Thursday, May 8, 2014

Poetry Class

    This is my last post in regards to my Modern American Poetry class, though I do think I will continue to post for my own enjoyment. For my final post I think I will do things a little bit different. I will post about my class instead of one of the poets that I have read.
      I joined the class because I needed to fill an elective and I have always enjoyed poetry. I was looking for a class that would be easy and something I could focus little attention to. Though my I did not expect much from the class, I find that at the end of the semester, it is the class I will miss the most. There are several reasons for this change of attitude and I would like to share some of them with you.
     First, the professor made the class fun. He gains an indescribable excitement when discussing the poets and their works, which honestly made me realize that I did not like poetry as much as I thought. The professor's ability to engage the poem in a way that represents what the author's purpose is, and to do this easily, impressed me. The professor then would lead us (students) to begin to grasp a better understanding of the author's intent in writing the poem. Where I used to just read the poem and enjoy it for rhyme and rhythm, he taught me to slow, put the poem into my own words and find what emotions were held within the words of the poem. This ability to understand the poem better has made me actually enjoy poetry. I now respect the words and writers.
     Second, my fellow classmates, through discussion and their own blogs, gave me different viewpoints to read the poems in. I got to hear how others interacted with the read poems, which also helped me in better understand the poems. I can only read poems through my past experiences, through my thought process, and through my understanding; hearing someone else's personal reflection of the text is wonderful in the fact that it allows me to experience the text through emotions I would not normally be able to experience it with. To those who are in my class and may read this, I truly enjoyed being in class with you and I thank you for sharing your thoughts, they have helped me a lot. I also want to address that I said some things regarding some poems that may have left you scratching your head (my comments on Muriel Rukeyser's Mearl Blankenship probably is my best example of this). I did this at times just to get conversation going when things were a little slow, I apologize.
      Third, this class made me want to write  again. I used to write poetry all the time (looking back most were not very good), now I feel like taking pen to paper again and just letting the words flow onto the page like "something like wave after wave that breaks on the beach" (Rukeyser's Poem White Page White Page Poem). I have no intention of ever being published again (yes, I was published once), but maybe someone will come across a poem that I might post on this blog and actually enjoy it.
     These are just a few things I walk away with from this class. I have grown to actually enjoy poetry and the people who write them. So let the last words that I post in regards to this class be said to my professor and my fellow classmates, Thank You.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Many Confessions of a Poet

             Sylvia Plath is indeed a remarkable poet. In her poem, Lady Lazarus, Plath completely blows my mind with the raw pain and internal suffering that she is able to communicate. With her marriage falling apart and a past of emotional breakdowns haunting her, she is able to let the reader into her desire to rise above these setbacks in her life. Just like the Phoenix, she will rise out of her own ashes and be stronger than she was before. But is it all in vain? She states that this is her third attempt to be reborn, if the first two did not work, will this time be different?
            This is a perfect example of poetry flowing from life. We are not supposed to read her life into the poems, but it is hard not to when this poem was written only months before her suicide. Plath was a brilliant writer, and in this poem, she uses her brilliance to try and pursued her readers and possibly even herself that she was going to overcome her struggles. Sadly it was not the case.
            Her use of imagery from Nazi WWII treatment of the Jews gives a great description of how torn inside she truly was. Some of the images she mentions are painful to read and makes it hard to grasp how evil man can be. With work as moving as this, one can only question what could have come if she lived, and what may not have come if she was not so torn inside.

Frederick Seidel’s Mount Street Gardens is a confessional poem as Plath’s, just not near as dark and infused with some humor. This is a simple poem which talks about how a man has watched his little town grow into a big city that is more flashy and fancy than he ever wanted it to be. He reminisces about the old ways that he truly loved and speaks of some of the changes that have taken place, and now the only enjoyment he gets when visiting is sitting on a park bench in the garden that is hidden behind all of the growth.                                                                                     

