Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Assignment 6 addition

T.C. Boyle’s “Chicxclub”

So far my most favorite short story I’ve read. I loved the comparison of the meteor hitting earth to the death of a parents child. Although you have heard the comparison or something like it thousands of times it seems that its meaning is lost in repetitiveness like a church hymn you’ve known by heart since you were old enough to sing. Boyle shows this comparison impeccably. There is also something more to the story. A definite impending doom. Whether it be from the death of a loved one or the death of a planet; either is assured by Boyle to come at a certain time or another. It also plays with the readers emotions where in the end your ecstatic like the parents to find out that its not their child, but its someone’s child laying there. In fact someone they ended up knowing. Boyle’s story cuts to the heart of how every human is accountable for grief even if it is of no one’s death but their own. He comments on the frailty of human life in general something that is made so sacred is according to all terms besides humans frivolous. He seems to be able to ask the question why didn’t you care that their was still a dead child laying on a gurney while at the same time asking us why bother with any of it.

Beloved Four Posts

Morrison’s Style

Morrison’s ability as a writer to put an exact picture along with all the emotion, feelings, senses, and thoughts astounded me. My favorite part was her depiction of Sixo from Paul D’s point of view. It shook me to the bone. Especially when Paul D states “How could a rooster know about Alfred, Georgia?” By showing what was going on in Paul D’s head during the botched escape she showed just how miserable and bleak the view of a slave was. Especially when Paul D fumbles in his mind with his worth as a human being approximated to $900 dollars. He wonders is that a lot, and how much would other slaves like Sethe and Baby Suggs go for? In this way she depicts the dehumanization of slavery with a scary stroke. Her ability to weave into a novel what seemed like small short stories and captivating poetry proved a great read. Throughout the novel time and time again it seems that her point was to uncover the forcibly forgotten memories of what slavery actually consisted of in order to bring the healing process full circle. It seems that she believes that just like her character Sethe and so many others in her novel one must come to terms with their past in order to conquer it. Also Morrison uses the novel’s organization (or seemingly lack of it) to enforce the idea of the past taking over the present. Many times the reader can not tell where the past ends and the present begins. This alludes graciously to the character’s inability through out the novel to separate it from the present no matter how hard they try to stow it away or forget about it. In this way Morrison gives us a story that is not only a story about Sethe and the people of the community of and around I24 but also a history of an enslaved people.

The Effects of Slavery Truly Shown Part I

I feel that throughout the book Morrison gives us a depiction of characters who portray exactly what the belittlement and shear denial of a human’s god given rights can do to the human psyche. We see the different way that the human mind deals with the enslavement of the body. In Sethe we see many signs of slavery’s mark at every turn in her character. The “chokeberry” tree left from the beating after she ran away one her back symbolizes the physical apperance of what her mind is always on. The tree is an interesting symbol in the book and instead of the usual tree which would symbolize life, nourishment, or knowledge instead throughout the book it seems to take on many darker meanings. Upon research I found out that the actual chokecherry tree interestingly is arguably one of the more widespread and ancient trees of North America. I think that that qualifies it as an interesting choice to describe what was on Seth’s back. The stripes on her back reflect slavery in its most brutalizing manner, Morrison’s choice to nickname the scars a “chokeberry” tree seems to display the fact that like the tree this form of brutalization has been around since the beginning of not only time but mainly America along with its widespread reach also mimicking the Chokecherry tree. You also see this same comparison when Seth relates that she has felt this tree growing inside her for a long time. This tree that Seth feels growing inside her also stands for the never-ending reach of the past into ones present thoughts. Sethe did all she could to forget her past only to have it rise up at every turn. At first this past was symbolized as the deep sorrow or the ghost that seemed to haunt I24, the chokecherry tree on her back, and the never-ending questions from Denver that would bring back unpleasant memories then the past was represented directly by Beloved. It seems that no matter what approach Sethe takes on remembering the past nothing she can do will make it any better. When she finally stares her past in the face (Beloved) it tears her down to the point of a child again and causes her mind to shut down and she finally flirts with insanity. It’s interesting to note that Morrison also had the same fate befall her husbands when the last picture we are left of him is his face with butter mashed all over it sitting on a churn.

The Effects of Slavery Truly Shown Part II

Paul D also seems to have the same trouble dealing with the past. His memories of Alfred, Georgia and eating a bird while its heart is still beating seems to be constantly on his mind and in his comparisons throughout the story. His memories and sorrows are directly depicted in his tin box that he keeps with him. ”Saying more might push them back into a place they couldn’t get back from. He would keep the rest where it belonged: in that tobacco tin buried in his chest where a red heart used to be. It’s lid rusted shut.” This quote from Paul D explains his total view on the past since before he met Sethe until the end of the book. He feels that even thinking about the past will trap him in it again just like Sethe does. This saves him from the pain of reliving it but also prevents him from moving on and is corrosive to him overall. Towards the end of the book we see Paul D breaking down after he left Sethe. The scene of him drinking on church steps basically homeless and an outcast to society shows that his inability to deal with the past and the pain that it has caused him seems to be getting the better of him just like Beloved is getting the better of Sethe and he will soon lose himself because of it. One of the happier points in the story is toward the end when we see that he has chosen to let in the possibility of being hurt again and reconciling with his painful past by going to see Sethe again. Without trying to break Morrison’s story down to have a linear moralistic reading I do feel like a point is trying to be made through these characters’ of Sethe and Paul D and perhaps some others. This point is that if the past and slavery is not come to terms with and put to rest in everyone’s mind then the painful memories of it will be enough to kill you in the end.

