Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened." - Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss - the beginning of what I knew as poetry. Or what I thought was poetry. Because, as I've learned time and time again in this class, with poetry, there are no rules. When asked, "What is poetry?" we have seen that there are no real definitions. Poetry class - the highlight of my day. Why? Because it was the one place where I could veer from the everyday, same old boring routine. With the exception of homework reflections, there were little to no guidelines. Even when there were guidelines, I could find some way to get my poetic juices flowing and relate to what was going on in my life. Until now, I haven't released how much of a relief it was to express my feelings in such an artistic way. Releasing stress and pressure was easy for me this way. No one could know exactly what I was talking about unless they knew me, and even then, I still had hidden meaning. It has made me wonder over and over again - if I can hide so much of my life in my poetry, I wonder what other famous poets are concealing under their general messages?

So what do you do when that one time slot during your day is going away? My initial reaction - sadness. But then I think of what this class has taught me. I have finally found a way to express myself which is soooo incredibly helpful for me. I will continue to write poetry, or create, or speak, or any other form I can think of poetry being in. Thank you so much for the best trimester of my time at Sem. I've learned so much! (:

I'll miss you!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

This sucks. Seriously.

As ecstatic as I am for this trimester to be ending, it sucks. I've been waiting eagerly for this week. Only half a day left of classes, a couple of exams to come, then a nice week-long break to spend time with friends and family. Delicious food, hours of sleep, the comfort of home. What could bring me down, right? The exact thing that usually brings me up: poetry. More specifically, poetry class. It's quickly coming to a close. I can't remember a single time I've ever been so sad to see the end of any of my classes. But then I've never had a class quite like this before. I've never enjoyed learning so much. It's never been so easy. I've never had a teacher who understood me (and my classmates) so well. A teacher who truly treated us like equals, who didn't belittle us for our lack of knowledge, who treated us like human beings instead of just students. A teacher who is willing to do just as much learning as she does teaching. I've never learned so much from one person, about academics as well as about life. I've never been in a class where one person can create such a safe atmosphere for so many. No fear, no guilt, no judgment. Where we could embrace our differences because being surrounded by so many different people made it that much more interesting. We were all the same, united, but different, voicing different opinions. For all the things I thought I'd never get out of school, thank you Mrs. Lewis. Here's a last little bit of poetry for you (I told you I could make it work):

The End Of a Decade; The Start Of an Age

In a trimester where things are most stressful for me with field hockey and school, Poetry Class really helped me relax. Whether I was anxious for a big game or nervous for the outcome of a test, I could always count on the comfort, excitement, and energy of Poetry Class to calm me down. By having Poetry Class, I was able to take a step back, re-focus, and breathe- something that is impossible in my other classes. But most importantly, Poetry Class opened up my eyes to a whole other universe- a universe where it is acceptable to be different. In fact, being different is encouraged. Poetry and Poetry Class are judgment free zones. I was able to break out of my shell, laugh a lot, have fun, and express myself in ways I would have never expected before. I became more comfortable with myself and everyone around me, and for that I am grateful.
"In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different." - Coco Chanel
In class, I was also able to develop a greater sense of how substantial poetry is. All the meanings, the symbolism, the styles, and the emotions- it's incredible. I went into the class hating poetry and thinking it was stupid and came out loving it and having so much respect for poems and poets. Thank you, Mrs. Lewis for being such a wonderful teacher! Until we meet again, xoxo Brunette

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Performance Is Key. Or is it?

Whether you're an athlete, an actress, a student, or a poet, performance is key. Your performance depends on your success, your triumph, and your fame. While watching SlamNation this week in poetry class, I realized how vital performance is. The slightest mishap and the smallest mistake can cost you everything you've worked so hard to achieve. In SlamNation, the poets needed to be flawless. Their poems had to be wonderful and the delivery had to be remarkable. If they weren't, victory was out of sight. But what exactly is performance?

A remarkable, flawless, extraordinary performance in anything is key, right? For me, when I think of someone who always achieves this is no one other than Meryl Streep, the most nominated actress in both the Oscars and the Golden Globes. Considered by many movie reviewers to be the "greatest living film actress," she constantly dazzles people everywhere, including colleagues. Known for being "a perfectionist in her craft and meticulous and painstaking in her preparation for her roles," Meryl always gives her best performance possible; she will not settle for anything less. It is through her dedication to her work and success as an actress that highly-credited actresses such as Kate Winslet, Claire Danes, and Penelope Cruz, view her as a role model and inspiration, and that she has won 2 Academy Awards, 7 Golden Globes, and countless other awards.

