Love and Chaos Part 6 (H) Descriptions Of A Doctor

14th May 2021

The Life of Franz Kafka - Exploring your mind
Dr Franz Kafka

In an early story, Franz Kafka wrote about two men crossing the Charles Bridge in the early hours of a Bohemian winter night. The acquaintance stops the narrator in front of the statue of Saint Ludmila, to point out the limitless tenderness with which the artist had endowed the hands of a small angel to the Saint’s left. This acquaintance knew hands, for, that very evening, he had taken the hands of a pretty housemaid and kissed them . . . once, maybe twice, maybe more.

Kafka himself had ‘long, ethereal fingers’ which he employed when talking, giving shape to his words. And when tuberculous of the larynx made anything but hoarse whispers impossible, it was the hands, again, that were his means of communications, writing notes to his friends and to his last and perhaps only true love, Dora Diamant.

And the first thing he said to her was, ‘Such gentle hands and such bloody work.’

It was Friday 13th July 1923, in the kitchen of a children’s holiday camp in Müritz, North Germany.

Dora had already noticed the tall man on the beach and had followed him into town, unable to fight the mysterious attraction he held for her.

When he finally noticed her, she was hard at work, scaling fish in the kitchen where she was a volunteer helper. Yet his comments, as well as his acute sense of the suffering of others, and of his ability to offer comfort, put her at ease. Yes, her hands were bloody, but he noticed how gentle they were.

He returned every evening for the next three weeks and they spoke about their past lives and, more importantly, their future.

Dora lived in Berlin and despite his travels, Kafka had never managed to break away from the claws of his native Prague. Dora provided the strength he needed to do it.

She found them an apartment in the Steglitz area, more countryside than European metropolis, and they planned to attend college then emigrate to Palestine, ‘next year in Jerusalem,’ to work the land. Or Dora could cook and Kafka work as waiter in their own restaurant. All the optimist, hope-filled talk of love.

But winter was coming.

The German economy was in an appalling state, massive inflation raising prices weekly. Kafka desperately writing home and waiting for his pension money. His health had made early retirement necessary. The landlady objected to his burning lights at night as he wrote. Dora merely went out and bought an oil lamp. Still the landlady objected, objected, he felt, to his very existence.

Dora found a new place, not so far away and took care of the moving.

To amuse themselves, they read, told stories, made plans and Kafka used his hands to make shadows on the wall.

They had little money, little food or heating, the streets of Berlin were becoming increasingly violent and uncertain, and his illness was getting worse and worse.

It was the happiest time of his life.

No photo description available.
The house where Kafka lived in Steglitz, south-west Berlin
No photo description available.
The Austrian writer Franz Kafka, born 3 July 1883 in Prague, died 3 June 1924 in Vienna (Klosterneuburg), lived in this house from 15 November to 1 February 1924

Historical note: Dr Kafka is now referred to a Czech writer, but at the time of his birth, the Czech lands were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the state religion was Catholicism, the official language was German. The Czechs saw their language suppressed, as was their Protestant religion. Dr Kafka was a German-speaking Jew, and this sense of alienation is easy to detect in his writing.

Poems for pronunciation practice.

16th April 2021

I loved the beat generation. Then I realised it has no place for women |  Books | The Guardian
Members of the ‘Beat Generation’ hanging out & chewing the fat in New York, 1950s. Allen Ginsberg, whose poem ‘Howl’ ends this blog, is on the right, smoking a cigarette.

A major issue I encounter with ESL students is pronunciation and associated features such as intonation, stress, rhythm and pacing. Therefore, I decided to select some English-language poems for practice in class, while online students can find a multitude of YouTube videos of poems being recited by professional actors. I shall add some links at the end of the blog.

Now, without further ado, poetry.

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Poetry can take many forms, not just writing; poetry in cinema, in dance, in speech … in life.

Let’s take a look at the first poem, ‘Dreams’ from 1922.

Recite the poem slowly and clearly. In the first line, stress ‘fast‘ and ‘dreams‘.

Secondly, listen for the rhyming pattern in lines 2 & 4: ‘die’ rhymes with ‘fly’, while verse 2 rhymes ‘go’ with ‘snow.’

Regarding ‘colour’, which tone of voice to use, decide if this is a positive or negative poem. Discuss in class what you think and give reasons.

Remember, art (painting, cinema, literature etc) is subjective; each person is allowed to have their own opinion. Develop speaking skills to enable you to support your views (give reasons).

Dreams

BY LANGSTON HUGHES

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Read more at: https://www.biography.com/news/langston-hughes-poems

The following poem, from 1938, was featured in the British film ‘Four Weddings and a funeral’ (1994), and may be viewed here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDXWclpGhcg&ab_channel=englishclasspoems

Funeral Blues

By W.H. AUDEN

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message ‘He is Dead’.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

A highly emotional rendition, one person expressing their feelings over a loved-one’s death.

Let’s continue with a nonsense poem by Edward Lear from 1876:

The Akond of Swat

Who, or why, or which, or what, Is the Akond of SWAT?

Is he tall or short, or dark or fair?
Does he sit on a stool or a sofa or a chair,
        or SQUAT,
    The Akond of Swat?

Is he wise or foolish, young or old?
Does he drink his soup and his coffee cold,
        or HOT,
    The Akond of Swat?

