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Poetry has never been so rigorous and diverse, nor has its audience been so numerous and engaged. Strong words? Not if the poets are right. As Ezra Pound wrote: ‘You would think anyone wanting to know about poetry would go to someone who knew something about it.’ That’s exactly what Bloodaxe has done with this judicious and comprehensive selection of British, Irish and American manifestos by some of modern poetry’s finest practitioners.
Opening the 20th century account with Ezra Pound, W.B. Yeats and T.S. Eliot, the book moves through key later figures including W.H. Auden, Ted Hughes, Stevie Smith and Dylan Thomas. America is richly represented too, from Robert Frost and William Carlos Williams to the influential New England poets Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop and Sylvia Plath.
Strong Words then brings the issues fully up to date with over 30 specially commissioned statements from contemporary writers including Seamus Heaney, Andrew Motion, Simon Armitage, Selima Hill, Paul Muldoon and Douglas Dunn, amounting to a new overview of the poetry being written at the start of the 21st century.
For poets and readers, for critics, teachers and students of creative writing and contemporary poetry, this is essential reading. As well as representing many of the most important poets of the last hundred years, Strong Words charts many different stances and movements, from Modernism to Postmodernism, from Futurism to the future theories of poetry. This landmark book champions the continuing dialogue of these voices, past and present, exploring the strongest form that words can take: the poem.
“synopsis” may belong to another edition of this title.
Strong Words is a collection of musings, essays, letters, diary entries, and ramblings of modern poets on the subject of poetry. Here are a few of the gems of wisdom I picked out:
“Rhymes properly used are the good servants whose presence at the dinner-table gives the guests a sense of opulent security; never awkward or over-clever, they hand the dishes silently and professionally. You can trust them not to interrupt the conversation or allow their personal disagreements to come to the notice of the guests.” ~Robert Graves, Observations on Poetry 1922-1925
“Anyone who pays any attention / to the syntax of things / will never wholly kiss you.” ~E.E. Cummings
“Which brings me to something that I might say is the very heart of the matter of human contentment or as near was we can get. This is the secret of learning how not to care. Not caring is really a sense of values and feeling of confidence. A man who cares is not the master.” ~Patrick Kavanagh, Self Portrait (1967)
“Pain always produces logic, which is very bad for you.” ~Frank O’Hara (my poet crush), Personism: A Manifesto (1961)
“For each of us as women, there is a dark place within, where hidden and growing our true spirit rises, ‘beautiful / and tough as chestnut / sanchions agains (y)our nightmare of weakness / ‘ and of impotence.” ~Audre Lorde, Poetry is not a Luxury (1977)
“A poet learns the contemporary language and its literary version through being alive, meeting people, loving them, learning what it is about some of them that is to be disliked or distrusted, by sheer amusement, entertainment in people and phenomena, by sheer sorrow, by laughter, tears, by wonderment, puzzlement, by repulsion, by immersion in existence. What I am saying is that the best passages of poetry are involuntary even when their artistry has been mastered through years of severe rehearsal and concentration. Poetry appears to exist in all languages, cultures and societies. It is heartening to suppose that it does. If nothing else, it would seem to justify a life squandered in devotion to arduous, satisfying, lonely, disillusioned, grievous, joyful, difficult and simple art.” ~Douglas Dunn, A Difficult, Simple Art
“Easy, as any musician or athlete will tell you, does not make happy and does not make good. Easy means self-indulgence, laziness when faced with a challenge, and a cowardly unwillingness to hurt people by telling them the truth or upsetting the status quo. Easy means accepting art’s least common denominator and spreading about the rumor that anything that suits most people must be OK.” ~Anne Stevenson, A Few Words for the New Century (2000)
“The language of poetry is narcissism itself. It calls attention to itself at every possible oppertunity. It is as vain and self-conscious and as tensioned and competitive as an adolescent. It wishes all eyes to be on it: we are to hear its voice only, to love only it and to spurn its competition, although this competition is life. everything else in reality, everything that has not yet been transfigured not only into language but into the particular language and the particular music of the poem.” ~C. K. Williams, Context: An Essay on Intentions (1983)
“As a child I read a lot and loved reading in bed, which is probably one of the nicest ways of reading, with its cradling memory, especially poetry, indolently alert, absorbing yourself in the music and images that come to mind.” Grace Nichols, “The poetry I feel closest to,” (2000)
“One can’t have ever word substantial (none of these are at all) but as many as all telegraph pose and no wire-‘tread bejumpered (over) (the) sheepy fields.’ Naturally the result is ‘I am getting more and more obscure day by day’, ‘I shall never be understood, (bliss), ‘I think I shall send no more poetry away but write stories alone.” ~Medbh McGuckian, And Cry Jesus to the Mice (2000)
During the Old English period (approximately A.D. 500 to A.D. 1066), Old English literature introduced many classic words to the English language. These words may not be in popular use today, but they have strongly influenced the way we speak in the 21st century. Check out dozens of Old English words and their modern definitions that you can try out in your everyday conversation.