But is it really her numerous "remarkable, flawless, and extraordinary performances" that have made her wildly successful and respected? Of course, her acting performances have something to do with it, but it also has to deal with her sincerity, personability, modesty, and charisma. She is never in the tabloids or constantly in the spotlight, and her family always comes first. In an interview for Good Housekeeping, she mentions that "Lecturing is what [she] do[es] with [her] children, not listening. Lecturing, and ordering out." She always wants the best for her children as well as discipline them so they grow up to be respectable adults. As well as being the "watchdog" for her children, she is a "watchdog" for young actresses, and this is where her sincerity really shines. She tries to encourage them that "You have to embrace getting older. Life is precious," and that making drastic changes to your body, like getting plastic surgery, is harmful, wasteful, and unnecessary. Also she urges them to "Just relax and enjoy it all." Life, work, family, etc.

When asked if "Being called iconic and one of the greatest actress of our generation must have some type of affect on you, doesn't it?," her modesty shone.

“I don't work for praise, that's the truth, I work to make sure my contributions to a film are the best they can be. Now, I can’t deny that I’m not honored by the fact that so many people like me and the work I do, but, I don’t feel like any sort of icon. I just don’t feel it in me. It kind of bounces off me. It doesn’t have any residual effects at home, and it really has nothing to do with my every day life. The only time it becomes an issue is when I work with other actors who think more of me than I deserve.”

Remarkable, flawless, extraordinary performances, sincerity, loyalty to her family, modesty, and extremely hard work are all words or phrases that characterize the legendary Meryl Streep. She's an icon, a role model, and a star because of everything she brings to the table- not just her ground-breaking performances.

Yes, performance is key. But it's not just performance in your job that matters; it's also your actions, words, and personality that carries you to stardom. How genuine are you? Are you sincere when you speak, or just saying it to please someone? Do you truly believe in what you're doing? Be genuine and true to yourself, be sincere, and believe. Those things are golden. Just think of Meryl Streep.

Until we meet again, xoxo Brunette

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"It's better to take a chance and be wrong than to be safe and dull." - Nikki Giovanni

Nikki Giovanni - teacher, commentator, activist, comedian, poet. What more could Giovanni be? To me, Giovanni is an inspiration. She is so influential to not only the students she teaches at Virginia Tech but also her children and the many people that believed in her "Black Poetry."

I think that my favorite poem written by Nikki Giovanni would be Nikki-Rose because it is so meaningful and well-thought out. You know, when I think about the history and the lives the African Americans lived in the 1900s, I imagine that they weren't happy because they didn't have equality. However, when I read Giovanni's poem, I get a different sense of what life was like at the time. In the beginning, Giovanni says, "childhood remembrances are always a drag" and names a few irritating things she had to put up with. As the poem progresses, she names several things that are often not though about past the issues of Civil Rights.

Although the struggle to gain equality for African Americans was not pleasant and was something that we could have gone without, it is reassuring to know that Black people during this time period continued to live their lives normally. I think Giovanni understands that White people do not normally understand this when she says, "I really hope no white person ever has cause/to write about me/ because they never understand/Black love is Black wealth and they'll/probably talk about my hard childhood/and never understand that/all the while I was quite happy."

I love Giovanni for so many reasons, but this would have to be my favorite. Rather than dwelling on the hardships she had to go through in order to gain equality, she tries to explain that through it all, she was sincerely happy. Nikki Giovanni often wrote her poems about her heritage and race which was important as she grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee (she even wrote a poem about her hometown). Her childhood influenced her poetry significantly and I can see that through this poem. Although her father and her family may have had some broken dreams, she didn't have to have the fancier things in life to be simply happy

Find happiness in the small things, don't dwell on the things that hold you back, keep pushing forward, no matter what - those are only some of the many things I've learned from Nikki Giovanni.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cheating is For Losers

You've just crossed the finish line at the Olympics, and have finished first. The moment you've been training for your entire life has finally arrived. After all the hours of practice, training, and focusing, you're finally standing on the podium with the Gold Medal around your neck. The Star Spangled Banner is playing and the American Flag is being wrapped around you. You're representing your country, your sport, and most importantly, your family. You're on top of the world.