Does he sing or whistle, jabber or talk,
And when riding abroad does he gallop or walk
        or TROT,
    The Akond of Swat?

Does he wear a turban, a fez, or a hat?
Does he sleep on a mattress, a bed, or a mat,
        or COT,
    The Akond of Swat?

A great poem to demonstrate rhythm as well as ‘floating opposites’ e.g. young & old, hot & cold, not forgetting synonyms such as talk & jabber. Now, for really advanced beatniks, try the beginning of the famous, indeed infamous, poem ‘Howl’

Howl, Parts I & II

Allen Ginsberg  1926-1997

For Carl Solomon

I

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz, …

The poem, along with a recitation by the poet, may be accessed here:

https://poets.org/poem/howl-parts-i-ii

And now, as promised, some YouTube links of magnificent actors reciting majestic poems.

First up, Richard Burton reading the beginning of fellow Welshman Dylan Thomas’ ‘Under Milk Wood’.

Now Benedict Cumberbatch, who you may know better as Sherlock or Dr Strange, reciting a John Keats poem, ‘Ode to a Nightingale.’

Finally, Amanda Gorman reading her own ‘The Hill we Climb’ from President Biden’s inauguration 2021.

Three English poems and some Shakespeare

19th July 2020

W.H. Auden

1907 – 1973

Reading the Maps: Yesterday the struggle: EP Thompson, Auden, and ...

Are you there ?

Each lover has some theory of his own
About the difference between the ache
Of being with his love, and being alone:

Why what, when dreaming, is dear flesh and bone
That really stirs the senses, when awake,
Appears a simulacrum of his own.

Narcissus disbelieves in the unknown;
He cannot join his image in the lake
So long as he assumes he is alone.

The child, the waterfall, the fire, the stone,
Are always up to mischief, though, and take
The universe for granted as their own.

The elderly, like Proust, are always prone
To think of love as a subjective fake;
The more they love, the more they feel alone.

Whatever view we hold, it must be shown
Why every lover has a wish to make
Some kind of otherness his own:
Perhaps, in fact, we never are alone.

John Betjemin

1906 – 1984

John Betjeman was a mediocre poet – but he wrote one brilliant poem

This poem is about a small industrial town, outside of London. The poet criticises the place for its lack of culture and atmosphere, and the people for being mediocre. The place is pronounced ‘sl – owl’ to rhyme with ‘cow’ and ‘now’.

Slough

Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough!
It isn’t fit for humans now,
There isn’t grass to graze a cow.
Swarm over, Death!

Come, bombs and blow to smithereens
Those air -conditioned, bright canteens,
Tinned fruit, tinned meat, tinned milk, tinned beans,
Tinned minds, tinned breath.

Mess up the mess they call a town-
A house for ninety-seven down
And once a week a half a crown
For twenty years.

And get that man with double chin
Who’ll always cheat and always win,
Who washes his repulsive skin
In women’s tears:

And smash his desk of polished oak
And smash his hands so used to stroke
And stop his boring dirty joke
And make him yell.

But spare the bald young clerks who add
The profits of the stinking cad;
It’s not their fault that they are mad,
They’ve tasted Hell.

It’s not their fault they do not know
The birdsong from the radio,
It’s not their fault they often go
To Maidenhead

And talk of sport and makes of cars
In various bogus-Tudor bars
And daren’t look up and see the stars
But belch instead.

In labour-saving homes, with care
Their wives frizz out peroxide hair
And dry it in synthetic air
And paint their nails.

Come, friendly bombs and fall on Slough
To get it ready for the plough.
The cabbages are coming now;
The earth exhales.

Slough Trading Estate bosses at SEGRO launch £10million fund ...
Mars bars, Ford GT40s and David Brent: The Slough Trading Estate ...

Slough

Philip Larkin

1922 – 1985

Philip Larkin and Me: A Friendship with Holes in It | The New Yorker

Toads 

Why should I let the toad work
Squat on my life?
Can’t I use my wit as a pitchfork
And drive the brute off ?

Six days of the week it soils
With its sickening poison –
Just for paying a few bills!
That’s out of proportion.

Lots of folk live on their wits:
Lecturers, lispers,
Losels, loblolly-men, louts-
They don’t end as paupers;

Lots of folk live up lanes
With fires in a bucket,
Eat windfalls and tinned sardines-
they seem to like it.

Their nippers have got bare feet,
Their unspeakable wives
Are skinny as whippets – and yet
No one actually starves.

Ah, were I courageous enough
To shout Stuff your pension!
But I know, all too well, that’s the stuff
That dreams are made on:

For something sufficiently toad-like
Squats in me, too;
Its hunkers are heavy as hard luck,
And cold as snow,

And will never allow me to blarney
My way of getting
The fame and the girl and the money
All at one sitting.

I don’t say, one bodies the other
One’s spiritual truth;
But I do say it’s hard to lose either,
When you have both.

William Shakespeare

1564 – 1616

How to read Shakespeare for pleasure

Hamlet, Act II, Scene II

 Ham.  I will tell you why; so shall my anticipation prevent your discovery, and your secrecy to the king and queen moult no feather. I have of late,—but wherefore I know not,—lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to me but a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form, in moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? man delights not me; no, nor woman neither, though, by your smiling, you seem to say so.

William Shakespeare quote: What a piece of work is a man, how noble...
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