old english manuscript literature monks
Old English Nouns List
Words from Old English vocabulary are mainly found in literature and poetry prior to the Norman invasion of 1066. After this period, Middle English became the main representation of the English language before transitioning to the modern English we know today.
Important nouns from Old English literature include:
andsaca – enemy
beadurinc – warrior
bearn – child (son)
beorn – man
bill – sword
brim – ocean
casere – emperor
cyning – king
deofol – devil
ealdor – life (elder)
fæder – father
folde – earth, soil
ides – woman
lufu – love
lyft – sky, wind
man – crime
neorxnawang – paradise
preost – priest
sawol – soul
sped – quickness
sweostor – sister
wif – wife
woruld – world
You may notice that many of these words sound similar to their modern meanings, such as “preost” for “priest” and “woruld” for “world.” It goes to show you that even 1000 years later, many elements of a language stay the same!
Old English Adjectives and Adverbs List
anfeald – simple (onefold)
arleas – dishonorable
ariht – right, properly
atelic – horrible, awful
baldlice – bravely, boldly
beorht – bright
bysig – busy
ceald – cold
dyre – dear, lovely
eald – old
fæger – beautiful, fair
neah – near
nu – now
oft – often
rice – powerful
sarig – sad, sorrowful
til – good
wlanc – proud
Notice how words like “right” and “bright,” which seem oddly spelled in modern English, are spelled in Old English: “ariht” and “beorht.” The -ht ending that seems so confusing to us today fit right into the Old English language.
Old English Verbs List
Old English literature is famously dramatic, mainly due to the incredible actions of its characters. Take a look at these verbs in the infinitive form that depict what characters (and regular people) did in the Old English period.
acennan – to give birth
acwellan – to kill
amyrran – to harm or injure
clipian – to call
dreogan – to suffer
forhtian – to fear
gnornian – to grieve or mourn
offrian – to offer
onginnan – to begin
sellan – to sell
swincan – to struggle
willan – to want
witan – to know
writan – to write
Old English Literature: Beowulf
A literary canon of the Old English period is the epic poem Beowulf, which was written between 975 and 1025. The poem is nearly incomprehensible by modern English standards but has been closely translated by Old English scholars.
The first 11 lines of the original Old English version read as follows:
“Hwæt. We Gardena in geardagum,þeodcyninga, þrym gefrunon,hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon.Oft Scyld Scefing sceaþena þreatum,monegum mægþum, meodosetla ofteah,egsode eorlas. Syððan ærest wearðfeasceaft funden, he þæs frofre gebad,weox under wolcnum, weorðmyndum þah,oðþæt him æghwylc þara ymbsittendraofer hronrade hyran scolde,”
“Listen! We – of the Spear-Danes in the days of yore,of those clan-kings – heard of their glory,how those nobles performed courageous deeds,Often Scyld, Scef’s son, from enemy hostsfrom many peoples seized mead-benches;and terrorized the fearsome Heruli after first he wasfound helpless and destitute, he then knew recompense for that:he waxed under the clouds, throve in honours,until to him each of the bordering tribesbeyond the whale-road had to submit,and yield tribute: that was a good king!”
It’s amazing to think that these two poems are saying the same thing, let alone that they are versions of the same language. The English language has changed quite a bit in the past 1000 years, but Beowulf is an example that a great story never gets old.