Beloved as a Symbol

Beloved by far the most interesting character in the book seems to have the ability to represent many things to many different people. To Denver it is the obvious reincarnation of the sister that her mother had killed. To Sethe it is what she has always been missing until the end when she recognizes her as the child she murdered. Then she begins to represent an extremely painful and troubled past for Sethe. The last representation that Beloved could stand for is the African American race in the chains of slavery overall. My interpretation is that this character was created in order to fulfill all three roles. It was Morrison’s intention to provide us with a character that could be seen from many different angles. In the scene depicting Beloved strangling Sethe, Beloved was obviously symbolizing Sethe’s past and what it was doing to her. Baby Suggs gathering place here represented all that used to be good even after bad things had happened. It represented a life after a troubled past in a way. Sethe inability to come to terms with her past and her choices was strangling her ability to move forward, while at the same time to avoid the past she was coddling it just as Beloved did her after she strangled her. Also when Sethe first sees her, her water breaks and Beloved is soaking wet. This symbolizes a birth scene suggesting that she is in fact Sethe’s reincarnated daughter. In other ways although Beloved represented something more encompassing. She also represented the suppressed past of a race shackled by slavery. In the last chapters of the book there is a quote that recalls Beloved’s presence in I24 like that of a angry race of enslaved people. Beloved for all the trouble that she caused also moved along the process of healing for every character involved with I24. Through her sexual encounters with Paul D she breaks open the rusted shut Tin Box of memories. Although Denver once felt that she was no one with out her, Beloved’s actions towards the end of the novel cause Denver to finally escape I24 and become a part of the community. Finally she inadvertently brings the town together to free Sethe from her grip.

The White’s View of Slavery

Another interesting point throughout the novel is how the White people are depicted. While there are some who are good we see three different types. Ones that are whole heartedly attempting to help the African Americans in any way possible like the ones that Baby Suggs went to. The ones who feel that son’t treat them like slaves but still expect them to work like ones and buy themselves out of slavery (Mr. and Mrs. Garner at Sweet Home). And the most despicable one such as School Teacher whose view on slaves and the African American race was an interesting one. Through his constant note taking through out the novel I could only think of a scientist relating his findings of a foreign animal. His pain when he “had” to kill “Sixo” reminded me of a hunter putting down a hunting dog. The despicable act of making his nephews steal Sethe’s milk and then encouraging them to beat her showed his disregard for them as anything remotely human or perhaps even animal. Unfortunately throughout the book we see this mentality taking its toll on the characters even after he is gone. The painful memories cause them to drift or become so concerned with daily tasks so that they wont think of the past again that they are reduced to something less than human themselves. Morrison relates to us the attitudes of Whites towards slavery at this time so that we can see directly what their intent was and what pain they caused a fellow human in order to compensate for their own animalistic thoughts.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Assignment 6

Assignment 6

Lousie Gluck

To me her poem “Parable of the Hostages” seems to be about the ironic contradiction between war and life. Instead of an interruption of life war in this poem seems to grant an ability to live life without having to deal with the complicated questions that can plague a man or someone becoming a man. Instead of being what kills them it in a way shields them from the harshness of routine life. “Everyone is eager for more of what is in Troy.” I also enjoyed the analogy between war and it being a dress up game for men. Dress-up as a game for younger children usually girls provides a way to wear try on different masks and see which one they like best weather it be housewife or school teacher or any other of the number of persona’s dress-up can call into duty. It is very interesting for me to look at war as a kind of dress-up for men because it certainly fit’s the mold only made manly. To the soldiers sitting on the beach the war itself seemed as a time of not having to worry but just wonder what the future held for them. Try on the different types of manliness that war could bring and figure out which one they thought best. It is also interesting to mention that the author seems to categorize the men who obviously are not hostages yet as already being in enthralled or hostages. Perhaps she is commenting on how these men are already hostages of war in their eagerness for it still. In their eagerness to not progress into the routine life but instead digress to the more exciting male dress-up game of war.

Sherman Alexia

I think his poem “Evolution” is obviously about the what the white men did upon entering their culture from the beginning of America. Whether it be a pawn shop taking the Indians pride and selling it for what ever price he deemed or America itself lying through their white man treaties over an over again until they had taken everything from the Indians even it’s soul. What prompts the Indians to sell their beloved items is the possibility of something greater such as the money they receive in return so that they can purchase something. They are told that’s what they want to do, or have to do in order to become “civilized”. They find out in the end that it is much more bitter than they conceived. Selling off everything that they ever owned in order to gain what they were told would make them better only to receive a “Museum” that holds what’s left of them that’s not even theirs any more. They are even charged to view the pieces of their own heritage. Almost the same as when the white man introduced the first bottle of liquor to the Indians probably saying, “Here this’ll help you sleep.” This poem seems to outline what our presence has meant to the Indians since we came into their land. A form of trickery that seems to befall them every time. This is where I think the title can mean so many different things at once. Perhaps it is suggesting the “Evolution” proclaimed by the settlers when they deemed it necessary to civilize or speed up the Indians evolution in order to show them the right way to do things. This certainly seems pertinent to the poem. Or perhaps the “Evolution” in it’s full circle meaning produces the interpretation that the Indians underwent in order to become more civilized. They sold their or ceded their territory, culture, crafts, even their heart and soul in order to get along in this “new world” when the white man secretly only wanted him gone. The poem also seems to have an interpretation that can lead the reader to today also. Certainly this image of “Buffalo Bill” and the Indian pawn shop is extremely relevant today. Has anyone been to Cherokee, North Carolina lately? This poem seems to call out the atrocity that occurs when we treat Indian heritage as something that we can just buy for five dollars at a store where the Indians teepees probably used to stand. The author seems to be advocating that even today we are still disrespecting the Indians by making a spectacle of their culture as if it were something that we could purchase or look at in order to give us entertainment. The image of the museum at the end of the poem seems to be a direct metaphor for what we do today in “reverence of them”. We steal every thing from their land to their souls and fit it in a museum that we can charge admission to. Even charging them to look at their own heritage.

