Monthly Archives: September 2016

O Captain! My Captain!

Oh Walt Whitman! This famous poem was popularised by the notorious film “Dead Poets Society”, in concrete by the literature teacher, Mr. Keating (Robin Williams). This first lines of the poem were a symbol in the film, but we desire to know more, not just the first verse. For that reason, today I’m giving an overview and analysis of the full poem, and of the life of its already mentioned author, Walt Whitman.


Photograph taken by Brandy Handy

Walt Whitman (WW) was born in New York in 1819 and dead in New Jersey in 1892. He was a writer, a journalist and a poet between many more occupations. He still is one of the most influential writers in the U.S. and he is considered to be the father of the free verse. His more famous work is Leaves of Grass, published in 1855, where he included the poem that we are going to talk about.

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,

The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,

The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,

While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;

But O heart! heart! heart!

O the bleeding drops of red,

Where on the deck my Captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;

Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,

For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,

For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;

Here Captain! dear father!

This arm beneath your head!

It is some dream that on the deck,

You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,

My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,

The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,

From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;

Exult O shores, and ring O bells!

But I with mournful tread,

Walk the deck my Captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.

This ode has constant metaphors, so we could even talk of an allegory. The Captain is Abraham Lincoln, the U.S. ex-president that freed the slaves. The whole poem has a solemn tone since Whitman complains and is hurt because of Lincoln’s death. And the ex-president is a Captain because the ship he is commanding is the United States. However, before the captain’s death (“My father does not feel my arm”), he has left the U.S. in a good situation (“The ship is anchor’d safe and sound”). WW is so bereaved that he repeats five times the word “heart”, to emphasize were does all the pain come from, also reiterating the tremendous pain of the author. Finally, this idea is confirmed by the repetition at the end of each strophe “Fallen cold and dead”.

I hope that now you understand better this little poem, and beginning by this one, start to give poetry the value that it has. Read you soon!




A Modern Poet 

Sarah Kay is a 28 year old Japanese Jewish American poet who was born in New York City. She started her career as a poet when she was barely 14 years old; she participated in a casual Slam Poetry event, and she hasn’t stopped ever since. She is known because of her Spoken Word poetry, and also because of the TED talks she has given about Spoken Word. 

Her biggest accomplishment is the creation of Project V.O.I.C.E., which is an organization that uses Spoken Word to educate and inspire. As the website of Project V.O.I.C.E. says, its goal is to promote empowerment, improving literacy, and encouraging empathy and creative collaboration in classrooms and communities around the world. Alongside Phil Kaye, she founded this project back in 2004. Now she is co-director of the organization and she travels around the USA giving conferences, promoting Project V.O.I.C.E. and recruiting new poets.

Among her famous poems you can find “Hiroshima”, “B  (If I Should Have A Daughter)”, “Hands”, and “Postcards”. Most of her poems cannot be found as text, because she mostly does Spoken Word poetry. However, there are some blogs (such as Sarah Kay’s Poetry) on the Internet in which you can find transcript versions of  videos of her performances.

So, just in case you want to hear about her story and about Project V.O.I.C.E. firsthand, here is a video from her TED talk in 2011. In this video she also performs 2 of her poems, “B (If I Should Have A Daughter)” and “Hiroshima”. Hope you enjoy it.

Ana Salas

The Blog Where It Happens

Alternative titles to this blog post: “The Story of Today”, “Poetry Has Its Eyes on You”, “Case of Study #1″,”Your Obedient Author”. In case you haven’t guessed yet, I have caught the Hamilton fever, which stared about a week ago when I first got my hands on the soundtrack and basically been listening to it Non-Stop.

In case you don’t know, Hamilton is a Broadway Musical Production by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Although, if you don’t know, I  wonder for how long you have been living under a rock. Hamilton has been all over the place for months now. Tickets are virtually sold out in perpetuity, is constantly winning prices and breaking records, and has changed the way we understand theater forever. I am quite sure there is nothing I can say about its relevance that has not been said before.

And why is this relevant to a poetry blog?” – Some of my readers, probably.

Music is the way poetry survives nowadays. In fact, music is the way music survives nowadays. During the XVII century, music was mostly instrumental and three poets could be found under every cobblestone. Somehow through the centuries all of this changed, for better or for worse, and now it’s easy to consider poetry in the verge of extinction. But the same way nobody would say music nowadays is irrelevant, it would be at least ignorant to forget modern music as the main way poetry lives and prospers right now.

And when it comes to poetry, Hamilton is one of the masterpieces of our time. The story of one of America’s founding father goes from love to hate to happiness to despair to political dispute to the great ideals that shape humanity and history. Combine this with very different musical styles flawlessly performed and Miranda’s writing mastery, and the 46 Hamilton’s songs are to be considered one of the best recompilation of poetry of the XXI century (less than two decades into it).

In case you are still not convinced of its greatness, I attach the trailer for the OBC show. In case you are, you can follow for more news on twitter or facebook. Watch out – the Hamilton phenomenon is far from over.


