A Wild World of Words: “Invictus”

Out of the night that covers me,
      Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
      For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
      I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
      My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
      Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
      Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
      How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
      I am the captain of my soul.

-Invictus, William Ernest Henley

A friend told me about this poem awhile ago, and I revisited it last week. What I like most about this poem is the idea of independence, and a person being so inherently incredible that all he or she needs is the self. I think the last two lines are my favorite part. The power of ABAB rhyme scheme, guys.

Have a poem to share? Let me know in the comments.

A Wild World of Words: The Sheaves

Where long the shadows of the wind had rolled
Green wheat was yielding to the change assigned;
And as my some vast magic undivined
The world was turning slowly to gold.
Like nothing that was ever bought or sold
It waited there, the body and the mind;
And with a mighty meaning of a kind
That tells the more the more it is not told.

So in a land where all days are not fair,
Fair days went on till on another day
A thousand golden sheaves were lying there,
Shining and still, but not for long to stay —
As if a thousand girls with golden hair
Might rise from where they slept and go away.

-The Sheaves, E.A. Robinson

I first read this poem during my senior year of high school, and remembered it today when I rediscovered it it in my Evernote notebook of favorite poems and quotations. It’s a beautiful poem with incredible imagery, and it makes for wonderful writing inspiration. Enjoy.

Have a poem to share? Let me know in the comments.

A Wild World of Words: Lagom


In case you’re wondering whether or not lagom is an English word, it’s not. It might be Monday, but you’re not going crazy in regards to your language.

Lagom is a Swedish word that has no precise English translation or equivalent. It roughly means “just right” or “in moderation,” but it has neither a positive or negative connotation. It’s more of a feeling and a cultural idea. It’s also a Norwegian and Finnish word, but in those languages the word has different connotations.

I saw it on Twitter this morning and really liked it. Even though I still subscribe to the idea that meaning is constructed by language, I think it’s cool that particular words of a language either influence or are the products of the cultural identity of the people who speak it. It especially reminds me of Aristotle’s golden mean, which was a significant aspect of discussion in my literary theory class last fall. And when I look at the word, it’s a perfectly symmetrical one phonetically and orthographically. Two syllables, a beautiful “g” in the middle.

What’s your word of the week?

A Wild World of Words: Epiphenomena

A new weekly installation on the blog, in which I share a word for the week. 


This week’s word is epiphenomena.

Epiphenomena, the plural form of the word epiphenomenon, are secondary phenomena that appear in addition to separate phenomena. A mouthful, right? So for example,  your ideas and emotions are epiphenomena of the physical activity of your brain. Your brain is primarily focused on bodily function ( a phenomena), but also holds the capacity for your memory (a secondary phenomena). According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word was first used in 1706 in the sixth edition of Phillips’s New World of Words.

I saw this word for the first time today in one of my favorite newsletters, and really like the deeper meaning. Going back to the example in the previous paragraph, your ideas/emotions and physical capability of your brain are two very separate processes. But in one way, they have to coexist and interact with each other. An example I can think of is that stress can have a physical effect on the body, and that we hold it in our muscles. The epiphenomena becomes a tangled web of phenomena that has to exist, because otherwise, the separate phenomena wouldn’t be the way that they are. I might be off-base, but we wouldn’t really know the effects of stress if we didn’t see its manifestation. It seems like the word is mostly used in the worlds of medicine and psychology, but I think it still holds a weight outside of these settings.

Plus, I like saying it. E-pi-phe-nom-e-na.

Share your word-of-the-week with me in the comments.