Posts Tagged ‘there and back again’

In Response to “A Far Cry From Africa”

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

I personified Africa as is it were crying from a far in, “A Far Cry From Africa”

In the first four lines of the poem Walcott describes the terrain and the state of Africaand how like the Kikuyu, who have an agricultural economy, other countries like America have benefitted from African people or Africa’s natural resources like diamonds and coffee.  If other countries would have left Africa alone there would probably be less corpses scattered through the paradise. “Only the worm, colonel of carrion, cries”: Colonel-a French and English word, parts of Africa have been colonized by the French, English nation have stolen Africans. Carrion-Anglo French word as well meaning rotting flesh. Colonels of carrion are the worm. Think of an apple with a worm in it borrowing through destroying the entire apple for its own health. Colonels of Carrion cry out, “Waste no compassion on these separate dead.” Clinton did not save Africans as soon as he could, many countries turn a blind eye to Africa and their troubles and consider Africa dead already. “Statistics justify and scholars seize”- Do not underestimate the half meanings in this poems, they speak for themselves. “The salient of colonial policy”- colonial to me goes back to the British embarking on the new world, pushing the natives out and setting up shop on new land, colonialism is the begininning of a rotting apple due to a worm that is colonialism. The term color white is innocents not the race in the first stanza: “What is that to the white child hacked in bed?” “To savages, expendable as Jews?”: similar to how Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.  Africa has been “threshed out by beaters” and the white dust from the beating of Africa spreads like white birds(ibises) whose cries have wheeled since the dawn of civilization where all humans come from. The uprightman seeking his divinity (spread of Christianity) by inflicting pain. “While he calls courage still that native(natives dread what he calls courage)/ dread of the white peace(white peace-death) contracted by the dead.”

“Again brutish necessity wipes its hands/ upon the napkin of a dirty cause, again/ a waste of compassion, as with Spain,/ the gorilla wrestles with the superman.”-gorilla, a wild or native animal that must be colonized by a white superman. At least Walcott curses the drunken officer of British rule. Walcott does not betray both, he gives back what they give through poems like this. How can he have both forces dwell in him and not be enraged? He asks, How can we turn from Africa and live?

Spoken Word Videos for next week

Monday, April 15th, 2013

1.  For Monday:

Go to Def Poetry on channel musikslove (81 videos) and watch the following:

  • Black Ice, “Imagine” #16
  • Gina Loring, “Somewhere There Is a Poem” #19
  • Sunni Patterson, “We Made It” #76
  • Suheir Hammad, “First Writing Since” #77

Go to urbanrenewalprogram (80 videos) and watch the following:

  • Linton Kwesi Johnson, “If I was a top notch poet”
  • Staceyann Chin, “If only out of vanity”
  • Jessica Care Moore, “I’m a hip-hop cheerleader”
  • Erykah Badu, “Friends, fan, and artists”
  • Danny Hoch, “Corner Talk, September”
  • Amiri Baraka, “Why is we Americans”
  • Beau Sia, “Give me a chance”
  • Taylor Mali, “What teachers make”

2. For Wednesday:

Videos are student choice.  In Comments on this post, provide the name of the artist, the name of the poem, and the link (paste it in and it will go live when you post the comment).   RULES:

  • The poem must be recorded in a performance, and should NOT be a video production.
  • Each student may post only one video, so choose wisely!  It is NOT mandatory that you choose a poem.

Snake eats tail

Monday, April 8th, 2013

Gjertrud Schnackenberg is criticized for her use of pentameter because of its musical quality.

X. J. Kennedy was a light poet because he refused the shades of confessionalist.

Dana Gioia attacks academia and career poets as the downfall to poetry even though he is an unpolished formalist.

Adrienne Rich has her sonnet sequence like Professor Scanlon stated but it rejects the norms of traditionalism with the lesbian themes.

My question today was, “Are the New Formalist poets any different than other experimenting poetic genres?”.

And I talked about this with Andy after class.

I think we came to a middle ground that if it affects the form and it rejects the norm, then it isn’t exactly reverting towards the past, but that it is creating a new movement.

I think the New Formalism movement was just as experimental as the other poetry movements we have encountered.

I know Mario had an antagonistic view of the New Formalist, when it came to content vs. form, but I think the content is what makes the form so powerful such as with Adrienne Rich’s Lesbian infusion, the lightness of X.J.’s poetry, and Schnackenberg’s lyricism.

