Posts Tagged ‘#hailscanlon’

Still Looking for “The Lost Empire”

Friday, April 12th, 2013

I left class today feeling conflicted over our interpretation of Walcott’s Caribbean in “The Lost Empire”.

Now I have never been the Caribbean myself. However, I do sail, and that interest has thrust me into a community of those who spend winters there, maintaining boats whose owners are unwilling to both risk the damages of an east coast mooring or crew the vessel themselves. The result of this intimacy gives me an interesting perspective on the archipelago which Walcott describes to “look as if a continent fell and scattered into fragments” (lyric II, lines 2-3). This perspective is one which begs me argue against sentiments of the “small place produc[ing] nothing but beauty.”

The islands I perceive are home to a giant social george. That is, a gaping  chasm between rich and poor. The exact opposite of a “simplifying light” the author illustrates four lines from the bottom. Perhaps those who can afford it are “receiving vessels of each day’s grace”, but those who cannot seem to be receiving vessels of capitalist colonial fallout. Without an infrastructure to protect them from exploitation, the islands have become a bona fide waste basket for the overnight tourism boom. Pollution runs rampant under a disposable standard, and a people who may have once attempted to husband the albeit picturesque landscape are now plagued with Western growing pains.

It surprises me that Walcott doesn’t see this. Or that we are unable to trace an appropriate irony in his “content”. Lyrics I and II must be sewn together somehow. After centuries of haunting, “The Spectre of Empire” surely didn’t just pack up and leave….

…right?

images

“You and I Are Disappearing”

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

Okay, I felt the need to rant because I am madly in love with this poem and Komunyakaa in general. I wish our discussion today could have continued because it is so interesting to me the different ways that this poem can be read! I love how some of the images of burning are fake or not literally burning, like dry ice, foxfire, and a shot of vodka. I also am swooning over the last line: “She burns like a burning bush driven by a godawful wind.” To me, this is Komunyakaa being cynical about the purpose of all of these innocent Vietnamese people having to die. Unlike Moses, who received a message from the burning bush and ultimately, the Ten Commandments, there was no distinct message in this girl’s death. He is commenting upon the fact that she burned but to what purpose? He portrays this frustration and confusion by calling the wind “godawful,” which is also a play on words considering that God spoke to Moses through the burning bush. Anyway, just a bit of ranting and obsession about this poem!

on your bed, a Helena Rubinstein smile.

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

In case any of you were wondering, here’s what Helena Rubinstein’s “smile” looks like

disclaimer: I don’t understand technology so a link will have to do…and honestly, I’m not sure if the link will even work.

 

daM goD

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

During Monday’s discussion of “Looking a Mad Dog Dead in the Eyes,” Sarah’s comment about reading “Mad Dog” as an anagram blew my mind.

I believe the speaker is criticizing man’s relationship with God. Furthermore, I think the speaker is calling on man to take back control and suggests that man should assert his power over God.

I think this has to be a myth, or at least partially a myth, but growing up I was always told that there was a simple way to establish dominance with a dog (granted, I was terrified of dogs much of my young life so there’s a good chance this was a lie adults told me, thinking I might find it comforting). I was told that one must look a dog dead in the eyes and hold its gaze to assert power until the dog ultimately looks away.

I think it’s interesting to think that this poem is criticizing the way we have been trained to worship God and calling on us, instead, to train God…even if this all does sound a bit Mad.

Shadows & Ghosts

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

Alright, Komunyakaa loves talking about shadows & ghosts (& he really loves ampersands- by the way).

“Gray-blue shadows lift/ shadows onto an oxcart.” (Starlight Scope Myopia 1-2)
“unaware our shadows have untied/ from us, wandered off/ & gotten lost.” (A Greenness Taller Than God 20-23)
“We’re men ready to be fused/ with gost pictures, trying” (Seeing in the Dark 14-15)
“with a platoon of shadows” (The Edge 7) also, not techinically a shadow/ghost, but still: “to the charred air, silhouettes of jets” (27)
“Ghosts share us with the past & future” (Jungle Surrender 1)
“Sometimes I wrestled their ghosts” (Short-timer’s Calendar 14)

& the list goes on…

I’m not sure what point I’m trying to make, but I guess I’m just wondering what you make of this repetition. Obviously, I can understand why ghosts & shadows would appear in a collection of poems about war, but I feel like Komunyakaa has to be more brilliant than this. Beyond lost souls what do you think these figures represent?

another burning question…

Garrett mentioned to me the other day that Vollmer used the ampersand exclusively and that he had meant to ask her about why she made this choice. Now, I can’t help but notice that Komunyakaa also uses the ampersand exclusively. I really want to know whether this was an editor’s choice or if this was the poet’s preference and their reasoning. What do you think?

Dead.

