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:

An Open Diary

It's always the poems that are about real-life events that keep us interested. They leave us wanting to dive deeper into the people's lives and learn more about them. Gwendolyn Brooks blesses us with so many wonderful poems. One poem, "We Real Cool," is about people she encounters in her work. They skip school to play pool, drink, and do other similar things. Why is this poem so interesting? Of course it's because of it's unique style, but it's also because of it's "this actually took place" sort of feeling. As soon as we think about that, the poem becomes 10 times more interesting. What happened to the "Seven at the Golden Shovel?" Did they die? What are they up to now? We immediately begin to wonder about what else is going on in their lives.
Well, the same goes with songs. For some reason, this analysis made me think about Taylor Swift- pop sensation, 20 year old millionaire, Grammy winner, etc. As I was reading Parade magazine, I noticed that the main spread was all about Taylor Swift and her new album and even her views on marriage. In the first paragraph-BOOM- why are her songs so popular? They're about events that have actually taken place in her life.
"I like to make songs that are really detailed, really honest."
So what inspires Taylor Swift to write songs? Her love life and relationships are what inspires her. In her new album Speak Now, Taylor writes the song, Back to December, about a guy she used to date. According to Taylor, “Guys get what they deserve in my songs, and if they deserve an apology, they should get one. There was someone who was absolutely wonderful to me and I dropped the ball, and I needed to say all that.” In Back to December, that's exactly what she does. In another song, she even sings about the time Kanye West interrupted her acceptance speech. With all her other lyrics, what she loves most is "you can say exactly what you mean, or you can use a metaphor and make it a little bit of a code to crack" as well as have people "wonder a little bit who they're about."
Taylor Swift's songs leave people coming back for more. They're so personal that people hope the next song is just a continuation of the last, allowing them to further expand their knowledge of her life. Her life is an open diary.
What really happened between her and Joe Jonas? Were her and Taylor Lautner really an item? Was she ever in love? All you have to do is listen to her songs to find out.

"You are the best thing, that's ever been mine."

Until we meet again,
xoxo Brunette

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Where were you?

            Sometimes a piece of news can become hugely famous because a song is written about it. Sometimes a song can become hugely famous because it’s written about a piece of news. Either way, there is no doubt that music is often used as a form of political expression. Today, the musical embodiment of political expression is seen overwhelmingly in the music of many hardcore punk bands, including the bands Anti-Flag and Rage Against the Machine, expressing sentiments protesting war and corporate America, respectively. I think people forget that this isn't the first time we've seen political expression in music. I like to take a look back at some slightly older examples of this trend.
            In Bob Dylan’s song “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”, William Zantzinger is captured as a brutal murderer. This song surely haunted Zantzinger for the rest of his life, undoubtedly making his name known to many more people than those who would have heard of him solely through the press. Dylan used his musical influence to make known the brutality of Hattie Carroll’s murder and the injustice of society, that those with wealth usually have greater influence in the judicial system, among other things.
            One of my favorite songs that shows a link between politics and music, is Sublime’s “April 29, 1992 (Miami)”. This song is about the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. On the night of March 2, 1991 four police officers beat a man named Rodney King with batons as he resisted arrest. A man named George Holliday videotaped much of the incident.
This video spread rapidly across the country, causing public outrage at what was considered by many to be police brutality. A blood test revealed that King was intoxicated during the initial incident. Whether the incident was actually police brutality or if the officers were justified in their attempts to subdue King became a controversial issue.
          The district attorney charged the officers involved in the incident with use of excessive force, but the officers were acquitted of the charges on April 29, 1992. At the news of the acquittal, all hell broke loose in Los Angeles. These riots included an overwhelming amount of looting, arson, and general violence. The local police were outnumbered. The riots lasted six days, until ordered was restored by the police, Army, Marines, and National Guard. By that time, more than 7000 fires, 2383 injuries, and 53 deaths had occurred.
          Sublime's song may be criticized for encouraging such violence, but I like the song for the way it attempts to capture the emotions behind the riot. The song doesn't really comment on the political facts and details of the incident, but it expresses the passionate anger felt by the lower class. While I like the political awareness caused by Dylan's song about Hattie Carroll, I love the raw emotion that is expressed in Sublime's song about the riots. To me, emotion is the most important aspect of any music.

Monday, October 18, 2010

There's Something About Chicago...

