Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Let's talk about Stein Ba-by / Let's talk about You and Me

mmm k. So, this is super late. sorry.

I think Stein was a genius. I mean, the work she put out in the the early 20th century is so much more interesting than the majority of "main stream" poetry that is widely available today. She had such a gift for sound and rythym, and though I hate to use this word, her poetry feels inspired. I don't think Stein necessarily always had a clear idea or intention when writing her poetry, but it feels like it's about something, but that something
isn't fixed or rigid in any way.

Ok, now I'll talk specifically about Stein's work. I've actually read Tender Buttons a few times, and enjoy it a great deal. I'm always surprised by how much I enjoy the process of reading her work; especially when reading something like The Making of Americans. It's a pretty repetitive piece, but I can't help liking it. I think it has something to do with the idea of American identity, which, to me, is a fascinating topic. As an ex-patriot living in France, I think Stein is able to offer an intriguing look at what makes a person American. now, I realize a majority of that text is really difficult to read, and is probably not specifically "about" anything, but when I read the text with the previously mentioned idea in mind, I can't help but base your interpretations on it.

One of Stein's most well known poems, "Susie Asado," contains a favorite line of mine, "Trees tremble, the old vats are in bobbles, bobbles which shade and shove and render clean, render clean must." The image of trees trembling is really stunning, and I love that Stein never discusses the dance going on around her, but instead invokes all these strange images. I also enjoy the "render clean, render clean
must," but I'm not sure why. There is something secretive and shameful conveyed in those words. I think it's best not to search too deeply for one meaning or idea in Stein's work. It can be really discouraging if you're told a work has to mean one, and only one, thing.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Whitman and Dickinson


People are really hating on Walt Whitman, so I think it's necessary to provide him with a little bit of a defense. First I'd like to speak to Whitman's egotism, or perceived egotism. We all know that Whitman is often lumped in with the transcendentalists, or rather the most famous transcendentalists, Emerson and Thoreau, but I'm not sure he fits into that category. This sounds completely ridiculous, but I think Whitman transcends transcendentalism. I'll give you an example: Thoreau and Emerson didn't really give a fuck about women's issues. I mean, Emerson's ideas about self-reliance probably support the notion of women's liberation, but he certainly never singles out the issue in his writing. Thoreau never discusses women's issues either. I can't break bad on them too much because they did write several works on the terrible injustices of slavery, the Mexican-American War, and treatment of Native Americans, but the point is, Walt Whitman was the only male transcendentalist to discuss women's equality in his poetry. He speaks about women as his sisters, and says that men and women are of equal importance. There is a passage (not included in our text's excerpt) that proves my point:

I will not have a single person slighted or left away,
The kept-woman, sponger, thief, are hereby invited,
The heavy-lipp'd slave is invited, the venerealee is invited;
There shall be no difference between them and the rest.

With everything I mentioned above in mind, I don't really see Whitman as a super egotistical person. I mean, I know he wrote those favorable reviews about his own work and submitted them to newspapers, but that's just really funny, not really egotistical. Whitman just writes about everything. I think there are a lot of similarities between Whitman and Kenneth Koch, as far as their poetry is concerned. Neither of them have a filter for the material they consider worthy of being in a poem. They seem to find inspiration in everything, and their poems are an attempt to capture their own amazement and curiosity about the world around them.

One of my favorite passages from Song of Myself is "And I say to mankind, Be not curious about God, / For I who am curious about each am not curious about God, / (No array of terms can say how much I am at peace about God and / about Death.) / I hear and behold God in every object, yet understand God not in the / least..." Whitman is stepping away from traditional notions about God and religion, in that he finds more interest and beauty among human beings. God is not of interest, but the many individuals Whitman encounters are infinitely fascinating.

I know this is total blasphemy, but I like Walt Whitman more than Emily Dickinson. That's not to say I dislike Dickinson's poetry because I do enjoy her work, but I've never found it as interesting as Whitman's poetry. I realize Dickinson's poetry can be dissected, and that one may find a lot of meaning within her poems, but I'm drawn to Whitman's longer cataloging style. I find Emily Dickinson to be a fascinating person, and that she, Whitman, Fanny Fern, and Margaret Fuller are integral to the Transcendentalist movement, and add some much needed perspective.

I know it takes some time to get used to Whitman's style, but you just have to push through it. Admittedly, I didn't like Whitman the first time I read him, but now I like his work more every time I read it. It's too bad our text doesn't include the full version of Song of Myself, though it's easy enough to find it online, nor does it include my favorite Whitman poem I Sing the Body Electric, but I think that poem might be a little, intense...for the anthology.

Friday, April 3, 2009

WR 441

hello all.

This isn't really an's just a semi-new poem. Cool.

"the difference between human and animal language"

When he hears the leopard's call
When he hears the eagle's cry
I use 500 words, naturally, to
tell a very poignant story about
my own bedroom and cold snacks
When I saw the visitor, I said
please. help. out. The basic machinery
requires only that you know the rules.

I developed an association between
magnets and language. Sara wash apple.
I couldn't tell you the subject, I have
no grammatical competence, but I
can manipulate. The little plastic
words taught me how to enter other
peoples' heads. We have developed a
spoken language.

We have found evidence in fossils
of what we sounded like. The
evolution of speech is the key to
the best pizza and drugs.
I am more human because
I am a modern human
and have a round tongue.
My teeth are crowded and I
could die. My larynx makes
me more likely to choke
and die.