Thursday, November 3, 2011

O, for a Muse of fire

Being my third submission to Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group

November is the month of Thanksgiving, so I thought I would post a bit about things that have contributed to my abilities as a writer for which I am thankful.

I am very thankful for my past English and writing instructors who helped me build the skills to compose my writings with clarity and style. Do I still suffer from an itchy comma finger? Of course. Do I still occasionally commit grievous grammatical errors? Yes. However, after spending a great deal of time reviewing and revising others’ work, I have grown very thankful for the modest tools I have been given. 

Foremost among these tools is the ability to read a block of text sentence by sentence. My college writing instructor taught me this, and to this day, I am amazed by how many people seem unable to look at a sentence on its own, to analyze its structure and then to understand how it connects to the sentences that surround it, the paragraph in which it lives and the piece of writing that forms its world.

YSW Artistic Director, Darren Lay with
1st-year student, Danesha Harris and the First Lady
I am also thankful that I had the opportunity to be involved with a program that just popped up in the news yesterday. The Young Shakespeare Workshop, a program that really sparked my love of the Bard and language in general, just received a National Arts and Humanities Youth Award. The summer program immerses teens in the study of Shakespeare; participants study Shakespeare’s works beginning with sonnets, then monologues, then scenes. They receive vocal training and instruction in Elizabethan rapier and dagger fencing. Plus, each applicant is handed their very own Complete Works of Shakespeare on the first day of class. Here’s the kicker... it’s all COMPLETELY FREE.

I spent my summers as a teen immersed in this program. I went through both years as a participant and then returned as an assistant director while I was in college. The Complete Works I received still holds a place of honor on my bookshelf, dog-eared and besmirched with notes and doodles. The Young Shakespeare Workshop was absolutely formative to who I am today, and could not be more deserving of this award.

O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention,
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!
Then should the warlike Harry, like himself,
Assume the port of Mars; and at his heels,
Leash'd in like hounds, should famine, sword and fire
Crouch for employment. But pardon, and gentles all,
The flat unraised spirits that have dared
On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth
So great an object: can this cockpit hold
The vasty fields of France? or may we cram
Within this wooden O the very casques
That did affright the air at Agincourt?
O, pardon! since a crooked figure may
Attest in little place a million;
And let us, ciphers to this great accompt,
On your imaginary forces work.
Suppose within the girdle of these walls
Are now confined two mighty monarchies,
Whose high upreared and abutting fronts
The perilous narrow ocean parts asunder:
Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts;
Into a thousand parts divide on man,
And make imaginary puissance;
Think when we talk of horses, that you see them
Printing their proud hoofs i' the receiving earth;
For 'tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,
Carry them here and there; jumping o'er times,
Turning the accomplishment of many years
Into an hour-glass: for the which supply,
Admit me Chorus to this history;
Who prologue-like your humble patience pray,
Gently to hear, kindly to judge, our play.

-Henry V, Prologue


  1. Indeed. It's one of those that just pops into my head on occasion. I'm a big fan of the history plays in general.


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