Adrian Louis

I enjoyed his poem “Without Words” the most. His topic of alcohol or alcoholism seems to be apparent in some of his other poems but in this one he speaks on it directly. From the first stanza he points out that to quit drinking is an impossibility. In the next line he seems to play with the definition of water totally. Sure scientifically this is true but Louis seems to mean “water” in a different way. Perhaps the water here stands instead for a feeling of wanting to be able to escape the horrors and difficulties of life. That’s something I think most humans are mainly composed of. And this feeling of escaping from terrible feelings is something that I feel is essential just like water to the human body. Nobody wants to feel terrible or wronged or angry. Instead they try to get fid of those feelings any way they think will work. I love his analogy of the “frayed rope” reaching down to pull up the tears. Almost like the Indian nation is so tired of shedding them that physically their bodies ability to cry is about to snap or break into. I also feel this line holds a duality in the Indian tears could also be referring to the liquor itself. By referring to it this way he presents it as a kind of scourge for their society or a curse. The next line “we have nothing to live for, nothing to die for” would make anybody want to drink. Perhaps at the end of the poem, “the nations do not demand a reason for drinking because it is understood. After all this is a Nation that’s land has been stolen along with their soul through lies, war, and trickery (as I stated in my previous post). The title seems very important and my first impression is that the title comes from the feeling you get when you don’t have words to describe something, not the struggle to find words for something great, but the other end of the spectrum. Through reading the poem I felt a sense of despair so deep that to even attempt to put it in to words would be to disrespect or belittle it. I got the feeling of such a displancency and such a despairing tone that it seemed all their was left to do was drink “without words“. No explanations, no arguments, no apologies, no righting the wronged; just the bottle.


His poem “Bully” seems to comment on the ethnocentrism in America‘s past. The changing of the statues name from Roosevelt to Hernandez certainly anticipates the change that is seen in the poem. It’s ironic style in which it relates that the school based on these ethnocentric beliefs is now becoming “invaded” by “Brown” kids stockpiling the lunch room, jumping naked through murals. The satire almost shows a spitefulness. The poem ends with children considering spraying graffiti on the statue to cover up that “Victorian” mustache and monocle. This shows the great change that has occurred in America. The authors word choice (such as in the words “nostalgic” and “Victorian”) give the reader the impression of past expectations or opinions of a corroded right way of doing things being destroyed to make way for new and more encompassing ones.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Assignment 5

George Saunders “Sea Oak”
I really enjoyed reading this story. I thought it exemplified the American dilemma all the way around. I love how it ends with the overall question of why do bad things happen to good people not being answered. It really dives into the question of good vs. evil in our world and what the actually means. I feel that it supports the theory that there are no good and evil; only paths that people choose to get in order to better themselves. It supports that hanging back and not stepping on anyone’s toes is a dismal way to live one’s life. It shows that through Aunt Bernie’s perspective after she returns to life. The grotesque way in which the story was told was also appealing. It shows life in an actual way instead of the “Leave it to Beaver” aspect from which people were accustomed to writing in at the time. I also feel that it comments directly on the “American Dream” and what it actually is. Through the story you find that the American dream is only a goal, a painted picture. In which the actual path in which to obtain it is never exposed only hinted at incredulously. This story projects an actual low income household attempting to obtain the dream, and struggling with what means to use in order to get it and if they are acceptable.
In Ashberry’s poem “They dream of America” I feel he is commenting on the dream of what America could stand for or what it did, and how both of these are compromised by a population of sinfulness. He seems to regard America, or the idea, as something to aspire to rather than receive. His feelings toward America seem to be comparable to someone yearning for an orange, and upon finally obtaining one finding that it’s acid sickens him. In the stanza referring to the cube shaped “lilac lake”, the lilac lake is something that is supposed to be full of pastoral beauty but instead it is oddly shaped and discolored in the narrator’s eyes. This image gives the reader a sense of something that could be beautiful but is tarnished much like America.
Adrienne Rich
Her poem “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers” seems to me to imply a sense of conflict between the weight of social constructions, their implications for woman, and women’s ability to be equal. Their ability to be equal is shown in Aunt Jennifer’s creativeness in her construction of the tapestry of tigers. It shows the impulse that humans women included have towards freedom and imagination. What separates them from men is the “massive weight” of uncle’s “wedding band” or the social duties that women are given which are totally different from men’s. This type of conflict can be found throughout many of Rich’s poems. She is renown as our foremost feminist poet and an important theorist in the social construction of gender.
Raymond Carver
Carver portrays a very realistic view of love in this story. He engages the reader by asking the important questions that we all ask ourselves about love. He is wise enough not to define it, but at the same time he does endeavor in describing the differences between a newly married couple and an older one. I found this story to be very enlightening and offered insight on questions that are wondered by each one of us at certain times. In reading criticism of his story I found this paragraph extremely revealing for what Carvers main goals and questions he wanted to reveal throughout the paragraph were :
“What we know and feel, how things fall apart, and what is left when they do, what holds in the purity of emptiness—these mysteries are Carver's concerns. and he takes the reader into them. "I could hear my heart beating." ends one story in a near-whisper. "I could hear everyone's heart. I could hear the human noise we sat there making." -- Jayne Anne Phillips
Margaret Attwood
I found her story extremely appealing and an enjoyable read. I enjoyed the sarcasm found at every turn even beginning with such colorful characters having “plain Jane” names such as Mary and John. I feel that her story causes the reader to reflect on his true feelings on the matter also by allowing for there to be several different endings. The reader automatically asks themselves which ending I would prefer thus granting insight on their feelings about the subject matter of the story and themselves. Like Carver’s story this story also begs the reader to delve into the meaning of love in general and what it is. It doesn’t merely state an opinion but puts the overall answer in the reader’s hands by offering different endings. It allows the reader to reflect on himself and why he preferred one ending to another.
Philip Levine
This poem seems to me to celebrate a pig (or anyone in general) standing up for themselves or “digging in their heels”. The pig knows what fate is soon to meet him, but instead of succumbing to anything that would undignify him he instead chooses to admire his physique and the way he walks even in the midst of a powerful imagination parking images of flies or greedy consumers defiling his carcass. The poem gives the reader a real sense of pride in oneself even in the face of supreme opposition and death. You also witness some of these same attitudes and themes in “They feed the Lion”.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Assignment 4

