Posts Tagged ‘i am not a demigod i cannot make it cohere’

Some Final Notes

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013
  • This blog will close for graded work on Saturday, April 27, at midnight.   Except for your final paper and presentation, no work will be accepted for grading after this time.
  • Your final paper should be submitted to me ELECTRONICALLY (note that this is a change), as an email attachment or google docs link, not one minute later than NOON on Tuesday, April 30.  My comments and your grade will be returned to you by email.
  • Our final exam presentations will be on Tuesday, April 30.  We will start at 9:00 a.m. rather than at 8:30 a.m.

Next Step on Final Project Now Posted under Mysterious “Final Projects” Tab

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

Variation on a Theme That Doesn’t Belong to Me

Monday, April 1st, 2013

This is just to say

 

I am working on

the annotated bib

that was due

last Thursday

 

and that

you were definitely

hoping

to receive

 

Forgive me

I am swamped

So worried

and so overnight

 

(I am sure others can relate to this… although, you all probably have gotten your work done already and are looking at this in utter disdain and disgust for my tardiness. It’s okay. I don’t mind. I’m just trying to be optimistic. FIGHT THE POWER.)

Malekghassemi – SupLongPoem – Four Quartets

Monday, March 18th, 2013

Isun Malekghassemi

ENGL 458 – ALP

Dr. Mara Scanlon

March 18, 2013

T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets and the Genre of the Long Poem

T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets (1943) are misnamed, fantastically structured, and deeply thematic. An easier read than his The Waste Land (1922), Four Quartets portrays a shift towards positivity in Eliot’s life – five or so years after he wrote The Waste Land, Eliot joined the Anglican Church and religion transformed him and his writing (“T.S.”). It amazes me that the same man could write these two separate long poems because of how different they are atmospherically, and because of how well they each maintain value to the discussion of genre that is so important to the existence of long poems.

The title of Four Quartets, first off, is a misnomer. There are four separate “quartets”, yes; however, the “quartets” are really “quintets”. Each quartet has five distinct sections marked by roman numerals (I, II, III, IV, V) which are each approximately equal in length and substance to their peer sections. For example, each I section serves a similar purpose in each poem: to give an over-arching theme that will surely be of importance.  To continue, as a discussion on structure, each II section (except for in “Quartet No. 3”) begins with a structured form of lyric, be it multiple stanzas or a single longer one, that has a rhyme scheme and more-or-less a similar line length until there is a clear shift in style to a freer, lengthier structure. The III sections essentially do the exact opposite – they begin with longer, freer verses, and then they gain structure within their last stanza or so. Each IV section is a two or three stanza blurb (except for “Quartet No. 2” which has five stanzas) of strictly adhered to rhyme scheme and metre. The V sections are reminiscent of the I sections – again, over-arching themes with profound thoughts that both conclude and introduce subjects that, respectfully, have been mentioned and will be mentioned.

One of Eliot’s themes is that time exists concurrently. According to his biography at nobelprize.org, “for Eliot, tradition is a living organism comprising past and present in constant mutual interaction.” In his Four Quartets, the reader can recognize this idea of “time past and time future / What might have been and what has been / Point[ing] to one end, which is always present” (46-8 “Quartet No. 1”). This thought is a variation on one of two quotes, both by Heraclitus (fl. c. 500) that Eliot shares on the first page of his long poem: “The way upward and the way downward are the same.” Eliot argues, mostly in “Quartet No. 1”, that this configuration of time is a liberating one. “Time past and time future / Allow but a little consciousness” (84-5 “Quartet No. 1”). He continues,

“To be conscious is not to be in time

But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden,

The moment in the arbour where the rain beat,

The moment in the draughty church at smokefall

Be remembered; involved with past and future.

Only through time time is conquered.”

(86-91 “Quartet No. 1”)

Time as an artificial construction is a limiting factor of man that man can “conquer” if only man combines the two of “time future” and “time past” into the present. On the subject of time, he begins section V of “Quartet No. 1” with “Words move, music moves / Only in time; but that which is only living / Can only die,” and he continues to another major theme in his poem: the meaning of existence (1-2).

This is where Eliot begins to discuss words through palimpsestical thinking, something which the genre of “Long Poems” tends to do quite a lot. Eliot says in lines 151 to 155 in his first quartet:

“… Words strain,

Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,

Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,

Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,

Will not stay still.”

