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Shakespeare’s Sonnetry

In addition to writing the most famous plays in history, and inventing the knock-knock joke, Will Shakespeare was also quite an accomplished poet. He wrote more than 150 sonnets (probably–as with all things Shakespeare, some of the authorship has been questioned). For those who didn’t take Introduction to Poetry in college, a sonnet is a poem with fourteen lines and an ABAB rhyme scheme, except for the last two lines, which are a rhymed couplet. Shakespeare’s are mostly about love, but they’re still enjoyable to read because, you know, Shakespeare.

Sonnet 130 is probably my favourite. It makes fun of the overblown, romanticized style of some sonneteers in Will’s time. In today’s language, it might read, “So my girlfriend isn’t quite supermodel material. So what? I love her anyway.” But in Will’s words:

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red, than her lips red:
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound:
I grant I never saw a goddess go,
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet by heaven, I think my love as rare,
as any she belied with false compare.

Lovely, isn’t it? But you know what’s even better than reading a Shakespeare sonnet? Hearing a Shakespeare sonnet read aloud by David Tennant, in his native Scottish accent. Here’s a link. You’re welcome.


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My Darling Gerard

So, everyone knows Edgar Allen Poe, because everyone was forced to read “The Raven” at some point in school. And most everyone has at least heard of T.S. Eliot, even if you haven’t actually read any of his poems. But here’s a poet you may not have heard of: Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Good-looking fella, too. Pity he was celibate.

Hopkins was an English Jesuit priest who wrote poetry during the later years of the 19th century. Very little of it was published during his lifetime, and he had kind of a love-hate relationship with it himself, not being sure if poetry was a fitting exercise for a priest. History has decided in favour of it. His poems are like nothing else I’ve ever read. He invented his own poetic form called “sprung rhythm,” which followed such complicated rules that no one has ever been quite able to replicate it. I don’t understand it fully myself, but I do know that it resulted in language is so compressed, and metre so unusual, that it takes several readings to grasp every layer of meaning in one of his poems. Reading it aloud feels like chewing a steak. A really, really delicious steak. That’s the best way I can describe Hopkins’ use of words.

And as for what the words are saying…it’s not every poet, and certainly not every Victorian poet following a rhyme scheme, who can convey such fierce joy and sorrow in just a few lines. His descriptions of nature rival those of the most swoony Romantic, and they manage to skip most of the swooniness. His version of singing praises to God puts every modern Christian songwriter to utter shame.

In case it isn’t clear, I freakin’ LOVE Gerard Manley Hopkins. He is the best. I would totally start a Gerard Manley Hopkins fandom, but nobody I know has even heard of him! Well, now you have. Boom.

Here’s one of his more famous poems (and the one that first introduced me to this beautiful genius):

God’s Grandeur

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs –
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

There’s lots, lots more where that came from. Go look up his other stuff–and expect feelings.

Oh, and happy Earth Day, by the way. If I had been responsible enough to plant a tree today, I would have named it Gerard. And from up in Heaven, GMH would have looked down and approved. But instead, I wrote this post.


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Hollow Men

I love T.S. Eliot. No, I was not an English major, and no, I don’t have any idea what half his poems mean. But I love him nevertheless. You know how sometimes you get words and phrases stuck in your head, just like songs? No? Maybe it’s just me. Anyway, Eliot’s lines are very common offenders. The first time I read “The Hollow Men,” I had the words running around in my brain for days. And not just because some of them are based on a popular children’s song (“Here we go round the prickly pear prickly pear prickly pear” etc.). It brings up such powerful images of humans at our emptiest and most cowardly. Even after many readings, I don’t understand what all the images are about–for one thing, many of them are allusions to other literary works that I haven’t read–but they make me think. And that’s part of poetry’s job, wouldn’t you say?

Here’s the fifth and final verse (my favourite). You can read the rest here.

Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

As I mentioned in a previous post, this is a good poem to read at the same time as Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. “The Hollow Men” starts with a quote from that book: “Mistah Kurtz–he dead.” They have similar themes, and the character Kurtz is a very good example of a “hollow man.” This is why Apocalypse Now, the Vietnam War version of Heart of Darkness, has a character read the poem in its entirety. Also, “The Hollow Men” is a fairly long poem, and Heart of Darkness is quite a short book, so, together, they make for a nice symmetry.

And in case you’re wondering…yes, this poem was name-dropped in Doctor Who. In fact the episode “The Lazarus Experiment” was full of Eliot references, for whatever reason. You know, in between scenes with the giant life-sucking scorpion thing. The Doctor is a cultured fellow, after all.

Between the idea and the reality/ Between the motion and the act/ Falls the Hairpiece.