Assignment 4
Donald Barthelme
I really enjoyed Bartheme’s story “The Balloon”. I found it full of interpretations on what the balloon might actually stand for. In reading some literary criticism on him I found that this short story is actually supposed to stand for a map on how to read fiction. Upon first reading although I could not get out of my head a close comparison to the balloon somehow translating to modernistic poetry. I don’t think that there is enough textual evidence to say for sure but I feel like I could make a solid case. I extremely enjoyed his writing style more than any other short story fiction writer I have read. I did find that the interpretation of the balloon standing for fiction was an extremely powerful one. I loved how he stated that it would be “wrong” to speak of the balloon as a situation, thus implying there was a resolution to be had instead. The balloon was simply there “concrete”, and “particular”. I am looking forward more to discussing him than I have any of the other authors tonight in class.

Anne Sexton
A.D.D thought: It’s interesting to note that when Sexton was depressed and contemplating suicide the doctors suggested therapy was to write poetry!?! This reminds me of another troubled writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman and her story, “The Women In the Yellow Wall Paper.” A true story about the writer who had been put on rest therapy after deep depression in which the doctor forbid her to write saying that was the root of the problem. The rest therapy and lack of writing causes her to flirt with insanity (great story). Gilman’s story was published in 1899. I guess it’s just ironic to see the change in the way depression and suicidal thoughts are dealt with therapeutically and how they have changed and what that says about the times historically; even though Sexton does end up committing suicide.
Sexton’s poem “Her Kind” seems to be about the way she sees herself in comparison to other individuals. At the end of every stanza she even states, “I have been her kind.” This gave me the feeling that she felt herself to be an outcast of society, something different and more evil even perhaps then the norm. It also seems to me that in each stanza she is commenting on a different kind of women but they all have one thing in common. I think that that one thing in common could be the feelings of an outcast or vagabond.
Sexton’s poem “The Truth the Dead Know” seems be an elegy to her parents. Through this poem’s gloomy outlook and questioning of herself or life itself throughout it the reader gets a sense of deep grief. The way that she personifies the “dead” at the end of the poem almost refutes earlier in the poem when I interpreted that she was “in touch” “entirely” with her parents at the time. The end of the poem almost gives me the interpretation that she feels when death overcomes us there is nothing after we are like “stone”. Could be a misinterpretation but I feel like perhaps this could be the “Truth That the Dead Know” and what she herself feels might be true scarily.
Sexton’s Poem “And one for My Dame” seems to be about her relationship with men in her life. First it was her father and then her husband who seems to have the exact same or similar career that her father did. It is hard to indicate what exactly she feels about this comparison assuming that’s what it is. I do feel that she has certain distaste although for the fact that both seem to be gone a lot while she is left at home, “with no place to go.”
Sylvia Plath
Her poem “Tulips” seems to describe her inner most conflicts during a time very close to when she would decide to take her life. Most of her depression is described I feel with a background of hospital life and what mentally that does to you. She seems to be begging throughout the poem to just be left alone, but that in itself is more than like her manic illness talking again. I enjoyed but was also frightened by the depth I felt from her words of how this depression made her feel, “I didn’t want any flowers, I only wanted/ To lie with my hands turned up and be utterly empty.” That’s quite a powerful and disturbing image; to be totally filled with nothing. This makes me interpret that the pain and hurt is so deep in her life and so steep that the feeling of happiness is not even a faint memory. She wishes to feel nothing at all. I also enjoyed attempting to interpret just what the “Tulips” stood for there is the obvious portrait of tulips in a hospital could give an individual as depressed and bed ridden as she was; The image of a feigned evidence of sympathy. She seems to discredit the idea that anyone can understand her pain at all. Ironically this is probably a theme that caused for her immense popularity because so many people actually could identify with it. I also love the line “The tulips eat my oxygen.” The mere fact that they are there along with what they signify (the unwanted guests, the constant nurses, the surgeries, the noise) seems to be enough to actually kill her. An interesting thought all though is that I do feel Plath actually experienced death before she killed herself by way of the tragedies in her life combined with her manic depression and physical ailments.
“Ariel” I feel was a poem about the outbreak of Plath into the world, a rebirth of herself physiologically. She strove to become the spirit that her horse represented and all that the name stood for. I am sure that there are some deeper connections also here that can be found. The last line of the poem sticks in my head, and I keep repeating it. I can’t figure out exactly what it means though. Hopefully there will be some light shed on it tonight during discussion. I look forward to it.
John Berryman
Berryman had some interesting poems in his Dream Song collection. I think the video at this link (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1YUu3L-qGMI&feature=related) sheds a lot of light on the man behind the poetry. Watching him read his poetry showed just how much emotion he put into his work. The dream songs seems to me to possibly be about the internal struggle that Berryman had during his life and the many voices that he heard inside his head.

