"Autobiographies of great nations are written in three manuscripts – a book of deeds, a book of words, and a book of art.
Of the three, I would choose the latter as truest testimony." - Sir Kenneth Smith, Great Civilisations

"I must write each day without fail, not so much for the success of the work, as in order not to get out of my routine." - Leo Tolstoy

I have never believed that one should wait until one is inspired because I think the pleasures of not writing are so
great that if you ever start indulging them you will never write again. - John Updike

"The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour
is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it." - J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Thursday, December 10, 2009

First Christmas Update

I unfortunately got sidetracked by a commercial project the past 30 days and lost time writing.  Given the choice I'd rather have been writing but probably could've used the break... so I'm going with it.  A week ago or so I spent rearranging my titles list into a possible content structure and finished Flagpole Days, Autumn Harvest, Solitude, my Swahili poem, added a Carmina, tried to rewrite Hiawatha failing to find the rhythm or tone I wanted, and rewrote Painted Rooms again.

Looking forward, I have at least a dozen or so roughed-out poems I'd like to finish including four or five that are interconnected to a common theme, along with two legendary tales (one's quite lengthy).  I had hoped to get all of them done before Christmas and to book-bind them for my folks and family but can see now it'll be somewhere between March and July by the time I finish these.

It also seems that my creativity period has dried up as I search for better ways to express myself.  I'm going to take some time off to read a novel or two, and finish some other projects I have to do; maybe pick at things as I go along just to keep my hand in the task of writing and not get too far away from it lest I come to a stop altogether.  It's been a long 12 months.

My goal was a hundred pieces and I'm at 58 with 10-12 to go, making it 68-70.  I also have six completed short stories and another six I need to rewrite.  And then I have one very lengthy sports story I wrote a year ago which needs to be re-written in a different voice, as well as a theology book I've started.  But each time I do I get some personal disaster which pulls me away from it (which seems highly coincidental to me, as it's been a several year pattern ongoing).

My theology book consists of two major sections of 10-12 chapters each.  The first section is a teaching section and the second section reviews each previous chapter integrating them with one another.  I'm tracing major thematic elements between the testaments and tying them together to help simplify reading the Christian bible from its vast theological complexity.  It's mainly for my son and daughter as a biblical theological premier (not systematics theology but biblical theology).  Once it's written I have a theological professor in mind whom I wish to contact who teaches and thinks in the style as my beloved friend, and now deceased professor, Carl B. Hoch.  With his input I hope to remove inaccuracies and update it generally from someone much closer to the material than I currently am.

Overall, I like writing short stories, but I prefer the poetry format better because of all the many varieties that it allows for personal expression, creating new words and ideas, tone, coloring, shading, everything!  Sooo, I think I made a good start even though I'm short by 30 pieces, but its still enough to judge where I'm at and see if its any good (my general impression is that they each need a rewrite to sharpen up their tone and focus and readability) and whether they might stand up to reader interest or not.  I haven't tried a Shakespearan sonnet and would like to try that someday just to see if I can.  But with Flagpole Days I did try a running sentence broken into 12 verse sections and am quite pleased with its lilt and composition.  The thought occurred as I was listening to Mozart's Requiem which gave me the idea of seeing how many rounds/voices could be put into a musical piece and still get one overarching theme... I think he got up to 14 competing rounds/voices making for one massive sound which is exquisite to the ear held in rapture.

At this point I should probably find some outside opinions and a publisher to see what's next, though generally I find this a distasteful task and would rather not.  My knowledge of critics tells me to beware overvaluing their opinions... John Keats is a good example of perserverance by following heart/pen while allowing the task itself to resolve any future readership.  Too, I've only ever have written for me and my kids, but from the several people who have read them I think I should share them as they are generally liked, though I care not about this but whether they might add thought and contemplation as I speak my soul.  I do worry about how personal they are, but I'm sure every poet does. They are myself unsheathed as I can allow that task, and a reader will either like them or not. I cannot be anything less than myself and can only speak of what I hear and wish to write against the streams of humanity that sings its own songs alongside mine own.

RE Slater
December 10, 2009

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Finding My Voice

Since last October of 2008 I have written as much as I have had time to - mostly poetry but a few short stories as well.  Through this process I have written what has been most important to me from years past but have known that these pieces would be a "developmental record" of my progress as a new writer formally seeking his own words and styles and thoughts.  I have consciously known that it will take some time for me to develop my writing style and have recently come upon a phrase most apt in describing my progress - that of "finding my own voice" as a poet and as a writer.  Too much of my style feels like it is narrative (though it isn't) and I should like to step back from that as much as I can, and perhaps read some poets to catch their style and help me in mine own more quickly.  But on this point I still refuse to read other poets so as to keep my words and thoughts fresh and essentially mine own and not theirs.  But lacking formal writing classes these past poets and writers may be of help to me and so, I shall intend to briefly explore some styles which appeal to me and my style, without straying too long in anyone matter for I still wish for my material to be fresh and original.

