Monday, February 25, 2013

Pronunciation - Some Problem Words

Pronunciation: Some Problem Words …
1 … The following is a word which has different meaning and pronunciation depending on the context of associated text …

TEAR by itself is undefined
However, in the following sentence it is clear how each occurrence of TEAR should be pronounced.

The TEAR in her blouse brought a TEAR to her eye.

It may not be so obvious when reading other text and could easily bring a TEAR to the ear of any listener.

2 … CORPSE and CORPS are two words which are very similar but with entirely different pronunciation.
You could say the CORPS in CORPSE is not core.

3 … Just because some words end in the same sequence of letters does not mean that they will necessarily rhyme

BOUGH will rhyme with DOUGH and BOW but if you COUGH there is irritation.
To CUP it all a HICCOUGH is very different from a COUGH.

RETAIN and GAIN is the same but BRITAIN just has to be different. And those that climb a MOUNTAIN have no thought that it could be a mount ten.
QUERY and VERY are, of course, VERY different.
LIVE is never like being ALIVE – if you are not ALIVE you will LIVE to make mistakes.
I’m sad to say that GRIEVE and SIEVE also fall through this same hole.
BEAK may rhyme with SPEAK but BREAK and STEAK ache to be different.
4 … Two words which I sometimes mispronounce and misspell are PLAGUE and PLAQUE. One reason is distinguishing between letters when reading. I hope to be more attentive in the future and not be so PLAGUED.
5 … Place names are always difficult - consider ISLINGTON and ISLAND, and in Australia MANUKA is certainly not a MANCHESTER.

The above was written after reading the work of G. Nolst Trenité who explored the many idiosyncrasies of the English language. Below are some lines from one of his poems exploring pronunciation … words to be read carefully as distinct from the castle at Caerphilly

Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.
Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Vision of Sin - A Different Tennyson

Most people think of Tennyson in terms of poems such as -

'The Lady of Shallot', 'Mariana', 'The Eagle', 'Break, Break, Break', 'Ulysses'  and 'In Memoriam'... however he did pen a much different type of work in poems such as - 'A Vision of Sin' and 'The Palace of Art'

This links to a Website containing much of Tennyson's work including the above mentioned poems.

Below are a just few stanzas from 'A Vision of Sin' ...

"Wrinkled ostler, grim and thin!
Here is custom come your way;
Take my brute, and lead him in,
Stuff his ribs with mouldy hay.

"Bitter barmaid, waning fast!
See that sheets are on my bed;
What! the flower of life is past:
It is long before you wed.

"Slip-shod waiter, lank and sour,
At the Dragon on the heath!
Let us have a quiet hour,
Let us hob-and-nob with Death.

"I am old, but let me drink;
Bring me spices, bring me wine;
I remember, when I think,
That my youth was half divine.

"Wine is good for shrivell'd lips,
When a blanket wraps the day,
When the rotten woodland drips,
And the leaf is stamp'd in clay.

"Sit thee down, and have no shame,
Cheek by jowl, and knee by knee:
What care I for any name?
What for order or degree?

This poem gave me the impression of a bawdy pub song dripping with escape into the pleasure of the moment and ignoring all else in the enjoyment of the company of a friend integrated with drink.

Compare this with the intensity of his most noted work - 'In Memoriam'  - a lamentation and search for meaning created over 17 years in tribute to the loss of his friend Arthur Hallam.

Perhaps the most known lines from this work are -

I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Christchurch Earthquake - A Public Poem

It is coming up to the two year anniversary of the Christchurch earthquake that occured on 22 Febuary 2011. The quake took 185 lives. Kirsty Dunne won the right to have the following verse on the exterior of the empty shell that was 'Sedley Wells Music Works' as part of poetica - a project that adorns unexpected places with art and verse.

