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 ( 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.