Is this it?
I can't believe it's over, year 2 at York University has come to an unceremonious end. I have been so busy, I nearly forgot the term was wrapping up and exams had begun. Thankfully, I have only one exam left! So, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on ENG 2010 Intoduction to Poetry.
How did it all begin?
When Professor Kuin asking us to do an informal survey about whether our friends and family liked poetry, if not, why not. I asked around and the answers varied, but overall the responses were 'no' and for the usual reasons: boring, difficult, cheesy, uncreative, complex, time-consuming, bad memories from high school, etc.
How has this course proved the nay-sayers wrong?
Let me count the ways:
(That was a reference to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, by the way. Here is a link to that poem, if you need proof: http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/ebb/43.html
1. This course has taught me so much about the conventions of poetry, especially the "mysterious metre" (as I like to call it). I had of course heard about meter before this course, but truly, I never quite understood it. I can now say I do know what it is, thanks to Professor Kuin and the Versification section on meter in our Norton Anthology of Poetry
, which quite simply states that "if a poem's rhythm is structured into a recurrence of regular-that is approximately equal-units, we call it meter" (2029). Now we all know it isn't this simple, there are a variety of "rhythm patterns" and line lengths a poet may use and all we can do is memorize those and hope to recognize them when we come upon them. The best way to do this is through practice, so I've learned. Yet, I am still not very good at recognizing meter. This is something I will be working on. Anyhow, any poet who can use meter accurately needs to be respected and admired, because mastering such a convention is a difficult thing to do!
Learning about rhythm has given me a word for what I heard when reading poetry aloud, as it is supposed to be. Rhythm seems to result from the emphasis put on some syllables in a series of syllables when one speaks. The way these syllables are put together by the poet is part of what is so great about poetry and is an art all on its own.
Lest I forget about rhyme. Truthfully, in the past I associated children's literature with rhyming and because I wasn't a child even when I was a child, I quite disliked children's literature and rhyming. Through this course I have developed an appreciation for such children's literature as that written by C.S. Lewis and T.S. Eliot, especially Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats
. I learned that rhyme does has its place in adult poetry as well, as it is associated with the rhythm of the poem, which I quite enjoy hearing.
So, poetry is an art. Yes, it is complex, but worth the time to understand, because it can be so enjoyable and rewarding.
2. To have an understanding of genre has opened the world of poetry to me as well. So, poetry is not only the love poems you find at gift card shops, it covers a range of emotions and there are appropriate forms one may use to express such feelings. For instance, the elegy, or "song for the dead" is a great way to express feelings of loss or mourning. I recall defining what an elegy is in comparison to a lament and providing a few examples of poems, so here is a link to that post: http://ofcatslives.livejournal.com/3760.html
. Another genre I enjoyed was the epic, the long narrative poem. Some examples of epics that we looked at in class, include an excerpt from my favourite OE epic, "Beowulf" and Homer's "The Iliad". I am so close to "Beowulf" that I even stood in it's defense when I felt Lewis Carroll's non-sense poem, "The Jabberwocky" parodied it, here is a link to that post: http://ofcatslives.livejournal.com/2505.html
3. The ways poetry can reflect the sentiments of an entire country is unique. The movements within poetry have outline the above point. In this course we looked at Romantic, Elizabethan, Victorian, Modernism and likely others, which I can't seem to put a name to right now.
Anyhow, such movements can express the political environment, thoughts on war, the return to nature, and so on. Effectively poetry can act in place of history book, outlining what was going on during the time the poem was written (in some cases, of course, not all poems do this).
4. Range! Obviously, poetry has a huge range, from its conventions, to genre, to expression, to movements and poets. This course looked at many poets from several countries and times. The only thing I feel lacking from this course was the purposeful inclusion of women. Yes, I remember that we looked Elizabeth Barrett Browning Sappho, but weren't there others? Also, I understand some male authors has brought us some fantastic poetry and that women of the pre-modern period were not in great positions to be writing the sort of poetry men were, mostly because of their purposeful exculsion from education and society. However, there must have been a few more women that could have been included.
Anyhow what I am getting at here, is that with poetry there is something for everyone. Thus, the nay-sayers just aren't trying hard enough to find the type of poetry they enjoy. The sort of range this course has proven exists within the realm of poetry means that there is something out there that a nay-sayer can relate to. It is
out there, I promise!
Yes, this is it.
