It’s what, eh? BEAUTIFUL. And what. Easy.

May 2nd, 2012

Graded Frost papers and participation grades for everyone are outside my office door in envelopes with your names.

She Sang Beyond the Genius of the Sea

May 1st, 2012

This uploaded as a weird gallery thing, but whatever: glamor shots of the MoPoBros and Marianne, plus our perfect, perfect class. All the love to you guys as you finish exams and go on to do other wonderful things.

That Fight at Key West

May 1st, 2012

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPJDglJ35DY&feature=channel&list=UL[/youtube]

This took me waaaaay to long to figure out how to post. And now it’s on youtube because it was too big any other way (you’re welcome, Andy and Will). I think I heard someone say there was another taping of this…the quality isn’t that great because it was taken on my phone. Hope everyone enjoys watching this again as much as I have! I’ve enjoyed this class so much and miss it already. Good luck to all the graduating seniors and I can’t wait to see everyone else in the fall!

A little MoPo loving’

May 1st, 2012

 

Lost and Found

May 1st, 2012

Friends,

Among the items recovered in the Red Room yesterday was a small red pouch with a Nikon camera in it.  Will you let me know if it is yours?  Believe me, I’d rather not creep on the photos to figure it out.  That’s the LOST.

Thanks for the excellent photo and message, Kyle.  I hope people who were taking photos and making videos yesterday post them or send them to me.  (And will Kyle or Helen send me the class photo as an attachment so I can put it on my wall of love in Combs?)  I was so impressed by the final presentations, and by the brilliant Symposium presentations as well.   I felt thoroughly melancholy last night about MoPo’s being finished.  You are a lovely group of minds and hearts.  I need to remind myself that that’s the FOUND.

MoPo lovin’

April 30th, 2012

MOPO SPRING 12

My dear MoPo-

You are are lovely & I feel blessed to have met, interacted with and learned from such wonderful people. Thank you for the nerdy love, the conversation, and of course, the laughs.  I hope you all feel as grown up by MoPo as I do.  Best of luck in the future; peace in whatever it brings you.

MoPo: Recap and Memories

April 29th, 2012

So this is about the time of the year I get a little nostalgic and think about the semester and about all the things I did and said and didn’t do and didn’t say and so on. I also think about class and what I’ll most likely take away. This class has been one of the best I’ve been a part of at mdubbs. I think it’s safe to say we all came in with some, “Oh, hey, I know you” kind of vibes which really gave the class energy, and, for lack of a better word, spunk. Yep. That’s the word I was looking for: Spunk.

Anyhoo, the point I was trying to make with this opening rambling is that I’m glad I was a part of this group of peeps and I had a lot of fun learning about some crazy modernists.

Which brings us to the crazy modernists. I’ve been trying to think of a way to celebrate each of the poets we’ve learned about this semester, and, at the risk of spending my last few days of class writing tons of vague and boring stuff about everybody, I decided to narrow my focus and discuss the things I love about each of the poets. It may be a line, a stanza, or a whole poem or two. Or….maybe nothing. Well, probably not nothing. I can probably come up with something.

I realize that this is about to become a really long and obnoxious blog post, and I understand you guys probably have better things to do with your lives than read my nonsensical last-week-of-the-semester blabberings. But, just for kicks, here goes:

Thomas Stearns Eliot. Sitting at the shores of the Thames with his ruined city of words burning all around him. “And how should I begin to spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?” What happens when we feel as if we “have known them all–have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons….the voices dying with a dying fall beneath the music from a farther room.” Maybe it’s true. Maybe all we can do is shore these fragments against our ruins. Maybe this is Eliot’s view of language–that it can no longer adequately represent the experience of “modern” life, of modernity, of trying to find some semblance of order after all the destruction and chaos of war, after the erosion of our religious, historical, and societal systems. But if this were true, then why write at all? In describing his ruined city of language, Eliot is already making blueprints for its future, for its survival.

Maybe this is how memory works too. Maybe all we can ever do is try to hold our fragments. It seems we can only keep a small fraction of all that happens to us. As my homeboy W.S. Merwin writes, “I have only what I remember.” As depressing as Eliot is, these lines of his are completely unforgettable.

