Plath’s Dance

December 5, 2010

Before this class, the only Plath poem I had “studied” was “Edge,” and that was back in high school. We did–for lack of a better adjective–a rather reductive reading of it, and then it was over, and I said goodbye to Plath. Until now.

Plath’s creative drive was immense; writing so many excellent poems in  just a short span of time (two years) must have been exhausting, and maybe even exhilarating for her. Or maybe it was just a release of her energy into her craft; maybe it was therapeutic for her. It likely could have been all these things.

Reading and studying Plath’s work this semester has been challenging and rewarding, and for both of these reasons (among many others) she’s been my favorite of  the contemporary poets we’ve examined this semester. I had a hard time deciding which poem of hers I wanted to talk about–it being a close call between the wonderfully strange “Zoo-Keeper’s Wife” and the somewhat vague “The Night Dances.” I’ve decided to talk about the latter.

After reading Helen’s post about her thoughts on “what poetry is,” I knew that there was some element in Plath’s poem “The Night Dances” that made me have one of those moments where i felt that “hand to hand” connection–that particularity and personal union that I felt was deeply ingrained in my conscious emotional experience. It’s not something i can really place my finger on, unless I were to say “oh yea, well I feel that she’s questioning the reason behind her inability to contain another’s spiritual essence within herself.” And in a sense that is what i think this poem is about;  but I also feel that there’s something lost in the translation of that emotion into my words. Plath has translated that feeling a thousand times more successfully than I could translate it in any kind of rhetorical language of my own.

And maybe that’s an essential part of what poetry is. I really agree with what Helen has said in her post. In my interpretation of what she’s arguing, it seems that she’s putting forth that idea that poetry is more about communication than representation. I’m not sure that Mr. Heaney would agree with her, but I certainly do. And why can’t it be both representation–symbolic and otherwise–of some essential human experience, and, a communication of that experience? Maybe one doesn’t necessitate the other, but I don’t think that either is mutually exclusive. I think part of the beauty of poetry is that it stretches the limitations of language’s ability to represent an often abstract and yet worldly human experience in a way that communicates some intangible emotional core (contained within the semantics of that language). Poetry necessitates communication; if nothing is semantically understood (by a reader) within the words the poet uses to translate his or her experience, than nothing is gained. Perhaps a second part of that beauty inherent in poetry is our willingness (perhaps unconsciously) to search for that abstract element of emotional communication.

In a way, my brief analysis of Plath’s poem “The Night Dances” is reductive. I think that by trying to represent my own emotional connection to the poem, I am, in a way, performing (not to use too many engl 295 terms) a representation of a representation, and within that space–between the translation of language, there is some essence of the beauty, and perhaps that beautiful ambiguity in the poem that is lost. I’m opening up a gap. I’ve been trying to think of an analogy to describe what I’m thinking, but I’m struggling. The closest thing I can think of is if Plath’s poem is a chord (as in a combination of musical notes), then my understanding and interpretation of her poem is like pulling apart those notes and playing them at separate times, and in a random order. The same sound wouldn’t be communicated–sure the notes would be essentially the same, but the effect, and the “way” in which you heard them would be different. And there would be an acoustic gap between each of the notes too.

However, just because there is something lost in my written explication (and translation) of the poem, doesn’t mean there is that same loss of beauty in what I feel when I read Plath’s poem. It’s my inability to recreate that emotional communication through language that signifies the loss of the poem’s true “essence;” but by the same token, my desire to express what I feel about the poem proves the beauty of the poem in the first place; it proves that there must be some aspect of the poem’s essence which compels me to want to try and describe my emotional connection to it. In that sense, the poem’s communication has succeeded; it is beautiful because it communicates to me some compelling and abstract emotion that I struggle to put into words.

(sorry, that was a really disorganized jumble of thoughts)

I think that last seven lines of this poem communicated to me this strange and resonant feeling. Plath writes, “Why am I given/These lamps, these planets/ Falling like blessings, like flakes/ Six-sided, white/ On my eyes, my lips, my hair/ Touching and melting./ Nowhere.”