Words get meanings layered on top of them, constantly, whether they are actively being used or their resonance is still in the air. Their usage and the silence that follows have a “co-existence” in which “the end precedes the beginning, / And the end and the beginning were always there / Before the beginning and after the end. / And all is always now” (147-51, “Quartet No 1.”). The meaning of a single word, always changing because it has been used in the past, but also always existing in the present being used, and also when it will be used next – all of these possibilities in one word.

Eliot brings up this theme of slippery words that “will not stay still” in section II of “Quartet No. 2” also. He has a structured lyric with metre and rhyme scheme, but then turns right around and criticizes what he just wrote in his next stanza. “That was a way of putting it – ” he begins in line 69, “not very satisfactory: / A periphrastic study in a worn-out poetical fashion, / Leaving one still with the intolerable wrestle / With words and meanings. The poetry does not matter.” I don’t know what could be a more clear demonstration of rebellion against the lyric form than outright calling it old-fashioned. He does not want poetry to be a way to show off your metaphorical prowess, but rather a true form of communication in which there is no “intolerable wrestle / With words and meanings.” Eliot is criticizing the reasons why poetry is written. He says that there is

“… only a limited value

In the knowledge derived from experience.

The knowledge imposes a pattern, and falsifies,

For the pattern is new in every moment

And every moment is a new and shocking

Valuation of all we have been” (82-88)

and because of this poetry cannot be written as prescriptive, ever – but that is how poetry has been used in the past. “The only wisdom we can hope to acquire,” Eliot states in lines 98-9, “Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.” And that is the only lesson we can learn from the past or from poetry written to an audience.

Eliot’s writing in this long poem considers a number of major themes that we have spoken about in class, and reveals a more personal Eliot as opposed to the cruder poet we were introduced to in The Wasteland. Four Quartets proves to be representative of “the long poem” in Eliot’s regard of word meaning, attention to poetic structure, and palimpsestical relationships.

Graham, Daniel W., “Heraclitus”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2011/entries/heraclitus/>.

“T.S. Eliot – Biography”. Nobelprize.org. 18 Mar 2013 http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1948/eliot-bio.html

This is the site I actually got the poem from: https://www2.bc.edu/john-g-boylan/files/fourquartets.pdf but because I can’t find out how to cite it, I’m going to cite another version of the poem:

Eliot, T. S. Four Quartets. New York: Harcourt, Brace and, 1943. Print.

Jen’s Supplementary Long Poem Report: Wallace Stevens’ “Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction”

Monday, March 18th, 2013

Like many of the other modernist poets of his day, Wallace Stevens wrote during a period in American history marked by war, chaos, and religious disillusionment. Published in 1942 during the midst of the Second World War, Stevens’ poem “Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction” claims its place in the lineage of modernist poems that have strived to create a “poem equivalent to the idea of God” (Carroll). When considering the title of the poem, close attention to Stevens’ word choices is important. According to critic Keith Booker, the poem is a collection of “notes” because the idea is still undeveloped and “toward” a supreme fiction because the goal is ultimately unattainable (1). Thus, although Wallace Stevens strives to offer a criterion for what the “supreme fiction” must be, his “Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction” does not claim to recognize this fiction. While Stevens shares the modernist fascination with finding definitive answers, he also realizes that the “supreme fiction” can never be attained due to the limitations of personal perception. It seems that in the process of trying to define the “supreme fiction,” Stevens discovers that the long poem, as a genre, cannot provide an ultimate “set of beliefs” or “model for living” for all humanity; instead, the genre must attempt to present the multiplicity of “fictions” that readers perceive (Miller13).

Stevens shares in many of the forms typical of modernist poetry, and it is this form that reinforces the fragmentation and multiplicity of our imagined or fictitious realities. Like Eliot’s “fragments” and Pound’s “Cantos,” “Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction” is structured as a series of lyrics that Stevens calls mere “notes.” The work is composed of a prologue, thirty lyrics divided into three distinct sections, and a final epilogue. Furthermore, each lyric is composed of seven stanzas of three verses in a meter resembling iambic pentameter. Despite this seemingly regular meter and form, the structure of events is not linear and multiple voices are present. While the primary voice in the poem is that of the master poet addressing the “ephebe,” or lyricist-to-be, other characters like MacCullough and Canon Aspirin drive the narration as well. The narrative streams intersect and have no clear beginning and end. In addition, a shifting “you” throughout the poem allows the speakers’ audience to take on many identities, often making it unclear whether the ephebe, a group of poets, or the reader is being addressed. This emphasis on heteroglosia and shifting identities, consistent with works like “The Wasteland” and Montage of a Dream Deferred, reinforces the realization that the “Supreme Fiction”—the master narrative of reality—is ultimately unattainable.

