Image and the Arc of Feeling, 2nd Critical Article

April 27th, 2013

Craig Lambert, deputy editor of Harvard Magazine wrote an insightful piece on Jorie Graham and why she possesses such a writing style. He explores the meaning of image and feelings in her work and her life. The first half of the article he spends talking about moments in Graham’s life that heavily influenced her writing.  The second half is her childhood growing up in Italy and how speaking three languages while living by the sea is so important to her. This article as a whole reflects on an individual writer’s life and thoughts. There are several direct quotes from Jorie Graham that are explanations of her own in correlation with her poetry.

I really enjoyed learning a lot more about this poet’s life. We spent time in class on her poetry but never learned much about her. This article gave me a huge basis to the background of her poems and writing in general. It starts off with Graham visiting Emily Dickinson’s house in Amherst. She wanted to ask Dickinson a question in regards to her pregnancy. There is a detailed account of that visit by Graham in which the women wouldn’t let her in and she pleaded and cried just to see Dickinson’s bedroom. Once she got there, the infamous desk was gone at an exhibit. But in it’s place was Dickinson’s own cradle and that was Graham’s metaphorical answer. What’s interesting about this opening story is the background behind the background. Graham went to the house because she was wondering is being a parent would hurt her creativity. All the female poets who she looked up to were childless. She ended up getting her “zen koan” and named the child she was carrying Emily.

We discover throughout the next several paragraphs that Graham is a very open person with her hands in several writing programs. Lambert writes that Graham is very accessible and that she “can identify what the actual errand of your poem is-you may think it’s about your family, but she shows you something elusive that may be even more important.” There is also a lot of detail on Graham’s thoughts on reading. She says that instead of just memorizing and recording what you read, one must create the experience. She goes deeper with poetry saying “you have to feel deeply something inchoate, something which is coming up from a place that you don’t even know the register of.”  She talks about learning how to be the protagonist of your poem instead of the typical narrator.

In terms of poetry, Lambert gives us a very large section of explanation. Graham expresses her interest in image as a catalyst for inspiration. She talks about how once she has an image, it becomes in invitation to the senses to get to work that isn’t necessarily structures. “A good poem is always a reaction, a moment of acute surprise that occurred in the soul of the speaker.” Here we start to really see the theme of image and feelings. That writing isn’t just writing, it’s an act of the body, soul and mind all put together.

Literary critic Helen Vendler is introduced towards the end being labeled as one of critics that has written extensively on Graham. Lambert references Vendler in what she thinks about Graham’s poetry and prose. She says that Graham’s book Region of Unlikeness is a “remarkably original body of writing” for it’s interesting proportion of prose to poetry. Graham responds with one of my favorite quotes from her “You have to go somewhere you haven’t been before. To remain an artist, you have to keep erasing your path behind you.” I love this because it says so much in two sentences. She is saying that in order to be someone who considers themselves an artist you have to break new glass. That you have to cross lines that haven’t been touched. I see this as saying that if one keeps repeating old work or similar styles than they aren’t a true artist.

Graham’s poem “Band Practice” illustrates her methods first hand. She writes a seemingly simple poem about a band practice that is really a poem about the self. “The band is seen as a collective beast, but the bushes are not aware of the band; they can only feel light and wind.” This poem is about perception of ourselves and what we are “not equipped” to take in. Vendler said-“She’s writing a poem about the self without saying ‘I, me, my wife, my husband’-it’s writing in a completely objective way.” That is what’s innovative, that is what makes Graham a true artist.

The end of the article is all about Graham’s life growing up in Italy and going to a French school. She said that when she was young, she was taught three names for one thing-“I was taught three/names for the tree facing my window/Castagnochassagnechestnut.” 

Her childhood can be seen in her poetry and prose as well as in her daily life as a writer and professor. Lambert tells us about her writing process and the drafts she has spread out on her king bed. In the last paragraph Graham gives us a definition of a made thing whether it be tangible or not. “There’s the sensation of the made thing, it stands alone and it lives, without its maker. Like putting a child forth into the world. Life does win out over death in that way. Whether it’s made of flesh or of words, it stands against death.”

Lambert, Craig A., Ph.D. “Image and the Arc of Feeling.” Harvard Magazine. Harvard Magazine Inc., Jan. 2001harvard. Web. 27 Apr. 2013. <>

Alison’s Critical Article 2

April 27th, 2013

For this assignment, I read “In the Beautiful, Violent Swirl of America: Simon Ortiz’s From Sand Creek, Thirty Years Later” by Jules Gibbs. In this article, Gibbs explores the timelessness and continued relevance of Ortiz’s work. Gibbs writes, “Through the dominant imagery of natural forces larger than human events – land, thunder, wind – we hear not just the report of the massacre of Sand Creek, but rather the report as it has passed through time and memory (35).” In other words, Ortiz is able to make the story persist in present days thanks to the strategies he employs. For example, Ortiz is able to create more of a sense than a story, so that readers can feel the event even thought the time is long past.

