The Erasure of Islam from the Poetry of Rumi Rozina Ali revisits the cultural legacy of Rumi in the West: 'The erasure of Islam from Rumi’s poetry started long before Coldplay got involved. Omid Safi, a professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic studies at Duke University, says that it was in the Victorian period that readers in the West began to uncouple mystical poetry from its Islamic roots. Translators and theologians of the time could not reconcile their ideas about a “desert religion,” with its unusual moral and legal codes, and the work of poets like Rumi and Hafez. The explanation they settled on, Safi told me, was “that these people are mystical not because of Islam but in spite of it.” This was a time when Muslims were singled out for legal discrimination—a law from 1790 curtailed the number of Muslims who could come into the United States, and a century later the U.S. Supreme Court described the “intense hostility of the people of Moslem faith to all other sects, and particularly to Christians.” In 1898, in the introduction to his translation of the “Masnavi,” Sir James Redhouse wrote, “The Masnavi addresses those who leave the world, try to know and be with God, efface their selves and devote themselves to spiritual contemplation.” For those in the West, Rumi and Islam were separated.' [Rumi previously]
In 1739, an English washer-woman named Mary Collier published a long poem called "The Woman's Labour" about the difficulties faced by working women. Her poem was a response to The Thresher's Labour by Stephen Duck, which mocked the poetic conceit that agricultural workers spend a pleasant time in nature, and took a few pot shots at women along the way: "Ah! were their Hands so active as their Tongues/ How nimbly then would move the Rakes and Prongs?" Collier refutes Duck's criticisms and describes women's added labour: [more inside]
"I am somebody. I am God's child. I may not have a job, but I am somebody. I may be Black, but I am somebody. I may not have an education, but I am somebody. You may not respect me, but I am somebody. I may be a Puerto Rican, but I am somebody. I may be an Indian and my land was stolen, but I am somebody." The history of the chant. [more inside]
In 1915, there were many ways to drive across and around in the United States (though trans-continental routes were mostly dirt, with some improved sections). So why did a group meet that same year to develop another cross-country road, one that would take 15 years to complete, rather than tying together existing segments? Tourism to their communities, mostly, but their* Old Spanish Trail also boasted of being the shortest route from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Today, you can still find remnants of that road, and there's a group of people who are trying to revive this historic highway. [more inside]
One hundred years ago today, the SS Eastland, about to set out for a company picnic in Indiana, tipped over at its dock in the Chicago River with over 2,500 people aboard. Eight hundred and forty-four of them died in one of the worst non-military maritime disasters in American history. The Chicago Tribune has published some previously unseen photographs of the recovery efforts. [warning: a couple of these are potentially disturbing] [more inside]
Mahmoud Darwish once wrote, of Gaza, “We are unfair to her when we search for her poems.” [more inside]
Travel was always desirable to them / And they visited every continent … They considered travel and homeland synonymous / For them, every valley and desert was home. [more inside]
“The way the poem sits on the page does not necessarily tell you anything about how to read it.” Explains Hugh Kenner of radical modernist poet and New Jersey general practitioner Williams Carlos Williams. The series features archival footage, animation, and interviews with critics, poets and and neighbors, among them Helen Vendler, Marjorie Porloff, James Merrill, and Anthony Hecht. Also, Elizabeth Bishop, Hart Crane, Emily Dickinson, T. S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Robert Lowell, Marianne Moore, Sylvia Plath, Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, Walt Whitman. Produced by the New York Center for Visual History, 1988. Previously [more inside]
A wonderful, generous and free selection of authors, collections and books online at Lit2Go for awake times or drowsy ones. The Count of Monte Cristo from the Adventure collection | or perhaps a Just So Story from the Fantasy collection | Beowolf from the Here Be Dragons! collection | Aladdin from Andrew Lang's Fairy Books of Many Colors or The Heart of Happy Hollow from the African American collection. Also practical for children. Previously. [more inside]
"During his days as Harvard’s influential president, Dr. Charles W. Eliot made a frequent assertion: If you were to spend just 15 minutes a day reading the right books, a quantity that could fit on a five-foot shelf, you could give yourself a proper liberal education. Publisher P. F. Collier and Son loved the idea and asked Eliot to compile and edit the right collection of works. The result: a 51-volume series of classic works from world literature published in 1909 called Dr. Eliot’s Five Foot Shelf, which would later be called The Harvard Classics." (Via) [more inside]
The Carrier's Address In the first two centuries of American newspapering, printers ended the year with elaborately worded decorated holiday messages, often in verse, written in the voice of the printer's boy or news carrier, hinting that the end of year would be a great time for a Christmas or New Year's tip.
