Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Pot of Poetry: Poetry in Your Lives

Hi, everyone. I've been thinking about this crazy idea for some time, and I honestly think it would be awesome to share your personal experience with poetry. I know not so many people read my blog anyway, so please share the news, so we can share our experience with poetry with all poetry lovers all around the world.

Here's the thing. You don't have to be a Lit Student or poetry expert to join, you don't even have to understand the terms and techniques. You just need to share a story about reading or finding a poem along your way of life and feel it - I mean like, really feel it. Poetry changes lives, I believe in that. I believe in the power of words. There have been many times when I found myself in some situation and my mind spontaneously read a line or two from a poem that I knew. Those are awesome experience.

So, I want to be honest with you. I actually plan on collecting your stories and share it in a book for people in my country to read (so I will translate all English into Indonesian for the sake of my countrymen). Poetry in Indonesia (I don't know how it is in other parts of the world) is scarce. Literature in Indonesia is scarce. We don't have that long tradition of European Literature or Chinese Literature. It's hard to find, and hard to get. But I believe we can make things better - start from scratch. Why not? When people learn that poetry mean something they will start to read poems, and they will start to write poems. And the next time I talk with somebody about poetry, they would respond the same way they do when somebody talks about the latest Beyonce album or the latest Transformer movie.

Is it worth trying?

Like I said before, don't hesitate to share. If it's so personal and you don't want to do it openly or publicly, just send it to my email museforsaken[at]gmail[dot]com. I'll keep your secret safe. Make it as personal as possible. I have written something like it in Pot of Poetry section of this blog. So if you feel like you don't love your boy/girlfriend as much as you want and you think Teasdale's "I am not yours" fits the emotion, just share it. If you lost a family member, and you think of Dylan Thomas' "Do not go gentle into that good night", please share it.

(Untuk teman-teman dari Indonesia, jangan ragu-ragu membagikan pengalaman dengan pujangga-pujangga Indonesia ya. Makin banyak, makin aneh, dan makin mengejutkan artinya makin baik.)

Here below is the linky if you want to share it in your blog. If you want to write it as a comment, please do. Or you can email me, as stated above. Thanks in advance for your participation.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

My Heart Laid Bare: I read as I read and so will I read

Have you ever met anyone who asks you these kind of question:
"If you really like reading, why don't you read [insert a book title], or why haven't you finished reading [insert a book title]?" Honestly, I don't like those questions, especially when asked with a judging tone.

Ask a singer: "If you really like singing, why don't you sing opera? Why haven't you tried heavy metal?"

I find the question so disturbing because of these following reasons.

1. I don't read everything

Each reader has different tastes. Reading is pretty much like eating. If you don't like something it doesn't mean that it's bad, it just means that you don't like it, no matter how many people in the world say that it's delicious. Of course you would miss a lot if you don't try, but, hey, even trying or not trying is your choice; it's entirely up to you.

2. I don't read everything that I read in the same pace

And when I don't read something as quickly I read other books, please don't judge me. It doesn't mean that I don't like the book, or I don't have a good reading habit. It's just hard for me. There are books that are just hard for me no matter how much I love it. Les Miserables is one my favourite books, but I dragged myself through it for more than 2 months. I love it, but the passages are by no means light reading. I won't be spending even 2 nights reading a young adult novel because it's all different genre. Other books I haven't finished are Walden, Faerie Qveene, Aeneid, and Shakespeare's and Neruda's sonnets. And you know full well that I love those, and other books God knows I haven't finished. Just give me time to digest them instead of skim through them.

3. I don't always read the things that I want to read

"So many books, so little time," is it? Not just that - I can't always read the books that I want to read. I waited for some time before reading Othello because it's so sad. I want to be well-prepared. I still haven't read Macbeth and The Man in the Iron Mask because I'm not ready. Just don't push me.

4. I don't always finish the book I read

Again. If you eat something and you think it tastes to weird that you just can't continue, wouldn't you stop? I do the same when reading. Again, it doesn't necessarily mean that the book is bad, it's just that I don't like it. Finish it, if you like, but I won't.

5. I don't always remember the detail after reading

Not even the writer would remember everything. That's why even great writer like Dumas made little mistake in detailing an event or timeline. I usually remember things in a context. So pluck it off the context and I would instantly forget everything. This morning I googled 'infinite jest' because I knew the phrase is Shakespeare's and is from Hamlet, but I couldn't remember the context. Never say to me, "Tell me the act, scene, and line number of 'To be or not to be' speech," because, guess what, I have no idea.

