Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Great American Indian Novel

"In the Great American Indian novel, when it is finally written,/ all of the white people will be Indians and all of the Indians will / be ghosts."

What a clever and insightful statement. I have always found it interesting the fascination white people have for Indians, minus the respect. There's that need to be part of the Native American culture in some way. My best friend growing up is Navajo and Blackfeet, and her dad used to tell me that their joke about white people is "everyone's great grandma is a Cherokee". Because that's what the Native Americans hear from white people all the time. This "we're part of you, we're related" sentiment, when in reality, it's probably not true-it's just this way to ease the guilt of the injustices wrought against that culture. If I'm white, but can trace my ancestry back to them, than I didn't lend my hand to the racism. But the fact is that the white culture who wants so much to be part of the Indian culture has killed the Indians themselves. and now they're ghosts.


"Imagine the Angels of Bread" is such a powerful poem full of hope for a better future. I love the final stanza-that if slavery was ended first with the idea of ending slavery, if the holocaust ended first with the idea of ending the holocaust, than the idea of ending the oppression of and horrible treatment of immigrants now will lead to the idea coming to pass in the future. I think this poem is a perfect example of successful political poetry-something written with such honesty about the situation, is able to motivate the readers in a way only a well written poem can-to become part of that idea-the idea that will lead to a hopeful future. I like it.

the Balloon

Well, this is my least favorite story. All it conjured up in me was that Colorado family and their balloon boy hoax. That's really all I've got for this one-I read it, it was strange, I didn't really like it, it didn't really move me.


I've read this story for several courses, and am always left with the same question: So what? So what that you quit your job on some principle? Does this guy really think that he's changed anything? It's not even the type of story he can use on his kids later in life as an example of making the right decision, or standing up for what's right. Because really, what he did was dumb. Why did he stand up for these girls-was it because he didn't think that people should be judged by what they're wearing, or was it because he was mad that the juicy butt he'd been drooling over was kicked out before he was done looking? I guess it just goes to show that people's actions may be the same, but their motivations determine the nobility of the action.

Why I Live at the PO

This story reminds me of all the times my sister hogged the spotlight while we were growing up. Of course, her version of our childhood is much different than mine, but mine is the correct version. From the narrator's point of view, everyone else is concerned about silly things like their beards, how they look in women's robes, and on and on. But she has no problems, and she definitely has her priorities straight. Of course, the irony is that when she finally storms out of the house in a fit, she remembers to grab all of the material objects that are hers-yup, she's a reliable narrator all right!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

here's a toast to the folks on the pine ridge reservation under the stone cold gaze of mount rushmore

"I have no sylvan glades of dreams,/ just dust words / for my people dying."
-Adrian Louis writes with such grit and honesty about his people-these poems are packed with honest power. I had to stop reading "A Colossal American Copulation", because you can only read that word so many times! But I loved the MAPs website on this poem: "And while Louis' catalogue of what deserves to be fucked ranges freely over late twentieth century America, there is nevertheless a persistent logic to its categories". It makes me laugh when lit crits talk about the persistent logic to the categorization of what deserves to be f*cked! And since I'm a lover of all things Bob Dylan, it was good to see the influence he had on Louis, though obviously Louis is feeling a little let down with dylan at this point.


I really enjoyed all of her poems. I think my favorite lines come from "Quiet Evening". The last five lines read "So Penelope took the hand of Odysseus/ not to hold him back but to impress/ this peace on his memory:/ From this point on, the silence through which you move/ is my voice pursuing you." I'm not sure why I'm so drawn to these lines, but I am. My next question is about "Parable of the King". Why are the line breaks where they are? I asked myself this throughout the entire poem. When I read a poem, I always read it out loud-it gives you a better sense of the meter, which has a huge effect on a poem, just as much as the words themselves. So why are the line breaks done the way they are? And my final question is about "Circe's Grief". In my book the last two lines read "if i am in her head forever/I am in your life forever". Never mind how powerful that sentiment is-what I want to know is why is the i lower cased in line 15? I've searched for other copies, and all of the ones I found online (though not from the most reliable sources) have it capitalized, so I guess it could be a misprint, though what anthology misprints something like my question is why would it be lowercased? And what effect does that have on the poem?

chicxulub (if that's the way you spell it)

What a fantastic story! A brilliant way to compare the loss of a child to these crazy asteroids and comets that don't just leave huge marks, but have the power to suck the light into oblivion. And we have no control over them. Whatever gods we believe in, have no control over the chance encounter of space matter with earth. If the gods can't control something that big, how on earth could the gods control whether our children live or die?

