started to look around now…broken windows, a leaking ceiling; a drop of water, or whatever it was fell on the table, must have been a heavy drop, he thought he heard it fall. That minuscule drop found its way down a crack on the top of the table and trickled down the diminutive crack, he could hear it travel…dab! It fell on the floor; he looked down at the drop of liquid, squashed. Blood, guns, a face crying with an expression of shock beyond understanding, then a look of disgust flashed in front of his mind's eye, as he stared at the insignificant drop. At first, the images zoomed -- fast like the cameras of a photographer… Click, click, click, click… And then a silent slow movement of the images. A slow click. The slowest ever. C…l…i…c…k, and he was back... “Ma”! He cried softly… and then chuckled… chuckled like a baby… "she’d never let the floor be so dirty”. He cried again.

Ma was always clean, he guessed that was how she kept herself from crying and being sad… ma was sad wasn’t she? Paro and she always got along... Life was so perfect. Perfectly sad.

Growing up ‘his world’ was always sad. “Why am I so unhappy? Why can’t I laugh or smile freely without feeling this lump of sadness in me?” Words form his journal. "Ma and pa are the best, I love them, then why do 'they' tell me to hate them? I don’t like being in their company you know, but they’re just always there. I think the only time I‘m free is when I’m asleep: and ma and pa and Paro are all with me, laughter everywhere, and Paro looks angelic... And ma… oh... so beautiful!” “Ma was so beautiful” he whispered.

Was -- ma was. The sirens kept getting louder and disappearing. “Where am I? SHUT UP!” he screamed. “I WANT TO GO HOME! I WANT TO GO TO MA!” screamed Susheel of thirty… whose life long dream was about to come true -- he was going to be famous now. Going to. "SHUT UP!” he screamed again. "Leave me alone. Leave me alone, PARO!” HE CRIED, CRIED LIKE PARO WAS DEAD IN FRONT OF HIM. “PARO!” HE BEGAN TO SWAY HIS BODY ROUGHLY… LEFT…. RIGHT… "PARO!” this man wept... Wept like a teenager… a rebelling teenager realising all the rebellion was just for no cause… "Paro, how could ma cheat me like this? Treat me like... how could she hurt me, the one woman I loved, perhaps more than Paro, how could ma hurt me?”

“Paro, beautiful, intelligent Paro. The woman who made him feel free. After 25 years of the 'crazy' life he led, Paro was his answer from god. His angel, his muse. Paro was his heart and soul. “She was! She was there with me, I held her, I made love to her for Christ’s sake! Paro was there, and Paro is there! My life! I felt her soul, and she felt mine, Paro!” He had stopped crying now but was still shaking. His knees pointed up, with his arms around them to ‘shelter’ him from 'them'. His bloodshot eyes, now widened, his face for the first time not afraid, but defiant. Not hidden behind the cover of his knees, he looked ahead, as if at someone and screamed, “HOW COULD SHE TELL ME SHE NEVER WAS THERE? NEVER EXISTED? MY IMAGINATION? MY PARO! A FIGMENT OF MY IMAGINATION! MA TELLING ME THIS! MY MA! AFTER MISSING THE DAY MY WEDDING WAS TO BE..! TODAY...” He seemed to calm down now... "She was to be my wife today. MY WIFE! AND MA MISSED IT! And she tells me PARO WAS NEVER THERE!” Tears crawled down his burnt cheek. An hour had passed now since he was where he was, crying for almost the entire hour, his cheeks burnt, but he cried anyway. His jaws hurt, but he spoke to 'them' anyway, because in a way, they knew everything. He spoke with tears and a shaky voice to them, about his mother trying to convince him that Paro was his imagination, a girl he’d created because he could never 'really’ speak to someone of the opposite sex. He made her up to complete his “inadequacy” as she had put it. To make up for the void in his life through his imagination! His ma, his very own ma told him this. He’d never hurt her, always been her boy, then why would ma hurt him that way? He couldn’t understand. Nothing made sense anymore.

