Thursday, May 8, 2014


Somebody really likes bees. Or hates them. I don't really know. but Bees.

The poem I want to look at today isn't about bees. Its about her Daddy.

I was trying to finish up these blogs before class, and read through quickly to find a poem to use and I started reading "Daddy." It intrigued me because I am a daddy's girl and I always will be. Judging from her other poems, I knew it wasn't exactly going to be a happy poem, but I didn't realize just how exhaustingly sad and depressing it was going to be. Yet, I'm so glad I read it.

I actually cried sitting here at Wake Forest Coffee Company. I don't know what to do with this poem. I don't know what to do with Plath. She is so full of emotion and so good at communicating it. The innocence of a child calling for her daddy paired with the awful destruction and sins of the Nazi's, with the early death of her father, with a picture of failed suicide, with a struggle for identity.

So much pain.

I think the word "Daddy" is what did it though. It- being the emotional destruction that came upon me while sipping coffee.
If she had used any other word, "father," or even "dad" I don't think I would have been as destroyed. But she calls him daddy- a term of endearment. a word that carries with it innocence and intimacy.

A term, I, a 23 year old married lady, still calls her daddy.

Do I have to compare it to another poem? My goodness, I can't take any more of the emotion for one day.

At the end of the poem... that stung too.
"daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through."

By sheer chance, I clicked on a link to the poems of Lisa Zaran who wrote "Talking to My Father Whose Ashes Sit in a Closet and Listen"

"Death is not the final word. 
Without ears, my father still listens, 
still shrugs his shoulders 
whenever I ask a question he doesn't want to answer. 

I stand at the closet door, my hand on the knob, 
my hip leaning against the frame and ask him 
what does he think about the war in Iraq 
and how does he feel about his oldest daughter 
getting married to a man she met on the Internet. 

Without eyes, my father still looks around. 
He sees what I am trying to do, sees that I 
have grown less passive with his passing, 
understands my need for answers only he can provide. 

I imagine him drawing a breath, sensing 
his lungs once again filling with air, his thoughts ballooning."

Ugh... Seriously. I can't even imagine living my life without my daddy.

Now, her poem, while talking about the death of her father, carries a tone that isn't quite as depressing as Plath's. Although her father is still dead she still talks to him and see him living, unlike Plath who just wants to be dead with her father.

While Plath uses scenes and themes of innocence juxtaposed with cruelty and evil to communicate a VERY expressive emotion, Zaran uses images and the senses to communicate her desire and love for her father,

I know this is an academic blog, but just because this made me remember and think of my daddy, I thought I'd share these:


Robert Lowell has a pretty good grasp on fallen humanity. In his poem. "To Speak of Woe That Is in Marriage" he tells a brief story of a wife whose husband hires prostitutes and basically treats her like a piece of dirt. While reading this poem, I felt sad for the wife. I felt like I wanted to castrate the man. He doesn't deserve a wife. I wanted to free the woman, and the man (from needing prostitutes...)

It's quite a gruesome poem as it is. It is dangerous.

"cruising for prostitutes... along on the razors-edge"
"kill his wife...injustice... unjust..."
"gored.. stalls above me like an elephant"

This poem immediately made me think of the novel Jazz it was like it was written for the novel. It was the "soundtrack" of a loving wife whose husband cheated on her, killed (not her) but his lover and carried on in rage and confusion. Violet was left to keep herself alive. Keep her REAL self alive.

When I read this poem, I wanted to help her get out of that wretched "marriage" she was in. I wanted justice for her. The poem, "The Longing" by Nimah Nawwab wrote a beautiful poem about freedom. Her poem is a little more hopeful than Lowell's, but just like the voice in "To Speak of Woe," the speaker of Nawwab's poem's is practically voiceless.

How her spirit
Entices us all!

Will the time come
For my ideas to roam
Across this vast land’s deserts,
Through the caverns of the Empty Quarter?

For my voice to be sent forth,
Crying out in the stillness of a quiet people,
A voice among the voiceless?

