A Clean Well-Lighted Place
- Length: 7904 words (22.6 double-spaced pages)
- Rating: Excellent
Today in class we talked about plot in relation to "A & P" by John Updike. I had always thought of plot as just being the sequence of events, but after our reading assignment I realize that there is much more to it. I’d never thought of looking for plot in things like patterns. My reaction to "A & P" is mixed because I disagree with the main character being a hero (as Updike intended). While reading the story I thought that the girls who came into the store were merely looking for attention. I feel this way because the girls were prancing around in their bathing suits, which was probably a big deal in 1961, and the fact that ‘Queenie’ kept her money between her breasts shows that she was obviously trying to provoke a reaction. Other than the fact that one of the girls blushed when asked to leave I don’t think they were embarrassed and I don’t think the main character was trying to be particularly heroic. I gathered from all the sexual description that he was only interested in the girls physically. I also think that he just hated his job at the A & P because it was boring, since he always refers to the customers as a type of farm animal, and was just looking for an excuse to quit. What better excuse to quit than one that might make him look good to some cute girls? He would be through with his boring job and might score a date.
We also talked about point of new in relation to "Why I Live at the P.O." by Eudora Welty today. I’ve never read anything where I really didn’t trust the narrator like in this story. I though the story was confusing because I could never figure out who was telling the truth. Sister seemed to have a very slanted view on things and thought that everyone was ‘out to get her’. Since the story was told from her (an unreliable narrator) point of view it gave me a feeling of turmoil like I have when I experience an argument in my own home. In that way Welty achieved her goal of making the reader feel involved in the story. I guess that Welty explained why Sister lives at the P.O., but I don’t understand why she thought anyone would care.
It doesn’t sound like an interesting topic to me and there really wasn’t any symbolism or anything that gave it deeper meaning. If it wasn’t something I’d been assigned to read I doubt that it would have enticed me.
Also, in class we talked about things written in second person. I’ve never read anything written in second person before and I guess I just assumed that was because no one wrote in it. I am interested to read something in second person this semester. It sounds like it could be very effective in making the reader feel a part of the story.
January 22, 2002
Today in class we talked about characters being stock, static or dynamic. We also talked about character motivation in relation to the story "Girl" by Jamaica Kincaid. I can see the story in two different ways. I think it could have been told by the girl in mocking of her mother. I can see it this was because I can think of times when my mother was advising or talking to me and I made fun of her seriousness. I also could see the story as being merely a conversation between the daughter and the mother, with the daughter’s words being only in italics.
I think that the mother and the daughter are both dynamic characters. Even though the daughter’s thoughts/words don’t come through often I still believe she is a dynamic character because of her questioning attitude. The mother is dynamic, in my opinion, because she is so strong willed. She is set on her daughter becoming someone who will reflect positively on her.
Also, the mother talks of the ways not to see "like the slut you are so bent on becoming." That tells of the culture that this story takes place in. In America there aren’t too many mothers who would speak to their daughters that way. The language says a lot about the culture as well. I found it unusual that she said, "eat your food in such a way that it won’t turn someone else’s stomach," and "this is how to make medicine to throw away a child before it even becomes a child." Those aren’t sayings of American culture today.
January 24, 2002
Today in class we talked about "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker. Mama is a dynamic character who is trusted as a reliable narrator right away. Her honesty puts the reader at ease. She speaks bluntly, for instance, "One winter I knocked a bill calf straight in the brain between the eyes with a sledge hammer and had the meat hung up to chill before nightfall." She doesn’t seem to be trying to please others by seeming more ladylike than she really is. Maggie is a people-please to the extreme. She wants to look nice for her sister’s visit even though Dee probably hasn’t ever been nice to her. When Dee is rude about the quilts Maggie wants to solve the problem by just giving in to her. The character Dee is also very dynamic. She is selfish and ungrateful. She shows this many times throughout the story, but it comes to mind specifically when she is trying to get her mother to give her the butter churn. She wants to use it as decoration. She seems only to care about showing her friends how far she has come. She cares nothing about the family history or sentimental value. She doesn’t even know who made the butter churn. Maggie, on the other hand, could probably tell you a whole story about it.