It is now mid-October of 2009 and I continue to push out at least one to three documents a week along with my other duties and commitments as husband, father, dutiful son, son-in-law, consultant, community services and so on.  Thus, I have many half-written pieces which I wish to go back and complete as newer pieces continue to cross my mind and heart - all of which takes time away from my effort in finishing my original drafts.  And since I do not wish to lose these creative moments, I try to capture them while attempting to finish my rough drafts as well.  This is proving to be a hard process which can easily overwhelm me amid the vicissitudes of life.

I also have a theology paper I wish to write up as a book and have started this task as well (again).  But each time that I have made a major attack to get it properly going I seem to experience some little personally upheaval in my life.  The thought has crossed my mine that it is not unlike being prevented by the devil because of the severity of these roadblocks.  But, I do not think my words are so important that they haven't been said before and require any devil for prevention.  However, it has been a very odd and coincidental experience.

The book itself is to be written in 2-parts - the subject matter itself and then the integration of those subjects with one another.  This project will encompass the dozen-or-so major themes of the bible (sic, pertaining to "biblical theology" not "systematic theology"... this is a BIG difference) as they cross between the testaments and are integrated with one another.  This subject was a major part of my training in college and later seminary, and I should've pursued a PhD in biblical studies on this but did not.  I had neither the money nor the will to study any further, being somewhat exhausted after years of study and needing to work.  But my boy has shown an interest in biblical knowledge and perhaps my primer could be useful both to him, his friends and any young would-be Christian theologs wishing guidance in thematic matters.  At least that is my hope.

And so, I have been tragically stopped again and am writing of more practical experiences and observations from my personal life into my poems and trying to mix my training with my writings.  Perhaps these "lesser" poetic pieces will be of more aide in the long run to the general reading public than a large stuffy book filled with important "theological" subject matter.  At least that is my hope and one of my purposes in writing... to get God into the details of life, including my own, failings and all, in as many ways as I can be creative and "non-Christian" about it.

RE Slater
October 28, 2009

Sylvia Plath - The Moon and the Yew Tree

This is the light of the mind, cold and planetary
The trees of the mind are black. The light is blue.
The grasses unload their griefs on my feet as if I were God
Prickling my ankles and murmuring of their humility
Fumy, spiritous mists inhabit this place.
Separated from my house by a row of headstones.
I simply cannot see where there is to get to.

The moon is no door. It is a face in its own right,
White as a knuckle and terribly upset.
It drags the sea after it like a dark crime; it is quiet
With the O-gape of complete despair. I live here.
Twice on Sunday, the bells startle the sky --
Eight great tongues affirming the Resurrection
At the end, they soberly bong out their names.

The yew tree points up, it has a Gothic shape.
The eyes lift after it and find the moon.
The moon is my mother. She is not sweet like Mary.
Her blue garments unloose small bats and owls.
How I would like to believe in tenderness -
The face of the effigy, gentled by candles,
Bending, on me in particular, its mild eyes.

I have fallen a long way. Clouds are flowering
Blue and mystical over the face of the stars
Inside the church, the saints will all be blue,
Floating on their delicate feet over the cold pews,
Their hands and faces stiff with holiness.
The moon sees nothing of this. She is bald and wild.
And the message of the yew tree is blackness - blackness and silence.

by Sylvia Plath


Sylvia Plath - Years

They enter as animals from the outer
Space of holly where spikes
Are not thoughts I turn on, like a Yogi,
But greenness, darkness so pure
They freeze and are.

O God, I am not like you
In your vacuous black,
Stars stuck all over, bright stupid confetti.
Eternity bores me,
I never wanted it.

What I love is
The piston in motion . . .
My soul dies before it.
And the hooves of the horses,
There merciless churn.

And you, great Stasis . . .
What is so great in that!
Is it a tiger this year, this roar at the door?
It is a Christus,
The awful God-bit in him.

Dying to fly and be done with it?
The blood berries are themselves,
They are very still.
The hooves will not have it,
In blue distance the pistons hiss.

by Sylvia Plath


Sylvia Plath - The Colossus

"I shall never get you put together entirely,
Pieced, glued, and properly jointed.
Mule-bray, pig-grunt and bawdy cackles
Proceed from your great lips.
It's worse than a barnyard.

Perhaps you consider yourself an oracle,
Mouthpiece of the dead, or of some god or other.
Thirty years now I have labored
To dredge the silt from your throat.
I am none the wiser.

Scaling little ladders with glue pots and pails of lysol
I crawl like an ant in mourning
Over the weedy acres of your brow
To mend the immense skull plates and clear
The bald, white tumuli of your eyes.

A blue sky out of the Oresteia
Arches above us. O father, all by yourself
You are pithy and historical as the Roman Forum.
I open my lunch on a hill of black cypress.
Your fluted bones and acanthine hair are littered

In their old anarchy to the horizon-line.
It would take more than a lightning-stroke
To create such a ruin.
Nights, I squat in the cornucopia
Of your left ear, out of the wind.

Counting the red stars and those of plum-color.
The sun rises under the pillar of your tongue.
My hours are married to shadow.
No longer do I listen for the scrape of a keel
On the blank stones of the landing."

by Sylvia Plath


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Happy Anniversary!

Thanks to a local group of Celtic musicians I stumbled upon last evening I have been able to re-imagine and complete a new set of verses today to add to a growing portfolio; this time writing of a Brigadoon-like experience through the greater length of today. Now for some rest after a long day of writing. My mind and hands are tired. I will take the rest of the week to firm up the edges of this new poem and refine it to make it more clear and more readable.

