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Personal anthology: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

One of the side effects of working on the Potential Book Project has been that I’ve encountered a whole lot of Victorian and Romantic-era poetry that I would never have bothered to read if I were doing straight-up literary criticism. I’ve written before about how the project has challenged some of my own assumptions about […]

More botanizing

More spring foliage imagery. I just can't help myself; it was a beautiful day today, and the leaves on the trees are still that supercharged fluorescent green that always leaves me a little startled that such a color is actually found in nature. This post is for frizzyLogic, whose photographs of London plane trees and […]

Commonplaces in all sorts of places

Not long ago, having realized that none of the other online to-read list options I’d been trying were really working out, I joined Goodreads. I like the ease of adding a book to one’s to-read or currently-reading shelves; I like the tagging; I like being able to specify what page I’m on; and I like […]

Personal anthology: Robertson Davies

The passage I'm about to quote is from Robertson Davies' novel Tempest-Tost, about a community theater company in a small Ontario town doing an outdoor production of The Tempest. The director, Valentine Rich, a local who's gone on to a theater career in New York, has returned to her home town and taken on this […]

Personal anthology: Emily Dickinson

I'm in a traveling mood this month, and this poem of Emily Dickinson's was running through my head: Exultation is the goingOf an inland soul to sea,Past the houses – past the headlands –Into deep Eternity – Bred as we, among the mountains,Can the sailor understandThe divine intoxicationOf the first league out from land? So […]

Personal anthology: Alfred, Lord Tennyson

In keeping with today's wanderlust theme, and with the Victorian-poetry kick I've been on lately: a favorite Tennyson poem, one that's run through my head at various points when I've changed course. I'm surprised, still, how much it moves me. All the more so because Tennyson's Ulysses is more reminiscent of Dante's Ulysses, who winds […]

Personal anthology: Thomas Hardy

I've been learning some very basic music theory lately (thank you, Open Yale Courses — it's so much easier to be an autodidact in the age of podcasts and Creative Commons educational materials). And one of the first things I realized was that I wish I'd known more about musical meter during all the years […]

Personal anthology: Edna St. Vincent Millay

Vacation looms, and I've been too excited about it to think any thoughts more interesting than "Whee!". Tomorrow I'm off for a week or so of travel, including a trip to Santa Fe for two operas and assorted sightseeing. I'll catch you all when I get back, at which point I'll no doubt be hyperventilating […]

Personal anthology: Scenes of reading, 1: A.S. Byatt, Possession

It's hard to write a good fictional scene involving characters reading. As A.S. Byatt authorially interjects in the passage I'm about to quote from her novel Possession: A Romance, one risks pulling the reader into a "mise-en-abîme … where words draw attention to the power and delight of words, and so ad infinitum." And yet […]

Personal anthology: poems about haunting

I’d had Thomas Hardy’s poem “A House with a History” on my mind for a while (see my post from a couple of weeks ago) when I ran across Wallace Stevens’ “A Postcard from the Volcano,” which, for some reason, I’d never read before. In one of those odd moments of literary synchrony, I found […]