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While reading Sylvia Plath’s poem I got the sense that the woman of the story was going through a recent breakup with a guy she was really in love with. I think the repetition of the statement: I think I made you up in my head, showed how hard it is for her to understand why this guy that she was so in love with was able to give up on her so quickly. She was saying that the ideas and thoughts she had about him couldn’t be true or else she wouldn’t be going through something so painful. I think the poem is easily relatable to the types of feelings that a person goes through during a hard breakup. I really enjoyed this poem because she talked about all her feeling during, before, and after the relationship and how it affected her.

Elizabeth Bishop hit the nail on the head with her poem “One Art.” She was able to articulate common occurrences in a way that brings about a sense of sorrow with the loss of each item. She designed the poem in a way to make the reader slow down and take the time to feel what she is trying to portray. Along with loss there is a sense of longing and foreboding, both of which bring in new complexities and levels to which the reader must try to understand.

That being said, the poem seems to be saying more than what is written. If one thinks about it, with the art of losing not being hard to master, then the loss of someone close should not be hard to accept. When one is used to losing things of more gradual importance over time, then when would one know they have lost something or someone of real importance? It turns out, however, that the art of losing is not as simple as it seems. There is a line that can be crossed where it becomes a disaster.

Mad Girl’s Blog Post

“I shut my tab and all the post drops dead;
I lift my mouse and all is born again.
(I think I lost my post inside my head.)

The keys go waltzing out in black and white,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the post drops dead.

I dreamed that you bewitched me into keys
And sung me moon-struck, typed me quite insane.
(I think I lost my post inside my head.)

Brown topples from the sky, hell’s fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan’s men:
I shut my tab and all the post drops dead.

I fancied you’d retype the way you said,
But I grow old and I forget to post.
(I think I lost my post inside my head.)

I should have typed a better post instead;
At least when spring comes they write back again.
I shut my tab and all the post drops dead.
(I think I lost my post inside my head.)”

Today my mother turns sixty-two.  Over twenty years ago she introduced me to the works of Dylan Thomas.  He remains in the favorite category for us both.  Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight.  Power and mystery are ever present as I remain captivated by the energy derived from a handful of tercets.  The call to rage is so pure and somehow delicate when preceding the dying of the light.  

Dylan Thomas’s poem affected me the most out of all of the poems this week.  The speaker is encouraging the old and dying to fight against death, or “that good night.”  At the end of the poem, we learn why: the speaker’s father is dying, and he is imploring his father to fight back against death with everything he has.  The idea of fighting against death goes against what culture has taught us; if you have lived a long, full life, then death should not seem like such a horrible thing.  In a way, it makes the speaker seem selfish for wanting to keep his father alive even though it is his time to die.

For anyone who has experienced the death of someone close to them, though, this idea is not so foreign.  You want that person to stay alive so badly because you cannot imagine life without them.  You know that you have no control over if they live or die, though, so all you can do is tell them: “do not go gentle into that good night/ rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Elizabeth Bishop’s poem “One Art” is a villanelle about coping with the loss of a loved one.  It is probably my favorite out of the group of poems for this week, just for the style.  Villanelles are an entirely new style of poetry for me, and I love them because they sound like lyrics just waiting to be put to music.  I particularly enjoy “One Art” because I can picture it as a heartbreaking ballad in a musical.

“One Art” flows like the songs of those beautifully flawed characters in almost every musical I’ve ever seen.  It starts almost innocuously, with Bishop talking about losing small things in order to “master” the “art of [loss].”  From the beginning stanza, the reader knows that Bishop is discussing loss for a reason, that she is probably building up to a big realization about the loss of someone or something important in her life, but they don’t know for sure.  She transitions to “practice losing farther, losing faster,” and mentions losing “cities,” “rivers,” and entire “continent[s],” before finally moving into the final stanza, which starts “-Even losing you.”  That one line is like that brilliant lyric that appears in my favorite heartbreaking ballads, where the viewer realizes that the character has been covering up some terrible loss for the entire show.  “One Art” brings to mind songs like “Time” from Tuck Everlasting, “How Could I Ever Forget” from Next to Normal, “You Learn to Live Without” from If/Then, “Without You” from Rent, and so many others.