Last week I finished a personal narrative I had started working on in April as an all-too-common experience in my childhood. It starts out as a simple story but gathers additional layers of meaning as I add more thoughts and details to what at first seems a plain homily. I intend to add it to a selection of other personal narratives which will flesh each other out and perhaps provide historical relevance for the times I am writing about.

Otherwise, I spent one day simply re-organizing my stories in relation to one another and setting them into slip-case books which I can manage should I need to re-arrange them again. I retitled each book and can better find each written verse in compendium to one another. While doing this I found several poems which needed a word here or there, an adverb, a verb, a pronoun in re-reading them in a fresh light gained by distance away from these pieces. Without these additions they felt awkward to me and/or incomplete to the theme(s) I had intended. Even though I keep telling myself to refrain from overmuch editing at this point - that they are what they are and should now be left alone.

I should also add that I started on a short story and added a poem to it which is now completed even though the story isn't. I've also added some pictures to this story to help give it a more readable symmetry in describing what I was seeing. I think many readers will be better able to visualize what I'm writing about through the usage of these photos. Because of this, I may wish to add personal photo stock selectively to several previously written stories to help enliven their pages as well. Further, there is a collection of poems I'm writing as one complete set which will be related to this newest story either directly or indirectly. To date it consists of 4-6 pages contained in 4 sections and may grow by a couple more pages into another narrative homily that I wish to relate since my childhood stood so vastly different from many my age.

Apart from personal narratives I have tried to write descriptively in various styles and, have another 30 or so poems roughed out in various stages of completion. Either as legends or tales, allegories or interpretive parables, sonnets or songs, etc. When these are completed I should like to try my hand at more irregular lyrical poetry and break away from the symmetry I've produced in the first year of my experience. Which, by the way, had begun in the month of October of last year... so this then is my first anniversary of writing. I've come a long way but have so much more to write about and hope to have the chance to complete what I've started and intend to finish.

Anyway, unlike my first set of 100 poems, I think I'll need to read some poets in order to be able to copy their styles since their styles are so foreign from my mindset. I may be a year away from actually beginning this task since I am not finished with my current set of tasks.

But afterwards when I am done I should then like to try something remarkably different and foreign to my mind and ear. I think Dylan Thomas may be a good example to me however I do not like his rambling verse which seems to lose its meaning over the distance of time. So, should I chose to go this route, I'll try not to ramble and try as best I can to keep it relevant despite the movement of culture, era and language away from my era. This will be hard to do I think but good poets can keep their relevancy for the most part. Since I do not expect readers to be historical anthropologists and culturally literate I will try to write about our common condition and not so specifically as to lose its translation. At least that is my hope.

I can tell that I have been rambling because I am so tired but I thought to put these several lists together to remind myself of my journey and possible future goals.  Forgive me and apologies and good night.

RE Slater
October 6, 2009

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My Writing Progress Thus Far

I would like to say at the onset that I reserve the right to ramble in these blogs and not have to think about how I'm going to say something. More simply, my blogs are not how I write but a form of personal communication about what I am doing. Thanks for allowing me this unstructured pleasure.

As earlier mentioned last month, I have been working through both recent and older poems I've written and am glad I have. Many were in serious need of editing after reviewing them. Maybe because I'm becoming less rusty at writing or because I can better critique my past writings. Whatever it is, I find that this has become a necessary task once a poem has been produced and has laid in the closet for awhile simmering and aging.

For example, the Celtic poem I had written changed again when I added 4 end-verses to it. It took a cool allegory and gave it wings so that it tied all previous verses back to itself and to each other. Thus giving to the poem more flexibility and freedom.

As another example, the poem "Looking Glass" was six months old and in great need of repair and updating. After which it seemed to be able to fairly "sing" on its own. If I had not looked at it then its flaws would not have been seen.

Thus, by allowing several months or more to go by I can better re-visualize what I was trying to say originally and can more immediately see the errors within that piece. That, and the fact that my writing skills are slowly improving so that I have more ideas that I can add with a larger vocabulary and greater personal familiarity with stylistic differences.

Overall my word-pictures seem to be getting better and I am becoming more comfortable mixing my metaphors and themes in new integrated ways that provide quicker apprehension and sensual binding of the reader to the main themes.
I'm also discovering that language is very fluid because of its symbolic nature and cultural context and that to say something simply may be impossible yet the most practical and important task to work on. Succinctness and conveyance have been my greatest struggles and best rewards.

And then there is the element of meter; I had one poem I had written several months ago set in the standard 4-line meter form. But however much I tried to make it work (upon re-edit) I found it simply wasn't working. And so I changed it around to 9-line meter which is irregular and offbeat in rhythm. That changed made the entire poem so much better I couldn't believe it! Who would've thought?! By allowing it to speak to me on its own terms instead of on my own terms, and by learning to listening to it rather than forcing it into something it was not for, made all the difference. Thus, I'm learning that each poem is unique and requires me to better listen to what it is trying to say.

RE Slater
September 16, 2009

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Still writing

Today I wrote a poem of 8 lines in 10 stanzas and kept it as sparse as I could. Played around with the elements, tones and colors on this one.