Perched high up above the Thames in downtown London every month this past year a different writer has spent four days living in a replica of the Roi des Belges, the boat Marlow travels up the Congo in Joseph Conrad's The Heart of Darkness. Each author would write a short text during their stay "which explores London, rivers, the work of Joseph Conrad, or even all three." They would be visited on the last day by a journalist from The Guardian who recorded them reading their essay, poem or short story. Among the poets, historians and novelists were Adonis, Jeanette Winterson, Teju Cole, Michael Ondaatje and Kamila Shamsie. These recordings, each prefaced by a short interview, are all available on the Guardian website, to stream or download. Below the cut there is a link to each recording, with a short description. [more inside]
With cities, it is as with dreams: everything imaginable can be dreamed, but even the most unexpected dream is a rebus that conceals a desire or, its reverse, a fear. Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else. December 2012 marks the 40th anniversary of Invisible Cities -- the sublime metaphysical travelogue by author-journalist Italo Calvino. In a series of pensive dialogues with jaded emperor Kublai Khan, the explorer Marco Polo describes a meandering litany of visionary and impossible places, dozens of surreal, fantastical cities, each poetically reifying ideas vital to language, philosophy, and the human spirit. This gracefully written love letter to urban life has inspired countless tributes, but it's just the most accessible of Calvino's fascinating literary catalogue. Look inside for a closer look at his most remarkable works, links to English translations of his magical prose, and collections of artistic interpretations from around the web -- including this treasure trove of essays, excerpts, articles, and recommended reading. [more inside]
The permanent collection of the (US) National Veterans Art Museum in Chicago contains more than 2,500 pieces of art by 250 artists, all of which can be seen at NVAM Collection Online. The site includes biographical material on the artists who created the work. Featured Artwork. A small selection. (Via. Images at links in this post may be nsfw, and/or disturbing to some viewers.)
Old Book Illustrations are vintage pictures that were originally wood engravings or woodcuts, etchings or metal engravings. Old Book Art is pictures, drawings, maps and other images from antiquarian, public-domain books and other old documents. [more inside]
Tobar an Dualchais will keep you busy for awhile. It's a collection of over 26,000 oral recordings made in Scotland, from the 1930s onward. Folklore, songs, music, history, poetry, oh my. Includes some fascinating material from Belle Stewart, the McPake Sisters of Peebles and John the Bard.
The Battle Of Maldon is an Old English poem (here in the original Old English, here in a modern translation) retelling the events of a battle that took place in England in 991, in which a small army of Saxons attempted to halt an invading Viking force only to suffer a crushing defeat. This battle, and the disastrous rout suffered by the Saxons, led to the introduction of the Danegeld, the payment of silver in tribute to the Vikings to buy off their invading forces. [more inside]
Sandusky, Ohio is probably best known for its roller coasters (and maybe the wineries in the area), but one of the most interesting places--a tiny little island in the Sandusky Bay called Johnson's Island--is very often overlooked. Once the home of a prison camp for confederate soldiers, daring (and not so daring) escapes, convoluted espionage schemes, poetry, and eating rats. [more inside]
Poetry in Hell contains a complete collection of poems recovered from the Warsaw Ghetto's Ringelblum Archives. The project, which took ten years to complete, gives English translations of poems that are shown in their original Yiddish. [more inside]
Valentines from E.B. White, Mark Twain, Katharine Hepburn, E. E. Cummings, Alexander Hamilton, and Zero Mostel. From libraries and archives around NYC, via the NYT (more info here).