Gibbs also draws attention to the benefit of leaving the poems within the book untitled. If Ortiz had titled the poems, that may suggest that the poems should be seen as separate entities from each other. By leaving the poems untitled, they become more of a unified work and the readers know to consider them all as a whole.

The next section of the article focused on the history of, accounts of, and feelings associated with Sand Creek. Gibbs writes, “… there is a message rising through the palimpsest of an overwritten and obscured identity and national history (35).” Gibbs points out that the story of the Sand Creek massacre is a complicated one that we will never know everything about, but what we know for sure is that at least 130 innocent people were brutally murdered. Many of those killed were women and children, and a lot of them were further mutilated even after their death. It is due to these horrors that the work of Ortiz is able to bring grief through to the present time.

It is in Gibbs opinion that Ortiz is truthful in his writing and that he shows his own suffering through this work. Gibbs believes that Ortiz is trying to heal himself, while also healing others. Another motivation may have been to aid in recovery of a community. This is recovery in the sense of healing, but also recovering in the sense of bringing memories and accounts back to the surface that should not be forgotten over time.

Gibbs also makes sure to draw attention to the attention that Ortiz pays to violence and blood. Ortiz doesn’t give explicit descriptions of deaths, because he wants to preserve the beauty of the victims. He sees death as being sacred and he wants to show the victims honor and preserve the memory of them. Ortiz also place a lot of importance on blood. He sees blood as being very ritualistic, so he honors that blood instead of aggrandizing the acts of the soldiers that carried out the massacre.

Gibbs then goes on to pay more attention to the conventions of the poem saying they “work to make us suspect of a truth that is too easily delivered, and to seek out the more difficult negotiation (36).” In other words, every single detail Ortiz put into the delivery of his poem was to try and get readers to examine the message even further. The poems are often succinct and to the point because Ortiz wanted to use a few words in order to express great meaning. The left-handed pages of the book are there to let readers know the information that is left out of the creativity of the right-hand pages. Additionally, the enjambment present in Ortiz’s work calls readers to pay more attention and explore the meaning of what they’re reading. At times the speaker can seem extremely angry, while at other times the speaker can speak with ease. Any rhyming that is in the poem feels very deliberate, which makes it more striking and memorable.

Gibbs concludes by pointing out that while this poem passes trauma on to another generation, it also continues to promote recovery. I believe this connects well to what we were discussing in class about the poem being hopeful despite its subject matter. Ortiz isn’t trying to keep us locked within the memories of this terrible event, but rather he is making sure it isn’t forgotten. More specifically, Ortiz is making sure that the victims of this tragic event won’t be forgotten, as pointed out by Gibbs when discussing the details associated with the deaths and blood. This sentiment, of not letting the memory of those murdered be forgotten, is one that anyone who has lost someone can appreciate. That is one of the main reasons I agree with the message of Gibbs’ article. Ortiz tugs at readers’ emotions which is why, even with the factual sections of prose, this poem doesn’t feel like a history lesson. The beauty of the poem, and the emotions it evokes, is what makes Ortiz’s work timeless and able to span generations.

Gibbs, Jules. “In the Beautiful, Violent Swirl of America: Simon Ortiz’s From Sand Creek, Thirty Years Later.” The American Poetry Review July-Aug. 2012: 35+. Literature Resources from Gale. Web. 23 Apr. 2013.

Jen’s Second Critical Article

April 26th, 2013

Gardner, Thomas. “The End of Beauty’ and a Fresh Look at Modernism.” Southwest Review 88.3 (2003): 335-49. Academic Serach Complete. Web. 21 April 2013.

In his article “Jorie Graham’s ‘The End of Beauty’ and a Fresh Look at Modernism,” Thomas Gardner explores Graham’s emphasis on the “moment of process” and the dialogue that she has with fellow modernist poets Stevens, Eliot, and Frost. He argues that Graham uses her poem to “reach back across her immediate predecessors to the modernists, drawing from them ways of thinking and moving [that are] implied but never fully developed in their work” (2).

