Posts Tagged ‘you do not have to be good’

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!)

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.)

Schedule Reminders

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

Thursday, March 28, class will not meet.

Annotated bibliographies are due hard copy to my dept. mailbox or office door no later than 4:30 p.m. that day.

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 🙂

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!

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?