Mass Poetry Festival: A Day In Lowell, MA

Monday, October 27, 2008

October 11, 2008, a picturesque fall day in the town of Lowell, poets, writers and people with great artistic talents stud the town of a little over 100,000 people. With trolleys running through the town, gas stations reminiscent of the olden days, and trees assuming the brilliant colors of fall, the location of this year’s Mass Poetry Festival was perfect. Market Street was liven up with applause as poets read their works to customer at the local sandwich shop, Olive That. Poetry filled the atmosphere on that fall day.

At the Lowell High School, two great writers, Marjorie Agosìn and Ed Sanders share their works with an eager audience. Marjorie Agosìn begins with a poem entitled Obedient Girl which speaks of the savagery of war and its impact through the point of view of a young girl victim. Her works show a clear Chilean influence as she reads her works that mocks the Chilean president and call out his “crimes against humanity” as he “parades among the dead”. With her soft voice, Agosìn also entrances the audience with her poems from her book Dear Anne Frank, which tributes the life of Anne Frank. Her poems are both touching and captivating, gaining one’s undivided attention with a song like flow of words. She brings culture to her readings as well, reciting some of her works in Spanish, forming a connection between her heritage and her works. Agosin’s readings demonstrated a wide range of her talents and clearly demonstrated her experiences and inspirations. From writing about serious issues that has impacted our society to writing about simple matters (I Don’t Do Lunch), Agosìn exhibits her great ability to write both seriously and humorously. As Agosin leaves the stage, with the audience still in awe, another great writer takes the stage. Ed Sanders. His voice contrasts that of Agosìn, where as hers was soft and lyrical, his was strong and enthusiastic. He opens his reading, telling the audience of the New Orleans influence on his writing especially that of Hurricane Katrina. He entitles the tragedy as Unearned Suffering. Sanders’ poem exuded a powerful message in which each line was short but to the point. He speaks of the many unearned poverties of society from secret poverty to religious poverty. He arouses the audience as he presents a comical reading named, Send George Bush to Jail. He encourages the audience to chant along with his satirical poem, bringing life into the small Lowell High auditorium. To end his presentation, Sanders continues to include the audience in singing along to William Blake’s laughing song, Innocence Song ending the poetry reading on a light note. As the applause ended, audicence members were able to take pictures and get autographs from the two talented poets.

The experience in Lowell, MA on a fall Saturday was really enjoyable from the 45 minute car ride there, navigating the highways with a TomTom to the car ride back with music audible to the next car over and everything in between, the Festival helps to bring great writers together to be appreciated under the brilliant fall sun.

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris: A Soundtrack

Saturday, October 11, 2008

1.Our House- Madness
2.Lost!- Coldplay
3.Listen- Beyonce
4.Because of Your- Kelly Clarkson
5.I’m Yours- Jason Mraz
6.Beautiful- Christina Aguilera
7.No Rain- Blind Melon
8.Money, Money, Money- ABBA
9.Good People- Jack Johnson
10.You’re so Beautiful to Me- Ray Charles

Miss Emily’s Death: The Truth Revealed (Faulkner/ Hemingway Dialogue)

“The hills across the valley of the Ebro were long and white. On this side there was no shade and no trees and the station was between two lines of rails in the sun. Close against the side of the station there was” (120 Hills Like White Elephant, Hemingway) “a big squarish frame house that had once been white, decorated with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies in the heavily lightsome style of the seventies, set on what had once been our most select street.” (26 A Rose for Emily, Faulkner) “The American and [William Faulkner]…sat at a table in the shade, outside…It was very hot…” (120 Hills Like White Elephant, Hemingway)

American (Hemingway): “It’s pretty hot…Let’s drink beer.” (120 Hills Like White Elephant, Hemingway)

Faulkner: “What’s your name, boy?” (163 Barn Burning, William Faulkner)

American (Hemingway): “Oh, cut it out.” (121 Hills Like White Elephant, Hemingway)

Faulkner: “I was being amused. I was having a fine time.” (121 Hills Like White Elephant, Hemingway) “We are two different kinds…It is not only a question of youth and confidence although those things are very beautiful.” (161 A Well Lighted, Clean Place, Hemingway)

American (Hemingway): “It’s the only thing that’s made us unhappy.” (121 Hills Like White Elephant, Hemingway) “When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral.” (26 A Rose for Emily, Faulkner)

Faulkner: “I told you…You’re getting to be a man. You got to learn.” (165-166 Barn Burning, Faulkner)

American (Hemingway): “But, Miss Emily—“(27 A Rose for Emily, Faulkner)

Faulkner: “Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town, dating from that day in 1894 when Colonel Sartoris, the mayor…remitted her taxes, the dispensation dating from the death of her father on into perpetuity.” (26A Rose for Emily, Faulkner)

American (Hemingway): “But…We are city authorities…” (27 A Rose for Emily, Faulkner)

Faulkner: “She died in one of the downstairs rooms, in a heavy walnut bed with a curtain, her grey head propped on a pillow yellow and moldy with age and lack of sunlight.” (31 A Rose for Emily, Faulkner)

