Sunday, December 21, 2008

You can see all the way to Heaven

Internal Structure #2: Heaven by Cathy Song can be found on p. 1011 of the Norton.

Heaven is a story of heritage and gender gaps told through the point of view of a Chinese mother. She begins by talking about her son's view of what heaven is. His belief that heaven will be China seems odd to the mother. She says that it is "an octave away," meaning that he has a long way to go to reach this heaven. However, for the son, he seems to simply want to fit in. He sounds like a Chinese-American, as he got his "blond hair" from his father but he wants to return to China.

The mother seems conflicted in both senses. She sees the "black dot" of the map of where she lives and cannot seem to understand why she still lives there. There is air so thin "you can starve on it" and it's "mean and grubby." She refers to her son as the dreamer, as if he does not understand the way life is. Yet, she cannot understand "why here?". She knows that life is short and she should do something with it, yet she does not seem to have any desire to move forward and get out of the small "black dot" town.

The next stanza seems to be about her father, the boy's grandfather. He came to the "Gold Mountain," or America, with the hopes of making money and being able to return home. However, he was led further and further away from this plan until it was too late. The speaker's opinion on her father is conflicting. While she seems to admire his ambition in coming to America, she also recognizes that he died "in his sleep, dispossessed." He achieved nothing in coming to America and never got to complete his plan and return home.

The final stanza combines each of the three subjects in the poem. The ideals of the different generations, while different, come to the same idea: heaven. While each family member may have a different idea of what heaven truly is, each can appreciate that you can see all teh way there through those vast mountains and "pancake plains..."; heaven is there somewhere.

Took it and took it, in silence...

Internal Structure #1: The Victims by Sharon Olds can be found on p. 1006 of the Norton.

The first section of The Victims gives the reader a glimpse of the speaker's opinions from an earlier age. It is as if we are hearing the thoughts the speaker's childhood, watching her parents get divorced. The speaker is greatly influenced by his/her mother's distaste for the father. The speaker recalls, "she had taught us to take it" meaning that the children's opinions were influenced by the mother. She had probably taught the children how to deal with the problems the father caused by laughing in his face. We can also see the speaker's dislike for his/her father in her referencing him as "you" for the first half of the poem. It is as if he/she does not consider the man who who left to be a father, simply a "you."

However, in line 17, the speaker's tone changes. The speaker addresses the man who left as "Father" and shows more sympathy with him. This half of the poem seems to be the speaker's more mature, adult side. He/She realizes the possible effect that the family could have had on the father and where he may be now. The speaker is able to sympathize with the bums on the street and wonder how they got here. Perhaps he/she realizes that Father could be one of these bums, sitting on the street, with no one to love them. This final feeling of regret is all we are left with at the end of the poem. The speaker seems to feel regret for the way her Father was treated and can only simply wonder what to do about it.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Lockless Door

Language #2: The Lockless Door by Robert Frost.
This poem can be found by clicking here.

The Lockless Door mainly utilizes the method of figurative language known as a parable. It is similiar to an allegory in which it is a story that is told to illustrate or teach a kind of truth or lesson. Robert Frost wrote many poems using parables. In The Lockless Door, Frost writes about self-imprisonment and escape.

He begins the poem letting the reader know that "it went many twenty years" before the knock arrived at the door. These twenty years suggest that the speaker went through a long period of seclusion. However, they are probably not literal seclusion. The speaker most likely experienced internal seclusion of some kind and when he heard the knock on the door he finally had a realization. Whether this knock was some kind of opportunity or a way out we are not told, but it was a life altering moment nevertheless.

The fact that the door was a "lockless" one leads me to think that the speaker was the one entrapping himself in this room. If the door had been able to be locked then it would be more likely that someone else was keeping him locked up in this room. However, the door cannot be locked so the speaker could have left at any time. Since he didn't, there was more than just a physical entrapment in this cage. Something from within was keeping the speaker in this room with the lockless door.

The following stanzas are talking about the speaker's attempt at escaping from his "cage" that he was probably living in for those twenty years prior. He does not "bade a 'Come in'" until he has safely escaped the cage, out the wide open window. Ironically, the speaker does say that he goes on to "hide in the world" after leaving this cage. Instead of hiding in the cage he's been in for so long, he is going to bring himself to the world and hide amongst all of the people. Does this truly mean he is escaping? I believe so because while he may be hiding in the world, the speaker has found himself. The escape was not from the cage itself, but the escape from the internal imprisonment he'd experienced for those twenty years.

The overall poem appears to simply be about an individual's escape from a dark, enclosed room. However, it holds a more powerful meaning and representation. It is about the human desire for escape. Humans have a tendency to lock themselves up internally and live life safely, instead of going out into the world and "altering with age." Frost is making a statement about how we as humans should escape the cage with the lockless door and allow ourselves to live among the world.

Jane, stay where you are in my first mind...

Language #1: The Leap by James Dickey can be found on page 957 of the Norton.

The Leap is an example of the use of symbolism in a poem. Dickey utilizes two objects or actions within the poem as a representation of something more significant.

