Andrew Marvell, Sherwood Anderson, a quarterback’s fall, and another poetry video: newsletter, May 10, 2019

May 13, 2019 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: books, journalism, newsletter.

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The garden is growing, except for the corn. We planted six rows of sweet corn, and two-and-a-third of those rows came up. What happened to the other rows? We don’t know. Same soil, same weather, same everything. But that’s the fun of gardening. You never know. I replanted the other rows this week, which — if they decide to rise up out of the soil — will be two weeks behind the first corn. Yet another interesting problem for the gardener.

I know the difference between “peaked” and “piqued,” thanks to a couple of eagle-eyed readers. That difference had escaped me when I was writing last week’s newsletter. I never mind being corrected, so if you see something that isn’t right and want to let me know, don’t hesitate. It’s just a good excuse to get in touch.

Meanwhile, I hope that you have had a great week and are beginning a wonderful weekend.

Under the newsletter’s hood: Last week’s newsletter was sent to 2,818 subscribers and had a 28.1 percent open rate; 3 people unsubscribed. A chart showing the percentage of newsletter recipients who opened the newsletter each week during 2019 is below the signature of this email.

Important: Remember to open the images or click on one of the links so that my email service will record your engagement and you will stay active on the list. Thanks.

Robin Hood: what was he?

The story of Robin Hood — or rather, the idea of Robin Hood — is one of the most important and enduring myths of our culture. In truth, there is no one story of Robin Hood. There are many versions of the myth. Robin Hood is a malleable character who can be molded to fit the idea and purposes of the storyteller.

Here’s an example: Ask the question, “Who was Robin Hood?” and you might hear any of the following:

— Robin Hood was a peasant who led other peasants in a revolt against the evil Prince John and his agent the Sheriff of Nottingham in something of a class conflict.

— Robin Hood was a yeoman (something more middle-class than a peasant) and former soldier who returned from the Crusades to find the nation’s rulers not to his liking and who led a band of “merry men” in harassing and bedeviling those rulers.

— Robin Hood was a member of the gentry (the upper classes) who found himself wrongly dispossessed of his land and wealth by an evil prince; his natural leadership attracted men of all classes and crafts who felt wronged or overtaxed by the authorities. They are considered to be “outlaws,” but the story’s construction is usually that they have been driven to illegality by the illegitimate actions of the Prince and the Sheriff.

Two ideas permeate most of the versions of this tale: that Robin Hood is clever and an excellent archer; and that Robin and his men “steal from the rich and give to the poor.”

So who is Robin Hood, really?

The answer is that we do not know. Stories of Robin Hood have been around since the 1400s, if not before, but many of them present a very different version of Robin Hood from the one that we have today. Some believe that Robin Hood might have been based on a real person, but there is no convincing evidence to name any figure we know about as the original Robin Hood.

What we do know is that our modern conception of Robin Hood begins with a man named Howard Pyle, a writer and illustrator whose 1883 book, The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, put together much of the figure of Robin Hood that we know today. More about Howard Pyle and those who came after him next week.

Fall of a Titan — sports and true crime in one podcast

If your many interests include sports and true crime, you will want to check out the Fall of a Titan podcast series from Sports Illustrated. This series tells the story of Steve McNair, the retired quarterback of the Tennessee Titans, who was found shot to death in his Nashville condominium on July 4, 2009. His girlfriend Jenni Kazemi was also in the condo and also dead of a gunshot wound to the head.

After four days of “thorough investigation,” the Nashville police announced that it was a murder-suicide — Kazemi killed McNair and then killed herself — and that the case was closed.

But an ex-Nashville police officer, Vincent Hill, had his doubts, and he has been investigating the crime ever since the police made that announcement.

SI reporter Tim Rohan reports and narrates the series and takes listeners back into the life of Steve McNair during his days at Alcorn State, a small, historically black college in Mississippi, to his halcyon days in Nashville as one of the biggest stars in the National Football League. Rohan’s main source is Hill, but he’s a good enough reporter to question Hill’s motives for taking on this case.

The big questions about the McNair murder: How did Jenni Kazemi, a small female who had never fired a gun before, manage to take a 9 mm pistol and put four bullets into McNair — one in each temple and two in the chest — and then turn the gun on herself? The podcast will take you on a deep dive into these and many other questions surrounding these deaths.

Poems and Paintings — the videos

I posted a request in last week’s newsletter for suggestions about what to name a series of videos I am doing that show me painting a watercolor with a voiceover reciting a poem. Several of you responded, and here are some of the suggestions:

Illuminated Poetry

Poetic Watercolors

Of plume and brush

Poems for the Palette

Poetry in Paintings

Cadence & Canvas

Pens & Paints

Rhyme & Vision

Pens & Brushes

Verse & Vision

Keep sending me your suggestions, and let me know if any on this list appeal to you. I’ll keep this open through the month of May, and the top three suggestions will receive a small gift from me — a hand-turned wooden pen like the ones pictured here.

I have added another video this week: Andrew Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress (see below).