To address the notion of representation, I think Plath’s use of language here represents an the abstract emotion of loss, and a questioning of the fleeting nature of life. Plath has compared these physical things–the snow flakes, lamps, even planets–to the abstract memory of her lover’s “gestures” and her memory of what it feels like to be in love. She writes about these lost feelings when she writes that “The comets/ have such a space to cross,/ Such coldness, forgetfulness.” I find the beauty in this poem lies in both the language’s ability to represent abstract emotion through physical things in the material world, and also in that way the language communicates to me some strange, maybe even unconscious feeling that i too have felt Plath’s question–that I’ve also felt the lamps, planets, and snowflakes falling and melting away, captured in that moment only. I don’t think that poetry’s communication–that “hand reaching out to another hand” feeling–and poetry’s representation through language are mutually exclusive terms. But when it comes down to it, that “hand holding,” that immediacy of connection, comes through most directly in poetry’s ability to use language in a way that communicates to the reader that resonant emotion.

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Response to Madonna’s thoughts about poetry

December 5, 2010

When we had our discussion a few weeks ago about what the definition of poetry should be, I became a little bit frustrated. I don’t think I necessarily have the words to describe, without leaving loopholes, what poetry is, but I balk at the idea of attempting that kind of summary, simply because people tend to poke holes in things with unsound definitions and reasoning. When I heard what Madonna had to say in class/read what she wrote on the blog, it seemed to me that she felt similarly: poetry is not something that really has a definition. She goes further and says that poetry is all around us, and even attempting to put all this gloriousness into words is useless because we don’t ever quite capture what life itself has already done.

But, when I think about it, I don’t like that idea at all. It is vague and abstract, and I’m frustrated by that. To say that poetry is an “elusive thing” is avoiding the question of what poetry is, and saying that people can’t write poetry is patently untrue. Great writers create work that resonates with us, and we have read plenty of it in Contemporary Poetry this semester. Certainly, poetry can’t completely capture sunsets, or a really brilliant view, or the concept of loss,  but nothing does. Looking at a sunset or mountains makes us feel a certain way, as does losing something or someone. We use language to gesture toward these experiences, not to recreate them in totality. The distance between what the poet sees/experiences and the reader is bridged by the poem itself when the reader interprets it. We bring our own thoughts and feelings to bear on a work and go from there. Some poems won’t mean anything to you, but others will be special because those poems say things that you truly understand, not just in an, “Oh, I get that” kind of way. There is a wildly famous and over-quoted part of the play The History Boys by Alan Bennett where the teacher, Hector, explains that “The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – that you’d thought special, particular to you. And here it is, set down by someone else, a person you’ve never met, maybe even someone long dead. And it’s as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.” I don’t even think it has to be something that you think is “particular to you,” just something that you know and feel and understand.

I think we reduce the act of writing poetry, or writing things in general, if we try to expand the definition of poetry to be anything beautiful or wonderful in the world. I don’t think poetry is a symbol: it’s an attempt to capture some part of the human experience in such a way that it strikes a chord in another person, yes, but it becomes its own object, like Kristin said in her comment under Debbi’s post. I still think poets are trying to capture something, be it a feeling or an experience or an image, but like I said, they’re not trying to make you feel the same way you did when you saw that really great sunset or whatever. The importance is not the recreation of an image, but the connection between the reader and the poet through the poem, the hand reaching out and taking yours.

(These are some pretty unfinished thoughts, so please bear with me.)

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Suffering or Self-Pity?

December 5, 2010

While I was writing a paper for another class, I came across this quote in my textbook Life as Politics by Asef Bayat:  “As Michael Brown rightly notes, when you ‘elevate the small injuries of childhood to the same moral status as suffering of truly oppressed,’ you are committing ‘a savage leveling that diminishes rather than intensifies our sensitivities to injustice.’”

This immediately reminded me of our brief discussion on Plath and her use of the Holocaust her in her poetry.  I really wish we’d had more time to talk about this idea including how other contemporary poets have called upon past “crimes against humanity” in order to relate their personal suffering.  I wish I’d found this quote sooner in order to ask whether or not the class agrees or disagrees.  At least in the case of Plath, I found her use of holocaust imagery sort of desensitizing with regard to both cases of “injustice” (her childhood and the suffering of the Jewish people) and I also found myself relatively unsympathetic to Plath.  I know there is a lot of scholarly commentary on this but I’ll just post one quote I found from Theodore Dalrymple in his book Spoilt Rotten: The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality: “…the metaphorical use of the holocaust measures not the scale of her suffering, but of her self-pity,” which, according to Dalrymple, prior to the emergence of Plath, “was regarded as a vice, even a disgusting one, that precluded sympathy.”  Though I don’t know about the latter quote, I think I have to agree with the former.  Any thoughts?