Robert Lowell
“For the Union Dead” is about a civil war hero Robert Shaw who died in battle at Fort Wagner and was buried beside his African American brothers after his death at his own request. This poem explores the metaphysical side of art and its immortality and what we have today as public commiserative art. It is an interesting comparison. I look forward to examining the poem closer in class.
John Updike
His story A&P was a great read. I enjoyed the lax diction and how the story flowed along very colloquial. I think that Sammy represents here the American male chasing after the small town American Dream in a “Leave it to Beaver” type of society. It is very interesting to note how Updike ends the story stating that Sammy will indeed be troubled by his decision to quit for the rest of his life. It says something about the consequences that something like quitting a job in a small town where everyone knows everyone will do to someone. It is also interesting to note how in Updike’s story the girls passing through seems to be the most exciting thing that has happened there in a while. Also, the way he describes his coworker as married, 22, with two kids but that’s the only difference, gives us an insight on what Updike is actually trying to portray in his story. I feel he is trying to point out the fallacies of this American Dream that is preached to younger generations and sought after heartily by their fathers.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Addition to Assignment 3: Frank "O'Hara"

Instead of trying to create order in his poetry he totally destroys the notion that it exists. The natural course of the human brain when imposed upon by a new subject is to define it; categorize it, through any means necessary. After it is satisfied it throws the new subject away almost as if it has no meaning, like a child throws aside an old toy. O’Hara tries to capture these new subjects (hence his spontaneity) before the brain can mangle them into emotions defined from previous knowledge or experience to give us the importance of an acclaimed everyday event. While at the same time giving us a look at the contradictions of letting your logic or emotions lead you. O’Hara’s poetry is not a stab at the human mind but instead a celebration of it at it’s most early forming of a thought. At the center of O’Hara’s work is belief that art grants us that moment when “everybody and I stopped breathing” thus holding the key to importance of life. I would define his poem “Today” as a celebration of the relationship between the reader and the poet; what it is and what it could be.
Frank O’Hara is a poet who I feel I will never gain hold of a firm grasp on. Everything time I learn something new about his poetry or stumble upon a new understanding it crashes my old ones or just shows me that I know less and less. I find a deep connection at least between this in his poetry and life itself. He held the ability to dance on a fine line between saying something that meant nothing to anyone, and everything to everyone.

Assignment 3 40's 50's, & 60's

Assignment Three

Theodore Rothke

In his poem “Papa’s Waltz” he PORPUSFULLY forms a poem that can be read a number of different ways in order to reveal the readers bias’s through their interpretations. Being totally unbiased there are three very realistic ways to view the father in the poem; as a fun-loving supportive father figure, a drunken beating of a child, or a molestation of a child. True to his modernistic style of writing I feel that he is merely presenting us an image and letting the readers form their own interpretations via their own life experiences. Then challenging the reader to reflect on his/her interpretation and point out its very on bias’s (Hence a person who grew up in a home altered or ruined from the usage of alcohol would have a very different interpretation than that of someone who grew up seeing alcohol as a social activity and only used in un-harmful moderations). Rothke wrote during a time when life morals previously accepted as facts dividing good and bad were thrown to the wind by the tragedies perceived from world war one mostly brought on by the growing knowledge of the general public via the newly wide reaching spread of mass media and communication. Rothke’s poem not only encourages the reader to look into the idea of weather alcohol was a totally good or bad thing, but also every other ethically constructed moral that also held its bias’s. Again Rothke’s poem is not to be understood as simply relaying to us that In this kind of relationship alcohol doesn’t have to be a bad thing; that would have been much to simple for his time when questioning a right or wrong answer to anything was popular among poets. Instead his aim was to present us with a questionable image and show us how our bias’s can skew an interpretation.

Elizabeth Bishop

I enjoyed her poem “One art”. To me this symbolizing like so many other poems during this era a feeling of desperation to the point of loss becoming a mundane everyday activity that “isn’t hard to master.” Her generation was apt at losing an attribute gained from World War II. In her poem I think we also see a questioning of the importance of life and emotion in general from the fact that she seems to understand that even “losing” anything from a loved one, a continent, to a watch can become as menial as taking out the trash if the human mind is exposed to it enough. After reading the poem I couldn’t help but think of Frank O’Hara’s stance on suicide. He stated in more direct terms that the only thing that makes life worth living is the respect for a possibility of something greater. This feeling I feel would have to have been a mutual one between the two poets after Bishop’s explanation of how “losing isn’t hard to master”.

Eudora Welty’s “Why I Live at the P.O.”

In this story we see a narrator who shows questionable reliability. Her external struggles throughout the story a a manifestation of her internal struggels to be the center of attention. This yearning for attention is brought on by her low self-esteem gained from being grown and a divorce’ and still living at her parents house. The stories ending is ironic because her yearning to be the center of attention ultimately causes her to be the center of no one’s attention and all alone.

Tillie Olsen’s “I stand here Ironing”

This story encapsulates the mother daughter relationship and the hardships forced on a single working mother during the years of the Great depression. The story asks the reader to weigh the responsibility for the child’s well-being during this period of time between what the mother was able to give to her and how much society was responsible for the way the daughter turned out. It also brings up the idea of sanatoriums which were a popular place for children who social workers “deemed as not being cared for enough” and how they stunted the growth of children, while also inhibiting a single working mother already questioning her abilities to raise a child properly from saying that while what she was trying to do for her daughter might not be the best it was better than sending her to a place like that. This story depicts the raw feeling of hardship and a generation of children lost to the financial difficulties placed on their parents. It urges the reader to question their beliefs in a good and bad overall if something like this could happen to a child so unworthy of it when there is no one to blame directly.
Alan Ginsburg’s “ Howl”

Ginsberg was a substantial advocator in the “Beat” movement of poets during the 1950’s. He was well Known for his travels and his unique outlook on the world. His poem “Howl” seems to me to be to be written as a kind of monologue of Ginsberg’s views and what has occurred through out his life and how it makes him feel. The poem itself is acclaimed to be the highest selling poem of the 20th Century. I was unable to grasp a lot of the connections and metaphors inside the poem upon my readings, but am interested in hearing more about it during class tonight. Also, on my research on Frank O’Hara I have found that there are some great similarities as well as differences between the two poets, and am interested on defining the common ground and connection that the two offer the reader.