A couple days ago I finished a Gaelic poem started 4 weeks ago. This was my first attempt at an allegory. I wanted it to feel like a Charlotte Bronte read on the moors. Coincidentally, it ended up thematically paralleling 2 interpretive parables written a couple months ago which are still being finalized. So I think I will group them together in their own section.

On my short list to do, I would like to work through and finalize 10 recent poems and 1 short story I've roughed out. Each unit is more-or-less completed but I like to go back and edit them after letting some time go by. They read differently to me when I do this as opposed to when I am actually writing them. For me, it helps to give an "outsider's perspective" to gauge whether they're interesting, readable, clumsy, awkward, and so on.

Several of these poems are lengthy and will be more demanding in their review. I have one that is especially long - about 12 pages; but it's a good narrative broken into 4 sections and will be fun to ramble through while thinking over the content I'm presenting.

Lastly, the past two months I've reworked several of my "finished" poems. Each of these were at least 6 months old and in need of updating. Why? It seems that the more I write, the more words and styles I have in my head which then helps me to better edit my past completed works. And since I'm so new to writing, it seems that for now I'll have to allow this habit. But over time I hope to limit myself from this type of "introspective" labor and simple let the poem pass or fail on its own merit once they are submitted to the "done" side of the ledger.

RE Slater
August 27, 2009

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Dylan Thomas - In the White Giant's Thigh

Who once were a bloom of wayside brides in the hawed house
and heard the lewd, wooed field flow to the coming frost,
the scurrying, furred small friars squeal in the dowse
of day, in the thistle aisles, till the white owl crossed...

- Dylan Thomas


Dylan Thomas - And Death Shall Have No dominion & Comments

And death shall have no dominion.
Dead men naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and
the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they
shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
Under the windings of the sea
They lying long shall not die windily;
Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
And the unicorn evils run them through;
Split all ends up they shan't crack;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer
through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion.

- Dylan Thomas
April 1933


For more information on this poem - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/And_death_shall_have_no_dominion

And death shall have no dominion
by on Mar 5, 2008


Review - Dylan Marlais Thomas
And Death Shall Have No Dominion

Written by David Tam
davidkftam@netscape.net Copyright 1999

Dylan Marlais Thomas was born on October 27, 1914, in Swansea, Glamorganshire, Wales.He married Caitlin Macnamara and had two sons and a daughter.He was a poet, prose writer, reporter, reviewer, scriptwriter, radio commentator, and actor.He gave public poetry readings on the BBC radio and in lecture tours in the United States.Because of a drinking problem, he died of pneumonia on November 9, 1953, in New York City.

Dylan Thomas is one of the renowned authors of the twentieth century.He believed writing was a process of self-discovery.This was reflected in his writings where he explored his own existence and communicated his discoveries with others.His writing remained distinctly personal, using metaphorical language, sensuous imagery, and psychological detail.Though it remained personal, he focused on universal concerns such as birth, death, love, and religion.His works included: "Eighteen Poems" - 1934, "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog" - 1940, "Fern Hill" - 1946, and "Adventures in the Skin Trade" - 1955, after his death.His Welsh background attributed to his attention to sound and rhythm.Up until 1939, he was concerned with introspective, obsessive, sexual, and religious feelings.He argued rhetorically with himself about sex, death, sin, redemption, natural processes, and creation and decay.

Poetic and literary devices that were used included near-rhyme (consonance), pun, paradox, repetition, alliteration, inversion, metaphors, and contrast. The poet used "foot" and "not" at the end of lines 5 and 8 as a near-rhyme. It is one of the more prominent devices because it is used throughout the poem. A pun was used on the word "windily" in line 12 to mean both the movement of the sea and the shroud in which the dead are buried at sea. A paradox could be found in line 16 where the poet wrote "unicorn evils them through;". The unicorn is a symbol of Christ and has no association with evils.The most obvious repetition was that of the line, "And death shall have no dominion" because it was present at the beginning and ending of each stanza.The repetition of the word "though" was present in the first stanza. This was the most prominent device that the poet used.It effectively re-enforced the ideas of the poem and provided a secure poetic structure.Alliteration could be found in a few places, such as line 8, "Though lovers be lost love shall not."Inversion was present in line 4, "...bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone." A metaphor was used in line 15 to compare faith with a wooden stick, "Faith in their hands shall snap in two." Contrast was evident in lines 6 to 8, "Though they go mad, they shall be sane,"and could also be classified as a paradox.

Images of the sea, torture, and biblical events were formed from the reading of this poem.Sea imagery was created in the first stanza by the the idea that the dead sank into the sea and rose again.In the second stanza, "windings of the sea" was mentioned.The third stanza the sound of gulls and the seashore maintained this imagery.Images of suffering were found in the second stanza in lines 13 and 14."Twisting on racks when sinews give way, strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break." These lines brought out the image of the body and muscles in pain and of the midevil Catherine Wheel. Biblical imagery was created by the description of the rise of dead bodies from the sea (Revelation 20:13), and the use of the paradox of "unicorn evils".