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Recap: Brooks

December 5, 2010

Gwendolyn Brooks has famously said “I’m interested in telling my particular truth the way I have seen it.” I think she has masterfully reflected the “truth” of the lives of poor urban African Americans, and in doing so, frequently incorporated thematic elements of racial and ethnic identity that reverberate throughout her poetry.

My favorite Brooks poem is “The Bean Eaters.” I think this poem’s greatest strength lies in it’s rhythm, especially in the first stanza. The first and third lines of the first stanza each have ten syllables, while the second and fourth lines are notably shorter. I almost see it as a call and response type of rhythmic quality, similar to that of Jazz. The first two lines are “They eat beans mostly, this old yellow pair./Dinner is a casual affair.”  The shorter response suggests, thematically, the couples’ meager and “lowly” social status. The abruptness of the line further reinforces this notion, and we see it again in the next two lines: “Plain chipware on a plain and creaking wood,/ Tin flatware.” The abruptness of the 4th line–which is the response to the third line’s description–again fortifies the idea of the couples’ low social status, and the adjectives “plain, creaking,” and “tin” serve as a concise and resonant characterization of the couple as modest and perhaps even frugal people.

In some of Brook’s other poems, and especially in the Anniad, we see her use color imagery (like “caramel, chocolate,” and “tan”) to categorize different skin colors and races. I wonder if the adjective “yellow” means that the couple is Asian? I’m sure how I want to read into that word choice there. Another strength of Brook’s is her emphasis on words at the beginning of her lines–through the use of repetition and spondee. The first two lines of the second stanza each begin with the words “Two who.” I definitely think both of these syllables should be stressed, and thus,  I read them as spondees, which emphasizes the connection between the two, and lessens any difference between them, as if they have grown into nearly one person through their experience of being elderly, urban, and poor. And as with many of Brooks’ poems, she uses controlled imagery to present the reader with physical objects that perhaps carry emotional weight and represent the memories of the old couple: they “lean over the beans in their rented back room that is full/of beads and receipts and dolls and cloths, tobacco/crumbs, vases and fringes.” Structurally, it is interesting to note that these lines are much longer, and more fluid than the previous lines in the first two stanzas. Maybe brooks does this because these things exist in the memories of the old couple–maybe their current reality is harsh and stark (hence the short succinct lines earlier) but now that they’re going back and looking through all these old objects, their reality becomes more fluid and less contained in that precise moment. Maybe the flowing quality of the lines parallels their consciousness flowing back through memories. I think Brooks is truly a master of her craft and she comes through as easily one of the most important American contemporary poets; I’m glad we got to study her work.

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Reply to Madonna’s definition of poetry

December 5, 2010

I understand what Madonna is saying about words being symbols that distance us from actual experience.  She also points out that true poetry is the unfolding of a rose bud, not the words that describe the rose.  (Pause while we all think of Shakespeare’s quote about “smelling as sweet….”) 

I don’t, however, agree that men cannot write true poetry.  I believe that poets sense and then communicate those very experiences for others who cannot, or do not, sense them for themselves. 

In our readings earlier in the semester we read “Poems Are Not Luxuries” by Audre Lorde.  I think she hit the mark when she wrote, “Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought” (283).  Often we do not know what we think until we say it out loud.  I would argue that we often do not know what we feel until it is framed and given form by some kind of symbol, whether it be words, or lines and colors on canvas, or lyric and rhythm in music.  

Words may be mere symbols, but they are all we have to communicate with.  And one impulse all poets share—writers and artists too—is the impulse to communicate what they have seen, or sensed, or realized.  

Adrienne Rich talks about approaching poetry in order to “call up images that were in danger of being forgotten or unconceived” (18).   Poets are archivists of “the moment.”   They try to cup in gentle hands the fragile pieces of life about which Madonna is talking.

(Debbi S.)