This story makes me think of something that is happening in my family. My dad has always treasured a clock that has been in our family for generations. The first Coleman in America worked at the Ansonia Clock Factory and it was the first clock he made. It has been passed down in our family since then. If you think about it it’s been moved in everything from a covered wagon to my grandparents’ Cadillac. My father loves things with family history to them. My father’s sister, Jean, came to visit (from Nebraska) one weekend and deceived my grandmother by telling her that my father didn’t want the clock, so my grandmother told Jean that she could have it. Then Jean told my father that my grandmother had told her that she wanted Jean to have it. My father was hurt, but didn’t say anything and she left with the clock. After she was back in Nebraska my grandmother and father were talking and figured out what happened. Jean only wanted the clock for the money it was worth. She cared nothing about the family value. We are still trying to get the clock back.
January 29, 2002
Today in class we talked about setting meaning a story’s time and place. The setting, the when and where (locale) of a story can have a huge impact on the perception of the story by the reader. We discussed the setting in the story "A Pair of Tickets" by Amy Tan. The story is set on the way to and in China. Had the story taken place in America it would not have had the same affect. Since the setting was in China the author could really "play up" with the culture. The way she described her new surroundings, the relatives, and the uneasiness gave you a sense that you too were experiencing her journey. Plus it was an integral part of the plot.
In "Sweat" by Zora Neale Hurston the language really helped the reader to feel a part of the story. I can see how people might have a problem with understanding it, but I feel that it really adds to the story. It lets you in on the southern culture and time period. In the 1920’s there was no divorce and so it made sense that the husband and wife would simply put up with each other. If the story had taken place in the current time period the reader would wonder why the two were still together.
I had a moral conflict with the story "Sweat" because I feel like we, as humans, have no right to decide the fate of another. I think it was wrong for the wife to leave her husband to die, but had I been in her position (having a husband who was cheating on me and trying to kill me) I don’t know that I would have been morally strong enough to help him. I believe that no matter what someone has done to you that you should turn the other cheek and love him or her in spite of it. ‘No matter what’ is a broad statement, but in the Bible the Lord says, "Vengeance is mine." I believe that He is the only one who can make a judgement of that kind.
January 31, 2002
We just read about writing. I have learned about thesis statement in high school, but have never heard that not every paper needs one. I also never realized how much is involved in editing. I have a tendency when I’m editing to only make spelling and grammar changes. I need to learn to really pick apart my work so that it can be the best it can be. My goal this semester is to utilize the editing.
I also read about tone and style. I think they make the greatest impact on me when I read. I love Ernest Hemmingway’s style of writing. His descriptions put the reader right in the story without being ‘flowery’. When I read "A Clean Well-Lighted Place" I felt like I was the water waiting for the man to leave, but also feeling sympathy for him. The repetition of "the shadow of the leaves" provided intense imagery as well.
I learned the importance of diction, sentence structure, tone, and organization in my last section of reading for today. I am not very good at grammar and sentence structure. I tend to write really long sentences and ramble. I need to be more concise in my writing. I think if I spent more time in the revising process that I would notice it more and could find better ways of wording things. I am pretty well organized when I write, but sometimes it poses a problem for me. I think my strong suit in writing is in imagery and tone.
February 5, 2002
Today in class we talked about theme in relation to Tim O’Brien’s "The Things They Carried". I thought this was an excellent short story. I really felt the Lieutenant’s sense of burden. The way O’Brien listed the weight of everything the carried really gave the reader the feeling of being loaded down with all those things physically, plus the weight of the emotional burdens.
A passage that struck me was "with its headphones and big sensing plate, the equipment was a stress on the lower back and shoulders, awkward to handle, often useless because of the shrapnel in the earth, but they carried it anyway, partly for safety, partly for the illusion of safety." This struck me because I’d never thought if how soldiers actually deal with the environment their in. It really made me think about how they all probably have a fantasy world that they need to focus on from time to time.
Also they talked of carrying the weight of memory. Ultimately, Jimmy Cross felt his memory cost him one of his men. Whether it actually did or not is questionable, but he carries the guilt of Lavender’s death. At one point he said, "He had loved Martha more than his men, and as a consequence Lavender was now dead, and this was something he would have to carry like a stone in his stomach for the rest of the war." I thought it was really effective how he used the imagery with the stone. Earlier he’d told of Martha sending him a stone she’d picked up on the beach and how he carried it with him everywhere.
