I really enjoyed reading “The Fish” because it was much easier to understand than the poems we have read in the past. On the surface this poem is pretty simple. Bishop writes with intense imagery to describe a time that she (or the narrator) caught a fish and bonded with it in a way and ended up letting it go. An aspect of Bishop’s imagery I found interesting was her tendency to humanize the fish. Instead of referring to her catch as “it” or something along those lines, she refers to the fish as “him.” This brought the fish to life for me and I started to feel bad for it in a way. The difficulty in this text actually arose because it seemed to be so ordinary and easy to understand. I started to wonder if this was actually Bishops goal – make the readers think more about what she has to write instead of hiding it obscurely in her poem. Not only do I start to feel bad for the fish but I gained a sense of respect for him, as I believe the narrator did as well. This made it hard to picture the fish caught on the fishing line, breathing in poisonous oxygen and getting ready to die. I think that the reader also struggled with this and it was out of respect and also guilt that she ended up setting him free. This poem also slightly reminded me of the book David and Goliath, which focuses on how the underdog can defeat the larger, often favored opponent. In this poem, that is exactly what happened
I found Barbara Johnson’s Apostrophe, Animation, and Abortion an incredibly dense and difficult essay to read. The main point I got from reading this essay is that the way arguments, documents, and virtually any piece of literature are written plays a larger role in its interpretation than most people realize. Johnson points out that using apostrophe in writing brings inanimate beings to life, giving them purpose and making them more tangible. I thought the focus on an author’s word choice and how they can practically manipulate their readers by writing a certain way was very fascinating. It was interesting to read about CIA documents or other vices of information that we think about often in a cavalier manner, or virtually don’t think about at all, being written in a purposeful way. Realizing that the authors of these documents chose the words they did for specific reason was fascinating to me.
When I was reading Johnson’s essay I couldn’t help but think it resembled a close reading. Maybe it is because that assignment is fresh in my memory so I am more readily relating it to something but they do have a lot of parallels. I think that reading this essay before we had to do the close reading would have been a useful and informative supplement to the resources we were given to complete the assignment. A difficult part of the close reading for me, as I mentioned in my reflection, was finding a perspective to attack the poem from, figuring out what I was actually supposed to focus on and analyze. Johnson does a good job at analyzing the select poems in great detail and I believe that having read this prior to completing the close reading would have helped me gain perspective on my poem.
Of the poems we read for Monday’s class, “The Second Coming” stood out the most to me. The poem has a very ominous and depressing feel to it, which is not a characteristic I normally gravitate towards. Yeats wrote this poem in January of 1919 – very close to the end of the First World War. I think that the bleak feel to this piece of work could be related to the time period in which it was written. Yeats writes about the present world were “things fall apart” and there is destruction all around.
The second coming is the future or a change that is going to come. I had difficulty understanding what this change was going to be. From reading the poem I understood that it was saying this change is going to be abrupt and happen quickly. Line 11 is what led me to believe this because Yeats (or society as a whole) will hardly be able to say the words “The Second Coming!” as it is happening. This made me think a lot about my book of poetry by Jericho Brown and what I have learned from reading about Brown and the New Testament, both biblical and poetical. As part of my research of the New Testament I learned more about the Book of Revelation. This depicts the coming of the Kingdom of God and makes it clear that this change will happen very suddenly as opposed to gradually. I’m not sure if Yeats is referencing or alluding to the New Testament and how the change in 20th century society will be sudden just as it was in biblical times, but it seemed like a fitting connection for me to make.
Being able to use what I’ve learned from The New Testament by Jericho Brown to help further understand Yeats’ poem was really exciting and helped me connect further with the poem.
Emily Dickinson is an author whose name is recognized by nearly everyone. Her fame has lasted through time and if anything is becoming more and more widespread. My question is – why so famous? I knew Dickinson’s poems were difficult but have never actually delved into the world of them. I struggled a lot with the few poems we were assigned and couldn’t help but start to ponder what has made these poems stand the test of time. Why did historians and everyday people hang onto the work of Emily Dickinson, why were these difficult poems the ones that lasted?
