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Unit Reflection

I was terrified of poetry when we began the unit. I hated the idea of having to do it and all I could feel was an incredible sensation of pressure. I didn’t want to mess with meter, form, image, special language that sounded fresh. Poems always appeared to be such refined little packets of supreme knowledge and beauty; the poets that I had read in school were masters of saying something new in an absolutely unique way. I chose to respond to Ezra Pound for the first assignment because he more than any other poet captured so much with so little in “In a Station of the Metro.” I remember reading this poem in my lit class and being in awe of what he had accomplished. This assignment, though, helped to solidify my fear and disdain of poetry (my own, that is, not the genre as a whole).

The prose snapshots and the subsequent character sketch poem exacerbated the problem. The snapshots made me feel nostalgic for the good ole days of creative non-fiction and fiction when we tried to investigate character and create a passage capturing a person. Having to do this again in poetry frustrated me because a) i thought my poetry was shit b) i didn’t like poetry one bit so the process was bound to be at least slightly painful c) i felt like my description of character and memory didn’t match up to how well i could express similar goals in prose. However, the exercise did make me think about what it takes to build a character or memory in a poem and make it real for the reader.

The meter exercise frustrated me as well. “Convey a sense of meaning with meter” confused me, I really had no idea what I was doing. I ended up thinking relatively simply about it: by creating disruptions of general meter i could change the meaning of certain lines because these lines wouldn’t agree with the rest of the poem. Although not incredibly ambitious, it was a big step for me. At this point, though, I still hated poetry, it still clawed at me and refused to cooperate.

The poem translation exercise was a turning point for me. I didn’t feel obliged to create something fantastic with incredible meaning; the original author had already accomplished that for me. I just focused on the general length of the words, the line breaks, line lengths, and punctuation, and then played around. I found myself worrying less and actually enjoying the process. I sank into the author’s work a little bit. When i was finished, I looked at the actual translation and saw that I had written almost the same poem as the author. Although his was infinitely better being that it was a published poem he must have spent many hours on, I still felt like I had succeeded. I had connected with the poet and done something very similar to him. This made poetry feel slightly less indomitable and made me feel more free to fool around throughout the rest of the unit.

Rewriting the Kafka piece as a poem was actually fun (again, big step, whoah…). The subject matter felt like it should have been a poem; I feel like myths are in some ways meant to be poems. Maybe Homer did that to me. Anyway, I was surprised to find myself playing with the poem in a way similar to playing with silly putty. I felt that familiar joy from fiction (and a bit, non-fiction) and multi-media of being the architect and building something new.

My free choice poem about the robins continued to help me build my momentum of poetic enjoyment. Barbara had stated repeatedly that we didn’t have to write about anything “important” and to just have fun with poetry. One day while walking around campus I saw two robins fooling around and I was entranced by it. So I wrote a poem about it. I tried to capture the movement I saw with choices in punctuation, line length, line break, and the flow of the poem. Once again the pressure was slightly less than before. Poetry was becoming kind of fun.

I decided to challenge myself for the art-based poem. I tried to capture a Frida Kahlo painting in both free verse and the form of a sonnet. I thought it would be fun to take something as chaotic and non-conventional and unorganized as a Frida painting and fit it into a mold that screams of organization. I think I failed miserably. There was so much to try and express, I found that I was struggling to pick one theme to write about. My poems jumped around a bit and ignored a lot of the painting. I guess you could say I was successful too, though, because I did manage to capture one perspective on the painting and put it into the form of a poem.

Writing in couplets was much more fun than the sonnet. The restrictions were less. I was comforted by the framework of form that was necessary in the assignment as it gave me some direction, but it wasn’t so overwhelming as the sonnet that it would “stifle my creativity.” I found that the form gave a lot to the poem. More gravity to the lines, to the stanza breaks. It opened my eyes more to what form could do for a poem than the sonnet did, partly because I was more comfortable putting something of my own into a tight form rather than another artist’s creativity.

Narrative vs. Confessional showed me what different voices could do for a poem. Personally, I preferred the confessional because it allowed the reader a more specific experience.

What really makes me think of this unit as a success is the course evaluation we filled out yesterday. We all chose to write a poem/story instead of conforming to the mold. One of the words of the group that we chose from personal universe decks was neuralgiam or something, and at first I just thought “no way, I’m leaving this one out.” But then I just said fuck it and went at the poem in earnest. I totally let go of my inhibitions, fears, and pressures that had always been present in some form or another throughout the unit. I got into what I was writing and just went with it, felt it, just wrote where and what seemed right. It was exciting. That I could feel that freeing exhilaration from something I originally regarded with hatred and fear tells me that I learned something during the poetry unit.

