Lord George Byron was born January 22, 1788, in London, England, and died April 19, 1824, in Missolonghi, Greece. He is known as one of the best British Romantic poets and satirists of all time, penning works such as Hours of Idleness (1807), Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1812-1818), The Giaour (1813), The Bride of Abydos (1813), Lara (1814), The Corsair (1814), Don Juan (1818, but unfinished), and more. Even though he is known as a Romantic poet, he actually wrote a lot in reference to his own experiences, (even if they were a little promiscuous and full of heartbreak, affairs, and seduction), and was dubbed a freethinking “bad boy.”
Published in two parts in 1605 and 1615, the story follows Alonso Quixano, a Spanish nobleman who has read so many chivalric romances that he loses his mind
You know the guy. His own work was probably incomprehensible, but he insisted you just didn't get it.
Given our confinement during this pandemic, we are left to either let our minds rot or put it to use and be creative. Lynn Ungar, a poet from Castro Valley, California, found a way to express herself amidst all of this. ‘Pandemic’ is a short poem about Coronavirus. As Ungar puts it, it is “a viral poem about a virus, that’s funny in a twisted kind of way.” Her reasoning behind this poem was taken from the idea of social distancing. She reflects on the question: how do we socially distance ourselves to prevent the spread of this virus, without emotionally distancing ourselves in the process?
What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.
–Lynn Ungar 3/11/20
Upon my first read, I could tell Ungar was going for a satirical approach. I chuckled when I read the lines, “know that our lives are in one another’s hands.” Which is pretty darn cynical since we are spreading this virus through day-to-day interactions and transactions. She then offers a more than obvious solution in her next two lines, “do not reach out your hands, reach out with your heart.” That gave me a good laugh, while also tackling the concept of social distancing.
Lynn Ungar is an extraordinary poet who teaches us to find creativity and laughter during eventful times. I highly recommend reading more of her poems and writing pieces.
Featured Image Via UU World
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Tragedy plus time apparently equals literature. As far as years go, 2017-2018 has been an intense one. These authors have responded with wit, creativity, and some impressively bizarre concepts that comment upon both the new and timeless topography of our psychological landscapes. Here are 5 acclaimed short story collections as weird, wild, and jarringly human as the past year has been.
1. Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
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The winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction, Carmen Maria Machado‘s Her Body and Other Parties is “sexy, queer, and caustic.” Swinging wildly upon the axis of brutality and sentimentality, Machado’s work is a real genre-bender, less wading into the territory of magical realism and more stomping headstrong through it. In Machado’s striking collection, there are many inventive cultural references, including a supernatural interpretation of Law and Order: SVU and a literary reimagining of the infamous girl with the green ribbon story. But Machado’s work also delves deeply into the human (and specifically female) psyche, her stories always as inventive as they are visceral.
2. [Dis]connected (2018)
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A timely commentary on social media, art, and interpersonal relationships, this multimedia collection from some of the most famous Instagram poets (including Nikita Gill and Trista Mateer) insightfully tackles both the isolation and accessibility that the Internet can provide. The collection maintains its commitment to accessibility by incorporating the work of established writers (like Amanda Lovelace, author of The Princess Saves Herself in This One) with the work of up-and-coming contributors (like Sara Bond). Even the creation of [Dis]connected follows an inventive format: each writer contributed three poems and then assigned poems to their fellow writers. Each contributor then wrote a short story based on one of their assigned poems. The result? A vivid and unique exploration of love and loneliness.
3. Homesick for Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh
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2016 Man Booker Prize nominee Ottessa Moshfegh has done it again… and again and again. Released in between her Booker-nominated novel Eileen and her phantasmagorical 2018 bestseller My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Moshfegh’s short story collection Homesick for Another World is a twisted standout. A master of the grotesque and delightful, Moshfegh finds tenderness in the dire landscape of her subject matter: always the fringes of society. To read her work is to “touch a slightly electrified fence.” Featuring vomit, unfortunate neck tattoos, and thrice-daily Burger King meals, Homesick for Another World is as stunning as it is strange.
4. Florida by Lauren Groff
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A favorite author of Barack Obama, Guggenheim fellow Lauren Groff blends domesticity and wildness in Florida, her recent short story collection that inhabits “an eden of dangerous things.” A 2018 Book Award Finalist, Florida depicts a place that is less a physical location and more a mood—sometimes a very dark one. Exploring the geographic and psychological landscape of Florida across different towns and even centuries, Florida explores “the moments and decisions and connections behind human pleasure and pain, hope and despair, love and fury—the moments that make us alive.” Beautifully weird and occasionally alarming, Groff’s work is a smash hit for the year.
5. Some Trick (2018)
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The eccentric genius archetype—the exaggerated trope of a person who would just as likely disassemble their own household appliances for fun as write a novel—has met its match in Helen DeWitt. A mathematician and linguist (by the way, we’re talking fourteen languages), DeWitt’s hit debut, The Last Samurai, is only one of three works she’s published in the last twenty years, thanks to her distaste for the publishing industry. (Her second novel, Lightning Rods, is a brilliant, weird, and brilliantly weird satire on American capitalism.) Her third work, collection Some Trick, uses the “iron logic of a crazy person” to chip at the barrier between the private intellectual world of the individual and the social machinery of capitalism.
Featured Image Via Twitter, NPR and NPR