What is it about Chicago? Chicago: the inspiration for one of Carl Sandburg's most famous poems, "Chicago" and the home for many of the most successful and inspirational poets and writers and I am sure so much more. Some famous poets and writers from Chicago include Sandra Cisneros, James Galvin, Albert Goldbarth, Gwendolyn Brooks, Kenneth Fearing, Tom Mandel, Henry Rago, Carl Sandburg, Shel Silverstein , Quincy Troupe Jr. and I am sure there are many more. Since I've read poetry from Brooks, Troupe, Sandburg and Silverstein and loved them all, I got to thinking; what was so special and extraordinary about Chicago that inspired their creativity?

Could it be the Prohibition era with notorious gangsters such as Al Capone? The industry expansion in the 1920s? The attraction of southern African Americans during the early 20th century? Lake Michigan? The Chicago River? The humid climate? I could go on and on with reasons that people may have adored Chicago, but I will never know the real reason.

Chicago: a city filled with so much artistic inspiration. Home of poetry slams and the famous Def Poetry Jam. They even have The Poetry Center of Poetry founded in 1974 to make poetry more accessible and appealing to the public and young poets. At a place called the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge, they have been hosting an event called the Uptown Poetry Slam. They even have a chance to listen to and explore poetry through the Chicago Poetry Tour, produced by the Poetry Foundation. I'm not sure what it is about Chicago, but it is full of poetry. Some of the best poets have emerged from Chicago and I'd love to find out what the correlation is.

Is it the beautiful city skyline filled with the hustle and bustle of people at all hours of the night? The strong sense of pride in the working class of Chicago? For example, Quincy Troupe Jr. also wrote a poem about Chicago: "Chicago (for Howlin' Wolf)" In both poems, they mention the middle class and people who have paid their dues to society. So from what I know, there is something about the people in Chicago that inspires the people to write about themselves. Does that even make sense?

Whatever it is, I hope that one day I will know. I am going to visit Chicago and maybe then, I will understand its inspiration.

A Message of Hope

September 11, 2001. Tragedy, devastation, loss. How could American ever overcome such a catastrophe? Through hope? Most certainly. Through unity? Of course. Through song? Sure, why not. Bruce Springsteen's 12th Studio Album, The Rising, released in 2002, centered around his reflections about the September 11th attacks. It is the first significant piece of pop art to respond to the events of that day. Time magazine reporter Josh Tyrangiel sat down with Springsteen after the production of the album to "take an intimate look at how Springsteen turned 9/11 into a message of hope." Springsteen's songs on the album are written from the views of the working people whose lives and fates intertwined with the hijacked planes. Sadness in the songs is matched with optimism, promises of redemption, and calls to spiritual arms. "There is more rising on The Rising than in a month of church," according to Tyrangiel. So what possessed Springsteen to write about such a tragic attack? Springsteen thought it was so challenging to tell his children what was going on. He believed there was an easier way to explain the day.

"I think it's become placed in their lives in the same way that the nuclear bomb was when I was a kid. It's the really dark, scary thing, and they're not sure where it can touch them. Can it touch them at school? Can it touch them in the house? What are its limits? Does it have limits? It's mysterious, you know."

To be able to effectively get his message across, Springsteen called the families of the victims to "flesh out the intimacies." One of the people he called, Stacy Farrelly, suffered the loss of her husband, a longtime Springsteen fan, on September 11th. She felt that, "After [she] got off the phone with [Springsteen], the world just felt a little smaller. [She] got through Joe's memorial and a good month and a half on that phone call." Bruce Springsteen truly wanted to bring hope into the lives of others, and wanted to learn the facts of those affected, not just rely on the vague reports in the newspapers. Loss is everywhere on The Rising. One of the most popular songs, You're Missing, "penetrates the unique horror of having a loved one turned to ash." The song rises to greatness because Springsteen uses the emotions of those affected to spread his message. The feelings expressed are true and real. Springsteen notes that, "When you're putting yourself into shoes you haven't worn, you have to be very ... just very thoughtful, is the way that I'd put it." According to Tyrangiel, "The fire-fighter songs, Into the Fire and the first single, The Rising, put the listener in the physical space of the crumbling towers" and "What's missing on The Rising is politics." Springsteen understands that "spiritual revival is a necessity and that it has to be a communal experience." And that is how he spreads his message of hope- through emotions, through spirit, through revival. Artists today continue to express views on events through song, poetry, and art. It's a great way to increase optimism and hope in those around us. Until we meet again, xoxo Brunette