February 6, 2002
I just read "Happy Endings" by Margaret Atwood. It was an interesting story. I sense bitterness in the way that Atwood writes. The section with the happy ending is the shortest, but she focuses on the sad endings. The line where she says, "The only authentic ending is the one provided here: John and Mary die. John and Mary die. John and Mary die," was very bold. It really shows the power of deception and the feelings that overtake you after you have been deceived.
Reading Kate Chopin’s "The Storm" I felt betrayed. I was angry at Calixta for deceiving Bobinot. He seems to love her so much. I thought it was sweet the way he comforted his worried son and picked up shrimps for her. The way she acts like everything is totally normal when her son and husband come home enrages me more. If I had cheated on my husband I don’t think I would have had the audacity to even look him in the eye. She acts as if she did nothing wrong. Here Bobinot and Bibi have been through a horrible travel and they are still worried about being presentable to Calixta.
This was not my favorite piece by Chopin. I just finished The Awakening recently and loved it. Even though the main character in the story, Edna, wasn’t perfect she was more admirable than Calixta. She was honest about her feelings even if they hurt others. She was easier to understand because you ‘got into her head more’ and knew what she was thinking more than Calixta’s. In "The Storm" was just thinking, "this woman is horrible!" In The Awakening I didn’t agree with everything Edna did or said, but atleast knowing what her thoughts were helped the reader to see her side.
In "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin I was shocked when I learned that Mrs. Mallard was not mourning for her husband, but joyful that he was dead, or so she thought. I thought that she was horrified by the news of her husband’s death until the line where she says, "Free, free, free!" I was thinking, "Ohmigosh, what caused this woman to feel this way about her husband?" In the story you never really find out. I get the feeling that she felt caged in her marriage from her exclamation, but there are not specific examples of a situation where he hindered her freedom. The ending was very powerful. The last line was so firm and final, as is death.
Sandra Cisneros story "Barbie-Q" was really descriptive. The way she told the story and the descriptions she gave were very child-like. She wrote just like a child’s thought pattern would flow. It added a lot to the story because it let you feel excited with the little girls about their discovery of "new" Barbie dolls. I remember being little and ecstatic over a new Barbie doll. I remember arguing with friends over who got to play the one Ken doll we had. I had a million Barbie dolls, but only one Ken. I’d rather have had a new Barbie outfit than a Ken doll when I was younger. When I read that line in the story I laughed out loud. This story was very light-hearted and I felt younger reading it.
February 12, 2002
Today in class we talked about Flannery O’Conner. I thought "Good Country People" was a very unusual story. I liked the way she used the names of the characters to instill a picture of them in our minds. For instance, Joy, was the exact opposite of what she was. It created a sense of ironic humor. On the other hand, Mrs. Hopewell and Mrs. Freeman, both suggest positive things, reflecting them perfectly.
The story was about the way we view others. ‘Good country people’ are usually thought to be simple-minded. No one would have suspected a ‘good country boy’ like Manley Pointer to have an evil motive. Another point that made the deception by Pointer so disturbing was the fact that he claimed to be a Christian. Joy was dumbfounded when he took out his stash of alcohol and then proceeded to steal her leg. She screams, "But you’re a Christian!" He said that he wasn’t really and that was really the kicker for me. It is really too bad that you can’t take someone’s word for anything today.
People have to be on their guard for lies. I dated this guy for a year who I thought was "the one". Little did I know that he was dealing drugs to make money. I had no idea and when I found out it hit me like a ton of bricks, which I imagine is the way Joy felt. Even though she had no real emotional attachment to him it is no less disheartening to learn that you can’t always trust the people you want to.
In class we got off track today in talking about Christianity. Flannery O’Conner writes about the darker side of religion a lot in her stories. I think there is probably a darker side of anything. It’s really sad though when it deals with something like religion. Religion is such a touchy subject anyway because it is intimate and personal. Then when there are people who disregard the true meaning of faith it gives all religious people a bad rep.