For me, a lot of this difficulty arose from the structure. Each poem is quite short and concise, but where is the meaning? It is hard to find meaning in so few words. I had to re-read the poems many times to try and latch onto some meaning. It was difficult to understand what the purpose of these poems was. The language Dickinson uses is less direct than that of other poets we have read. Her work can be interpreted many ways, which makes for a fun read but also at times a rather challenging and frustrating one.
Something else that makes the poems difficult is they lack a title. Each poem is titled just a number from a larger set. This gives the reader no framework or expectation for what’s to come. I believe that this greatly increases the difficulty of understanding these poems because without a title, the audience has no idea if their interpretation is right or wrong.
After reading these poems many times, I am realizing that frequently there is beauty in the unknown and the difficult. Perhaps this is why Emily Dickinson’s work has lasted so long.
I knew I had jet lag because no one would make love to me.
All the men thought me a vampire. All the women were
Women. In America that year, black people kept dreaming
That the president got shot. Then the president got shot
Breaking into the White House. He claimed to have lost
His keys. What’s the proper name for a man caught stealing
Into his own home? I asked a few passengers. They replied,
Jigger. After that, I took the red-eye. I took to a sigh deep
As the end of a day in the dark fields below us. Some slept,
But nobody named Security ever believes me. Confiscated –
My Atripla. My Celexa. My Cortisone. My Klonopin. My
Flexeril. My Zyrtec. My Nasarel. My Percocet. My Ambien.
Nobody in this nation feels safe, and I’m still the reason why.
Every day, something gets thrown away on account of long
History or hair or fingernails or, yes, of course, my fangs.
All three of the poems we had to read for this week were accompanied by an excessive amount and length of footnotes. The poems themselves are not very long, but with the added information they took a while to read and process.
Originally, I found the footnotes rather distracting and that they made the poems disjointed and difficult to read and follow. Instead of reading the poems and the footnotes together, I first read the poems without paying attention to the footnotes at the bottom. I was able to interpret the poem by myself and decide what I thought Crane was trying to convey without the clouded thinking that footnotes tend to add. I found the poems confusing and hard to follow. There are a lot of references to certain people/places/moments that I did not catch on my own. I also noticed that Crane used many words that are not in my vocabulary and therefore did not understand when I first read them.
When I read the poems for a second time using the footnotes, I had a much different experience and take away message from the poem. The footnotes gave setting and background, which made Crane’s points a lot easier to understand and latch onto. The footnotes for these poems are very different than the ones in the Norton Anthology. These footnotes gave much more background to me as I read and really helped put the poem and words into context. Even though the length of these footnotes made them laborious and time consuming to read, they were very effective and helpful in making these complex poems easier to understand.
T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland is filled with allusions and dense language that make understanding poem incredibly difficult. After reading this poem twice, and acknowledging the importance of WWI in the time it was written, Eliot’s message becomes just slightly more transparent.
Eliot was not a fan of society and culture during this time. In Eliot’s eyes, modern culture was evolving quickly into prioritizing superficial entities and living life without purpose and meaning. The Wasteland has as overall dreary, depressing, and creepy tone while discussing the consequences of societies behavior, defining said behavior, and criticizing it as well. The poem is broken into five parts and the second, “A Game of Chess”, focuses on wronged women, luxury, and the paranoia one is faced with when living a meaningless life.
The first speaker is lounging in a “burnished throne” (77). The room is described throughout the stanza as very fancy and lavish. Even though she is seemingly living a very comfortable life, this woman is scared, saying, “my nerves are bad tonight” (111). I interpreted her fright as something that dawned on her when she started to realize her life has no purpose – the meaning is masked with superficial jewels and fancy paintings.
I believe the name of this section has a lot of depth and meaning. Chess is a game focused on strategy. I consider it cold, lacking human contact and often played in silence. This feeling is similar to the message Eliot conveys in the whole poem. The Wasteland is a place where people aren’t communicating, lack contact, and every move is calculated, rarely done based on compassion or love.