Influence of Other Languages on Old English
Examination of Old English and modern English seems to indicate that many of the words we use today find their roots in the vocabulary of Old English. Some estimates claim that about half of the words used today have their roots in Old English. This should not be that surprising since English has its roots in the Germanic languages.
Many of the Old English words also came from the influence of the Romans and Greeks. These words were borrowed by the Germanic conquerors and incorporated into Old English. For example, the following words were adapted from the Romans, Greeks and from Latin:
apostle – came from apostol
chalk – came from cealc
wine – came from win
monk – came from munuc
While the spelling is different, the meanings all follow the original words and correspond to the modern meanings.
Making Up New Words
As the need arose for new words for things that the Germanic conquerors were unfamiliar with, they would make up words rather than take Germanic words as descriptors.
Two examples of this are the words for astronomy and arithmetic. The invaders made up the words based on the root word “craeft” which meant an art or science.
Old English in a New World
Now you know some Old English words and their meanings, and have a better understanding of the sources of our language. Even though these words only look vaguely familiar, they are an important part of our linguistic history. Take a step forward in time from Old English with these words from Middle English (A.D. 1100 to A.D. 1500). Or if you’re interested in etymology, take a look at a list of English words of German origin.
Sample 1 Native American Influences on Modern U.S. Culture When the first Europeans came to the North American continent, they encountered the completely new cultures of the Native American. Peoples of North America, Native Americans, who had highly developed cultures in many respects, must have been as curious about them. As always happens when two or more cultures come into contact, there was a cultural exchange. Native Americans adopted some of the Europeans’ ways, and the Europeans adopted some of their ways. As a result, Native Americans have made many valuable contributions to modern U.S. culture, particularly in the areas of language, art, food, and government. First of all, native Americans left a permanent mark on the English language. The early English-speaking settlers borrowed from several different Native American languages words for places in this new land. All across the country are cities, towns, rivers, and states with native American names. For example, the states of Delaware, Iowa, Illinois, and Alabama are named after Native American tribes, as are the cities of Chicago, Miami, and Spokane. In addition to place names, English adopted from various Native American languages the words for animals and plants found in the Americas, Chipmunk, moose, raccoon, skunk, tobacco, and squash are just a few examples. Although the vocabulary of English is the area that shows the most Native American influence, it is not the only area of U.S. culture that has been shaped by contact with Native Americans. Art if another area of important Native American contributions. Wool rugs woven by women of the Navajo Tribe in Arizona and New Mexico are highly valued works of art in the United States. Native American jewelry made from silver and turquoise is also very popular and very expensive. Especially in the western and southwestern regions of the United States, native crafts such as pottery, leather products, and beadwork can be found in many homes. Indeed, native art and handicrafts are a treasured part of U.S. culture. In addition to language and art, agriculture is another area in which Native Americans had a great and lasting influence on the peoples who arrived here from Europe, Africa, and Asia. Being skilled farmers, the Native Americans of North America taught the new comers many things about farming techniques and crops. Every U.S. schoolchild has heard the story of how Native Americans taught the first settlers to place a dead fish in a planting hole to provide fertilizer for the growing plant. Furthermore, they taught the settlers irrigation methods and crop rotation. Many of the foods people in the United States eat today were introduced to the Europeans by Native Americans. For example, corn and chocolate were unknown in Europe. Now they are staples in the U.S. diet. Finally, it may surprise some people to learn that citizens of the United States are also indebted to the native people for our form of government. The Iroquois, who were an extremely large tribe with many branches called “nations”, had developed a highly sophisticated system of government to settle disputes that arose between the various branches. Five of the nations had joined together in a confederation called “The League of the Iroquois.” Under the league, each nation was autonomous in running its own internal affairs, but the nations acted as a unit when dealing with outsiders. The league kept the Iroquois from fighting among themselves and was also valuable in diplomatic relations with other tribes. When the 13 colonies were considering what kind of government to establish after they had won their independence from Britain, someone suggested that they use a system similar to that of the League of the Iroquois. Under this system, each colony or future state would be autonomous in managing its own affairs but would join forces with the other states to deal with matters that concerned them all. This is exactly what happened. As a result, the…
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