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

Although I don’t usually like poetry about war or battles, Komunyakaa’s word choice and descriptions just made me dead in every one of his poems in the Dien Cai Dau (Vietnamese for I am crazy or you make me crazy)  section for tomorrow. I particularly loved “You and I are Disappearing”. I looked up Bjorn Hakansson (the one who said the title) and he was a really cool guy-he had underdeveloped arms due to a pill his mom took during pregnancy and went on to form a group that helps others in similar situations. I don’t know the context in which the quote was said, but I’m curious as to why Komunyakaa chose that as the title.  (http://archive.eurordis.org/article.php3?id_article=1783)

I’m just going to list a few of my favorite lines/phrses because I just loved “You and I are Disappearing  so much:

  • The cry I bring down from the hills/ belongs to a girl still burning/ inside my head.
  • We stand with our hands/ hanging at our sides
  • She burns like oil on water.
  • A tiger under a rainbow / at nightfall.
  • She burns like a shot glass of vodka.
  • She rises like dragonsmoke/ to my nostrils.

As someone else mentioned, the line breaks are superbly orchestrated, giving the poem extra punch and adding an extra layer of awesomeness. I am just blown away by the creativity that takes place to come up with lines like “A tiger under a rainbow / at nightfall” when describing the girl burning. Komunyakaa is a genius when it comes to word choice and descriptions and I can’t wait to go all fangirl when we talk about him in class tomorrow.

 

Dying/in love with Komunyakaa

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

Okay, so if there is one thing to always remember about me, it is that Eliot and Ginsberg are in an eternal war over my poem-lovin’ heart… only they’re both dead and neither one of them will ever know it. Which is why I don’t feel so bad about cheating on them with Komunyakaa… because I’m definitely falling in love with his poetry, too.

I’m actually embarrassingly emotional about this right now, so I won’t go into too much detail about it, except to say that piece after piece, I keep noticing his line breaks more than anything else… in a very good way! I think “Jasmine” in particular provides an excellent example of this: if you get a chance, go back and check out the line breaks of “I thought my body had forgotten the Deep/South…” (4-5); “My mind is lost among November/cotton flowers…” (12-13); and “The trumpet’s almost kissed/by enough pain…” (23-24). They’re really exceptional, in my humble opinion.

While you’re still messing with “Jasmine,” by the way, you should totally check out “Duke” and “Basie,” a.k.a. the famous jazzers Komunyakaa is referencing in this particular piece. Duke Ellington and Count Basie were two super-influential jazz pianists, and if you don’t know what they sound like, you should seriously look ’em up. 🙂 Additionally, “Clifford’s/shadow” refers to Clifford Brown (I’m guessing), who was a brilliant up-and-coming jazz trumpeter who died way too early as a passenger in a car accident, shocking and devastating the jazz world. He was incredible, too, and would have definitely had a stunning career if not for his death, hence the “shadow” and “ghosts” in the poem. Just fun jazz facts for your musical edification. 🙂

Also, “Returning the Borrowed Road” totally killed me, if not for the sole reason that my dad is spending a lot of time in Missoula, Montana, nowadays. It just really hit home.

I can’t WAIT to talk about him/all of this tomorrow.

POETRY READING ON APRIL 4

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

UPDATE: PLEASE SIGN UP ON THIS GOOGLE DOC BY TODAY AT 4:30. IT’S OKAY IF YOU’RE LATE, BUT WE’D LOVE YA IF YOU WERE EARLY!

Or copy and paste the URL below:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1KcRMPSYGGmvg9_LE-uKJdcOXugGom2ybdWZYMezOC4I/edit?usp=sharing

So far, we have 12 of you (including myself) interested in reading. Regardless of what you decide to read for Thursday Poems, please make sure you do not go above 2:30. It will not be fair to the rest of the participants. If you have any questions, please let me know or post ’em onto the Google doc!

Thank you

I BELIEVE IN YOU! 

MORE Judith Vollmer

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

http://http://fourthriver.chatham.edu/index.php/where-the-music-happens-an-interview-with-judith-vollmer

I was very impressed with Vollmer…so naturally I did a little stalking after class on Friday. If you didn’t get to ask all the questions you wanted to, then check out this interview! I found it on judithvollmer.com.

From “Memories and Thoughts on Adrienne Rich”

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

Did you know Adrienne Rich passed away last week on the 27th in California? I did not. Writer Cathy Park Hong wrote one of the most beautiful memoriam pieces I have read yet for Poetry Foundation this past weekend.

While Hong discusses her own personal meeting with Rich filled with warmth and compelling conversation, she tackles the same question that Rich and even we grapple with as readers of poetry: “is poetry political?” Poetry may seem “flimsy” when discussing “war, class, sexism, racism, terror” and all the other social intersections that surround society. What Rich and Hong communicate, and what we saw Brooks trump, is that whether or not poetry seems useless, there is an “ethical responsibility” to be engage in a “historically charged moment to write it.” There is an “urgency” that writers and readers both usurp to resolve any uncertainty. The first step that seems to be taken is to read or write these poems.

Hong then discusses a “courage,” both public and private, that poets take when writing. Rich did examine this courage and use it if not to catalyze, then identify a revolution:

Then I turn to Adrienne Rich and her essays, her poems, become a call-to-arms, a reawakening of my fatigued consciousness: “We may feel bitterly how little our poems can do in the face of seemingly out of control technological power and seemingly limitless corporate greed, yet it has always been true that poetry can break isolation, show us to ourselves when we are outlawed or made invisible, remind us of beauty where no beauty seems possible, remind us kinship where all is represented as separation.”

A nice companion blog post to this would be Abbie‘s “Where’s the poetry in today’s Climate Movement?” from February. Here’s to you, Rich.