In which I complete an assignment for my computers class

It’s been a while, hasn’t it. I last posted, saying I wanted to continue blogging. That was a year ago. Well then. Here’s the required stuff for one of my final projects for my computers class:

In my year long read through of the Bible, I’ve reached something of a halfway point in Isiah. The chapters I read today were 31-35. I found 34:6 to be pretty hardcore. “The sword of the LORD is bathed in blood, it is covered with fat– the blood of lambs and goats, fat from the kidneys of rams. For the LORD has a sacrifice in Bozrah and a great slaughter in Edom.” These chapters are very “God is gonna judge you, so you better get things right.” It’s a reminder that God doesn’t play around with sin.

Here’s a terrifying picture of a sword from a Pentecostal website.

SWORDsky

Maybe I’ll get back around to posting to this blog. We shall see.

Langston Hughes deserves the hug Walter Dean Meyers would give him

Two weeks in a row of intense poetry dealing with racism are good for a person, but in a painful way. (Also I may have been procrastinating on homework by reading a sad children’s novel, but don’t tell anyone.) Langston Hughes embodies well the difficulties faced by people of color in the early twentieth century. So much so that it can be emotionally exhausting to read the frankness of pain and suffering present in his poetry. But this week, I’m powering through a stuffy nose and an aching heart to talk about Hughes’s poem “Come to the Waldorf -Astoria” and Walter Dean Meyers’ poem “Harlem: A poem.” (This may in fact be an excerpt from his novel Harlem, but the internet is not being very resourceful today.)

One of my main reasons for comparing these two poets and their poems is that they both focus on the location of Harlem and New York, dealing with racial issues present within the area in both their lives, which happen to overlap some. Hughes uses “Come to the Waldorf-Astoria” to bring to light the disparity between the white upper class in New York during the Depression and the impoverished blacks. His stanzas are an ironic form of hyperbole and seem to grow in intensity and black humor. Hughes contrasts the idea of a hotel where black people can neither work nor stay with the idea that it is so incredibly open, and at a $10,000 price tag! The constant juxtaposition is discomforting, and serves to make the reader realize how problematic and the situation is.

On the other hand Walter Dean Meyers’ poem about Harlem takes on a more positive light. It reminisces Harlem as a place of music and joviality, although it recognizes at times the more somber realities. One of my favorite stanzas goes

In Harlem
Sparrows sit on fire escapes
Outside rent parties
To learn the tunes.

Meyers creates an image of Harlem not brought low by poverty, but creating music that even the birds admire. Harlem is a place of musical beauty, with dancing and culture all around. It is a mix of cultures and times, all jumbled up together, but still a place he calls a home.

While Hughes makes references to current events within his poem, citing the hotel and some famous artists, Meyers looks back in his poem, remembering even Hughes as a formative creator of what Harlem has become for him. Both poets use these allusions to make the poems more real, not merely ideas or satire, but something that can and does exist within the real world.

It’s refreshing to take the hurt of the past and see how it has grown and flourished. While it is impossible to say that life for African-Americans is completely great, things tend to go in the right direction, and that’s worth celebrating in the small things.

 

Claude Mckay still speaks today: Teaching new lessons to a new generation

I told myself that I wasn’t going to do another spoken word poem for class after my two week special. But I think there’s something important about how spoken word as a genre deals with social injustices. So as I read the amazing and powerful sonnets of Claude McKay, I found myself reminded of the poem “Sons” by Terisa Siagatonu and Rudy Francisco. Today, I’ll be discussing “Sons” and McKay’s “The Lynching.”

Both of these poems deal with issues plaguing the culture of the time and how it is passed on through generations. McKay deals with how lynching was both commonplace and a terrifying reality in his life. Francisco and Siagatonu take up the issues of rape culture and victim blaming present in many aspects of American culture today. Although they deal with similar issues of race and injustice in the world, the two poems are vastly different. McKay makes us of the traditional sonnet form, using a familiar style in contrast to the horrors he depicts to unsettle the reader. The poem “Sons” is spoken word, which is often used to deal with issues of social justice. As the poem goes on Francisco and Siagatonu grow louder and more impassioned, bringing the listener in emotionally.

The use of children and the idea that cultural injustice is passed on through teaching is present in both. McKay finishes his poem with the lines “And little lads, lynchers that were to be, / Danced round the dreadful thing in fiendish glee.” McKay contrasts the image of children dancing with the awful truth that lynching has already been ingrained into them as both acceptable and fun. Likewise Francisco and Siagatonu say that “Rape culture is the worst kind of teacher our children are learning the most from.” Broken ideologies are not passive. They are actively taught by authorities, parents, and news outlets. Francisco and Siagatonu mirror the idea McKay puts forth, that racism and injustice are not merely symptoms, but lessons taught and learned. Perhaps in reading and listening to these poems, we can learn that although injustice still remains in the world today, it is possible to correct the lessons being taught to the next generation, and instead teach them justice.