My other favourite poems by T.S. Eliot: “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (I have a quote from that one on a coffee mug) and “Journey of the Magi.” “Little Gidding” is lovely, too. Reader, if no literature teacher has ever forced you to read an Eliot poem, then get thee to a library. Go! They’re some of the toughest and most worthwhile nuts to crack in the whole Western literary canon.


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Talking about the use of sound in poetry, Edgar Allan Poe was the undisputed world champion of that technique. My favourite poem of his–and one that makes the short list of my favourite poems of all time–is “The Bells.” He wrote this one specifically to be read aloud, which I recommend doing to get the full effect. It’s rather long, though, so I’ll just quote the first verse (the rest is quite easy to find on the Internet):


Hear the sledges with the bells–
Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens, seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells–
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.

The subsequent verses get gradually darker and grimmer, as per usual with Poe, describing wedding bells, alarm bells, and finally funeral bells. But always the language is constructed so you can hear the notes of those large percussive instruments. If you hear the poem read aloud, it’s almost like the bells themselves are speaking.

And I know it’s poetry month, not “mystery month,” but while we’re on the subject of bells, I’d like to introduce you all to my favourite murder mystery of all time: The Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers. Go check it out. Genre fiction it may be, but it’s one of the most literary mysteries you’ll ever find, and it does contain a bit of important poetry. And lots of bells. Big, sinister, ominous bells of the iron persuasion. Poe’s poem and Sayers’ book go together like Heart of Darkness and “The Hollow Men.” About which more later.


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Bugles and Beginnings

I remember very clearly all the things that made me decide to become a poet, back when I was 10. One of them was this poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, which I first read for a school assignment. I think it’s the line about the “long light” that got me. I could see exactly what Tennyson was describing in my mind’s eye. Plus, the whole poem has a lovely fantastical air about it, like a song from another world. (It’s actually part of a long, rather satirical poem called “The Princess” that makes fun of fairytale tropes, but fortunately my 10-year-old self didn’t know that.) Here you go:

Bugle Song

The splendour falls on castle walls

and snowy summits old in story:

The long light shakes across the lakes

and the wild cataract leaps in glory.

Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying;

Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.


O hark! O hear! How thin and clear,

and thinner, clearer, farther going!

O sweet and far from cliff and scar,

the horns of Elfland faintly blowing!

Blow, let us hear the purple glens replying;

Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.


O love, they die in yon rich sky,

they faint on hill or field or river;

Our echoes roll from soul to soul

and grow forever and forever!

Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying;

And answer, echoes, answer, dying, dying, dying.




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Poetry Month

It is I, Aldy! You may (or may not) have noticed that I’ve been gone for about two weeks. This is mostly because I realized I had developed an addiction to the Internet–like, I couldn’t be away from my phone and computer for any length of time without feeling twitchy–and decided to go cold turkey for a while. I think it did me good.

But I’m back now, and April’s fandom is long overdue. Except it isn’t exactly a traditional fandom. April, as you should all know, is National Poetry Month. So, just to make as dramatic a break as possible with our…less intellectual last fandom, what remains of this month will be dedicated to poetry. I’ll be posting my favourite poems, some fun facts about my favourite poets…oh, and probably some Shakespeare goodness. Because there’s nothing classier than Shakespeare, whether we’re talking sonnets or plays.

Stay tuned, lit lovers!


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Episode Highlight #8: The French Mistake

“You’re Jensen Ackles, and I’m something called a Jared Padalecki.”

Let’s wrap up this month’s episode highlights with something amusing, shall we?

Summary: Sam and Dean are chillin’ at Bobby’s when Balthazar suddenly appears, starts babbling about Raphael being after him, and does a spell that sends them into a parallel universe. A universe where they are actors named Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, and they star in a cult TV show called Supernatural. 

Why I love it: “Love” almost seems inadequate. When the credits rolled, I wanted to give a round of applause, and maybe a hug, to everyone whose name showed up. This is the most magnificently meta thing I have ever seen a television show do. Supernatural had a pretty thin fourth wall to begin with, but this episode shattered it to bits and then vaporized the bits. Which took some guts. It could have turned out painfully bad. But the Supernatural crew pulled it off, and I think this episode ties with “Changing Channels” in terms of sheer, crazy, ridiculous fun.

I have always loved how this show is so unafraid of poking fun at itself, but in the past, the teasing was pretty indirect and focused on the fans as much as the people behind the scenes. Here, the cast and crew get to be the exclusive butt of their own jokes–which are very good-natured, especially since everyone is playing obvious caricatures of themselves. We get Misha and his quirky, Twitter-obsessed self; Jared’s ginormous mansion, containing his wife Rub–I mean Genevieve; and Jensen’s dark, dark past as a soap opera star. It’s all glorious.