Amidst the shards of glass
& twisted steel
beside the fallen brick
& shattered concrete
we began to understand
that there is beauty in the broken
Strangers do not live here anymore

It's a spot-on snapshot of the Christchurch experience two years on after the earthquake - according to Julietta Johnson reporting in the Canberra Times (Sat 9 February) after a visit to the city to report on the state of the city. Here is a link to the article from the Sydney Morning Herald.

Just as in the creation of the Arboretum in Canberra following the bushfires beauty can be created from natural disaster, but what I think Kirsty is talking about is above the material broken. It is in the last line - community relationships have developed bringing people together to face the future and this is the emerging beauty.

Footnote -
In my mind a public poem should...
. be accessible to a general audience
. relate to the public place of presentation
. be brief with immediate impact
. make a statement of relevance
. promote thought

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Invisible Thread - 100 Year of Words - Canberra Anthology

The Invisible Thread is an anthology created for the Canberra Centenary in 2013 and launched at the end of 2012. There are 75 contributors all with a Canberra connection and the work includes a wide variety of genre.

The Invisible Thread: One Hundred Years of Words, edited by Irma Gold, is an anthology by writers who have an association with the Canberra region. Wide-ranging in its subject matter and themes, The Invisible Thread showcases 75 works by writers like AD Hope, Roger McDonald, Bill Gammage, Alex Miller, Judith Wright, Blanche d’Alpuget, David Campbell, Jackie French, Robin Wallace-Crabbe, Rhyll McMaster, Jack Heath, Garth Nix, Rosemary Dobson, Ken Inglis, Alan Gould, Manning Clark, Dorothy Johnston, Omar Musa, Don Watson, Geoff Page, and Marion Halligan.

With illustrations by Judy Horacek, a foreword by Robyn Archer, and a mix of short stories, novel extracts, poetry, essays and non-fiction, The Invisible Thread is a flagship publication for both the National Year of Reading 2012 and the Centenary of Canberra 2013.

Reading and music associated with this publication can be heard on 27 April 2013 …

Alex Miller, Alan Gould and Sara Dowse have chosen two musical compositions to bookend their poem or prose. These will be performed by an ensemble specifically compiled for the evening in collaboration with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra.

On reading Barbara Blackman’s contribution … she introduced me to a new word … ectoplasm … the Wikipedia definition is …

Ectoplasm (from the Greek ektos, meaning "outside", and plasma, meaning "something formed or molded") is a term coined by Charles Richet to denote a substance or spiritual energy "exteriorized" by physical mediums.[2] Ectoplasm is said to be associated with the formation of spirits; however since World War II reports of ectoplasmic phenomena have declined and many psychical researchers doubt whether genuine cases ever existed.[3]

She uses this word in conjunction with an amusing story based on using the home of friends while they were away on holiday … does ‘the spirit within the home’ have impact when she takes up temporary residence

… similarly, we may ask does the ‘spirit of the poet’ have any influence on us when we read poetry – especially when we have great rapport with the text read. I am sure you will find something of interest within the wide variety presented in this collection - to what extent the personae of the author flows into your veins is another matter entirely.

Footnote …
This anthology is by no means exhaustive of the literary talent that exists, or that has come from Canberra – but it is a great entry point for exploring or picking up a literary thread to some of the well-recognised writers that have had connection with the Capital.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Oak - Tennyson

The Oak
Live thy life,
   Young and old,
Like yon oak,
Bright in spring,
   Living gold;
   Then; and then
   Gold again.
All his leaves
   Fall’n at length,
Look he stands,
Trunk and bough,
   Naked strength.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809 – 1892)
Stanza 1 – young and old should live like the oak in springtime … be bright
Stanza 2 – then in summer be rich in life like the full foliage of summertime, followed by the autumn gold but in more sober fashion please
Stanza 3 – then in winter when all foliage is gone be pure naked strength – what is left of you after living a full life – what is spiritually left when all the superficiality falls away?
Looking at the meter …
Iambic = unaccented then accented syllables e.g. today
Trochee = the reverse – e.g. daily
Both iambic and trochee are double meters … each bar is of two syllables
Triple meters involve three syllables to the bar
Anapest = unaccented, unaccented then accented e.g. beauti ful
Dactyl = accented, unaccented then unaccented e.g. sugar loaf
Laurence Perrine in his book Structure Sound and Sense asks whether the double meter for Tennyson’s poem The Oak should be iambic or trochee – or does it matter?
He suggests it is more important to distinguish between double and triple meter.
Gabriel Oak is a famous character in a novel … the name fitting the nature of the character if you excuse the pun.

