Monday, July 24, 2017

A Perfect Game

Seven years ago, my cousin Patrick succumbed to cancer at the age of 17. He always had a bright spirit, and he loved his family, his life, and baseball. As a pitcher, he once threw a no-hitter (which means that he struck out everyone batting against him before they could even hit the ball). When he died, I wrote this poem to honor his life. It is a ballad about Patrick's battle with cancer, and the day he pitched the perfect game, and the indelible mark he left on his loved ones.

At home when on the pitcher’s mound, he wound up for the pitch—
his legendary pitch, renowned, confounding speeds he threw—
and he was calm out on the field; not one revealing twitch
revealed he might have fear concealed: for he was fearless too.

And later, when the doctors found him sick, he still was brave,
still calm, as if still on the mound, still quick though he was ill;
his body riddled by the cancer, Patrick knew the way,
and only Patrick knew the answer, how to stay strong-willed.

He loosed the ball and on it flew, and turbulent it burned
a break-neck path to home plate, through the batter’s errant swinging.
Another pitch, another strike; and now a third, a third—
the umpire cried, his eyes alight, “You’re out!”—the crowd was singing.

And what a crowd our Patrick drew, when he was sick in bed:
his friends and family, strangers too, all came to wish him well;
yes people on the thousands came, to help relieve the dread,
but Patrick, fearless at his game, was fearless here as well.

That day will live in legend when the pitcher Patrick threw
a perfect game—no-hitter—then walked calmly off the field.
One for the books, his chance at fame; I think that Patrick knew
that steady courage wins the game, that courage wins appeal.

So, calm and cool, he took the news that none of us took calmly;
though we supported him, it’s true his courage helped us too.
As in the game, so in ill health, with courage and aplomb, he
moved us through his hard time, impelled us through by being true.

And Patrick, though his life was short, did things that few men do:
he threw a perfect game, what’s more, he warmed his home and hearth.
The legend, number seven, he was brave, kind, funny too;
and though he’s now in Heaven he lives still here in our hearts.

Monday, July 17, 2017

I've Been Published!

My translation of Inferno, Canto I, has been published on the website of the Society of Classical Poets. They also published my poem, "The Mask of Dante". Check them both out here.

I'm really excited to have my work in front of a bigger audience. The Society of Classical Poets is a website and annual journal dedicated to the promotion of classical poetic forms, with an emphasis on rhyming and metrical poetry. It's worth checking out, especially if you're a bit disenchanted with the modern free verse styles that are printed in most magazines today.

If you like my Inferno translation, you can read a few more cantos here. I haven't yet made it available in full. Please contact me or post a comment if you would like to read a specific canto that isn't on the website.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Iliad I, lines 233-239

            This I will tell you—I’ll swear by a powerful oath upon it,
            yes, by this staff, which will never again grow leaves or branches
235      now that it’s gone from the trunk from which it was cut in the mountains,
            nor will it ever sprout and blossom again, for the bronze has
            stripped it of leaves and bark, and today the sons of Achaea
            bear it in hand when they pass down judgments, those who uphold the
            customs of God—and this is the powerful oath I have sworn by:

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Iliad I, lines 229-232

229      Better by far if you range through the sprawling host of Achaeans,
            seizing the gifts away from the men who speak out against you.
            King who devours his people—you reign over worthless nothings!
            Otherwise, son of Atreus, this would have been your last outrage.

Monday, June 12, 2017

1st place in "Funny Food Poetry Contest"

My entry, "The Drunken" (a parody of Poe's "The Raven"), won 1st place in the special category for poems over 14 lines in the "Funny Food Poetry Contest" sponsored by The Society of Classical Poets! My poem follows the style, meter, and rhyme scheme of "The Raven", but it is about liqueur instead of Lenore. Check out the other contest entries in the comments section of this post. Here are the first two stanzas (read the rest of the poem by following the link at the bottom):

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I wandered, drunk and weary,
Over many a quaint and dimlit alley of forgotten doors—
While I plodded, barely standing, suddenly I heard a chanting,
As of someone softly ranting, ranting from the darkened doors.
“It’s some other drunk,” I muttered, “chanting from the darkened doors—
            Only this and nothing more.”

Only vaguely I remember, for I’d been on quite a bender,
And each alleyway I entered left me lost more than before.
Wishing that the night weren’t over, vainly I had bought an Uber,
Then I walked away more sober—sober for my lost liqueur—
For the sweet and fervent ferment that the brewers name liqueur—
            Shameless here forevermore.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Iliad I, lines 223-228

223      Then yet again, with his brutal words, the son of Peleus
            laid into Atreus’ son, and his bile was still unabated:
            “Drunken sack of wine, with the eyes of a dog, and a deer’s heart.
            Not even once have you armed for war alongside your soldiers,
            nor have you gone on an ambush beside the Achaean chieftains.
            Courage is not in your spirit; you’ve seen your death in such ventures.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Been a While

It's been about a month since I last posted lines from the Iliad, but I haven't been resting. I spent some time translating the Old English poem "The Wanderer" (for anyone who hasn't seen Old English, you should know that "translating" is the correct word; it really is a different language). "The Wanderer" is a beautiful 115 line poem in alliterative verse. In my translation, I kept the basic form of the poem, including the alliteration.

Here is how alliterative verse works. Each line of the poem is divided into two halves, each of which has two syllables with principal stress (strong stress), plus any number of other syllables. The first strong stress of the second half-line must alliterate with the first strong stress of the first half-line. The second strong stress of the first half-line may optionally alliterate with these two, but the second strong stress of the second half-line cannot alliterate with them. Usually there is a caesura (pause) between the two half-lines. All vowels alliterate with each other, and syllables with an "s" sound must have all subsequent consonants alliterate (e.g. "said" alliterates with "source", but not with "start"). Thus the poem consists of short half-lines with singular images, where each second half-line contains an echo of the first.

The poem is a lament about the dying warrior culture in Anglo-Saxon England, in the context of the new Christian faith that is taking hold. There are many powerful images and phrases throughout the poem. Tolkien, who was very much influenced by Anglo-Saxon literature and culture as well as the Old English language, even used a line from "The Wanderer" in a song about Rohan in The Lord of the Rings. I can't post the entire poem here yet, because I am submitting it to a few magazines and contests which won't accept published material. To give a flavor of it, however, I will post a few lines here:

92        “Where is the horse?  Where is the rider?
                        Where is the hand giving gold?
            Where are the seats at the feast?
                        Where are the songs in the halls?
94        Alas the bright chalice!
                        Alas the mailed warrior!
            Alas the king’s grandeur!
                        What a long ago time…
96        the night has obscured it,
                        as if it never were.

The half-lines are written on separate lines in my rendering, with the second half-line indented (hence the numbering, which counts every two lines as one). The first half-line in the selection above (92a) is the line used by Tolkien. I will release the full poem on this website as soon as I am able.

I also set up a new page for my original poetry. So far, I only have one poem posted ("The Mask of Dante"), but I will add more over time. As before, I will continue to post new work from my Iliad translation week by week, and I thank my readers for following along. Until next week, then.