 

Super Late Sickness and Snow Day Two for One Spoken Word Spectacular

I’ve been sick. Also it snowed. Life gets crazy. So this week I’ve got a two for one special!

First, I’ll be taking a look at Paul Lawrence Dunbar’s “The Haunted Oak” and this lovely spoken word poem by two teenage girls. (If the video had proper citation, I would love to give credit where credit is due to these two talented young women.)

Both of these poems deal with some serious issues of racism and prejudice, which is why I wanted to compare them. Dunbar uses the voice of a personified old oak used to lynch a black man to bring to light the crimes committed in the name of racism. The narrative voice switches in the first and last stanzas, from a man first questioning and then realizing the horror and injustice that happened at the tree. The somewhat confusing switch in narrative voice reminds me in part of the two young women switching off the duty of speaking their poem, playing off the other for emphasis as much as for meaning. Both poems have two speakers. In Dunbar’s, the speakers are more difficult to identify, while the poem dealing with being Jewish and Muslim in America today makes sure the listener is fully aware of the change in speakers. For the very change brings weight to their words.

For today’s second comparison, I’m dealing with Gertrude Stein’s “Patriarchal Poetry” (Click here to watch some students recite part of the poem) and the following spoken word poem that I will henceforth call “Dear Mr. Anonymous.”

To start with, I’ll go ahead and say that good feminist poetry is one of my favorite things to stumble upon.  So I thought I would love Patriarchal Poetry. I thought wrong. Stein’s repetition and total refusal to recognize regular conventions is poetry is off-putting and rough. But Stein’s use of repetition and inversion of traditional standards leaves the reader uncomfortable. And perhaps that is important. We are not meant to read Stein’s poem and get away with a casual enjoyment. We are supposed to think, to question, and to be brought outside of our comfort zones. This mirrors the effect that “Dear Mr. Anonymous” has upon a listener who is not from a background of marginalization. The speakers challenge the way of life and perceived difficulties of those with privilege so as to discomfort the listeners. They use different methods than Stein, thankfully. Where Stein refuses to match a standard, these two poets fit well into the genre of spoken word and use it to their advantage. I found it interesting that in a genre of poetry generally thought to make use of rhyme, rhyme is scares in “DMA” whereas Stein’s unconventional use of words that both rhyme and sound similar to confuse and disorient the reader.

All four of these poems struck me hard this week. Stein and Dunbar wrote in a context of dealing with marginalization at a cultural level. These two spoken word poems bring to light today how issues of marginalization still run rampant in American culture. Perhaps the encouragement is this: Where there is injustice and oppression, there will always be poets fighting back.

I Hate Walt Whitman

I hate Walt Whitman. I have a very complicated relationship with the man. Mostly by way of his poetry, seeing as he’s been dead for some time. This week, in my reading I was forced once again to reconcile myself with Whitman. You see, I don’t dislike his poetry. In fact, I enjoy a good portion of it. But reading Whitman gets tedious, quickly. It’s the love-hate of “This poetry is so good that it makes me feel emotions and now I am upset with the poetry” that makes me hate Whitman at times. So today, I’ll be looking at Whitman in comparison to a poet I was recently introduced to. 

Here’s Whitman’s “I Hear It Was Charged Against Me”: http://www.bartleby.com/142/54.html

And here’s John Blase with “Surely, This”:  http://thebeautifuldue.wordpress.com/2014/01/19/surely-this/

 

Both of these poems deal with the poet recognizing the self and different identifiers. The speaker in Whitman’s poem addresses the accusations of destroying institutions. The speaker then distances himself from these imposed identifiers and uses a new category with which to identify: “The institution of the dear love of comrades.” The speaker supports the dear love, so much that he seeks to establish it in “every city.” 

Likewise, in his poem Blase uses his speaker to address similar identity issues. The speaker in Blase’s poem intentionally identifies as religious over spiritual, explaining the significant difference between the two and then moving towards the emphatic statement of the sparker’s identity. This mirrors the same structure that Whitman uses: An introduction of identification issues within culture, and a shift towards the speaker’s self identification.

Although these two poems share similar ways in which ideas are presented, there is a stark contrast in almost all other aspects. Stylistically, Blase writes in much shorter lines, making use of enjambment to bring focus to certain thoughts. On the other hand, Whitman ends every line at the end or a clause, fixing each idea firmly for the reader. At the same time both ignore traditional end-rhyme scheme in favor of unrhymed poetry, 

Whitman addresses serious issues in his poetry, many of a political nature. Blase deals with serious and personal issues regarding religion. Both men use their poetry to convey their strong emotions about what they find important. I enjoy Blase for his frank and real treatment of his faith, while at the same time I find Whitman frustrating for some of his straightforward dealings with the issues of being human and living in the United States when he did. So perhaps it is not that I hate Walt Whitman, but the emotions he manages to elicit from me with his poetry.