Friday, April 15, 2005

Coming to a Close:

Seeing as it is the end of our poetry class, I thought that it might very well be fitting to look back on what I thought about poetry at the beginning of the year and reflect on how my conceptions of peotry have changed throughout the course.

Coming into this class, I was very skeptical about my past experiences with poetry, but was somewhat willing to give the discipline a second chance. I am remined of the comment I made in my first blog that was quite indifferent to the fact that one could truly 'understand' poetry from the eye of the poet himself/herself. I didn't quite understand how I could truly comprehend the inent of the poem when all I had to look at was the poem itself. I used the excuse that because I am an historian, I can only reach sure conclusions about things with the popper research. That is to say, that I always wanted to use more than one source to be able to draw conclusions--simply reading the poem was not enough because it provided little to no historical context for the author's words.

But thanks in great measure to the Romantics, I have come to realize that a poem and thus its interpretation, requires imagination, and not more sources. I don't need a pile of books beside me when analyzing a poem. Rather, I need a willingness to be open-minded. I am reminded of the poem we talked about on our exam: I Wander Lonely as a Cloud by William Wordsworth. This poem has SO many different interpretations that can be applied to it's words. And although it might be hard to pin point exactly what Wordsworth was thinking when he wrote the poem, it is more important to remember that the poem was written about one's imagination and thus, has no singular interpretation that fits it best. Any interpretation can be valid. If anything, this is what the class has taught me: to be open-minded and not just within the context of poetry, but in life in general. Things are not only as I see them to be; others are entitled to their interpretations too!!!

So, as the year comes to a close, I will leave with this one thought: unlike the discipline of history, where we can only learn so much as the past provides for us, poetry is not merely the past, but rather, the past, the present and the future, because interpretations of poetry never stay the same--therefore with poetry, we can never stop learning--poetry has endless possibilities, unlike history.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Well I must appologize for my late postings. I had been under the impression that blogging was now werely optional. It wasn't until I read Dr. J's Blog that I realized otherwise. Anyway, I'll be blogging like mad for the next few days to make up.

-As I was flipping through my Norton, I came across some poetry by Edward Lear (1812-1888) and knew at once that I needed to write about his poetry. I have included two poems by Lear, and if you give them a read, you just might understand why I was so intrigued:

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrappped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to teh stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
"O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!"

Pussy said to the Owl, "You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long have we tarried:
But what shal we do for a ring?"
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose,
His nose,
Hise nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.

"Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
You ring?" Said the Piggy, "I will."
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

There Was an Old Man With a Beard

There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said, "It's just as I feared!--
Two Owls and a Hend, four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!"

In case you haven't figured it out yet, the reason I seemed to be drawn to these poems was because they seem to be about complete nonsense! After studying so many serious poems, I found Lear's work to be highly entertaining and light! What fun it was to read! All of the simplistic rhyming was delightful! What I particularly enjoyed about the first poem was how there would be rhyming within the lines! For example, consider line 14: "O let us be married! too long we have tarried:" In the stanzas of this poem, the rhyming scheme of this poem is quite unusual because there is not much of a pattern within the actual poem, and yet it seems to flow so wonderfully when it is said in a rather "sing-song" voice. To me, it almost takes on the appearance of a nursery rhyme. It is a rhyme that an adult or a child could easily remember!

Because I was so taken with the silly stories of these poems, I wanted to do a little searching on the man behind the poems. And I came across a website dedicated to the nonsensical works of Edward Lear! What a fun man he must have been to be around! This man had an unbelievable imagination! As I would read his poems, my imagination went wild too, and so when I came across some of the drawings Lear had done, I couldn't believe just how much they seemed to match his poetry! Unfortunately, I am not that computer literate, however, so I can't figure out how to include some of his pictures into my blog, so if you want to see what I'm talking about, feel free to go to this site: http://www.nonsenselit.org/Lear/#toc. Very fun!!!! Reading these poems and seeing the pictures that correspond with them will undoubtedly brighten your day!

After attempting to write a nonsense poem of my own, however, I have come to the conclusion that just because they sound "simple" doesn't by any means mean that they are easy to create! Rhyiming can be very difficult, especially when trying to follow the 'pattern' used by Lear in "There was an Old Man with a Beard!!"

Monday, March 28, 2005

A Step Away from Modernism

We have been talking in tutorial lately that the response to modernist poetry has been a reverting back to the type of poetry that involves more of a distinct rhyming scheme, balanced meter and consistency within its format. Also, more conventional and positive subjects are being desired as opposed to the negativity found within such poems like Elliot's "The Wasteland." One such 'post-modern' poem, if I may call it that, which I have found to fit this 'change of heart' is Wendy Cope's "Flowers."


