Lifelong Dewey

Reading through every Dewey Decimal section.

Tag: poetry

836: Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

DDC_836

836.912: Rilke, Rainer Maria. Letters to a Young Poet. Translated by M.D. Herter Morton. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1962. 123 pp. ISBN 0-393-00158-X.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 830: Literatures of Germanic languages
  • 836: German letters
  • 836.9: 1900 to present
  • 836.91: 1900-1990
  • 836.912: 1900-1945

In 1902, 19-year-old cadet Franz Kappus wrote to Rainer Maria Rilke for his thoughts on some poems he had written. Rilke was known for a few acclaimed books of poetry and was beginning to really hone his craft. Kappus wanted genuine criticism and was trying to decide between a career in the army or a life as a writer. The ten letters he saved and subsequently published as Letters to a Young Poet are some of the most genuine and honest assessments of the field of poetry and the duty of the poet.

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873: The Metamorphoses of Ovid

DDC_873

873.01: Ovid. The Metamorphoses of Ovid. Translated by Allen Mandelbaum. San Diego, CA: Harvest, 1993. 559 pp. ISBN 0-15-170529-1.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 870: Latin and Italic literatures
  • 873: Latin epic poetry and fiction
  • 873.01: Latin fiction of the Roman period

To fully investigate the entirety of Greek and Roman mythology  would take a lifetime. Luckily, Ovid did all the heavy lifting two thousand years ago. Every mythological figure you can think of is in here—from Jupiter to Perseus to Jason to Pygmalion to Romulus. Ovid’s history start at the creation of the universe and goes up to the Caesars of Rome and paints the chronology as a series of changes. In fact, the first lines have the poet saying “My soul would sing of metamorphoses.” Also playing a heavy part is the role of the love god Amor, who is constantly affecting the course of history.

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812: Wit by Margaret Edson

DDC_812

812.54: Edson, Margaret. Wit: A Play. New York: Faber & Faber, 1999. 85 pp. ISBN 0-5711-9877-5.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 810: American literature in English
  • 812: American drama in English
  • 812.5: 20th Century
  • 812.54: 1945-1999

Margaret Edson’s Wit is an earnest look at how terminal illness affects one’s perspective. Dr. Vivian Bearing, a respected professor and scholar of the works of John Donne, is diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer and has to undergo intense chemotherapy if there is to be any recovery. Her doctor is of course very clinical in his treatment of her, and his protégé is a former student (making for very awkward encounters). During the course of her treatment, Bearing gets sicker and more introspective. The play focuses on Bearing’s assessment of her life and learning as she deals with her imminent death.

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810: Ornithologies of Desire by Travis V. Mason

DDC_810

810: Mason, Travis V. Ornithologies of Desire: Ecocritical Essays, Avian Poetics, and Don McKay. Waterloo, ONT, Canada: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2013. 226 pp. ISBN 978-1-55458-630-1.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 810: American literature in English

This is another one of those book where I don’t have a fun, exciting, or enticing lede. Travis V. Mason’s Ornithologies of Desire is an in-depth look at the writing of Canadian poet-critic-essayist Don McKay. But rather than a straightforward textual reading of McKay’s works, Mason uses McKay’s love of birds and ornithology to create a ecocritical lens through which to examine McKay.

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809: This Craft of Verse by Jorge Luis Borges

DDC_809

809.1: Borges, Jorge Luis. This Craft of Verse. The Charles Eliot Norton Lecture Series, 1967-1968. Edited by Calin-Andrei Mihailescu. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000. 150 p. ISBN 0-674-00290-3.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 809: History, description, or critical appraisal of more than two literatures
  • 809.1: Poetry

Most years since 1925, Harvard University has invited an accomplished writer or artist to give a series of lectures regarding “poetry in the broadest sense.” Speakers have included T.S. Eliot, Czeslaw Milosz, Aaron Copland, and John Cage. In 1967, they chose one of my favorite writers: Jorge Luis Borges. These six lectures sat in the Harvard audio archives for 30 years before they were found and transcribed for the next generation. His series, entitled “This Craft of Verse,” illustrates not only a theory of poetry, but also Borges’s connection to his readers and the world.

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821: Very Bad Poetry by Kathryn and Ross Petras

821.008: Petras, Kathryn and Ross Petras, eds. Very Bad Poetry. New York: Vintage Books, 1997. 123 pp. ISBN 0-679-77622-2.

Dewey Construction:

  • 800: Literature
  • 820: British literature
  • 821: British poetry
  • 821.008: Collections of British poetry by more than one author.

Almost everyone, at some time or another, has fancied themselves a poet. Millions of teenagers sulk in their bedrooms and call out histrionically to their muse so that they can profess their undying love, their unmitigated hatred, or their unending ennui with the universe. Adjective upon adjective and detail upon detail use up precious ink supplies as worn notebooks are filled with horrible verse.

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891: A Treatise on Poetry by Czeslaw Milosz

891.8: Milosz, Czeslaw. A Treatise on Poetry. New York: Ecco Press, 2001. 125 pp. ISBN 0-06-018524-4.

The fact that literature from areas of the world not named Europe or the United States all get crushed into the 890s is both a shame and a blessing. It’s a shame because all “non-Western” literatures have a uniqueness and truth to offer. From Iranian literature to Japanese literature to Nigerian literature to Russian literature, we can get a wondrous and varied sense of being from those very much removed from ourselves and our cultures. It’s a blessing because Dewey section 891 is for East Indio-European and Celtic literatures, and if I didn’t have this interesting and slim volume of Polish poetry, I would have to read War and Peace to satisfy this section, and that scared the bejesus out of me.

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