America

September 14, 2010

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Prof. Scanlan talked about Ginsberg’s “America” today. I was looking it up on you-tube and found this particular version. I think kinetic typography is so interesting, and it’s a great way to include emphasis from a reader, much like we did today in class, but in this form we can see it as well as hear it.

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The Howl Challenge

September 14, 2010

The latest in a series of creative writing challenges that are not required unless you want me to respect and love you.  I’m just sayin’.

1)  Compose at least 15 lines of poetry that begin with the phrase “I saw the best minds of my generation…” and that closely imitate Ginsberg’s formal and syntactical patterns.   2) Post your poem here.

p.s. where are my sestinas, slackers?

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Still hooked on Elizabeth Bishop

September 13, 2010

So I know our class is moving towards Beat Poetry (forgive me for being hooked on Bishop), but I just wanted to point out the uniqueness of Bishop’s poem, “12 O’Clock News.” Did anyone else love this poem? For me, this poem was captivating because it’s written in a different style than the rest. I love that on the left hand side she takes an object you would find in a newsroom (or on her desk) and dedicates each stanza to describing the simple object. For example, my favorite is the ashtray stanza.

“From our superior vantage point, we can clearly see
into a sort of dugout, possibly a shell crater, a “nest”
of soldiers. They lie heaped together, wearing the
camouflage “battle dress” intended for “winter war-
fare”. They are in hideously contorted position, all
dead. We can make out at least eight bodies. These
uniforms were designed to be used in guerilla
warfare on the country’s one snow-covered moun-
tain peak. The fact that these poor soldiers are
wearing them here, on the plain, gives further
proof, if proof were necessary, either of the childish-
ness and hopeless impracticality of this inscrutable
people, our opponents, or of the sad corruption of their
leaders.”

She takes these objects and makes them a metaphor for the poem. She shows her audience all of the objects and correlates how a reporter would report the war to how a poet would write a poem.

Did anyone else have any thoughts or ideas about this poem?

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Ginsberg Clips, in three parts

September 13, 2010

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On the Road Film

September 12, 2010

Just thought I’d give everyone a heads up–their making a film based on Jack Kerouac’s book “On the Road.” I’ve set a link to the wiki article which gives the names of all the characters, etc. Whose excited?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Road_%28film%29

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CoPo of the Mo’ 3

September 10, 2010

Bruce Smith does not have the name of someone who aspires to be famous. The last sentence (out of three) of his Wikipedia biography reads, “That’s all, that’s it.” He writes poems; he has been published; he has taught at two universities. But this man understands something about sound and lyricism. His is the kind of poetry that begs, on both knees, to be read aloud. Smith likes to think of poetry as akin to songwriting:

“When the language works to seduce and . . . move us, when it works its blues on us, bounces us and trembles us, makes us swerve from our upright and rational propositions . . . we are thinking and listening at the same time or really listening and not thinking, like a good song does.”

The Poetry Foundation was much more forthcoming about Smith’s biography than Wikipedia. Most importantly, the foundation lists his influences: Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. I would be really interested to see what some of the Whitmaniacs, or people familiar with Whitman and Dickinson’s work, think about Smith’s poetry! See, I italicized it so you can’t ignore it!

The poem below, “Obbligato,” is my favorite of the ones listed on the website; I also enjoyed “February Sky,” and, if you don’t mind Googling to find it, you should look up “Goodbye Tuscaloosa.”

Obbligato

Late August was a pressure drop,
rain, a sob in the body,

a handful of air
with a dream in it,

summer was desperate
to paradise itself with blackberry

drupelets and swarms, everything
polychromed, glazed, sprinkler caps

gushing, the stars like sweat
on a boxer’s skin. A voice

from the day says
Tax cuts

for the rich or scratch
what itches or it’s a sax

from Bitches Brew,
and I’m a fool

for these horns
and hues, this maudlin

light. It’s a currency of feeling
in unremembered March.

There’s a war on and snow in the
city
where we’ve made our desire stop

and start. In the dying school of Bruce
I’m the student who still believes

in the bad taste of the beautiful
and the sadness of songs
made in the ratio
of bruise for bruise.