Wishing you all luck,
Why is it so bright out? I hate this time of year, except that school is coming to an end and I couldn't be happier, I am drained and in need of an extended break.
Looking on the metaphorical bright side of things, today's lecture was truly thought-provoking. Although, slightly intimidating when Jeremy was walking back and forth asking questions. I sometimes get nervous answering questions in larger groups, but I tried today and I suppose I am in a small way proud of myself for not screwing things up too badly when I shared my thoughts. But then things got uncomfortable in tutorial when I brought up the well-known saying, "man and women are one (in marriage) and the 'one' is the man" in reference to a line in Wallace Stevens' poem. Apparently no one appreciated my comment. Allow me to defend myself, firstly, it is satirical and it is well-known, but maybe only among those willing to admit to being feminists and those who have studied women's issues. This ideology is prevalent among the writing of women or writing dealing with women's issues as far back as the middle ages and of course, onwards, with authors such as, Christine de Pizan, Margaret Cavendish and even a man--William Thompson and countless others. I apologize if my comment was out of place. Also, I wasn't implicating that Wallace Stevens meant this, rather, I was pointing to the ubsurdity of the idea that two people ever become one, which is something I truly do not believe in, as romantic as it is. Apparently, not many others share my cynicism. Well, not to worry, only more one class left and I promise to keep my feminist ideology to myself.
On to more plesant things, "The Idea of Order at Key West" was written in 1936 by the 57 year old Wallace Stevens and is one of my favourite poems read this year in this course. There is an indescriable element to this poem that I so enjoy, and it may be for this reason that I like it so much. The mystery of the poem is captivating. As we discussed in lecture, the fact that the woman and sea are not described, the ambigious phrases, the complexity in imagery and theme, as well as, the layering of imaginative sceanrios that Sarah spoke of in tutorial all contribute to this idea of mystery I speak of. Of course, the eloquence in metre, strategic rhyming, alliteration and accessible language contributes to me liking this poem and liking it better than Eliot's. I bring this up, because the two authors were said to be contemporaries, but unalike in their style, although both modernists. In terms of character, the differences are obvious, Stevens' worked in the insurance industry by day, and wrote poetry by night, while Eliot devoted all his time to writing. Stylistically, Eliot was a strict Modernist, while Stevens' was a tradional modernist but also a romantic (but not in the "mushy" way as Jeremy Sharp described him, and lest I forget this description, "Stevens' was a real man poet"--I won't even touch this one, even though I know it isn't an entirely serious statement).
Anyhow, Stevens was interested in reality and imagination, something which Eliot and the other modernists tended to shun. This is the crucial stylistic difference and it seems to be the basis for "The Idea of Order at Key West". Imagination appears in this piece as the narrator (or author) imagines the woman as she is imagining a world beyond reality. This poem is not only about the woman, the narrator and his companion and what they see and imagine, but also about the construction of poetry (as all poems are), but this is obvious when I earlier spoke about imagination, which is a key factor in writing anything. This point can be seen throughout lines 10-14, where Steven's uses tentative language, indicating that he is struggling with efficacy, which I today learned means articulation (hooray for learning a new word!). Whatever difficulty Stevens had with writing, the poem comes together in a logical way (likely thanks to his background in insurance) in dealing with imagination and the creations of the unidentified woman. This theme comes full circle when the poem takes a turn at line 44 when the narrator asks his companion, Ramon Fernandez, why it is that he is able to experience the perspective of this woman if it is only her perspective. In tutorial this point was raised, but never quite answered. It seems to me that the answer to this question is in line 52 and on, it is the desire of order that the narrator sees, he shares this desire with the woman and thus they see things the same way.
What do you think the answer is?
I should first warn everyone that I wrote the majority of this post Monday after the lecture, so there will be some discrepancies in my references to the day seeing as how I am posting this entry today and not Monday (as I had initially intended). Here it goes...
A great lecture, an excellence performance by Professor Kuin and a terribly clever poem, today was an untypically good day at York University for me.
The first time I read T.S. Eliot's "The Wasteland," I was left feeling confused and asking myself, "What the hell is this about?", even though I thought I knew what the poem was about before I read it, modernity and the issues of post-WWI. Thankfully, it seems I am not the only who has found herself lost, Professor Kuin says this is a "difficult" poem and I couldn't agree more.
