Posts Tagged ‘just for the heckov it’

Walcott on Empire and Language

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

I thought this interview would be a good addition to the blog because Walcott speaks directly about empire, a prominent theme in his poetry that we focused on in Friday’s class. He gives an interesting definition of empire from his own perspective, and discusses his culturally and racially diverse background. He and the interviewer also engage in a discussion about language towards the end of the interview.  I think the last minute of the interview is also a highlight!

Making People Look

Monday, April 8th, 2013

When discussing Yusef Komunyakaa’s “History Lessons”, Professor Scanlon said how in part, this poem was about “making people look” at the realities of race relations during the civil rights era time, and that struck me, because I believe that “making people look” is the theme of all of Komunyakaa’s work, not only with “History Lessons” and “The Whistle”, but with his “Dien Cai Dau” poems as well.

I cannot help but project my own thoughts and feelings onto Komunyakaa’s work, so perhaps I am being too introspective, but I think that the time he spent in Vietnam really aided in the expository nature of his poems.  Having spent time traveling in Vietnam myself, I can definitely see how “making people look” is much more of a cultural norm there than it is here.  Here, when American readers are forced to look at ugly, harsh, painful, and oftentimes embarrassing reflections of their own society, the reaction of the readers is that of shock.  We’re not made to look at harsh realities enough, and I think Komunyakaa knows that.

An interesting example of this is when I visited the Vietnam/American War Museum in Saigon.  The theme of the museum was to really expose the events of the war to the public in a very honest and visual way.  There are several rooms and floors to the museum, each one dedicated to a different problem caused by the war through walls and walls of large photographs.  The room that definitely sticks out the most is the Agent Orange room, in which there were masses of pictures of nothing but children and their malformed bodies as a result of Agent Orange. Other picture galleries in the museum were of people who were physically disabled because of the war, people who were mourning the loss of loved ones, and people who were in the middle of fighting.  What I saw in pictures, though, Komunyakaa saw first hand.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that Vietnam really really really affected Komunyakaa and his writing style, and I’m diggin it, because I think it’s important for people to see what they don’t necessarily want to.  Homeless people, disabled people, impoverished disfigured children, mourning wives, fighting soldiers, butchered animals, beautiful paddies and jungles and villages turned into warzones….all of these things deserve to be seen, just like the racially charged and violent scenes of the American civil rights movement deserve to be seen. So, way to go, Komunyakaa!  I’m diggin you.

Plath’s “Lady Lazarus”

Monday, March 11th, 2013

I’m going to argue that the “you” Plath is referring to is her husband, Ted Hughes.  Furthermore, I think that the Nazis are also a metaphor for Hughes.  I say, this entire poem is about Hughes!

Obviously, there were many problems in Plath and Hughes’s marriage.  And Plath certainly doesn’t shy from using Nazis to represent OTHER male figures in her poetry (i.e “Daddy”), so why can’t these Nazis be Hughes?

I read the “spectacle” part of this poem as how the speaker feels when her husband looks at her, or comes on to her.  There he is, munchin’ on his peanuts and chillin’ as she “undresses” and tries to make a marriage and a real relationship… as she tries to make her life work!

Because Plath was obviously very well educated, I don’t even think it’s a stretch to suggest that the “dying” in this poem is a pun a la the Shakespearean meaning of dying, i.e. having an orgasm, or even just being intimate with her husband.

I got the Hughes vibe especially in the last few stanzas, if you care to take a look.  (“HERR ENEMY”!!!)

Or a piece of my hair on my clothes.
So, so, Herr Doktor.
So, Herr Enemy.

I am your opus,
I am your valuable,
The pure gold baby

That melts to a shriek.
I turn and burn.
Do not think I underestimate your great concern.

Ash, ash—
You poke and stir.
Flesh, bone, there is nothing there—-

A cake of soap,
A wedding ring, (!!!!)
A gold filling.

Herr God, Herr Lucifer

Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.


Did anyone else sense this layer of meaning? Or am I the only one?

Probably not substantive enough to be post-worthy, but…

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

I figured, why not?

When Professor Scanlon mentioned during our intro to the Confessional unit the fact that Slyvia Plath is the most romanticized of the Confessional poets because of her early suicide, I thought of Kurt Cobain.  I think that Plath is to the Confessionals what Kurt is to grunge/rock music.  They were both young, attractive, and exceedingly talented.  Both of their lives were cut short because of their suicides.