Here is a link to another Blog Site giving analysis of the above poem.

Friday, January 25, 2013


Swear to thy blind soul that I was thy will
Shakespeare Sonnet 136
it’s your unflinching desire
(I’m talking verbal here)
to force yourself into a bit of action
teasing my conscience with your thought-play
feigning a kind of existence
shadowing the orbit of the sun
your self-desire perhaps hidden by bravado
always with a tendency to overstatement -
even when your name’s extended to the full
you insist on short identity
when driving along half-mapped streets
you say you won’t lose the way
as long as we stay together
you keep persisting with directions
but compulsion seems to dissipate with the weather
it’s all inclination
like a soft wind merely bending the grass
never the breaking storm
it’s just an attitude thing with you
the self-expression of true nature
Shakespeare didn’t mince his words
he loved to play (all acting apart)
and you know it’s always fixed
when written down and announced
there’s no choice then, ask any lawyer
the trouble is, it’s so often ill-conceived
with an ending that’s just a little sick
but then I guess we all have to pay one way or another -
perhaps the Japanese are right
knowing that compromise defines our lives

Richard Scutter 15 September 2012

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Poetry and the brain

Poetry promotes deeper thought … poetry promotes brain activity … 

In relation to ‘the classics’ this was put to the test at Liverpool University …from an Internet article -

PUT down those self-help books, ditch the trashy novels and read the greatest writers in the English language if you need a lift. The works of Shakespeare and Wordsworth are ''rocket-boosters'' to the brain and better therapy than self-improvement guides, researchers have discovered.

Academics at Liverpool University found that reading the works of the Bard and other classical writers had a beneficial effect on the mind, by catching the reader's attention and triggering moments of self-reflection.

Using scanners, they monitored the brain activity of volunteers as they read pieces by Shakespeare, Wordsworth, T.S. Eliot and others. They then ''translated'' the texts into more ''straightforward'', modern language and again monitored the readers' brains as they read the words. Scans showed that the more ''challenging'' prose and poetry set off far more electrical activity in the brain.

See the full article via this link 

The poetry of E. E. Cummings is always a challenge here is a link to one of his poems. ... If everything happens that can't be done ... the title itself needing thought.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Exploring Ozymandias

The following is Shelley’s famous poem Ozymandias …


I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said - “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desart … near them on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings,
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Shelley (1792 – 1822)

Largest statue .. Ozymandias was the Greek name for Ramses II of Egypt

Antique … old and often valuable, of interest to collectors, and characteristic of a period and style of manufacture

 … the hand that mocked … the sculptor in imitating and deriding the sculptured passions … the heart that fed … the King’s which has ‘fed’ his passions

Rhyme structure … abab cded feghgh

This is commonly regarded as a sonnet … however because of the unusual rhyme structure it sometimes regarded as a sonnet-stanza … it is a great poem and one often included in anthologies … why is this so?

Perhaps because of the comparison between the exploits of a great man when viewed against time and nature – I am reminded of another great poem in this respect – ‘man may come and man may go but I go on forever’. And of course ‘the sands of time’ has been overdone with all those footprints taking place – perhaps we can blame Shelley for starting the drift. I rather like the fact that although Ozymandias has fallen by the wayside his words still remain – the poem highlighting the power of words to survive. At any rate a timeless poem if you forgive the pun.

