Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Assignments for Wednesday, March 30

Hemingway, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”

I don't really like Hemingway's stories. This story was quite confusing to me. I think the guy died in the end, and I think the whole thing about getting in the plane was his imagination. Kind of like "An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge."

It seemed like the story was sort of this guy's reflecting on his life just before he knew he was about to die. He was thinking about all the women he'd had affairs with and been married to, and it sounded like he realized that being rich is pretty boring and that he wanted to write stories about poor people rather than rich people. But that's just a guess.

The only other Hemingway I think I've read is "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber," which I also didn't like very much. This whole Americans/Europeans in Africa thing just doesn't work for me. I don't like nature-y stories at all. Hemingway's characters are also pretty despicable. It's hard for me to enjoy a story in which I don't care about the characters at all. But I'm glad we're only doing one Hemingway story.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Assignments for Friday, March 18-Monday, March 21

Nella Larsen, Quicksand

I found that throughout this entire story I was vacillating back and forth between an intense sympathy for Helga and an annoyance at her indecisiveness. She wasn't an incredibly sympathetic character, for the most part. I felt for her situation in life and the childhood she had seemed particularly sad, not to mention the way she was treated by her mother's family. I tried to understand her difficulty in finding where she could fit in. I thought the Langston Hughes poem at the beginning was very significant in relation to this story. Her mixed heritage made it hard for her to fit in anywhere.

Mostly, I felt annoyed with her and her intense materialism. She just wanted nice things and attention and people to think she was someone important. I felt bad for her that that was all she felt made her life worth living. She was a very sad character, and I think the ending was only more sad, because I think she ended up where she was just because she finally had something keeping her from leaving, not because she actually wanted to be there. I thought it was honorable to stay for her children, not wanting to give them the life she had, but it was also sad that she felt just as disenchanted with her life there as she had been with her life at Naxos, Harlem, and Copenhagen. Overall, the book kept me interested, but it's not something I would read again.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Assignments for Friday, March 18

Toomer, from Cane
Hughes, “The Negro Speaks of River"
Hughes, “The Weary Blues”
Hughes, “I, Too”
Hughes, “Mulatto”
Cullen, “Incident”
Cullen, “Heritage”

Jean Toomer's poems and short story from Cane are interesting. The picture they paint of the lives of African Americans at this time is heartbreaking. Fern is particularly sad; I also think this story is more universal and could be describing a white woman just as easily as a black woman, unless I'm missing the entire point. Portrait in Georgia was kind of disturbing. The idea that these awful things are used in metaphors to describe beauty is a sad one.

Langston Hughes poetry also gives a good picture of the African American hardships. I liked "I, Too." It made a good point that can even be applied today. Everyone who lives in America deserves the same rights because we're all American no matter what we look like or what we believe. "Mulatto" was a sad poem that showed the difficulties of being part white and part black. It's interesting that these "mulattos" are often more discriminated against than even blacks.

Countee Cullen's "Heritage" is an interesting look at the ideas about Africa. It's a universal sort of poem because it exams the ideas of where we came from, any of us. There's some inherent need or desire to return "home" in some way, or to go back to where your ancestors came from.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Assignments for Wednesday, March 16

Stevens, “The Emperor of Ice Cream”
Stevens, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”
Stevens, “The Idea of Order at Key West”
Stevens, “Of Modern Poetry”
Williams, “Portrait of a Lady”
Williams, “The Red Wheelbarrow”
H.D., “Oread”
H.D., “Helen”
Moore, “Poetry”
Moore, “A Grave”
Moore, “The Mind is an Enchanting Thing”

Wallace Stevens' poetry was a little obscure. I had read "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" in Honors English my freshman year. I even wrote a paper on it, but now I don't think I even really understood it that well; I just talked about the imagery in it and stuff. I was interested in "The Idea of Order at Key West." I have been to Key West with my family, and we found it to be a very laid back place. I couldn't really grasp what Stevens was trying to say about it, but if it was that Key West is laid back, he's right.

William Carlos Williams poetry is full of imagery. I liked "Portrait of a Lady" because it seemed to be poking fun at all the romantic poets' descriptions of women. I like the repetition of "which sky?" and "which shore?" The other poem, "The Red Wheelbarrow," is one that a professor I had last semester referenced a lot. The poem is very visual, but other than that there's not a clear idea in it.

Hilda Doolittle's poems refer too much to Greek mythology, and I'm probably not familiar enough with those myths to understand exactly what these poems are about.

Marianne Moore's poetry was also obscure and confusing. "A Grave" was a different look at water: while many poets write poems about how beautiful the ocean is, Moore compared it to a grave. I'm not sure if that's indicative of her entire body of work; that is, do all her poems go against the conventional views? "Poetry" and "The Mind..." seemed more conventional than "A Grave."

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Assignments for Friday, March 4

Eliot, from “Tradition and Individual Talent”
Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”
Eliot, “The Wasteland”

In "Tradition and Individual Talent," Eliot seems to be trying to define poetry in general. As a writer, I think this is a very hard thing to write about. The idea of writing, and any rules one would attempt to make for it, are very abstract and difficult to express clearly in words. I didn't really like or understand this essay, although one part I think I understood, but disagreed with, was that he seemed to say that poetry (meaning all creative writing) is not connected to the writer's emotions. I know from personal experience this is not always the case.

"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" is a confusing poem. Poems tend to be confusing to me, especially ones longer than twenty lines or so. I couldn't really tell who the speaker of the poem was or who he/she was supposed to be speaking to, so I couldn't really get any understanding of the poem.

"The Wasteland" is an even longer poem that "Prufrock," and it also has tons of references and footnotes like Ezra Pound's “Hugh Selwyn Mauberey." The one thing I noticed about this poem was that Stephen King uses lines from this poem in his Dark Tower series. He uses both of these lines in those books: "A heap of broken images" (l. 22) and "I will show you fear in a handful of dust" (l. 30). That was probably the most interesting part of the poem to me. As childish as it might sound, I prefer Eliot's "Ol' Possum's Book of Practical Cats" to any of the things we've read here. Those are fun poems. : )