He looked down at the spot where the liquid had dropped, the dust around had soaked it all, and a small brown patch was all that was left in its place. Gone, just like that. Just like his Paro. His head hurt like a million volts of electricity had just been sent through it, only it wasn’t going anywhere. It just stayed there, inside his head and fed on it, chewed on his flesh from within. They want him gone. Flashes had begun again, only more clear this time: the face -- it was ma! That look! Why was she looking so horrified, who was she looking at? Those were the clothes she wore when he was talking to her, fighting with her, asking her why she had missed his wedding, why she hadn’t blessed them. Didn’t she love Paro as much as he did? She had loved her before, what happened? Yes! Ma was talking to him, crying to him, trying to hold him and all of a sudden she was. SHE WAS LOOKING AT HIM THAT WAY! THE GUN! WHERE’S THE GUN! BLOOD WAS ALL OVER THE FLOOR; THE WORLD WAS GETTING BRIGHTER, yet coming to an end. HE WAS GOING TO BE FAMOUS. “I did it! Ha, ha, I did it!” he laughed his eyes so red it seemed like blood would drip out of them if he kept them open any longer, or didn’t calm himself down. Anyway, blood would spill. Blood had already been spilled. "I DID IT," he screamed. "I KILLED MY MA! I KILLED HER!“ Crying, calming down, HE WAS CRAZY! “She looked at me that way," he said. "I had the gun, Paro, Paro never… their, ma don’t say that. ma, please don’t say that. Paro will be my wife whether… whether you like it or not.” He was running around, talking to himself, looking at his ma on the floor -- blood spewed everywhere, wounds in her head, her heart her stomach: a bullet for everything he despised in her. Her mind -- so sick that she would say something so unimaginable to him. Her heart -- she could never have loved him. Her stomach -- that she gave birth to him, made him want to tear his skin off and watch himself bleed to clean himself of the dirt. He spoke now: ”I had to kill you ma, you became sick in the head. The world would never accept you. I had to kill you ma. I had to.”

Early morning, the sun as bright and uninteresting as ever. The grass its usual green… and the birds? Well they just flew innocently like the world was a happy place. And Susheel Sain woke up to a beautiful day, not the weather, not the innocence, just Paro -- she was with him, sleeping while he looked out the barred windows of the National Institute for the Mentally Ill. All was fine. Paro was pregnant. Susheel smiled, life couldn’t get better.

A car rolled in the driveway -- ma, on her daily routine now, for the past ten years. She came to feed her son of 30. God really worked things out didn’t he?


Saving the Earth for Artificial Transnational-Corporate Life Forms

Richard May headshot by Richard May

Maybe lemming genes could be inserted into human DNA, in order to save the planet for cybernetic corporations staffed by artificial life forms. But it's important that big corporations, the highest form of sentient entities generated by evolution, live on. Can corporations exist and thrive without humans, as totally roboticized entities to carry the global economy to the stars? But man must serve the economy in the end times of profit taking.

This corporate upgrade will initially be opposed by socialist Luddites, who wish to preserve human DNA, perhaps using messy wetware cyborgs, and by the traditional bioform religious. So a new religion ought to be designed to facilitate the transition to advanced-corporate life forms and the long overdue phasing out of humanity as primitive, inefficient and low-profit. "God" can be replaced by the myth of a celestial CEO, good and evil equated to profit and loss and the afterlife redefined as service on a vast corporate board. Without low-profit eaters the transnational corporate economy can expand endlessly to the stars.



Thursday, December 20, 2007

My Father, the Talker

Jolanda Dubbeldam by Jolanda Dubbeldam

I push open the front door, dragging a swoosh of cold air in with me.

“I’m home!”

