Archive for November, 2012

A Monologue from Shakespeare’s Hamlet

To be, or not to be–that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep–
No more–and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep–
To sleep–perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th’ oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th’ unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprise of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action. — Soft you now,
The fair Ophelia! — Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remembered.

Shakespeare, “Hamlet”


Olivier’s Version

Gibson’s Version

Branagh’s Version

Hawke’s Version (2000)

Tennant’s Version


Annie Hall – Woody Allen’s Opening Monologue

Galadriel’s Opening Monologue – Peter Jackson’s LOTR

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As from the power of sacred lays
the spheres began to move,
and sung the great Creator’s praise
to all the blest above —

so when the last and dreadful hour
this crumbling pageant shall devour,
the trumpet shall be heard on high!
The dead shall live, the living die,
and Music shall untune the sky.

John Dryden
From “A Song for St. Cecilia’s Day” (1687)

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Yesterday, in my advanced poetry workshop at Colorado Christian University, three of my students gave a presentation on poetry and healing. Among other things, they considered the relationship poetry can have to emotional and physical healing. To me, this is one of the most important considerations in life.

Did you know, for example, that mummies in Egypt have been discovered with scraps of Sappho’s poetry in the wrappings?

What kind of permission does Psalm 88 give to faithful believers to honestly express their sorrows  when the last line does not turn toward trust or praise but simply says “the darkness is my only companion”?

Are you interested in programs that combine poetry and medicine, wherein doctors actually prescribe literature as something that could bring healing to the soul and therefore to the body? (What would it be like if there was a library in every hospital?)

One of the presenters paid particular attention to the braided relationship between love, truth, and reconciliation. Truth is so important to any real healing, but truth expressed without love can brutalize another human being. She read poems that have emerged from the Holocaust, South African apartheid, and the genocide in Rwanda to illustrate her deeper meaning.

One poet fully engaged with this problem today is Brian Turner. The title poem from his collection Here, Bullet is a good example of being truthful about trauma. Here it is:

Here, Bullet

If a body is what you want,
then here is bone and gristle and flesh.
Here is the clavicle-snapped wish,
the aorta’s opened valves, the leap
thought makes at the synaptic gap.
Here is the adrenaline rush you crave,
that inexorable flight, that insane puncture
into heat and blood. And I dare you to finish
what you’ve started. Because here, Bullet,
here is where I complete the word you bring
hissing through the air, here is where I moan
the barrel’s cold esophagus, triggering
my tongue’s explosives for the rifling I have
inside of me, each twist of the round
spun deeper, because here, Bullet,
here is where the world ends, every time.

Brian Turner
Here, Bullet (Alice James Books, 2005)

 something worth thinking about

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