 

Of this week’s selection of poems, Sylvia Plath’s “Mad Girl’s Love Song” was my favorite. I’ve always found eccentric, possibly crazy characters fascinating, and the speaker here was no exception. The villanelle style of repeating lines added to the “madness” of the voice – made it seem desperate and not exactly sane. The parentheses around “I think I made you up inside my head” caused me to feel like the speaker was not only addressing her lover but maybe talking to herself as well. Like many other poems we have read, I noticed the use of color throughout the poem, along with personification (“The stars go waltzing out in blue and red, / And arbitrary blackness gallops in”). I thought every line was written beautifully, but my favorites had to be “I should have loved a thunderbird instead; / At least when spring comes they roar back again.” I enjoyed the fact that Plath chose the thunderbird rather than a real animal because it showed how strongly the speaker felt toward her lover (in Native American mythology, the thunderbird is known to create lightning and thunder; this could mean that the speaker’s love was as strong as a thunderstorm). Overall, while the poem may be from the point of view of a “mad girl,” the emotion behind the words is something most people can relate – or want to relate – to, and maybe that shows us that love truly makes us mad.

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THE MUSIC REACHED DOWN MY THROAT, to nourish with each reverberating, electronic note and echoed with bittersweet, vibrant pungency out my ears. I was touched by music in an entirely new way when I heard/ ingested Maggot Brain for the first time.

 

 

I had allowed Napster and Instant Messaging to creep into my life with great excitement. I had found a way to access the world from my dorm room. Everyone around me was doing the same. My soon-to-be boyfriend was an Allman Brothers fanatic. He was Italian and true in form to many stereotypes. Everything with him was excessive, including the amount of time he spent messaging with his best bud back in New York. His computer screen was filled with back and forth Allman23 and FunkadelicNYU. I amused myself by imagining the scenario of the two bands being behind the screen names, tight pants and all that hair.  It was not long before FunkadelicNYU and I began our own banter. His name was Dan, but I rarely called him anything other than Funk. My education was expanding.

I was a fan of Bootsy. And what girl searching for her independence wouldn’t be a fan of an old man with rainbow dreds and a wardrobe worthy of envy? FunkadelicNYU schooled me in beats recorded and lived. He introduced me to Puerto Rican city life and the energized rhythms pumping out of New York City. We exchanged World beats without me ever leaving The Grounds of UVa.

And then it happened, it was time for me to know the insides and outs of P Funk, Funkadelic, and what seemed like a million other pieces of music history. Apparently, Bootsy came two years after Maggot Brain was released. “Maggot Brain”? Of course I hadn’t listened to something with a name like “Maggot Brain”! He couldn’t believe it, even for a white girl. With a sentiment nearing preposterous, Funk found it a necessity to reverse this craziness and he sent me a link to the title song despite it being near five in the morning, never mind that my roommate was asleep. He instructed me to turn up my speakers and cued me when to press play.

By his enthusiasm, I knew it was going to be something great, but my expectations were far surpassed. We listened in unison. Shock, uncertainty, and fascination struck me before the first spoken line. I thought of Apocalypse Now, echoing sounds of shrapnel and the hum of helicopter blades. Mother Earth was pregnant for the first time. Woah, and I had knocked her up? Wait a minute, no, no, keep going…

                        I have tasted the maggots in the mind of the universe

                        I was not offended

                        For I knew I had to rise above it all

                        Or drown in my own shit

If there ever was an appropriate time for “holy shit”, this was it.   Notes cracked and popped and bled together with echoes and reverberations that seemed to most completely express the opening sentiment that I would come to ponder for what amounts to at least days since that virgin awakening. Soft lulling sounds intertwined with passionate rips of metal, reiterating the touch of man. Lamentation and pain suppressed and equally delivered as silence is overcome with poignantly played distinct note after distinct note, in short, thrusting counts and then back to whispers of lingering tones melting away. The building momentum drained the palette of emotion I was accustomed to experiencing and replenished me with a more expansive, wordless vocabulary of emotion. Each soft pluck of guitar string had me wondering what would follow and I was amazed by each note that did.

I do not recall the conversation that followed or how long it was before I heard the album in its entirety. I don’t even recall if my roommate slept fast or woke to fuss. I do know from that moment forward, Funkadelic became much more evocative and political to me. I had previously been drawn to the sexualized and rebellious and the funky. I had to reconsider the lyric that first grabbed my attention: If you will suck my soul I will lick your funky emotions. A naughty grin still eases itself onto my face and the uncertainty is invigorating. The play between pussy and power is really always about power.

The album moves forward from a mournful tone, bringing action and reinvigorated life into the upbeat rhythms. Breathy and laden with moans and gasps, it is charged with energy. The funk saturates every note and the drumming becomes more prominent. Let me hear you say Yeah, Yeah, Yeah. A declaration to no longer be a fool is blatant. Cowbells and infant cries and who knows what else accompany the sparse lyrics by the end of the album. The lack of words makes the call and responses even more poignant despite the lack of clarity. A cuckoo clock followed by howls and sounds associated with alarm seem natural. I suppose this is what largely drew me in and kept my attention, my joint rolled in toilet paper.

 

 

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Essence of Autumn

Red, orange, yellow, brown; pumpkins, candied apples, sweaters, crisp air.