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Basic Bookworm

I am a bookworm, pure and simple. I love to read, I love to write. I love to write about reading. Bookworm. One day, I hope to be a librarian. Naturally, when asked to write a poem about my place, the place where I truly belong and that holds the greatest meaning for me, I wrote about the library. More specifically, I wrote about the stacks. That is my place, my home. Not surprisingly, I harbor a deep love for libraries in general. Around the world, there are dozens of literary treasure troves that I find myself in love with. While some people admire libraries for the aesthetically appealing architecture of the building or the decorative artwork, I admire other aspects. I think libraries are beautiful for the way the stacks are arranged or the ways in which one must access them. I’ll give you a little insight into my opinion of beautiful libraries.

While the rest of The Library of the University of Salamanca, Spain may be beautiful in the eyes of others, I love the beautiful cabinets of books and such in the manuscript room.

To me, the Library of the Wiblingen Monastery, Ulm, Germany is alluring in its twisting balcony, leading the stacks into little curving nooks and crannies. I also love the stacks hidden behind the two statues at the far end.

I love The National Library of the Czech Republic, Prague for pretty much the same reason that I love the Library of the Wiblingen Monastery, except that this library is so much more intense.

While Jay Walker’s Private library may begin to fall into the typical love for the aesthetically pleasing, I just love the way all the books are arranged. It’s fantastic.

Okay, I will admit, my love for the Rijksmuseum Library, Amsterdam is based almost entirely in that gorgeous spiral staircase.

Okay, so maybe my reasons for loving certain libraries aren’t that different from the norm. But for me, it’s more about how each library is a home for the books. Okay, yeah I’m pretty much the biggest bookworm and library geek ever. And I love it. =]

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Ohana Means Family

It was Grandparents' Day at Wyoming Seminary College Preparatory School this past Thursday. For my Grandma and Grandpa, they were fortunate enough to be able to experience Poetry Class with Mrs. Lewis. Our mission: to write a poem about family. Piece of cake, right? Most definitely not.
How can one person sum up what family means to them in a poem? To express so much in so few lines just seems impossible. Every family has its qualities, its flaws, its quirks, but what brings everything together is this undeniable bond that just can't be explained in words.
..........Or can it?
As I was sitting in class with my grandparents, I began to think of the movie, Lilo and Stitch. It's such a heart-warming Disney movie,
one that brings tears to my eyes everytime I watch it. It's a great example of something showing the meaning of family.
It's a movie about an older sister, Nani, who needs to take care of her younger sister, Lilo, after the death of their parents. Lilo is bullied at school and has no one to talk to. Her sister lets her adopt a dog, Stitch, who is actually a scientific experiment, one that others are trying to capture. The three of them form an inseparable bond. Nani's ability to care for Lilo is questioned by social workers, but because of their bond, they stay together and remain a family.
There's one line in the movie that is really powerful. It exemplifies the true meaning of family.

Ohana means family. Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.

So after remembering this quote, writing my poem about my family became a lot easier. Family means that someone is always going to be there for you, no matter the circumstance. You're always going to have a shoulder to cry on, people to talk to, people to jump for joy with, and people to love. Through the good and the bad, you're always going to have someone by your side. Family is what matters. Family is what's important. Leave it to Disney movies to make you feel this way :) It's doesn't get any better than that. Go home tonight, hug the person you love or call them on the phone. Remember, they'll always be there for us no matter the distance, no matter if they're with us or up above. Family will never escape us. Until we meet again, xoxo Brunette

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Drugs Are a Bet With Your Mind...