American (Hemingway): “But that’s not proof. Don’t you see that’s not proof?” (163 Barn Burning, Faulkner)

Faulkner: “This case is closed.” (164 Barn Burning, Faulkner) “Would you please please please please please please please Stop talking.” (123 Hills like White Elephant, Hemingway)

American (Hemingway): “You talk like an old man yourself.” (161 A Well Lighted, Clean Place, Hemingway)

Faulkner: “Are you trying to insult me?” (161 A Well Lighted, Clean Place) “Perhaps…you can gain access to the city records and satisfy [yourself].” (27 A Rose for Emily, Faulkner)

American (Hemingway): “No!” [Hemingway] said violently, explosively.” (164 Barn Burner, Faulkner) “I want some poison.” (29 A Rose for Emily, Faulkner)

Faulkner: “Come on back in the shade…You mustn’t feel that way.” (122 Hills like White Elephants) “Do like I told you…I don’t want to have to hit you!” (173 Barn Burning, Faulkner)

American (Hemingway): “I’m sure that won’t be necessary.” (27 A Rose for Emily, Faulkner) “I aim to…leave this country…I don’t figure to stay in a country among people who…” (164 Barn Burner, Faulkner)

Faulkner: “That’ll do” (164 Barn Burner, Faulkner) “The train comes in five minutes.” (Hills like White Elephants)

American (Hemingway): “Would you do something for me now?” (123 Hills like White Elephants, Hemingway)

Faulkner: “Come on stop talking nonsense…” (161A Well Lighted, Clean Place)

American (Hemingway): “You decline to answer that, [Faulkner]?” (171 Barn Burning, Faulkner)

Faulkner: “You do not understand…I want to go home and into bed…I’m sleepy now. I never get into bed before three o’clock.” (160 A Well Lighted, Clean Place, Hemingway)

American (Hemingway): “See you do then.” (173 Barn Burning, Faulkner)

Faulkner: “Don’t you see I can’t…” (174 Barn Burning, Faulkner) “I don’t care anything about it.” (122 Hills Like White Elephants) “Lemme be, I tell you” (165 Barn Burning, Faulkner)

American (Hemingway): “All right.” (123 Hills Like White Elephant, Hemingway)

Ind Aff- Setting

Intertwining a historical background with a modern setting, Weldon’s Ind Aff, explores the consequences of an “inordinate affection” that invariably overshadows one’s logical senses. In her exploration, she creates a cross between the decisions that establish history with the consequences of those choices that one is then force to reevaluate. Weldon incorporates the gloom of a rainy day, a relationship that builds on overwhelming affection rather than true love, as well as a historical back drop into the story’s setting in order to show the insensibility and irrationality that arises from the one’s overbearing devotion and affection. Told through the point of view of a young, ambitious student, the story deliberately incorporates the infamous assassination of Archduke Ferdinand II in the display of not only a scholarly knowledge of the narrator, but also to exemplify her struggles in seeing past the façade of a “muscular academic” to see an old, married professor who smells “gently of chlorine” due to her “inordinate affection” just like Princip’s dominating nationalism.

Quickly establishing the fact that “this is a sad story”, Weldon utilizes the element of water in the form of rain in order to not only magnify the sadness of the story, but also to exude a tone of irony. The story in reality is not really sad in the sense of sorrow but sad in the sense that
“it was a silly sad thing to do, in the first place, to confuse mere passing academic ambition with love.” (206) As “the rain [fills] up Sarajevo’s pride” (201) it seems as though it tries to wash away the “two footprints set into a pavement which mark the spot where the young assassin Princip stood to shoot.” (202) Weldon creates a setting that exudes the feeling of regret and emphasizes the permanence of one’s actions. She begins by building the character of the narrator through explanation of her emotions through her surrounding settings. The gloom the rain produces clearly reflects her feelings as she is in a relationship where she is unsure if it is “more than just any old professor-student romance.” She wants answers that unfortunately, Peter cannot provide her. As Weldon begins the story with a relationship confliction amongst her characters, the setting she creates helps readers to associate imagery to the mood. The rain serves not only to establish the atmosphere in which the story takes place but also helps to confine Peter and the narrator “beneath other people’s umbrellas” (202) where they are forced to face their problems and journey towards a conclusion of the future of their relationship.