Writing in the modernist style, Eliot shocked his audience. But not everyone was put off by Eliot's style, it seems "The Wasteland" developed a fan club of individuals who saw the poem as a sort of anthem for the disillusioned. I am thinking this "fan club" still exists today because I have often heard "clever" 20-somethings talking about this poem as if they know what they are talking about. And because I don't know what I am talking about when it comes to this poem or even the style Eliot wrote in, I am going to formulate a sort of list, based on what I have learned thus far about Modernism from this course and other English courses.
-appearance of new subjects, forms and styles
-radical break from typical models (eg. using "cutting" as a method of editing poems, similar to way films are edited)
-determinism (emphasis on psychology)
-existentialism (truths and certainty questioned)
-concern with language
-themes dealing with disillusionment
-exploring the effects of technology on people
I am sure the list goes on, but I can't think of anything else, can you?
I have gathered from Sarah's notes on the film dealing with Modernism that there was a general problem with audience for the poets of this time. As books became more available and more people were reading, the job of the poet to relate to their audience became difficult. The poet couldn't be sure that their allusions made any sense to their readers, because s/he had no way of knowing who was reading their work and what those individuals had previously read. The solution? a) write to the lowest common denominator, like Robert Frost, b) publish with footnotes, like Eliot in "The Wasteland" or c) write whatever you feel without considering the audience, like Ezra Pound. Options b and c seem to alienate the genearal audience, but that doesn't seem to have been a problem for these authors, afterall we study their work to this day.
Now that I have clarified those points for myself, I feel well enough prepared to write about "The Wasteland".
There were some surprising elements to this poem that I enjoyed and are really reflective of Modernism. Foremost is the form. The ways in which Eliot seamlessly moves in and out of the high, middle and low style of poetry through metre and language is terribly impressive. For example, the very beginning of the poem, the first 7 lines is a formal style, after that there is a transition into a conversational style. This transistion is smooth though, you can hear it but it isn't awkard, it just works. Also surprising to me was the multitude of allusions Eliot uses; he truly did have a wide scope of literary and historical knowledge to pull from. For example, Professor Kuin alerted me (/us) to the main allusions, the vegetation myth, The Holy Grail myth, John Webster's "The While Devil," and many biblical references. All these allusions point to themes of life, death and rebirth, which is of course what the poem is ultimately about. The perversion and sterility of the wasteland cannot be corrected until there is death, only then can there be rebirth. On a side note, was The Fisher King and Holy Grail story part of the Perceval story? I recall in a Medieval and Renaissance class I took last year reading this story, I think it was by Chretien de Troyes. I am Googling this...ok it was, here is a link to information about it, http://www.mcelhearn.com/perceval.html
. Finally, I am surprised by Eliot's referece to the Buddha and Buddhist philosophy and Hindu doctrine, espeically quotes from the Upanishads. Was there a renewed interest in Eastern religious traditions during the time period in which Eliot was writing? Eliot even quotes a passage from a text written by Hermann Hesse in lines 367-377. Hesse was also the author of Siddhartha
, a novel he wrote in 1922 that deals with the Buddhist message as exemplified through the life of a young man named Siddhartha (but not Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha) who is on a spiritual quest. Perhaps Eliot read this book, but then again, perhaps not, seeing as how both the novel and poem were written in the same year, maybe the dates don't correspond. But if he had, that may in some ways explain his interest and knowledge in and of Eastern religious traditions.
I have asked a lot questions throughout this post and I am hoping someone will be able to answer them or at least consider them. I would also appreciate hearing any of the questions you had or currently have about "The Wasteland", it may open the door to a new perspective for me on this poem and that is the point of posting and commenting, isn't it?
As I am sure you noticed, I was not in lecture Monday for reasons you also know. But I am glad to report that my car is now in working order. Thanks to my Dad, who repaired the car and purchased me a new stereo, I will be in lecture Monday to hear all about Eliot's "The Wasteland". I was so upset this week thinking I had missed the lecture on that poem, which I was anticipating. Thanks to my lovely group members I have learned about the plan for this week's lecture and information about the video that was shown in tutorial. Thanks ladies!
Thanks is also in order for Sarah (elephamus) for generously offering and providing me with her thorough notes. I so much appreciate your concern and kindness. Also, thanks to Professor Kuin for your understanding, sympathy and well wishes. It means a lot to me, my other professors were not so kind.