The idea of this poem was that although people die, they will eventually be redeemed at the end of time.It supported the prophesies of the bible, the Book of Revelations.We should not let the fear of death control our lives. We have nothing to fear because at the end, God will redeem those who were good.Each stanza of the poem developed support for expansion of the theme. The first stanza focused on mankind, the second focused more on God and suffering, and the third focused on nature.The poet was making a bold statement about life and the prophesies.

The repetition of "And death shall have no dominion" re-enforced the theme of this poem.The message was delivered very strongly and even used as the title.By repeating this line at the beginning and end of each stanza, a nicely structured poem developed.The use of near-rhyme made the poem enjoyable to read.


Dylan Thomas Companion
by Golden Essays

[When[ Auden and Christopher Isherwood set sail for the United States, the so-called 'All the fun' age ended. Auden's generation of poets' expectations came to nothing after the end of the Spanish Civil War, and they, disillusioned, left the European continent for good.

In the late 1930s the school of Surrealism reached England, and Dylan Thomas was one of the few British authors of the time who were followers of this new trend in the arts. He shared the Surrealist interest in the great abstracts of Love and Death, and composed most of his work according to the rules of Surrealism.

His first two volumes, Eighteen Poems and Twenty-five Poems were published in the middle of the decade and of this short surrealistic era as well. Dylan Thomas was declared the Shelley of the 20th century as his poems were the perfect examples of 'new-romanticism' with their 'violent natural imagery, sexual and Christian symbolism and emotional subject matter expressed in a singing rhythmical verse' (Under Siege - Robert Hewison, 1977.).

The aim of 'new-romanticism' was setting poets free from W.H. Auden's demand for 'the strict and adult pen'. In 1933 Dylan Thomas sent two of his poems to London, one of which was an earlier version of his famous poem, And Death Shall Have No Dominion. It was dated April 1933 in Thomas's notebook and was published for the first time in the 18 May 1933 issue of the New English Weekly.

After its first publication, the poem was altered several times and got its final form in Twenty-five Poems, even though Thomas was not particularly proud of this work of his, and was not sure about publishing it for a second time. Immediately in its title, the poem has a reference to the New Testament, which was one of Dylan Thomas's main sources of metaphor. The title (and the refrain of the poem as well):

'And Death Shall Have No Dominion' has been taken from the King James Version of the Scriptures, which, with its flowing language and prose rhythm, has had profound influence on the literature of the past 300 years. 'Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves dead to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.' Romans 6:9-11

There is another line in the poem,

'Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;' which resembles a line from the Scripture: 'And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.' Revelation 20:13

The assertive optimism of the poem can also be brought into connection with the traditions of evangelical hymns, which is best reflected in the lines;

'Though they go mad they shall be sane, Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again; Though lovers be lost love shall not, And death shall have no dominion.'

It seems, that it is this assertive optimism Dylan Thomas is trying to impose on the reader, and, perhaps on himself as well in this poem, maybe in order to keep his sanity. Being one of the least obscure of Dylan Thomas's poetry, it was evident, that of his earlier woks, beside Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night and The Force That through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower, And Death Shall Have No Dominion would catch public imagination quite easily. The thing in this poem that drew the attention of the everyman was the constancy of hope coming from the notion that everything is cyclical: though the individuals perish, 'they shall rise again', and, though particular loves are lost, love itself continues.

The tone of this poem is quite sermon-like, and its atmosphere is rather Christian; yet, the central theme in it is not religion, nor the religious beliefs concerning death but the relationship between man and nature. Thomas claims in the second stanza that deliverance from death is not through religious faith as

'Faith in their hands shall snap in two, And the unicorn evils run them through;' but he declares man's unity with nature at death: 'Dead men naked they shall be one With the man in the wind and the west moon.'

The frame of the poem is the title, the first line, the refrain from the Bible, repetitive and insistent at the beginning and the end of each stanza. Between these lines the poem is full of vivid imagery, of which probably the most significant can be found in the above-mentioned line ('With the man in the wind and the west moon;'). Here Dylan Thomas uses one of his most characteristic devices: the transferred epithet, to create a new image form 'the man in the moon and the west wind'.

Beside his sophisticated use of poetic devices, Thomas's poems are full of lively images, such as

'When their bones are picked clear and clean bones gone, They shall have stars at elbow and foot;', or 'Twisting on racks when sinews give way, Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;'

which sometimes seem to be a completely meaningless confusion of images. This is one characteristic of Surrealist poetry. In the case of And Death Shall Have No Dominion this 'confusion' is counterbalanced with the repetition, therefore the meaning, the feeling of the poem is homogeneous, even despite the rather nothing-to-do-with-each-other images.

The significance of this poem lies in its being simple and subtle at the same time.


1. A Dylan Thomas Companion - John Ackerman, 1991 2. All references to the Bible from the Bible Gateway (www.gospelcom.net) 3. Dylan Thomas - Paul Ferris, 1977 4. The Ironic Harvest - Geoffrey Thurley, 1974 5. The King James Version (KJV) of the Bible, 1611 6. The Norton Anthology of English Literature 7. The Oxford Illustrated History English Literature - ed. Pat Rogers, 1987 8. The Penguin History of Literature, The Twentieth Century - ed. Martin Dodsworth, 1994 9. Under Siege (Literary Life in London 1939-1945) - Robert Hewison, 1977

Dylan Thomas - In My Craft or Sullen Art

In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms
I labour by singing light
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
On the ivory stages
But for the common wages
Of their most secret heart.
Not for the proud man apart
From the raging moon I write
On these spindrift pages
Nor for the towering dead
With their nightingales and psalms
But for the lovers, their arms
Round the griefs of the ages,
Who pay no praise or wages
Nor heed my craft or art.