Sea Oak

On one hand I enjoyed this story, on the other, it was the nastiest of nasty. The mixture of humor and general grossness makes for an interesting read. This story makes such a sad case for poverty in America. These characters show no actual motivation to change their situation-the girls half heartedly study for the GED while watching ridiculous day time television, and the narrator even finds no actual shame in his job, saying 'at least it's a job'. Only after Bernie (did it actually have to be Bernie? I mean, come one, who didn't think Weekend at Bernie's at least once during this story?!) comes back and warns them of Troy's future demise does anyone start looking towards any semblance of a structured future. And even then, we're left with the feeling that nothing will change.

Monday, February 15, 2010

round here we talk just like lions but we sacrifice like lambs

Philip Levine
All his animal references have me quite distracted this week, especially since my house has been inundated with the story "Click, Clack, Moo" as of late. All that aside, I think I'm really digging on Levine. This is my first experience with him, and there's something in the dignity of these poems' characters that really resonates with me. "They Feed They Lion", full of this anger that builds throughout the poem leaves me wondering what this lion-like anger will accomplish? It seems that while it comes from the suffering of the weak, it's going to devour whatever is in its path, those from which it comes included.

John Ashbery

Oh what the?! "They Dream Only of America" is a strange poem. I get all prepared for another "we are America" poems, only to find from the beginning that "they dream only of America to be lost among the thirteen million pillars of grass"-does this mean they want America to be lost? And this 13 million pillars of grass-why not blades of grass-why pillars? Pillars are permanent, strong, immovable, strong, phallic. Not blades easily stepped on. The final stanza reminds me of Stockholm syndrome-specifically the final lines "there is nothing to do/ for our liberation, except wait in the horror of it/ and I am lost without you". Dependency on the captor turns into sympathy for and love of the captor-only who is the captor, and who is being held captive?

Let's talk about Love

Interesting that the cardiologist is the one spending all the time going on and on about love, and seeming so far off in his beliefs regarding love. But what, really, is love? Discussing love is like discussing what salt tastes's...salty...? So instead of talking about what love is, we discuss what love isn't. Love isn't (or shouldn't be) so codependent that it becomes abusive and unhealthy. True love, arguably, isn't impermanent. So what we talk about when we talk about love, is really the opposite of love.
Just a side note:
My husband and I moved to Athens five days after we got married. The second or third week, we were attending church, and the Sunday school lesson was on having a happy marriage or something like that. The teacher asked me something about how my husband and I resolve our disagreements, and all these other women started raising their hands and saying "oh, she's only been married a month at the most!! She doesn't know anything about disagreements yet! Let me tell you how awful it can be sometimes...". And off they went on some of the horrible experiences they'd had in their marriages. This story reminded me of that experience-the idea of being newly wed, and everyone telling me how much it would suck for the next few years. Awesome.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Happy Endings-Margaret Atwood

"Even the happiest stories, if you follow them far enough, end unhappily."
"...It all depends on when you stop following the story."
-dialogue between friends recently

Is this story simply a story, or does Atwood challenge us the readers when she says that the plot is easy "just one thing after another, a what, and a what, and a what...Now try How and Why." Atwood tells us that the plot is generally the boring part-it's not so much what happens as it is the human motivations that make a story interesting.
Stories don't end happily, we the characters make them happy-the very fact that the story ends ends the happy aspect of the story-so there cannot be any happy endings.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"They give up everything to serve the Republic"

What have we become when instead of building monuments to those who died in war, we instead use photographs of the safe that survived Hiroshima to sell the product. "Look what devastation this inanimate object can survive" instead of "look what devastation we humans don't blink an eye about". While society draws closer to space, we fail to draw closer to those around us, "When I crouch to my television set, the drained faces of Negro school-children rise like balloons". What a sad poem.

Berryman crazy. Reading these "Dream Songs" gives me the distinct impression of delving into the inner mind of a serial killer. I am assuming that Henry and Mr. Bones are the same person, the two sides of the coin. Really, these poems were just creepy. The first line of Song 46 caught my attention. "I am, outside. Incredible panic rules." The comma between am and outside-what does that do to the meaning of this line? It isn't that he is outside-the comma changes the meaning to something else, only I'm not sure to what.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sylvia Plath

Did you know that Sylvia's son Nicholas Hughes killed himself last year, and that Ted Hughes' second wife (for whom he left Sylvia, triggering her own suicide), killed herself and her young daughter six years after Sylvia? What a tragic family tree.

I'll admit it, I'm one of those girls who has read a lot of Plath. I've read The Bell Jar, I have her complete collection of poetry-did you know she even wrote a children's book?! I have "Daddy" memorized, or at least did at one time.
"Ariel" has always intrigued and somewhat perplexed me. The poem seems to center around the moment when "White Godiva-I unpeel"-this symbolic stripping down-stripping of self, or of everything blocking and hiding that self?

Anne Sexton

“And opening my eyes I am afraid of course
to look--this inward look that society scorns--
Still I search in these woods and find nothing worse
than myself, caught between the grapes and the thorns.”