 

These are some of the things that come to mind when one thinks of fall. However, for some there is something more important, football. Football sets the stage for the beginning of autumn.

 

Tailgates, barbeque, chanting, partying, team colors, fantasy football, rivalries.

 

Football has a way of bringing people together to celebrate their teams but also creates rivalries. In college football one of the biggest rivalries is Ohio State vs. Michigan State that has been around for decades and in the NFL one big rivalry is the Washington Redskins vs. Dallas Cowboys. Over time football has become the new favorite past time for US citizens and is only found in the US. In a way because of that, it makes football all the more special to those who live and breath the sport.

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T.R. Hummer’s “Where You Go When She Sleeps” is a poem that evokes a dreamy, surreal moment in time, as a man (the speaker) falls in love with the woman sleeping with her head in his lap. The poem is a run-on sentence, trawling through the color of the woman’s hair, a color the man can’t quite name, to a story of a boy the man had heard once. The boy drowned in a grain silo, and it is through this golden pallet of grain and dust in sunlight that the reader learns the woman is blonde.

The poem is full of comparisons like this, as the woman’s hair reminds the man of grain and golden color of sunlit dust, which in turn leads into the story of the drowned boy, which in turn is a metaphor for falling in love, drowning in it. As mentioned above, the run-on quality of the poem allows a smooth transition from topic to topic, and lends itself to a drowsy, dreamlike tone.

Surprisingly, Hummer brings us back to reality with the last two lines, which reflect back to the start of the poem, referring to the content of the woman’s dream, and the man’s potential place in it.

David Lucas’s poem “About Suffering–,” is beautiful, both lyrically and visually.  Lucas uses metaphors to paint pictures in our minds, bringing life and depth to actions and emotions.

There are no stanza breaks in this poem; it’s a continuous block of verse, flowing from one line to the next.  Some lines contain more than one sentence and some have sentences that start on one line and finish on the next.  Lucas’s style works well for the concept of this poem, creating a continuous stream of unbroken thought.  This ties in with the speaker’s lament, that we are not like Icarus.  “It’s never him.  His father, Daedalus–/he’s our muse, bent to an unforgiving craft/in someone else’s labyrinth, the dark/exile in which he sets himself to work:”  It’s “about suffering;” its about the loss of youth and its bold unashamed and unfettered lifestyle.  We age and become fettered by responsibility.

The turning point of this poem comes at the end, on the third to last line.  “At last he sleeps,” the poem reads, and the reader feels a sense of relief, and peace.  “…in fits and half-dreamed fears/that love, and work, and life are passing vapor,/and all the wings he’s made he’s made of paper.”

James Wright’s poem “Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio” is one of those poems that is very subtle about the use of its poetic devises.  It relies on natural pauses in speech patterns to dictate line breaks.  There is only one instance of enjambment: “Their sons grow suicidally beautiful / At the beginning of October.”  Wright includes subtle consonance, especially in the first stanza.  The lines “I think of Polacks nursing long beers in Tiltonsville / And gray faces of Negroes in the blast furnace at Benwood,” show the repetition of “l” and “s” sounds.  The following line, “And the ruptured night watchman of Wheeling Street,” repeats the “w” sound.  There is no rhyme scheme, and the number of syllables in each line show no discernable pattern. 

Wright does, however, use quite a bit of metonymy.  In replacing commonplace descriptors with more inventive ones, he breathes fresh life into the images portrayed in phrases such as “long beers,” “ruptured night watchman,” and “suicidally beautiful.”  I feel like without this metonymy, the descriptions of working class minorities in the factory town of “Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio” would feel very cliché. 

My favorite poem out of the ones assigned to us was James Wright’s “Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota.”  Perhaps my favorite element of the poem was the author’s use of colors.  There is a clear division in the two color schemes used: there is a theme of dark colors, as well as warm colors.  They are indicative of the two contrasting themes in the poem: the poem depicts a peaceful sunset, but, in the final line, the speaker also expresses the realization that he has wasted his life.  Using phrases such as “bronze butterfly” and “golden stones” emote warmth and peace, while “dark trunk” and “green shadow” seem to foreshadow the dark realization at the end of the poem.

This was a poem that made me think. It was a poem about relaxing – until it wasn’t. The tone was calm and peaceful, and I could see the scene so clearly in my mind: lying in a hammock on a summer day, a gentle breeze blowing, just watching the day go by. And then suddenly, with the last line, everything changes. “I have wasted my life.” It was so sudden and such a contrast from the rest of the poem. Upon reading the poem again, I noticed another meaning to the seemingly peaceful words. I noticed that this wasn’t just a day of relaxation, but a day like any other. The butterfly, the cows, and the hawk each do the same things they do every single day of their lives. For them, that is all there is. For a person, there is so much more. That last line changed the perspective of the poem drastically, and I could then see that the speaker probably viewed himself like these animals: doing the same, dull things over and over, day after day. This is a feeling that many people experience at some point in their lives, and Wright expressed these feeling in a way that was clear without being obvious: loneliness and disappointment disguised as peace and tranquility.