- Dylan Thomas


Friday, July 3, 2009

The Poetry Poems of R.E. RE Slater

This page was entered to help facilitate a Google or Blogger Internet search for my published writings at some future date when I decide to list them. Before I do I must consult with a publisher to determine the best course of action for my hard-earned efforts. At present I am focused on writing new pieces, re-editing some I've completed, working through rough outlines and jotting down odd bits of stray thoughts.

In lieu of mine own handiwork I will place other poems or articles on this blog site that may mark my progress or my poetic burdens in one fashion or another. For instance, some of my poems deal with the concept of "time" and when discovering that TS Eliot had worked on this in similar fashion I listed a couple of his poems that felt similar to my own thoughts. And like some of mine own, Daisy Turner's poem had a  touch of sadness and truth in it, and so, I thought to put that up on my blog as well.

Some poems I just like and have no correlation whatsoever to my own writings other than as bright goals reminding me just how good a poet can be with his or her words, phrases, concise thoughts, insights, and such like. Dylan Thomas, Sylvia Plath and Wilfred Owen can fall into these camps as forgotten poets of old that need remembering, in my estimation, by us, their poetic readers.

Initially I wanted to mark my writing progress and tell of the background and development of select pieces I am producing - to give them a kind of "literary history" that would make them more personal when later discovered and read. And so, from time-to-time, I will do this but without the poem itself these will only be incomplete histories and I apologize beforehand that I can do no better.

Summer now approaches and I find myself worn down a bit or too easily distracted from my daily routine of poem development; causing me to slow down or quit altogether these past several months. It seems that my little writer's room has closed in on me and I've lost the inspiration - or the motivation - that has driven me to produce so many thoughts and words these past several years. There seems to be the never-ending minutia of personal responsibilities requiring my attention so that I must simply stop awhile and address them.

As such, these sallow, callous demands placed on my creative time and thinking have caused my soul to feel "stretched and thinned," to wander, having stayed my hand too long from its pen making me wish for a writer's retreat. A place where I might systematically re-dedicate myself to my hopes and ambitions, to the written word and page, to the inter-weaving of thoughts and expressions. And yet, however I might wish it, I question whether it were so easy to leave one's now tangled life for a simpler one and for so selfish a purpose. Thus I suspect that I must attain this re-invention in a steadier, more purposeful evacuation of the old life to a one requiring an enforced bohemian existence of writing and "seeming" personal irresponsibility. For however hastily I may wish it, while continuing to question whether it is the most proper, the most wise course of action, it is perhaps my only course of action, and the one that tirelessly fights against my more properly behaved accountabilities.

For neither time nor opportunity are endless, each must be used efficiently to accomplish, to read and understand, to express and enjoin, all that I would. Nor can there be found the natural literary outlets or social bonds that my new interests now demand as I suffer alone in my private world to create story lines in an other-worldly existence foreign to those friendships around me. And yet the goal is to finish what I have started in the short years ahead and someday share with you my poems and stories, delights and wonders, wanderings and journeys in that strange and marvelous land of words and ideas.

RE Slater
April 22, 2009

Learning to Write

In October 2008 I decided to finally start writing. It is a task I had wanted to try all my lifetime and had consistently put off for one reason or another, mostly because, I believe, that I misjudged myself to the task I thought I couldn't do, so that when the day came that I should begin and stop making excuses, it was like a godsend long overdue. And so, I started. Which seems remarkably silly in a fashion, but after waiting a lifetime to write, the concept of "now" being this exact moment to begin, seemed quite surreal to me.

To help me along the way was a Michigan economy that was slowing down so that I found myself, as a self-employed trades worker, fast becoming under-employed (and I must admit, losing interest after 25 years). Added to this was the gradual preoccupation of raising a family, now grown, and becoming more independent from my industry in their lives. Such that, I could begin collecting old notes and earlier poems, created years earlier, and dedicate the fall of 2008 to writing exhaustively every day, from dawn to dusk. I found it to be an intensively creative period in my life, and as I worked, began recapturing moments of lucidity unbelieved. By Christmas Eve, three months later, I had produced 35 poems, with 15-20 more in production, and had also completed a long, reflective, narrative - my pride and joy - of some 20+ pages in final draft and ready to be read by relatives and friends.

And because I had no idea what my writing style would be like - or should be like - I attempted as many different styles in as many different pieces as I could entertain, to discover what felt most comfortable to me, or seemed most mine own. My only thought was that perhaps a collected portfolio of completed works would help me determine my literary voice (of this truth I later would find unhelpful for I rather enjoyed varying my style and forcing my pen to try new adaptations). And yet, the one thing I didn't wish to do, was to copy another poet's style until I first learned mine own. And developed it to be mine own. Then, and then only, would I dare read past literary authors and see if I could learn a little more from the master poets of centuries past.