I believe it was in a classmate's post that I first learned that there was a movie adaptation of Beowulf, the Anglo-Saxon text that we read an excerpt of earlier this year. Well, I read that text last year in two classes and thus studied it in depth. So, I thought I would check out the movie today, titled, "Beowulf and Grendel". As most book to movie adaptations, the film was horrible. Not only did it not adhere to the story, beside being about the killing of Grendel, it just wasn't a well developed, acted or produced film. Never have I seen such a horrible film. The only redeeming quality to the film was that the female characters took leading and powerful roles, which of course didn't happen in the text and never would have in the time period in which Beowulf was set or written. So, then I guess that point was also a problem, not only was the film inaccurate to the story, but also historically. I would say to anyone thinking of seeing the film, especially if they have read the text, to simply not bother, it is a huge disappointment!
I am going to reserve any comments I have about "The Wasteland" and the information I have received about the film on Modernism for the coming week's entry (so as to not spoil all the fun).
Looking forward to tomorrow's lecture (which is sure to deliver),
Thu, Mar. 9th, 2006, 11:17 pm
Something quite horrible has happened today. My car has been stolen from my driveway and I am completely devestated. I had many personal and valuable objects in my car and now they are all lost. I worked all throughout high school and college to pay for that car and I have worked these years of university to pay for the insurance and now I have nothing to show for it. I cannot say how sad and angry I am. Perhaps worst of all, I have lost my way of getting to school and my parking pass. I am working on figuring out other ways of getting to school, but I am far too upset now to really figure these things out. I may not be in school Monday, I don't know yet, but if I am not, this is why: I will be in bed mourning the loss of over 45 cd's, mixed cd's my boyfriend gave to me when we were just dating at 17, a musical keyboard, my work stuff, a 1999 Honda Civic and my sense of personal safety.
How could I not feel inspired to write my entry after that lecture? Stephen Voyce did a wonderful job of situating the poems we looked at today in what their original context may have been. And what captivating details about WWI, I am nearly ashamed to admit it, but I understand how war could have been romanticized. The details Stephen shared with us were like those of a movie, it doesn't at all seem real. What I am feeling now is what I imagine the soldiers enlisting in the war felt about hearing war stories, they, like I probably only heard the adventure, excitement and opporunity for valor. But, unlike them, I know the truth, can easily snap my fingers and wake up to the reality that was WWI and not have to go through it to know it. All I need to do to see the reality of war is speak to my grandfather-in-law, visit this website > www.firstworldwar.com or I could read the poetic works of the "WWI poets", such as Rupert Brooke or Wilfred Owen.
Stephen mentioned something quite poignent in lecture, that these men (and women, although he didn't say this, I must add it) didn't know what the war would be like and this would have influenced their decision to enlist, what they wrote pre-war and then what they wrote once they experienced warfare. This statement came from Stephen when he was emphasizing the error in dividing the "WWI poets" into two groups, first the "early" poets of 1914-1916 and consider these poets naive, while the "later" poets as experienced and thus more realistic and somehow more respectalbe. Again, I must recommend Timothy Findley's The Wars, this novel tells the story of a young Canadian soldier enlisting and entering combat in WWI and his ultimate tragic fate. Many of the themes we discussed today in lecture and tutorial that the "WWI poets" would have written about are present in this text, such as nationalism, simply not knowing what they would face, propaganda, ideas on masculinity, loss of religion, reversion to nature, alienation and the list goes on.
I think the reason poems such as the ones we discussed today affect me so much is because I know I could never do what the authors of those works have done. Namely, writing such meaningful poetry, while voluntarily sacrificing their lives. It seems that despite the horrors they saw, they were still able to write thoughfully and beautifully about their horrifying experiences. I suppose writing may have been a coping mechinism for these individuals, much like the writing of an elegy may console the mourning poet. However, the reasons for writing poetry were more pratical than that, according to Professor Kuin the soldiers had plenty of down time between battles and little else to do for entertainment. The other answer to the question, why was there so much poetry from WWI soldiers in comparion to WWII is that the early 20th century was a time of poetic revival in England among the Georgians. This does make sense, especially in the case of Rupert Brooke who was a famous poet before his involvement in the war. Perhaps continuing to write was a way of maintaining some sense of normalcy in the chaos of war. I think the ultimate war-related deaths of Brooke and Owen say something about the nature of war, that it is indiscriminate, evil by-passes no one, irregardles of who you are, upper class or lower class, artistically inclined, British or otherwise, good-hearted or bad. War simply destroys, but thankfully literature can endure and from such, we can learn, remember and never go to war again. Too bad that hasn't happened, how easily humans forget.