In "Good Country People" Manley Pointer was a complete hypocrite. I think there are definitely hypocrites in this world, but not everyone is. I am a Christian and I try very hard to live as Jesus would, but we, as humans, do fall short. I make a lot of mistakes, but no one is perfect. I think the distinction is between people that really are trying to do the right thing and those that use religion as an excuse to mess up.
I think that everyone stumbles, but some mistakes are more evident than others. It is hard to know someone’s true-self. You may run into someone who is a so-called Christian and yet they swear all the time, this is much more evident to other people than someone who sleeps around, but never tells anyone about it. It makes them no less a hypocrite, but you are more likely to see the mistakes of the bad mouth than the lustful person. Also, if someone professes that they are a Christian and then sins they are held to a completely different standard than someone who isn’t religious doing the same.
At the same time that it is frustrating to be held to a higher standard, I think it is necessary. As Christians we are to be a light for the Lord. If we live the same way as everyone else, no one will view us differently. I think that people need to be realistic though in understanding that it doesn’t mean Christians can’t make mistakes. I think the only difference is the motive. I think, for the most part, everyone tries to do what they think is the right thing, but people have reasons other than religion for that.
It was difficult for me to sit in class and listen to people bash religion. I know without a doubt that there is a God. It is so real to me now that it is hard to even remember what my life was like a few years ago. I always believed in God, but more in doing the right thing.
When I was a sophomore in high school I was diagnosed with a rare case of Fibromyalgia. I would have attacks that would cause me to lose my vision and control of my legs. I was in pain all the time and there was no cure. Doctors told me I would probably never go to college. That was really difficult for me because I had always really wanted to go to college. I had big hopes for my future and here they were telling me I probably would never do those things.
I went to Mayo three times and came home with little hope of improving. I was told I would always have Fibromyalgia and would probably only get worse throughout the years. I had every kind of test and tried every kind of "fringe treatment" from acupuncture to biofeedback. I even saw a Chinese herbalist in Oakland, California who helped my aunt with cancer. Nothing worked.
When I was a senior my mother came home from work on Good Friday with a really strange story. She said a woman named Sara Maaske came up to her and asked if she had a daughter named Sarah. My mom said, "yes," but she didn’t know who this woman was. Sara proceeded to tell my mother that she had a dream about me. She said that she felt like the Lord wanted her to make a healing cloth for me. So she went to her church, anointed it with oil, and had it prayed over. Sara knew nothing of my illness. Sara said she had always seen prayer cloths be white, but she felt that mine should be red for Jesus’ blood. She instructed my mom to have me put the cloth under my pillow.
I believed the spiritual healings I read about in the Bible, but I just didn’t think that was something God probably did anymore. I never thought it would happen to me. When my mom told me this I was still skeptical. I hadn’t slept in 6 days because of the pain. I finally fell asleep for a few minutes that night and dreamt that I was trapped in a dark room. I woke up scared, grabbed the cloth, and put it under my pillow.
I woke up 36 hours later, on Easter Sunday, with no problems. I haven’t had any attacks or symptoms since then. I’d seen the best doctors in the world and they couldn’t help me. It took the love of someone bigger. I think of the way my life is now and how much meaning it has compared to before all that happened. Before I was sad a lot and felt a lack of purpose. Now I know that God is real and alive and that anything is possible.
Now I go to the same church as Sara. It’s a non-denominational church that is predominately black. It’s a "praise Jesus" kind of church. Everyone dances and claps. It’s not unusual to hear people cry during service or shout out their agreement with the pastor. I love it because you can see how real God is. I’ve seen the Lord work in so many awesome ways since I’ve been going there.
I have become very close friends with Sara. She told me that she was healed of multiple personalities. She had seen the same doctor as Sybil and wasn’t helped. About ten years ago she came to our church and was healed.
As I sat in class, I found myself just listening to what everyone had to say rather than speaking up like I wanted to. It saddens me to hear stories of people telling others they’re going to hell. Don’t they know that we need to show God’s love, not try to scare them to redemption! As hard as it was to hear so many people speak of negative encounters with Christians it reminded me of my purpose, to bring others to Christ by showing his awesome, mighty love.