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Allen Ginsberg photos

December 5, 2010

The National Gallery of Art had an exhibition of Ginsberg’s photographs.  If you go to the NGA Web site and go to their Podcasts, you’ll find a lecture about the photos.

http://www.nga.gov/exhibitions/ginsberginfo.shtm

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Paul McCartney: BEATle and Poet

December 5, 2010

A poem Paul McCartney wrote for late great British comedian, writer, and actor Spike Milligan, sold for around 6,000 euros at an auction in the United Kingdom in November 2008. Milligan, who was a neighbor of McCartney’s in Rye in East Sussex, was a major influence and friend of McCartney’s throughout the 21st century. McCartney would often dine with Milligan for tea when McCartney was in the area. Milligan was responsible for The Goon Show, a British program, that gave way to Monty Python. Milligan died from liver disease in February 2002. It is reported that McCartney bought a grand piano from Milligan’s house in an estate sale in October 2008. Apparently, McCartney would play the piano every morning. Anyways, the poem McCartney wrote is entitled “The Poet of Dumbswoman Lane,” and came with a rough sketch McCartney drew entitled “‘The Nutters of Starvecrow Lane” of two people giving the thumb’s up. Here is the full poem and your chance to judge whether the poet lives up to the musician.

The Poet of Dumbswoman Lane:
The voice of the poet of Dumbwoman’s Lane
Can be heard across vallies [sic] of sugar-burned cane
And nostrils that sleep through the wildest of nights
Will be twitching to gain aromatic insights
The wife of the farmer of Poppinghole Lane
Can be seen from the cab of the Robertsbridge train
And passengers comments will frequently turn
To the wages the wife of a farmer can earn
The poet of Dumbwoman’s lane sallies forth
He is hoping for no-one to see.”

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Elizabeth Bishop

December 5, 2010

While searching for more information on Elizabeth Bishop who I found to be one of my favorite poets of the semester I ran across on article (with pictures!) describing her epistle relationship between herself and Robert Lowell. I wish we had been able to learn more about each poet’s personal life and delve more into that. I know some critics disagree with mixing what a poet says with their own life, but I feel that a poet wouldn’t say the same things if they lived another life. Our experiences shape our opinion after all–would Bishop write about geography and loneliness if she hadn’t been forced to move around numerous times, alienating herself from those around her. Would she have been enamored with Brazil if Lola her lover had not been Brazilian and they had not set up a life there?

I hope you all enjoy reading the correspondence of the two writers:

http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2008/11/03/081103crbo_books_chiasson

http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2004/12/20/041220fa_fact

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Adrienne Rich

December 5, 2010

     Adrienne Rich has a special place in my heart. In middle school, i hjad to memorize a poem and recite it to so many people to work on public speaking and stuff like that. I just browsed through several poetry books and authors we had briefly mentioned (in no way comprehensive or a study of poetry class at all) and i stumbled across Adrienne Rich. I picked her poem \”Lucifer in the Train,\”  and instantly fell in love with Rich and her style of writing. Not only, is “Lucifer in the Train” a magnificent and lesser known poem of Rich’s, but the dark imagery and the sinister symbolism in its two 12-line stanzas simply moved me. Plus, after having to recite it so much for my school assignment, i memorized it and came to understand it’s true depth and meaning.  This is a poem i have been dying to share to you all in some form or another, but it is a remarkably hard poem to find it online to link to so i ound a link that should work. I hope you all check it out and enjoy one of Rich’s lesser known wonderpieces.

In case th elink only takes you the contents of the google book the poem is on Pg. 105

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Recap: Bishop

December 4, 2010

I was trying to think of a way to go back and celebrate some of the major poets we studied this semester, and I think I’m going to go about it by talking about my favorite poems from some of the authors. First up: Elizabeth Bishop. My favorite Bishop poem happens to be one of her most popular ones, and one that we have discussed in class: “In the Waiting Room.”

I think this poem, in many ways, is the speaker’s realization of her own identity as a woman, and furthermore, as a citizen of the world.  The speaker’s contemplation of these ideas is best seen in the lines “What similarities–/boots, hands, even the family voice/I felt in my throat, or even/the National Geographic/and those awful hanging breasts–/held us all together/or made us all just one?” Bishop beautifully introduces the idea of a young girl contemplating the threads that weave together women of different races; it’s a thread that transcends cultural boundaries, family heritage, and even sexuality. I think Bishop’s brilliance lies in the fact that she presents a believable speaker who addresses her realization of her sexual identity but has no way to resolve it, except to be immersed back into the “outside” world. One of the more interesting lines is “Then I was back in it.” Is she back in the world where she doesn’t recognize her acceptance of female identity and sexuality? Regardless of this line’s ambiguity, Bishop addresses these “big” issues with accessible language  and wonderful poetic control. She deserves to be studied among the best contemporary poets, and I think “In the Waiting Room” is one of her strongest poems.