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poet.html?id=6356

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Neal Cassady and Jack Keraouc Audio

September 10, 2010

In preparation for our jump into the Beats, here is an awesome song to get us all in the mood.  Download Tom Waits-Jack Kerouac/Neal Cassady

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The poet or the poem?

September 10, 2010

I’m looking forward to the report on The Beats next week, because I’m having difficulty finding a way to approach Ginsberg.  I’ve read him before, and he always sends me to war with myself over a key issue:  How much should our opinion of the poet affect the way we receive his poetry? 

On the one hand, I’m enthralled by Ginsberg’s language and imagery; reading “Howl” is like being whirled around a hellish ballroom in the arms of a mad man.  On the other hand, I can’t shake off the knowledge that much of this imagery was drug-induced; in fact, he brought much of his hell upon himself.  Of course, “Howl” describes not only his experiences, but other people’s experiences as well, and encompasses more of life than getting high and then crashing.  (For instance, the businessmen in stanzas five through seven of page 16—“alarm clocks fell on their heads every day for the next decade,” “burned alive in their innocent flannel suits on Madison Avenue…”)  However, for me the poet’s drug use dilutes the integrity of the entire poem even while it fuels its language.    

I’m aware that many poets and other artists, from Coleridge to the Beatles, used drugs in various ways, to self-medicate, to “release their inhibitions,” or to “reach a higher spiritual plane.” 

The overblown introduction to “Howl” by William Carlos Williams does not resolve the dilemma, but instead highlights it.  Williams writes that Ginsberg experienced a Golgotha, and a “charnel house” comparable to the Holocaust.  This comparison is appallingly inappropriate.  It’s unconscionable to compare the slaughter of innocent people to one man’s self-induced misery.  Williams does “Howl” a tremendous disservice here.

So I’m left with this problem:  Would I appreciate “Howl” (or any other poem, book, movie or song) more, or less, if I took the artist’s personal choices out of the equation?  Over the years that I’ve asked myself this, I’ve usually argued for the independent life of the artwork itself.  Once the poem has been written and released (like a fire balloon!), it must rise or fall on its own merits.  But in Ginsberg’s case I am unable to escape a schizophrenic reading, and am left in the arms of a mad man whose babbling I alternately ignore and strain to understand.

Designed by Tim Sainburg from Brambling Design

Designed by Tim Sainburg from Brambling Design

Designed by Tim Sainburg from Brambling Design

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Bishop Letter

September 10, 2010

Hi guys-

So, for another class I’ve been reading this book, “Letters of a Nation” that includes letters from all sorts of people: Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, William Faulkner, and Elizabeth Bishop! Her letter is to a couple of friends the day after her lover, Lota has passed, and goes into vague detail about the death. However, I thought it would be interesting for the class to compare/contrast how she says she feels in prose versus the villanelle we read in class yesterday, “One Art” which Scanlon said is usually read to be about Lota’s death.

Oh, and just so you know, when you open the document ignore the first letter, which takes up the first half of page one. The italics at the bottom of page one is background information, and the actual letter is on page two.

Enjoy!Bishop Letter

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National Portrait Gallery This Sunday

September 9, 2010

Just thought I’d let everyone know that a few of us are going to the gallery this Sunday to see the Ginsberg exhibit. It will be cramped, but we do have room for another person in the car if anyone would like a ride! we’re gonna try to get there around 11:30, which is when it opens, if anyone’s interested in meeting up.

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The Sestina Challenge

September 9, 2010

A basic definition of the sestina can be found here and a more indepth discussion from another class here.   Comprised of  seven stanzas (six sestets and a triplet), the sestina takes its most essential form from the repetition of six key words at the ends of lines, but they must follow a specified order.  The links here show the order by number or letter, and you can see it by looking at Bishop’s poem or the examples the sites provide.  The triplet, sometimes called the envoi, also must use all six of the words in a specified order (internally and at the end of the line) but many practitioners fudge the order as long as they get all six in to that final stanza.