February 14, 2002
We read Flannery O’Conner’s "Revelation" and discussed it today in class. I didn’t like this story as well as "Good Country People" and I’m not sure why. I think one reason I didn’t like the story as much was because I disliked Mrs. Turpin’s character so much. She was so discriminatory and judgmental. I had a hard time reading about someone like that. She thinks that she is wonderful and until Mary Grace calls her a wart hog she doesn’t have a speck of doubt about it. I was totally pissed when I read about how she treated her black workers. Why did she even bother to tell them what happened to her if she was just going to disregard their condolence? She pretends to be their friend, but is not at all.
On the other hand, I liked the way that Flannery O’Conner used the insane girl’s facial expressions in the story. You could see her anger building throughout the story. It also was ironic that her name was Mary Grace. The name Mary reminds me of the virgin Mary and Grace definitely did not suit the character! It sounds like that is a classic trademark of Flannery O’Conner. I like it though because it is a subtle form of description.
We also read "The Serious Writer and the Tired Reader" for today. It must be hard to balance writing for yourself and what the audience wants. In order to sell your stories the audience must like what you write, but on the other hand it probably isn’t as rewarding to the author to not really write it as she would have preferred. I don’t know that I would be strong enough to be able to write for anyone but me. When I write I do it for the emotional release it gives me most of the time. If someone else read it they would probably get something totally different out of it.
February 19, 2002
Today in class we discussed Raymond Carver’s "Cathedral" and "A Small Good Thing". I really enjoyed Carver’s minimalist style of writing. He is very descriptive without using a lot of flowery words. He obviously takes great care in selecting every word. I think that is very admirable. He achieved the same affect as O’Conner without crowding the page with meaningless words. I really like his style of writing. I am a big fan of Hemmingway, which is probably why I liked Carver so much.
I was touched by the story "Cathedral". It reminded me of myself. My sophomore year in high school I was struck with a rare case of Fibromyalgia. Most people who have it are affected with symptoms similar to arthritis. I had seizure-like attacks where I would lose my vision and was not able to walk. Sometimes this would last for an hour and sometimes months. It was incredibly difficult for me.
My friends treated me differently and it hurt that they didn’t see me the same way they did before all this happened. I felt like they just felt sorry for me, but they didn’t really see what I was going through. I don’t know if they were embarrassed by me when I had to be in a wheelchair or what exactly it was. When I read "Cathedral" I began to understand why the narrator started out thinking of the blind man negatively. He said he’d never been around anyone like that. I guess that could have had a lot to do with why my friends treated me differently. I don’t think any of them had ever been around someone with a disability and they didn’t know how to react. In a sense, they were blind too.
I was thrilled with the end of the story and how it showed Robert and the narrator connecting for the first time. It was really beautiful to me. Since I got sick I’ve spent a lot of time working with handicapped children. It was frustrating at first adapting to the situation. I worked at the Children’s Home and was in charge of two boys. Sometimes I felt like there was no connection between us at all. It was difficult when we didn’t understand each other, but when we did it was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Tyler, one of the boys I took care of, had trouble connecting words with their meanings. I tried to teach him various small phrases, but nothing seemed to work. Then one night I tucked him into bed and he said, "I love you". I’d been saying, "I love you" when I tucked him in since I first started working there and he finally understood. I was so happy. It may not seem like a big deal to anyone else, but it really was a milestone.
Carver uses words that deal with sight about thirty times in his story. It is amazing how much we take things for granted. I never thought I’d have to deal with a disability and when I was confronted with two disabilities at once it was difficult. When I lost my vision I had the hardest time getting around because it threw off my sense of balance. I’d taken everything for granted. Usually when I lost my vision it only lasted for a day, but the times it lasted longer seemed like eternity.
In high school I’d participated in an exercise where you are blindfolded for awhile to see what it’s like to be blind. That is nothing compared to the real thing because you know that when you take the blindfold off everything will be back to normal. Anyway, I really enjoyed the story because it truly illustrated the way people think of the disabled and the amazing feeling of connection.
In "A Small Good Thing" I was again reminded of my illness. It reminded me of being in the hospital. The waiting seems like it will never end and the medical staff are sometimes very vague in their explanations. I can’t imagine the pain the parents must have felt when they left the hospital after having lost their child.