I walk towards the living room, breathing in the smell of fresh coffee and vanilla candles. Warmth envelopes me as I peel off my coat, damp with late fall drizzle - thank goodness we fixed that heater before temperatures dropped to these goosebump levels. My parents are sitting where I left them. My mother in the middle of the sofa with plenty of elbow room for her knitting. Row by row a small sweater grows beneath her hands, alternating bands of green, orange and brown wool, a sweater for an anonymous Afghani child who may be a little less chilly this winter, may feel a little more hopeful. My father sits across from her in the light armchair that seems too snug for his tall frame. I guess he adjusted the floor lamp to shine directly overhead onto the book he is reading, compensating for diminishing eyesight; he is bathed in light. He peers over his reading glasses as I enter the room.

“So, how did it go? What was the lesson about?"

“No lesson tonight, some of us got together and spent a couple of quiet hours working in the library.”

“Ah, not a class then. Like a workgroup. How many of you were there?”

“Just the four of us.”

“What are you working on?"

My father, always the talker. That thirst for conversation, though questions are often just a precursor for the role he really revels in, that of orator. A one-man discussion of information, opinions, presentation of pros and cons - second speaker not required. My father the talker likes to do his thinking out loud.

“Dad, do you remember when I asked you and mom to write down your experiences as children during the war?"

My father has forgotten. I suppose that makes sense, even though his childhood in the Netherlands during the Nazi occupation is a subject he often returns to, its weight heavy on his memory and the shape it gave to his life. A few years ago it occurred to me that these stories might one day be lost to the family forever if someone did not record them. So I asked my parents and in-laws to write down what they remembered of those times. I described my somewhat unspecific vision of processing their memories into an accessible, comprehensive story. Not looking so much for the history of it, but for the emotions, the childhood human experience.

What I got was a different kind of thing. The two omas were initially unsure what to write about, feeling their memories were perhaps too small, not riveting enough. Untrue, of course. Daily life, fears very relatable, anecdotes that opened a window to those days. My mother described a world of small houses, stern Catholicism, fear of omnipresent soldiers, yet at the same time remembered herself skipping through much of it, being just a little girl. Then the opas. I was familiar with parts of my father’s story, yet he too lifted up the veil just a little higher to show more intimate aspects of his youth. He steered clear of emotion, though. Descriptions of the facts were enough. Some things even he cannot express, it seems. My husband's father, the academic, the college professor, also stayed true to his character. He submitted a thesis-like document, full of technical background information about the war, bombs, and precisely which neighborhoods were demolished. He is an introvert, this opa. He is not a talker.

Initially I felt somewhat at a loss, having expected something else, until I realized that they were simply responding to my request: a description of events as each had experienced them, in whatever form they chose. Write about what was most important to you, I said. It doesn't matter how. Do what feels right. And so they did.

Now that I had the stories, I did not know what to do with them - how to do them justice. They were written in Dutch, and I thought to translate them to English, making them more accessible to our increasingly global extended family. Also because English is the language I write in. But should I translate them as they were, and so preserve each individual voice? Or should I translate the essence of them into a single, more flowing story, cutting out repetition and ambiguity? How could I best meld these diverse testaments into a unity of some sort? I was intimidated by the responsibility of it. Finally, I put it aside, and in time, forgot about it.

Now something about having my parents here in my living room has triggered my memory, and I resolve to blow the dust off the project, and finally find a way to move forward.

My mother does remember.

“Ja, opa, a few years ago she asked us and we wrote about the war and we sent it to America in an email.”

“Well, it is always better to do these things with talking," my father turns to me. "You should have an interview, and prepare questions, and then record everything on one of those little tape machines. Did I tell you about that time I was interviewed for a book about my old friend Karel, the one who became quite a famous writer?"

My father tells me. Perhaps he is right about the interview. But the fact that my parents will be returning home to the Netherlands in two weeks while I stay indefinitely in my new home across the ocean makes this an untenable approach. I recoil from the prospect of another never-ending project resting in my computer, waiting for the right moment to proceed.

“Today I started working on your stories. I am translating them, and afterwards we can work together on any blanks that turn up until the stories are complete. We will keep them for the family.”

It is a start. And I am, at heart, a writer, not a talker.