“You married fake Ruby??”

Besides, there’s just something wonderful about characters from a show like this breaking into reality to kill their creator(s). Doctor Who needs to do this to Steven Moffat. It would be so therapeutic.

And props to the real Jensen and Jared for staying in character long enough to film this episode. I mean…what did their stage directions even look like? At one point they’re playing Sam and Dean pretending to be Jared and Jensen playing Sam and Dean. (That was the funniest scene in the whole episode, by the way.) I can’t imagine even keeping a straight face in a situation like that. And that is why this episode works so well–if we, the audience, thought for one second that we were watching the actors, and not their characters, the whole thing would collapse. But no, this is quite clearly Sam and Dean, stuck in yet another weird situation and trying to get out.

“It’s because we have no other choice.” “WE NEED TO GET ALL THREE OF THAT CRAP.” They tried so hard…

Speaking of which, the Winchesters’ reason for wanting to get back to their world is pretty darn heartwarming. Their lives in the parallel universe are infinitely better than their “real” lives, but they still want to go back because their world needs them. And no matter how monster-free it is, they don’t want to live in a universe where they’re not brothers. “At least they’re talking,” indeed.

Besides, who wants to live in a world where you used to be on Days of Our Lives? That’s just embarrassing.


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Only the Good Die Young

One of the bummers about watching Supernatural is that everyone dies. Literally. EVERYONE. (There’s a reason Death is the most powerful entity in this show’s universe.) At least when the main characters die, you know they’ll be back, but secondary characters? Not so lucky.

Let us have a moment of silence for all the awesome side characters who were killed off before their time.

1. Ash

I loved Ash as soon as he was introduced back in Season 2. A genius with heavenly computer hacking skills (seriously, he hacked his way around Heaven), who sleeps on pool tables and proudly wears a mullet? What’s not to like? It takes a special kind of individual to get into MIT and then get kicked out for fighting. If anyone ever deserved the title “Dr. Badass,” it’s Ash. But you know what I liked best about him? He was happy and content with his life, never showing any signs of the baggage most other hunters carry around–both before and after his name became horribly ironic. Ash would never let a little thing like a fiery death get him down. I wasn’t so cool with it, though…

2. Bela Talbot

To me, Bela always seemed like a huge wasted opportunity. She was the first female on this show (other than Ellen) who actually showed some depth and wasn’t completely defined by her relationship to one of the Winchesters. Sure, her accent was terrible, but I found her an interesting antagonist otherwise. And you can’t help feeling sorry for her once we learn about her backstory. Girl had a childhood that made the Winchesters’ lives look wholesome. I wanted her to turn good, maybe even be a long-term love interest for Dean (she would’ve been better than Cassie or Lisa, at least). But what did she get instead? An offscreen death and an eternity in Hell. So much for my hopes and dreams. *frowny face*

3. Agent Victor Henriksen

I always kinda liked this guy, and the episode in which he died was also his finest moment. “Jus in Bello” is one of the show’s most frustrating episodes for me, mainly because, for 90 percent of it, it looked like Agent Henriksen was going to turn good. Not that he was ever really bad, just ignorant of the supernatural and therefore inclined to take the Winchesters’ (extremely sketchy) record at face value. He always thought he was upholding the law by chasing down a pair of dangerous killers. And he was doing a pretty good job! But in “Jus in Bello,” he finally starts believing in paranormal stuff, makes friends with Dean, helps defeat a small army of demons without any civilian casualties, and looks interested in becoming a hunter (which he would have been awesome at). Yay! Then he gets brutally murdered in the last 30 seconds. Ugh.

4. Jimmy Novak

I’m including him on this list because I very sincerely hope he’s dead by this point. Cas has been blown up and put back together enough times, seems like Jimmy would have escaped to Heaven by now. Right? It’s unlikely in any case that we’ll ever see him again, and that’s a shame, because he was one of the most morally upright characters this show has ever produced. He was a great husband and father (a good father on Supernatural??? Madness!). He was a devout guy who said “yes” to Castiel because he genuinely believed he was doing God’s will. And when it turned out…a little different than he expected, he reacted with tremendous bravery to being caught in the angel-demon crossfire. After his horrible experience being “strapped to a comet” for a year, he willingly submitted to the same experience for, as far as he knew, eternity, in order to protect his family. This man did not deserve the sucky life he got.

