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I write, translate, and study poetry. As a doctoral student at Amerika-Institut of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, I'm now anatomizing Robinson's sonnets for my dissertation. I also tutor writing at the university, teach English at Münchner Volkshochschule, and advise the Amerikahaus literary circle.

20150705

Der Dichter

von Rainer Maria Rilke

Du entfernst dich von mir, du Stunde.
Wunden schlägt mir dein Flügelschlag.
Allein: was soll ich mit meinem Munde?
mit meiner Nacht? mit meinem Tag?

Ich habe keine Geliebte, kein Haus,
keine Stelle auf der ich lebe.
Alle Dinge, an die ich mich gebe,
werden reich und geben mich aus.

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.

20150701

Amerikahaus Literary Circle: 1 July 2015

Discussion Questions for To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

1.  Did you enjoy the story?  If so, what did you especially like?

2.  The character of Jean Louise Finch—Scout—narrates the novel in a voice that possesses qualities of both adult reflection and child-like immediacy.  Did you find instances of this?  If so, how did this particular admixture of effect work to affect you as a reader?

3.  Set in rural Alabama in 1935, the Maycomb of Harper Lee’s creation is rife with minute detail evoking the social life of a small town—that said, there is also a timeless quality to the place that lends itself to easy comparisons by a contemporary readership.  Though far removed from us in the Munich of 2015, it was nevertheless somewhat easy to slip into this fictive and historical world:  How did the novelist achieve this effect?  

4.  For much of the novel, the concepts of violence and terror reside only in the imaginations of Jem, Scout, and Dill as they while away their easy summer days.  Prior to the ending—where there is, of course, a spate of events that literally shake up the children to the ways of the adult world—did you detect a sense of forboding in their otherwise idyllic world?

5.  One way that novelists differentiate character is through the presentation of speech patterns—lexical choices, syntatic tics, and dialectal variations, and so on.  Consider all the characters in this question:  How do their voices differ, and what effect did this have upon your experience of the story?

6.  A novel, as a piece of writing, is rhetorically constructed through the accretion of smaller parts—words, collocations, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs.  In looking at the writing itself, its features of language, what did you take note of as you read?  Contrast, for example, Lee’s prose style with those of other writers we have recently read—Vonnegut, Conrad, Hemingway, Boyle, and Gilbert.  

7.  The very title evokes a moral message:  What is it?  Is the novel merely a dressed-up morality play, or is it instead a living and realistic portrayal of American life?  Did you find its message of tolerance artfully brought forth, or was it obtrusively drawn and heavy-handed?  Consider its value in light of the present state of race relations in the United States.

8.  Was the ending satisfying?

9.  In less than two weeks, Harper Lee’s second novel, Go Set a Watchman, written in the 1950s before To Kill a Mockingbird, will be published and feature a return of many of the characters as adults.  How do you expect the lives of the characters to have evolved?

10.  Have you seen the film?  If so, did you like it?  How did it differ from the book?

20150629

Credo

by Edwin Arlington Robinson

I cannot find my way: there is no star
In all the shrouded heavens anywhere;
And there is not a whisper in the air
Of any living voice but one so far
That I can hear it only as a bar        
Of lost, imperial music, played when fair
And angel fingers wove, and unaware,
Dead leaves to garlands where no roses are.

No, there is not a glimmer, nor a call,
For one that welcomes, welcomes when he fears,       
The black and awful chaos of the night;
For through it all—above, beyond it all—
I know the far-sent message of the years,
I feel the coming glory of the Light.

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.

20150624

George Crabbe

by Edwin Arlington Robinson

Give him the darkest inch your shelf allows,
Hide him in lonely garrets, if you will,—
But his hard, human pulse is throbbing still
With the sure strength that fearless truth endows.
In spite of all fine science disavows,        
Of his plain excellence and stubborn skill
There yet remains what fashion cannot kill,
Though years have thinned the laurel from his brows.

Whether or not we read him, we can feel
From time to time the vigor of his name       
Against us like a finger for the shame
And emptiness of what our souls reveal
In books that are as altars where we kneel
To consecrate the flicker, not the flame.

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.

20150623

Sonnet

by Edwin Arlington Robinson

Oh, for a poet—for a beacon bright
To rift this changeless glimmer of dead gray;
To spirit back the Muses, long astray,
And flush Parnassus with a newer light;
To put these little sonnet-men to flight
Who fashion, in a shrewd mechanic way,
Songs without souls, that flicker for a day,
To vanish in irrevocable night.

What does it mean, this barren age of ours?
Here are the men, the women, and the flowers,
The seasons, and the sunset, as before.
What does it mean?  Shall there not one arise
To wrench one banner from the western skies,
And mark it with his name for evermore?

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.

20150622

Leisure

by Amy Lowell

Leisure, thou goddess of a bygone age,
   When hours were long and days sufficed to hold
    Wide-eyed delights and pleasures uncontrolled
By shortening moments, when no gaunt presage
Of undone duties, modern heritage,
    Haunted our happy minds; must thou withhold
    Thy presence from this over-busy world,
And bearing silence with thee disengage
    Our twinèd fortunes? Deeps of unhewn woods
    Alone can cherish thee, alone possess
Thy quiet, teeming vigor. This our crime:
    Not to have worshipped, marred by alien moods
    That sole condition of all loveliness,
The dreaming lapse of slow, unmeasured time.

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.

20150621

Portrait of My Father as a Young Man

by Rainer Maria Rilke,
translated by Mark Olival-Bartley

In the eyes, dreams.  The brow as though in touch
with something far off.  Around the mouth, great
youth and a seducer's frown, or some such;
and the lacing in full dress over much
of the form adds an imperial state
about the scabbard, which both hands hold sway
with a quiet waiting and an unrest 
that is almost unseen now as if, say,
they, too, would vanish to a distant land
and, imposing themselves on all the rest,
flame out for reasons we can't understand.
From such deep despair comes a depth made ripe.

How fast your fading is, daguerreotype,
held in my somewhat slower fading hand.


Jugend-Bildnis meines Vaters

von Rainer Maria Rilke

Im Auge Traum. Die Stirn wie in Berührung
mit etwas Fernem. Um den Mund enorm
viel Jugend, ungelächelte Verführung,
und vor der vollen schmückenden Verschnürung
der schlanken adeligen Uniform
der Säbelkorb und beide Hände –, die
abwarten, ruhig, zu nichts hingedrängt.
Und nun fast nicht mehr sichtbar: als ob sie
zuerst, die Fernes greifenden, verschwänden.
Und alles andere mit sich selbst verhängt
und ausgelöscht als ob wirs nicht verständen
und tief aus eigener Tiefe trüb –.

Du schnell vergehendes Daguerreotyp
in meinen langsamer vergehenden Händen.

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.