Posts Tagged ‘widows and orphans’

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

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

My hand message washed off but here you go anyway

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

People, I am feeling… unnerved?  dissatisfied?  disappointed?  [insert UN and DIS words] that we are struggling with Omeros so much.  It is a hard poem.  But it’s also a stunning poem.  And this is an advanced seminar.   You don’t have to like it (but thank you, Kristina!).  But you should be working harder to understand it, to think about its purpose and intention.  You should be blogging about it, even if you are posing questions.  So let’s see some better work in our last week on Walcott.

Some lingering issues:

literary/epic precursors:  We talked about the Melville exchange in class, but a few others are important to Book V as well.  What do you make of the narrator’s encounter with James Joyce (200-201) and his imaginative rendering of the Odyssey (200-204)?

What is going on with our fluid Seven Seas/Omeros/griot/shaman/London man/etc. figure?  What do the manifestations have in common?  What is the purpose of this figure in the poem?

portrait of America: In Books IV and V, we get reflections on present-day America and historical America: Boston, the American West, Native American history, the history of slavery and current race relations.  How are they portrayed individually or what is America’s role more broadly?

poem’s (in)coherence: In class, people expressed confusion about how to bring together all of the parts of this poem: Plunketts, narrator, Achille/Helen/Hector etc.  Ideas?

same old, same old:  I, too, am sick of father-son stories (thanks a lot, Shakespeare, Disney, and everything in between).  But we’ve got another.  Warwick-narrator.  Plunkett-missing son-historical Plunkett.  Afolabe-Achille.  Discuss.

language:  French creole.  English creole.  Standard English.  Anachronistic Black Dialect.  (Others?)   Are there patterns of usage?  Where and why are certain languages employed?  Also, have you noticed that nature “talks” in the poem?  Walcott repeatedly describes nature using communicative words (e.g., garrulous, talkative, cry, pass on, making signs, calligraphy); how does that fit in?

form/genre:  This is our first truly narrative long poem.  Our genre theorists talked about the influences of lyric, epic, novel, drama on the long poem.  How can we characterize Walcott’s use of these or other generic forms and expectations?

There is more but that will do.

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.

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.

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.

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!

Assessments Tab

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

I added a new tab above that will take you to a page of assessment rubrics for our various assignments.  The JumpStart and Bridge assessments have been moved here, and I’ve also just added the rubric for the critical article summary/analysis.  The one for reading reports on supplementary long poems is forthcoming but will also be on this page eventually.

Whitman Making Books

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

As a visual artist, I have a fascination with typography and book making. I was interested to learn that Walt Whitman (a journeyman printer since his teenage years) was intimately involved in the actual design and making of Leaves of Grass. The topic came up today in class, during our discussion about his ‘catalog’ of Americans in Song of Myself that begins on line 257 and continues to line 325.  While we were sharing our opinions on the length and breadth of this section, I couldn’t help thinking about the tedious work involved in typesetting just one line of text— let alone an entire collection of poetry— and how Whitman must have felt a strong attachment to each and every line in this long, paratactical list (and to this long poem). Imagine the time it took to bring this book to life, in print.

I found this article at the Walt Whitman Archive website— a commentary entitled, Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman, which discusses Whitman’s relationship to books as both a writer and printer. There are several photos—among them one I’ve included here, showing clips from two different printings of the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass, pointing out that there was a period punctuating the end of Song of Myself. You can barely see it in the top example, because it’s positioned too close to the “you” at the end of the sentence:

anc.00150.008

*   *   *

I found another interesting tidbit in my typesetting treasure hunt. It’s not necessarily Whitman-related (I’m not even sure if it would have been used in the 19th century) but he might very well have used this printmaking reference in a poem:

In typesetting, the phrase widows and orphans is defined as “words or short lines at the beginning or end of a paragraph, which are left dangling at the top or bottom of a column, separated from the rest of the paragraph”.