Some men never think of it.
You did. You'd come along
And say you'd nearly brought me flowers
But something had gone wrong.

The shop was closed. Or you had doubts--
The sort that minds like ours
Dream up incessantly. You thought
I might not want you flowers.

It made me smile and hug you then.
Now I can only smile.
But, look, the flowers you nearly brought
Have lasted all this while.

What I found interesting about this poem, in comparison to modern poetry, is that there is a distinct positivity about it. Unlike, for example, Wilfred Owen's poetry that tends to lack idealization or romanticization of things, this poem seems to idealize the subject (the man) because he is always thinking about buying his love interest flowers. Although he never does, the narrator idealizes the fact that it is the thought that counts, for the flowers that he had always thought about buying would theoretically last forever, unlike real flowers.

While there is not consistency with the meter of this poem, there is a rhyming scheme which should be noted. Nowadays, I think that younger people in particular associate poetry with rhyming. In this poem, the author has a distinct rhyming scheme. in each of the three quatrains of this poem, lines 1 and 4 rhyme (along/wrong; ours/flowers; smile/while), giving the poem a rhythm that the reader can easily identify. There is also a consistency within the format of this poem. This is seen through the existence of the three quatrains, unlike in Wallace Stevens' poem "The Idea of Order at Key West," where a total of six sections make up the poem and are each of a different number of lines. With "Flowers," however, there is almost a symetry within the structure. This can further be seen when looking at the number of syllables in lines 1 and 4 of each quatrain. In each of these lines, there are six syllables, which helps to emphasize the rhyming scheme: 'You did. You'd come along/But something had gone wrong; The sort that minds like ours/I might not want your flowers; Now I can only smile/Have lasted all this while'.

This poem stands out in my mind as very different from Modernist poetry, for example, and epitmoizes what poetry is to me. And besides, I think this poem is quite clever!!!

Monday, March 14, 2005

"So Much Depends Upon" the Little Things

The Red Wheelbarrow
by William Carlos Williamson

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

While this poem by William Carlos Williams may well seem 'simple' in its very nature, in reality, there is much complexity within its lines. What I feel is important to first emphasize, is the emphatic nature of the first two lines: "So much depends / upon". While this line is literally talking about how much depends upon the wheelbarrow, in essense it is intended to draw attention to the fact that the simple things in life can be so overlooked regardless of the significant role that they can play in our lives. As much as we consider the wheelbarrow to be just a WHEELBARROW, it has so much use, and without it, people might find it difficult to adjust to its absense after becoming so dependent on its uses.

Furthermore, I feel that this poem is just as much about the red wheelbarrow as it is about the white chickens--the chickens, like the wheelbarrow, are often taken for granted for the role that they play in our lives. For many of us, the chicken represents food; food which is often assumed will always be at our disposal. In mentioning the chickens with the wheelbarrow, it serves to emphasize the fact that each is important in its own right.

Lastly, I wanted to reiterate the attempt of the poem to emphasize the "simple" (for lack of a better term, because I don't feel that these things are at all simple in their very nature, but are labelled as such because individuals tend to deem them as being insignificant) by looking at the fact that this one-sentence poem does not start with a capitalized word like a formal, gramatically correct sentence should. What this lack of capitalization serves to do is to emphasize the neglect that the poem is trying to articulate--in other words, it is implying that these objects are so 'ordinary' or 'simple' that their being a subject of a poem does not warrent the construction of a propper sentence. There is a real hap-hazardness trying to be expressed as a way of drawing attention to the absurdity of peoples' calous approach to the 'simple' things in life.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Song of Songs

I just thought I'd share with you one of THE MOST beautiful love poems of all time. It comes from the book "Song of Songs (Solomon)" in the bible. These poems were written to express the great joys that God has given us through romantic love. I have decided to look at chapter 3:1-5 and analyze the beauty behind the words:

1 All night long on my bed
I looked for the one my heart loves;
I looked for him but did not find him.
2 I will get up now and go about the city,
through its streets and squares;
I will search for the one my heart loves.
So I looked for him but did not find him.
3 The watchmen found me
as they made their rounds in the city.
"Have you seen the one my heart loves?"
4 Scarcely had I passed them
when I found the one my heart loves.
I held him and would not let him go
till I had brought him to my mother's house,
to the room of the one who conceived me.
5 Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you
by the gazelles and by the does of the field:
Do not arouse or awaken love
until it so desires.

