Tag Archives: Shakespeare

April’s Greatest Hits: Audio Poems

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So it was that during all of April I wrote poems, 32 of them to be precise, in celebration of National Poetry Writing Month. And they all, or most of them, turned out to be about this guy, or at least inspired by this guy, the Bard from Stratford Upon Avon, because, as you may or may not know, I had Shakespeare on the brain again as I was deeply embroiled in a performance of Romeo and Juliet as Lord Capulet.

For a friend who is making a film, I recorded audio performances of seven of my favorites.  For your listening pleasure, here they are:

Curtains

Lord Capulet Speaks the Unspeakable

A Poem from Director’s Notes

Capulet Speaks of His Daughters Grief

During Act II, Capulet Writes a Poem

The Actor Attempts to Meditate in the House During Fight Call

Lord Capulet Interrogates Michael Jarmer in a Closing Night Sonnet

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#217: Poem on the 26th of the Month of April

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My head is empty of poems;
instead it’s full
of Shakespeare,
trying to hold on to
my lines even though
the run is over.
I found myself
running some of
them today for
no other reason
than to see if I
could do it. My mind
is full of The Flaming Lips
because I’ve been
listening to them again
almost non-stop
and that’s why I’ve
made no progress
toward the G section
of the collection.
My head is full of
excitement about
drumming again.
And it’s full of dread,
too, because of
how behind I am
in my grading
as a result of that show
that sucked up
all my spare time
and for which I
have no regrets
because I am sure
that the sacrifices
I made in teaching
to make room to do
a Shakespeare play
more likely than not
made me a better teacher.
Sometimes I believe
(or know) that grading
is the least important
part of what I do and
that acting, drumming
and writing poems, all
those things that are
best for me, are also
the best things I could
be doing for my students.

 

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#215: The Actor “Decides” the Last Scene is Four Lines Too Long and Does Some Spontaneous Editing On Stage

R&J Cast

Moving through the last show of the run,
it was hard to contain my happiness.
Through the first four acts I felt downright
giddy. It was difficult to suppress the smiles
and there was a kind of laughter inside,
too flattering sweet to be substantial.
I was happy the run was near an end but
simultaneously I felt a deep gratitude
for this great gift of an experience.
And I was having a great show,
my best performance to date, I thought.
But, lo, behold, in the last scene when
the Capulets and the Montagues all
descend on the crypt where the bodies
of Paris, Romeo, and Juliet lie, I knelt
down by my dead daughter, and then,
taking in the carnage and picking up
a cue, I was to deliver my penultimate
speech in the play:
“O heavens, O wife, look how our daughter bleeds.
This dagger hath mista’en, for lo, his house
is empty on the back of Montague and
is mis-sheathed in my daughter’s bosom.”
But, lo, alack the day, I was silent.
No words came from my mouth,
nor was I even aware that words
should be coming from my mouth.
I was aware, though, of a strange silence
on stage. I looked up at the actor playing
the Prince, and I thought, dude, say your
flipping line! But then my wife, dear
Lady Capulet, delivered the lines that
come immediately after mine and in that
moment I knew. So it was especially
difficult then, in the last 10 minutes of
the show, to stay out of  my head and
connected to the scene. Consequently,
after having had the best show thus far,
it ended for me in the worst way possible.
I know that’s not really true.
I know it could have been worse, and
that this Actor nightmare is nowhere
close to being the scariest.
The great boon, here, though, I realize,
is that very few people were aware of it.
A few cast members, perhaps, and not
a single audience member. Even if there
were people out there who knew the play
well enough to track the missing four lines,
they might have just chalked it up to a cut that
had been made pre-production, on purpose,
like. Nevertheless, the audience response
to the last show was overwhelmingly positive,
and afterwards, most of us found our way
to a cast party where the kids behaved
like happy puppies, the adults sipped
wine in the kitchen, and the Italian food
to celebrate the Bard’s birthday was abundant.

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#214: Lord Capulet Interrogates Michael Jarmer in a Closing Night Sonnet

First things first: Happy birthday, Bill! It’s been a super rough year. The loss of Bowie, Rickman et. al., and just days ago now, the devastating loss of Prince, makes one super conscious of the fragility of life, especially when our heroes fall, heroes who seemed to us untouchable and timeless, almost god-like. But now, involved as I have been over the last 8 years of my life in a close relationship with the Bard from Stratford-apon-Avon, I am reminded how great art never dies. Right, Bill? “So long as men can breathe and eyes can see,” or ears can hear, “so long lives this, and this gives life to thee.” Bowie, Rickman, and Prince are still with us and every time we spin one of their records or see one of their films,
they are very much alive and well, just as Shakespeare is still, 451 years later, alive and well.