While form and structure are important to “Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction,” Stevens’ ideas about the power of language and the limitations of personal perception are the poem’s defining elements, as well as the thematic threads that run throughout modernist poetry. In fact, critic James Miller considers Stevens’ poem “a focal point for the discussion of the theory of an American long poem,” for the “supreme fiction” that Stevens strives to define is the very thing that other modernist poets like Whitman and Eliot had tried to create with their poetry (21). Thus, in a very metafiction-like way, “Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction” is a poem about writing poetry—a poem that prescribes that the “supreme fiction” “Be abstract,” “Change,” and “Give Pleasure.” In the first section of the poem, the master poet challenges the ephebe to “[perceive] the idea/ Of this invention, this invented world” (3). Immediately, Stevens reminds us about the fiction of our reality—that reality, as we perceive it, is something the human imagination has invented. This notion of invention is reminiscent of the themes of rewriting and revision that we encountered in H.D.’s Trilogy. Similarly, another moment of parallel comes as the master poet expresses the same hesitations that H.D’s speaker has about naming, saying, “But Phoebus was/ A name for something that never could be named” (16-17). In these lines, in particular, we can see that Stevens was heavily influenced by philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. In “On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense,” Nietzsche deconstructs language, asking, “What is a word…[but] the copy in sound of a nerve stimulus?” (2). Thus, if Stevens agrees that a word cannot adequately describe the essence of the concept it conveys, then he also comes to realize that a group of words, or even a group of lyrics, can not adequately present a single “truth” about the essence of reality.

Stevens builds upon these ideas in his second and third criteria for “the supreme fiction.” In the section titled “It must change,” the master poet again struggles with the elusive nature of reality. He contemplates how he is to reveal “the uncertain light of a single, certain truth,” and comes to realize the impossibility of the task (2). When reflecting on the inexorable connection between personal perception and reality, the speaker acknowledges, “These external regions, what do we fill them with/ Except reflections” (30). Here, Stevens concedes that poetry, literature, or anything that tries to define reality is limited by individual experience. Like many other modernist poets, Stevens grapples with the role of poet as a “potential configurer of public consciousness” (Schlosser 78). In the final epilogue or coda, he addresses a soldier—symbolically, the ephebe at war with the poetic task at hand—and effectively fuses the public notion of war with the very private and personal process of poetic expression. Thus, although he acknowledges the poet’s power, Stevens also acknowledges the poet’s limitations in using personal perceptions to represent the “supreme” and shared public reality of their time.

Although Steven’s poem abounds with dense philosophical imagery, dissecting some of his themes can help to create a lens through which we can read other modernist works. His form and central arguments reveal that the long poem is a genre obsessed with the dream of providing America with a “Supreme Fiction.” Perhaps the reality is that the “Supreme Fiction” is merely unattainable. This analysis only scratches the surface of all that could be said about Steven’s “Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction.” Although Stevens seems to raise more questions than he answers, his poem can help us to determine both the functions and limitations of the long poem as a genre.

Works Cited

Carroll, Joseph. Wallace Stevens’ Supreme Fiction: A New Romanticism. Baton Rouge, Louisiana State Univ., 1987. Print.

M. Keith Booker. “Notes Toward a Lacanian Reading of Wallace Stevens.” Journal of Modern Literature. JSTOR. 16 March 2013. Web.

Miller, James E, Jr. The American Quest for a Supreme Fiction: Whitman’s Legacy in the Personnal Epic. Chicago: U. of Chicago, 1979. Print.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. “On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense.” Interactive Media Research Library. Utah State University. 16 March 2013. Web.

Stevens, Wallace. Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction. Online Resources. Howard University. 12 March 2013. Web.

Playlist for Omeros

Friday, March 15th, 2013
Playlist for Omeros, Derek Walcott – feat. St. Lucian folk music!
Beginning with….
 