Your turn:  Write a decent sestina alone or in collaboration with other classmates.  Earn undying admiration for doing it in iambic pentameter.  Do not be sentimental lest Matt insult you.  Post.

Two hints:

1) Choose at least one word that is flexible–e.g., may be used as a noun or a verb, has several definitions  (break), or has homophones (to, two, too).  Avoid choosing all words that have the same grammatical function (all verbs, e.g.) unless there is some compelling reason to do so.

2) When you are ready to start, put all the words on a page at the ends of lines where they must appear so you can visualize the order more concretely.

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Oh if only Bishop could have seen this!!!

September 8, 2010

It was impossible for me to read “The Armadillo” in class today and not think of one of the most unforgetable experiences of my life and i cannot hope but think it was something slightly similar to what Bishop saw, minus the crashing and burning and sorrowful destruction.  This took place at All Good Music Festival, in Morganstown, West Virginia, in a field with tens of thousands of people, and it is one of, if not the most, unforgettable thing i have yet to witness.  Laying flat on the field, looking up at the sky, the lanterns looked as if the stars were slowly drifting and blowing away in the breeze.  It was a living version of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and a beautiful visual conception of “The Armadillo.” Once again, enjoy and be amazed.[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/ZCVvptDwxjc" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

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Jim Morrison Beat Poet???

September 8, 2010

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/Ul5HTPES-yU" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]The cool thing about the Beats was their relationship with the artists and cultural leaders at the time. As so, their influences bled over and in between these two groups fluidly. Many of the popular musicains of the ’60s and ’70s were also poets, although they rarely ever get lumped into the category of “Beat” because, afterall, they were professional musicans and not professional writers.  Nevertheless, their poetry is often a beautiful insight into the minds behind some of the most inconic and revolutionary music of all time, plus most musicians are poets anyways.  
     While reading a book written by Wallace Fowlie called Rimbaud and Morrison: The Rebel as Poet I became interested in Morrison’s poetry and found it to be quite good and even mesmorizing at some points.  His album “An American Prayer,” is him reading his poetry and short stories with The Doors playing in the background.  While reading Bishop’s “Arrival at Santos,” I began to realize the deeper meaning behind seeing something we thought we knew before (a country, flag, or coin, for instance) in a completely new way and how that interpretation can be a comment on our ability to reason and comprehend change and how we are living our lives.  It also reminded me of my favorite track of Morrison’s from “An American Prayer,” “The Movie,” so watch and see how Morrison goes to a movie just to have it question him. When Bishop writes “Finish your breakfast,” she is talking to herself, but she’s also talking to the reader and watch how Morrison questions the listener as well.  Or, perhaps, i’ve contirved the connection, either way enjoy!

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CoPo of the Mo’ Two

September 7, 2010

Perhaps not as contemporary as Piercy, but still within the confines of what this class considers “contemporary,” I became acquainted with and fell in love with Galway Kinnell‘s poetry last semester when I stumbled across it at a friend’s house. Flipping through the table of contents of A New Selected Poems, I saw that he had a number of poems that involved other poets of the time entitled “For [insert poet here].” I read his “For William Carlos Williams” first and thought it was all right, but when I turned to a much long poem, “For Robert Frost”, I was deeply moved and impressed at his skill as a poet. I went on to read through the rest of the book finding more favorites than not. I highly recommend him. Here is the poem that so moved me, in its entirety:

“For Robert Frost”

1

Why do you talk so much
Robert Frost? One day
I drove up to Ripton to ask,

I stayed the whole day
And never got the chance
To put the question.

I drove off at dusk
Worn out and aching
In both ears. Robert Frost,

Were you shy as a boy?
Do you go on making up
For some long period of solitude?

Is it that talk
Doesn’t have to be metered and rhymed?
Or is talk distracting from something worse?

