Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Exploding with Creative Energy

The Deputy Headmistress at The Common Room has been troubled by something on another blog that wonders how those who support conservative politics can also happily mingle with poetry (and, to extend the thought, with intelligence).

At the risk of boring with yet another quote from Northrop Frye, I'd like to offer this, from the very same page of The Bush Garden where I found the quote about weasel words.

"[Poet Irving Layton] speaks of 'the holy trinity Of sex revolution and poetry', and each of these is conceived as an explosion of creative energy against the inhibitions of prudery, exploitation, and philistinism respectively; a trinity more or less incarnate in Freud, Marx, and Whitman." (Letters in Canada, 1953)

(Again on Layton, 1954)
"....the ironic eye does not have free play; it is oppressed by a conscience-driven and resentful mind which sees modern society as a rock pile and the poet as under sentence of hard labour."

It might help to remember what was going on with a lot of poetry during the '50's when Frye wrote these reviews of Layton: there were a lot of Angry Young People doing the coffeehouse thing, Ginsberg and Kerouac and all that. But I think the basic thought hasn't changed so much in 50 years: some people still think that to be into the third part of the "trinity," you have to be into the first two as well. I think that's why some of the people in Mama Squirrel's creative writing classes were so weird, or really wanted everyone to know they were weird, or just pretended they were weird, because it kind of went with the turf. Anger poetry was good, exploding against things was good (even if it wasn't good poetry, it was Saying Something, right?). So do poets, or those who read poetry, have to have a rock pile to pound at? Was Whitman as revolutionary as Freud and Marx? Is that why Mama Squirrel doesn't like Whitman much?

And can Christians still manage to have an intelligent discussion about something like this without being called pseudo-intellectuals? Francis Schaeffer thought so, and so did C.S. Lewis.

Monday, April 25, 2005

On daughters growing up too quickly

Of Irving Layton's 1955 collection The Cold Green Element, Northrop Frye wrote that "in it there are at least a half-dozen poems (including, besides those mentioned, the lilting "for Naomi" at the beginning) which have a rhythmical swing ,an urbane humour and a technical finish guaranteed to make the reader's toes curl up in solid contentment."

Curious about "for Naomi," Mama Squirrel tracked it down online. Here it is, for the enjoyment and toe-curling contentment of those who, like the Squirrel family, see their daughters quickly becoming those "Than whom the grasses though tall / Are not taller."

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

More on Weasel Words

What are weasel words, anyway? I thought that was just a phrase coined by Northrop Frye, but apparently it has a whole history behind it. Also here, for Australians.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Young Poets and Weasel Words

Two nice quotes from Northrop Frye:

As long as [a young poet] is writing primarily for himself, his thought will be rooted in private associations, images which are linked to ideas through his own hidden and unique memory. This is not his fault: he can write only what takes shape in his mind. It is his job to keep on writing and not get stuck at that point....Then he is likely to pass through a social, allegorical, or metaphysical phase, an awkward and painful phase for all concerned. Finally, a mysterious but unmistakable ring of authority begins to come into his writing, and simultaneously the texture simplifies, meaning and imagery become transparent, and the poetry becomes a pleasure instead of a duty to read.....Every once in awhile, we run across a poet who reminds us that when the lyrical impulse reaches maturity of expression, it is likely to be, as most lyrical poetry has always been, lilting in rhythm, pastoral in imagery, and uncomplicated in thought. –Northrop Frye, "Letters in Canada," 1953 (reviews collected in The Bush Garden)

He realizes that the enemy of poetry is not social evil but slipshod language, the weasel words that betray the free mind: he realizes that to create requires an objective serenity beyond all intruding moral worries about atomic bombs and race prejudice.–Northrop Frye, same, 1952 (speaking of Canadian poet Louis Dudek)

Saturday, April 16, 2005

500 Copies of Pilgrim's Progress

My kids were teasing me yesterday after we came home from a book sale with yet another copy of Pilgrim's Progress. I think that makes about 5 different editions we have now, including my favourite with Edward Ardizzone illustrations. The one I found yesterday was published by Sears, probably in the 1920s, and is in amazingly solid condition except for a little chipping at the bottom of the spine.