The Sweet and the Sad and Sweet

          Elizabeth Bishop’s Man-Moth is amazing! There is everything one wants in a poem (or a story for that matter), mystery, darkness, sadness, a hope that can never be fulfilled, and all of it lies in a character that has a genuinely gentle heart. If you have read any of my other posts you know I enjoy the darker creepy stuff, I think it plays more to the imagination, which entails allows your emotions to become more subjective to the poem itself.
            I may be reading more into this poem than what is actually there, but I think this poem tells the lives of many people, even if those people do not accept it. First we have a man who chooses to remain hidden by living in the underground tunnels. How often do we choose to keep thoughts and emotions hidden from those around us, we bury our burdens deep inside so others will not have to be bothered. There have probably been a few occasion when one chooses to actually open up and reveal what is going on inside and it ends up not working out as planned and just like the Moth-Man one ends up falling on their back. When this fall takes place, the person who has fallen ends up going back into their hiding place, alone and sad.
            Given this is not an image most want to look at in themselves, but it is there. That is why Bishop’s use of imagery is so great in this poem, it taps into an emotional side that most try to avoid, yet gives so much character. I just want to give the Moth-Man a hug to tell you the truth. On a secondary note, I enjoy cryptozoology and this story reminded me of the Mothman mystery that took place in West Virginia about fifty years ago.

            Ron Padgett’s  The Love Cook is nothing like Bishop’s aforementioned poem, this poem is simple and tells of a person who is willing to care for and cook for the person they love who has been gone for most of the day. It is simple and sweet.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Image is Everything...Sometimes

            William Carlos Williams’ poem “The Great Figure” is awesome. I love it when poets are able to create a large picture with just a few words. With very little description, I am able to be transported back to a time when I was smaller, hearing a fire engine roar down the road, I ran outside just to see it. Though descriptions are few, I can still place the picture of this fire truck with the large number 5 on the side of it screaming past me. I can describe it from the color scheme to the stainless steel gauges that display the water pressure.
            This is what poetry should do; it should tap into your emotional subconscious and allow you to be taken to a moment of your life to which you can relate to the poem. With minimal description, yet using just enough description to get the picture into the imagination of the reader, Williams successfully takes his readers back to childhood with this short, yet image filled poem.

            Diane Di Prima’s poem “The Window” takes an opposite approach than Williams does in “The Great Figure.” Prima, for the most part, describes the window without actually using descriptions of the window. In this case, Di Prima gives the reader an image of the surroundings and through some metaphor, what the window is for. I also enjoy this type of imagery in a poem because it allows you to let your imagination control what you see. Sometime leaving room for interpretation of imagery is a good thing, it creates a personal feel for the poem that most probably will not share.

Let it Flow with Rukeyser

Muriel Rukeyser’s poem “Poem White Page White Page Poem” is one that I find very interesting. Rukeyser uses the metaphor of waves crashing on the beach to help her readers identify with the process of writing good poetry. In the process of discussing the writing of poetry, the reader is also given an example of what good poetry should look like. Through imagery, Rukeyser is sharing with her readers the process she uses to write her poetry, allowing the reader to think that they can also accomplish such a task (writing poetry).
To break down the poem, one finds that it stats with just a blank white page. The writer proceeds to allow emotions and thoughts to flow from his/her soul like “waves” which control the fingers that hold the pen. This first glimpse in the writing process illuminates the idea that good poetry writes itself. When good poetry writes itself, the poet is able to relate to the readers emotions through image, mood, and experience.
Rukeyser proceeds to tell that the process of the poem flowing from the author, it begins to “declare for my whole life,” the good and the bad. The ability to allow the poem to write itself makes the author vulnerable to his/her audience because giving emotions full control of the poem creates an alley for bottled up feelings to be released. These feelings can be of happy moments and moments of sorrow and anger, again creating relationships between the poet and the reader.
As “wave after wave that breaks on the beach” is the in relation to the process of not ending the poem until it ends itself. Once the waves stop crashing, the poem is over the author should not try to incorporate any more material or try to use intellect to finish the work. Once the waves have finished crashing and the poem ceases to flow from your soul, it should stand alone as a single work of art that is able to stand upon its own merits. Do not force poetry let it flow from the depths of your being.

            Instead of comparing Rukeyser’s poem with another on this post, I thought I would just share a poem with you that I wrote. I will not say that it is good or that it is a work of art (I don’t think the author should praise his/her own work) but I did sit and let it flow. Tell me what you think.

                                                Happy Birthday My Love

The children are quiet, no sounds to hear as I wake from an unrest-full sleep.
The smiles I am used to in the mornings are not to be found – just tears.
My love sits beside me, no hug, no kiss, no joy to be found – just tears.