I really enjoyed how James Wright wrote his poem “Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota” Although I have never been to minnesota reading his poem I felt like it was a warm day, and I was outside in a Hammock experiencing the day the way he was explaining in the poem. I could hear the cowbells and feel the sunlight on my face.  I think James Wright did an amazing thing with his language and making the reader feel like the world stopped and we were now experiencing it the way that he was. Compared to his other poem that we read I was a little confused about what it was actually about. I kept picturing a football game where the fathers were so proud of their sons and mothers who were so afraid for their sons safety.

Last Sunday I decided to visit the diner. I watched Frida’s powdered sugar brow melt away atop my new friend Jay’s stack. I felt at home. I was there to return a fleece on my way through town. I stayed because of the energy of acceptance and community. It was no different from when I lived across the street a decade before. I stayed to read poetry and be surrounded by an eclectic collection of records and knicknacks. I stayed to smell the coffee in constant brew and to share Nodine’s thick cut artisan garlic bacon. I had biscuit and gravy and a rye Manhattan to complete my second breakfast of the morning. I was somehow waiting for “Maggotbrain” to be played next as the day had been in the realm of serendipitous, princess and carriage rides to boot.

A week later, as I begin to crawl out of the embarrassment and ignorance that engulfs me, I find strength in Adam Zagajewski’s “Try to Praise the Mutilated World”. Calculated or fortuitous in timing, it does not matter. The moment could not have been better. This poem is an offering of hope as it reminds the listener of surrounding miracles. I attended church this morning and a thought that resonated with me was that while I may not be able to heal the world, I can help stop the bleeding. Zagajewski’s words are a balm unto earth’s scars.

This poem will forever evoke sentiments and memories of September eleventh, as that is when I first became familiar, when I felt so small. My feelings of fragility and anger began to vanish. In the contemplation of the resilience of others, brave and battered, I felt petty clinging to the negative. Now, I understand this to be a poem of supplication, the song of a caged bird, a call to action. Zagajewski acknowledges the experiences of the oppressed: You’ve seen the refugees going nowhere… He offers a revolution beginning in the mind when elsewise physically dormant and suppressed. What we give our attention to is what grows and nourishes us. He calls for praise to be the force that uplifts and frees change from becoming stagnant, beginning with the reflection of where delight has previously been found. Return in thought to the concert where music flared.

I did not save room for the nostalgic ice cream sandwich and draft root beer last weekend that I initially planned, leaving something for me to look forward to next time. I sat in front of the photo that held Sydney in a place of remembrance. And it worked. He was a homeless man that found a state of happiness in knowing we both had the same Burger King watch. I had forgotten how he reminded me that joy was everywhere, if only I was looking for it. He would’ve liked Adam Zagajewski and probably admired his watch.

Arboretum

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IMG_9780Here are links to some poems — some new, some old — for you to explore. Some of these pages include the author reading her poem; I encourage you to listen as you read.

Cecelia Llompart, “Omens”
Paula Bohince, “Deer at Twilight”
Adelaide Crapsey, “Amaze”
Cynthia Manick, “A Taste of Blue”
H.D., “Sea Lily”
Sally Bliumis-Dunn, “Echolocation”
Robin Coste Lewis, “Reason”
Lynn Emanuel, “From A Train”
Paisley Rekdal, “Psalm”

 

 

This is just to say

I may have deleted Robert Hayden’s

“Those Winter Sundays”

In a drowsy stupor at 6 am.

 

I was trying to open it

But it vanished.

So I changed all the folder colors

To Roy G. Biv.

 

If you smile,

Maybe I’m off the hook?

 

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“The Girl with Antlers” is unlike any other poem I’ve read. While that may not be many, I’ve still read enough to know that this one stands out. It reads almost like prose; it was easy to lose myself in the way the lines flowed rather than think about how I was supposed to read it due to line breaks. From the title itself, the poem captures readers’ attention, and they remain hooked for the rest of the poem. The use of asterisks is something that does not seem common in the world of poetry, but here it helps the story flow beautifully. The language (“A terrified midwife named me Monster and left me in the pine woods with only the moon,” “When I awoke I was alone in solitude’s blue woods”) sets the whimsical, fantastic tone of the poem without overdoing it. It made me feel like I was really there with this wild, antlered girl, experiencing the world as she did. “The Girl with Antlers” definitely caught my attention and made me want to read more of Elkins’s works.

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