Her Kind
-The speaker has been a witch, a domestic, and an adulteress. She has been 'not a woman, quite', 'misunderstood' and 'not afraid to die'. "Her Kind" always makes me think of Sexton's poem "Kind Sir: These Woods", from which I quoted above. "Kind Sir" starts with a quote of Thoreau: "For a man needs only to be turned around once with his eyes shut in this world...not til we are we begin to find ourselves". It seems that the speaker is examining the space between the double I's and in that finding her true self, or at least what she has been, and is not now.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My Papa's Waltz

Is this a poem about abuse? I don't know-the line that I have always thought brings it to abuse is this one, which I think I read a little differently than some: "At every step you missed/ My right ear scraped a buckle". Now, bear with me, I'm not sure where I got this interpretation, if it was pointed out by a professor in college, or what, but I have always read that as the buckle of the belt scraping his ear each time his father missed his target while whipping him with the belt.
Is it about abuse? I don't know. I do know that this speaker obviously has at least ambiguous feelings about his father-millions of people do not say "hey, could that be about getting beat" unless there's a bit of that tone in the poem. Is it about getting beat up while mom looks on, or is it just an examination of a relationship that was at times great, at times, dizzying, and at times very much like death itself?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

One Art

This is a villanelle. It is composed of five tercets and ends with a quatrain. The first and third line of the first stanza then alternate the ending lines of the next 4 stanzas, and end with a couplet in the final quatrain. This is a rigid, controlled poetic form. Using this poetic device provides the control the speaker holds over the art of losing. Losing is simply another art to master: start out slowly with losing little things, and then move to bigger and more important things. The final line shows the loss of control. If the final word is not written, the villanelle is not complete, the control is lost. Wouldn't losing control, then, be the ultimate achievement in the art of losing?

The Boy Died in My Alley

My best friend lives in NYC-Washington Heights to be exact. I visited her this past October on a trip. Sitting up in her apartment, even with the windows closed, in the middle of our crazy shenanigans in preparation for the next day's parties, I heard men yelling on the street below, a woman's scream, more yelling, the sound of flesh on flesh. I waited for the pause in conversation, for one of them to go to the window, look down, suggest what we should do. Nothing. No pause, no looks, no concern. For all I know, they beat that woman to death. I'll never know, because the screams stopped, and we went on talking and laughing.
"I have closed my heart-ears late and early".

Why I am Not a Painter

The painter, inspired by the word sardines uses colors to express it, while the poet, inspired by the color orange, uses words to express it. I love what O'Hara does with this poem-the way he takes a simple trip to visit a painter friend and stretches it to examine a much broader meaning. The painter gets rid of the word "Sardines" because "it was too much", and yet the poet writes a total of twelve poems without even saying the word orange before his project is complete. Both artists are striving for creation, but can only achieve representations, mere symbols, of what they want to create. The artist can no sooner paint real sardines into existence as the poet can write an orange into being. The best they can do is liken color and line and shade to sardines, and compare orange to all things around and related to orange.

Tillie Olsen

I have never read anything by her til now, I think. And to say that this story spoke to me is understating it. I have reread it every day for a week, at least twice a day. So many thoughts running through my head. "All human life on the planet is born of woman. The only unifying, incontrovertible experience shared by all women and men is that months-long period we spent unfolding inside a woman's body. Because young humans remain dependent upon nurture for a much longer period than other mammals, and because of the division of labor long established in human groups, where women not only bear and suckle but are assigned almost total responsibility for children, most of us first know both love and disappointment, power and tenderness, in the person of a woman" (Adrienne Rich, Of Woman Born). Even as I'm typing this, I'm inturrupted every two minutes by my 20 month old daughter who wants to play. What mother doesn't question how the choices she makes today will affect her children in the future? I didn't breastfeed because of health reasons; is that why Layla has had pneumonia twice this season? When I started back to school last year, I decided not to do my school work while she was awake-I saved it only for nap time and night time. Waking hours I devoted wholey to Layla. That meant that night time was clean up the house and do homework time, not bond with husband time. I realized eventually that if I kept this up, my marriage would suffer. I then had to decide: was it worse for Layla to grow up perhaps in a broken home, or was it worse to set her down in front of Sesame Street and Mickey Mouse every day while I did my school work. Well, my marriage won. Will she resent me later in life for chosing knowledge over her, or will she recongize what I have done as an example for her own life? I hope for the later. One more feeling about this story? Why is it so ingrained in us to blame how our daughters turn out on the mothers? Why does this woman never say in this whole thing "if only her father hadn't left us to begin with...". Why blame the woman and not examine the man's role in this child's slow blooming? And again, why does she lament her role in her daughter's slow blooming, but not feel any sort of responsibility for her daughter's recent triumphs? these are my thoughts-but now I've got to go, because Layla has taken to pushing the computer keys to get my attention.