6. I might be a fan, but I'm not a stalker

My life doesn't revolve around an author, or a fictional character. I don't always invest my time on an author's biography, moreover a fictional character's. So forgive me if I don't remember ACD's birthday, or Dumas' family history. The most important thing for me is their works, and their lives only in connection to their works. If I like stalking people so much, I'd be watching celeb gossips.

7. My favourite authors' opinions do not reflect my own

I love Marlowe but I don't believe in predestination; I love Shakespeare but I don't like obscene jokes. I don't mind Oscar Wilde but mind his life style. I love Monte Cristo but I don't approve revenge. Please understand that before judging me of anything.

There are maybe many other things that I'd like to write here, but the length of the post is already too long for a personal complain. Before I finish I want to misquote Sir Thomas Wyatt.

And from this mind I will not flee,
But to you all that misjudge me,
I do protest as ye may see,
That I am as I am and so will I be.

Or, judge as you please. I read as I read and so will I read.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Books into Screen: The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)

The book that changes the way I see literature. My first love for Dumas. The most influential fiction I've ever read, right after Les Miserables. The picture of consequences in life, scepticism born out of injustice, darkest hue of human nature, in short, the sweet honey and bitter poison of reality. Yes, I'm talking about Dumas' masterpiece – The Count of Monte Cristo.

I was referring to the book; the film adaptation is blasphemy.

I can't imagine the worst possible way to destroy the whole beauty of The Count of Monte Cristo other than the way it has been adapted, changed, and ruined in this particular film. The reason that I have restrained myself so long before deciding to watch it at the first place is the duration. You can't condense Monte Cristo into two brief hours without butchering it. Comparison: the best adaptation of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, a novel in 200 something pages, is a mini series of 6 episodes. Monte Cristo is a big thick chunk you can use as a pillow. It covers the lives of so many people, each with his own story, his own past, his own choices, and his own end. It's a lesson of life and death, of happiness and sorrow, of courage and cowardice, of love and hatred, of loyalty and betrayal. It's not “just a love story”.

The film is just a love story.

It is so comically predictable. Sex scene of the unmarried couple in the beginning is quite a spoiler for the “whose-son-is-he” near the end. The picture of saintly woman trying to do the “right” thing is a stark contrast with Mercedes I'm familiar with. Instead of facing the fact that this woman was good enough waiting for 18 months before she married Fernand, without knowing whether Edmond was dead or alive, the film gives her 1 month only to mourn for her beloved thinking that he was dead – but with good excuse of being pregnant. Positive side, the count had an excellent opportunity to say “in a month you won't even remember my name”, and Fernand later on, had a privilege to say to his supposedly son, “Your mother was a whore in her youth as much as she is now.”

And the love story ends happily. The Count of Monte Cristo has a family by the time the film ends, the beautiful lady reunited with her true love, the young son has a brand new rich father, the rival is dead, and everything's perfect. Nobody cares that it makes Albert a bastard in a society that regards birth as something substantially important. Nobody cares that by revealing himself as Dantes before the law he puts himself under the law, and is punishable for breaking out of jail. It's a neverland after all.

Oh, and the other people. I'd forgotten. Were there any other people? I mean, people of importance? Where's Haidee, who opened the future for the Count? Where's Ali, the Nubian, who had been the Count's loyal slave and best friend? Max, every one, the boy for whom the Count had greatest affection? Where are the other dozen of people whose lives were improved, ruined, or ended by the Count's determination?

Another important aspect of Dumas' Monte Cristo is the elaborate plan he had made just to avenge himself. He didn't touch those people with his own hand. Like an angel of death, instead of shooting a man with a gun he shaped the circumstances leading to their own ruins. Certainly not by exposing his source of riches as a bait for mouse-trap-like ambush. Not his style. Goodness! How I want to rant about the way he found Haidee, the way he got Bertuccio, the way he set Andrea Calvacanti on the stage, the way he intercepted and modified the telegrams, the way he dried up Danglars' fortune! Those smart elaborate plan changed into a sword fight and two ambushes. What?!

Blasphemy as it is, I shouldn't trample upon it so mercilessly. There are good bits in it. My favourite being Albert's reaction to his kidnapping in the catacombs (although actually, because he's the Count's son it doesn't really matter any more. It's just further proof that good trees yield good fruit, bad trees don't have a chance to change).