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Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon

December 3, 2010

If you like Lucille Clifton, you will really enjoy,  “Black Swan” by Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon.  I stumbled upon this book in the UMW bookstore last Spring.  Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, a Virginia resident, is the recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize and was a semi-finalist for the “Discovery”/The Nation Award in 1999 and 2001.  Her poetry collection entitled “Black Swan” was the winner of the Cave Canem Prize.

            Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon delivers, in “Black Swan,” compact lines fraught with enjambment, and more enjambment in its internal line breaks.  The poems in this collection incorporate biblical and mythological references interspersed with the African-American experience and vernacular language to deliver a piercing, often heart-rending portrait of the female experience.  From the very beginning of the opening lines of the first poem, Van Clief-Stefanon’s, signature, compact lines and understated punctuation draw the reader in:

Imagine Leda black –

Skinny legs        peach-switch

Scarred         vaselined to gleaming

Like magnolia leaves          Imagine

A teenager         hips asway like moss

Switchin’ down a dirt road

                                                (Leda)

This collection of lyrical narrative is a truly irresistible, must-read that cuts straight to the heart.  I find myself coming back to it again and again.  I could not find any readings from “Black Swan” but here is a video of her reading at the Virginia Festival of the Book, March, 2010, from her book entitled “Open Intervals.”

Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon at the VA Festival of the Book v=zDjOw_CNuf4

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Allen Ginsberg’s insight

December 3, 2010

Hey all, i have a bizarre post to show you here today, but i hope you find it interesting nonetheless. For my poem recital, sounds like i’m performing ballet when i say it like that, i have chosen to go back to my old favorite and staple, Allen Ginsberg. Not only do i love his poetry in general, but i feel that his language and voice of his writing makes reading his works out loud even more dynamic and entrancing. For my interpretative performance earlier in the semester, Everett and i performed Ginsberg’s series “Magic Psalm,” “The Reply,” and “The End” in which Ginsberg is writing under the influence of Ayahuasca about the experiences he is having. As such a prominent figure within the Beat Movement, it is unsuprising to find Ginsberg experimenting with drugs, afterall it was the 50’s, 60’s and 70s. After my performance, i was inspired to look at Ginsberg’s other poems that are addressed to various mind-altering substances. I stumbled upon “Lysergic Acid,” otherwise known as LSD, and fell in love with the out-of-this-world lyrics and images he uses. It made me wonder whether or not Ginsberg had had anything to say about LSD so, naturally, i went to YouTube to see if there were any interviews with Ginsberg on the topic. Instead of an interview with Ginsberg talking about the drug personally, i found an interesting clip of him outlining the history and creation of LSD within America. I am including the interview, although i am bad at figuring out how to get the video to play within the post so, if nothing else, you will have the link to check it out. I will be performing Ginsberg’s “Lysergic Acid” on Tuesday, so check out the video if you’re curious and prepare for a ride through Ginsberg’s subconscious on Tuesday.

Allen Ginsberg in the Sky with Diamonds

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“Howl” as a Graphic Novel

December 2, 2010

I stumbled across this article on NPR today, which discusses Allen Ginsberg and what his work has meant to the author of the article.  It’s an interesting commentary complete with a fun personal story she tells about Ginsberg, but what really struck my attention was the fact that “Howl” has been transformed into a graphic novel.  It was released this fall and the illustrations were done by Eric Drooker, a friend of Ginsberg’s from the Lower East Side of NYC.  The two had collaborated on Illuminated Poems during the 1990’s and the collection was published just a year before Ginsberg passed away.  When thoughts of creating a motion picture about Ginsberg began popping up, Drooker was approached about illustrating some of the scenes which have in turn resulted in large portions of this graphic novel.

Here is a link to the introduction of Howl: A Graphic Novel, which is written by Eric Drooker.  It describes some of his own personal experiences with Ginsberg and how they have shaped his thoughts for the book.