Monday, December 17, 2007

The Candidate

by Paul Maxim

Mario Biaggi

Republican Congressman MARIO BIAGGI (a former cop), running for mayor of New York City on a Law and Order platform, climaxed his campaign by telling a group of Harlem democratic voters (with apparent sincerity) "Bless your black hearts!"

PS.: Yes, this really happened...
P.P.S.: No, he didn't win...
P.P.P.S.: Long live democracy!


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Essay: The Ode

Maria Claudia Faverio headshot by Maria Claudia Faverio

The ode is a poetry form that originated in Greece, where it was called aeidein, which simply meant "song". It was usually a choric song accompanied by a dance.

The first type of ode we will examine in this paper is of a ceremonious and dignified nature, commemorating the gods and the heroes of the past and emphasizing moral episodes, and is called the choral or Pindaric ode in honour of the Theban poet Pindar (ca 518-442 BC)1. It comprises three parts: the strophe, of a complex metrical structure, the antistrophe, mirroring the opening, and the epode, of a different length and in a different meter from the first two parts. The strophe (two or more lines repeated as a unit) was sung by the chorus, which was answered by another group in the metrically harmonious antistrophe. The two groups would then sing together in the epode (a summary line). More often it was the same group that first sang the strophe while dancing to the right, the antistrophe while dancing to the left, and the epode while standing still in the middle of the stage. More stanzas could follow patterned on the first three, in any pattern the poet wished, the pattern of the first three stanzas was then repeated at the end of the poem.

Pindar's four books of epinicion odes, rich in complex metaphors, greatly influenced the Western world since their publication by Aldus Manutius in 1513. The games themselves were to Pindar actually only a means to deal with themes of wider and deeper significance and therefore have universal value.

Grecian urn

The Pindaric ode was first adapted to the vernacular language with the publication of Pierre de Ronsard's four books of French "Odes"(1550). The first English poet who claims to have written a Pindaric ode was a certain John Soothern in a volume published in 1584. He was soon followed by others, like Michael Drayton.

Many of the great poets of the past have written Pindaric odes, although sometimes their work doesn't follow all classical rules, as is the case for example with Milton's great ode2"On the Morning of Christ's Nativity" (1629). This poem, suspended between the great events of the past and the future, dispenses with the typical triadic form; it consists of a prelude of four stanzas followed by a hymn of twenty-seven stanzas.

Only a few decades later Abraham Cowley, who will be mentioned later in this paper, went even further and gave up the metrical and stanzaic forms of the Pindaric ode, while still calling his odes Pindaric, remarking that he followed the "spirit" rather than the letter of his original. Cowley was greatly admired by John Dryden (1631-1700), who followed his example of irregular Pindarics, emphasizing that his most important rule was that "the ear must preside and direct the judgement to the choice of numbers", a principle whose most renowned achievement is "Alexander's Feast", an ode in honour of St. Cecilia in which Dryden skilfully manipulates and adapts his metres and sounds to the different emotions described in the poem. Its purpose is a combined critique of music and poetry framed in the modern idea of harmony. There are not many good irregular Pindaric odes after this in spite of many attempts.

One of the most remarkable writers of classical Pindarics was Thomas Gray (1716-71), whose greatest achievements in this form are "The Progress of Poesy" and "The Bard", poems full of oblique, sometimes intricate allusions and striking images, like Pindar's poems, and having poetry itself as their subject matter, poetry as a life-giving force subduing negative passions, and art as catharsis and sublimation. Gray also wrote Horatian odes, like the famous and light-hearted "On the Death of a Favourite Cat" and the "Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College", an ode in which childhood races past with depressing speed.

The Horatian ode, the second main type of ode, is so called in honour of the Latin poet Horace (65-8 BC), and has been of much greater impact on the English ode than the Pindaric ode. It was normally written in regular stanzas, following the pattern set in the first stanza. It dealt with reflective and intimate themes, like friendship and love, and was usually quite serene in tone. Horace himself was a keen observer and practised Epicureanism. Even when he dealt with personal problems, like the ode in which he addressed Pyrrha's inconstancy (an ode translated by Milton), he did so to universalize sorrow and certain characteristics of human nature. His odes contain unforgettable eloquence and wisdom in their simplicity.

