Law and Conversation

January 10, 2011

Read This: Poetry

Filed under: Books and writing,poetry,Read This! — Helen Gunnarsson @ 12:01 am
Tags: , , ,

No time to read?

Sure, you’re busy.  You work, you’re understaffed, you have a partner, you have a spouse, you have kids, you have other family members who need your time, you’re tired, you have chores, you travel, you’re on call, you do volunteer work, you’re active in professional organizations, you’re campaigning for a promotion, you’re a Very Important Person.  So, you sigh, much as you’d love to, you have No Time To Read.

Excuses, all of them. 

I know:  I’ve made many of them myself.

Here’s what all of us can do in the course of any day:  read a poem.  One poem.

Most of us probably don’t think of poems when we think of what we’d like to read or draw up our reading or book group lists.  Andrew Petcher’s comment on my post about the Elgin Marbles, quoting “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage,” Lord Byron’s eloquent poem from 1812, on Lord Elgin’s plundering the Parthenon, got me thinking about how great it would be if we all read more poetry.  And nobody is too busy to find two minutes in a day to read a short poem.

Here are a few reasons to read poetry:

–Like reading anything else not required by your employment, it challenges and refreshes your mind and outlook.

–Most poems are short.  You can read many in just a minute or two.  You can also spend more time savoring the language and thinking about how the poet put words together, structured the poem, and what the poem means to or evokes in you.  (Of course, some poems are epics, and require the time of a hefty novel to read and enjoy.)

–In a good poem, every word counts.  There’s nothing superfluous.  A short poem might tell a very complex story and evoke strong feelings in the reader.  Reading a terse, carefully crafted piece, whether an essay, fiction, or poetry, is a delight.  It will also influence the reader to become a better writer.

–Poetry is beautiful. 

You can start by reading Byron’s poem, which Project Gutenberg has made freely available online.  For more poetic comments from Byron  on the Elgin Marbles, see his “The Curse of Minerva” (also free).  For background on Byron and the Elgin Marbles, see Ann Wuyts’ 2009 post on the Heritage Key blog.  (To my delight, I see that Ann has recommended several graphic travel novels on her bio page on the Heritage Key site.)

Another good way to get some poetry into your life is to sign up for Garrison Keillor’s “The Writer’s Almanac” via e-mail, RSS, or podcast.  It’s free, and Keillor starts every edition with a poem.

Do check out Andrew Petcher’s “Have Bag, Will Travel“; he’s just posted about his trip to Segovia, Spain.  Some of his commenters have their own very interesting and beautifully illustrated blogs, including James ‘s Plus Ultra.

Readers, any poems you’d recommend?

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August 27, 2010

Thieves, plunderers, and musicians

The Chicago Tribune reports on a happy ending, with the aid of the newspaper’s Problem Solver column, for a violist whose prized instrument was stolen more than ten years ago.  As columnist Jon Yates wrote, Northwestern University law professor Robert Bennett recited blackletter law that a thief cannot convey good title to stolen property.

The old saw, “Possession is nine tenths of ownership,” can trump the law when it comes to repatriation of property stolen decades or centuries ago, as Colin Woodard shows in his article, “The War Over Plunder: Who Owns Art Stolen in War?” from The Quarterly Journal of Military History.  Many treasures are simply of unknown provenance, including many artifacts held by museums:  their origins and creators may be undisputed, but what happened after their creation and the paths they took to get to the museums where they now reside are often murky, if not impossible to ascertain.  One famous example of museum property whose rightful ownership is bitterly disputed is the Elgin Marbles, in the possession of the British Museum since the early 19th century.  You can read more about that controversy here, here, and here.

The stolen viola’s rightful owner spoke movingly in Yates’s article about what her instrument meant to her.  Two other books that illustrate why, to a musician, just any instrument won’t do are Vikram Seth’s “An Equal Music” and Perri Knize’s “Grand Obsession.”

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