The first words said are “I’m sorry.” Not what I expect after waking from sleep.
Confused, I inquire about the sorrow. No answer to be given – just tears.
After long pause, with heavy breath, my love pushes away the pain – but not the tears.

While the children are quiet, her soul is what I hear. I am no longer dazed by an unrest-full sleep.
She somberly tells me that this day of my birth has lost its joy – now just tears.
The birth expected will no longer come – we embrace – we pray – with tears.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Injustice of That Thing Called Justice

Justice by Langston Hughes may be a short poem, but it is a powerful poem. It is comprised of four lines that are made of a mere twenty six words. In those twenty six words is a message that is big enough to represent an entire era of struggle, hate, and inequality.
            Hughes begins his poem by calling Justice a “blind goddess.” In classic mythology gods and goddesses are known to be removed from the humans, only showing themselves for selfish reasons such as self-glorification, “jumping on the good foot and doing the bad thing” (as quoted from the great philosopher Austin Powers), and to spite fellow gods. One can contend that Hughes is making the statement that justice is removed from the Black peoples, especially in the south. Hughes also describes this removed justice as “blind,” indicating that justice is not just removed from the Black Americans but is also ignorant to this fact. Those who claim to be on the side of justice are far removed from what they claim to uphold and are not even aware of their fallacy. This statement is followed by a line that indicates that the people who are aware of this discrimination are the people who are being discriminated against.
            Lines three and four further the assertion that justice is blind, indicating that justice not only has a bandage covering its eyes, but the eyes are not even there anymore, they have become festering sores. What people claim to be justice is so far removed from the real thing that even if it wanted to change and be restored to what justice is actually supposed to be, it would be a difficult, if not impossible thing to accomplish. Justice is still blind, but maybe Hughes would be happy with the progress that it has made.

Shailja Patel’s ICC Kenya Trails: Witness is a poem about a witness who was blinded by an attacker. The witness asks several questions to gain to try and understand why she was left alive and why she was blinded. She seeks justice to come to the attacker but believes that it will not because she cannot identify who it was. With no sight she has no case. The means of the justice that would come to the attacker is now blind, and thus the justice is removed.

A Harlem Dancer's Family Dinner

        Claude McKay’s Harlem Dancer is a poem filled with emotions that make the poem difficult to ascribe just one. Some may argue that it is hollow because the dancer is showing a carefree, happy attitude, though the author states that her smiles are false, or fake. Some may argue that it has a feeling of detachment because in her mind she is not where her body says she is at emotionally. There are many different emotions that this poem can cause the reader to feel, I will not argue against those emotions because those are the emotions that readers get for various reasons which make poetry so great.
            The emotion that resonates with when I read this poem is that of remorse. You may be scratching your head at this particular emotion and not see where I can come up with such a notion. Good news! I will tell you. It all comes down to the last two lines. “Looking at her falsely-smiling face, I knew her self was not in that strange place” The entire poem paints the picture that this woman is the center of the party. People are admiring her dancing and singing. She looks so happy, yet she is not there in her mind. I see a woman who deeply troubled, maybe her move to Harlem did not bring the happiness she expected, maybe she lost a loved one, maybe she just does not like the people in her neighborhood, either way she is clearly troubled or saddened by something. You are still thinking “Where do you get remorse from?”
Have you ever been in a time of life where you put on mask? The world around you is falling apart, nothing is going right, you feel emotionally or physically terrible and you just want to let someone know. You want someone to help share this burden that you carry. When that friend or family member comes that you can trust and they ask you how everything is going and you respond with a smile and a lie of an answer such as, “God is good and I am having a great day.” Or maybe the response is a simple “I’m fine.” Losing your opportunity to let someone know what is happening, to let someone help you carry the burden that is weighing you down usually does not put a smile on one’s face and have them walk away rejoicing the fact that they still feel alone in their struggles. One usually feels remorse that they did not speak truthfully, they lost the chance to unload. This is what I see in the Harlem Dancer, a woman puts on a mask and does not share her true feelings, and this makes her feel horrible. I am sure she danced well though.
            Priscilla Lee’s poem Family Dinner describes a girl who is the complete opposite of the Harlem Dancer. She is very open about her feelings and the feelings others in her family have for her. She hides nothing. Nothing. Her family does not like her yet she still dines with them for the holidays. She deals with her life, she does not hide what she feels or thinks.