In weaving the story of a single gunshot that carries the power to set off one of the most disastrous wars in history, in which its ring is still resounding, with the story of a striving young student who is undeniably in conflicts with the decisions she has made, Weldon asks readers not only to examine the consequences but the motives as well. Weldon draws onto readers’ knowledge of the infamous assassination in order to create a dual setting that reflects the actions of the past and today. Not to say that the murdering of Archduke Ferndinand is comparable to a student in conflict with her emotions towards her professor is equivalent but the proximity of her location to Princip’s undoubtedly shows a connection. The backdrop of such a historical moment exemplifies the longlasting consequences of a single action, just as the narrator is in the midst of coming to a decision as well. She parallels Princip’s devotion to his country to the narrator’s devotion to her supposed love. Both Princip and the narrator’s motives are quite simple: love. Whether it is love for one’s nation or love for another being, Weldon shows that throughout history, the blinding power of love blurs the lines between rationality and irrationality creating actions based solely on emotion and not consequences. She sets the story in two highly contrasting time periods, but in the same location to show that despite an obvious passage of time, and progression of society, there remains the weakness of humans to act under the spell of love. Princip decides to murder Archduke Ferdinand out of a show of patriotism because, after all, “what’s a man to do when he loves his country.” As Weldon shows the irony of human nature through her setting, it is evident that the “inordinate affection” that the narrator at first expresses towards Peter blinded her from reality. She does not see an aging professor, with a wife, and with a “[less than] good mood” (205), but a “six foot two and grizzled and muscled” man. However set in the isolation of rain, the narrator is able to reflect and come to a discovery of “the real pain of Ind Aff.” Her realization, as exemplified through Weldon’s shift of the narrator’s reference to Peter to “Professor Piper”, leads her to be “finally aware [of] how much [she] lied [to herself].” (206)

In Ind Aff, Weldon creates a character who begins the story as a young and uncertain student who ponders the actions of Princip, who resided in another to show time period and another setting to show a repetition in the nature of humans through time and to come to a realization her true feelings. The historical environment plays the role to exemplify the danger of “inordinate affection.” In the end, the unnamed narrator comes to a realization that she does not want to follow the footsteps of Princip who “if he’d just hung on a bit, there in Safajevo, that June day, he might have come to his senses.” (207) The rain forces the narrator to see the reality of her situation as it clears away the blur between what is moral and what is immoral as she is in a relationship with a married man. In the end, the narrator decides not to be the one who “lit a spark” to result in the destruction of a family, of a marriage, and ultimately of her own moral senses.

Everyday Use- Characterization

The characters in Alice Walker’s Everyday Use each contribute to show the contrast that exists among the varying interpretations of a heritage and its contribution to one’s identity as she establishes her idea through the ironic tone that is present throughout the story, the contradiction in personality, dress, and demeanor of her leading characters, as well as through the difference in values and definitions each holds of her own roots. The values one may hold of their own origins are undoubtedly influenced by social stereotypes. She creates metaphors in order to establish relatable circumstances in which readers are able to grasp the rift between a mother and daughter who both view their origins in opposite terms. Walker sheds insight upon the differences in self-identification versus identification by society by developing distinct values and beliefs in each of her characters.

Walker beings the story under the narration of Mama, who describes the arrival of Dee, a daughter who denies her true roots to find escape in the stereotypical image of what her heritage should be. Mama compares the reunion to that of a cliché one in which mother and daughter share a warm embrace as the host praises her for such an accomplished daughter. However, Mama infuses irony in the seemingly touching experience by stating that in fact she is “in real life …a large, big boned woman with rough, man working hands … [wears] flannel nightgowns to bed and overalls during the day [and she kills and cleans] a hog as mercilessly as a man”, all of which are characteristics that add contradiction by presenting a less than graceful image of what should be the stereotypical overwhelmed with joy mother on television. Rather than a tear-filled reunion however, the world of difference that exists between Dee and Mama and Maggie stands as a block between mutual understanding. From the beginning, the impact of society (the television) is visible. Dee personifies the television, as she arrives in style of dress so outrageous that “it [hurts Mama’s] eyes. The contrast between reality to what is expected is evident as Dee plays the role of a stereotypical African woman as Mama and Maggie embraces their identity as black women living in the south with a history as told through the stories and experiences of their ancestors and not through society.

The irony of originating from the same upbringing and yet possessing such contradictory views of their heritage is exemplified by Dee and Maggie. Dee changes her identity to fit into what society expects her to be. By changing her name to “Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo” she detaches herself from her family and accepts societal expectations regardless of how fallacious they may be. Her views clearly differs from those of Maggie and Mama who both know of their heritage through items such as the quilt and butter churn, all of which serve as remnants of their family’s history. Dee does not share the same appreciation for those ancestral items as she sees them as decoration and a sort of validation of her relation to her ancestry. She holds the items in a more detached sense then that of an affectionate one. Though Maggie expresses few words throughout the novel and is hardly noticed behind the shadows of Dee, she ironically possesses the one thing that Dee lacks: a real understanding, appreciation, and acceptance of who she is, not by the standards of society but by her own definition. Mama recognizes the difference in the attitudes of each sister and recognizes that though Dee may outshine Maggie in many other aspects it is Maggie that is deserving of the quit, a symbol of her heritage and obstacles that were defeated to make the progress they have now.

Walker raises the question of not only how one’s appreciation and acceptance of one’s true roots, may differ, but also addresses why they differ. She juxtaposes two siblings of the same heritage and show that one’s identity without a doubt based on self interpretation and not interpretation by society. Dee allows society to create the image of who she is, while Maggie, though less sophisticated and experienced, is ironically the one who is strong enough to defy the stereotypes of society and have a true grasp of who she really is. Walker praises the natural sincerity that comes in appreciation of one’s heritage while mocks one’s unwillingness to embrace one’s true roots.

Design of Blogger Template | To Blogger by Blog and Web