I remember how hard it was on my parents when I was in the hospital. I wasn’t in fatal danger, but it was so difficult for them to watch me in pain. I had to have an EMG of my feet and legs to see if there was any nerve damage and my mother bawled through the whole thing. I only had to stay overnight once. I was there for four days. My parents hated leaving me. They made sure that one of them was always there. Most of the time I was on so many drugs I didn’t even know that they were there, but they made sure I felt that I was not alone.
Hospitals are a really difficult environment to be in because almost everyone there is going through something really difficult. The buildings seem unfriendly and distant. Even the medical staff who are trained to put people at ease seem totally disconnected from their job.
It is the little things that get you through those times. I know that when people made meals for us that was a huge help. We’d come home from a long day of doctors visits and have dinner all ready for us. I really liked the way that O’Conner showed that in his story "A Small Good Thing". It makes me wonder if he has experienced something similar. I think that his experiences with alcoholism could have greatly affected the way he writes. The way he views things now, after recovery are probably very different from before. I enjoyed reading the excerpt about his life. It sounds like he was dealt a few hard cards in his life. It is exciting to hear that he came out on top.
March 7, 2002
Today in class we began our drama section. We began by having read "Trifles" for today. I loved this play. It was about a crime scene in which the women, who stereotypically only pay attention to trivial details, solve the crime.
Throughout the play the men make degrading comments about women. They criticize the mess the woman’s kitchen is in pay no attention to the hard work she put into things like canning jars of fruit.
The stage directions add a lot to the play as well. As Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters bond they move closer to each other on the stage. That is a wonderful display of their emotional connection. They understand the hardships that women must overcome. Towards the end of the play Mrs. Hale comments, "I know how things can be—for women. I tell you, it’s queer, Mrs. Peters. We live close together and we live far apart. We all go through the same things—it’s all just a different kind of the same thing."
Mr. Wright provoked Mrs. Wright to the point where she can no longer take it anymore. At one point one of the men comments on the dirty towels. Mrs. Hale responds that "men’s hands aren’t always as clean as they might be," which foreshadows the fact that Mr. Wright was not an easy person to live with. They spoke of places not being "any cheerfuller for John Wright’s being in it."
The women discover the bird that John killed. Mrs. Wright had owned a canary, which have positive connotation. Mrs. Wright used to sing and the bird was an outlet for her energy since Mr. Wright didn’t let her sing anymore. When he killed her bird it was more than she could take. She, like the bird, had been happy and innocent, until he killed her joy. The bird symbolizes Mrs. Wright.
By the end of the play transference of power from the men to the women takes place. The women’s attention to "trifles" led them to the resolution of the murder and they did what they could to protect Mrs. Wright. They had participated in something of greater importance than "women’s duties" or "women’s work", which was usually all they were allowed.
I thought the theme of the story was that little things can have large meanings. I am a very emotional and sensitive person and have seen many examples of simple things illustrating very complex issues. I thought it was an entertaining story that dealt with an important issue. Especially in it’s time Susan Glaspell’s statement was a bold one.
March 12, 2002
For class today we read about comedy. We learned about the different kinds of comedy, such as, satiric and high or low. In reading "Sure Thing" by David Ives I realized the importance of dialogue. This play is dialogue driven. There are not many stage directions at all. Usually when you watch a play you pay a lot of attention to what the characters’ actions are. In this there aren’t really any.
I thought the play was a true illustration of dating. It was interesting seeing how quickly one of the characters lost interest in the other. The bell ringing was kind of ironic because it made me think of the mental notes we make to ourselves. I know when I am dating someone there are certain things that the other person says or does that causes me to make a little side-note, similar to the bell.
It also brought up an interesting question: what if you could go back and change things? Would things always work out because you would have unlimited chances or would some things still not mesh well together no matter what? I think that some things are just "meant to be" but this play made me wonder. Sometimes I think it would be nice to be able to go back and change things. I know that a lot of times before I’m going to have a serious talk with someone I go over in my head and rehearse what I will say. It would be nice to be able to edit your conversation as you go along.