Sons and Daughters of Saint Lucia (St. Lucian National Anthem)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSkqiOZGGHA (Adopted in 1967, words by Charles Jesse, composed by Leton Felix Thomas. Also, here: www.stlucia.gov.lc/)
Sons and daughters of Saint Lucia,love the land that gave us birth,land of beaches, hills and valleys,fairest isle of all the earth.Wheresoever you may roam,love, oh, love our island home.
Gone the times when nations battledfor this ‘Helen of the West’,gone the days when strife and discordDimmed her children’s toil and rest.Dawns at last a brighter day,stretches out a glad new way.
May the good Lord bless our island,guard her sons from woe and harm!May our people live united,strong in soul and strong in arm!Justice, Truth and Charity,our ideal for ever be!
 
Ronald “Boo” Hinkson, “Dance The Hall”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YorL_S-jG44 (This is St. Lucia’s leading guitar man when it comes to rhythm and blues, jazz, some calypso, etc. St. Lucia today is well-known for it’s internationally acclaimed, annual Jazz Festival. Props to a friend for the knowledge! Helen would probably like this groove, don’t you think?)
 
Herb Black, “Calypso Jail”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WoL5KG5khPk (Herb Black! St. Lucia’s triple crown Calypso Monarch – the nearby islands of Trinidad and Tobago have a competition annually called, the Calypso Monarch (Wikipedia told me this). For those of you that don’t know, Calypso is a style of music that originated in TnT from French and African influences.)
 
Soca Remix by DJ Extreme (oh my god)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fLsGrtNBhsI (Soca is a style of music that also originated in Trinidad and Tobago – and now to Wikipedia because that’s all I know. AH, okay: Calypso lilt, with some French Antilles heavy-on-the-cadences, with Indian musical instruments. Woah. So, check out this remix! It isn’t super obnoxious, it’s just super long, but just click to a random place until you like a melody and hang out around there and take a listen. It’s definitely fun and energetic!)
 
Folk Music, in the style of Jwé
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nl2eVYFy3uY (This style of music is associated with parties, wakes, any social gathering, really. Wikipedia says that it indicates a social mood – people should talk to each other, be friendly.)
 
Top Things Saint Lucians Say Video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2NUV_x19bc (This is just amusing :P)
If I find anything else, I’ll try and add it on! I’m jamming to some Soca right now… and reading for this class. Haha 🙂

Due Dates

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

Your Reading Report on a Supplementary Long Poem is NOW due no later than 4:00 on Monday, March 18.

The directions for your Annotated Bibliography, which is due HARD COPY on Thursday, March 28, are now posted under the new tab called Final Projects.

Mini-Playlist! Add to it in the comments?

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

For Trilogy by H.D.:

Seven Devils, by Florence + the Machine

Iscariot, by Walk the Moon

Johannes Herbst (Moravian-American composer)

Hell is for Children, Pat Benatar (why not?)

Stabat Mater, Pergolesi

Mary Speaks, Daniel Gawthrop (best last name ever)

Anything else you can think of or want to add? I thought this could be a fun idea that the class could collaborate on if people wanted to 🙂 We can argue for or against songs that go or do not go with the reading. Or not, if you absolutely hate the idea.

Isun’s Bridge to the Blog (Late)

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Based off of the queries in class as to why these three stones were named by H.D., I decided to look them up and see what superstitions, powers, and/or myths were associated with them.

Onyx – Onyx was very popular with the Romans and Greeks, and anything that is popular in the classical world had a myth created to explain its existence. Onyx is not apart from this tradition. It is said that Cupid once cut Venus’ nails with one of his arrow heads while she was sleeping, and littered them across the sand of the Earth. The fates, seeing this, turned the nail clippings into stone so that they would not lose their divine quality. The name itself comes from the Greek word for claw or fingernail. It was also a material heavily used in Egypt for creating pottery and in Greece for making cameos and the like.

Onyx also is one of the founational materials in John of Patmos’ vision of New Jerusalem in the apocolyptic text of the Book of Revelation. There are twelve gates into the city, there are twelve materials used in the building of the city – jasper is the first material mentioned (I’m saying this because she speaks of her walls maybe being built of jasper), and onyx is the fifth. In newer translations, however, the fifth is agate, and onyx is not mentioned… Interesting, huh? Who knew stones were important in the Bible? (Answer: Not me. Sorry. I’m quite ignorant on the whole matter, hopefully to be fixed over the summer!)

Another fun fact about New Jerusalem – there is a New Jerusalem Church of God in Christ on Moravia Street in New Castle Pennsylvania. I found this from trying to see if New Jerusalem was at all important in the Moravian sect. Then again, it kind of fits even if it isn’t something that may have been emphasized in H.D.’s religion. A post-apocolyptic city that comes down after crises (“end times”) with walls made of jewels – jasper, onyx, agate, sapphires, emeralds… with walls that will not fall. A sacred, heavenly place.