So, to celebrate the timelessness of great art, the final performance of Romeo and Juliet, to be a good napowrimo student, and to inadequately express my gratitude for all three, I pen today a sonnet, another persona poem from Lord Capulet. I fought a great battle against adding two more syllables in that final line. Iambic pentameter wins the day.

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Lord Capulet Interrogates Michael Jarmer in a Closing Night Sonnet

So what did you to me bring forth and what
did I give you? Imagine that we are
one soul: why must I hate Montague gut?
And why, dear actor friend, is this young star,
this boy Paris, of such interest to me?
And why must I insist Juliet wed?
It’s clear, we don’t need his royal money
and did I not say those too early bed
are marred? It’s true, I contradict myself.
I know, in part, I hoped to quell her grief;
instead I heaped it on. Her mental health
disturbed, distressed. So actor, please, be brief:
Your task demands that you do know me well;
What kind of father makes for daughter hell?

 

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#212: Rosaline Goes to an Old Accustomed Feast

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Today’s napowrimo suggestion is to write a poem in the point of view of a minor character in a folktale or myth. I choose neither. Because Shakespeare:

Rosaline Goes to an Old Accustomed Feast

I was on the guest list and I decided to go
even though I knew he would be there.
I wanted no awkward moments but I trusted
there would be none. I think I convinced him
that between he and I there could be no hope
of anything like an enduring relationship,
let alone the kind of fling thing
for which these boys in Verona are so keen.
I let him down as easily as I could, or rather,
I devised, I must confess, a diversionary tactic,
one against which there could be no response
or argument. I told him I have sworn
that I will still live chaste, forever celibate,
no monkey business, that soon I would be on
my way to a nunnery where the concerns
of worldly desires and the dangers of menfolk
would be far away. This was a lie. Frankly,
I’m really looking forward to the mystery dance,
but, truth be told, even though he’s pretty good
looking for a Montague, I won’t do it with him.
I just don’t like that guy. He’s flighty,
too much like a boy, his friends are creepy,
and by the looks of his behavior at the Capulet
shindig, he’d be about as faithful to a woman as a
honey bee to a single daisy. Never have I been one to gloat,
but truthfully, Paris is the man that floats my boat.

.

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#211: Ode To Juliet’s Nurse


Juliet’s age-knowing,
wormwood on dug-leaving,
dirty-joke telling,
thou wilt fall backward,
when thou comest to age,
wilt thou not, Jule-talking,
fan-waving,
fan’s the fairer face-waving,
Mercrutio, scurvy-knaving,
saucy merchant-screaming,
I’ll take him down-threatening,
match-making,
Juliet-teasing,
oh, my aching bones-complaining,
where is your mother-asking,
wedding-arranging,
Romeo and Juliet co-conspiring,
Romeo shaming,
on Friar Lawrence-crushing,
he’s dead, he’s dead,
alack the day-sobbing,
heart-throbbing,
Tybalt’s dead body-mourning,
Capulet-fighting,
Juliet-betraying, no longer
in confidence and craving,
and on wedding-to-Paris-day morning,
Juliet’s sleeping body-discovering,
she’s dead, she’s dead-mistaking,
alack the day again sobbing,
and then out and never again
to be seen-leaving, a sail, a sail
into the dark and behind the
curtain and into the green
room, where Juliet’s nurse
transforms and becomes again,
my esteemed colleague, my friend.

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#210: How to Perform Shakespeare for Middle School Children

Chew the words.
Enunciate.
Don’t go too fast.
Lift the line.
Energy. Energy.
Perhaps, more importantly,
overemphasize the dirty jokes:
“Draw thy tool” and
“My naked weapon is out”
should get big laughs.
However, for things that could
be considered dirty but
are not, caution is advised.
If you’re Romeo, for example,
and you’re climbing
on top of Juliet in her
bedroom, you’ll want
to underemphasize the
contact here. On second
thought, strike that.
Go ahead and make it steamy.
They’ll laugh, and laughter
from middle school kids
during a Shakespeare performance
is better than silence, with
some exceptions, like when
Tybalt kills Mercrutio,
or when Romeo kills Tybalt,
or when the Prince banishes
Romeo, or, alack the day, when
Capulet abuses his daughter,
or, alack, alack the day again,
at the double suicide at the end.
So, if you’re playing Mercrutio,
Tybalt, Romeo, Capulet, or Juliet,
aim for silence and not for laughter,
understanding of course,
that you have little or no control
over the response of the little
middle schoolers, and that
whether you like it or not,
they might laugh, not because
you’re funny, but because
you’ve made them very uncomfortable
and they did not know what else to do.

 

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