Consequently, three months later, on Christmas Eve, I had to stop and rest until January's end of the next year, having become completely worn from writing (or thinking) of so many words and phrases swimming around in my head or dancing from my breast. And when I began again I did so at a much reduced pace from the previous months - or so I thought. But my mid-February had created even more original pieces and needed now to stop to take the time to edit earlier productions. By early July I had completed, and re-edited, about 50 poems to date. To this I had added another 40 pieces that were in various stages of arrangement, requiring roughing-out, completion, or finalization, making me happy with my progress thus far, but as burdened within myself at the same time. For there seemed no end. And when reading my finalized pieces (or so I thought) several months later I discovered flaws that I wished to excise out of them. Flaws that interrupted rhythm and flow; that left the main topic and wandered off; that didn't stick to the style I had chosen; or became unworkable in that style and required a completely new style. Flaws (whether true or imagined) that I suppose is to be expected being new to the literary discipline of writing communiques at once personal and intended later for public benefit and engagement.

Curiously, the more I wrote the more I found that I have something to say, which I didn't think was possible to imagine. Literally hundreds of subjects have come to my consciousness making me wish that I had applied my pen and mind more diligently to this task of enlivenment years earlier. Through this time I practiced using a number of different forms and styles, writing both in prose and in lyrical poems; trying various verse and meters; attempting my hand at narrative tales, legends, ballads, homilies and even haiku; and then to short story creation by-and-by. It was my hope that by the following Christmas a hundred pieces could be etched out and reviewed by several friends whom I trusted to independently review these samplings with me. But whether I found a later readership or not, my more humble goal was to continue writing about things that interested me; that I might understand a little of; or could offer a glimpse of insight, profundity, or humor to. And to some small degree I believe I have and have, in the offering, provided some moving poems and stories from out of the emotions of my being and the questions that have stayed long upon my heart and mind.

In many ways I'm an old soul caught out-of-time, living in a new world, who is trying to express long forgotten journeys and neglected thoughts of a lost world past time-and-remembrance. And from these imaginative recitations have been fashioning a postmodern world which is as similarly out-of-sync with today's present society-and-culture as were mine own ancient past comparatively. Thus, making the old new, and the new old, and all things in-between as out-of-step and off-balanced. A very curious development indeed! For myself, I fear my poems may be too belatedly written from the wells of my soul to attempt complete examination in the light of these present days and nights that I have left to me. Moreover, I seem to most enjoying writing of the simple wonders of life around us - no large thoughts per se, or at least no larger than what most people have thought or felt - but insights that could be written about in a way that may produce enlightenment and reflection on the simple things of life that live about us every day and in every way. My initial reviews  seem to indicate a modicum of hope for all the hard work I've poured into these tasks while I hope that this undertaking may be as useful to others as it has been to myself. As a novice, with no formal training, and with even less literary application, my desire to write and to share my words, is an avocation I wished I had started years earlier. But I will have to be content with that period of life I am now in, and with the shortness of life I left to me, in my attempts to convey my impressions and knowledge of a world that has perplexed and intrigued me since as a youth. A youth full of curiosities and examinations. One that I hope to someday share with you through spellbound drafts and essays.

R.E. Slater
February 9, 2009

A Celebration of Hallelujah Soundtracks | Saint Ralph (updated Jan 2015)

Battle: Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen)
The Voice Kids 2014 | jeff buckley

Saint Ralph Movie Summary

Saint Ralph is a 2004 Canadian drama film written and directed by Michael McGowan. Its central character is a teenaged boy who trains for the 1954 Boston Marathon in the hope a victory will be the miracle his mother needs to awaken from a coma. The film premiered at the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival and was given a theatrical release in 2005. This fictional story centers on Ralph Walker, a teenager attending a Catholic private school. His father was killed in World War II and his mother is hospitalized with an unidentified illness. Ralph is naturally prone to mischief and often finds himself an outcast among his classmates. Labeled a troublemaker, Ralph is forced to join the school's cross country team to relieve him of his excess energy, but when Ralph's mother falls into a coma, he is told it will take a miracle for her to survive. Then running coach Father Hibbert, a former world class marathoner who was forced to quit running when he injured his knee, claims it would be a miracle if a member of his team won the Boston Marathon, Ralph begins training in earnest....

* * * * * * * * * *

Movie & Song Review

The film, St. Ralph, must be one of the ultimate runner films next to "Chariots of Fire". The climax was beyond words when intemixed with the Hallelujah song and I could only have wished that the writers had written less of the sexual lusts of Ralph's adolescence and focused more on his broken and unhappy family life as a lost, fatherless, boy in a closed society of Catholic families and friends.

Since Gordon Downie's version of "Hallelujah" has not been released I thought I'd compare "YouTube's" renditions of the Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah soundtrack. I found that I best liked the singers ranked below. Overall, I thought Kate Voegele's was superb. She had great spot-on tone and texture; the kids were excellent runner-ups to Kate's rendition; then Allison Crowe, Lee DeWyze and Alexandra Burke; and finally, the maestro himself, Leonard Cohen. Please enjoy my picks until Downie's original version someday becomes available (see Toronto_Mike's blog at end of this blog for the latest info).