I too prefer a form to be birthed through my creativity like Mario and Vollmer, but I think that our way is just one of many which makes a creative poet, and we can’t reject how the formation of art occurs, because then we become just a hypocritical as the people we are trying to persuade into understanding our ingenuity.

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.


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.  (

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.


Monday, March 18th, 2013

Mind over matter or lobo

splatter of a readily reached

region, My epicenter.Com


Pewter chipped, reprogrammed, reset.

 Regret and now a brain fart, a

tart vegetable. Out of sync


With my sweet red beat. They speak of

 chemical imbalances, a

tragic faint foreshadowed until


I realize all is fair in this

dense heir. They will not confiscate

 this southern mental state. Hexed by


Celexa? or accept fair fate

Visual trifecta. Left right,

left, right, inner sight, stumble, re-


 Gain, refrain, play with the toys not

Your organs. Pituitary

playground, cerebellum jungle


Gym, true monkey bars, mental hide

 and seek. Close your eyes and count down

from ten. Seek until you hit The


Fence. Have a seat on a bench. Be

happy with the inch or take The

 green mile. Strapped in your own elect


Tric chair on top of your frame. Framed,

buckled in dimensions, dead dig-

its. Remembering math class and strain.


Joy Comes in the Morning Sun

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013
Before explaining “Morning Sun” the best I can. I want to start at the beginning of class Monday when Professor gave us the two perspectives of confessional poetry. (1)Confession-expiation of sins, self accusation non-conformism, suicide, in contestable, self surveillance. (2)poverty of the ideology, actual pain given and taken, politic repressive, socialism.  Being one who is very decisive, I have decided that I can not decide between the two for this poem and will strive to incorporate both perspectives within this “statue” of a poem, “Morning Song.”
Hearing a lot of “be carefuls” in class about our interpretations of pronouns like, “I” and “You” and who they might be, tells me to not be careful at all because the people who warn “us”, whoever they might be are not Sylvia Plath and are merely giving opinions.  Interpretations are merely that, ones own opinion of a given work. I give my opinion this fine evening. 
The pronouns to focus on in this poem are “Love/One”, “Our”, “I”, “Your”, and “We.” I know some begin to perspire when religion is brought into the conversation but it will be ok, I promise.  One may suggest “Love” is God and God is Love. “Our”, being society. or the “peanut-crunching crowd” that Plath would call them Or Nature birds chirping etc. “I”, is the speaker whoever you may be please take the mic when you have the chance, we can be the speaker box. “Your” or “you” is the most fun because it can be interchanged with the speaker or God. “We” isn’t as fun but it is synonymous with “Our.” Read along if you would like to overstand as Bob Marley would say:
God set you going like a fat gold watch.(wake up) “midwife”- at birth, slapped your footsoles(walk perhaps), Bald cry( first cry at birth) the elements(society or Nature)
Our voices(chattering in the peanut gallery, or birds chirping) New statue(Man or Women)
drafty Muse( Muse is good, drafty bad). We stand round blankly like walls(trying to capture you with their stares).
The third stanza is very tough but, you know how Jesus was created in the likeness of man? cloud (pure soul, Jesus) that distill a mirror to reflect its own slow Effacement at the wind’s hand, lots of natural stuff would tell me that God is present.
We as strong statue humans are cut down to the size of “flat pink roses” in the fourth stanza. pink roses(innocent babies)I wake to listen( I’ve heard of people not getting out of bed unless they “hear” that it is time, from something if it be an alarm, birds, a crash etc.)
God’s cry( to us), Victorian(champion to see another day). Your mouth( yawn perhaps or we haven’t cursed yet like a clean slate, or God’s cry is clear in the form of an alarm, birds chirping, or crash). The window square( my favorite part, regular old window or the sky).
and now you try( you little star you). Your handful of notes(what we know, our lexicon of knowledge, some suggest God speaks through us). clear vowels like the heavenly soul or cloud or wind, translucent and sacred and just like in Bishop’s “Armadillo”,”fire balloons”, regular balloons can be used to represent those souls that rise after death, we did it at my church during vacation bible school.
This poem is essentially saying every morning is a new beginning or a birth into the day.

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.

Mea Culpa

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

I didn’t put the Brooks poems onto the Readings page!


Here is “Boy Breaking Glass.”

Here is “The Blackstone Rangers.”


And because I promised some time ago, here is a page that aggregates sites about Bronzeville.