Sunday, April 17, 2005

If Only There Was A Canadian Version

I took this test online to see what kind of English I spoke; here are the results. It's from the states, so I guess that's why I speak 40% general American English! Someone should make a Canadian version!

Your Linguistic Profile:

40% General American English
30% Yankee
20% Dixie
5% Midwestern
5% Upper Midwestern

Let me know how y'all scored!

Monday, April 11, 2005

A Romantic Modernist?

For these last few blogs, I thought I would post on some more modern (post-modern?) poets. I opened up the Norton to the last few hundred pages and scanned. I came across a poet who has only two entries, the last one really caught my attention, especially after taking the test and talking about Romantic Imagination. The poet is Peter Davison (pgs. 1641-1642), he died last year at the age of 76. The poem I want to talk about is called Peaches. It's a short one so I'll type it out, this way you don't have to lug the Norton to your computer!


A mouthful of language to swallow:
stretches of beach, sweet clinches,
breaches in walls, pleached branches;
britches hauled over haunches;
hunched leeches, wrenched teachers.
What English can do: ransack
the warmth that chuckles beneath
fuzzed surfaces, smooth velvet
richness, plashy juices.
I beseech you, peach,
clench me into the sweetness
of your reaches.

Ha! The whole poem is like one big tongue twister! How many of you tripped on the first three lines? I know I did a couple of times. But once you get over the 'tongue-twistiness' and grasp some aspect of it's meaning, you'll realize this poem is not really about peaches at all. It is almost Romantic in that it forces us readers to use our Imagination. It's like Daffodils by Wordsworth, where the poems uses an analogy to make its point.
Davidson is showing us the wonderful ways English can be used. I love the way Davison compares the language to the "warmth that chuckles beneath fuzzed surfaces"; and how he beseeches the peach (that is the English language) to show him (and us) the depth of its reaches. The reason why I gave this blog the title I did was because, although this poem was published in 1989, I feel it's more Romantic than Modern. I really don't see any fragmentation, or any of the things that we talked about it class that make Modernism Modern. But I do see traits of what we talked about in Romantic poetry: Emphasis on Nature, Imagination, etc. Maybe somebody disagrees?
In all, I really liked this poem and if you liked it, you may like the other poem under Peter Davison, Equinox 1980. It's an interesting, kinda pastoral, poem about canoeing on an empty lake.

P.S.: Who's happy the weather's better?

Monday, March 21, 2005

On Seamus Heaney

Today in tutorial Prof. Kuin read Seamus Heaney's 'Digging.' I don't know what it was, but I really liked it. The poem is very Irish, but I'm not the least bit Irish, but it still moved something in me. Before I give my abstract thoughts on the poem, I would like to give some more concrete observations about it. Like what we'll have to do for our test.
I like the emjambment Heaney uses in the 5th line of the poem; the line falls over to the next stanza. But what makes it interesting is that the lines reads: "My father, digging. I look down/ Till his straining..." When we read the line, we literally have to look down to the next stanza.
Also the repetition of the word 'dig' and 'digging' throughout the poem. This brings attention to the word and what it means, not just the literal meaning of digging, as in for potatoes and peat, but digging in a more metaphysical/abstract way. Digging into the past and looking at ones history; the way Heaney is in his poem.
Finally, as I know we all have other more important things to do than read long blogs right now, I would like to comment on the last stanza. I think in this stanza Heaney is stating that he will continue the Irish traditions, but in a different way. He will write about his people; he will start a literary dig! *I know that was kind of cheesy.

Read the poem, it's on pg 1788. I'm pretty sure he falls under the modernist period.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

On Lewis Carroll and Thomas Hardy

For tutorial next week, we are to find a Victorian poem and read in class. This is to a be an exercise in reading poetry (this being a poetry class, I guess being able to read poetry is important).
The poem I will probably read in class (it's a toss-up between Carroll or Hardy) will be Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky (pg 1032). For any of you that haven't read it, I encourage you to do so; because not only is it the most random, nonsensical poem you will ever read, but I guarantee that by the end of it, you will know what it is about, despite the made-up words and randomness. Let me try to tie Carroll with the Victorians.
Carroll was a Victorian (He was Professor of Math at ChristChurch College at my beloved Oxford!). And this being an age of many new things and new ideas, I will venture to say that, along with all the technological/social advancements and experiments, Carroll was doing the same with language. He was challenging people to see language in a new way. A way that could be manipulated to the fancy of the author. Just like nature was being manipulated by human ingenuity. Jabberwocky does use made-up words, but it has its own logic. In this way, it very Victorian.

Now, if I could change gears for a moment.

Thomas Hardy is another Victorian that interests me. His poem Hap (pg 1049) is another example of the Victorian style. This poem is more in line with the gloomy, meloncholia the Victorians were also known for. But it is, as Prof. Kuin noted in Lecture, straight to the point. I can imagine a Romantic like Wordsworth stretching this poem to many lines and pages. But Hardy gets to point and conveys exactly what he's feeling. Yet, like all great poets, he does this in a profound and moving way. Again, something very Victorian.

There you have it, a brief look at the two sides of Victorianism!

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Romantic and Victorian

In my last post I mistakenly called Matthew Arnold a Romantic poet. In my ignorance, I thought I was right; but Prof. Kuin pointed out:

Actually, it's Victorian, not Romantic. If you read some Keats or Wordsworth, you can tell the difference. Victorians tend to discuss feelings more directly, more "sincerely". Glad you enjoyed it. Wonderful poem.