Opal – While the etymology of the word is debatable, “Opal” seems to have come from either one of few places. The first would be a namesake of Ops, the wife of Saturn and a goddess of fertility. The widely celebrated Saturnalia festival (celebrated around modern-day Christmas way back when) had an Opalia built into it to celebrate Ops. There are two other potential origins – the word for “seeing” (like where we get opaque from) and the word for “other”(as in an “alias” or an “alter” to vageuly synonymize). In Russian superstition, Opal does indeed represent the evil eye like was mentioned in class by Kristen(sp?). But, it was also associated with luck and bringing luck because of its many colors during the Middle Ages.

Obsidian – This stone can be found wherever there have been volcanic eruptions, generally. It is easily shaped, carved, and very sharp; it is common to find obsidian arrow heads, plates, etc. from the past. The material is even used to make scalpels today. Obsidian would also be used to make amulets and talsimans from – they were believed to keep away negativity. Obsidian can lessen stress, suppress aggression, and protect from mischeif; more specifically, it protects from the “evil eye” (I know, right?). The material was considered very strongly protective of women, especially.

Based on all these things, I believe H.D. put a great deal of effort into this single line (she seems to have put a great deal of effort into every line, actually). Materials that can be alchemized, precious stones, multi-colored, protective, evil, volcanic, and/or apocolyptic, they all have some relationship to what is really going on in the poem. Every time I read another lyric from this book I’m more and more in shock and awe of how much I’m reading in a single page.

A Game of Chess

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

I think the view of women in this poem is something to be paid attention to, and this is something I did not get a chance to focus on last Thursday, but something I think is important. Just as a starting point – in the section A Game of Chess, there are three specific allusions to powerful and intelligent women made weak and essentially destroyed due to men. More specifically, these women were torn apart because of their determination to not give themselves wholly to their mens’ missions or to not just be a pawn in their mens’ games of chess…

Beginning with Cleopatra – intelligent woman, relationships with strong men, and independently powerful. She ruled Egypt, you guys. EGYPT. She also committed suicide when she realized she could no longer protect her kingdom from Rome through her seduction of men. Let’s face it – she seduced Caesar, Antony, and when she could not seduce Octavian, she knew her time as ruler was gone and she, supposedly, poisoned herself. Leaving behind her son to be executed and her kingdom made subservient. Woman destroyed in position of power because she was a demigod – but she still could not make it cohere. Lesson: Woman should not be in power? Maybe. Woman should bow down to their male superiors? Perhaps. Woman is incapable of honesty? Hm.

Then Dido, Queen of Carthage. Powerful, supposedly beautiful, strong. Queen of the people that would grow to fight Rome in three different wars. And yet, commits suicide when a man leaves her. She wants him back – she doesn’t fully support him leaving and in her protest of this grieves and kills herself, leaving her queendom without a queen. Lesson: Woman is weak? Maybe. Woman should be subordinate to man’s wishes? Perhaps. Woman should not be in power? Hm.

Philomel, Queen of the King Tereus. Tereus who rapes her sister, Procne, and cuts out Procne’s tongue so that she may never speak of this ill doing. Procne weaves a tapestry telling the story of what happened to her and the sisters team up to get revenge. They kill Itys, Philomel and Tereus’ son, and proceed to cook him in a stew (but they keep his head seperate). They feed this stew to Tereus and after he is done, they show him Itys’ head. He chases them out of the house and the two sisters are changed into birds by the gods, one a nightingale and the other a swallow. Philomel is the nightingale referenced by “Jug Jug”. Lesson: Woman should be blindly subservient to men? Maybe. Woman should not seek revenge? Perhaps. Woman should not be in power? Hm.

These women were intelligent queens. They could be vicious, seductive, and manipulative. They seeked some sort of revenge be it their own tragic death or someone else’s. But in all of these cases, they did not die to protect their king. They did not die fully supporting the decisions that the men made around them. They died fighting in the ways they knew how and in the ways history has given them – one way or another.

And isn’t it so, that in chess, the queen is the most important piece? The fighter, the defender, the offense, the protector… her entire job is to serve the king. I know we talked about the premise of the play that the line is a reference to… but nevertheless.

Just a thought.

And now, just a question: What are you trying to say, Eliot?