The Beat Generation; the beginning of a combination of drugs and poetry?
"Nobody knows whether we were catalysts or invented something, or just the froth riding on a wave of its own. We were all three, I suppose." - Allen Ginsberg
What exactly was the Beat Generation? I guess that we can't actually put a finger on what it was exactly, but for the most part the Beat Generation was a group of poets set on liberation, revolution and evolution of rhythm in poetry. These poets rebelled against conformity in the 1950s post-war era, especially consumerism. They rejected uniform middle-class culture and wanted to get rid of the sexual and social conservatism during that time period. This past week, we studied Allen Ginsberg, one of the most influential poets in the Beat Generation.
Since many of the poets in the Beat Generation were said to have an "avant-garde" lifestyle including crime, traveling, listening to jazz and excessive drug use, many people didn't not understand their outlashes against conformity.
"[Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg] were drawn to literature and began using drugs like benzedrine and marijuana in their dormitory rooms to inspire them to create what they called a "New Vision" of art."
The poem we read, "A Supermarket In California", has been said to be greatly influenced by Ginsberg's experience with drugs. Ginsberg's aimless walk through the streets with his thoughts filled with Walt Whitman which later drift to hallucinations in the fruitt cause the reader to be convinced of this. Since many people of the Beat Generation were notorious for their drug use already, there would be no reason to disagree with this assumption.
Other instances of drug use through the Beat Generation are innumerable, however two most known examples are Jack Kerouac's "On The Road" and Allen Ginsberg's "Howl". Beat poets used hallucinogenic drugs to achieve higher consciousness similarly to meditation and Eastern religion. Today, rap has been greatly influenced by the Beat Generation. Is there any correlation between drug use and rappers today because of this? I wonder, how would the Beat Generation have been if they hadn't been influenced by creativity from drugs?

Monday, September 27, 2010

"Why kill yourself? Life will do it for you."

Dorothy Parker: depressed, yet expressive. We can see through Parker's poem, "Résumé", the many ways that she attempted to kill herself. She grew up very unhappy, with numerous deaths in her family, including her mother, step-mother, uncle and father. Although Dorothy Parker was well known for her wit and conversational style, she was also known for her depression, alcoholism and attempted suicide.
Suicide has been both condemned and condoned throughout history all over the world. It has mainly been condemned by some religions and sometimes even punishable by law. In India, specifically the Brahmans, suicide was once voluntary and highly praised.
Suicide literally means "self-killing" and although Parker tried so hard to commit fatal suicide, she only ever got to attempt the act.
Certainly, it is understandable that Dorothy Parker thought to herself at one point that killing herself would have been a good idea, but as we can see from her poem "Résumé," she never went through with it and decided that it was not worth it.
Suicide has been very hard to prevent due to the spontaneity of it and studies have tried to find reasons for all the different types of suicides. Sometimes, suicide is due to severe mental or emotional disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder or so much more. Other times, suicide is due to a quick lapse of judgement after an upsetting or disturbing event in their lives. This could range anywhere from the death of a pet, breaking up in a relationship or the death of someone close.
Due to the severity of suicide, it often takes a toll on other family members and friends that knew the person well. It is common that the people closest to them would have never known that they were ever unhappy or even dreamt of killing themselves.
But if Dorothy Parker had attempted suicide numerous times, don't you think that someone would have caught on and prevented her from carrying out her attempted suicide? Who knows now what people were thinking at the time. I am so glad that Parker kept herself alive, because she was so good at keeping herself together and building herself up, no matter what the conditions.


Let’s talk about sex. Yeah, I said it, SEX. Oh dear darling me, as I am wont to do, I’ve broached a taboo topic. Why is it that everyone is so afraid to talk about it? Get real people, everyone does it. I’m not trying to be obscene or vulgar. I’m just curious. We live in a society where sex is a monumental cultural theme, yet we’re so squeamish when it gets down to straight up talking about sex.

This particular seed of thought was planted in my head upon reading “may i feel said he” by e.e. cummings. There are multiple ways to interpret this poem. This poem is about a sexual encounter between a woman and a married man. The different interpretations of this poem leave for the reader to decide whether the woman was using sex as power over the man, or if the woman was a naïve, inexperienced and hesitant young lady being taken advantage of by a married man. Following the latter method of interpretation, I find myself reflecting upon the sexual education of young women in the early nineteen hundreds. The best word to describe sex education for women in the early nineteen hundreds is nonexistent.

Ignorance is a terrible thing, especially in sex education. An ignorance that today causes many unplanned pregnancies as well as a wealth of sexually transmitted infections. I know that most, if not all, students today take a health class in high school or middle school. However, not everyone is getting the same education. Especially in schools that support an abstinence-only sex education. While that may be okay for the kids that choose abstinence, it creates a huge problem for those that don’t. I can think of a million reasons to support comprehensive sexuality education in schools and not a single legitimate reason to teach abstinence-only sex education.

