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ohfourohnine
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That just doesn't sound right, Michael.

Art Dudley, commenting on the beautiful lyric to "I Remember You", points out that the words sound right and opines that writing such lyrics can't be taught. His point would seem to be that one either knows what "sounds right" or one doesn't. I hope he's wrong, because some teaching appears to be needed.

A few pages earlier in Michael Fremer's coverage of HE 2006 I encountered the phrase, "...for Ken Kessler and I to compete...". For I to compete? How about, "for Ken and ME to compete"? Not only is that correct, IT SOUNDS RIGHT.

Be careful not to print copy in bold block type which doesn't "sound right". The number one mag in its category has to live up to high standards.

gkc
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Re: That just doesn't sound right, Michael.

Good shot, Clay. As a former Miss Grundy, I think Fremer should be dragged into the principal's office for his well-earned whuppin'. I just heard one of the geniuses on CNBC say, "...between he and Greenspan, Bernanke has engendered hope for a soft landing." I don't know about you, but I'm strappin' a pillow to my backside...and preparing for a new onslaught of funny money and more crimes against the mother tongue. I can just hear JA -- "Who cares? They haven't spoken English here since the 17th Century."

JoeE SP9
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Re: That just doesn't sound right, Michael.

In my neighborhood I am regularly accused of speaking "to proper". I hear this from people who think conversate is a word!

gkc
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Re: That just doesn't sound right, Michael.

I used to make my students diagram sentences. Aside from a few death threats a week, it went pretty well. A few years ago, I taught a seminar on Yeats at UC Irvine. I had the students diagram the first sentence of Paradise Lost on the first day. Nobody could do it. And these were all graduate English majors. I had to do it in the 6th grade, in an ordinary public Elementary School. You can't understand anybody's poetry unless you understand conventional syntax because poets stretch this basis to such extremes. Now, with the crabbed and truncated butchery that is the norm on the internet, there is no such thing as a readable sentence. When a culture loses the ability to understand a conventional linguistic basis, it derails itself from the track of communicable logic and, with that, loses any hope for sane dialogue. "After us, the savage gods..."

Fremer, we'll give you one more chance. But no more mistakes, or you wear a cone, sit in the corner, and diagram 100 sentences a night.

stereophillips
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Re: That just doesn't sound right, Michael.

Diagramming sentences, although tedious (well, when I was in sixth grade, it was; these days I sometimes do it for fun -- especially when I can't understand them), but I'll tell you something I think has contributed to the decline of written discourse in contemporary society: We no longer make students copy great writing in "commonplace books."

There's something about writing out classic literature for yourself that teaches rhythm, pace, and, yes, what sounds right. I still do it when something delights me, and I think some part of me, whether mind, hand, or reptile brain, retains something from it and benefits.

Yeah, kids would throw a fit about having to do something that "irrelevant" these days, but not doing stuff just because kids would get their panties in a bunch is another cause of the current decline in almost everything.

The fact is, you can teach good writing, but before you can teach someone to do it, you have to teach them to recognize it when they see it.

gkc
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Re: That just doesn't sound right, Michael.

I agree. I used to do that, but with High School Juniors and Seniors -- because nobody did it for the kids when they were just beginning school. Few people these days understand how much rhythm determines meaning. Rhythm is often the first writing instinct and dramatically changes the available options for the next word or phrase. Poets, of course, "feel" this and agonize over syllables. That's why they are poets. We plodders have to learn it mechanically, through, yes, copying and reading fine-tuned rhythms. English is fundamentally iambic, as Shakespeare and Milton so well understood. Something has been lost in the transition between a reading, reflective culture (when was that?) and the current "Jolt" culture. Now, everything just seems to go aimlessly rat-a-tat-tat-bada-bada. Even much of the music. Not to be a pedant, you understand. The curse of endless relativity is upon us.

Jim Tavegia
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Re: That just doesn't sound right, Michael.

I remember the first time I heard Robt. Frost's "The Road Not Take" performed by a chorus and what a beautiful piece. You all owe it to your self to hear it once in your life.
Robert Frost

It does not always rhyme or have perfect metre, but is still a stunning piece of work. I recorded a professional chorus a year ago who performed it and I was so dissappointed that I had not be made aware of it sooner.

So much music...so little time. It makes me glad that I have been led to so many great pieces of music by coming to this forum and reading "Phile".

My new employment is flat wearing me out these days and I find myself so tired that I am listening to less music, so I must be more selective.

This getting old is for the birds, but it does beat the alternative. I apologize way in advance for all my typos and misspellings.

JoeE SP9
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Re: That just doesn't sound right, Michael.

I keep a fly swatter handy. I apply it to anyone who uses non-words like conversate in my home. On the other hand, I was arguing with a neighbor and she made some disparaging comments about me. I then called her a corpulent strumpet which ended the conversation. I suppose she went home and dug up a dictionary. The next time I saw her she loudly exclaimed that she wasn't a strumpet.
I've been using ispell to check my spelling on the forums I post to. With ispell there is no need to use Word or another word processor and cut and paste to a forum. You can run a spell check directly from the post you are typing. I like it. It makes it look as if I can spell fairly well. All I have to do now is sharpen my grammar.

gkc
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Re: That just doesn't sound right, Michael.