Lycidas is a rather lengthy elegy written by John Milton for his dear friend Edward King. Milton doe not refer to King directly and instead names him “Lycidas.” In the first 35 lines, the speaker established his friendship with his late friend. They “were nursed upon the selfsame hill” (23), which basically means that they were childhood friends. These two friends would wake up with the sun, tend to their sheep, and have a great time in the pasture. The speaker is filled with these memories and recalls some of them.
The speaker processes the death of his friend in an odd way. He quickly starts to place blame on others. He first goes to the nymphs and asks where they were at the time his friend died. The speaker brings other characters into his song. He calls on Triton, the river Cam, St. Peter, and Apollo. All of these characters talk or are personified by the speaker. Most of them join the speaker’s anger and wonder with him how this has happened. The speaker continually confronts each character asking what they have done and how his friend has died. To me, it seems he is in denial. He even says, “Weep on more/ For Lycidas [is not dead]” (165-66). The speaker is hanging on to all hope that his friend will come back from the ocean. He mentions how the sun rises and sets, each night setting underneath the ocean just as his friend has. The speaker compares his friend to the sun, saying that if the sun can set beneath the ocean horizon and continue to rise, it is quite possible his friend can do the same.
In the last couple lines of the poem, there is clearly a shift in tone from the melancholy sadness to hope. This could be the speaker finally starting to accept the death of his friend, and mourn properly.
While reading all the assigned poetry for the next class it was clear they all had a common theme to link them together. This theme is nature. Both Wordsworth and Coleridge romanticize nature and talk about how it has affected them and shaped their character. I though “Lines” was particularly interesting in conveying this and discussing nature as a whole.
Wordsworth talks about how he has not been to this specific place in five years and how a lot has changed within that time frame. He used to view nature as something fun to look at, something pretty for the eyes and soothing for the ears. It isn’t until recently that he experiences nature with a new appreciation. He understands nature for more than its aesthetic appeal. He believes nature is completely interconnected, a web within its own self. When referring to nature and this new found perspective, Wordsworth often uses religious words to describe nature, “blessed”, “serene”, referring to a “blessed mood.” This word choice is one part of the form that helps give insight on Wordsworth’s true feelings and ideas about nature. He views it as almost a religious entity, sacred and special. He has this close to spiritual and religious relationship with nature.
Another part of the form I though was interesting and helped convey meaning was the use of unrhymed lines. When I was reading this poem in my mind, the affect these lines had was very apparent. Instead of reading the poem slowly, using the rhyme as a sort of metronome, I was reading quick, stopping at different places and noticing randomness to the words that had emphasis. I think Wordsworth chose this structure because it parallels how nature is like in reality – every flowing and without pace. The poem flows freely and it seems without are, just like how nature has pays little attention to the forces around it and acts by itself.
An Epithalamion is a poem written by the groom for his bride to hear on their wedding day. Historically, the poem is presented as a song for the bride and is sung by multiple people. In Spenser’s Epithalamion, he declares his love and writes that as the poem is sung, “The woods shall answer and my Eccho ring.” This poem is 24 stanzas long and each of the following 23 stanzas ends with a variation of this line. Initially, the repetition of this line was puzzling to me and I had difficulty decoding the meaning and why Spenser decided to have each stanza end with these variations.
This refrain made the poem difficult to read because even though the stanzas make sense individually and follow the chronology of the speakers wedding day, this ending line connects them. The individual poem doesn’t follow strict structure regarding a rhythm scheme or pattern, but all stanzas are tied together. This is similar to the structure of a song. The ending line causes enjambment and makes the stanzas end abruptly. I interpreted this ending line as similar to a chorus in a song because it is repeated multiple times and links all the stanzas together. There are also many references within the poem to singing and noises, which made me think of a song as well. The stanzas also tell a story which is a core characteristic of song lyrics.
For me to understand the meaning and reason for this ending line it was important to not focus on the lines on the page but instead on the history behind this poem and the time frame in which it was written. This helped me realize that the song aspect is a very influential part of an epithalamion and is why Spencer repeats variations of the ending line in each stanza.