Gwendolyn Brooks

Her poem “The boy died in my alley” I feel give the reader a tone that is closely connected to what was happening during her time period. I feel she alludes to many different concepts throughout the poem. One obvious one is gang crime and murders that would have ransacked an alley in heavily urbanized area such as New York City. I think she is trying to portray the attitude that just like her America turns its eyes in an “knowledgeable unknowing” way to this violence that is becoming more and more common thus allowing it to happen. The alley she talks about could also stand for the suffering of her race, as she says that she has heard the cry a thousand times before and knows the face although she has never seen it. This interpretation also has the same repercussions for the narrator and the rest of the world; that they know what is happening but just eyes turn the other way because its harder to admit and deal with it than just look away. These are my favorite two interpretations although there are others I’m sure.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Assignment II Mckay, Hurston, Hughes, J. Johnson, and Wright "Harlem Renaissance"

Assignment Two "Harlem Renaissance"

Claude McKay
In Mckay’s poetry I sensed a strong feeling of displacement from his poem “Outkast”. It is almost as if he wished to return to the “peace” of the “dark jungle” but instead was held captive here in his new home. What held him captive? Knowing of his financial disabilities which he blamed (rightfully perhaps) on his color one could justly argue that this was his reason that he could not return, but I feel it was a number of things that disallowed him to return to his Native roots. In reading a short biography I found he never returned to his homeland since he left it in 1912. I also found that his first novel (arguably) “Banana Plant” was written describing a women who had left her homeland in south Africa in search for higher education and on her return found it hard to hold true to her native roots and the society she grew up in while still holding adhering to the aesthetics of higher education she had learned (I guess the novel portrayed some kind of all encompassing metaphor or great comparison to what the women was going through). Here I feel we can see that McKay struggled with his alliance to his under-developed and uneducated roots and failed to reconcile the two together. Another argument could also be made that he felt it was his duty as a prominent poet to argue against racism and the incredulous idea that whites could front a civil movement that would accurately give the African Americans the equality they wanted if it was formed from (white) “statesmen roaming the world to set things right.” Knowing this you can truly sympathize with exactly how much of an “Outcast” he felt he was. While reading his poems I found that he had mixed emotions in general. In “If we must Die” and “America” the reader receives a portrait of a man who knows the civil struggle that his race is bonded into, but also a man who loves the country perhaps because of the sheer ability it has to change or promise something better in the future. These ideals, one would infer, are exactly opposite to the socialist and communist background that he held. I think we get the clearest picture of how he felt about tour politics and his standing as a major wheel in the civil rights movement from his poems “Look within” and “To the White Friends”. In “To the White Friends” we see a man who has seriously contemplated it seems a more radical “Black Panther” way of achieving civil rights, but is shown (as if by God) that his contributions will be much more helpful if he proves his worthiness perhaps through his prose. In “Look Within” we see a well presented argument of why the country is trying to solve everyone else’s problem when we ourselves have so many to contend with inside our walls. Knowing this I think we can contribute his socialistic and communist theories to instead stand for his way of saying that what we have is obviously not working we need to look in other directions. While I do not agree, and don’t feel either form of government would have been beneficial to the civil rights movement although they are both built on equality. I do understand that it would have been a very popular view for many people of his stature having to live with racism all around them.

Langston Hughes
I found the biggest contradiction between Mckay and writers of his thinking and Hughes was Hughes refusal to refer to his own life instances for inspiration in poetry. He chose instead to portray the black race as a whole in his writing. He also like McKay followed the communist and socialistic movement in America but was forced to renounce some of his affiliations and revise some of his collaborations of poetry during the “McCarthy reign of terror in the United States”. His Poems Like the “Weary Blues” and “Mulatto” Give us invaluable insight into the sufferings of Negros during the time of the Harlem Renaissance. One of my favorites is his short poem called “Justice”. I feel it most accurately describes America’s selective Justice that it stood for. A “Justice” that it fought wars in the name of. A “Justice” seemed to have no eyes instead merely a vehicle for government and politics to achieve what they wanted at the time. I also was more fond of his poem “The Negro speaks Rivers” because he chose to portray racial injustices against Negros from when they started (much earlier than anything that happened on American, although not any less unjust). He portrayed rightfully that Negros had been the back bone of forced labor since the beginning of time. My favorite of all is his poem “Let America be America Again”. I feel that this poem holds one of the strongest messages of any poem I have read today. Although I feel that his socialistic view were imparted in the poem, and that I don’t agree with I feel that it holds a view that everyone person should be aware of at this time in our country of big government. I love his reference throughout the poem to our forefathers and why this land was originally created. This reminds us of something that a lot of people have forgotten today, and should keep foremost in their mind when political decisions are being made.

James Weldon Johnson
Johnson’s poem “O Black and Unknown Bards” gives us a powerful feeling of appreciation for the slaves in the past who as he relates in his poem found some way to look toward heaven even after all that they had and were going through. After I read it a few times I found myself repeating the last line over and over in my head. To me it resounds the triumph through suffering that any individual being done injustice should receive if they are able to with hold such a great spirit through such a time of struggle. It reminded me mostly of the biblical story of Elijah which I feel might have been the point judging by Johnson’s other poems with so many biblical references. I also enjoyed “The Creation” because I felt that it gave us another insight to old slave folk lore. And not in the fictional kind but how they actually saw it from there eyes. His poem “The White Witch” I feel holds a large amount of duality. The white witch can be looked at as the white women who lured black men into sexual relations at the time and when found out caused the black man to be lynched. But it can also be seen as a metaphor for the United states at the time and all of their broken promises to the northern blacks. In this way it would have been mean as a warning to his black brothers from other countries that the juice is not as sweet as it’s acclaimed in America and although there is a front of civil rights and an equality movement there are just as many forces such as the Jim Crow Laws prohibiting true equality from occurring

Richard Wright
I have enjoyed Wrights work since I wrote an essay on his short story “ The Man who was Almost a Man”. His work always seems to me to offer a kind of duality that I love. It can be interpreted on many different levels, which in all is what makes good prose, but Wright seems to me to have mastered the ability to do it while using dialect and common language better than most. I also like that he was of the same opinion as Zora Hurston when it came to the portrayal of African Americans. He believed that his literature should spare no details that would have cause the White man to think less of or confirm their beliefs about the ignorance of African Americans. I feel this was very important because his attitude was one of no compromise he portrayed his race as it was with all the flaws that all races have instead of trying to make it be something that it was not in order to gain respect from a race that had been enslaving African Americans for centuries. I like his “you get what you see” attitude combined with “and it should be more than good enough for you.” In his short story “The Ethics of Living Jim Crow” he portrays the brutality of the truth that if his mother had not tried to teach him that Whites were in a different class, blacks were inferior, and not to attempt to mesh the two races he would have gotten himself killed. This simple truth shows just how the south worked during it’s period of Jim Crow laws. It was still as segregated and prejudiced as before the civil war.