Did you by any chance see Tim Russert's conversation with George Carlin (I saw it last night -- I don't know if it was a rerun). Carlin says his verbal education began the way you describe your neighbor. Carlin: "My mom would say, 'Your perusal of somesuch would edify you...' and I would say, 'What's perusal?' And she would say, 'Go look it up in the dictionary.' Then I would come home from school the next day and say, 'Have you perused today's newspaper?' And she would say, 'I gave it a cursory glance.' And I would go to the dictionary.'" I have a feeling, though, that your neighbor won't hang any flowers on the lattice of learning with "strumpet." Wait 'til she gets to "corpulent." Your days may be numbered, old friend.

Monty
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Re: That just doesn't sound right, Michael.

I caught the Carlin interview last night as well. I thought it interesting (and to WP's point) that Carlin's father would copy in long hand, Shakespeare, for no other reason than because he enjoyed it.

gkc
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Re: That just doesn't sound right, Michael.

Yes, I forgot to mention that. The copying process forces you to slow down and examine every syllable that much more carefully. You end up catching every nuance, details even the most careful readings overlook. In the case of Shakespeare, you end up marveling at how explosive his images really are. Carlin is a very interesting fellow, very bright (as most comedians are).

JoeE SP9
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Re: That just doesn't sound right, Michael.

Sorry I missed this earlier. I got my smart mouth from my parents. If you couldn't speak intelligently and very quickly off the cuff you didn't get a chance to speak at the dinner table. My brother once used the word ya'all at the table. My mother commented that we don't speak like that at this table. He immediately came back with "allright, you'uns". It did get a laugh and another admonition about grammer. My neighbor has actually been quite nice recently. I hope it's not the calm before the storm.

gkc
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Re: That just doesn't sound right, Michael.

Jim, you mention Frost. Do you know "Directive"? An obscure Frost poem, but "obscure" poems by great poets trace out the guts of the matter. I'll go hunt it down and send it to you.

"...There was no playhouse but a house in earnest.
Your destination and your destiny's
A brook that was the water of the house,
Cold as a spring as yet so near its source,
Too lofty and original to rage.
(We know the valley streams that when aroused
Will keep their tatters hung on barb and thorn.)
I have kept hidden in the instep arch
Of an old cedar at the waterhole
A broken drinking goblet like the Grail
Under a spell so the wrong ones can't find it.
So can't get saved, as Saint Mark says they mustn't.
(I stole the goblet from the children's playhouse.)
Here are your waters and your watering place.
Drink and be whole again beyond confusion."

ohfourohnine
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Re: That just doesn't sound right, Michael.

I have to disagree, Clifton. "Directive" isn't all that obscure, and you left out some of the best lines:

"...And if you're lost enough to find yourself
By now, pull in your ladder road behind you
And put a sign up CLOSED to all but me.
Then make yourself at home...."

I've been something of a freak for Frost's poetry for as long as I can remember. No poet I'm aware of uses plain language more powerfully than Frost. I believe that if you can't explain something in words a child can understand, you don't really know what you're talking about. Frost takes that measure to the limit.

Jim, your local library will have the Holt "The Poetry of Robert Frost" . It was edited by Edward Latham, and last copyrighted in 1975. It includes all of the eleven books. The ISBN is 0-03-072535-6. Much though I trust you, I won't lend you my copy. Winter is coming, and this is a book that will get you through it.

gkc
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Re: That just doesn't sound right, Michael.

Thanks, Cheapskate. It certainly isn't an obscure poem to those who know and love Frost. I chose the last few lines simply for their reference to Mark, whose version of Christ portrays him as quite testy, when asked why he speaks in parables. "So the wrong listeners won't get saved, because they won't be able to get the meaning," in so many words, is the gist of it. The other Gospel writers portray him in the same scene quite differently -- Christ's answer, in their version, involves the idea that stories are easier to understand, more accessible and memorable to listeners not of the faith, and thus an aid to understanding. Frost's reference is playful, as he so often can be, but it shows the poet's concern about being read "wrong," about hidden meanings that exclude some among his audience who find him too simple for serious examination. You are right, of course, about his accessibility, but no American poet is more complex in idea than Frost. Jim, get the book that Cheapskate has so kindly tagged for you -- you will find many hidden treasures there. Cheers, Clifton

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Re: That just doesn't sound right, Michael.

Ever hear poetry from Andrew Dice Clay? Hickory Dickory Dock........

ohfourohnine
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Re: That just doesn't sound right, Michael.

Please accept my apology, DUP, for not making myself more clear. Anyone can use plain language to say nothing worth a damn. Andrew Dice Clay is a good example. A few can say, in plain language, something really worth thinking about. Frost is, in my opinion, one of the champions among those few.

Monty
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Re: That just doesn't sound right, Michael.

I'm way too left brained to connect with poetry. Seriously, I've struggled all my life trying to "get" almost all poetry. I can enjoy Kipling and a few others, but most poetry flies straight over my head.

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Re: That just doesn't sound right, Michael.

Let's start at the begining. Roses are Red, violets are Blue...now you finish. Here's another. There once was a girl from Nantucket........

gkc
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Re: That just doesn't sound right, Michael.

Thanks, Clay. DUP, Frost will be read and enjoyed by millions long after your Wurlitzers and Van Alstains are rotting to toxic mulch in some Joisey trash-dump, for precisely the reasons Clay outlines.

gkc
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Re: That just doesn't sound right, Michael.

Monty, you don't get poetry for the same reason I don't get Quantum Physics -- neither of us has spent enough quality time with either subject's basic principles. You get music. That is certainly enough for anyone's lifetime. Begin with any of Frost's (or Shakespeare's) excellent biographers. I don't know where I'm gonna begin. I'll be drooling with dementia before I understand why Muons avoid each other in public. I like your chances better. Cheers, Clifton

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