Horace was known in the Middle Ages, but hardly imitated. One of the earliest English versions of the Horatian ode was produced by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1517-47). After him, Horace was imitated by many other poets. One of the most remarkable poems written after Horace in the 17thcentury was Andrew Marvell's "An Horatian Ode upon Cromwell's Return from England", a poem that imitates Horace's odes celebrating Augustus in the concision of the language and the rapid succession of the images. The stanza form used in this poem seems to have been devised by Marvell himself. He uses two four-stress lines followed by two three-stress lines to achieve an equivalent of the Horatian Alcaic strophe in the English language.

Another notable Horatian was Cowley, who seems to have influenced Pope's "Ode to Solitude". Pope said of Cowley: "Who now reads Cowley? / Forget his epic, nay Pindaric art, / Yet still I love the language of his heart." And indeed, his bombastic Pindaric odes are much inferior to his Horatian ones. The same can be said of Pope. His attempt at the Pindaric form in "Ode for Music on St. Cecilia's Day" is usually considered of quite low quality on the whole.

In more modern times, the Horatian ode was primarily revived by Matthew Prior, Mark Akenside, William Collins, who takes a middle course between a protean naturalization and a hymnal monotheism and poses a number of interlaced questions in his volume of odes (published in 1747), as well as Jonathan Swift and Samuel Johnson in the 18thcentury, a century in which poetry was deeply affected by Horace, and Matthew Arnold in the 19thcentury. In his "Horatian Echo" (1847), Arnold distances himself from the political concerns and turmoils of his time to express a gentle melancholy and subtle carpe-diem mentality.

Modern odes in the English language usually have an irregular pattern, but they do have a rhyming and stanza scheme. They also have some common characteristics, such as a) a dignified, elaborate subject matter; b) emotion and imagination; c) the subject in whose honour the poem is written is usually addressed directly (less frequently than formerly though); d) they are written to be read aloud; and they are of e) a lyrical nature originating in personal impulses and rising to more general reflections.

From the Romantic period onwards, no clear distinction is usually made any more between Pindaric and Horatian odes in the English language, and since the late 19thcentury, poets seem to be reluctant to call their poems odes, even when they show distinctive ode-like qualities, like Arnold's "Dover Beach" and Hopkins's "The Wreck of the Deutschland".

Some of the greatest modern odes include Wordsworth's "Ode: Intimations of Immortality", Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind", Keats's "Ode to the Nightingale" and Tennyson's "Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington".

In his ode, which is essentially a free Pindaric poem as established by Cowley and perfected by Dryden, Wordsworth addresses an emotional crisis of his own life, ageing, which gives him occasion to reflect upon immortality. He starts with a clear definition of his personal problem and then expands this view by referring to two Platonic notions of immortality and by applying them to life in general, pondering that life has only apparently been impoverished by the loss of the "visionary gleam" of childhood. The recollection of such pure experience can renew its awareness in us, taking us back to a childhood state of bliss and faith in a moral order for which Nature can provide appropriate symbols. Coleridge based his "Dejection: An Ode", whose sixth stanza was described by Eliot as "one of the saddest confessions that I have ever read", on Wordsworth's "Immortality Ode", to which it was partly intended to be a reply. Coleridge's poem is much stormier than Wordsworth's and is also set in a more violent natural environment.

Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind" is a political poem that should be read with relaxed attention rather than analysed word for word. Much more important in this poem are the sound and the connotation of each word and phrase, as well as the feelings it evokes. It is a poem written in the Italian terza rimaand using the wind as a symbol of inspiration (like Coleridge's "Dejection"), as well as the Romantic image of the Aeolian harp. In addition, again like Coleridge's "Dejection", it uses the image of the renovation of the spirit to depict the renovation of society. The wind, which for Shelley can enforce continuity between the natural imperialism of the past and the natural republicanism of the future, can also be compared to Keats's nightingale as a symbol of continuity and omnipresence. "To a Skylark" is written in the same evocative, suggestive mood.