2

I saw you once on the TV,
Unsteady at the lectern,
The flimsy white leaf
Of hair standing straight up
In the wind, among top hats,
Old farmer and son
Of worse winters than this,
Stopped in that first dazzle

Of the District of Columbia,
Suddenly having to pay
For the cheap onionskin,
The worn-out ribbon, the eyes
Wrecked from writing poems
For us — stopped,
Lonely before millions,
The paper jumping in your grip,

And as the Presidents
Also on the platform
Began flashing nervously
Their Presidential smiles
For the harmless old guy,
And poets watching on the TV
Stated thinking, Well that’s
The end of that tradition,

And the managers of the event
Said, Boys this is it,
This sonofabitch poet
Is gonna croak,
Putting the paper aside
You drew forth
From your great faithful heart
The poem.

3

Once, walking in winter in Vermont,
In the snow, I followed a set of footprints
That aimed for the woods. At the verge
I could make out, “far in the pillared dark,”
An old creature in a huge, clumsy overcoat,
Lifting his great boots through the drifts,
Going as if to die among “those dark trees”
Of his own country. I watched him go,

Past a house, quiet, warm and light,
A farm, a countryside, a woodpile in its slow
Smokeless burning, alder swamps ghastly white,
Tumultuous snows, blanker whiteness,
Into the pathless wood, one eye weeping,
The dark trees, for which no saying is dark enough,
Which mask the gloom and lead on into it,
The bare, the withered, the deserted.

There were no more cottages.
Soft bombs of dust falling from the boughs,
The sun shining no warmer than the moon,
He had outwalked the farthest city light,
And there, clinging to the perfect trees,
A last leaf. What was it?
What was that whiteness? — white, uncertain —
The night too dark to know.

4

He turned. Love,
Love of things, duty, he said,
And made his way back to the shelter
No longer sheltering him, the house
Where everything turned into words,

Where he would think on the white wave,
Folded back, that rides in place on the obscure
Pouring of this life to the sea —
And seal the broken lips
Of darkness with the mot juste.

5

Poet of the country of white houses,
Of clearings going out to the dark wall of woods
Frayed along the skyline, you who nearly foreknew
The next lines of poems you suddenly left off writing,
Who dwelt in access to that which other men
Have burned all their lives to get near, who heard
The high wind, in gusts, seething
From far off, coming through the trees exactly
To this place where it must happen, who spent
Your life on the point of giving yourself away
To the dark trees, the dissolving woods,
Into which you go at last, heart in hand, deep in:

When we think of a man who was cursed
Neither with the all-lovingness of Walt Whitman
Nor with Melville’s anguish to know and to suffer,
And yet cursed . . . A man, what shall I say,
Vain, not fully convinced he was dying, whose calling
Was to set up in the wilderness of his country,
At whatever cost, a man who would be his own man,
We think of you. And from the same doorway
At which you lived, between the house and the woods,
We see your old footprints going away across
The great Republic, Frost, up memorized slopes,
Down hills floating by heart on the bulldozed land.

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Thoughts on Sunday, 4 A.M.

September 7, 2010

I am totally baffled by the imagery Bishop provides in Sunday, 4 A.M.   I get the feeling that it is either dreams or awakening, disoriented, still partially in a dream-like state, but it reminds me of the ramblings of my ten-year-old, Justin, who is autistic.

The first thing he does when he comes home from school, is drop his book bag and commence to spinning, clapping and spouting incomprehensible ramblings in a loud announcer voice. These are the three things which I have absolutely forbidden him to do at school, because it creates a major disconnect, for him, from reality.  But he gets a twenty minute free pass when he gets home from school. 

His ramblings provide very clear visual images that are, however, difficult to piece together.  Sometimes they actually make sense and I find an underlying theme, but more often that not I have to ask him what it all means.  His answer comes in the form of a loud belly laugh and more images, which either solve or deepen the puzzle.

Does anyone out there have any thoughts on Sunday, 4 A.M. that might help me to visualize the connections that Bishop is making?

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Man-Moth

September 7, 2010

In reading Elizabeth Bishop’s Man-Moth, I am struck by the lucid image she provides of a man, bent on reaching into the heavens.  In the end, though, he slips back to earth.  Unaware of what he has lost, he quickly falls back into his old life and fruitless dreams.  I can not help but comparing Bishop’s clear image of the Man-Moth, who “trembles, but must investigate as high as he can climb” (16) and after failing “returns / to the pale subways of cement he calls home” (25/26), to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s, The Poet, a sweeping indictment of the poets, who have misled him in his attempt to find transcendental meaning in his existence. By laying claim to Emersonion Transcendentalism and adapting it to her own unique style, Bishop provides a strong echo and much more lucid image of Emerson’s description in The Poet. 