Presidents as Poets, a virtual exhibit from the Library of Congress, examines the lyrical efforts of eight American presidents, including Barack Obama's "Pop," Abraham Lincoln's "The Bear Hunt," and John Quincy Adams' Dermot MacMorrogh or the Conquest of Ireland: An Historical Tale of the Twelfth Century in Four Cantos. [more inside]
Enheduanna was a priestess and poet in the city of Ur in the 23rd century BC and supposedly the daughter of Sargon the Great of Akkad. She is the first author known by name. Here are a number of her poems in English translation, The Exaltation of Inana, Inana and Ebih, A Hymn to Inana, The Temple Hymns and A Balbale to Nanna. Here are two alternate translations of The Exaltation of Inana, one by James D. Pritchard and an English rendering of Dr. Annette Zgoll's German translation. If you want to learn more, go to The En-hedu-Ana Research Pages.
Shmoop is study guides and teacher resources that help us understand how literature and history and poetry are relevant today. Take for example Shakespeare's Sonnet 130. Get a technical analysis of it's literary devices, explanations of the themes, and audio/video readings of the sonnet.
A "singular creature, whose secluded life and remarkable eccentricities have long made her an object of peculiar interest” is described in the 1876 A guide to Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. This woman, Nancy Luce (c 1814 to 1890), published books of poems and information about her chickens. Her first book was Poor Little Hearts and her second was A complete edition of the works of Nancy Luce ... containing God's words--Sickness--Poor little hearts--Milk--No comfort--Prayers--Our Savior's golden rule--Hen's names, etc. Here’s part of Poor Little Hearts and here’s Lines composed by Nancy Luce about poor little Ada Queetie and poor little Beauty Linna, both deceased ... . A sad poem – “I hope I never shall have a hen, to set so much by again ... “ is quoted in this account of a visit to her grave. She put up a gravestone (NYT, 1873) to one of her hens, Tweedle Dedel Bebbee Pinky. [more inside]
Explore the History of the Ancient Greek World from the Neolithic to the Classical Period. Covering important topics, such as Art and Architecture, Mythology, Wars, Culture and Society, Poetry, Olympics, History Periods, Philosophy, Playwrights, Kings and Rulers of Ancient Greece.
The Great War Archive goes live today (November 11), the 90th anniversary of the Armistice. Launched by the University of Oxford in March 2008, the initiative invited members of the general public to submit digital photographs, audio, film, documents, and stories that originated from the Great War. Although the dealine for submissions is past, photos can still be added to the project's Flickr group.
They are members of the olive family, among the earliest flowering plants imported to the United States. Planted near the front doors of flat, bare early Colonial house facades, they helped to create "dooryard gardens," which softened and brought beauty to a rough-hewn early America. Jefferson planted them; at Monticello, some of those bushes still bloom.. They gave Pan his pipes. They are employed as evocative symbols in American literature, song, and poetry, where they symbolize the sensuousness of love in its earliest stages. Festivals celebrate their blooming, and NOAA tracks the earliest leaves and flowers for evidence of climate change. The inability to smell it may be an early indication of Alzheimer's disease. No wonder people like to steal them.
People with a History is "an online guide to lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans history." Ranging from the first stirrings of civilization to the modern day, People with a History gathers together original sources and academic articles dealing with queerness throughout history. To give you a feel for the wealth of material on the site, here are a few pages that caught my interest: The Vikings and Homosexuality, Coptic Spell: Spell for a Man to Obtain a Male Lover, an acount of a gay marriage ceremony described by Michel de Montaigne, But Among Our Own Selves (an 18th Century gay ballad), a chapter from The Life of St. Theodore of Sykeon, a 7th Century Byzantine monk and bishop, which mentions adelphopoiesis, or the rite of brothermaking, Wu Tsao, 19th Century Chinese lesbian poet, and finally Polari: The Lost Language of Gay Men.