I now stand corrected!
I even took Prof. Kuin's advice to heart and read some Wordsworth (reading Keats is a work in progress). What he said is true (no surprise here!), Victorians are much more direct in how they express themselves. I'm not saying one is better than the other, and I'm not saying I like one more than the other, but the difference is noticable. Take for example Wordsworth's "Scorn Not the Sonnet" and Arnold's "Shakespeare." They both are poems in praise of someting, but they do it in different ways.
Wordsworth, being a Romantic era poet, uses more metaphores and evokes the past to make his point. He compares the sonnet to a small lute, and tells of how these great poets of the past did such amazing things with it. But he does it in a very "flowery" ornamented way: Instead of just saying the sonnet is great, he says it's a like a soul-animating trumpet!
Arnold, on the other hand, in "Shakespeare" (notice even the simplicity of the title) is more direct. The third stanza is a prime example, he tells you what he thinks. Not to say he was a dim-wit and couldn't write as ornamented as Wordsworth, I'm sure he could. And there are examples in the poem where he makes some stunning metaphores and comparisons. Line 5 is an example: "Planting he stedfast footsteps in the sea..." That is a pretty powerful image: A firm foot steping into the powerful sea. I guess in a lot of ways Shakespeare is like that. He was (and still is), a dramatist who is to be given the utmost respect. What else do we study in high-school that dates back to the Reneisance? Maybe a few arbitrary poems in Writer Craft that we soon forget after the final exam? Maybe some art in Art class? Nothing really to write home about! Matthew Arnold coveys the greatnes of Shakespeare in a much more direct and sincere way than maybe Wordsworth would have.
Both great poems, and not too long! "Scorn Not the Sonnet" can be found on pg. 737 and "Shakespeare" is on 987.

I think is quasi-essay rant is over.
I look foreword to what you all have to say!

P.S.: Is it just me or is Wordsworth's "She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways" not just one of the most beautiful poems? Read it, it's just 12 lines long and is on pg. 721.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

My "Obsession"

So I just read Matthew Arnold's The Scholar-Gypsy. When Prof. Kuin told us in tutorial that this is a poem about Oxford, and all Oxford students know and love it, my ears pricked up. You see, I have a fascination (it's probably better to call it an obsession) with Oxford University. I was in England this past May and spent some time in Oxford and fell in love. I think this would happen to anyone interested in history (or is a nerd like me, and passionate about education).

This poem tells the interesting story of a student at Oxford who left the school and joined the Gypsies. He promised to tell the world all the wonderful things about the Gypsies (about their powers of imagination and unorthodox way of see the world), but he never came back to tell the story. He was often spotted here and there, but never stayed long in one place. What makes The Scholar-Gypsy so cool is that it names many places and landmarks in Oxford like Godstow Bridge and Christ Church Hall, among others. I guess that's why Oxford students love it so much. I don't feel there is any point in giving quotes from the poem, it's not that long, only 250 lines (that's like a couple of pages from The Iliad). I suggest that you read it, it's a great example of a poem from the Romantic period.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

I Digress...

This often happens to me. I find myself going off on tangents; be it in conversation with people, my writing, or just my own thoughts. This digression comes to you by way of The Iliad. I know, you're thinking: "Sidd should be talking about love poetry, not the stupid Iliad, I haven't looked at that thing in months!" But the passage I want to talk about really makes me want to blog!

The passage comes in Book 16 ('A Ship Fired, A Tide Turned') and it starts at about line 845 and goes to 861. It happens right before Patroklos gets killed. A brief synopsis: Pat takes a special stone that he has been saving and throws it at Hektor's chariot, it hits his driver Kebriones. Keb quickly dies and tumbles out of the chariot; Pat makes fun of him as he tumbles on to the ground, dead. Here's the description of Keb getting killed.

...He [Pat] aimed and braced himself and threw the stone
and scored a direct hit on Hektor's driver,
Kebriones, a bastard son of Priam,
smashing his forehead with the jagged stone.
Both brows were hit at once, the frontal bone
gave way, and both his eyes burst from their sockets
dropping into the dust before his feet,
as like a diver from the handsome car
he plummeted, and life ebbed from his bones.

Man this poem is graphically violent!
Now, before you all think I'm sick for thinking this part of the story amusing, you must read what Pat says to the dying Keb. He's the sick one for saying this!

"God, what a nimble fellow, somersaulting!
If he were out at sea in the fishing grounds
this man could feed a crew, diving for oysters,
going overboard even in rough water,
the way he took that earth-dive from his car.
The Trojans have their acrobats, I see."

Wow! Pat thinks this is the most amusing thing in the world! Watching a man who just got his eyes smashed tumble to his death. Besides being ridiculously facetious, violent and kinda funny, Pat does use some interesting metaphors. Like comparing the way Kebriones falls to a fisherman diving for oysters. We've all seen (and/or tried) diving (of some kind or another), at least once in our lives. This metaphor paints a clear image of a man diving, head first, into the ground. The other metaphor I like is the way Pat compares the battlefield to rough water. One can imagine the battlefield looking like a choppy sea, and it is just as perilous. And with all the hewn bodies around them, the battlefield may literally look like a sea of blood.
I'll leave you all with that image in your mind!