For my thoughts, that hurl around
In a never-ending spiral,
To settle
Mature, grow and flourish
In a barren wasteland of shackled minds?

Will my spirit be set free—
To soar above the undulating palm fronds?
Will my essence and heart be unfettered,
Of man-made Thou Shall Nots?"

Now, Nawwab's poem tends to use more emotion words to express her desires while Lowell uses more of just descriptions of scenes. Both are screaming to be heard and saved. Both want freedom.
It's hard to say which one is more effected. Both are evoked strong emotions and both made me want to scream out for them. But why would my voice be heard any louder than theirs.

It wouldn't be. 

I like this word "Redolence"

I had never heard this word before, "Redolence" I had to look it up. I like this word, very much so.

I read a poem by Michael Burch with the title, "Redolence" so I looked up the word.

There ya have it. 

So after I read the definition and read the poem I thought about William Carlos Williams' poem "The Great Figure" because it is sort of imagist. Williams simply describes with emotion a firetruck with sirens blaring moving through the streets of a dark city. But it was more than that. It brought back the feeling of me seeing a firetruck, and the anxiousness I feel. The poem made me see the truck #5 with all its glory moving through the town, attending to the person or family who called 9-1-1. I don't want to over examine the poem, but his simplicity is what makes this poem so effective. There is no b.s. There just is a great figure:

"Among the rain
and lights
I saw the figure 5
in gold
on a red
to gong clangs
siren howls
and wheels rumbling
through the dark city."

In relation to that is Burch's poem "Redolence." Except, Burch uses similar conventions of sight, but also adds the sense of smell (hints the name). His poem is beautiful:

"Now darkness ponds upon the violet hills;
cicadas sing; the tall elms gently sway;
and night bends near, a deepening shade of gray;
the bass concerto of a bullfrog fills
what silence there once was; globed searchlights play.

Green hanging ferns adorn dark window sills,
all drooping fronds, awaiting morning’s flares;
mosquitoes whine; the lissome moth again
flits like a veiled oud-dancer, and endures
the fumblings of night’s enervate gray rain.

And now the pact of night is made complete;
the air is fresh and cool, washed of the grime
of the city’s ashen breath; and, for a time,
the fragrance of her clings, obscure and sweet."

The sights, the smells. It's like I am there, standing with him and looking out and seeing everything. Now,  Burch uses a few more descriptive words than Williams does, which makes me think of it less an imagist poetry, however there is definitely a clear image and emotion created. I am at peace looking upon the violet hills, listening to cicadas and bullfrogs and watching the trees sway in the wind. I am at peace seeing night creatures dance. I am at peace in the fresh, cool, air, smelling the sweetness of the city. 

Peace vs. Anxious. but both desirous emotions that I loved feeling when reading. And created in a similar way- through simple imagery. I can almost smell the sweet city. 

Maybe I will, maybe I will go out upon the city in the evening and listen, and see, and smell. And maybe I will see a firetruck moving/tense/unheeded 

through the dark city.

Keeping us alive by throwing stones.

A poem within a poem, a poem about a poem, a poem of a poem that became a poem...

I don't even know anymore. Words, they just run.

But honestly, Muriel Rukeyser's poem "Poem White Page/ White Page Poem" seems like it is about what its like to put words of a poem on a white page.

"Poem    white page       white page      poem
something is streaming out of a body in waves
something is beginning from the fingertips
they are starting to declare for my whole life
all the despair and the making music
something like wave after wave
that breaks on a beach
something like bringing the entire life
to this moment
the small waves bringing themselves to white paper
something like light stands up and is alive."

The first time I read this poem, I didn't think much of it. To be honest, I had already picked this one for my blog because it was short. (Honesty is the best policy). But then I read the poem again and I began to take note of the power-words (as I will call them). Words that embody a sense of awe, power, or strength-- words like Wave, ocean, declare, "whole life", "entire life," "alive".  Once I saw those words, and I read it again, I read it again, and I read it again, each time with more vehemence. He made something so simple sounding, putting words on a page, sound like an epic. It IS difficult to share your life on page, but impossible to keep to yourself. I could only image what he went through, being a Jew in the second world war. It must have been brutal, terrible, evil, monstrous.... I could go on. But something about poetry keeps him alive, it keeps US alive.

