Sunday, May 1, 2011

Not Waving but Drowning by Stevie Smith (Make-up blog)

When I read this poem, it made me think of all the poor souls in the world who suffer every day, who cry out for help and receive none, and who end up being unnecessarily lost. Whether it is from depression or some other problem, they exude apparently silent pleas for help, and no one responds, so they continue to drown in their problems and are eventually consumed by them.

"Nobody heard him, the dead man, but still he lay moaning: I was much further out than you thought and not waving but drowning." Nobody realized what he was going through. Everyone misconstrued his calls for help for something less important, perhaps just a need for attention or a lousy attitude, when really he was already past the point that he could be saved. "Poor chap, he always loved larking and now he's dead it must have been too cold for him his heart gave way, they said." Everyone thought he was happy and content with life, and that one day life just got too overwhelming for him and, naturally, it overcame him as it would anyone else. "Oh, no no no, it was too cold always (Still the dead one lay moaning) I was much too far out all my life and not waving but drowning." He says that life has always been "too cold," but no one ever saw it. He had always been consumed by his problems, and people refused to see it for what it really was. To me, it seems to say that he never really had a chance of rescue, because he had always been drowning, never waving as everyone thought, so no one would have ever thought to rescue him, because what was there to rescue him from? And still no one sees it and the situation remains as hopeless and trifling as ever.

Mid-Term Break by Seamus Heaney

It took a little while for me to realize it, but this might just be the saddest poem I've ever read. It's so solemn and blunt and emotionless at the beginning that, initially, I didn't quite know what was going on. But as the story progressed, I began to understand. I didn't really make the connection between anything past the first stanza with the title. I mean, "Mid-Term Break" is a rather misleading title for such a depressing poem. I thought it was just going to be about some college kid who was bummed out about being sick during a break from school, but no. It's about death and loss, as usual. The tone is so nonchalant, as if it is just a description of another average day in this kid's life, that it ended up seeming like the narrator was emotionally trying to detach himself from the situation. Of course, that is a perfectly natural reaction to the death of a loved one, although not really a healthy one. There is even what appears to be some subtle sarcasm in the line "In the porch I met my father crying-- he had always taken funerals in his stride," and such normal descriptions that I didn't quite know what to make of everything. I thought maybe he was just going to the funeral of someone he hadn't known very well. He refers to the deceased as "the corpse, stanched and bandaged by the nurses," and apparently hadn't seen it for six weeks.

"Wearing a poppy bruise on his left temple, he lay in the four foot box as in his cot. No gaudy scars, the bumper knocked him clear. A four foot box, a foot for every year."

Followed by much confusion, shock, and agitation on my part.

WHY?? What would posess anyone to write about such a mortifying and disheartening subject? A poor little four year old boy is dead, hit by a car. Not mutilated or scarred, just a bruise on his head. But still dead! And then I remembered how messed up and depressed so many poets and writers are, and that they have more sources of...inspiration...for their writing than normal people. I usually find poetry beautiful and meaningful, despite the topics it discusses, and I'm sure Heaney had very good reasons for writing this poem, (his little brother did die when he was 3 or 4), but this is just something I did not handle well. Just thinking about it was almost enough to make me cry, as pathetic as that may be. And Heaney makes a very good point of singling out the last line, which reveals how old the poor boy was, which made an even bigger impact on me than it otherwise might have. IN CONCLUSION, I think this was a very moving and purposeful poem, but I think I need to lay off the poetry for a while before it starts to get to me.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Lesson of the Falling Leaves by Lucille Clifton

This was a fairly short poem, in the typical writing style of Lucille Clifton: all lowercase letters and minimal, although in this case completely absent, punctuation. No rhyme scheme or structured style, but there was the repetition of the word "such," as well as the sounds in words "leaves" and "believe." And with the simple structure comes a simple idea. It seems like a cause and effect situation. The leaves believe that letting go of their lives is love, this type of love is faith, having this faith is grace, and this grace is God. It also does remind me of the circle poems we learned about however many years ago, where the idea branches out and then returns to the original subject. In any case, it really made me think about the connection Clifton was making between leaves and trees and what I assumed was loss or death or some other type of letting go. I found that it was kind of a melancholy subject in my mind after I thought about it for a while: the fear of losing anything or anyone to death is quite extreme for me, just because all I can think about is how, once death has claimed something or someone, it will never be reclaimed and it will never return. Kind of a selfish perspective, but that doesn't make me fear it any less. But loss is something people experience every day, and is, as a rule, a part of life. Therefore it must be accepted by those who experience it. But to be able to let go is, in a way, love: if you have lost to death, then what is lost will be in a better place according to most people, including myself. If you have this ability to love, then you usually have some sort of faith in a greater power and a better place to come after life. This faith is beautiful and good; it is grace. And grace is God. Perhaps it is not the most common or obvious connection to have made, but I can certainly see how the relationship makes sense. Clifton finishes the poem by saying "i agree with the leaves." This was a valuable lesson that the leaves communicated to Clifton. It is a true life lesson, that of learning how to let go and move on, and knowing that you are still loving what you've lost, just in a different way. It's something everyone should understand, and something we will all, unfortunately, be faced with.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