A strong parallel can be drawn between the experience of Bishop’s Man-Moth and Emerson’s description of the “ravishment of the intellect by coming nearer the fact … (and) the centrifugal tendency of man, to his passage out into free space, … (which)  help him to escape the custody of that body in which he is pent up” (199).  Of particular note is Emerson’s depiction of his experiences with the false poets;

With what joy I begin to read a poem which I confide in as an inspiration!  And now my chains are to be broken: I shall mount above these clouds, and opaque airs in which I live, – opaque though they seem transparent, – and from the heaven of truth I shall see and comprehend my relations.  That will reconcile me to life and renovate nature, …  Such is the hope but the fruition is postponed.  Oftener it falls that this winged man, who will carry me into the heaven, whirls me into mists, then leaps and frisks about with me as it were from cloud to cloud … he does not know the way into the heavens, and is merely bent that I should admire his skill to rise, like a fowl or a flying fish, a little way from the ground or the water; but the all-piercing, all feeding and ocular air of heaven that man shall never inhabit.  I tumble down again soon into my old nooks, and lead the life of exaggerations as before, and have lost faith in the possibility of any guide who can lead me thither I would be.                                                   (191-2)

 

On a lighter note: 

Bishop’s Man-Moth leads Emerson and his reader to new celestial heights.

                                 

Works Cited

Bishop, Elizabeth. Man-Moth. The Complete Poems 1927-1979. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1984. 14-15.

Emerson, Ralph Waldo. The Poet. Ralph Waldo Emerson and Margaret Fuller Selected Works. Ed. John Carlos Rowe. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2003. 186-206.

Skipp, Abi. Wendy Peter Pan and Tinkerbell. Photo. Paris: June, 2010. Flickr. 07, Sept., 2010. <http://www.flickr.com/photos/9557815@N05/4741708111/>

Designed by Tim Sainburg from Brambling Design

Designed by Tim Sainburg from Brambling Design

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Questions of Travel and Rhyme

September 7, 2010

After reading Questions of Travel, I felt that it was important to mention how Bishop plays with language. In many of her poems there is a regular rhyme scheme. For instance “The Burglar of Babylon” begins with the stanza:

On the fair green hills of Rio

There grows a fearful stain:

The poor who come to Rio

And can’t go home again. (112)

The first and third lines of this stanza rhyme merely because the word “Rio” is repeated, yet the second and fourth lines are slant rhymed. In the rest of her poem, Bishop continues to rhyme the second and fourth lines of her stanzas. In the fourth stanza, the slant rhyme returns as bishop rhymes “come” with “catacomb”. Additionally “The Armadillo” is marked by a regular rhyme scheme, however what makes Bishop unique in her usage of language are the embedded rhymes, and echos of rhymes that one can find in poems like “Song for the Rainy Season”. In the last stanza Bishop writes:

the great rock will stare

unmagnetized, bare,

…………………

the forgiving air (102)

This stanza is an example of how Bishop creates these echoes within her poems. By creating a rhyming couplet and then later ending a line with a word that continues the rhyme. Bishop is not only connecting ideas but playing with sound and the way the human reader will hear her work.

Additionally, in “Squatter’s Children” Bishop writes, ” apparently the rain’s reply/ consists of echolalia”(95). I found this poem to be one where Bishop became most innovative in her usage of sound and rhyme.  Every stanza ends with a rhyming couplet, yet within the poem there are also the echos that I previously mentioned. Yet this poem is also a good example of the repetitions that Bishop embeds in many of her poems.  She writes, ” they play, a specklike girl and boy/alone, but near a specklike house”(95). The repetition almost acts like the echolalia that Bishop writes about, however for the reader it accomplishes something unique. When one examines the repetition in ” Visits to St. Elizabeths” the words “that lies in the house of Bedlam” have a constantly evolving meaning that changes and deepens with every stanza.