Here is a link to some of the other images that can be viewed from Drooker’s book.  I find all of them fascinating; it’s so interesting to see how Ginsberg’s work is interpreted by other people, especially someone who actually knew Ginsberg and worked with him.  Some of Drooker’s images are so literal and true to the text, while others are really individualized and unexpected.  I have really been enjoying looking through the graphic novel and finding new ways to interpret the poem.  With the release of the graphic novel and the motion picture, it’s interesting to see how “Howl” has been reworked for older audiences to enjoy and new audiences to discover.

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Why I Think the Debate about Spoken Word Poetry is Mute

December 2, 2010

Poetry – that elusive thing that once breathed into the universe leaves its echo engraved upon the hearts of men.

Notice that I do not mention words, written or otherwise, nor do I mention rhythm, beat, tone, form, or any of the dozens of other things that poets contrive to place upon the meaning of poetry.   That is because, to borrow from Ralph Waldo Emerson, words are symbols for things.    As such, poetry of men uses symbols in the form of letters and words, to create something which can then represent things, emotions and connections in a new way that constructs and makes clear in the minds of other men a whole new way of understanding the world.   Emerson’s impossible job description of “The Poet” makes clear to me that men can never truly be poets. 

That which poets construct, with words, is but a meager symbol of the true poetry that exists in the ever-changing, yet never-changing, seasons of nature.   True poetry exists only in nature – in being.   Poetry of men is merely a symbol of those emotions felt in the dances of butterflies as they flit from one bloom to the next or in the slow unfolding of a ruse bud to the morning sun. 

Poetry – that which is written and treasured by men in the catalogues of time – is but a symbol constructed of more symbols in a vain attempt to capture the essence of the one true universal poetry – that which can never be adequately expressed except in the experience of being.

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What is John Cage Doing????

December 2, 2010

John Cage walking on water errrrr performing \”Water Walk\”

I have been meaning to do a short post about John Cage ever since working on the Black Mountain College multimedia project. The first time i learned about cage was in my freshman seminar with Gardner Campbell called Rock/Soul/Progressive and it was a study of music’s transcontinental journey from the U.K. to America from 1950 to the present. When we studied Cage, we categorized him under the microscope of the progressive genre and focused on the avante-garde movement of the 20th century in general. Overall, i think Cage is a bit of a nutcase, but he nonetheless pushes the envelope of what people generally consider as art and how they perceive it and for that i support Cage’s cause. I just wanted to post a video that gave more a prop to the idea The Black Mountain College, where Cage often taught and composed, had regarding art as a musical and visual performance. Even though it hardly makes any sense to me, i would love to have been able to see some of Cage’s artistic performances and demonstrations like the one in the video. I just can’t help imagining Cage coming out on a Late Night talk show as the entertainment and performing “Water Walk.” It’d be so enetertaining and confusing at the same time. Nonetheless, Cage is a poet in his own artistic right and his influence on the avante-garde in general is monumental.

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V.M.I. Poetry Symposium

December 2, 2010

For those of you who idicated an interest in submitting to the VMI Poetry Symposium, or who perhaps did not but have since written a stellar paper or poem that you would like to submit.

The Deadline is  Tomorrow;  December 3.  Here are the details

What to submit: A 250-word abstract of an original critical paper on poetry or a selection of original poems. 

Submission requirements: Completed papers must be of appropriate length for a fifteen-minute oral presentation (2100 words maximum); poems, which must now be submitted in entirety, must be of appropriate length for an eight-minute oral reading by the author (1120 words maximum).  Submissions must be sent no later than Friday, December 3, 2010 by email to Peggy Herring at herringps@vmi.edu.  Submissions must include the name and contact information of a faculty sponsor as well as student’s name and contact information.  Critical papers may examine poetry in general, particular poets, poems, movements, issues, technical features, etc. There will be a special session on Shakespeare.

If you wish to submit multiple poems, the instructions request that they be submitted as a single Email attachment.

If you are needing to do an abstract of a paper, I would reccommend using the auto summarize, this can be found in word under tools.  Select something smaller such as 10% or 100 words auto summarize.  Then cut and paste your intro to the top.  And read through to tweek, since this tool is helpful, but by no means perfect.

I hope lots of my fellow students will submit.  Good Luck and Let’s Represent.