The first, and probably most recognizable, is the leap that Jane MacNaughton takes. To the reader, the leap is simply a moment befoer the dance class. When the speaker first mentions the leap, it seems insignificant. However, as the poem goes on we realize that this single moment represents a larger meaning for the speaker. He is mesmerized by the image of her floating through the air. The speaker recalls that Jane "reached me now as well, hanging in my mind" as she leapt to touch the "paper-ring decorations" in the room. In his memory of her, Jane is this carefree, graceful young girl who could leap above everyone in his class.

However, when he reads that Jane committed suicide by leaping out of a window in the fourth stanza, his memory is damaged. He comes to a cruel realization of the "enternal process most obsessively wrong with the world." He realizes that death and unhappiness can come from even the happiest of memories. However, instead of accepting this truth the speaker tries to ignore it. He tells Jane to "stay where you are in my first mind." He chooses to reject this image of her "body crushed-in the top of a parked taxi" in order to preserve his fondness of this moment.

The says that when Jane leapt she "touched the end of something I began." This phrase connects the leap with the other significant symbol in the poem; the paper chain. The speaker sees the paper chain as his connection to this mesmerizing event of his past. He tells Jane to "hang on to that reing I made for you" in the hopes that if she will hang on he will be able to as well. He is rooting himself in the past, in this memory, and hiding from the tragedies of the present. The paper chain is his connection not only to Jane, but to the happiness of his childhood.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Listen to a Lady's Cry...

Situation and Setting #2: "In Westminster Abbey" by John Betjeman
This poem can be found on page 907 of the Norton.

This poem is about a woman in Westminster Abbey during World War II. Both the time and place of this poem have great significance to the overall meaning and tone of the poem.

Firstly, this woman is pleading to God in a cemetary in England. However, she has quite an arrogant tone while speaking to Him. She wishes to save only those like her, woman and whites. She asks the Lord to "bomb the Germans. Spare their women for Thy Sake." She seems to be telling God that in saving and killing certain people, he will be doing it for his own good. Ironically, she is surrounded by the most substantial people in England's history. Some of these people have died for their country while others ruled over England. Either way, this woman is speaking as if she were not only higher than them, but higher than God. She says that she will "pardon" his mistake if he does what she is asking. Her arrogance is oddly placed among the highest officials in England, and the highest official of all, God.

Also, the placement of this poem during World War II is significant to the overall meaning. Amidst the chaos and murder occuring in the world at this time, the woman is merely worried about her "luncheon date." She acts as if she is doing the country and God a favor in volunteering to be apart of the "Women's Army Corps" and to "was the Steps around Thy Throne." It seems that the lady does not understand the severity of the war at this moment. Instead, she is telling God that she will do him small favors if he will keep her alive. She says that she has committed "no major crime" and therefore believes she shouldn't be punished when there are innocent people all around who are being slaughtered for no reason. This woman does not understand what she is asking of God and the severity of the position her country is in.

Why do we bother with the rest of the day...

Situation and Setting #1: "Morning" by Billy Collins
This poem can be found on p. 903 of the Norton

I really enjoyed this poem by Billy Collins. Collins does a great job in utilizing diction and tone in order to give the reader a certain feeling about the setting he chose. The poem is speaking about the time in the morning, right after we first wake up. It's that moment of "buzzing around the house one espresso". The worries of the day have yet to begin and the issues of the past are left in the past. This short period of time in the morning is like a fresh beginning to life.

Collins refers to the "swale of the afternoon,/ the sudden dip into evening." These phrases present a heavy feeling. The "sudden dip," in particular, makes me think of being rushed into the evening's events. However, the morning "is the best." The items that Collins chooses to describe leave a feeling of tranquility. If he had chosen to write about the nighttime in a similar way, it probably wouldn't have had the same effect. Morning brings a feeling of renewal and a rebirth.

The setting of this poem has everything to do with the overall theme of the poem. Collins is trying to connect with the reader's senses in order to give a tranquil feeling of the morning. He wants us to feel the calmness that he feels when first laying his "feet on the cold floor."

Sunday, November 30, 2008

And Momma's in the Bedroom...

Speaker #2: Hanging Fire by Audre Lorde on p. 872-873 of the Norton

Lorde chose the speaker of this poem to be a fourteen year old teenage girl facing all of the problems through high school. The effect of this choice is reflected in my initial emotional reaction to the poem. After reading it, I found that I wanted to write about it because I could sympathize with the speaker. True, I did not go through everything the speaker is touching on, but I know I can relate to many of the incidents. In choosing to have the poem written from a teenager's point of view, the reader is able to dig past to her own past and connect with what is being talked about in the poem.

If Lorde had chosen to write this poem as an adult, I don't think I would've had the same reaction to it. Since the speaker is talking about things that are actually going through her mind in the moment, more meaning and emotion are added to the words. This is almost a confession or journal entry by this teenager, expressing all of her anger and confusion in the moment. The constant repetition of "and momma's in the bedroom with the door closed" is like a recurring thought in the speaker's mind. It nags him/her to the point that all she can think about is that her mother is never around. All that the speaker seems to long for his acceptance or attention from her mother and somehow cannot gain it.