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Mapping Identity

September 7, 2010

After finishing Questions of Travel and considering it alongside our previous Bishop readings and critical essays, it seems to me that there exists a common theme of identity formation in terms of geography (spatial relationships, domain and borderline areas) in all of these works. Looking first at the critical essays, if we think of poetry in terms of a physical space, many of the essays discuss and evoke the following questions: To whom does this space belong? To whom is it accessible? Should the rights lie exclusively with an educated elite few or a universal population/private versus public space? Can art and “politics” reside together in this space or do they require separate domains? The boundaries and delineations of this space seem to be in a constant state of flux and poetry, itself, at different periods in time and geographic locations has reflected upon its identity.  The Modernist Period in particular was characterized by a sense of self-consciousness or self-doubt.  A lack of or changing identity resulted in a body of work that was defined by this crisis, in turn, giving it an identity and a place.

                If we look next at Bishop’s collection Questions of Travel, the reader is asked to consider identity in terms of geography immediately with “Arrival at Santos.” In this poem, as with many others in the collection, Bishop takes the reader to a borderline location to discuss the running themes of: boundaries, inclusion v. exclusion, “here” and “there,” “us” and “them,” expectation and reality, truth and fantasy/delusion/denial, shelter/safety and exposure/danger, innocence/naivety and knowledge.   At these borderlines she is able to create a tension that reflects a struggle with sense of self, “homelessness” (or belonging) and/or  the dynamics of power that define human relationships.  Often, identity is defined in terms of who/what you are not which may only complicate, rather than aid, founding a solid sense of who/what you are.  “Other-ing” is a common tool in nation-building and identity formation and sometimes serves as a justification for unbalanced power dynamics between groups that become engrained in their sense of identity.  Bishop addresses this as well when she obscures or challenges the lines/territories differentiating a person/group from another in some of her poems in this collection.  Another recurring spatial representation is structural: that of “the home” or house.  Who or what can live in this space delegated to comfort, security and safety and how are they (or not) impervious to “dangers” of the natural or outside world? In short, these physical spaces, their occupants, and the interactions at the frontline represent complications in the human need for classification and delineation to provide order in their world.

                All of this being said, I think “The Map” was a great way to begin looking at these discussions.  I’d like to offer a reading that considers Bishop’s concept of interaction at the borderline and human demarcation of the world in this poem as commentary on poetry or meta-poetic in nature.  If we consider the art of mapping as something to help us in placing our “YOU ARE HERE” sticker, it can be argued that poetry attempts to do the same as a guide to understanding and ordering the world around you in some way.  However, the first line of Bishop’s poem reads, “Land lies in water; it is shadowed green” which calls to mind the end of Brooker’s essay where he paraphrases Emmanual Levinas when arguing, “…art is not reality, but its shadow…” followed by, “Art…works by substituting an image of reality for reality itself,”(72).   Taking “lies” in Bishop’s poem to have double meaning, she is telling the reader that art cannot “be true” but only represent truths just as the land on a map is only a depiction of the land it represents. She follows this by going to the edge, the border between water and land.  With tension evoking words like “hang,” “lean,” “lift,” and “tugging” she describes the interaction of these elements at their meeting place.  Perhaps here Bishop is contemplating the ability of art to attain what it is seeking: what is true.  Can it be held without it being “perturbed” or disturbed? Or it is grasping, unable to hold it firmly as “the fine tan sandy shelf” is an unstable ground?

If the first stanza discusses a map in terms of itself, contained, then the second stanza discusses the map in terms of utility as the world interacts with it, violating its isolation.  The piece of art, lifeless in its representation has been stained by a history of use.  As the narrator interacts with the map, art meets its audience and through this lens (“under a glass”) becomes an entity with the possibility of sustaining life, “expected to blossom” or “provide a clean cage for invisible fish.”  Mentioning the printer next, she notes the marks of an artist/creator within his work as he stamps himself on it and into it, making himself known and disturbing a separation of the two. Perhaps this is an image to show that intent and intrinsic value can or inevitably exist within the same space of art.