William Butler Yeats. One of things I’ll remember about Yeats is how Andy and I went to the confederate cemetery and searched for the grave of the same name. It was real cloudy out and we split up and we walked the rows of tombstones and read all the names and I thought wait, what the hell are we doing out here? It’s fucking 12:30 on a Wednesday afternoon. And then we found the grave and got out the paper and the pencils and started rubbing and it had just begun to rain and we were trying to cover it up and the rain was falling in the trees and onto the tombstones. Man, that was the weirdest day.

Anyhoo, moving on to Yeats’ actual poetry, there’s a lot to talk about, and a lot that could be said. Out of all of his great poems, there are three poems, and three specific sections of those poems that instantly come to my mind. The first is “The Circus Animal’s Desertion,” and the last lines, “I must lie down where all the ladders start / in the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.” Holy crap. It seems that Yeats is talking about the imagination and the writing process, and what happens when “Players and painted stage took all my love / and not those things they were emblems of.” But when all his themes are done, and are falling away, what can he do but lie back down in the mysterious source of all things, “that foul rag and bone shop of the heart.” It really doesn’t get better than this. Unless, of course, we’re talking about “Sailing to Byzantium,” which to my mind is one of great ones, with the stanza:

“Once out of nature I shall never take / my bodily form from any natural thing, / but such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make / of hammered gold and gold enameling to keep a drowsy emperor awake; / or set upon a golden bough to sing / to lords and ladies of Byzantium / of what is past, or passing, or to come.”

Wowzers. Reminiscent of Keat’s “Ode to a Grecian Urn.” Is truth beauty, and beauty truth? I like to think so. Anyway, it seems Yeats desires to be rid of the “self,” and to be unfastened from the dying animal of his body and to find immortality in artifice, or art. And in many ways this poem seems meta-poetic. Kind of like Shakespeare’s “This gives life to thee.” Meaning that Yeats, in a way, lives on through his art.

And now we come to a stanza from Yeat’s poem “Adam’s Curse.” To me, this stanza is hands down the most beautiful thing I’ve ever read. I think it says so much about life. I won’t even try to paraphrase it. Instead:

“We sat grown quiet at the name of love; / we saw the last embers of daylight die, and in the trembling blue-green of the sky / a moon, worn as if it had been a shell / washed by time’s waters as they rose and fell / about the stars and broke in days and years.”

And…..speechless.

Wilfred Owen. When I think of Owen, I definitely remember “the old lie, Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori.” But I also think about one of his darkest and most disturbing poems, “Arms and the Boy,” in which he writes “For his teeth seem for laughing round an apple. / There lurk no claws behind his fingers supple; / and God will grow no talons at his heels, / nor antlers through the thickness of his curls.”

There’s something really unsettling about the way Owen is portraying religion. I read this stanza in a sort of Wallace Stevens vein, in that it seems Owen believes, after witnessing the horrors of war, that the religious and moral systems on which he was raised seem inadequate and unable to govern this new vision of the world and its ugliness. There’s also the strange blending of sexuality, homo-eroticism, and violence.

Moving on to the lovely Hilda Doolittle. Before tomorrow’s performance, I would just like to say that I have done a wee bit of method acting, and I have concluding that both Wallace Stevens and Robert Frost would have been enamored of H.D., and they definitely would have fought over her during their drunken encounter at Key West. And I do believe that had she encountered the sassy miss Marianne Moore there as well, old flames might well have been rekindled. Let the fireworks begin.

That being said, the H.D. poem that stands out the most in my mind is “Cities.” I read this poem in a similar vein to Eliot’s “Wasteland” in that, to some degree, it seems likely a  meta-poetic statement about art and the role of artists in society–and the clashing between the old way of looking at poems in a metronomic way, (i.e. blank verse, iambic pentameter), and her own use of Imagism with its organic line breaks, based on breathing patterns and her own new rhythms. It seems H.D., too, is looking at the ruins of an old city of language, an old structure, and is documenting the building of a new one. Ultimately, this poem seems affirming to me, in that H.D. argues for the necessity of art in people’s lives, that language can still be used to create art that represents the world, and that “the city is peopled / with spirits, not ghosts, O my love: / Though they crowded between and usurped the kiss of my mouth / their breath was your gift, their beauty, your life.”

Gertrude Stein. Her essay Poetry and Grammar was hugely influential in changing the way I think about poetry and writing in general. She’s got a great sense of humor and she’s absolutely brilliant. Let’s just say that “sentences are not emotional  but paragraphs are.”