Had you ever heard of the term, "public poetry" before today's lecture?
I certainly had not. But now that I have considered it, it does seem to be a paradox, much like Professor Kuin suggested it may be in lecture. For the most part, poetry is a private matter, such that one writes poetry in order to express a personal belief, feeling, thought, etc. However, any poetry that is published does become public, so then, perhaps all poetry is inherently private and public in nature. Being more specific, public poetry can be poetry about public matters, poetry that appears in pubic (ie. a newspaper) or that which receives public acclaim.
The poems we looked at today in class, Sir Henry Newbolt's "Vitai Lampada" and "Tommy" and "Recessional" by Rudyard Kipling are of course public poetry. Of those poems I especially liked "Tommy". For the most part it is the message and style of this poem that I enjoy. Recently (and this is my Canadian Content inclusion) I read The Wars by Timothy Findley and I found that this work shared similar themes with "Tommy". Primarily, it is the exploration of the way in which soldiers (and lower class individuals as a whole) are treated that the texts have in common. I suppose it is the portrayal of the reality for these individuals that I find so intriguing. Kipling and Findley accomplish this realistic portrayal by distancing themselves from the characters and the story. Kipling does this through his use of colloquial language and what one could imagine as a regional dialect, as Professor demonstrated so well for us today. Findley does the same, but less through language and more through the typical post-modern way of fragmented story-telling, self-reflexivity and personal interjections throughout the novel reminding the reader in subtle ways that The Wars is not his story or the only version of the story. Essentially, in both texts there is a focus on the character.
The implications of such works are strong; the message is that soldiers have been raped by their countries. I hate to give it away but this example illustrates my point so well that I cannot help myself, so here it goes: the message is represented quite vividly in The Wars when the main character is brutally raped by his fellow soldiers. The scene is intended to represent the way that one's own people (ie. fellow soldiers, fellow Canadians, etc.) can (and have) abuse their power and take advantage of soldiers (and the lower class). This scene also represents the maddness of war, but I won't elaborate on that now, I sure that point is clear to everyone, especially if you have read the novel, which I recommend! Anyhow, this rape metaphor is also easily recognized in the whole of "Tommy", but initially in these lines of the first stanza:
"I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o'beer
The publican 'e up an'sez, "We serve no red-coats here."[...]
O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins," when the band begins to play"
The idea here is that soldiers are treated one way in order to ensure that they are willing to risk their lives for the rest of us, but when no longer needed, they are disregarded and forgotten. This idea upsets me greatly, mostly because this attitude persists. If you need evidence, just read any news story about those returning from the war in Iraq and I am sure you will read stories about being forgotten by the government or families adandoning them emotionally. So please, wear your poppy proudly, learn about the wars and participants that have direcly effected your life and just don't forget. I believe it was for these reasons that both texts I have discussed in this post were written, so I suppose by reading and analyzing them we are doing our part in remembering. Now all we can do is pass the message along.
Yes, I know, my title doesn't exactly reflect the work of Robert Browning or Elizabeth Barrett Browning, but if one were to combine the poetic styles of each, well then, my title would be accurate. Afterall, the Brownings were so in love and supportive of one another's work, one could easily image that they would have influenced eachother and begin to write alike. However, in reality this didn't happen and that is something that I find especially interesting about these authors. Cleary both were strong writers in their own regard before meeting and weren't interested in compromising their styles once they did meet. This is something entirely admirable, but still confusing to me, I know that I am personally affected by my boyfriend's interests and he, mine. But I guess that just makes us less than the strong individuals that are Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning.