Even though this poem had no stage directions, it was two people simply talking at a restaurant, it was very intriguing because of the content. The dialogue was very humorous and entertaining. I would love to see this play some time.
March 26, 2002
In class today we began our section on poetry. I am kind of excited by this because I enjoy reading poetry because of the beautiful language, but I would like to learn how to get more out of it. I guess I would like to learn how to analyze the choice of words more so that when I read it I will understand the deeper meaning, if there is one. Sometimes I think there isn’t a deeper meaning at all. Some poems are straightforward, but I’m excited to learn more about poetry because it is easy to become intimidated by it.
Anyways, today for class we were to have read a poem by William Stafford called "Ask Me". I had a difficult time with this poem because I didn’t understand that it was talking about mistakes until we discussed it today.
I am also a little nervous about next week because I am supposed to give a summary on the poems for the day. I’m not very good at analyzing things like this and I am always afraid I’m missing some deeper revelation.
For today we also read a few poems by Adrienne Rich. We read "Living in Sin" and "Power". I really liked both of them. I thought she had a unique way of saying multiple things at once. In "Living in Sin" the title says multiple things already, for instance it is a sin to live your life in a routine like that or it’s a sin to live with someone when you’re not married. The words she chose to describe her apartment, such as "each separate stair would writhe" are associated with being uncomfortable. She speaks of "the milkman’s tramp", tramp having negative connotation. She also uses the word relentless to describe the milkman, which shows that she is unhappy with the routine of her life.
In "Power" Adrienne Rich uses enjambment (a word we discussed in class). I had never heard of this term before, but found it very interesting. I have always wondered why poets sometimes have weird spacing and a lack of punctuation and what purpose it serves.
This poem spoke of looking at the people who form our history. It talks of pride and how Marie Curie’s discovery that made her famous was the same thing that killed her. Pride is a powerful thing and sometimes it is very hard to let go of. For instance, Curie had devoted her life to her discovery of radium, it would be hard to admit that it was the thing that caused her destruction. It’s never easy to admit when you’re wrong.
March 28, 2002
We read another poem by Adrienne Rich today. It was called "Splittings". It was very interesting. I loved her choice of words. It was about separating emotion from intelligence. This is sometimes hard to do. For instance, I remember when I’d just broken up with a guy I’d been dating for eight months. I’d found out that he was a totally different person than I thought he was. He came to church with me and was a perfect gentleman around me, but little did I know, he was selling drugs and stealing. Needless to say, I broke up with him right away. I knew in my head that I should not be with him, but my emotions still had feelings for him and there was an inner struggle. It took time to get over that.
In "My Love for You" by Nanos Valaoridis the poet displays sometimes chaotic feelings you experience when you are in love. Some feelings don’t make sense. When he says his love for her reminds him of the hips of a hippopotamus he probably doesn’t mean she has a big butt, he is just saying that everywhere he goes, in everything he does, she is there. He can’t get away from his feelings or thoughts of her.
I can relate to this very well. I’ve been dating the same guy for a year and a half. I think of him all the time. I am always seeing little things that remind me of places we’ve been, things we’ve done, words that were said, because we’ve shared so many memories. It seems like no matter where I go, I see him in something around me.
In "Variations on the Word Sleep" is a touching poem about love and protection. It made me think of my mother. I am unsure why, but it made me think of my mother tucking me into bed at night when I was little. Throughout my life she has done everything possible to protect me from any harm, trivial or dramatic. The thought that went into this poem made me think of how when you really love someone you want to put this protective shield around them so nothing negative ever touches them.
April 2, 2002
"Poems for my Brother" by Greg Kuzma were very touching. They really illustrate the bond between siblings. I guess not all siblings are close, but my sister and I are and reading those poems made me really thankful for that.
My sister is five years younger than I. Her name is Lauren. She is beautiful inside and out. I look up to her so much, even though I am the oldest. She is my best friend. We share everything from similar sense of humor to what type of food we like to eat. She is very important to me and I don’t know what I would do if we were ever separated.
"November 9-rainy and cold" by Ted Kooser was very touching as well. I can relate to it because of my previous health experiences. As I have said earlier in my journaling I used to be very sick. I can totally relate to the fear that your future is sealed up "in tin like an old barn". It is every frightening to be sick and not know what is going to happen to your hopes and dreams.
