Friday, October 7, 2016

Hot Flash Friday=Coleridge and conversational poetry

Samuel Taylor lived to age 61 in a time when this was considered a rip old age, but his entire life he was plagued with health problems. Namely mental illness. At the time bi-polar wasn’t a thing, yet Coleridge had all the symptoms. A bout with rheumatic fever in childhood eventually led to a dependence upon opium (laudanum) and alcohol.

When touring Dove Cottage, William Wordsworth’s residence in the Lake District, Grasmere, for 8 years, also brought me back into the orbit of ST Coleridge, as he was a perpetual houseguest for those 8 years. I remembered while touring the cottage that Coleridge was pretty unstable, an eccentric creative genius. The guide made mention that often Coleridge would cry out in his sleep. Scream, shout, holler. The bedrooms were like little boxes, right next to each other. There wasn’t a lot of room to accommodate someone with night terrors. This would have had to have impacted the entire household. Yet, he was apparently welcomed.

Throughout his life he was afflicted with delusions, fits, hallucinations—haunted, it seems. He couldn’t stay married, but sought community. He needed people. Wordsworth from what I can tell, must have been a faithful friend. Together they ushered in the romantic age, formed the Lake Poets.

From Wiki: In 1802, Coleridge took a nine-day walking holiday in the fells of the Lake District. Coleridge is credited with the first recorded descent of Scafell to Mickledore via Broad Stand, although this was more due to his getting lost than a keenness for mountaineering. I was in this area and let me say, it is remote, steep and lonesome. I can imagine getting lost.

Coleridge wrote 8 conversational poems. Blank verse, natural seeming prose. This term was coined much, much later. What Coleridge was doing was new, different. From WIKI: In 1965, M. H. Abrams wrote a broad description that applies to the Conversation poems: "The speaker begins with a description of the landscape; an aspect or change of aspect in the landscape evokes a varied by integral process of memory, thought, anticipation, and feeling which remains closely intervolved with the outer scene. In the course of this meditation the lyric speaker achieves an insight, faces up to a tragic loss, comes to a moral decision, or resolves an emotional problem. Often the poem rounds itself to end where it began, at the outer scene, but with an altered mood and deepened understanding which is the result of the intervening meditation."

For Hot Flash Friday let’s take this recipe for a conversational poem and flash. 1) Begin with setting, describe the room you’re sitting in, what’s out the window, or if outdoors. 2) a meditation or reflection, what memory does this evoke, what are you feeling? 3) Is there some resolution, an epiphany, an insight that can be gained? 4) Quickly finish, by bring us, the reader back to the present, a reference to your surroundings such as a truck backfiring, the barista calling out your coffee order, the teacher tapping you on the shoulder, a car behind you honking.

Right now, write.
Image of Coleridge, from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and The Vision of Sir Launfal (by Coleridge and James Russell Lowell), published by Sampson Low, 1906.

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