 To summarize my interpretation of the rest of the poem, Bishop restores balance in this contained space (the map) by finally explaining the relationship between land and water as a representation “feeling” for the unattainable while the unattainable/unrepresentable “lend(s)” itself to the representation.  This image lacks the tension seen in their relationship in the first stanza.  She continues by saying that although this might “agitat(e)” elements existing within representation, or the art, it leads to a further “investagat(ion)” of the unrepresentable or what is unattainable.  Art may be upset/challenged by the reality it attempts to recreate, but it also allows, in turn, for a deeper examination of the reality, creating balance.  Finally, she could be concluding that balanced mapping and, by extension creation and art, is not indulgent and “displays no favorites”, but is “delicate” and careful in its representation which makes it not untrue.

If I’ve made a strong enough argument, I think it is fair to say that “The Map” encapsulates an interpretation of identity formation, as discussed in the critical essays on audience and the artist/poet and the purpose of art (externally and internally) as well as other works by Bishop, in terms geography and spatial relationships and interaction.

**I also have forgotten to mention our mapping of the critics, themselves.  Placing them in relation to one another also helped us to define them individually. 

                (Lastly, I don’t mean for this to be what I think is a comprehensive list of Bishop’s themes in total.  The aspect of time, elements of form and many other important things I probably haven’t even realized yet add depth to the Questions of Travel collection and should be discussed; I just thought it might be interesting to consider the combination of this selection of poetry and critical discourse about poetry in terms of space.  Thoughts?)

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Banned and Dangerous Art

September 7, 2010

Hey all, didn’t know if any of you had been following another blog run by Dr. Mikhalevsky in the philosophy department, but there’s an interesting post of hers that discusses Whitman and Brooks as “Dangerous Poets”. Thought you all might like to check it out.

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Copo of the Mo’: Marge Piercy

September 6, 2010

Insert Stereotypical Poet-With-a-Book Picture Here.

Since there is a larger focus on the largely known, largely taught canonical poets in the class, I thought it might be a good idea to post and talk about some of our own favorite contemporary poets. In this way, we can hopefully supplement what Dr. Scanlon is doing by having us subscribe to DailyPoetry. So, fellow poetry-lovers, I introduce to you what I’m going to call “Copo of the Mo’ ” (short for month, although it doesn’t have to be of that particular time frame; I just like the way it sounds).

In our first edition, I’d like to discuss Marge Piercy. Piercy’s poetry often focuses on feminist concerns, although she also works with other social agendas such as mental illness. She often works in highly personal free form (Bishop would be most displeased). I’d rather you check out her stuff than have me ramble for eight pages, so take a quick look:

The Friend

We sat across the table.
he said, cut off your hands.
they are always poking at things.
they might touch me.
I said yes.

Food grew cold on the table.
he said, burn your body.
it is not clean and smells like sex.
it rubs my mind sore.
I said yes.

I love you, I said.
That’s very nice, he said
I like to be loved,
that makes me happy.
Have you cut off your hands yet?

While “The Friend” deviates from some of her work in the tightness/shortness of the lines and general lack of imagery, what I particularly love about this piece is its abruptness. Piercy drives the cruelty of the male figure and slavish nature of the speaker home through the simplicity of her speech (with words such as “poking” or “nice,” which are childish in nature)., as well as a lack of punctuation.  And although this is not necessarily the technique that Piercy always uses, there is usually the effect of rawness and edge at the end of a lot of her pieces. If you’d like to check out more of her stuff, go here (she has another volume coming out in February!).

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A Contemporary Use for Poetry

September 6, 2010

I saw this article the other day and it made me wonder if the contemporary use of poetry is, like Heaney says in “The Redress of Poetry” it can serve both his definitions: 1) “reparation of, satisfaction or compensation for, a wrong sustained or the loss resulting from this” and 2) “to set (a person or a thing) upright again; to raise again to an erect position. Also fig. to set up again, restore, re-establish”. It fulfills the first one in this instance by serving as a means for reparation for the wrong done to those who died and those who have survived to record the experience, here in written format. The second is more figuratively fulfilled through the restoration and re-establishing of the lives of those who have survived; i.e. as a means of coping with the event.