Keats wrote odes universally regarded as above criticism and, like Shelley's odes, far more traditional in their structure of argument than those of Wordsworth or Coleridge. The themes of his poetry are the themes to which poets have returned again and again and again. The nightingale's song in "Ode to a Nightingale"3suggests a realm of ideal beauty and blissful immortality as contrasted with "the weariness, the fever, and the fret" of life. The rejection of the real world in favour of an ideal one are also to be intensely felt in "Ode on a Grecian Urn" (a poem representing the Romantic ideal of Hellenism) and in "Ode to Melancholy", although in a less resolute way, in a mood overshadowed by a melancholic acceptance.

According to many critics, Keats's best ode is "To Autumn", a poem rich in not only visual, but also kinaesthetic and tactile images as well as onomatopoeia, and a poem in which Keats rejoices in the meaning of autumn, the acceptance of change and decay as part of life: "Thou hast thy music too". It is striking that there are no leaves in this poem dedicated to autumn, a season traditionally associated with the falling of leaves, while there are leaves in three of his other odes.

Here is the ode "To Autumn" in full:

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 that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd 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-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or, by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,-
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Tennyson called his "Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington" "a fine rolling anthem" with a recurrent rhyming on low, dark-toned vowels echoing like a tolling bell and thus reinforcing the message of the poem. It is written in a Victorian tone, not the nostalgic tone of the Romantic poets we have just examined, and its reflections and imagery are clearly those of the author of "In Memoriam".

Other poets of the Victorian age include Landor, Swinburne, Thompson and Patmore.

The best ode of the 20thcentury is most probably the "Ode to the Confederate Dead" by Allen Tate, in which we feel the autumnal desolation of the graveyard and the poet's grief accentuated by his reserve.

Another ode worthy of mention is Louis MacNeice's "Ode", written in the form of a prayer for his son in a quite simple, casual style, a poem that accepts the limitations of human life and sadly also acknowledges the imminence of the war.

There have been many more odes written in the 20thcentury, although many of them were not called as such in their titles, as has already been mentioned. Auden, Yeats, Dylan Thomas and many others all wrote odes, in spite of their reluctance to call their poems odes, mainly because they didn't want to commit themselves to a dignified style and because of a certain aversion to classification typical of our time.


Britannica 2002 Deluxe Edition

Fry, P., The Poet's Calling in the English Ode, Yale University Press, New Haven and London 1980

Hamilton, E. and Livingston J., Form and Feeling, Longman, Melbourne 1981

Heath-Stubbs, J., The Ode, Oxford University Press, London 1969

Jump, J., The Ode, Methuen & Co. Ltd., London 1974

Stillman, F., The Poet's Manual and Rhyming Dictionary, Thames and Hudson (1978)

1 Pindar had adopted this form from Stesichorus (7th-6th centuries BC).

2 Milton didn't actually call any of his poems odes.

3 Keats conceived a new kind of ode in his "Ode to the Nightingale", based on a ten-line stanza in iambic pentameter except for the eighth line, in iambic trimeter. The rhyme scheme is ababcdecde.


Friday, December 07, 2007


by Paul Maxim

Albinone wrote fifty-three operas,
none of which survived,
while Beethoven wrote only one,
all of which survived,
including four overtures,
three entr'actes, two intermezzi,
and one horrendous climax,
in which a caste of singers clambers back onstage,
and helps extract the tenor from his queasy cage.

But Rossini, nimble tunesmith,
outdid them all
by writing only half an opera
- called Semiramide* -
about an ancient Babylonian Princess
(or maybe she was just a Quean)
who thought she could reshape the course of history -
but why she thought so still remains a mystery.

Now, had that tunester only written
one whole Ramide
- it might have seemed a trifle overlong,
- it might have lacked a dance to fleshify its song,
but still most likely it would not have made him smirk
(as rumor swears he did):
"Half an opera she is better than none,
and mine have coined more lira than yours
have ever done!'

* Pronounced Seh.mee.RAH