I was terrified of poetry when we began the unit. I hated the idea of having to do it and all I could feel was an incredible sensation of pressure. I didn’t want to mess with meter, form, image, special language that sounded fresh. Poems always appeared to be such refined little packets of supreme knowledge and beauty; the poets that I had read in school were masters of saying something new in an absolutely unique way. I chose to respond to Ezra Pound for the first assignment because he more than any other poet captured so much with so little in “In a Station of the Metro.” I remember reading this poem in my lit class and being in awe of what he had accomplished. This assignment, though, helped to solidify my fear and disdain of poetry (my own, that is, not the genre as a whole).

The prose snapshots and the subsequent character sketch poem exacerbated the problem. The snapshots made me feel nostalgic for the good ole days of creative non-fiction and fiction when we tried to investigate character and create a passage capturing a person. Having to do this again in poetry frustrated me because a) i thought my poetry was shit b) i didn’t like poetry one bit so the process was bound to be at least slightly painful c) i felt like my description of character and memory didn’t match up to how well i could express similar goals in prose. However, the exercise did make me think about what it takes to build a character or memory in a poem and make it real for the reader.

The meter exercise frustrated me as well. “Convey a sense of meaning with meter” confused me, I really had no idea what I was doing. I ended up thinking relatively simply about it: by creating disruptions of general meter i could change the meaning of certain lines because these lines wouldn’t agree with the rest of the poem. Although not incredibly ambitious, it was a big step for me. At this point, though, I still hated poetry, it still clawed at me and refused to cooperate.

The poem translation exercise was a turning point for me. I didn’t feel obliged to create something fantastic with incredible meaning; the original author had already accomplished that for me. I just focused on the general length of the words, the line breaks, line lengths, and punctuation, and then played around. I found myself worrying less and actually enjoying the process. I sank into the author’s work a little bit. When i was finished, I looked at the actual translation and saw that I had written almost the same poem as the author. Although his was infinitely better being that it was a published poem he must have spent many hours on, I still felt like I had succeeded. I had connected with the poet and done something very similar to him. This made poetry feel slightly less indomitable and made me feel more free to fool around throughout the rest of the unit.

Rewriting the Kafka piece as a poem was actually fun (again, big step, whoah…). The subject matter felt like it should have been a poem; I feel like myths are in some ways meant to be poems. Maybe Homer did that to me. Anyway, I was surprised to find myself playing with the poem in a way similar to playing with silly putty. I felt that familiar joy from fiction (and a bit, non-fiction) and multi-media of being the architect and building something new.

My free choice poem about the robins continued to help me build my momentum of poetic enjoyment. Barbara had stated repeatedly that we didn’t have to write about anything “important” and to just have fun with poetry. One day while walking around campus I saw two robins fooling around and I was entranced by it. So I wrote a poem about it. I tried to capture the movement I saw with choices in punctuation, line length, line break, and the flow of the poem. Once again the pressure was slightly less than before. Poetry was becoming kind of fun.

I decided to challenge myself for the art-based poem. I tried to capture a Frida Kahlo painting in both free verse and the form of a sonnet. I thought it would be fun to take something as chaotic and non-conventional and unorganized as a Frida painting and fit it into a mold that screams of organization. I think I failed miserably. There was so much to try and express, I found that I was struggling to pick one theme to write about. My poems jumped around a bit and ignored a lot of the painting. I guess you could say I was successful too, though, because I did manage to capture one perspective on the painting and put it into the form of a poem.

Writing in couplets was much more fun than the sonnet. The restrictions were less. I was comforted by the framework of form that was necessary in the assignment as it gave me some direction, but it wasn’t so overwhelming as the sonnet that it would “stifle my creativity.” I found that the form gave a lot to the poem. More gravity to the lines, to the stanza breaks. It opened my eyes more to what form could do for a poem than the sonnet did, partly because I was more comfortable putting something of my own into a tight form rather than another artist’s creativity.

Narrative vs. Confessional showed me what different voices could do for a poem. Personally, I preferred the confessional because it allowed the reader a more specific experience.

What really makes me think of this unit as a success is the course evaluation we filled out yesterday. We all chose to write a poem/story instead of conforming to the mold. One of the words of the group that we chose from personal universe decks was neuralgiam or something, and at first I just thought “no way, I’m leaving this one out.” But then I just said fuck it and went at the poem in earnest. I totally let go of my inhibitions, fears, and pressures that had always been present in some form or another throughout the unit. I got into what I was writing and just went with it, felt it, just wrote where and what seemed right. It was exciting. That I could feel that freeing exhilaration from something I originally regarded with hatred and fear tells me that I learned something during the poetry unit.