Zora Neal Hurston “Sweat”
Staying true to her ideals Hurston’s story presents us with that African American vernacular that often embodies a good story. Instead of euphemizing the African American Race she tells a totally relatable story to all races. This is something I admire about her. She was unashamed of her race and knew that like every race it had it’s flaws. Perhaps unknowingly she portrayed a story that was totally relatable for many white women of her time thus propelling the civil rights movement through a sympathetic audience. A great story from end to end I especially enjoyed the language used and thought that was the main aspect that propelled the story to greatness while attaching it to it’s roots. It also has a connection to Johnson’s poetry by displaying that same unrelenting faith in God that brought her through all of her struggles. I thought that the purposeful irony between what Syke’s says about Delia’s religion and how she was a hypocrite was very powerful. Especially when we find out towards the end of the story that he still goes to church and takes communion in spite of what he is doing outside of church. The story also holds that “you reap what you sow” message for Mr. Syke which I feel was a popular belief in her time as well as today. You could also read Hurston’s story as speaking out against African American’s who were “enforcing” inferiority and racism through their self-centered acts (not as if to say that white people were committing the same actions as Mr. Syke’s was everyday). The overall message that I took from the story is the same “you reap what you sow” some time or another no matter what color, race, or nationality you have.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Robert Frost

“The Need of Being Versed in Country Things”
“The Road not Taken”

In order to understand Frost’s poetry and what he stood for in the United States it is imperative to at least read an abbreviated biography of his life (There is a great concise one on about.com). Frost although a humorous man was deeply troubled throughout his life. While reading his biography I felt as if he was someone who desperately wanted to fit in, to be a normal part of society, but something was continually holding him back. Perhaps it was his deep yearning to characterize the world around him and separate the good from the bad, the things that were supposed to be or made sense from the things that weren’t or didn’t. This is what I feel gave him the classification of a modernist poet. In all of his searching for the lines that separated things he found none in the end. There was no good or evil only a portrait of humanity and he did his best job to depict that. What I enjoy most about Frost’s poetry and what makes him so readable by so many different groups is his duality. You don’t have to be a certain age to gain something from reading his poetry. I remember reading in eighth grade “The Road not Taken” and receiving what I thought was a great understand of it at that time. Now, my grasp and understanding of the picture painted in that poem is totally different. While there are many poets who attribute this characteristic into their poetry in my opinion Frost does it by far the best. In his poem “The Need of Being Versed in Country Things” we also see this same duality or levels of understanding. My understanding of the poem is that it was a story of a house that had burnt to the ground and an overall dreary scene was described until the birds came into the poem suggesting the kind of moral through their unaffected view that life continues on either way and things continue to grow such as the “Lilacs” and the “old elm” in spite of the past fire. Also there was a kind of theme that “life is sad at times, but the sun will rise again tomorrow” you could draw that from the bird’s appearing to weep at the end. On further reading of the poem I found what I feel is a darker meaning. I also fell that the last two lines show that Frost perhaps held a deterministic view of nature. I take the word country he uses at the end to be interchangeable with nature or the natural way of the universe (focusing on nature). I feel that he is trying to discredit the thoughts that people had that nature or its inhabitants cared about human misfortune. The same nature that stirred the fire also bloomed the lilac’s and the old elm. This is the connection I feel he was trying to draw. Nature does not exist for our usage and enjoyment we exist because nature has allowed it.

Wallace Stevens

“A Study of Two Pears” Wallace Stevens
I struggled (as always with Steven’s poetry) to interpret what the poem was actually about. I wouldn’t decide whether he was attempting to show the various ways that you can see a pair; through a painting, scientifically, as a beauty of nature, or just simply as what it is. My knowledge of Stevens brilliance in his other works such as “Thirteen ways of Looking at a Blackbird” (which also proves to be a poem that the more I learn about it the less I think I understand it) or “The Snowman” cause me to think that he is just trying to depict a regular everyday object in a way that we will be able to see it in a new light even better than the first time. I have yet to break the code though on this one even after searching for outside help from the internet. I hope to gain an understanding of what he is really trying to depict in class tonight.
“Thirteen Ways of Looking At A Blackbird” Wallace Stevens
I also have struggled for a while at gaining meaning from this poem . I have a shaky interpretation that the blackbird could represent human intelligence in general. It is alone at the top of the world as we as a race are the most advanced over all the other animals. The three birds signify the relationship between our minds, body, and soul the three tools that we alone are given. The blackbird whirling in the autumn winds signifies our inability to control nature or the world in general even with these gifts. The man women and blackbird are the same because when a man and women are brought together in marriage they are considered one overall the intellect that they have is also the same; blackbird representing intellect (pretty shaky interpretation again). This is where I have some different thoughts on the rest of the poem but none that make it come together. I am hoping again to gain a better understanding in tonight’s class.