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Ask Dr. Scansion

September 6, 2010

Q:  Dear Dr. Scansion,

I am new to formal analysis of poetry and am anxiously wondering: what terms do I really need to know? Can you help me navigate this new period in my education?

Yours,

“Sylvia

A: Dear “Sylvia,”

The terms of formal analysis and prosody are numerous, and some people may be comfortable taking on a more complex set, but for the most part you should have a vocabulary that includes the following:

1) basic accentual patterns: iamb, trochee, spondee, pyrrhic, anapest, and dactyl (Note: some people think that the pyrrhic doesn’t exist in English.  You will need to resist peer pressure and decide what seems true to you.  For my part, I believe.)

2) common metrical feet: trimeter, tetrameter, pentameter, hexameter

3) common stanza names: couplet, triplet, quatrain, sestet, octave

4) useful ways to characterize sound patterns: rhyme, half- or slant-rhyme, assonance, consonance, dissonance, alliteration

5) terms that describe line/sentence formations: end-stopped, caesura, enjambment

You may want to be comfortable with a handful of other terms, for example:  sonnet, sestina, blank verse, free verse.

Sylvia, there are resources for people like you.  This site has a wealth of information about prosody and form, or you can turn to sites like the glossary on  for better for verse, which is less exhaustive but has clear definitions.  In either case, don’t forget that reliable friends and grown-ups you trust can be helpful in working through these tough times.  Eventually you may even come to see formal and prosodic analysis as an important part of how you think.

All best wishes,

Dr. Scansion

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Some Photographs of ‘Ms. Bishop’

September 5, 2010

Unfortunately I can’t embed these because the photographer has disabled it, but this is a link to a picture of Elizabeth and her mom, and this is a link to a picture of 12 year old Elizabeth.

Here’s a picture of Robert Lowell and Elizabeth in Brazil:

A sweet picture of Elizabeth with a cat:

This is the only picture I can find of Lota, except for one that looks like a sketch:

And one more just for fun:

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Thursday’s Readings vs. Questions of Travel

September 5, 2010

For me, completing the readings for last class was a chore. I just wasn’t pulled in by Bishop’s poetry and, even after class, was left not particularly liking the works we had discussed. I assumed that Bishop wasn’t really my taste. However, this weekend when I was reading her “Questions of Travel” section, I felt like I was enjoying an entirely different poet! I LOVED this collection.

I was trying to think what it could be about these particular poems that set them apart (for me) from the other works we just read by the same author. In my case, I think that it is the more personal voice and quality that a lot of the poems in “Questions of Travel” seem to possess. I love her portraits of people and the descriptions of Brazil and her other destinations. These are just my thoughts.

Did anyone else have such an altered reaction to this weeks reading compared to our first selections by Bishop? Did you notice something in “Questions of Travel” that seemed to be so different?

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I know we aren’t reading Heaney, but…

September 5, 2010

Here is a link to an intriguing review of Seamus Heaney’s most recent collection of poetry, Human Chain. The reviewer, Nick Laird, writes:

Human Chain is stranger – and much greater – than a cursory glance would suggest. Though here, as expected, are exquisitely turned poems about rural events and childhood incidents, the collection also revisits (and sometimes redirects) earlier work, and there is a chilly, other-worldly aura hanging over the whole enterprise.”

Along with some dreamy, vaguely hero-worshipful criticism (the kind Gioia might vomit over), there are some pretty intense spoilers in the review: there are excerpts from four or five different poems, intriguing enough to pique my interest, but short enough to irritate. I suppose copywright laws prevent full texts of the poems from being posted in The Telegraph, but extracting what are ostensibly the best bits and telling readers about how great they are seems tantamount to saying, “Oh, you want to read this book? Well, _____ dies.”

Anyway, Laird’s point seems to be that if you are allergic to “passages of enormous lyric power,” you probably shouldn’t read any Heaney, especially not Human Chain. The book comes out in the U.S. on September 14th, and, like a big nerd, I have already pre-ordered it.

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