Celebrating Poetry

wordsApril is National Poetry Month, which may be Marquette University President Scott R. Pilarz, S.J.’s favorite month.  And for good reason.  Poetry can sometimes say what we can’t; it can touch our hearts and our souls with its inspiration, its longing, its joy, and its sadness.

Last year, on this blog, several of us wrote about poetry, sharing our favorites, composing new poetry in both traditional and different ways, or exploring poetry in and about the law.  As student Gabe Houghton noted this post, there are some judges who compose opinions in verse.

As April closes, I just wanted to remind everyone that poetry should be celebrated all months and remember that there are many kinds of poetry.  Songs can be considered poetry set to music. There are also poetry slams.   My favorite in this last genre is Taylor Mali, teacher and poet.  You can see him perform his poem “Totally like whatever, you know?” here.  It’s a nice reminder for those of us who love language that what we say, as well as how we say it, matters.

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Some Thoughts on Violence in Israel and the U.S.

I was part of the group of students and faculty that recently visited Israel. It was truly an amazing trip, and it reshaped my perception of everything from the Syrian civil war, to Biblical history, to the contemporary political dynamics that complicate efforts to secure peace between Israelis and Palestinians, to life in the United States. I do not purport to be an expert on anything pertaining to Israel, and my thoughts on the trip are still a bit scattered, but I thought I would share at least one major impression: Israel felt more secure than I thought it would. Having read about the country’s various security problems for years, I started the trip with some anxiety about traveling in what was for me unprecedented proximity to Hamas, Hezbollah, and Syria. To borrow the title of an 1980s sitcom, I thought that anti-Western groups would be a little too close for comfort.

But I felt completely secure, and I think everyone else did, too. It appeared that Israel’s citizens manage to live normal lives in basic safety notwithstanding the various security challenges they face. Markets, tours, businesses, restaurants, and schools all operate without any apparent sense of danger. The external threats are serious, but none of them appeared to be terribly consequential on a day-to-day basis for the individuals who live there. 

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The “Feisty” Secretary Clinton—An Object of Media Bias?

Regarding the recent Senate committee hearings on the September 2012 attacks that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, several major media outlets described Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as, among other things, “feisty.” Strictly from a definitional standpoint, the media’s characterization appears unobjectionable. Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, for example, most relevantly defines “feisty” as “quarrelsome, aggressive, belligerent, etc.” and these words arguably capture at least some aspects of Secretary Clinton’s remarks.

A modest examination of American English usage suggests that “feisty” is commonly used to refer to the behavior or character of people in a group (e.g., “the candidates had a feisty debate” or “it sure is a feisty crowd”) or to an animal, particularly a small rambunctious animal (e.g., “that there is one feisty critter”). Indeed, the word’s proximate origins concern the temperamental nature of mixed-breed dogs, and its earliest origins concern the malodorous passing of gas—hence a “fisting hound” in late 17th-century England was an undesirably flatulent dog.

The term “feisty” can also be used, of course, to describe the demeanor or behavior of an individual person. When used in that way, however, it seems more frequently to describe the elderly (“feisty octogenarian” retrieved 17,200 Google hits), the relatively young, and—it appears—women, or at least certain women.

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