February 21, 2012

Poetry Out Loud

Today, Caffeine Theatre staff members Dan Smith and Kristin Idaszak volunteered at the Poetry Out Loud Chicago Suburban Regional competition at the Arts Center of Oak Park. Thanks to Chicagoland Regional Poetry Out Loud director Liz McCabe for inviting us.

Dan served as Master of Ceremonies and started off the festivities by reading "Free Verse," a favorite Robert Graves poem from the 1918 collection Fairies and Fusiliers. To kick off round 2, he read "Careers," a poem about sibling rivalry from the same collection. Also during round 2, Dan recited his favorite anti-Petrarchan Shakespeare sonnet (Sonnet 130: "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun"). He would like to thank the teachers in the second row who prompted him when he forgot the beginning of the third quatrain (which he forgets every time he tries to recite this poem).

Below, for your delectation, are the two Robert Graves poems Dan recited today:

"Free Verse”

I now delight
In spite
Of the might
And the right
Of classic tradition,
In writing
And reciting
Straight ahead,
Without let or omission,
Just any little rhyme
In any little time
That runs in my head;
Because, I've said,
My rhymes no longer shall stand arrayed
Like Prussian soldiers on parade
That march,
Stiff as starch,
Foot to foot,
Boot to boot,
Blade to blade,
Button to button
Cheeks and chops and chins like mutton.
No! No!
My rhymes must go
Turn 'ee, twist 'ee,
Twinkling, frosty,
Will-o'-the-wisp-like, misty;
Rhymes I will make
Like Keats and Blake
And Christina Rossetti,
With run and ripple and shake.
How pretty
To take
A merry little rhyme
In a jolly little time
And poke it,
And choke it,
Change it, arrange it,
Straight-lace it, deface it,
Pleat it with pleats,
Sheet it with sheets
Of empty conceits,
And chop and chew,
And hack and hew,
And weld it into a uniform stanza,
And evolve a neat,
Complacent, complete,
Academic extravaganza!


Father is quite the greatest poet
That ever lived anywhere.
You say you're going to write great music--
I chose that first: it's unfair.
Besides, now I can't be the greatest painter and
do Christ and angels, or lovely pears
and apples and grapes on a green dish,
or storms at sea, or anything lovely,
Because that's been taken by Claire.

It's stupid to be an engine-driver,
And soldiers are horrible men.
I won't be a tailor, I won't be a sailor,
And gardener's taken by Ben.
It's unfair if you say that you'll write great
music, you horrid, you unkind (I simply
loathe you, though you are my
sister), you beast, cad, coward, cheat,
bully, liar!
Well? Say what's left for me then!

But we won't go to your ugly music.
(Listen!) Ben will garden and dig,
And Claire will finish her wondrous pictures
All flaming and splendid and big.

And I'll be a perfectly marvellous carpenter,
and I'll make cupboards and benches
and tables and ... and baths, and
nice wooden boxes for studs and
And you'll be jealous, you pig!

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