But the kids have nothing to complain about; here's an essay by somebody who has 500 copies, or did nine years ago anyway. [Updated link]

We also found four volumes of Charlotte Mason (we dug around to see if the other two were in a box but didn't see them); Hawthorne's Twice-Told Tales; a book of James Whitcomb Riley's poems (Ponytails wanted that one); a James Herriot picture book; Claire Turlay Newberry's book Smudge; and a nicely-abridged copy of Don Quixote for the Apprentice's school next year. All in all it was a successful trip.

Friday, April 15, 2005

In the Eyes of Crayons

Do you know what a caparison is? It's one of those coverings that looks like a tablecloth, that knights used to put over their horses. The thing that covers up a lot of the horse.

Anyway, Crayons was looking at a picture of a knight on a caparisoned horse. Her comment: "What's that robot doing, riding on the horse dressed up like a pony?"

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Three Pooh Stories in One, by Crayons

Crayons' "Eeyore Loses a Tail" Story (with original additions)

Once upon a time Eeyore losded a tail. And then Pooh Bear finded it. It was at Owl's house. He made it into a bell rope. Well, then Pooh Bear gave Owl a new bell rope. Pooh Bear took a string and then attached a bell to it. And then you should ring it and knock at the knocker. The End!

Once upon a time Tigger didn't have anything to bounce with. So he played with his kangaroo jumpers. You jump over rocks with them and you jump like this.

Remember when Pooh Bear wanted to give his honey to Eeyore? And he ate it all? Take it out and put it back in, take it out and put it back in [what Eeyore did at his birthday]. That's the end!

Monday, April 11, 2005

Books That Get Used

One of the Beehive5 clan asked what we thought the three best books in the English language are. I like her choices, but just to be different I'll vote for Pilgrim's Progress, Mrs. Tittlemouse, and I can't decide on a third.

But it did make me think about a similar question. What books get cracked open the most in your house, over and over, whether you homesquirrel or not? Yesterday I was working on some Plutarch homework (an ongoing Mamasquirrel project) and as I grabbed my big hardcover dictionary for about the 20th time, I mentally thanked my own mama and dad squirrel who bought it for me during squirrely-versity days many years ago. For some people maybe a dictionary just sits on the shelf, but mine gets used a lot.

I also wouldn't want to do without our Philips World History Encyclopedia (saves a lot of Internet search time!) and our collection of yard-sale atlases...and an all-in-one-volume of Shakespeare (we never have to worry about which play is coming up next term at Ambleside)...and a hymn book. And, mamasquirrel is a little embarrassed to admit it, but one of those movie/video guides that tells you whether what's on tonight is a winner or a turkey.

They may not be the best-written books in English, but they do get used.

A Manwich is a Meal

Mr. Fixit is delighted to announce that his charcoal barbecue is now clear of snow and the Squirrel family has been eating barbecued food for the last two nights out of three. It would have been three out of three, but the chicken he bought for Sunday smelled like hardboiled eggs when he unwrapped it, so we were happily forced to get some Chinese food instead.

His latest discovery (courtesy of his favourite barbecue cookbook, A Man A Can and a Grill (I'm not making that up, you can order it at )) is Manwich Sauce, something I hadn't thought about for years but still remember the commercials for: A sandwich is a sandwich, but a Manwich is a meal. Anyway, we found some at the squirrel supermarket and figured out that it makes a pretty good sauce for hamburgers as well as in the Sloppy Joes that I think it's meant for. We prefer our burgers non-sloppy, so the Manwich sauce goes on just like ketchup. Mmm. Mr. Fixit says it's his latest favourite food, after Wong Wing's General Tao Chicken.

Apologies to our vegetarian friends! (We do barbecue polenta too.)

Thursday, April 07, 2005

We have links!

Mama Squirrel is very proud of herself because she has finally managed to add some links and get them in the right place too.

A comment from Crayons:
The very first thing Crayons said this morning was, "Can you read that story again about play-a-joke on Kanga?" This was before I had even managed to get breakfast on the table.

Winnie the Pooh is just That Sort of Book around here.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Happy April Fool's

Hi, I'm Ponytails. Today's April Fool's. I love to eat serpent eggs! April Fool's!

Mr. Fixit played a trick on me. He put freckles all over my face with black marker while I was sleeping.

("And he gave me a moustache! Look at me!"--Crayons)

And The Apprentice got a beard.

Mama Squirrel is wearing a Christmas shirt. Mama Squirrel put out chips, icing cookies, and dessert for breakfast (for a joke).