5. Ellen and Jo Harvelle

I’ll include them both as one entry because they died in the same episode…and, well, five is a good number.  Ellen and Jo are far and away the best females ever to appear on this show. It took me a while to warm up to Jo, I’ll admit, but she went through so much character development that by Season 5, she had changed from a naive, whiny girl with a crush on Dean to a mature, capable hunter who never lost her cool even in a hopeless fight with Lucifer’s minions. Perhaps more impressively, she’s just about the only person who has ever turned down the offer of a night with Dean. And she did it in truly epic fashion. Go Jo!! As for Ellen…she was always awesome. She was just as great a mother-figure to the Winchesters as Bobby was a father-figure (which is why I kinda shipped them together). At least the writers had the decency to kill off the Harvelles in suitably dramatic fashion, as opposed to the off-screen examples above, but it was still a blow. I wanted to see so much more of these girls, and the show has yet to satisfactorily replace them.

There are many, many more examples, but these are the ones that hurt me the most. RIP guys.

But on the bright side…at least the Ghostfacers are still alive!


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Episode Highlight #7: Swan Song

“Well, then, I ain’t gonna let him die alone.”

Summary: As a last-ditch effort to trap Lucifer in the Cage, Sam decides to try jumping in while possessed by him. Feels ensue.

Why I love it: It’s the perfect conclusion to the best story arc Supernatural has ever come up with. It’s also the most heartwarming episode we’ll probably ever see on this cynical, cynical show. Brotherly love triumphs, the world is saved, and it is lovely.

For one thing, this episode shows Team Free Will at their absolute best. Everyone gets a chance to shine, even (especially?) the Impala. Bobby gets to be his usual wonderful, fatherly self–and he dies and comes back to life for the first time, so I guess we can officially welcome him into the Winchester family now! Castiel gets his “Hey, Assbutt!” moment, which is easily the most awesome thing he has ever done or said.

He’s talking to MICHAEL, by the way. Right before torching him with holy fire.

And Dean…well, it’s just wonderful to see him refusing to give up on Sam, even when Cas and Bobby(!) tell him all is lost. A few episodes ago, he had lost so much faith in his brother that he considered surrendering to the angels to stop Sam’s inevitable turn to the dark side, and now he’s interrupting Armageddon (with a Def Leppard song!) just to be there for Sam. Awwww…. I mean, the way it plays out is totally heartbreaking, too, but still. (Also, kudos to the writers for actually letting Dean look like he’s getting the crap beat out of him for once.)

This episode also made me want to apologize for all the times I’ve called Sam whiny and stupid in the past. Sure, the guy had his rough spots, but it’s hard not to appreciate him when he’s saving the world. And he did it in a very noble, self-sacrificing manner, too. And the only reason he was able to do it at all was that he loved his brother so much he could overpower the devil himself just to avoid hurting him. Can I get another awwww?

Sam-as-Lucifer is creepy as ever, though.

Then there’s Baby. Thanks to Chuck’s narration, this whole episode is basically one long love poem to the Impala. And I am so okay with that. I love that car more than anything else on this show, Winchesters included. And she got to play a key role in saving the world! My life is complete.

“Swan Song” was supposed to be the finale of the originally-planned five seasons of Supernatural. Can’t say I’m sorry the show continued after that, even if it lost a little of its quality, but this would have made a great ending. Not sure they’ll be able to top it when the show finally does end. But no matter what, we’ll always have this beauty to go back to.

Man, there’s just too much awesomeness in this episode to cover in one post. Have I forgotten anything important?

Nope. I think I got everything.


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The Wit and Wisdom of Dean Winchester

Dean may never have finished high school, but he does have something of a way with words. And since listening to Dean generally lengthens your lifespan in the Supernatural universe, it seems only right to do an appreciation post for some of his most memorable lines.

House rules, Sammy: Driver picks the music. Shotgun shuts his cakehole.

Like every good parent, he knows how to lay down the rules.

I hope your apple pie is freakin’ WORTH IT!

As much as he loves pie, he knows it’s not worth killing over.

 Demons, I get. People are crazy.

I like him. He says okie-dokie.

He knows what to look for in a friend.

Hey, Tuesday! Pig ‘n a poke!

Honestly, I think the world’s gonna end bloody. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight. We do have choices. I choose to go down swingin’.

He has an admirable life philosophy.

Most people, they see a monster and they run. But not us. Oh no, no. We actively seek out things that want to kill us! Or eat us! You know who does that? Crazy people! We are insane!

And an accurate assessment of his own mental health.

The whistle makes me their god.

When humans want something really, really bad, we lie. Because…that’s how you become President.

He tends to have a bad influence on angels, though.



He appreciates the value of spontaneity. 

Fight the fairies! You fight those fairies!

Don’t look at the camera. Look anywhere but the camera.

He gives excellent acting advice.


And let’s not forget the immortal…

Dad wants us to pick up where he left off. Saving people, hunting things. The family business.

Thanks for summing up the show, Dean.