Gardner first turns to Stevens’ “The Idea of Order at Key West” to demonstrate ways in which Graham expands upon the ideas of other poets who grappled with the idea of the “in-between space.” In his poem, Steven begins to explore the notion of representation as he describes his speaker “walking along the beach and overhearing a woman’s song that seemed to snap the scene into focus” (2). The woman’s song is an act of representation, and the woman comes to realize that “she was the single artificer of the world/ In which she sang” (3). Gardner argues that Graham responds to Stevens, alluding to his poem in her own “Ravel and Unravel.” In the poem, Graham considers the moment of creation, meditating on the moment just before an idea or shape crystalizes” (3). The speaker of the poem hears her daughter crying, noting that it is a cry of “desire” in its “rage for order” (4). Graham dedicates much of the beginning of the poem to discuss this “undoing of form” and order when she reflects on the story of Penelope undoing her weave. While Stevens begins to skim the surface in his exploration of representation and artistic form, Graham enters into dialogue with Stevens’ poem fifty years later and offers new questions—most notably, as Gardner points out, whether “there is a way of making form that can…[be] ‘clean of human trappings and ‘alive, more than/alive’ without needing to move immediately to the drive to make it beautiful, knowable and usable” (5).

Gardner moves on to discuss Graham’s dialogue with Frost’s poem “Birches.” Like Stevens poem, “Birches” is a meditation on form and what we do when “the world eludes [our] grasp” (7). In Frost’s poem, the speaker “kicks his way down to earth” (8); however, Graham’s “Vertigo” slows and suspends the process of trying to comprehend that world. Graham’s speaker, “leaning outward from the edge,” allows for a “vertiginous series of questions about form to race through her…acknowledging the world without trapping it in a specific shape” (7). Thus, in this moment of suspension before the speaker’s feet touch the ground, she begins to understand “a world beyond her which…has ‘no shape’ on its own” (8).

Lastly, Gardner turns to Graham’s response to Eliot’s The Waste Land. Her poem, “Pollock and Canvas,” and her description of Pollock’s approach toward canvas suggests that “a new form might bloom from form’s dissolution before ‘nothing’ or ‘the silence’ (10). She alludes to Eliot’s Fisher King and specifically the image of hands in order to “draw out the power of delay and not moving forward present but untapped in Eliot’s poem” (9). She calls attention to the beauty of Eliot’s poem as, not a “finished thing,” but rather as “thinking still in progress” (11). Gardner argues that “Graham makes us see that in much of his poem Eliot’s line hovers—“moving as a ‘body’ might, through sound and rhythm, rather than as the mind alone might, focusing on the completed shape we call ‘beauty’ (11).

One of the most important takeaways from this article for me was to recognize the ways in which Graham is entering into dialogue with her predecessors in an effort to explore her role as poet, the importance of the work in progress, and “what she sees as the continuing liveness of the work of the moderns” (12). For Jorie Graham, a poem is always in motion—it has no beginning or end. However, one question Gardner does not seem to address is Graham’s title, “The End of Beauty.” In class, we have discussed a couple different interpretations of this title. After analyzing Graham’s attitudes toward form, perhaps the term “beauty” refers to what we usually considered the finished product or completed shape—the aesthetics traditionally associated with poetry, specifically the decadence movement. The end of this “beauty,” then, is embracing words that hover and form that “flails and slurs” (12). In addition, I also think that Gardner’s article reminded me of the modernist poets’ awareness of their readers. Unlike classical poems and epics of in decades prior, poems like Graham’s are very conscious of their audience and even their need for an audience. Drawing attention to her poem’s incompleteness and even leaving going so far as to include blanks in her work, Graham clearly believes in Bakhtin’s theory of dialogic nature of literature. Realizing Graham’s poem as work in progress is crucial before we can recognize our role as readers and respond in the ways that the poem demands of us.

laundry instructions

April 25th, 2013

Alison reminded me to tell you all this:


i would not recommend drying the shirt on a high heat. only low or air fluff. i wouldn’t steam it, either.


if you have to iron it, keep the iron TWO FULL INCHES away from the design, and when you iron the back, FIT THE SHIRT OVER THE IRONING BOARD. do not leave the two sides touching when you iron the back. again, it will melt.

some of you have shirts with weird places of ink around the sleeves or collar, because the ink is truly devilish stuff. working with it is like working with glitter – it’s the herpes of arts and crafts. it gets all over everything and never dries or completely comes off. so please, check your shirt thoroughly before ironing any part of it, as there may be spots of ink in weird places. this stuff will melt and RUIN everything it touches. especially the iron.

other than that, the shirts are 100% bleached cotton and pre-shrunk, so it should be fine in the washer, it can be bleached, and shouldn’t shrink anymore.

Some Reflective Thoughts

April 25th, 2013

During the first weeks of this course, while we were reading some of the critical articles, I was getting all tongue-tied trying to make point (as I so often do) and said that I like reading long poems more than a shorter one, but I didn’t explain any further. I remember saying to myself, “Wow, Alison, way to sound like a suck up! You should blog about what you meant by that…” but that’s as far as it went until now.