"A Rose for Emily" William Faulkner

“A Rose for Emily” William Faulkner
This is a story set in the south and is extremely grotesque throughout. It is filled like Emily herself with death. The story overall can be seen as a symbol for “the old way” and what communities and persons have to go through change. Like most people Emily was in capable of handling change in her life just as when her father died and she tried to keep his corpse in her house still thinking that she could cheat death in some way. Her sheer refusal to change in a world that was changing all around her presented itself in her necrophilia. She decides that it would be better to try to capture the moment when she and Herman were married just the way it was by killing him and designating that upper room to be a shrine for them instead of dealing with the ongoing changes that occur every day in life. This can also be seen in the way that she won’t even let them attach metal numbers or a mailbox to her house. She is totally consumed with the past and fearful of anything new through the story. The new taxes symbolize her way of looking at the future as something that can only bring pain, debt, suffering or most of all death.

"Hills Like White Elephants" Ernest Hemmingway

“Hills Like White Elephants” Ernest Hemmingway
In this story Hemmingway provides us with view of a couple discussing the possibilities of aborting the women’s newly conceived baby. Hemmingway does this through his use of scenery and setting totally never using a word even akin to abortion. Although he never refers to it directly it’s blatantly obvious that is what they are discussing. The train tracks represent the tack of life that they are living and the station represents a decision of which track to follow next. The American man is obviously in favor of aborting the unborn baby and tries to persuade her into the idea throughout the story. He is unwilling to give up their travelers lifestyle symbolized by his luggage bags stamped with all the different hotels that they have stayed at. The woman is more sympathetic to the idea of keeping the baby and Hemmingway gives us insight to what she actually thinking by the landscape around them that she is fixated with. The “Hills Like White Elephants” that she refers to symbolize here will to behold something unique (the White Elephants) like the baby she is carrying. The white also symbolizes the unborn baby’s purity. The grass fields can be seen as a fertile landscape much like her fertility but the cloud over them can represent the abortion casting a shade over her fertility. The dry barren landscape she looks at lastly in the distance symbolizes what she feels like her body would become after the abortion. Hemmingway leaves the story open ended in order to leave up to the reader exactly what the outcome might be. My personal opinion is that the dry barren landscape surrounded the tracks toward Midrid where the “simple operation” would take place. The American man in the end moves his bags to the other side of the track which I think is to symbolize that they have decided to go in another direction than previously was the plan. When he asks her how she feels towards the end and She replies that she is fine I feel that Hemmingway is trying to hint that she is finally solid and happy in her decision to go in the opposite direction from the abortion. This is only a conjecture because as I said Hemmingway purposely leaves the story without enough details to conclude to that the reader will attempt to end it for him almost with their own convictions.

“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” T.S. Elliot

This poem is about a man who is at the least totally insecure. He fumbles and fidgets around women consumed with the fear of failure and being turned away. What is more interesting is what lies beneath this character or what I feel he stands for. T.S. Eliot like many of the poets in his time period was in a constant struggle to define what had occurred during World War 1 and what that meant for humanity. It could be said that overall humanity as a race was psychologically flawed after witnessing the cruelties that they were capable of towards each other. Mr. Prufrock can easily represent several views that I feel were consistent in the society at this time. The first is the regular soldier that returned from combat. (the important thing to keep in mind is humanity as a whole suffered greatly in many aspects from this war, the soldiers that were lucky enough to return from it were the ones that suffered most directly from it although) The soldier returned to a world that was upside down from where he had left it, totally different from the one he had risked his life to protect, this is not to say that it was not better for most but just totally different. Not only were these soldiers trying to cope with the displacement of returning from hell but they were also trying to adjust to a rapidly changing society around them. One of the biggest changes was women’s ability to earn a living on their own now. The idea of a perfect American house wife with the father as the “bread winner” and the mother as the house wife had been shattered by women having the ability to work while their husbands were away at war. The men at this time were faced with a feeling of displacement, what had always been their position in life was now being challenged totally. Their feelings of distaste for women being able to “bring home the bacon” just like them caused them even more insecurities towards themselves just like the ones that Mr. Prufrock presents, not to mention the ones brought on by the war itself. The image of these empowered educated women are shown in the poem through the recurring couplet about women coming and going “talking of Michelangelo”. No longer did women have to rely on having a husband to have a life. This leaves the men with the responsibility to woo women which some did not handle very well (Mr. Prufrock). You also sense throughout the poem a sense of disparity kind of questioning if it would be all worth it in the end to “disturb the universe.” This would have been a terribly common theme at the time after such a debacle as the first World War. You also see towards the end Mr. Prufrock excepting his terrible fate to always lose in love which he seems to connect directly to losing in life. This could be read as a sort of calling (although I feel it rubs the modernistic theme of only presenting a picture the wrong way) people to stand if able against the powers that would ever call for another catastrophe such as World War 1, instead of cowering out like Mr. Prufrock to his insecurities and fear. Perhaps this is just a euphemism for the end of a poem that was meant to be totally dreary throughout although.

Journey of the Magi T.S. Elliot

Eliot’s poem is a recreation of the three magi’s traveling to see the foretold birth of the Christ. I feel that he writes his poem in a way to introduce an understanding of how the trip took place and what they felt at the manger. There is no room left for doubt in the poem about how miserable the trip was. This coincides biblically with the census that was taking place causing the towns to be crowded and without vacancy. I feel that Eliot portrays the magi’s as feeling confused, unsure, regretful at times, and perhaps even skeptical about their trip and what was to actually happen. He also shows some foreshadowing with the “three trees” in the distance as their trip comes near its destination. This is obviously a reference to the death of Jesus and the three crosses, but at the same time I am unsure o what he meant to portray by foreshadowing that. Perhaps the theme of birth and death in the same picture again. There are a number of ways to interpret the end of the poem. Mine is that the speaker realizes that with Jesus’ birth there has to be an innocent death paid as foretold also. He also sees that Jesus’ birth forces he himself to be reborn in Christ. His rebirth is what he describes as “bitter agony” because he has to let go of his worldly life and be reborn into a new lifestyle. Then he mentions he should “be glad of another death.” Which could be referring to his own so that he may enter heaven, or Christ’s so that he will be forgiven for all of his sins.