Nick Flynn, “Emptying Town,” p. 127 Legitimate Dangers

Flynn plays a lot with line breaks and the aspect of continuity in “Emptying Town.” He begins the poem by speaking about the emptying of Provincetown (a summer colony that literally does close down for the most part in the colder months) all in one stanza. The writing is tight, follows standard rules of punctuation, and flows without disruption caused by diction or sound. However, the moment he switches to the subject of Jesus, the stanza breaks. He breaks the next stanza once he moves to his next subject, how he misses his (presumably) lover, and the next line stanza break occurs when he changes the subject to his friend, then again when he focuses on Jesus, then again when he discusses heaven and hell, and finally when he addresses the relationship between him and his lover directly. This use of line breaks adds a lot of hard emphasis to what he is discussing. The reader understands more fully that the narrator is making difficult mental jumps from subject to subject; the breaks add an emotional charge to this movement.

This effect is enhanced by the style of the narrative voice. Flynn writes using very simple language that could come out of any average person’s mouth. He even goes as far as to say “bye-bye” which cannot be put into any piece of writing without lowering its formality and making it much younger and more familiar. This casual voice helps illustrate the narrator’s mental process. This is his voice, we are with him as he reflects. Because of this intimacy and facility of comprehension, the line breaks are so much more influential. They strike the eye and tear your easy progression along his simple sentences and arc.

Flynn furthers these two elements in tandem in the final line when he adds italics to the line “look what I did for you.” Now we are hit with both the emphasis of separated speech that would flow beautifully without stanza breaks and the added emphasis of italics. Although these italics could also be interpreted as words that are voice by the narrator, the aesthetic effect of italics on interpretation is arresting nonetheless.

Imitation:

Each spring the leaves come
anew to the trees, and life
is restored to the valley. You
left this time, freezing

my heart solid. It can’t absorb
or see or feel, it has to just sit.
I think about my dog

pressed against the door
waiting to be let out.
But I don’t care. I
prefer to rest with my

loneliness instead. Outside
the windows all is green and
flowers blossom. But I just see it and wonder

What happened to spring?

Spring

Two robins stand,

jump flutter fly drop

back to the ground.

Stand again.

Up they go once more, quivering bodies

touching in the free lofty air

above me. They fly

or wrestle, breasts swooshing orange

against the blue sky.

Their faces touch briefly

and part.

Coming together for a feathered instant

and then up and around they fly again

never staying still.

I pluck a flower from the earth,

hold it out to them, my offering.

The robins move through the air

oblivious and free. Beaks touching, wings

touching, together then apart but clinging one to the other.

I stand, ignored, a spring flower in my hand.

The Statue

Narrative:

There it is.
Black cars stroll past and
black clothed people coast by it.
Day in, day out unnoticed.
Some remember it, a Virgin Mary,
but others know not his face.
None see his tears. Tumble and drop
out of that dying face.

The indentation of his clavicle and soft
crook of his elbow,
once homes of nests of birds
fore they moved, the homes razed
to the ground.

All day long,
day in and day out,
he whispers to the wind:
“Love me.”

Confessional:

I once walked by a certain statue
every single day. I rarely
really saw
it.

But when I did.
A hand stretched out,
a finger maybe beckoning.
Marble tearful eyes, focusing so surely.
White lips parted, wet moist blackness inside.

Eternal stone of fleeting
lasting misery.
Fear.
Fear I felt.

This image of a man
not an image, a prison.
This stone, such despair,
and all I could do was walk away.

Our father, god of sky
he chose not me but you.

Now you illuminate
mans joys and sorrows, you

the son born first and me
simply forgotten here.

You damn me with that crown
of light and sight. You rise

I fall. Neglect festers,
clouds cover me, broken.

Art-based poem

Separation
the painting i used, by frida kahlo: http://www.mart.trento.it/UploadImgs/1127_11__Kahlo___Il_piccolo_cervo.jpg

Not remote at all, but a short distance from her:
there, all is blue and quiet.
Silent sky could blur so easily
with the passive sea.
But they are separate, split to two
by the earth’s curvature, that sharp horizon.
She dotes on it, that cutting clarity so different
from her confusion. Better to see out
than see herself.
Antlers like trees in a forest that weeps
and ears behind ears hearing nothing in the silent woods.
Face of a woman once beautiful with eyes
unfocused not caring what happens to her deer’s body
punctured completely by arrows.
Or is it an ass’s?
Her fur sticky like honey with blood
but her lips unparted,
no release of anguish, no twist of recognition.
A sharp horizon separates them.

(sonnet form)

She stands a distance from the shore. It’s there
that sky and sea do nearly meet in smut
of quiet blue. But never so, not where
the curving earth and sharp horizon cut
apart the two. But on that line she dotes,
a clarity that blurs the weight of sight.
It helps to blind her. She never notes
the pain of her identity, a plight
so seemingly apparent. Sticky pelt
like honey, blood instead does mat it down.
Her body twisted, punctured, never felt
the arrows enter. Deer or Woman?
Composure, strange to be seen on her face.
Horizon steady ‘tween her lips, no space.