Thursday, April 27, 2017

For National Poetry Month: Robert Frost

During a Facetime chat yesterday with my daughter, Angela, she passed a statue of Robert Frost on the campus of Dartmouth College.  I decided at that point that I 'd found my subject for National Poetry Month. Because when I think of poetry, I think of Robert Frost.  He was one of the first poets I studied (to some extent) in school.  I asked Angela to send me a better photo than the screen shots I took during our Facetime, and today she texted me this beautiful photo, taken by her boyfriend, Matt (because she was in lab until 8 PM), of the bronze statue of Robert Frost by sculptor George W. Lundeen. Thank you, Angela and Matt!

Robert Lee Frost (March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963) was an American poet.  Born in San Francisco, CA, his family moved to Lawrence, MA, after his father died.  He graduated from high school in 1892, and attended Dartmouth for two months (he left college to work to help his family, and later attended Harvard for two years).  Frost felt that his true calling was poetry, and he sold his first poem, "My Butterfly. An Elegy", in 1894.  He married Elinor Miriam White in 1895, in Lawrence, and Frost became a prolific poet, who wrote poetry from his homes in various parts of New England (and later from England). He won four Pulitzer Prizes for poetry, as well as a Congressional Gold Medal in 1960.  Frost was named the poet laureate of Vermont in 1961.

When I think of Robert Frost, the poem that stands out in my mind is "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" (1922).  Isn't his name, Robert Frost, so perfect for a poet writing about the cold, frosty woods?!  He wrote the poem quickly one morning from his home in Shaftsbury, Vermont, after watching a sunrise, having stayed up all night to work on a long poem, "New Hampshire" (which should maybe be underlined, due to its length).  If you've ever been to New England and have walked in the woods, you'll agree that this poem captures the essence of the woods.  The last stanza is etched in my memory from my schooldays.  Perhaps you remember it as well. 

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

I've added this post to Savvy Verse & Wit's special Mister Linky for National Poetry Month. Thank you, Serena!

Happy National Poetry Month!  As always, your comments are welcomed.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Stranger Than Life

Published in 2014,  Stranger Than Life: Cartoons and Comics 1970-2013 is the first retrospective of work by cartoonist and artist M.K. Brown.  The Foreword by cartoonist Bill Griffith (creator of Zippy the Pinhead) is a checklist of everything he wants in a cartoonist; Brown fits the bill because her work is "funny, but in a knowing, subtle way", has "easy-to-read lettering, full of personality", "deals with absurd, oddball things", uses juxtaposition, "makes the personal universal and the universal personal", "shakes up our perceptions of normality"--and much more.  The Afterword by cartoonist Roz Chast is equally glowing.  She calls Brown "one of the most gifted and observant comic writers and artists around".  The cartoons and comics in Stranger Than Life first appeared in magazines including National Lampoon, Mother Jones, Playboy, The New Yorker, and other publications. The Introduction to this book, written by Brown herself, says that cartooning contains "the lunacy component", which maintains the that humor, truth, or strangeness captured in cartoons will (hopefully) be understood by others.

I couldn't agree more with Griffith, Chast, and Brown, on all counts.  This book is brilliant!  These cartoons are great fun to look at and read, and showcase Brown's tremendous skills as a cartoonist and artist.  (I've seen Brown's work before in magazines such as The New Yorker, but didn't realize she has such a large body of work.)  The peculiarities, oddities, and absurdities of life shine through in cartoons with unusual titles such as Snakes in the Bathroom, Free Glue Sample, Easy Home Auto Repair, It Happened at the Bank, Earl D. Porker, Social Worker, Lost Sweater Dream, Claire's Lunch, and numerous others.  Stranger Than Life is a very funny, eclectic collection of cartoons and comics.  It also serves as a reminder to look for and recognize the humor present in our own lives.

Show, don't tell.  Right?  Or is it show and tell?  Either works in this case.  Here are some photos of various pages and samples of the cartoons in the Stranger Than Life.  Click on the photos to make them larger.

Some of the pictures are in black and white and gray, while others are in full-color.  


This cartoon tickled my fancy. 

With all due respect to my dentist, this comic strip is hilarious.

It's the people in these comics and cartoons who are so captivating.  They steal the show.  Brown's focus is on people; it's on their faces.  (Faces are fascinating; back in my doodling days, I mostly drew funny, cartoon faces.)  The facial expressions of the characters in this book, which include self-portraits of Brown, are simply fantastic!  The artist captures an impressive, wide range of human expressions, loaded with personality and nuance. Brown's faces are silly, sardonic, perplexed, puzzling, strange, and just about everything else, just like the faces we encounter every day.  Take a look! 


 Close-up of the cover



M.K. Brown is featured in some of the cartoons. She is unmistakable.

The back inside cover is a collage.


Many thanks to Serena from Poetic Book Tours for inviting me to participate in this tour, and for providing me with a copy of this remarkable book.  I know I'll enjoy looking at these cartoons and comics again and again.  The humor is very appealing to me.  For additional reviews, please visit the other stops on Poetic Book Tour's tour for Stranger Than Life.

Thanks for reading! Do you also enjoy cartoon and comics? Your comments are always appreciated. 

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