Here’s the complete list of videos so far:

To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvel:

Casey at the Bat by Ernest Lawrence Thayer:

The Old Clock on the Stairs by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Evening Star and Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe

Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray

My Heart and I by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare

And more are on the way.

The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.”

Andrew Marvell: Had we but world enough and time

Andrew Marvell (1621-1678), in his most famous poem, To His Coy Mistress, speaks with the passion of a lusty young man who tires of being put off by the woman he is wooing.

The lines of the poem range from high-flown descriptions of his desire to mundane concepts and comparisons — all in typical metaphysical fashion.

In the video I completed this week, the recitation of the poem is accompanied by a line and wash caricature of Marvell, whose true purposes are revealed by his facial expression.

Marvell, in the words of the biography on the Poetry Foundation website, “is surely the single most compelling embodiment of the change that came over English society and letters in the course of the 17th century. In an era that makes a better claim than most upon the familiar term transitional, Marvell wrote a varied array of exquisite lyrics that blend Cavalier grace with Metaphysical wit and complexity.”

The most famous part of the poem is its first line: “Had we but world enough and time.”

Marvell was a famous poet and wit of his day, a defender of political and religious liberty, and a member of Parliament, whose rights he advocated. His satires anticipated the work of Jonathan Swift, but his work was largely forgotten until 1921. In that year, T.S. Eliot wrote a famous essay on his poetry, which revived interest in his work and life. That interest continues today.

Marvell’s poem “To His Coy Mistress” is the latest in my series of videos (as yet unnamed) of poems with paintings. You can find that one here:

Sherwood Anderson and the revolution in 20th century American literature

Sometimes librarians get it wrong — at least, initially.

Sherwood Anderson, the author of the classic Winesburg, Ohio, was from the small town of Clyde, Ohio, and used that small town as the source of the novel. When it was first published, 100 years ago this week, it was praised by a few and panned by many as a corrupt, monotonous, one-dimensional work.

The book’s history is outlined by Bruce Falconer, a senior editor at The American Scholar, in an article in the New York Times. Many readers were shocked at its frank discussions of sexual repression and desire. (Those discussions are mild by today’s standards.)

Perhaps nowhere was Anderson more despised than in his hometown, Clyde. The town’s head librarian burned copies of his book, and for many years, any patron of the Clyde Public Library who requested it was met with a scowl as she fumbled for the key to a locked closet where she stored, together with other “bad books,” a single copy that had somehow escaped the flames. Source: Opinion | Sherwood Anderson’s Revolutionary Small Town – The New York Times

Fortunately, Anderson’s work survived the fire and censure of the town librarian and many of the nation’s critics and is now considered one of the great classics of American literature.

Anderson’s work opened the door for many authors who surpassed him in fame and impact on American letters. Some of them, such as Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner, were assisted early in their careers by Anderson’s personal assistance and advocacy. As Falconer writes:

Hemingway and Faulkner, in particular, sought Anderson’s advice and support, which he happily provided, acting as a mentor to both and helping to get their first books into print. As their fortunes rose and his declined, they sought to distance themselves from Anderson with novels that cruelly mocked his personality and his prose style: Faulkner’s “Mosquitoes” and Hemingway’s “The Torrents of Spring.”


Bill G.: I also watched the Richard Greene T.V. series as a young child. But there were some interesting misconceptions in the legend. Robin of Loxley and others were thought to have robbed from the rich and gave to the poor.  Actually, King Richard had been captured in France by a nobleman on his way back from the Crusades. Prince John, who was left in charge while Richard was away, refused to pay the ransom to rescue Richard.  So Robin of Loxley and others stole tax money and sent the ransom to release Richard.  So Robin Hood and his Merry Men robbed from the rich and gave to the French.

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor (line and wash): Andrew Marvell and His Coy Mistress

Best quote of the week:

Money may be the husk of many things but not the kernel. It brings you food, but not appetite; medicine, but not health; acquaintances, but not friends; servants, but not loyalty; days of joy, but not peace or happiness. Henrik Ibsen, playwright (1828-1906) 

Helping those in need

Fires in California, hurricanes on the Atlantic Coast — disasters occur everywhere. They have spread untold misery and disruption. The people affected by them need our help.

It’s not complicated. Things happen to people, and we should be ready to do all the good we can in all of the ways we can. (Some will recognize that I am paraphrasing John Wesley here).

When is the last time you gave to your favorite charity? The United Methodist Committee on Relief ( is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to this one or to yours.

Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.


Jim Stovall

You can connect with Jim on FacebookTwitterLinkedin, and BookBub.

His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.

Last week’s newsletter: More poetry videos, Casey at the Bat, Richard I, and Foothills Voices (vol. 2): newsletter, May 3, 2019


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2 comments on “Andrew Marvell, Sherwood Anderson, a quarterback’s fall, and another poetry video: newsletter, May 10, 2019

  1. Jim, your posts never fail to have content that makes me smile. That Marvell poem is an old favorite that I first read in a University of Alabama lit class. And your watercolor made me laugh!

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