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Fire Over Foreign Water

7 May

My wonderful husband took me to see my absolute favourite Shakespeare play (EVER) a few weeks ago which is… (drum roll please and thank you):

The Tempest

SPOILER ALERT (Follow my blog to read the next work of poetry if you don’t want to know the ending!)

If you have not seen this play performed, watched the major motion picture released last year, or were forced to read the play by an inspiring high school teacher, I am sorry. This is a great comedy and one the last plays ever written (possible THE last, one may never know) by Shakespeare. Not only is there comedy, there is romance, magic, loss, the struggle for power, even murderous plots! The best part, though, and by far why I dearly love this play, is in the ending which defies the normal revenge and need for justice: forgiveness (sigh).

As one of those aforementioned inspiring teachers myself, I have taught the play four times and each time I build up to the confrontation scene where Prospero, our protagonist, rounds up his evil brother, Antonio; the unwitting king, Alonso; the king’s gullible brother, Sebastian; and Prospero’s old friend and lifeline, Gonzalo. I ask my students what they think Prospero will do since we know he has not appeared so innocent and merciful in the preceding acts. Usually they all say surely he will banish them, leave them behind, perhaps kill them. Occasionally I get one or two who suggest the actual response. I love the unexpected kindness and mercy Prospero shows them though they do not deserve it. Such a great ending!

Fire Over Foreign Water

Here is the poem, an example of concrete poetry which forms a picture:

The text version:

An orchestrated shipwreck,

fire over foreign water,

flamed amazement;

brought sorrow and greed to a magical isle.

 

A crowned king, displaced by thrown swells

to the island inhabited, enchanted

and apart from kind kin, deaf to the past evils,

with wisdom from only an aged advisor

the rest of the entourage, alas, a loss.

 

Budding romance at first sight on another shore,

a young prince and a duchess, who saw only things

divine and brought together two families of royal blood.

First to a father’s test who watches with many eyes

over the isle: the water, the shores.

 

And frozen moments reveal the masked deceivers

parading round, of their fears, and steadfast hunger.

Sword drawn, a plea of roaring lions bellowing out,

fools the few. They wonder while the islander hides

from the storm and worships ambitious fools

inebriated and swaddled in charmed robes.

 

The king, desperate now affright with a raven’s warning;

the advisor jaded; the lovers enthralled by Ceres, Iris and Juno.

Plot foiled for the creature ever lurking is shamed

while all are taken to Prospero by the Lord’s lion and servant spirit.

 

Our magician ruler who – twelve years asunder –

instead of righteous revenge pardons them,

lavishing forgiveness: true justice for every last one.

 

Let us all set free and pardon.

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The Seven Ages of Jen

17 Apr

Happy Birthday to me!

That’s right readers, I have written a birthday poem to help myself reflect on life and come to terms with the incessant aging process. I’m now in my late twenties – there is no denying it – I am definitely out of my mid-twenties and on my way to thirtydom. I keep reminding myself to welcome it with open arms but dang, that is hard. So poetry is my way forward.

This poem is a twist on Shakespeare’s “The Seven Ages of Man” from the play As You Like It; however, I have given it an added twist. I haven’t copied the structure. Instead I wanted to challenge myself and write in the sestina scheme. Here is the breakdown of stanzas:

Shakespeare’s seven ages:

My seven ages:

1.    Infancy 1.   Infancy (part of a family)
2.   Childhood 2.   Teenage years (phases that NO ONE wants to relive)
3.   The lover 3.    Young adult (maturing, travelling, committing my life to God)
4.    The soldier 4.    Marriage (current ‘age’) (getting hitched, moving to England, becoming an adult)
5.    The justice 5.    Motherhood (I guess that is next… AHHH!)
6.    Old age 6.    Grandmotherhood (Looking forward to this in a few decades)
7.    Mental dementia and death 7.    Death (I guess it’s one of two guarantees in life)

 So what is a sestina? A sestina is a type of poetry made up of seven stanzas following a complex scheme. In each of the first six stanza the lines end in one of six words and the seventh stanza is short but still also uses all the words as a treat. My six words are:

A = balanced;    B = patient;    C = loved;    D = world;    E = be;    F = sweet.

Stanza 1 Stanza 2 Stanza 3 Stanza 4 Stanza 5 Stanza 6
1 A 6 F 3 C 5 E 4 D 2 B
2 B 1 A 6 F 3 C 5 E 4 D
3 C 5 E 4 D 2 B 1 A 6 F
4 D 2 B 1 A 6 F 3 C 5 E
5 E 4 D 2 B 1 A 6 F 3 C
6 F 3 C 5 E 4 D 2 B 1 A

Confused? Don’t worry, it’s the enjoyment of the poem that’s the important bit –  not the fancy schamncy scheme.

So how did I go about choosing these six special birthday words you ask? I asked my friends! Thanks friends!

Enjoy the poem and a happy day to you, especially if it’s your birthday too.

The Seven Ages of Jen

My world is a stage: curtain drawn. A balanced
Part comedy, part tragedy of a not-so-patient
Woman’s journey, learning to love and be loved
And finding her – my – own way in the world.
My mom told me once that I taught her how to be.
I? Only a baby in this gift of family, bittersweet.

Many things children do not see as bitter or sweet –
But they are all gifts. Between school and chores, small hands balanced
Living and growing and learning through trial. I dared to be
Grunged and gothed through the early acts, not patient
But fighting through change in the staged world
Hungrily grasping at what it was to ultimately be loved.

And I, a young woman came to know how to be loved,
Truly, by God. And the moment of sweet
Forgiveness – to know my place in the vast world
Downstage or up, or hiding in the wings. I found myself balanced
Learning to be still. Then, off on adventures to China to find fruit: the patient,
Loving-kindness, goodness, and faithfulness that I can be

And bring to others. And so one day upon my stage I, a wife to be,
My husband appeared at stage right and instantly we loved
Each other in a new way of deep, true, patient
Love, and I savoured those moments so dear and sweet.
And I changed the props to England’s castles and cups of tea and I balanced
New things: baking, blogging, teaching, loving in this wide world.

Now who I can invite to this stage in my new world?
To become a mother next, perhaps I will be
And learn a new dance, a new walk, to be balanced
With a swollen belly, children already loved
And wanted. They will be gentle and sweet
As peas. I will learn again, to be patient.

The audience will want to stand for an ovation – be patient.
I’m still watching them grow, to learn and marry and make a world
Of their own and I’ll treat them all to my dad’s sweet
Secret ingredient recipes. I’ll stand downstage to be
Master of the dramatic soliloquy reflecting on how loved
They are. A comedy, a tragedy, a history: well-balanced.

Then my patient heart will be met with the ultimate bride-groom to be,
Who conquered the world and loved it first.
Then all will be sweet and balanced.