What is eternal and … will your voice be lost in the sands of time … what words would you like to see on your headstone … and how would you like to be remembered?

My poetic response -


I am I, I am
I am Ozie and a man
I am, I am, an Ozie am
King of Kings I am I am 

I also am you man I am
I also am you woman am
I am the you, you see -
the I that is the you in me

© Richard Scutter 11 February 2008

Monday, January 7, 2013

Why be interested in poetry

Why involve yourself with poetry …

First and foremost poetry deals with words and like it or not words will always be part of your life.

We use words in many ways but primarily to communicate with others and so too with poetry. So one reason for looking at poetry is simply to see how words have been used by others to say something about their lives and thoughts and experiences and perhaps the things they want to share that are particularly important to them. Poetry only comes alive when a reader takes those first steps into the word-world of the poet and when this happens chances are the reader will broaden his or her own life.

By looking at the words of others … especially poetry where words are constructed into a concentrated form of expression … we can expand the way we use words ourselves and how we communicate with others … apart from having an insight into the life of another.

And of course poetry can entertain, educate.

The first poem I can remember hearing was from my primary school days. This was …


Slowly, silently, now the moon
Walks the night in her silver shoon;
This way, and that, she peers, and sees
Silver fruit upon silver trees;
One by one the casements catch
Her beams beneath the silvery thatch;
Couched in his kennel, like a log,
With paws of silver sleeps the dog;
From their shadowy cote the white breasts peep
Of doves in silver feathered slee
A harvest mouse goes scampering by,
With silver claws, and silver eye;
And moveless fish in the water gleam,
By silver reeds in a silver stream.

By Walter de la Mare

It was the first time that I thought of an inanimate object as a person. The moon became a person beaming silver into everything she saw as she looked at the countryside. The shadowy onomatopoeia feeling invoked by the teacher when she read the poem was captivitating.

Note ... And moveless fish - should it be motionless fish - or is moveless intended because of the lack of light ... moveless is not in the dictionary - does this matter?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Looking at some Longfellow Lines

A friend sent me the following lines from Longfellow – apparently his Mother used to sing these lines in the family kitchen when he was a child -

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints that, perhaps another,

Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

If these words were sung today how would people react – what would be the objections given the sensitivities of today.

Before doing this let’s look at the lines and give some interpretation –

S1 – apparently ‘great’ men are a fine example and we can look to them to enrich our lives – to the extent that we will be remembered long after our departure. Sublime being the personal goal – a popular word at the time these lines were written

Sublime = so awe-inspiringly beautiful as to seem almost heavenly.

S2 – and if we do follow and so enrich our lives when we are long gone we may in turn be regarded as ‘great’ and others may look to us to take heart when they are in the storm of life.

Looking at the sensitivity of today –

S1 - Great men = sexist and elitist – and who are the great – presumably those in the public eye that have been labelled great … so can we find more appropriate language, for example –

Look to those that are inspirational so we can become likewise that when we are long departed we too will be remembered.

S2 – the occupation chosen is sexist and not relevant to today … so what occupation would you choose? The occupation is not that important the shipwrecked nature of a doomed life is mort to the point … so perhaps all we need to say is something like … and maybe someone in despair will look to you and take heart.

So the two stanzas could reduce to the following prose…

Look to the lives of the inspirational that you may become likewise that when you are long departed you too will be remembered and maybe someone in despair will look to you and take heart.

This may be more acceptable language … but it is not very inspiring… not exactly poetic and not a song or something memorable! So perhaps the next step is to transform these words and thoughts into a poetic voice. So if you are feeling creative - go for it.

Here is my response to these Longfellow’s lines -

inspiring words
be inspired by the inspirational!
live by their ever-living example
that in your own life
you too may become inspirational!

and maybe somewhere someone in need
will be inspired likewise by your life
that you may be alive
in the life of another

Richard Scutter