"December 27-twenty degrees" by Ted Kooser was probably one of the best poems we’ve read in class, in my opinion. I loved his comparison of safety with a white, (which symbolizes purity), chenille, (which symbolizes luxury), bedspread, (which symbolizes comfort.) The fact that it was caught in a barbed wire fence made me cringe just thinking of a beautiful think like that being tangled in such a treacherous mess. Then the fact that one day it was gone and he was left to walk his road alone. That line really shows that there are some things that you have to face on your own. There are some battles that you have to fight and win by yourself. You can’t take your security blanket with you everywhere you go.
"January 4-four below zero" by Ted Kooser was very interesting. You can see how the author views his wife in a delicate light. He holds her very dear to him or he wouldn’t be so fascinated by the way she picked up and apple and put on her coat. He seems to believe that she is something extraordinary, since he mentions her "pushing her apple through a sleeve and back out into the ordinary" like it was lucky to be graced with her presence.
Greg Kuzma’s "Poem" was very humorous. It was interesting to read something a poet wrote about writing poetry. It was funny how he said things like "and into the second stanza and you are still with me" indicating that when a poet writes he is writing to keep the reader entertained. Sometimes when people think of poetry the think that someone just sat down and wrote what came out with out any purpose. Usually I think that when poets write they have their audience in mind and to some extend keep that in mind.
April 3, 2002
Today I read "Cargoes" by John Masefield. I am unsure what exactly the contrast of ordinary, humdrum things to elaborate riches was for, but I noticed that right away. I don’t know if there is a biblical reference I’m not getting, since I read that the items listed in the first two stanzas were things King Solomon imported from Ophir, but I thought the contrast with the pig-lead and firewood was very intriguing.
When I read "London" by William Blake I was immediately struck by the harsh wording. Words like ban, manacles, blasts, and blights are very bold. I sensed a warning of coming destruction. I wouldn’t have understood what until I read the explanation after the poem.
I’m totally baffled and lost after reading "Disillusionment of Ten O’Clock" by Wallace Stevens. The things that stick out the most to me are the white night-gowns, cientures, baboons and periwinkles, and red weather. I’m unsure of what these things have in common or what the deeper meaning of the poem is.
In reading T.S. Eliot’s "The Winter Evening Settles Down" I gathered a negative, dreading feeling from words like "burnt-out", "smoky days", "grimy", "withered", "vacant", "broken", and "lonely". I am unsure if there is a deeper meaning to this poem other than the fact that it displays a negative image of Eliot’s neighborhood.
Reading "Root Cellar" by Theodore Roethke you can almost smell the sickening, damp smell of a cellar. Words like "dangled", "drooped", "obscenely", "rank", and "manure" make a vivid picture of this dark, stinky cellar. I’m not sure if there was a deeper meaning or if the poet was simply describing this memory.
"The Fish" by Elizabeth Bishop was really cool. I loved the way she described the fish as "tremendous" because it is not a word someone would normally use to describe a fish. The way she talks of him being battered and venerable and homely makes you feel sorry for the fish. I love the comparison of his skin to ancient wallpaper. That gives me an immediate mental image.
Anne Stevenson’s "The Victory" was unlike any description of birth I’ve ever heard. I am sure childbirth is very painful, but I’ve never heard anyone speak so negatively of it. The way she describes it as a "gory", "blind thing", with "insect eyes" and a "hungry snarl" was repulsive.
I don’t quite know what to think after reading that. I know it must be a very painful experience, but it isn’t the child’s fault. She seems very angry with the child and there isn’t any love felt at all. It makes me sad to think that someone could actually view their child like this.
Robert Bly’s "Driving to Town Late to Mail a Letter" was interesting. I could visualize the cold and snowy night. Things like "cold iron mailbox door" make it easy to picture. I am unsure of what is so important in the letter that he is getting out in the cold and snow late at night to mail. It must be important to go through all that trouble to get it in the mailbox that night, or is this guy just bored because he mentions driving around afterwards to waste time. I thought it was very illustrative (is that a word?), but I feel like I’m missing something.