I am not so naïve as to think that just because someone might agree with me about the necessity of sex education, that they will feel free to ask any of their friends, teachers or parents about sex without hesitation. Here is where the Internet can be a godsend. It’s true that you can find just about anything online, but when it comes to sex education, it’s important to get the right information. Reliable sources aren’t hard to find. There is a wealth of reliable sex education sites.

Sacrleteen: Sex ed for the real word. Scarleteen is the highest-ranked website for sex education and sexuality advice online. Scarleteen provides online static content, interactive services, referrals, offline teen outreach, mentoring and leadership, and much more.

Sex, etc.: Sex education by teens, for teens. While Scarleteen offers a great way to confidentially seek answers from trusted adults, Sex, etc. is a great way to connect with other teens on the topic of sex education.

Planned Parenthood: Teen Talk. I know a lot of people only think about Planned Parenthood in relation to free health clinics, but Planned Parenthood is also a great source for information about teen sexuality, as well as safe sex.

Like it is: The name says it all, this site talks about sex like it is! Although this site is directed toward citizens of Australia and the UK, it’s still an awesome site.

Think you already know all you need to know? Try out some games to see just how much you really know. =]

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Lady's Reward

Is it really better for a woman to be seen and not heard? Well, it depends on who you ask. If you ask Dorothy Parker, her answer would be yes. Her advice to women: "Show yourself, by word and look." In fact, her poem "The Lady's Reward," is entirely about how women should always flirt but NEVER speak from her heart.
Thank goodness things have changed.
While reading an issue of Cosmopolitan magazine, I came across the article, "Why Men Love Power-Hungry Women." Can you believe that out of all the characters Meryl Streep has played, guys like her character, Miranda Priestly, from the movie, The Devil Wears Prada, the best? She's rude, she's mean, she's flat out b*tchy, but yet, the men find her character attractive.
Men today have grown up in a world of FEMALE doctors, lawyers, senators, etc. They find women in positions of power interesting and intriguing. Why? Because they always have something to say and always have an opinion. What's better than that? The conversation is never dull and there's always something to talk about. What's better yet- when women are direct and straightforward. Men love that. According to psychologist Chris Blazina, PhD, author of The Secret Lives of Men, "Men are very direct when they communicate, and they appreciate a woman who speaks the same way." Maybe it's best to be seen AND heard. So, instead of taking Dorothy Parker's advice and "never murmur[ing] what you mean" or "speak[ing] of the tears that burn your cheek," take Cosmo's advice and "talk straight, flaunt your ambition, and give him something to talk about." Don't be afraid to follow your heart. Have fun, but most importantly, be yourself. Flirt like crazy, but be yourself while doing it. Some guys will surprise you.

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

- Dr. Seuss

Until we meet again,
xoxo Brunette

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Poetry Speaks

I was in poetry club last year for mainly one reason: Def Poetry Jam. Def Poetry Jam is a television series on HBO that presents the performances of spoken word poetry with an urban feel. Although not technically a poetry slam, it serves as a connection between hip-hop and the poetry slam movement and includes performances by many National Poetry Slam champions. A poetry slam is a competition in which poets read their poems to an audience, created by American poet Marc Smith in 1984. The National Poetry Slam is a large-scale team poetry slam that takes place every year in August. The National Poetry Slam is held by Poetry Slam, Inc. Poetry Slam, Inc. is a non-profit organization that oversees the international coalition of poetry slams. Poetry Slam, Inc. also holds the Individual World Poetry Slam. The IWPS is much like the NPS, but designed for individual competition and including poets from all over the world. All I can say is I love it. I love hearing the poet channel their emotions into their poems. I especially love the more humorous performances, but I also love the performances that reveal a poet’s deep, raw, unrestrained emotions. Desire, hurt, anger, I love it all. There is no easy way to describe it. The best way I can is to describe this image I get in my head of words on a page, lines of poetry, trembling, shaking until they burst forth with raw power. The words become something deeper than what you can read on a piece of paper, they become a channel into the soul. Despite being criticized as diminishing the value of and commercializing the poetry slam, I believe that Def Poetry Jam provides an urban influence that connects more readily with many young people today than the poetry they are taught in school. I didn’t have much time for poetry club, but I always had time for Def Poetry Jam. Why it is that I didn’t just check out the DVD from the library is beyond me.