Parmenides. "The pre-Socratic philosopher sparked an intellectual revolution that still echoes today. Yet for philosophy and science to continue to progress in the 21st century, we may need to embark on an entirely new cognitive journey ."
One of only ten poems published during Emily Dickinson's lifetime, the poem beginning "Safe in their Alabaster Chambers" continues to be reproduced in conflicting versions. Emily Dickinson Writing a Poem lets us leaf through images of Dickinson's original manuscripts and correspondences concerning the poem. According to the site, this documents surrounding this poem offer "the only example of Emily Dickinson responding directly to another reader's advice." At one point, Dickinson apparently struggled to decide between at least three alternatives of the much-contested second verse. Also included is a history of the poem's early printings, providing an opportunity to note how many publications have ignored Dickinson's idiosyncratic punctuation.
After the Romans left Britain was divided into a number of Celtic kingdoms that fought with each other and, increasingly, with the Germanic invaders we know as "Anglo-Saxons." The most famous alleged defender of Celtic Britain, of course, is King Arthur, but he's more myth than history. What catches my imagination is The Gododdin (Welsh original, by Aneurin), an epic lament for the band of men who gathered at Eiddyn (Edinburgh, main town of Gododdin) around the year 600 and headed south for a last-ditch battle against the Saxons at Catraeth (probably Catterick in northern Yorkshire), where they were wiped out. One contingent was from Elmet (Elfed in the poem), a kingdom that had been holding the line against the invaders in what's now Yorkshire; once Elmet was conquered, there was no stopping them. And all of this history was basic to the poetry of David Jones, one of the best unknown poets of the previous century, and important to one of the best known, Ted Hughes (book with photos). "Men went to Catraeth, familiar with laughter. The old, the young, the strong, the weak."
The Goats of West Point ”...though only about twenty years of age, had the appearance of being much older. He had a worn, weary, discontented look, not easily forgotten by those who were intimate with him.” A new book tells the story of Sergeant Major Edgar Allan Poe, Battery H (.pdf), First Artillery Washout, West Point, Class of 1834. And of other famous cadets.
Here is the story of Hsuan Tsang / A Buddhist monk, he went from Xian to southern India / And back--on horseback, on camel-back, on elephant-back, and on foot. / Ten thousand miles... / Mountains and deserts, / In search of the Truth... Traversing rivers and deserts, scaling mountains and passing through desolate lands with no traces of human habitation, 7th century Chinese monk Hsuan Tsang made his journey in 627 AD from Changan to India for religious purposes. His detailed travel journal is believed to be among the earliest reliable sources of information about distant countries whose terrain and customs had been known, at that time, in only the sketchiest way. He travelled over land mostly on foot and horseback along the Silk Road, west towards India. The Buddhist scholar’s pilgrimage (627-645 AD) contributed enormously to the cultural flow between East and West Asia. His "Hsi Yu Ki" or "Records of the Western World" is considered the most valuable book source for the study of ancient Indian history and culture. Italian explorer Marco Polo, whose travel writings fired the imagination of Europeans for centuries, was believed to have used Hsuan Tsang’s travelogue as a guide during his travels in the 13th century. More than 1,300 years after Hsuan Tsang’s historical journey, Taiwanese magazine Rhythms Monthly embarked on a project to retrace Hsuan Tsang’s 19-year pilgrimage through a road that, today, belongs to 11 different countries. more inside
The Illustrated Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. An exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art. Stunning illustrations of world-class poetry. 'nuff said.
"The Druids of the ancient Celtic world have a startling kinship with the brahmins of the Hindu religion,"
"The Druids of the ancient Celtic world have a startling kinship with the brahmins of the Hindu religion," according to popular historian Peter Berresford Ellis. Another author examines the parallels between Celtic and Vedic culture in the article The Celtic Vedic Connection, and a particular diety is analyzed in The Horned God in India and Europe. This may not be very conservative scholarship, but I found it intriguing and fun to contemplate.