In searching for something to compare and contrast, I found another Jewish poet who happened to write about poems. The title of his poem is, "Temporary Poem of My Time" by Yehuda Amichai. Both poems use repetition of phrases to increase the power and voice of the poem. Since both poets were Jews and drastically affected by the holocaust, I can only imagine that they desperately needed to have a voice--a loud, clear, powerful, voice. Amichia's poem used the imagery of a stone and of throwing those stones. Yet, at the end of the poem his last stanza moves from throwing stones to throwing "nothing"

"Please throw little stones,
Throw snail fossils, throw gravel,
Justice or injustice from the quarries of Migdal Tsedek,
Throw soft stones, throw sweet clods,
Throw limestone, throw clay,
Throw sand of the seashore,
Throw dust of the desert, throw rust,
Throw soil, throw wind,
Throw air, throw nothing
Until your hands are weary
And the war is weary
And even peace will be weary and will be."

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Injustice and Anger.

Langston Hughes' poetry is phenomenal on multiple levels. His poetry paints pictures, shows us what is going on. His poetry makes us think and wonder where America went wrong. His poetry makes us cry, get angry and ponder his perspective. Langston Hughes communicates loud and clear in a masterful authoritative voice. He is the voice of protest, of rallying together for change.

I cried.
I got angry at white people
I got frustrated with Hughes
I wanted to punch a racist in the face and tell them to grow the hell up.

But really, the emotions evoked were fierce.

One of the poems that made me the angriest was Ku Klux

They took me out
to some lonesome place.
They said, "Do you believe
In the great white race?"

I said, "Mister,
to tell you the truth
I'd believe in anything
If you'd just turn me loose."
                           ---What we do when we fear for our lives... The things we would compromise.---

The white man said, "Boy,
Can it be
You're a-standin' there
A-ssassin' me?"

They hit me in the head
And knocked me down.
And then they kicked me
On the ground.

                         ---AHH! I am so mad right now. Get off your high freaking horse. If you feel like
                            you're better than black people because of your race, why must you feel the need
                            to purge them. You must be threatened by the truth...

A klanman said, "Nigger,
Look me in the face--
And tell me you believe in
The great white race."

Clearly, my emotion is obvious.. but how does he evoke this?
He uses rhyme and rhythm, like this kind of event is just part of the pattern- it's normal, accepted.
He uses something as insignificant and non-threanening as a question "Do you believe in the great white race?" and shows the sheer INJUSTICE that the Hughes endured because he didn't answer directly "yes."

So let me get this straight? Because he didn't answer a question with the exact answer you wanted, you violently beat him up...

You mangy dogs. You scum of the earth...

Hughes uses the simplicity of a question juxtaposed with the violent beating to show the injustice, the unwarranted violence against African-Americans. And the insignificant pattern of rhyme to make it seem normal.

Brian Turner wrote a poem "What Every Soldier Should Know" that evokes a similar feeling of anger, of fierce emotion. Like Hughes' poem that communicates a pattern of sad reality, Turner's poem communicates a similar pattern. Both realities dangerous to the ones inside them. Both realities communicated as though they are normal. Both realities communicate sheer injustice.

"Small children will play with you
old men with their talk, women who offer chai--

and any of them
may dance over your body tomorrow."

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

On War and Peace.

Once again, racism rears its ugly head. 

It was SO HARD to read Claude McKay. Not because his poetry was unconventional or confusing, nor did he use hard to understand metaphors. No, his poetry was hard to read because of the content, because I didn't want to have the emotions I had while reading his poetry. I didn't want to look at history in the face. But I did. I wish so much that Claude McKay was alive right now. I wish that he could see how far we've come as a Country, I wish he was here to encourage us to go even further. His poetry, especially "The Lynching" really got to me. Just to think about the violence that black people endured, and read it described in such a way as to provoke a violent emotion, it does something. It's terrifying. 

