Posts Tagged ‘she stood in desperate music wound’

Malekghassemi – Assignment B (2) – Critical Article Review

Friday, April 19th, 2013

Isun Malekghassemi / Dr. Mara Scanlon / ENGL 458 / 18 April 2013

The Separation of Lyric from Long Poem for the Sake of Theory

            In “Jorie Graham’s Subversive Poetics: Appetites of Mind, Empire-building, and the Spaces of Lyric Performativity,” Mary S. Strine analyzes the final lyric in Jorie Graham’s The End of Beauty “Imperialism” using postcolonial theory. Strine has a Ph.D. in Speech Communication from the University of Mary Washington (’72) and currently teaches Communication at the University of Utah. She has nine graduate students working on their Doctor of Philosophy dissertations under her. Strine separates her article into three distinct sections. Before I get to those sections though, I want to speak to Strine’s suggestion that Graham wants to

Sustain the self-knowledge and insights gained through imaginative engagement with the material world in accord with the romantic view of poetic language, while … de-center[ing] those insights so as to critically reveal their political entailments in relations of power and knowledge in accord with postcolonial thought. (4)

I have to say that this is problematic for me. I can believe that Graham wants to “sustain” modernist thought using romantic language while “de-center”-ing the insights one gains from doing that. I can believe that Graham reflects on power. But I can hardly believe that Graham’s intentions for The End of Beauty as a whole have much to do with political anything. This reminds me of our class discussion on whether a long poem can be read as separate lyrics, and the lyrics still maintain their integrity. In this case, Strine takes “Imperialism” out of context. I am not surprised. Most of her publications focus on cultural and intercultural texts, and performativity; of course “Imperialism” would attract her.

Strine begins “Poetic Language and the Epistemic Grounds of Lyric Encounter,” her first section, by explaining that postcolonial theorists analyze language in regard to “mastery and control over others” (4). She hones in on the theorist Edward Said’s books Orientalism (1978) and Culture and Imperialism (1993) to elaborate on postcolonial theory. Strine argues that Graham uses postcolonial theory to portray the struggle of power between different perceptions of selfhood – one of internal language requiring translation for the external world and one of understanding between the two using language.  Strine has still failed to convince me that “Imperialism” represents how one can attain much from reading The End of Beauty in a postcolonial fashion. I do agree that Graham does use language indicating a struggle between two ideas.

A bolded “Poetic Form, Lyric Performativity, and the Postcolonial Imperative” marks Strine’s next section, in which she suggests that Graham exemplifies postcolonial language in “her discussion of the challenges and possibilities of the poetic form” (6). Strine argues that Graham desires to master language to create closure while also wanting to use her poetry as a forum for discourse. The difficulty in aligning these is visible in “Imperialism,” Strine claims, saying that Graham at once invites openness to, and commands control of, meaning and new experiences. Strine states that Graham’s “poetic epistemology… relies on the processes of lyric performativity to advance and deepen her own and her reader’s experiential understanding of self and other and the interpenetrating worlds they share” (10). Strine is forcing a reading of “Imperialism” and Graham that is not fruitful. Yes, there is conflict in Graham’s writing – but if that indicates postcolonialism, then is every conflict of power actually postcolonial at its core? This is more a close reading of one of modernism’s main goals: to form a link between to opposing things, to try and fix something that feels unhinged. Graham is not creating a dogfight between ideas; she is attempting to reconcile of two seemingly dichotomous things, mastery and free discussion.

Strine’s ultimate section “Reader Positionality, Lyric Performativity, and the Public World” deals with the audience’s role in Graham’s poetry. Strine states that Graham is sensitive to the role that her readers play as an audience and that Graham uses this to “[inform] the forward motion of her poetry” (10). Strine argues that by speaking directly to her readers in her poetry, Graham entices her reader into actively participating so that they can complete her poetry. To conclude this section, Strine says that Graham’s performativity encourages her audience to include their experience in their reading while also creating an environment where readers can become aware of “the construction of self and society” (12). This section, I can get behind. Graham clearly desires an active reader for her lyrics – I believe the blanks, questions, and the breaking of the poetic wall demonstrate this. This is not directly related to her thesis, but Strine also quotes Graham’s editorial introduction of The Best American Poetry 1990 right before her final paragraph. String quotes the section in which Graham says poetry has this role of renewing language for each generation.