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My own definition of poetry

December 1, 2010

In response to the various definitions of poetry listed, I like how she created a discussion through many voices.  I think a definition needs to act more like a discussion.  This is the discussion that’s been going on in my head since last Tuesday:

I was thinking about the desk in combs 111 that people have been drawing on for years.  I looked at it and wondered if it could be poetry–it has some poems on it, as well as drawings and thoughts and, yes, it includes several references to Trogdor.  The desk is a brainstorm of expression.  I do not think it is poetry.  Poetry can be a result of refined and revised expression, but they are not one in the same.

Poetry is often taken to be art in general.  This takes meaning away from the craft of poetry as society accepts all individuals as poets and diminishes the art and skill that goes into this specific genre.  Poetry, in the sense of a specific form of art, fills a gap between prose/regular speech and image or musical art.  It plays with some of the same ideas as those genres as it utilizes rhythm, like music, or plays with word structure to form pictures or to give ideas through the physicality of the words as they stand (chiasmus, or cutting stanzas in half to show brokenness, etc.)

Poetry also uses language to surpass the limitations of language.  Elliot took the stance that to discuss poetry would diminish its meaning, for there is no way to show what a line does except for to quote that line.  Language takes away from poetry if it tries to describe it, just as it would take away from music or an emotional, supernatural, or epiphany moment.  Poetry moves something in us that goes deeper than language.  If done right—this eliminates Wordsworth, as he was appropriately named—uses all of the arts: musical, imagistic, and linguistic, to create meaning.  It eliminates words that we need for regular speech or prose, understanding their meaning in the line without their inclusion, and it does not always claim meaning outright, creating a thought process based on ambiguity to convey meaning and to move something in the reader, without explicit definition.  Music and artwork to the same thing, but they do not use words to do so.  It can also tell stories, like prose, conveying meaning without stating the meaning—leaving language no room to distort it while utilizing words to enable it.  It is not that poetry is a better art than the others—it is just an intrinsically transitory art that uses elements from all of the other forms.

Individuals who do not abide by this, believing that poetry is just expression, violate the art.  They are guilty like people who write songs with lyrics that do not match the emotion of the musicality, e.g. Hoobastank and their song Lucky that employs extremely passionate and angst-filled melodies(?) to convey a meaningless and empty song about a guy who feels lucky around some girl that left him.  Poetry is a difficult craft that requires meaning.  It is a craft that requires the ability to convey something without being able to define it with words—it surpasses language with language.

…and poetry can give chills (I always think of Bishop’s “The Art of Losing”).  I don’t know why, but I just needed to say that too haha.

So I guess, difinitively, Poetry is a category of art that can mix with other arts to form a mixed media, but it has clear boundaries that separates it from others.

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On Beauty

November 30, 2010

A few summers ago, I read Zadie Smith’s novel, On Beauty which deals with different racial and familial issues.  I began to think about the novel again after our section on spoken word.  I realized that as heavy as her statements are on the previous  issues, she also makes bold Henry Louis Gates-esque statements about spoken word’s place in the canon.  The daughter, Zora, an industrious student who is in an esteemed college poetry class, falls for a spoken word poet and a lot of other complicated things happen.  Eventually, though, Smith reinforces the importance of spoken word in the academic world and to see how you’ll just have to read the book.

Zadie Smith

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What is Poetry?

November 30, 2010
Going back to our discussion a while back about what poetry entails and whether it can be defined, I looked up a few definitions and explanations of poetry thinking it might spark some more conversation:
Wikipedia – Poetry (from the Latin poeta, a poet) is a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning. Poetry may be written independently, as discrete poems, or may occur in conjunction with other arts, as in poetic drama, hymns, lyrics, or prose poetry
“used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities…in lieu of its apparent meaning????” Doesn’t that make poetry sound like just a bunch of pretty words?

Dictionary.com – the art of rhythmical composition, written or spoken, for exciting pleasure by beautiful, imaginative, or elevated thoughts.

Does this make poetry sound like its just for “pleasure?” What about poetry with purpose? What about poetry of the everyday?