Then I read Maya Angelou's poetry. She's not ignorant to what happened, she's well aware of her ancestor's history. However, she is more removed from slavery than McKay is. She has the ability to see the hope despite the crushing weight of opposition, of wrongdoing. Her poetry, most of it, is more hopeful. In her poem "Million Man March" Angelou calls up an army. This army is meant to defend their heritage, but not by taking revenge on the white's who oppressed them. Rather, she commands:

"Let us come together and cleanse our souls,
Clap hands, let's leave the preening
And stop impostering our own history.
Clap hands, call the spirits back from the ledge,
Clap hands, let us invite joy into our conversation"

McKay's poem "If We Must Die" is also a call to arms. The tone of the two poems is entirely different, but both calling their people into action. Now the context of each of these poets is different as well, and I must take that into consideration. Angelou, though her context still has racism and its consequences around, is nothing like the time of the Civil Rights Movement. That being said, the facts remain. McKay knew he was going to die by defending his people, "So that our precious blood may not be shed in vain." He's riding into battle with a known fate: death. It is almost hopeless. 
Angelou's poem has a much different effect. She is giving more of a pep talk before the war, she is hopeful that if she changes their perspective, they "will rise" that they will understand why they should be hopeful. The end of her poem describes this feeling: "The ancestors remind us, despite the history of pain We are a going-on people who will rise again." They will forever remember these oppressive acts of violence, but they will not let those things define them. They will rise. 

If only McKay could see how his people have risen out of slavery, out of constant violent oppression.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Spring into the beauty of a hopeless world.

What a perfect Spring Day to read H.D!

Here is a poem dedicated to H.D (Dr. Seuss Style)

A Joyful occasion
By Deanna Ver Schneider

I could read H.D in a hammock on a beach
or in the mountains
on a peak
By the fountains
raining spring water,
In my house
where no one could bother
me. Oh my, thank you H.D.
For bringing back joy
to me in Poetry.

Now, I am not exactly suggesting that H.D's poetry is joyful, but rather that it brings joy to me because I thoroughly enjoy reading it. Maybe because I'm a cynical old hag, or possibly because it is a breath of fresh air coming out of T.S Eliot and Pound (who btw, are great but mind-numbing).

Today I want to start with the poem This is Not an Experiment by Pablo SaborĂ­o.

His poetry is quite depressing with conflicting imagery and feelings of tension. While I don't know that I would say this is imagist poetry, Saborio uses images, very abstract images, to get his emotion across. He uses images that conflict, "This is a shadow shedding its bone in a camouflage of change." Shadows don't have bones to shed... 
He also uses images that simply don't make a lick of sense, "This is a sister opening a drawer to hide a wonderful thing"
Throughout the poem, I am left hanging, hanging on to what should be coming next, an explanation. What wonderful thing? What perception?... I didn't realize I was hanging until the end of the poem when he draws a picture of someone hanging off of a cliff, ending almost hopelessly. 
"But above all,
this is another handclinging to the edgebefore the fall."
It was then, that it all made sense. 

H.D's poem, "Eurydice" was a picture of hopelessness for me. But, if there is such a thing, a beautiful hopelessness. With the myth of Eurydice  and Orpheus as a back drop (also a sign of good poetry according to Eliot), the poem struck some emotional cords. She is clearly angry and unforgiving to the one who looked back, to the man who put her back in her misery after promising to rescue her. The man who, because he couldn't help himself, sent her back to hell. Yeah, I'd be pissed off too. And H.D creates a world for her readers-- A black, lost, ruthless world that she is forever condemned to because of the arrogance of her lover. "How RUDE!" is an understatement. 
Her images, unlike Saborio's, make logical sense (for the most part). She communicates her emotions through the language, and emphasizes it through the images. Saborio uses conflicting images to communicate his emotions. 

"before I am lost, hell must open like a red rose for the dead to pass." 
How can someone make hopelessness sound so beautiful?