To conclude, Strine reiterates that Graham’s “subversive lyrics, exemplified in ‘Imperialism’” nurtures a forum for discussion of “fresh ways [to know] self and world, [and] self and other” (12). From Strine’s abstract, I was expecting more on the acts of knowing and naming in Graham. The article is not uninteresting, but I cannot use it to relate to our class discussion except for the fact that Strine separates a lyric from its home long poem to analyze it; this is a practice I disapprove of. I expected my mind to be blown from this article, and it was not. [881]

Strine, Mary S. “Jorie Graham’s Subversive Poetics: Appetites of Mind, Empire-building, and the Spaces of Lyric Performativity.” Text and Performance Quarterly 25.1 (January 2005): 3-13.

(Note: I read it from a PDF file, thus the print MLA citation. I found this article on Humanities International Complete if anybody wanted to know!)

What Happened in Class Today?!

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

I know I missed! I’m very sad that I did. I have read Heidi’s bridge to the blog and am about to comment on it, too. But please, people, tell me what we talked about!! I want to know!

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.

Unreal City

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

In the mentions of the Unreal City… the first time, the line directly afterwards puts the city at dawn. … the second time, the line directly afterwards puts the city at noon. … the final time, “Unreal City” comes after a list of famous ancient cities, however about ten lines later there is mention of moonlight.

Does this remind anybody else of that riddle, “What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three legs in the evening?”

Another part that reminds me of this riddle are lines 28-9: “Your shadow at morning striding behind you / Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;” Could the Unreal City just be all the world that has come before us? There is a painting that this reminds me of, although I can’t remember what it was called and I can’t find it online… So, I’m going to ask one of my old Governor’s school teachers for the name of it and I’ll try and upload it soon. Anyway… Food for thought that I’ve been chewing on for some time now… food I can’t quite figure out!

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?

More Cow Bell!

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

This semester is my first in the Music History sequence as part of my Music Major here, and something that was focused on in our Grout was how citizens of the classical world believed that music and poetry were essentially the same thing. A piece of performance art was not generally complete without music, text, and dance. Recitals for solo instruments existed as well, but true entertainment to be appreciated was multifaceted and comprehensive in the arts.

So, when I first began reading with the care that one usually has when first starting a text, I paid a lot of attention to rhythm and musicality. I marked a few lines for their vowel lengths, and others for their stress/emphasis. But I also established that I would never finish this poem in any decent amount of time with that much attention, so I stopped (I will go back, though. The human brain functions on and in patterns, and I’m determined to figure out Walt’s.) and from there, certain lines stood out to me. I really want to focus on just one today, though, and it’s the one I spoke about in class.

This line still warms up my ears just reading it or replaying it in my head, I just love it so much. Line 77 (pg 10):

“Only the lull I like, the hum of your valved voice.”

The repetition of the “l”s in the first five words, tapping against the back of your teeth? It reminds me of the first lines of Nabakov’s Lolita, “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.” Yum, right?

Then, you’ve got your “the hum of”. Mph. It is as if the line is just telling you to take your time, really “lull” yourself into it – the hummm of. And did you notice that the “v” of “of” sets you right up for “valved” two words later? I’m not saying Whitman did all of this on purpose, but isn’t it nice when you’ve got a musician or a poet improvising (because isn’t that generally how anything that needs to be created is created in the first place?) and whatever they create just ends up perfectly pleasing (or not pleasing)?

The way he keeps this line right on the tip of your tongue, moving towards your lips every few words is just artful in my opinion. And the “v”s. Really? Is it weird how much I love this? It just feels so good in my mouth! It’s a warm line.

So… that was me “fan-girling” over a single line of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”.