Honors Poetry Extra Credit

Response poem to In Just- by E.E. Cummings

 

Summer

Fairy world in               old trees

Made in just a stump

On wet grass

 

Slipping and skipping

 

Where ElsieandEli

 

Made fairy gardens

From popsicle sticks and

Summer

 

When everything is fairy dust fixable

 

With the wet grass

And our slipping and skipping

WillaandWinifred come running

Swinging and dancing

Because Summer

Is perfect

And nothing

Isn’t fairy dust fixable

 

I wrote this poem in the same sequence as Cummings in the sense that my stanza pattern reflects his. I repeated statements in all the places he did and tried to emulate the themes of childish wonder. When I read the poem, it reminded me of my summers working at a Spectrum Arts Camp. Every year, I work with the Fairy Gardening Class and they’re always the sweetest campers who loved pouring “fairy dust” everywhere–especially on me. Whenever girls were being nasty to each other, or were grumpy and tired the day after a swim meet, they would always tell me that fairy dust fixed everything. So I wrote the poem from the perspective of my Fairy Gardens Campers.

The first stanza is structured in the same way Cummings structured his and I set the scene. The girls always loved this dead tree that still had its branches cut off but was cut in such a way that was perfect for their fairy kingdom. The middle stanza in the original poem quotes the balloon man’s song but I chose “slipping and skipping” because one of my favorite pictures of camp were two girls in sundresses skipping through the grass almost slipping. I chose some of my most memorable campers to put together as Cummings did. In discussion I mentioned that I was certainly familiar with the fusion of names; I remember the girls’ words tumbling out in just that way. Rather than having the whimsical phrase “puddle-wonderful”, I used the phrase “When everything is fairy dust fixable” which, I promise, was just as cute when my campers said it. The final stanza strayed from Cummings’ structure a little but ended with the fairy dust line in the same way his repeated phrase were the final words.

Honors Poetry Explication 1

Marianne Moore’s What Are Years? seems an example of her early works as it utilizes complex imagery and prosodic patterns, themes of her early poetry. My initial interpretation of the poem was that Moore split the poem into three sections to reflect three stages of life (emulating themes of the “Voyage of Life Series” by Thomas Cole). I interpreted the first stanza as “innocent” childhood, the second as “struggling” young adulthood/adulthood, and the third as acceptance of “mortality” in late life. However, further analysis makes me think otherwise.

The opening lines begin with Moore’s existential, “unanswered question” of what makes us courageous. She asks why, in times of “resolute doubt” we soldier on and go about life despite the challenges before us. Her phrasing here jumps out. The word “resolute” creates such a final and sad tone that contrasts her chilling, final lines of the stanza, “in its defeat, stirs/the soul to be strong”. Her choice to separate the phrase elongates and suspends the sentence, first emphasizing the two timid descriptors, “defeat” and “stirs” then the conflicting, powerful alliteration of “soul” and “strong”.

The second stanza is the narrative of vivid imagery of seeing “deep”, encapsulating the feeling of drowning and how she wrestles with the thought of death. Her choice of the word “accedes” creates rhythm in the stanza that causes a natural slowing of the poem until it picks up speed again with imagery of “imprisonment” and panic as death looms. The poem continues at this speed with struggling until the “sea in a chasm” occurs when suddenly she is flying above worry and has a revelation that mortality is what makes life worth living, what makes “continuing” worth it.

The third stanza uses the metaphor of the “imprisoned”, “caged” bird conjuring similar themes of Emily Dickinson’s Hope Is a Thing With Feathers. The bird “steels” his form straight up once again conveying vivid imagery of picking oneself up and moving on and even “mighty singing”. “Mighty” inspired me and created a lift and pause in the poem, conveying a newfound confidence and resolution. The ending lines are my favorite, though, contrasting the satisfaction of mortality and eternal joy. This perfectly wraps up the poem. I think that she tried to convey that one can spend their whole life trying to do everything right, outsmarting mortality and feeling satisfaction. But, they may never achieve true joy that lives longer than the human life as it can only be achieved through accepting mortality and making the most of it.

Analysis of Emily Dickinson’s 320

emily-dickinson

Emily Dickinson’s 320 deals with themes of death which is somewhat predictable for Dickinson, but what makes this poem different, is that this poem delves into the competing narratives of religious teachings and her personal instincts. 320 begins with imagery of attractive light but describes it as oppressive and of heft. Here she expresses the heavy weight that the light casts which I interpret as Heavenly imagery. The weight of heaven reflects the weight that death has on her mind (which is often the case for Dickinson). The last line of the stanza says that the light is “Of Cathedral Tunes” and at this point, she is contrasting the Church’s narrative of death and instincts of death. Here, she breaks her rhyme scheme (which is generally ABCB in this poem), reflecting her break from the church’s values. In the following stanza, she elaborates on her personal views of death, claiming that one who dies and goes to heaven with “Heavenly Hurt” (capitalized to imply that its a proper noun since it is religious imagery). Dickinson also claims that faith should be in tandem with soul searching, or “internal difference where Meanings are”. “Meaning” is capitalized here to create a pause for further emphasis as it is elaborated on later. The following stanza discusses her frustration with the church’s teachings, deeming it “Seal Despair”, implying that “none can teach” these meanings. The final stanza concludes with the personal experience of death. Dickinson says “the landscape listens-“. The hyphen suspends the phrase for a moment, reflecting nature’s pause to observe death. Then, the death goes “like the Distance”, proving that only in that time, can one truly find their own  truth and meaning.

Citations:

Baym, Nina, and Robert S. Levine, eds. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 8th ed. Vol. C. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2012. Print.

A full version of her poem can be found here

 

How the Other Half Lives Reflection

Jacob Riis’ Photographs were shocking and moving, as they displayed an unfiltered version of America’s past. Many times, we choose to tell our American story through the eyes of American exceptionalism; a “city on the hill” built by hardworking people. But the way that we built our infrastructure wasn’t so honorable because, in fact, it was built on the backs of the poor, working class.

RiisDump

Photograph found here

I found this photo particularly striking because we see a laborer in a poverty, displayed in the most unfiltered way. We see a tired and unhappy laborer. The caption tells us that this is where he lives and we are to infer that the belongings around him are all that he has. He is truly impoverished. He seems to be without access to showers or a way to clean himself, he is without a proper bed and seems only to have the clothes on his back. In this way, at least in my opinion, he is being denied basic rights.

What was most striking to me was the caption. The caption read “In sleeping quarters, Rivington Street Dump”. I had studied the picture first, trying to understand what was being portrayed until the caption caught my eye. I realized that not only is he living in extreme poverty, but he is living in a dump. I assumed he was living in a basement or out of a small room, when he doesn’t really have a “real” home. So then I went back to the picture and studied his face and that is where I found the true narrative. He is a poor, working class man. He looks tired and despondent, reflecting the feelings of other working class members as well. He is without a home, and seems to be, without a family.

Fredrick Douglas said that, sadly, his story wasn’t unique. In the same way, this laborer’s story is not unique in that many other working class people struggled in poverty and struggle. And that is precisely the type of American History that we often leave out.

Citation:

Riis, Jacob. In Sleeping Quarters, Rivington Street Dump. N.d. How the Other Half Lives, n.p.