Posts Tagged ‘What do you mean? I just posted!’

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.

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 🙂

Triple Goddess

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Last Tuesday I mentioned the representation of “the three goddesses” that Trilogy reminded me of in its first book. Dr. Scanlon entrusted me with taking this to the blog, so here I go – late as ever (seems to be a terrible pattern engulfing my life nowadays) – to explain the idea of the Triple Goddess. So, I’m going to start in modern day neopaganism and wiccanism and I will work my way back into history. I think that will be the coolest way for me to go about doing this.

The symbol above is a representation of the Maiden/Virgin, Mother, and Crone. In order, respectfully, there is a waxing moon representing enchantment and birth, a full moon representing fertility and power, and a waning moon representing death and wisdom. These are figures seem to have come from the three goddesses of the moon from Greek mythology – Artemis (virgin goddess of the hunt), Selene (mother), and Hecate (a wise old witch).

Hecate was also involved in another triple goddess formation when she became involved with Demeter’s search for Persephone when the young girl was abducted to the Underworld. Hecate helped to commence the search, and once the deal was struck, accompanied Persephone down to Hades annually. Hecate – Older woman or crone. Demeter – Mother. Persephone – Maiden.

Hecate on her own was/is also represented by three separate figures that combine to create a unified figure. She is a goddess of the Underworld responsible for witchcraft and darkness. On her own, she already has the three “phases” of the moon mentioned in today’s modern day neopaganist and wiccan religions – facing three different directions, Hecate is symbolic of three different natures of Woman. She is not only the goddess associated with darkness and witchcraft, but childbirth, protection, and motherhood, despite being a virgin goddess.

Hecate was also something of an equivalent to Isis in Egyptian myth.

BUT continuing the importance of the Triple Goddess –

the ever-mentioned Astarte in our poem also had her very own place in a 3xGoddess formation. With Qudshu (Qetesh/Athirat/Asherah) as the mother figure (sexual pleasure and fertility), and Anat as the maiden (virgin goddess of war), Astarte played the crone (representative of divinity, reproductive power of nature, and war) kind of combining the maiden and the mother into one. She was almost directly adapted into Aphrodite – her Phoenecian association with the “star” Venus stuck with her. Wikiepedia says that Astarte was also “one of the Canaanite deities whom the Israelites must abhor.” If only I knew more about the Bible…

Anyway – that’s the gist of it. Now that I’ve read the entire poem, I actually think I see a way that this idea of a triple goddess can be connected to the poem. But it is indeed far-fetched.

This is definitely a poem that I am going to wish we could spend forever on, but as it is, I know I’ll just have to come back to it later and get to know it just a little bit better. It’s so wonderful and full of gumph!

Scoobeedoopadiddilydeebadoobadeebabebopmop

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

A couple things: I am really excited to focus more on the poem and what’s on the page in in our reading of Hughes as opposed to the genre theory and macro analysis of the Long Poem. I know the cloud analysis is important, but I really like looking at what the landscape is doing to so I’m super ready for that 🙂

Secondly, I wanted to say a bit about why I read Dream Boogie the way I did. I already explained the optimistic spin on it, but this is about why I read it at a quicker pace. It has to do with the voices that I said I heard in this poette (poette? a smaller poem that is part of a bigger poem? I just made it up… but I think I like it. So yes, poette). — Something I learned doing the musical last semester, is that people fight for the right to talk. Even if you are having a conversation with your closest friend and you aren’t clamoring to interrupt each other, you still have a response to what your friend is saying and are waiting to say it. As soon as your friend is done talking, don’t you jump right in and speak your piece? (Unless, of course, you generally take longer to think about what you’re going to say, but I think you understand where I’m going with this.) That’s how Professor Stull would tell us to talk to one another on stage – there are no lulls, there is action. People want to be heard.

I believe this can be tied into the way I see the “titles” of the poettes, too. Motivic in function, but sequential(?) in an inner-ear understanding of things… at least to me. Different topics, ideas, or thoughts, all trying to follow as soon as possible the topic, idea, or thought that came before it.

I also want to post later about titles I like, and to shed some light on the meaning of certain things that I don’t believe are common knowledge – jargon and this and that – to see if I can help, even if it’s just a surface definition of things. BUT, for now that’s all I have time for… I’m very excited to spend time on this poem! 🙂

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?

Concept/Vocabulary List from Keller: A Summary in Fragments

Saturday, January 26th, 2013

All of the following are quotations or ideas from Keller’s “The Twentieth-Century Long Poem.”  Feel free to add, comment, annotate, question.

“desire to reclaim for poetry the range and significance it had ceded to the novel”

“reach beyond the inward perspective of the postromantic lyric to include sociological, anthropological and […] historical material”

“collage epics”

“lyric sequences”

“poetic meditations”

“continuous verse narratives”

“cinematic montage”

“musical form”

“Indeed, the lack of restrictive generic conventions is crucial to the identity and coherence of the long poem.”

fragmentation—coherence

“poem-as-process” can “incorporate private and public statement, individual self-construction and communal identity, social criticism and nationalistic celebration, epic breadth and lyric intensity”

Juxtaposition “without connective material”

“reinterpret inherited myths”

“symbolic patterns”

multivocality

“epistolary, dramatic, and essayistic forms”

“lines developing with apparent spontaneity in response to immediate apprehension and […] extended forms with no predetermined shape”

“the hero […] is in part the poet himself and in part a mythicized aggrandizement”

“didactic intellectual exploration”

quest

“lyrics can accumulate without any fixed end”

“diary or notebooklike forms”

“meditative, apolitical uses of the long poem to record acts of the mind”

“experimental vehicles”

“revived interest in narrative”

“incorporation of found documents”

“the tendency toward change essential to the American long poem’s paradoxical tradition of innovation”

“revisionary mythmaking”

“fusing its predominantly Anglo-American traditions with forms and languages distinct to particular minority cultures”

“arbitrary structuring systems” and “nondiscursive patterns”

“a liberating mixture of genres”

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”.