But maybe the film was written for modern world. Premarital sex and adultery are presented as harmless and normal while in the setting of the story it's a great taboo and a bad reflection on the Count's merit as a gentleman. As for me, a gentle and honourable Edmond Dantes of the book is more preferable. Monte Cristo's speech in Albert's birthday fits perfectly into the moral of the film and the taste of revenge and hatred in the modern world. “Do your worst because I will do mine.” I'd rather choose his final message, a message of evidently a wiser man, “Wait and Hope.”

Wait and hope for a better adaptation in the future, perhaps? Who knows?

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Classics Club March Meme: Favourite Literary Period

It has been ages since the last time I participated on the Classics Club Monthly Meme. My fault. This month's question, however, intrigues me so much that I can't help but participating. The question is:

What is your favorite “classic” literary period and why?

How do I answer? It's funny how my reading preferences are scattered so much that I don't know any more the period that I love "the most". For example, I love Shakespeare, so, so much that I think I would prefer him to any other writer alive or dead. Having said that, I can't choose his period as my favourite period, because as much as I love Shakespeare, I know little (if nothing) about his contemporaries, such as Ben Johnson, Thomas Nashe, Robert Greene, or any other. I only know a bit more about Kit Marlowe (which I love, by the way) and about Sir Walter Raleigh (which I also love truly). If I'm allowed to widen the period a bit longer, I can only add Milton to the list, and I haven't even completed reading Paradise Regained.

So much for Shakespeare's period.

So to answer the question above, after considering all parties involved, I must say that I prefer Romanticism. Actually, the idea came from Fanda a long time ago. She noticed that I love stories from that period, such as Monte Cristo and D'Artagnan Romances. After thinking about it, I realise that probably she was right. Here's my argument.

If you see the list of authors on the left side of my blog, you'll notice that most of the names belong to Romantic writers. Not just that, most of my posts talk about them or their works. So statistically, I babble much about Romantic writers.

When we talk about Romanticism that I like, we don't talk about Romanticism in England, or France, or US, or Russia. I love them all. From England, my favourite poet of that period is the young John Keats, while Sir Walter Scott will do for the historical fiction stories. And we haven't even talked about Jane Austen and the Bronte Sisters. In France, as mentioned before, I'm very fond of Dumas. But he's not the only one. Victor Hugo is also a giant in France Romantic movement, and his name must not be forgotten when we talk about French Literature. Suddenly I remember that almost every book from French authors that I read comes from this period of literary history. Oh, US. Can't we just talk about Edgar now? Edgar Allen Poe is one of my favourite poet (although his creepy stories is not really my forte). One more country. I'm not an expert when it comes to Russian Literature, yet it is safe to say that I like Pushkin very much. His poems, translated into English, was my first contact to anything Russian, and his poem "I loved you" is like a chant that sticks in my mind.

So, it turns out that my favourite period of Literature is:


I will tell you why.

In prose, Romanticism tends to go a bit wider than the story. It has the narrative that sort of flows through the pages, as if the writer were putting down anything that came to his/her mind at the moment, without caring too much about the story itself. It is less deliberate in its story-telling, it doesn't mind too much the symbolism (I might be wrong on this) as literature had been in the Renaissance, for example. The stories in Romanticism is more and more focused into "life as we know it", not too much centred on palaces or myths. In fact, people started to think about history - actual human history - instead of legends and ancient lores, and just usual, lowly people, as is the case in Dumas' D'Artagnan Romances and Walter Scott's Ivanhoe.

As is the case with prose, poetry in Romanticism is also less deliberate and more 'free' in rhyme and rhythm. The effect is the search for the perfect 'form' of poetry - people experimenting with rhymes and with forms. What I like is that they still retain the 'archaic'-ness of the previous age, and thus keep the magic of poetry intact, while giving it new spirit and fresh air.

In poetry, Romanticism cannot be separated from the word "Melancholy". Actually I found that out in a website. I've been looking for the right word all along, but at last the word 'melancholy' ended my search. Romantic poems are unique in their serenity and tranquillity. Poems like The Raven and Annabel Lee, along with Keats' Odes, sound almost like somebody whispering alone to the air. The simplicity of the diction must be noted too. While I love sophisticated words in Shakespeare's plays and poems, I find simple words in Romantic poems sweet, and somehow feel more sincere.

All above is just my opinion. I have warned you, I'm not even a Lit Student, so I might be very wrong. Feel free to comment and share your opinions too.