Sunday, December 21, 2008

the dance

The Dance
by William Carlos Williams (p1009)

In Brueghel's great picture, The Kermess,
the dancers go round, they go round and
around, the squeal and the blare and the
tweedle of bagpipes, a bugle and fiddles
tipping their bellies (round as the thick-
sided glasses whose wash they impound)
their hips and their bellies off balance
to turn them. Kicking and rolling
about the Fair Grounds, swinging their butts, those
shanks must be sound to bear up under such
rollicking measures, prance as they dance
in Brueghel's great picture, The Kermess.

I liked Williams style of writing so much from last week that I decided to blog on another one of his poems. In short, The Dance, is a messy amalgamation of words and run-on sentences that somehow link together to form two sentences. However, this strange structure does an excellent job of paralelling his topic, “The Kermess”. Much like his poem, the painting itself illustrates a chaotic scene of villagers dancing, celebrating, and drinking.

Yet despite the array of words, Williams is able to carefully depict every little sound or activity. He is able to draw the reader into the festival, both seeing and hearing the frenzy with descriptions like “the squeal and the blare and the tweedle of bagpipes”, or “Kicking and rolling about the Fair Grounds, swinging their butts”.

And in case you’re wondering what these people were frolicking to… here’s a sample of Renaissance music I found on YouTube (notice the clothes they're in).


by Pat Mora (p1005)

I live in a doorway
between two rooms. I hear
quiet clicks, cups of black
coffee, click, click like facts
budgets, tenure, curriculum,
from careful women in crisp beige
suits, quick beige smiles
that seldom sneak into their eyes.

I peek

in the other room señoras
in faded dresses stir sweet
milk coffee, laughter whirls
with steam from fresh tamales
sh, sh, mucho ruido,
they scold one another,
press their lips, trap smiles
in their dark, Mexican eyes.

Mora expresses her ties to both American and Mexican cultures through this poem. Through the use of coffee, she is able to contrast both cultures, or the “two rooms”, that shape who she is. The structure she utilizes for each part of her mirrors the other, giving a sense of equality. The two parts of the poem almost parallel each other exactly. She has assimilated into American culture, yet continues to be strongly rooted in her origins. One room showcases the Americanized aspect of capitalism, where hard work is valued and opportunities are endless. The women dress in “crisp beige suits” which obviously reflects a business setting. On the other hand, the “señoras” dress in “faded dresses” that represent Mexican traditions.

It is interesting how she concludes both parts of her poem. She points out that the women in suits have “smiles that seldom sneak into their eyes” while señoras “press their lips, trap smiles” within themselves. She almost laments the office setting of America, symbolizing structure and uniformity. And it’s almost as if her Mexican values relieve some of her stresses.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

the road not taken

The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

In The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost utilizes figurative language to convey his message. He urges readers to discover the undiscovered and be unique to themselves. The frst stanza basically provides the setting. However, things start to get interesting in the second stanza. Frost comments that the other road “was grassy and wanted wear”. Opportunity lies awaiting for the wary “traveler”, yet in a way both roads were “really about the same”. Frost implies that although they different paths, both require the same amount of hard work and dedication to succeed.

In the second stanza, Frost seemingly contradicts himself once again by keeping “the first for another day” but doubting if he should “ever come back”. His language alludes to the profound decision that the read must make. A decision that cannot be reversed.

Lastly, the final stanza ends on a confusing note. The reader is not able to discern if “the difference” by taking the “less traveled” road is positive or negative. Furthermore, his “sigh” can represent relief as well as regret.

this is just to say

This Is Just to Say
by William Carlos Williams (p927)

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

The simplicity and straight-forwardness of this poem make it stand out. However, I think his plain language and short sentences further support his message. Williams believes in living in the moment. And his concise words reflect this way of life: quick, spontaneous, and unplanned. The narrator ate “the plums… in the icebox” despite the fact that he knew someone was “probably saving” them. Instead of thinking about the consequences and the problems that could arise, he decided to act in the moment and eat the plum. Instead of thinking about the future, he mind conveys his momentary thoughts, “delicious so sweet and so cold”. Yet at the end the speaker apologizes, possibly insincerely, with a minimal “forgive me”. He accepts his decision instead of trying to hide it. The poem calls people to reach for opportunities.

Romance is a second interpretation of this poem. The playful language it employs emphasizes their loving relationship. The husband seems to be teasing the wife with his witty message. Also, “Forgive me” is ironic because he knows that in actuality, his wife will not be angry, but rather maybe even happy that he enjoyed the plums.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

annabelle lee

Annabelle Lee
by Edgar Allan Poe

This poem is somewhat long so here’s a link: Annabel Lee

Also, I found a sung version of this poem here.

Along with much of Poe’s other works, Annabel Lee is about the death of a beautiful lover; the situation. The reason for her death and his sadness may have been the time period; the setting. Poe describes a “kingdom by the sea” which refers to the Middle Ages where kings and knights ruled their nations. Equality was nonexistent as people of nobility exploited the peasants and farmers. The author’s lover was taken by “her high-born kinsmen” which supports this sense of injustice. Furthermore, the “sepulcher there by the sea” that she is placed in is both physically and metaphorically something unattainable.

However, their love is undying and continues. Even after her death, nothing can “ever dissever my soul from the soul of Annabel Lee”. Despite their unfortunate setting and situation, their love is constant.

aubade on east 12th street

Aubade on East 12th Street
by August Kleinzahler (p904)

The skylight silvers
and a faint shudder from the underground
travels up the building's steel.

Dawn breaks across this wilderness
of roofs with their old wooden storage tanks
and caps of louvered cowlings

moving in the wind. Your back,
raised hip and thigh
well-tooled as a rounded baluster

on a lathe of shadow and light.

I think Kleinzahler’s goal with this poem is to illustrate the breaking dawn. And if so, he has done an excellent job. The explicit descriptions that he uses of the city waking up brings the reader into his poem. We can almost feel and hear the subways and their “faint shudder from the underground”. He continues to describe the rays of light upon the “roofs with their old wooden storage tanks” and the “caps of louvered cowlings” which are both awaiting the day to begin.

It is ironic that he chooses to describe the city as a “wilderness” despite the obvious difference. But in a way this makes sense because both are always changing, unpredictable, and bustling with life. Finally, “the lathe of shadow and light” bring together the last wisps of night and the first rays of morning, creating a memorable image and concludes his poem about morning appropriately.

Monday, December 1, 2008


by Langston Hughes

My old man's a white old man
And my old mother's black.
If ever I cursed my white old man
I take my curses back.
If ever I cursed my black old mother
And wished she were in hell,
I'm sorry for that evil wish
And now I wish her well
My old man died in a fine big house.
My ma died in a shack.
I wonder were I'm going to die,
Being neither white nor black?

I was confused by this poem and left wondering who the speaker really was. Is he actually multicultural? Or does he wish to be? Nonetheless, Hughes speaks from a mature level after experiencing racism first hand through his “white old man” and “black old mother”. He expresses he sympathy and retracts his ignorant statements like “wishing she were in hell”. His level of understanding is further evidenced because he hates neither of his parents anymore. He realizes it is wrong for him to ever have blamed his parents for who he is. Lastly, he speculates upon the future and takes into account of his multi-ethnic background. He doesn’t know what will happen to him and therefore leaves the reader to draw his/her own conclusions.