About.com – Poetry is an imaginative awareness of experience expressed through meaning, sound, and rhythmic language choices so as to evoke an emotional response. Poetry has been known to employ meter and rhyme, but this is by no means necessary. Poetry is an ancient form that has gone through numerous and drastic reinvention over time. The very nature of poetry as an authentic and individual mode of expression makes it nearly impossible to define.
“Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotion know what it means to want to escape from these.” – Emily Dickinson
“Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” – William Wordsworth
“The only thing that can save the world is the reclaiming of the awareness of the world. That’s what poetry does.” – Allen Ginsberg
Poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty in words. – Edgar Allen Poe
“Poetry is any use of language that somehow exceeds sense with strangeness and style.” – Todd Swift
“Poetry is a small car full of border collies.” – Jay Ruzesky
???
(I’m sorry, the blog won’t retain my spacing so it looks a bit squished together : ( )

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Announcements

November 30, 2010
  • Class will not meet on Thursday, Dec. 2 since we completed our business today.
  • The blog will “close” for grading purposes at midnight on Sunday, Dec. 5.
  • Recitations will take place during our final exam slot, 8:30-11 on Tuesday, Dec. 7.  You must memorize and recite, with reasonable expression, at least 14 contiguous lines of poetry, from one poem or shorter poems that are juxtaposed in a series.  Poems should come from our primary authors for the semester but may be any poem at all from those volumes.  You need to know the page number so I can follow along/prompt as necessary.
  • I will try to finish the interpretive performance grading in the next few days and will let you know when you can come pick it up.
  • If I do not finish earlier, I will bring your graded mutinous poetry projects to the final.

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Meta-Thanksgiving

November 30, 2010

After getting all Meta for our last paper right before Thanksgiving, i took time over break to reflect on the course and the many things i am thankful for. First of all, i began to fall in love with Allen Ginsberg again as i started studying for the CoPo final exam, i couldn’t resist the embody Ginsberg once more in front of the class. More importantly, i tried to expound on our paper topic and think about the problems in general that affect the way we look at all genres of literature and poetry. But, it’s hard sometimes, stepping aside, and taking a look at yourself because i try to be objective and unbiased about my own shortcomings when it comes to analyzing forms of literature. As i was musing on this idea, i became thankful for being in the English department at UMW and in classes that constantly seek to step outside of the box. For, in the English department, we are creating thinkers and wonderers and minds that wil undoubtedly change the future of literature as we know it. For my paper, i wrote about contemporary poets desire and calling to create art that penetrates the skin and affects readers on a subconscious and personal level. What a daunting task, yet how wonderfully contemporary writers have risen to the challenge. I’ve always looked up to Beat writers who revolutionized literature and through the avante-garde. I long to walk the halls of Black Mountain College and just smell the creative juices filling the air. I imagine i would become creatively enlightened just from being in the presence of such impressive minds of that era.  If only to be able to return to the 60s and 70s and take adavntage of the revolutionary culture that so easily stimulated the expansion of the mind. But, it is our duty to define the literature and thought of our generation, and adress the problems we and other face in order to fix them. Well, time for me to jump in my time machine and go have a word or two with Ginsberg, see ya on the other side!

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The case for Hip Hop as contemporary Poetry

November 30, 2010
Last year, an English professor named Adam Bradley issued a manifesto to his fellow-scholars. He urged them to expand the poetic canon, and possibly enlarge poetry’s audience, by embracing, or coöpting, the greatest hits of hip-hop. “Thanks to the engines of global commerce, rap is now the most widely disseminated poetry in the history of the world,” he wrote. “The best MCs—like Rakim, Jay-Z, Tupac, and many others—deserve consideration alongside the giants of American poetry. We ignore them at our own expense.”

Read more http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2010/12/06/101206crat_atlarge_sanneh

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Poetry Daily’s 11/29 Featured Poem

November 29, 2010

Claudia Emerson’s poem “Secure the Shadow” is today’s featured poem. Check it out!

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Kanye West’s New LP

November 23, 2010

Although I think Kanye West is an irrepressible asshole, his new album received perfect scores from both Rolling Stone and Billboard. The album’s last song titled “Who Will Survive in America” collaborates with spoken word poet Gil Scott-Heron. After doing some research, apparently Scott-Heron is also included in the notes (whatever that means) for the second-to-last track, “Lost in the World.” Check it out! HAPPY THANKSGIVING GUYS!

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Spoken Word

November 23, 2010

I have loved this commencement speech for a while. With further research, I discovered it fit into the spoken word category we have been studying. Enjoy! Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen

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