What the Mirror Said by Lucille Clifton

Lucille Clifton has a very interesting writing style, in that she uses all lower case throughout her writing. She also does not use fancy punctuation, so I thought it was funny that her typically simple punctuation was interrupted by a semi-colon in this particular poem. The structure of this poem is important because the way she breaks up her lines emphasizes the grouping of the words and affects the way the poem is read. She also repeats the word "listen" at the beginning of each point she makes, which makes the poem into more of a commanding, empowering speech.

Many women have to face their reflection on a daily basis, and sometimes it is hard for them to look at themselves and see all of the beauty in the reflection. This poem sounded like exactly the opposite of this: she is convincing herself of all the good things, and not letting herself feel inadequate in any way. In the context of the poem, she seems to be looking into a mirror and thinking about her reflection, or listening to what the mirror has to say. She looks at herself, and knows that she is a "wonder" and a "city of a woman." She reassures herself of her importance and complexity and beauty as a woman. She is proud of her body, and the fact that any man touching it has his hands on not just any woman, but "some damn body!" Clifton was able to find the confidence to celebrate being the woman that she was. Some people might think that this is a tired, overused subject, and normally I would not disagree with this. But, honestly, there are plenty of women that have internal struggles every day with their self-image, and desperately need the same self-assurance that Clifton imparts in this poem, and she has such a way of inspiring emotion in her writing that I couldn't help but appreciate her poem.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Many Red Devils... by Stephen Crane

When I was looking throught the packet, this was definitely one of my favorite poems. Apart from the fact that it was only one stanza and was simple enough to understand, I also loved the eccentricity of it. It seemed like Crane just randomly decided to jot down a separate thought from what he had been writing before.

The way I interpreted it, the devils were a part of the speaker's heart. Therefore, I assumed that they were his thoughts and feelings. Since he was comparing these thoughts and feelings to little red devils, they are probably either things that he is ashamed of or feels guilty about, or things that he does not think he should be writing about, and so is trying to avoid confronting them at any cost. He also says that they are "so tiny the pen could mash them," which could mean that they really weren't significant enough to write about anyways. However, the little red devils still struggle in the ink of the pen which is apparently mass murdering them, so they have to have some kind of influence in his heart and mind.

That being said, the tone was not particularly emotional. There were no sad feelings about mashing the little devils, but there was no excitement either. He was merely pondering the fleeting thought of it as he kept spilling his heart out over the paper, devils and all. "It was strange to write in this red muck of things from my heart." Despite the fact that this was basically a genocide of tiny little red devils that came directly out of his heart, the only thing he seems to have been worried about was that it was strange to have to write through all the blood. But I think this indifference of the speaker in this poem really reinforces the idea of it being a random thought, since we generally tend to brush off these thoughts as our train of thought continues on its path, and we therefore don't get very emotionally invested in any one specific idea. That's what really stood out to me in this poem, and I think that's why I enjoyed it so much.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sindhi Woman by Jon Stallworthy

This definitely seemed like a creative topic for a poem, and the metaphor which Stallworthy creates is interesting. From what I looked up, Sindh is a province in Pakistan. Stalworthy also references the largest city of Pakistan, Karachi, the slums of which are very run-down, overpopulated and poverty stricken. This is where the speaker in the poem says that he or she sees the woman walking. I thought that this might have meant that the speaker lived in the slums, perhaps a beggar or one of the many homeless. The speaker notices a Sindhi woman passing through a bazaar, carrying a stone jar on her head. She is described as being graceful, gliding through the filthy streets, unfazed by her surroundings. In the last stanza, Stallworthy compares the speaker to the woman: the speaker stoops as he or she watches, and the woman stands straight up, even though she is carrying the stone jar. The speaker makes the observation that "...they stand most straight who learn to walk beneath a weight." I took this as a metaphor between how the woman confronts her physical task, and how the speaker handles the hardships in his or her life, so this could be taken both literally and figuratively. The woman has learned to carry the heavy jar and stand tall while doing so, the speaker lives beneath the "weight" of the world and, under its hardships, learns to face the trouble and keep living, even though life is difficult. In this way, Stallworthy creates the connection between the speaker and the woman, a metaphor between people of two possibly different walks of life, but who overcome their own daily struggles.