Langston Hughes. What I’ll probably remember most is us chanting the “Freedom Train” in class. His use of jazz rhythms, his call and response technique, and his meter all stand out, but the poems that most stuck with me were probably the really interesting dialogue between his poems “High to low” and “Low to High” in that both could be a commentary on the idea of passing and how that compares to Nella Larsen’s novel Passing which we read for gynomod last semester. The one poem that really gets me though, is “Pennsylvania Station,” in which Hughes writes, “the search was ever for a dream of God / so here the search is still within each soul / some seed to find to root in earthly sod, / some seed to find that sprouts a holy tree / to glorify the earth–and you–and me.”

Marianne Moore. She’s a tricky one. And a sassy one at that. Her poem “He wrote the History Book” is hilarious, especially after checking out the foot notes. Moore seems to have a deep reverence for all forms of animal life, and I think that in many ways she sees their existence, their lack of inward turning and contemplation of self, and their lack of destructive systems of thought as all more aesthetically valuable and wonderful than the art humans create. Though the poem of hers that I find most memorable doesn’t have an animal as its subject. Instead, this poem, titled “What Are Years” seems really influenced by eastern thought, by the desire to escape the self, the soul, and to fight against the ego-sensation. And yet, I don’t think we ever get out of the ego-sensation while we’re alive. I think this is what, to a certain extent, Yeats is talking about in “Sailing to Byzantium,” how he wants to leave behind his self, his soul fastened to a dying animal. Though this can never happen while alive, and as Moore writes, “How pure a thing is joy…[the soul] in its surrendering finds its continuing…this is mortality, this is eternity.”

Wallace Stevens. The idea of the Supreme Fiction is hard to ignore. I think it’s a really powerful, influential, and provocative thing. Before this class, Stevens really gave me a headache, but I feel more comfortable with him now, having been exposed to his main theories on art and poetry and systems of belief. The poem that comes to mind first, and that I think embodies a lot of what Stevens is about is “The Snow Man. ” In many ways, I think, at a certain point in our lives, we become “the listener, who listens in the snow, / and nothing himself, beholds / the nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.”

Robert Frost. Birches ain’t never gonna be the same. But his poem “After Apple-Picking” really got to me. I think the way he describes the apples–putting the obvious Eden references aside–is that the landscape is a mirror for the way his mind and memories work. The apples are his memories, those that have already fallen and those that are yet to come. Which is why this poem is so gut-wrenching, and depressing, because he seems tired of life, and wants to put away all this pain and loss, all these memories, and lie down and sleep.

Anyway, that’s my recap and my memories. I dunno about you guys, but I’m gonna keep on shoring my fragments against my ruins, cause I don’t know what else we can do. We only gots what we remember, and thankfully, because of this class, i’m gonna have a lot of wonderful memories to look back on. If you’ve read this far, I’d just like to say thanks, and you’re very kind. Please forgive my reductive commentary on each of the poets’ work; it wasn’t meant to be a summary, more just a brief snapshot of what I love and remember and admire about each of the poets. This was a great class, and I’m really gonna miss it! Sorry for such a long and obnoxious blog post.

 

Mr. Wendell Berry

April 29th, 2012

In addition to expressing my appreciation to all you classmates and classleaders, I wanted to mention one last thing about Robert Frost–

I didn’t realize until now that he deeply influenced Wendell Berry, one of the best (I think) writers and thinkers alive on the earth today. He writes essays about culture, agriculture, sexuality, politics, etc. etc… but he also writes huge quantities of poetry and fiction. If anyone really liked Frost (I can’t get enough, myself), I really recommend Mr. WB.

My favorite poem by him is this one:

“A Standing Ground”

Flee fro the prees, and dwelle with sothfastnesse;
     Suffyce unto thy thyng, though hit be smal…

However just and anxious I have been,
I will stop and step back
from the crowd of those who may agree
with what I say, and be apart.
There is no earthly promise of life or peace
but where the roots branch and weave
their patient silent passages in the dark;
uprooted, I have been furious without an aim.
I am not bound for any public place,
but for ground of my own
where I have planted vines and orchard trees,
and in the heat of the day climbed up
into the healing shadow of the woods.
Better than any argument is to rise at dawn
and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup.

Feel Like I Will Never Sleep Again

April 29th, 2012

but it is fun seeing you all out there live-blogging, love-blogging before you turn into pumpkins.  Virtual group hug (maybe not quite like the MoPoBros).