This is a beautiful poem about true and lasting love between God's intended partners: man and woman. The words fo this poem are spoken by the 'Beloved' to her 'lover' and exude much passion and longing. The poem opens by talking about "All night long," which is undoubtedly symbolic of the freedom that night allows from the confines and distractions of the day. At night, one can be completely focussed on their lover without being distracted by other things. This poem sets up a scenario where the beloved is searching desparately for her lover. It gives the impression that there is a deep longing to be reunited with him in order to quench her burning desires to see him again. In verses 2 & 3, we see that the beloved searches high and low for her lover, asking people she meets if they know of his whereabouts. One can almost feel her desparation when she asks the watchmen: "Have you seen the one my heart loves?" What ensues in this poem is the announcement of the beloved that she has finally found her lover. As such, she embraces him (and from the tone of the poem, we can no doubt assume that this was a rather passionate reunion - "I held him and would not let him go"). What this poem tries to do is to let God communicate to us that love is a beautiful thing. It is not something to scorn or shy away from - it is God's gift to the married couple. But what is particularly important about this poem is the warning that it poses at the end: "Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you/by the gazelles and the does of the field:/Do not arouse or awaken love/until it so desires." Here we see the warning of one woman to many other women: while love is a wonderful thing, do not be quick to become entangled in it. Wait to arouse love until it is appropriate.

What is futher interesting about this poem is the way that it is structured. The entirety of the poem is written in free verse, which in my mind, serves to emphasize the freeing nature of romantic love. While there are rules set forth by God pertaining to love, this poem serves to emphasize that in the godly relationship, love is indeed freeing. Furthermore, now this might be a stretch, but to me, this poem slightly resembles a sonnet because of the last stanza of the poem which serves as a warning. In the sonnet, the last couplet often poses a reality to its reader, and I think that that is what this portion of the poem from Song of Songs is doing. It is warning women not to be quick to engage in love, but to wait for it.

Now this is the kind of love that we should all aspire too!!!!!

Sunday, February 27, 2005

John Hollander's "Swan and Shadow"

For this week's blog, I thought I'd take a look at John Hollander's "Swan and Shadow." This is a very interesting and unique poem--unlike any other I've read before. The first unique quality to note about this poem is the way that it is structured, in the physical sense. That is to say, the poem is in the shape of a picture:

Above the
Water hang the
O so
What A pale signal will appear
When Soon before its shadow fades
Where Here in this pool of opened eye
In us No Upon us As at the very edges
of where we take shape in the dark air
this object bares its image awakening
ripples of recognition that will
brush darkness up into light
even after this bird this hour both drift by atop the perfect sad instant now
already passing out of sight
toward yet-untroubled reflection
this image bears its object darkening
into memorial shades Scattered bits of
light No of water Or something across
water Breaking up No being regathered
soon Yet by then a swan will have
gone Yes out of mind into what
of a
sudden dark as
if a swan

Another element which struck me as strange was the fact that there is absolutely no
punctuation in the entirety of the poem. All of the author's thoughts and reflections bleed into one-another, like a shadow grows out of its object. This gives the reader the notion that the poem was written in the James Joyce style of stream of consciousness. This can prove very discouraging for the reader because one has trouble differenciating between the author's thoughts.

Furthermore, upone reading the title of the poem, ("Swan and Shadow") I thought that there would have been more relective aspects to the 2 'parts' of the poem because a shadow is a mirrow image. Rather, I found several aspects that failed to support the title. One such instance occurs with the syllabic structure of the poem.. The two sections that make up Hollander's work while syllabically equal in the sense that they are both 89 syllables, does not

give the reader the sense of syllabic equality from line to line of the poem. The bottom half of
the poem, while it reflects the top physically, it does not shadow it syllabically:

- 20 -

Is is that perhaps what this poem is trying to represent is that even though a shawod is a reflection of an object, it is merely a sylloette (a dark, detail-less reflection) and can thus be an incomplete representation of the actual primary image?

Sunday, February 06, 2005


To some of us, this past lecture has almost seemed like a refreshing break. "Now this is what poetry is supposed to be like," I found myself saying. 'I wandered lonely as a cloud,' had never been so refreshing to my ears until now. I have really enjoyed our discussion of the romantics ( I only wish we had studied the Highwayman, but alas, we can't do everything), I was enthralled by the history behind the evolutionary change in poetry. I had never really considered it until Prof. Kuin brought it up, that romanticism was not only about getting back to nature in the sense of 'the great outdoors,' but also about getting back to the innocent nature of childhood. I particularly liked Joanna Baillie's poem "A Mother to her Waking Infant," (p. 696-697). I find that this poem really tries to capture the innocence of infancy. This poem details the detachment that a child has from the world. They do not know love; they do not know sensitivity; they do not know sadness. I think that in this poem, the narrator is looking longingly on her child, noting how their innocence will eventually fade away into a life of taking care of its mother and having a life of their won. If you've ever held a newborn baby in your arms, I'm sure you know the feeling you get when you look at this little person. They have no concept of life, love, you or me. They are the most natural form of life because it is the stage in life that is untainted by worldly things, and are the epitome of what the romantics longed for.