The emphasis on physical features in the poem displays the speakers feelings about herself as well. Since she seems to be very focused on the negative aspects of her appearance, she probably doesn't have anyone to tell her that she is beautiful. Her confusion seems to be rooted from the lack of attention of her mother. I can gather all of this simply from the repetition about her mother and the vivid adjectives she chooses when describing her appearance. The overall meaning of the poem is enhanced by Lorde's choice to choose a teenage girl as the speaker of this poem. It adds depth and emotion to the words, leaving a great impact on the reader.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Dressing My Daughters

Speaker #1: "Dressing My Daughters" by Mark Jarman
This poem isn't in the can find it HERE =)

The speaker of this poem is the father of two young daughters. In writing the poem from the point of view of a father, we get an amusing feeling. This father seems to be overwhelmed in the situation he is in, having to dress his daughters for church on Sunday. He speaks quite freely and therefore makes a connection with the reader. As a daughter, I know how difficult it can be for a father to dress his daughters in their Sunday clothes; it isn't easy. However, this father doesn't seem annoyed, he appears more amused and reflective. Instead of dwelling on his daughters' bickering, he recalls his own past and how he acted just as they do.

After reading this poem for the first time, I read a biography on the author. I found that he likes to write in narrative style because he thinks it allows more people to connect with is writing. I agree. In choosing to have the speaker, the father, speak naturally as if he is speaking his memories aloud, gives deeper meaning to the poem. Also, it allows for more people to understand what he is saying. People don't want to have to go through each line of a poem to discover what the speaker is saying. Mark Jarman gives this father a natural, laid back way of speaking and that leads to a further understanding of the poem.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

These I Painted Blind.

TONE #2: Persimmons by Li-Young Lee on pg. 847 of the Norton.

I found multiple tones throughout this poem. It is as if they author almost told it in different acts in the way that the tone changes. While he may be speaking about the same object, he has a different view on depending on the situation he is in when he speaks about it.

In the beginning the poem has a tone of annoyance. The speaker cannot seem to differentiate between the words "persimmon and precision." He speaks about being frustrated with his teacher for slapping the back of his head and making him stand in the corner. In the stage of his life, the persimmons are a source of anger and annoyance for the speaker. Later, when he talks about Mrs. Walker again, he falls back on the tone of annoyance. He's already learned about persimmons from his mother and chooses to simply observe the other students. In context with his time at school, the speaker is quite annoyed with persimmons.

In the stanzas about Donna and the other words that got him into trouble, the speaker has a reminiscient tone. While he may have embarassed himself, the speaker looks back fondly on these memories. What seems to be his first time with a girl is connected with his confusion with Chinese words. He also speaks about other words that gave him trouble over the years and how he connects those words with his own experiences. Through this entire section, the speaker is quite lightly reminiscient of his memories.

When he goes back to speaking specifically about persimmons, we hear about his father. This section seems almost regretful and happy at the same time. He gives his father the persimmons when he is going blind because his mother told him that inside each persimmon "something golden, glowing" can be found. When we later find out that the father made the painting of the persimmons when he was blind, they take on a greater meaning. The speaker chooses to end the poem with the father's words. In doing so, we get an uplifting tone at the end. It's as if we feel the enlightenment that the speaker experiences through his father's words.

Overall, the tone changes throught the poem as the speaker makes his way through life. The persimmons are more of a symbol for the significant moments in his life. He connects his memories with words and objects, just as any human does. The persimmon has not only created lasting memories for the speaker, but due to the various tones we are able to see that the persimmon is significant to many.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Quiet Nazi Way...

The first tone poem I chose was "Woodchucks" by Maxine Kumin. It can be found on pg. 843 of the Norton.

When I read this poem through the first time it didn't quite catch my attention until the very last sentence: "If only they'd all consented to die unseen/ gassed underground the quiet Nazi way." Reading this line snapped my attention to the page and I had to go back and re-read the poem. When I did, I discovered how greatly tone impacts the overall meaning of the poem. Kumin is commenting on the humanistic views on violence. In comparing the killing of woodchucks with the killing of Jews in Nazi Germany, the poem is put into perspective.

The tone changes throughout the poem. In the beginning, it has more of an aggravated tone. The speaker does not have much of a connection to the killing of the woodchucks other than the fact that they are ruining his/her yard. However, as the gardener begins to kill the woodchucks one by one, a more excited tone arises. I use the word excited in a negative manner. The speaker becomes enthralled with killing each of these woodchucks until every last one of them is dead. He/She pays attention to how the mother "flipflopped in the air and fell" instead of feeling remorse for how they died, as he/she did in the beginning of the poem. The final line is almost back to an annoyed tone, but in a very different manner. The speaker seems to wish the woodchucks had not put up a fight at all; that if they should have died silently as the Jews did in Germany.

The tone of this poem definitely changes throughout. The shifts in change parallel with the speaker's emotions, actually creating the strong emotion we feel from the reader. Without such a strong feeling of annoyance and excitement through the poem, it would lose much of its meaning by the end.


Get ready to read the wonderful insights of Kasey C. Quinlan:)