When I was in middle school/early high school I went through a novel in verse phase. My favorite author was Sonya Sones. Her book What My Mother Doesn’t Know totally got me hooked on books of verse all connected into one story. While the book is full of stories of teenage love and angst, and really isn’t anything like most of what we read this semester, it did start my love affair with verse.

Now at this stage in my life, with all the academic reading I have to do (combined with all the children’s books I read in the education department), I appreciate the swiftness and flow of verse. What I love about long poems, is that I can read many of them in one sitting, but they have more meat than a shorter poem. I stand by my statement of liking long poems more than shorter poems because there’s more to dig in to and try to relate to. With a shorter poem, if you miss the meaning of one stanza, you’ve lost out on a big chunk of the poem. With a long poem, there is a bigger picture, and you don’t have to understand every single part of it to get something meaningful from it. Long poems also give readers more of a chance to find something they can relate to. With their length, there are more opportunities for something to really jump out at the reader and grab them.

While I’m ready for this paper to be over, I have really enjoyed this class and its subject. Thanks for a great semester, everyone!


April 25th, 2013

as much as i don’t want to make you all feel guilty, because i know it’s not any of your fault, but i just want you to know – because i was up so late last night making those shirts, i slept through my chance to go to the Capitals game tonight. i woke up at 7 and burst into tears because there is an empty seat at the game right now that i have the ticket for.

to those of you who haven’t paid me yet, i’d really like to get paid back for them on tuesday. those shirts cost me a lot more than money, as it turns out.

so i’d really like to get the money back that i spent, since i can’t get this day back, or trade this ticket for saturday’s game.


also, if you have paid me, remind me please, as i didn’t get a chance to write down who did.

My Life is a Long Poem

April 25th, 2013

So one of the things I was reflecting on today is how much our lives right now are like a long poem. First and foremost, they are most likely highly disjointed and disorganized. I can only speak for myself here, but my life is pretty much Jorie Graham’s “The End of Beauty”—my train of thought constantly disjointed, sentences and tasks left unfinished, and a lot of _________s left to be filled in.

There’s also a lot of “looking backward while looking forward” going on at this time of year—that is to say, our lives are very palimpsestuous at the moment. First, we are looking back at what we have learned this semester and essentially “rewriting” it in the form of final papers and projects. H.D. would be so proud. Also, for any fellow seniors in the class, I think this idea of looking forward with a “sideways glance to the past” probably accurately describes the way we are feeling as our time at UMW comes to an end.

Last but not least, our lives might most accurately be described as The Waste Land—in other words complete chaos. Different voices are constantly swirling around our head (not like literally hearing voices…although maybe this is the case for some). These voices remind us of all the tings we have to do—some are nervous, some frantic, and others may even have a faint cockney accent, who knows. When I think back to the pictures we drew on the whiteboard of what the wasteland looked like, I realize that is what my life looks like at this very moment.

Anyways, just thought I’d point out these parallels. Good luck surviving this week everyone ☺

Whitman and American Indians

April 23rd, 2013
Howling Wolf (1849 - 1927) was a member of Black Kettle's tribe and presentat the Sand Creek Massacre. The Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College hasa collection of his drawings, done on pages ripped from account ledger books.

Howling Wolf (1849 – 1927) was a member of Black Kettle’s tribe and present
at the Sand Creek Massacre. The Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College has
a collection of his drawings, done on pages ripped from account ledger books.
This one is entitled, “At the Sand Creek Massacre.”

Wouldn’t you know… someone has written a book on the subject: Walt Whitman’s Native Representations, by Ed Folsom. There’s a chapter entitled Whitman and American Indians, which references several Native American writers and their attitudes toward Whitman — among them, Simon Ortiz (see page 67 in the Google Books preview.)

Schweenism in American Long Poems

April 23rd, 2013

Sexuality in American Long Poems has a lot to do with identity, especially in Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself. There are also fantastic penis or sexual references within the Graham and D.H., which I found very interesting. As I said before in the last post, I apologize for the outburst of schween in class. Though I have got your attention about sexuality. I would like for you to talk the opportunity to further explain the sexuality or sexual identity of American Long Poems and how this effects our view of the poetry genre.

Whitman in Sand Creek

April 23rd, 2013

The one thing that I am highly interested in the arch that we created while talking about Whitman in Sand Creek and his role in the sequence of lyrics in Sand Creek. I just wanted to throw the question “What is the significant role of Whitman in Sand Creek besides the redemption or vengeance of Whitman in the poems?” out there. I am interested in what you guys think about this. Also it is great chance for you guys to free blog if you are running behind on it like I am. Hence the question.


P.S. I know it was really awkward in class today with the schween thing. I apologize, but I didn’t want to lose the bet. HAHAHAHA!!!! We can also blog about that.