Now that I have sufficiently wasted 147 words on useless pondering with a hint of relevance, I am turning to the exploration of Victorian ideals in literature. In lecture, we learned that the Victorian poets carried over some of what the Romantics established, such as, a concern for the individual and the unconscious, reflection on feelings, the return to nature and a concern for beauty in opposition to industrialization and a concern for language, although in different regards. The Romantics wanted to strip down poetic language, while the Victorians were interested in reinstating poetic diction. Of course we already discussed this and provided examples of such in tutorial, so I won't repeat all that, but instead move on to my favourite topic: Canadian Lit!A (not so) Quick Canadian Injection (if I may)
Tuesday in my Canadian Literature course, someone described Post-Modernism as the reaction to Romanticism. This confused me greatly, because looking at the conventions of Romanticism, one cannot deny the similarities to Post-Modernism. For example, the concern for the individual and psychology, as well as the reversion to nature. Of course, post-modernism does differ in that a prominent feature of such literature is fragmentation. But, I do think it is safe to say that as much as post-modernism is a reaction to what was, it cannot help but be influenced by such things and as Professor Kuin said, we are, after all, the grandchildren of the Romantics. A very good example of such writing is that of Dorothy Livesay. Technically, Livesay is a proto-post-modernist poet, but a good example nonetheless. Please "Goggle" her if you are looking for material on her life, because she did have a very interesting life, a constant student and at one regretful time in her life a ardent supporter of Communism. In the case you aren't up for the search, try this website, it seems quite good and there is an actually quote from Livesay about her interest in Communism: http://www.uua.org/uuhs/duub/articles/dorothylivesay.html
. Livesay's poem, "Day and Night", encompases all the above mentioned features, but when reading it, I should also point out that the poem is a comment on Capitalism, racism and the oppression of the working class. So, yes, it is a complex poem (and long), but worth the read, so please enjoy.
"Day and Night"
Dawn, red and angry, whistles loud and sends
A geysered shaft of steam searching the air.
Scream after scream announces that the churn
Of life must move, the giant arm command.
Men in a stream, a moving human belt
Move into sockets, everyone a bolt.
The fun begins, a humming, whirrling drum-
Men do a dance in time to the machines.
One step forward
Two steps back
Shove the lever,
Push it back
While Arnot whils
And Geoghan shuffles
One step forward
Hear it crack
Two steps back
Your heart-beat punds
Against your throat
The roaring voices
Drown your shout
Across the way
A writhing whack
Sets you spinning
Two steps back-
One step forward
Two steps back
Day and night are rising and falling
Night and day shift gears and slip rattling
Down the runway, shot into storerooms
Where only arms and a note-book remember
The record of evil, the sum of commitments.
We move as through sleep's revolving memories
Piling up hatred, stealing the remnants,
Doors forever folding before us-
And where is the recompense, on what agenda
Will you set love down? Who know of peace?
Day and night
Night and day
Light rips into ribbons
What we say.
I called to love
Deep in dream:
Be with me in the daylight
As in gloom.
Be with me in the pounding
In the knives against my back
Set your voice resounding
Above the steel's whip crack.
High and sweet
Sweet and high
Hold, hold up the sunlight
In the sky!
Day and night
Night and day
Tear up all the silence
Find the words I count not say...
We were stiking coal in the furnances; red hot
They gleamed, burning our skins away, his and mine.
We were working together, night and day, and knew
Each other's stroke; and without words, exchanged
An understanding about kids at home,
The landlord's jaw, wage-cuts and over-time
We were like buddies, see? Until they said
That nigger is too smart the way he smiles
And sauces back the foreman; he might say
Too much one day, to others chaning shifts.
Therefore they cut him down, who flowered at night
And raised me up, day hanging over night-
So furnaces could still consume our withered skin.
***(OK, I cannot find anymore of this poem online and I have already typed much of what is above, apparently it is still under copyright or perhaps Livesay is just not a popular subject on the internet, so I am just going to type out the two most important parts in the poem to finish this off. Forgive me!)***
We have eyes
To look across
The bosses' profit
At our loss.
(Livesays's call to action!):
Day and night
Night and day
Till life is turned
The other way.Works Citedhttp://www.uua.org/uuhs/duub/articles/dorothylivesay.html
Livesay, Dorothy. A New Anthology of Canadian Literature in English
. Eds. Donna Bennett and Russell Brown. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2002. (pp 427-431).
After all that, I think the thing to take away from this post is that much like the Victorians, we, in this Modern period cannot escape the ideals of the Romantics and that isn't such a bad thing. We can and have added to it, but ultimately, we have retained a very Romantic way of thinking and writing. I suppose that old adage holds true here, "it is best to stick with what works," right?