Marion Jones was able to experience this feeling FIVE times at the Summer Olympics in 2000. She became the first female athlete to win 5 medals in Track and Field at the Olympics with 3 Gold and 2 Bronze. She received instant fame, recognition, pride, and honor. She was even considered "the best female athlete in the world"- that is until 2007, when she admitted to steroid use prior to the 2000 Olympics.

Friday, October 5, 2007- The day Marion Jones was scheduled to plead guilty to "two counts of lying to federal agents about her drug use." In a Washington Post article by Amy Shipley entitled "Marion Jones Admits to Steroid Use," she gives an account of the most important details of the scandal that were reported.
The International Olympic Committee in December 2004 opened an investigation into allegations surrounding steroid use by Jones.

Jones asserted that her coach, Trevor Graham, gave her the substance, assuring that it was a "nutritional substance." Jones said she "trusted [Graham] and never thought for one second" she was using a performance-enhancing drug and that "red flags should have been raised in [her] head when he told me not to tell anyone about" the supplement program. The clear, also known as THG, or tetrahydrogestrinone, was the steroid Graham was supplying Jones with for two years. Graham was indicted in November 2007. Marion Jones was sentenced in a federal court to six months in prison and two years of probation and community service for lying to federal prosecutors investigating the use of performance-enhancing substances. Probably her worst punishment- she had to give back all of her Olympic Medals won at the 2000 Games.

As an athlete myself, it always unsettling to hear that a successful athlete has used steroids to enhance their performance. Through hard work, endless training, perseverance, and dedication, you can easily accomplish your goals. There is absolutely no need to use illegal substances. Quite frankly, it's just flat-out stupid. Work hard, train hard, and play hard and you'll get where you want, guranteed. It is those athletes that do those three things, like Shawn Johnson and Katie O'Donnell who was recently recognized as "Sportswoman of the Year" and the "Honda Award Winner" for field hockey whose dreams come true. They're role models for every athlete out there.

Using illegal substances is cheating and cheating is for losers.
Until we meet again,
xoxo Brunette

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Those Who Are Without...

So, this Parent's Day at Sem got me thinking. So many students got the chance to bring their parents to class, but me, I didn't have that chance. With so many others things that my mom has going on at home, she didn't get a chance to come visit me. It is sometimes so difficult to watch my friends with their grandparents, parents, siblings, etc. This made me wonder: how do people deal with not having their parents at all? It is easier for me because when I think about it, I know that my mom is still here.

Etheridge Knight, a famous poet from the mid 20th century, was once married to Sonia Sanchez, another famous poet. Sonia Sanchez, born Wilsonia Benita Driver, lost her mother during childbirth one year after she was born. After losing her mother, Sanchez was sent to live with her grandmother and other relatives for several years. After that, her and her sister were sent to live with their father and his third wife in Harlem.

"The death of her grandmother, the only mother she had ever know, motivated Sanchez to write her first poem at age six." Her father, Wilson L. Driver, was a drummer in a jazz band and did not have as much time to care for her as he would have liked, so moving in with him and his third wife was not a particularly easy transition.

She graduated from Hunter College in 1955 with a BA in political science and later became involved in the Civil Rights Movement and CORE. Throughout the Black Arts Movement, Sanchez became involved with other great poets like Amiri Baraka, Haki Madhubuti and Larry Neal. Sonia Sanchez is known for her prolific writing about the struggles between whites and blacks, men and women and cultures. After Amiri Baraka published her poetry in a French literary magazine, she began to consider herself a poet. Between 1967 and 1977, Sanchez taught at many universities including San Francisco University, Temple, Rutgers and many more. Sanchez was also a playwright and has lectured at over 500 universities and colleges.

Sanchez received the 1999 Langston Hughes Poetry Award and also is the 2001 Poetry Society of America's Robert Frost Medalist."She has not only been a strong voice for social justive, but has also helped others to find their own voice. Today, Sanchez has three children of her own: Morani, Mungu and Anita Sanchez. She is a truly successful woman and I admire he for her dedication. I cannot imagine what it would be like without my mother when I was younger, but even through all the turmoil, she became a very talented woman.

Quotes and some extra information from: