A Day for Shakespeare – April 23, 2014

 

“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” 
William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

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Today is National Shakespeare Day.  There is a great deal being said about his brilliance, his writing style and theatrical beginnings.  Some include a timeline from birth to his death, which incidentally occurred on the same day –  April 23rd – fifty-two years apart.    It has been 450 years since his birth and still we talk about him.  Why?

Because he was a storyteller!

Shakespeare gave us stories that resonate within the human heart, advising that “We are such stuff as dreams are made on.”   His words bridge the centuries with verse that draws on a range of human emotions, reminding us that each of us has a part to play.

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.

William Shakespeare, As You Like It

Shakespeare may be a household word, but most of us remember him from school days, when we were required to read one of his plays, knowing that we would be asked to regurgitate someone’s idea of what the play was all about.  For many, this was a painful process, especially since a grade was attached to these assignments.   I wonder what Shakespeare would think of this practice?

Several years ago, I went back to Shakespeare when I read Peter Ackroyd’s “Shakespeare: The Biography” which was published in 2006.   I chose this book specifically because Peter Ackroyd is a self-proclaimed enthusiast instead of an expert on Shakespeare.  I was more interested in William Shakespeare as a flesh and blood person, rather than a distant, inaccessible genius.  I was not disappointed.   Peter Ackroyd transported me to the time of Elizabeth I, where drama, intrigue and schemes flourished.  William Shakespeare’s years were filled with humour, joy, tragedy and love.  A life well lived.

“All’s well if all ends well.” 

 William Shakespeare

 

OnTheRoad

“Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.” 
 Ruth Reichl

They call it social media, but I rather think of blogging as a conversation, an exchange of ideas that draws on the varied experiences and talents of a wider, global community.  A few weeks ago, Letizia from Reading Interrupted invited me to write a guest blog on George Washington which was in response to Letizia’s excellent post on Revisiting the Jefferson Bible. I encourage you to visit Letizia’s blog and enjoy reading (and participating in)  the animated discussion.

Thank you, Letizia, for introducing me to your dynamic and vibrant community. I look forward to every one of your posts. With a book in our hands, we are always on an adventure.

Thank you, Letizia!

The Month for Poetry

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote

The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote

And bathed every veyne in swich licour….

Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,

 Geoffrey Chaucer, Prologue to the Canterbury Tales

Ferries

It all started in 1995 when the Academy of American Poets brought together a group of publishers, booksellers, librarians, literary organizations, poets and teachers.  This was no ordinary conference!  The participants had one objective, to organize a month-long commemoration of poetry.   They designated April 1996 as the inaugural celebration of National Poetry Month.     Geoffrey Chaucer would be proud!  After all, April is the time for pilgrimages.  In my experience, this embodies the essence of poetry.  Poems thrust us into a remarkable journey that demands are complete involvement.

Last year, OTR Poetry Reading Program 2013 selected, “The Voice of the Poet – Five American Women” which brings together the brilliant voices of Gertrude Stein, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Louise Bogan and Muriel Rukeyser.   To celebrate this month of poetry, I want to highlight these five American Women who used poetry to define their lives and challenged us to do the same.

Edna St. Vincent Millay was a free spirit known for her bohemian lifestyle.  Her background in theatre added a dramatic flare to her poetry readings.  Recuerdo, which in Spanish means memory, is a testament to living generously, without reservation, without regret.

Reading poetry speaks to the heart.  Listening to poetry sings to the soul.

Recuerdo

Edna St. Vincent Millay

We were very tired, we were very merry—

We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.

It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable—

But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,

We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon;

And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon. Continue reading