In both Plath and Cobain lies an idyllic symbol of Suffering, because they are both Really Sad but also Really Beautiful and Really Young, and therefore acceptable idols for those just discovering the respective genres.

At the same time, it’s easy to decide “no, they’re not worthy of my respect” BECAUSE they’re such mainstream symbols of their genres.  But let’s not be hipsters, guys. (Who am I kidding…this is UMW.)

I think it’s important to respect that both of these artists were pretty damn good, but it’s also important to note that their reputation is problematic in the sense that they are too idealized because of their beauty and circumstance of death.


I mean, look at that face.




Dang!  She cute too!

Brooks essay

Friday, March 1st, 2013

Prompt posted.  Due date moved back to March 15.

Brooks, anything but Babbling

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Actually, the babbling might be done on my part…

I am just very much enamored with Brooks, stylistically in particular. Her half rhymes are brilliant, and she has a great knack for internal rhyme– and those are two of my special favorite parts of reading poetry. In my opinion, one of the greatest delights of reading poetry is that it TASTES like something when the words take shape. Now, maybe that makes me sound like I’m experiencing synesthesia, but seriously, words have tastes, and poems, if done well, are entire meals. And I’m finding Brooks’ more than palatable.

My favorite passage in everything we read for our upcoming class actually occurs in our “first” page of reading, pg. 58, and goes as follows:

Oh oh. Too much. Too much. Even now, surmise,
She rises in the sunshine. There she goes,
Back to the bars she knew and the repose
In love-rooms and the things in people’s eyes.
Too vital and too squeaking. Must emerge. (5-9).

Ironically, this part of the poem, which I think is the most shattering part of the account of Cousin Vit, is written almost exclusively in iambic pentameter. Excepting the first line, which is full of Brooks’ characteristic spondees, it is rhythmically sound and hardly strays from the five even feet per line.

However, after reading further in the book, this is atypical of Brooks’ style: she is definitely a fan of spondees, and these lines could have easily been written more emphatically, with more stressed words and accents. My question is this: by letting us as readers “settle” into the comfortable ka-THUNK ka-THUNK rhyhtm of even iambs, was Brooks intentionally dulling the impact of recounting her cousin’s life in such personal terms, by making it seem “even-keeled” and “normal”? Or is it a slip of the wrist so that we are meant to note the striking discordance between her content and her form at such a poignant time in the poem? Just a thought, y’all. Told you I’m babbling.

An Old Blue Place

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

I know we aren’t supposed to get into him/it yet… but I couldn’t stop myself from digging into “Kaddish and Other Poems” (a little bit prematurely, albeit) in preparation for tomorrow’s class.

“It leaps about me, as I go out and walk down the street, look back over my shoulder, Seventh Avenue, the battlements of window office buildings, shouldering each other high, under a cloud, tall as the sky for an instant– and the sky above– an old blue place.” (Kaddish, 8).

Besides being eternally in love with internal rhyme (sky/high), and the dual use of “shoulder” here, does anyone else want to meet Ginsberg (now deceased) in that “old blue place,” a place worthy of punctuation OTHER THAN A COMMA in this ever-flowing poem?!

I’d love to have dinner with him. There, I said it. And Naomi, too, if she’s anything like Allen!

In the interest of CoPo…

Monday, January 14th, 2013

..and the untimely arrival (or lack there (of) my textbooks, I’ve taken to re-reading my personal post ’45 favorites.  A creeping suspicion tells they won’t remain my favorites for long, but tonight–while there’s still time–I will drown myself in Mary Oliver’s “Whelks”, dreaming up the many ways my  own carapase will “[rub] against the world” in years to come.

To poetry!


Here are the perfect
fans of the scallops,
quahogs, and weedy mussels
still holding their orange fruit –
and here are the whelks –
each the size of a fist,
but always cracked and broken –
clearly they have been travelling
under the sky-blue waves
for a long time.
All my life
I have been restless –
I have felt there is something
more wonderful than gloss –
than wholeness –
than staying at home.
I have not been sure what it is.
But every morning on the wide shore
I pass what is perfect and shining
to look for the whelks, whose edges
have rubbed so long against the world
they have snapped and crumbled –
they have almost vanished,
with the last relinquishing
of their unrepeatable energy,
back into everything else.
When I find one
I hold it in my hand,
I look out over that shanking fire,
I shut my eyes. Not often,
but now and again there’s a moment
when the heart cries aloud:
yes, I am willing to be
that wild darkness,
that long, blue body of light.