Bécquer, Lorca and the rest

If we wanted to know about my connection with poetry, we would have to go back in time at least 10 years ago. My parents had encouraged me to read since I was a child. I read a lot by then: comics, little novels, stories; everything that I could understand. The first experience with poetry that I experienced was with the little poems for children that were written in our books. The author of these poems was Gloria Fuertes. She wrote about simple things as animals or clothes with a very easy vocabulary and rimes, so that the children could understand well the images. We read the poems in class and I remember that I loved the rhythm and the intonation that our teacher put when she read them.


So basically that was the beginning of my relation with this topic. In superior courses we had to memorize poems (thing that I liked, in contrast with the people in my class). Finally, in recent years things have become more serious and we have studied different authors and their poems in class, what I think that was the key that opened my sensibility to this world. To be exact, it was two years ago, when I studied in France, when I realized without even knowing it that I loved poetry. We did deep analysis on poems, analysis which I didn’t like in that time; but from which I learned a lot and build in my head the bases of analyzing poetry.

In this past two years of college we have studied Spanish authors who now are my favorites, and which poems I’ve often learned by heart. And a friend of mine encouraged me to write some too, so my connection with poetry now seems to be passive and active, in reading and writing.

Finally, with this blog hope that I can transmit to you a little bit of this passion that I feel inside. I leave you with a poem of Antonio Machado which illustrates very well this first days at the University and the overcoming of the past (I’m sorry but it is in Spanish, and I feel that if I translate it I’m going to fail in choosing the right words).

Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino y nada más;
Caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.
Al andar se hace el camino,
y al volver la vista atrás
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de volver a pisar.
Caminante no hay camino
sino estelas en la mar.

Antonio Machado

Read you soon!

Pablo Maljean González


  • (photo of the poem)
  • Antonio Machado’s poem comes from my memory!

My first rhyme

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the simple definition for poetry is something that is very beautiful or graceful. But I have read poems that look horrible at first glance, and I have heard others that can manage to make you feel vastly uncomfortable with the first few verses. So poems aren´t always beautiful; however, something that most poems have in common is that they’re always filled with feelings.

My name is Ana Salas, and I wrote my first piece of poetry when I was four years old. Perhaps I’m being too ambitious. Perhaps you cannot call poetry to what I wrote (with terrible grammar and spelling, I must add) that day, 15 years ago. Yet, I still like to call those short lines “poetry”; not only because it took me nearly 3 hours to manage to make them rhyme, but also because I poured my little four-year-old self into them.

That day I found out how powerful words can be. And even if I didn’t thoroughly understand the superpower that I had discovered, I kept doing it. I kept writing poetry, and I still do because it is an awesome tool to get to know yourself.  For me, it has always been easier to understand what I feel through poetry.

And since now I have nothing left to say, I will end this post by showing you one of my favorite poems written by Xavier Villaurutia. It is called Nocturno Estatua:

Soñar, soñar la noche, la calle, la escalera

y el grito de la estatua desdoblando la esquina.

Correr hacia la estatua y encontrar sólo el grito,

querer tocar el grito y sólo hallar el eco,

querer asir el eco y encontrar sólo el muro

y correr hacia el muro y tocar un espejo.

Hallar en el espejo la estatua asesinada,

sacarla de la sangre de su sombra,

vestirla en un cerrar de ojos,

acariciarla como a una hermana imprevista

y jugar con las flechas de sus dedos

y contar a su oreja cien veces cien cien veces

hasta oírla decir: «estoy muerta de sueño».

Ana Salas

Of poetry and blogs

Poetry is not dead, not yet, not ever.

My name is Antonella and I am a activist on the defence of several topics, amongst which poetry is included. As Mr. Keatin taught us: “We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.” (Dead Poets Society, 1989). Hardly can there be found a better defense to poetry and I will not yet try to improve it.

I have been reading for as long as I can remember, so I don’t remember the first poem I read. I remember, however, the first poem I memorized, when I was nine. I liked it so much, I decided it was about time for me to learn at least one poem by heart, and this one was short and deeply meaningful.

“¿Qué es poesía? Preguntas mientras clavas

en mi pupila tu pupila azul.

¿Qué es poesía? ¿Y tú me lo preguntas?

Poesía… eres tú.”

(“What’s poetry? You ask as you fix in my pupil your blue pupil. What’s poetry? And you ask me? Poetry… is you”). 

I didn’t even knew who Bécquer was or how much I would get to love him later in life, but that poem captured my heart forever to the wonders of the most beautiful, passionate and inspiring literature ever created. Learning about the Romantics was one of the happiest moments of my teenage years and probably of my life. Breaking whatever notion of “aesthetics” I was taught since childhood to discover the wonders of modern art and poetry was enlightening and touching. I am a writer but I cannot, no matter how hard I try, write poetry – that only makes me like it better.

So poetry is not dead, and, for as long as I live, I will make sure it stays that way.

Do you need proof? Take a look at this blog. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it.


P.S.: here is a link to my current favourite poem, in Spanish as well.