Oh, the Wonders of Walt Whitman!

Walt Whitman, a great American poet born in New York, May 31, 1819 has been influential for so many people throughout the years. Walt was the son of Walter and Louisa Whitman and was the second oldest out of his 8 other siblings. Although his short biography is helpful in understanding Whitman's life, there is so much more to be told about him.
Whitman was unable to finish school due to financial problems, therefore he got a job in the printer's trade, later as a teacher which he soon realized he hated and then he became a journalism which became his full time occupation in 1841. During this time, he began writing his first stories and poems; this was only the beginning of Whitman's literature.
When Ralph Waldo Emerson challenged someone to create an American piece of poetry, since most of the poetry they were seeing at the time was based on British style poetry, Whitman was determined to show him his unique poetic style. In response the challenge, he published Leaves of Grass in 1855. Some of his work was condemned and looked down upon, however, Ralph Waldo Emerson thought it to be "the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom yet contributed to American literature."
Now this is where it gets interesting. Poems in this book such as "We Two Boys Together Clinging" caught the attention of James Harlan, Secretary of the Interior. Harlan then had the nerve to declare Whitman's poetry "indecent" and then William Douglas O' Connor wrote a 50 page response, attacking Harlan. This is what I don't understand; why does it matter what Whitman's sexuality was? First of all, Whitman never declared himself as gay, so the assumptions from Harlan were unnecessary and despicable. Also, the point of Whitman's poems were not to convey his sexuality, but his views on romance and love, in his own poetic style.
Why is homosexuality always catching the eyes of Whitman readers when that aspect of his poetry is not even close to being the most important part? I, for one, find it disgusting that people cannot accept others for who they are, no matter what their sexuality. Although Whitman did not come out and say directly that he was gay, many readers implied it.
My point is, although Whitman's poetry was admired back then also, when people focused on his sexuality, they tended to take away the meaning of his literature. However, nowadays, Whitman is one of the best poets ever, especially in my opinion. (:

Relatability, Simplicity, and Shel Silverstein

It's really nice when you sit down to read a poem and the language used is actually-gasp-normal. Everything is just so much easier. Robert Frost, an American poet, did a wonderful job of using everyday language and speech rhythms to write poetry. When reading his poem, "The Road Not Taken," I noticed the simplicity of the language and immediately began to think of Shel Silverstein, the children's poet every child loved and still loves. He blessed us with his books of poetry like Falling Up and Where the Sidewalk Ends. In these books its where children fell in love with Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout and Danny O'Dare. But it's not just the quirky titles or funny storylines we fell in love with; it's the simple vocabulary and relatable plots we grew fond of. Haven't there been multiple times in our life when we felt like Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout and didn't want to take the garbage out? Or be Danny O'Dare and act all wild and crazy? Of course there has! And it's not just these two poems by Shel Silverstein that are so relevant to our everyday lives. Relatability and simplicity- the two things we love most about Silverstein. For children, for adults, for our grandmas and grandpas of the world, Shel Silverstein entertains us all. Picture this- you're a children's librarian and you announce that you're going to be reading some of Shel Silverstein's poems. You ask for requests and the little girl with the curly brown hair with the bow who always sits in the back and never talks asks you enthusiastically and excitedly to read Hug O' War, and says "I love that poem!" Picturing this, doesn't it just melt your heart to think that poetry can make someone so enthusiastic? After you're done reading, you ask the class what they liked about the poem. The boy with the striped shirt responds, "It was a happy poem." Then the girl with the bow in her hair says, "I like the poem because it teaches me to be nice." A poem so simple and so basic evokes such wonderful feelings from children. Don't you wish all poets used everyday language to write poetry? As shown by Shel Silverstein, using basic words in poetry has the same effect and gives off just as strong meanings as using advanced vocabulary that even someone who has their Ph.D from Harvard can't understand. So when you go home tonight, go on your computer, type in "Shel Silverstein poems" in Google, sit back, relax, and enjoy. You'll be dazzled. Until we meet again, xoxo Brunette

Monday, September 13, 2010

Aren't we all a little crazy inside?