R.E. Slater
July 3, 2009

*addendum - my fav no. 2 pick must be "3 girls sing Hallelujah" found at the end of this posting.

**Tied with the girls (if not a shade better) is the stirring heart-and-soul rendition by a Jewish youth group found immediately after the "three girls" video as well as on my other website Relevancy22. - הללויה להקת חינוך - Hallelujah. Enjoy.

Saint Ralph Movie Trailer

(spoiler alert) The following movie clip contains the ending to the movie (spoiler alert)

Gord Downie "Hallelujah"
written by Lenoard Cohen
from the movie "Saint Ralph" (2004)

Saint Ralph - Boston Marathon Finale

Kate Voegele
(Kate's rendition is my no. 1 favorite)


Allison Crowe live performance

Lee DeWyze (American Idol)

Alexandra Burke
(fav no. 3)

Leonard Cohen -  by the Maestro himself
Composer, Orchestrator, Lyricist of Hallelujah
in Original Concert

* * * * * * * * * *

Gordon Downie Sings Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’

I frequently see Saint Ralph on the crappy movie channels that come with my cable package. It’s an incredibly sentimental Canadian film about a 14-year-old who tries to win the Boston marathon. During the climactic race, the soundtrack features Gordon Downie (the lead singer of the Tragically Hip) singing a pretty gorgeous version of Leonard Cohen’s seminal “Hallelujah’”.
Ever since hearing Downie’s version, I’ve been looking for the song online. I eventually got it from Mike, who explains:
There seemed to be only one way to get this version of the song in MP3 and that’s to create an MP3 from the audio output of “Saint Ralph”. Sophie, a Hip fan from Germany, saw my comment on the site sharing the Downie covers and offerred to help. She rented the DVD, created an MP3 and emailed it to me early this morning. Hallelujah!
This will tide me over nicely until Downie releases something official. I know a lot of people have been trying to locate this song as I’ve heard your empathetic pleas since I first wrote about the cover last August. If that’s you, leave a comment and I’ll email you the MP3 Sophie shared with me this morning.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of film audio over the track, but it’s worth a listen. Hopefully they’ll eventually release it for sale:

I think Downie’s version rivals the most famous cover of the song by the late Jeff Buckley. You can hear Buckley’s version, along with 33 others, on My Old Kentucky Blog.

* * * * * * * * * *

A Blog dedicated to finding GordDownie's Hallelujah

Gord Downie's Hallelujah
Talking to Gord Downie About Hallelujah
Published by Toronto Mike on June 23, 2011 @ 15:17 in Gord Downie's Hallelujah
musicI've got an entire category committed to Gord Downie's cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah". Gord recorded the song for the movie Saint Ralph, but it's never been officially released. I've got a copy, however, and that led to this comment from Nik.
I ran into Gord Downie in Toronto in summer of 2005. My friends and I walked past as he stood in the entryway of a cathedral on Bloor. I said aloud "Hey, that was Gord Downie. Lets say hi". While the others were hesitant, I had a question I wanted to ask him: where can I get a copy of your cover of Hallelujah from Saint Ralph? (I had just seen the film 2 weeks before at the Review Cinema) He was very approachable but was not pleased when I told him that I had exhausted my search for the soundtrack and had come up empty. He said he was told that there would be a soundtrack. I told him it was the best version of the song I had ever heard. He replied, to my surprise, that he had never actually heard the original before he recorded it himself. I suggested he put the track on his next solo project but he said he'd look into the Saint Ralph soundtrack first, thanked me for bringing this to his attention and shook our hands. He's had 3 solo albums since...
I've wanted to ask Gord about this song for a while now, and Nik's comment was quite revealing. I wonder why "Hallelujah" has yet to see the light of day?



As seen on Godvine.com -

Three Girls Sing a BEAUTIFUL Version of Hallelujah
[tied as my fav no. 2 with the Jewish Educational Band below]

[this is not a video but a picture of the 3 girls]

Whatever the language,
wherever the tongue,

הללויה להקת חינוך

I've heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Baby I have been here before
I know this room, I've walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you.
I've seen your flag on the marble arch
Love is not a victory march
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

There was a time when you let me know
What's really going on below
But now you never show it to me, do you?
And remember when I moved in you
The holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Maybe there’s a God above
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
It’s not a cry you can hear at night
It’s not somebody who has seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

You say I took the name in vain
I don't even know the name
But if I did, well, really, what's it to you?
There's a blaze of light in every word
It doesn't matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Revelation 19

English Standard Version (ESV)

Rejoicing in Heaven

19 After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out,

Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
    for his judgments are true and just;
for he has judged the great prostitute
    who corrupted the earth with her immorality,
and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”[a]
Once more they cried out,
The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”
And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” And from the throne came a voice saying,
“Praise our God,
    all you his servants,
you who fear him,
    small and great.”

The Marriage Supper of the Lamb

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

For the Lord our God
    the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
    and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
    and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
    with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

And the angel said[b] to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” 10 Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant[c] with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

The Rider on a White Horse

11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in[d] blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, 18 to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave,[e] both small and great.” 19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. 20 And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence[f] had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. 21 And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.