My thoughts frequently jump from one subject to another, seemingly unrelated subject in a matter of seconds. However, my mental wanderings aren’t entirely random. My mind simply grasps one small detail and follows it to other related topics, and the small details of those topics, and so on. For example, upon reading a brief description of the life of Lord Alfred Tennyson, I decided to check out a book about Nellie Bly. Most people do not know who Nellie Bly is and those who do would wonder why she relates to Tennyson in any way. Just follow me on this one.

Lord Tennyson had a brother, Edward, who was institutionalized in a private mental asylum. This small detail leads me to think of how differently mental illness was perceived in the nineteenth century. In that time, mental illness was extremely misunderstood. Anything from schizophrenia to epilepsy to masturbation could cause someone to be put into a mental asylum. Many people who were placed in mental asylums were completely sane, but it isn’t surprising to learn that some of those people did not remain sane while institutionalized.

Patients were treated terribly in these asylums. They were often beaten, subject to disgusting living conditions and sometimes caged or tied together. In an attempt to understand or treat patients, some asylums conducted painful and horrendous experiments, truly the stuff of horror stories. Patients were treated more like caged animals than patients in need of care.

Nellie Bly experienced the horrors of a mental asylum when she entered one herself, in search of a story. Nellie Bly was a young reporter for the New York World looking for the next big story, the next big truth she could unveil to the public. She took a room at a boardinghouse where no one knew her and proceeded to feign a mental breakdown in front of the guests. She was confirmed to be completely insane by several physicians and was institutionalized at Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum for Women.

After ten days in the asylum, Bly had acquired more than she’d bargained for. She spent the last couple of days begging the guards to free her and attempting to prove her sanity before she was removed from the asylum at The World’s behest. She not only had the story she’d been looking for, but also a traumatic experience she’d not soon forget for years to come. Bly’s story shocked many, discredited the physicians who’d declared her insane and brought a critical eye down upon the treatment of the mentally ill.

I get chills just from reading her comments about living in an insane asylum, can you imagine actually living it? Although I don't think my tendency to jump from one idea to another would have caused me to be institutionalized if I lived in the nineteenth century, it's still a pretty chilling thought. Anything beyond the societal norm could have been cause for institutionalization back then, whereas what we perceive to be the societal norm today is always reshaping to include different situations and circumstances. By nineteenth century standards, most people today are crazy.

Want some more info on Nellie Bly? Check out these books:

  • Chipman, Dawn, Mari Florence, Pamela Nelson, and Naomi Wax. Cool Women. Los Angeles: Girl Press, 1997.
  • Kroeger, Brooke. Nellie Bly:: Daredevil, Reporter, Feminist. 1st ed. New York: Crown, 1994.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

There's No Escaping Love

Love follows us everywhere. At school, at home, in the movies, on television, in a book-it's all over the place. The question is: Can two people really love one another deeply and unequivocably? The answer: Yes, and two poets, Alfred Tennyson and Robert Browning, prove that in their poetry. Alfred Tennyson, quite possibly one of the most romantic people ever, fell in love with a woman named Emily Sellwood. It was love at first sight. He knew he wanted to wed Emily. Due to his financial crisis, he was unable to marry her in 1838. For over 20 years, he never laid eyes on another woman, and she never laid eyes on another man. Finally in 1850, three years after his success with the book length poem, The Princess, he was able to wed Emily. The poem, The Bugle Song, was written to tell Tennyson's story of his love for Emily. The use of such strong and vivid words like "shimmer" and "echoes" show that Tennyson's feelings for Emily were constantly present and echoed through the night for all to hear and see. How romantic :) Robert Browning, even more romantic than Tennyson, corresponded with a woman, Elizabeth Barrett, by letter before marrying her in September of 1846. They fell in love with each other via letters. Now wouldn't you like to get a HANDWRITTEN letter from the person you love? It would melt every woman's heart. Anyway, though, Browning's poem, How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix, demonstrates how much love there was in his life. The narrator's love for his horse and what's around him just shows the amount of love Browning had for Elizabeth. I mean, how can someone write about something so moving and lovely and not indeed have love in his life? Obviously, Browning was head over heals for her. Poetry-a way in which poets express their love for others. Tennyson and Browning do just that. It's beautiful, it's touching, it's moving. Who wouldn't want someone like Tennyson or Browning in their life? Love, well, it's everywhere, and when someone writes about it, we all fall madly in love with the poem. Honestly, though, how can you not? Until we meet again, xoxo Brunette