I can't help but do a Canadian Content post this week, it is just too easy. Canadian literature has always been about nature, after all, Canada is a large, beautiful country with plenty of natural phenomenon to be seen. The earliest Canadian authors were very aware of this, as they were of course immigrants from Britain and were in most cases awe-struck by what they saw upon their arrival in our great land. Catherine Parr Traill is a pioneer writer, her work is described as settlement literature, which was meant to be read by those persons interested in immigrating to Canada. Thus, Traill's work could be described as a cautionary tale of what immigrants should expect to find in Canada, mostly hard work made better by the beautiful surroundings. I should add though, that Traill was a botanist, so she was very interested in nature. Conversely, her sister, Susanna Moodie, likely the more popular of the two authors, was not so fond of the nature she encountered in Canada, but still wrote of it in a romanticized way. If you care to read some examples of this, try this website and follow the many links: http://www.collectionscanada.ca/moodie-traill/t1-5001-e.html
After these idealized accounts of nature, came the confederate poets who viewed nature much like Wordsworth, as a saving force in opposition to the 'unnaturalness' (I am sure this is grammatically incorrect, but please just indulge me this once) of the industrial revolution. Examples of the confederate poets work can be easily found by 'googling' and I have posted several examples in my past entries, but I will recommend Isabella Valancy Crawford, I particularly enjoyed her work. Try reading some of her poems on this website, especially "The Lily Bed": http://www.poemhunter.com/isabella-valancy-crawford/poet-3050/
. The erotic view of nature Crawford writes of is fascinating and a result of her belief in nature as a renewing force and hence the saving grace against the dehumanizing consequences of the industrial revolution. I am sure you can make the connection between sex and nature, but I will outline it here, the act of sexual intercourse is capable of creating life, much like turning one's focus to nature will renew one's sense of being alive.
Canadian post-modern literature is still very committed to natural imagery, as evidenced by Timothy Findley's, The Wars
or the poetry of Margaret Atwood. I recommend the work of both authors.
I really like the idea of nature as savior, but I am curious about the role of religion in all this and on that note, I end this part of the post and move on to this week's William Wordsworth poem, in which the connection is made between nature and religion. "Lines" was written in 1798 about Wordsworth experience of walking through the Wye valley in Monmouthshire, near the medieval Tintern Abbey with his sister, Dorothy. In the poem, Wordsworth recollects his first experience in the Wye valley and the residual feelings invoked by the scenery. Of these feeligs, Wordworth says:
For I have learned
To look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes
The still, sad music of humanity
Nor harsh, nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused
(Lines 89-96, N767)
These lines seem to me to express the saving grace nature is so capable of for Wordsworth. Lines 93-94 appear to comment on the contrast between the noise of the industrialized city and the serenity of nature that saves one from the noise. Furthermore, lines 95-96 speak of the sublime, defined by dictionary.com as, "1.Characterized by nobility; majestic. 2.Of high spiritual, moral, or intellectual worth. a)Not to be excelled; supreme. b)Inspiring awe; impressive." Reading these lines from a religious perspective, I have made a connection between nature and God. The connection is the giving of Grace. Typically, Grace is something associated with God, that which He gives which may be undeserved. This is a very popular belief in Christianity. For salvation one must have faith, complete the sacrements and receive grace, which one can only hope for. Essentially in the Christian tradition, Grace cannot be earned. Sikhism also shares a similar perspective on Grace. In this poem, it seems Wordsworth is equating this idea of salvation and the giving of Grace as coming from nature as much as from God. It is a sort of appropriation of religious ideology, which is the good over all evil to a current sceanario of 'evil' or Industrialization in need of a 'good', being nature. I cannot say for sure whether Wordsworth was writing from the Christian perspective and after all, maybe I am just stretching what is there to fit with my perspective. Coincidently this was an issue Wordsworth was also exploring, how much of nature is real and how much is the observer's perspective. Either way, perspective is an entitlement of the observer and so, I make no apologies.
This post isn't exactly related to this week's anchor poem, although I could argue that indirectly it is. However, I am not in the mood for arguing or even formality. I know, I am even shocking myself; however, it is late, I am lonely and fascinated by Sikhism. So, I am recommending that anyone interested in world religions view this documentary produced by the BBC on Sikhism, http://www.sikhnet.com/sikhnet/music.nsf/0/fc70113e55aabe13872569bd0065692e?Open
A point of interest to this course may be that Sikh scripture (or sacred text) is written entirely in the form of poetry. Also, most of the text is intended to be sung to a musical backgroud. The idea is that poetry and music are elevated forms of communication and thus a better way to connect to God, than prose. The name of the primary scared text is the Guru Granth Sahib. The text is called "Guru", which means teacher, and is considered the 11th Guru in the line of Sikh Gurus, because it is said that upon the 10th Guru's death, Guru Gobind Singh ended the lineage of Guru's and assigned ultimate authority to the scripture to guide the community.
Here is an example of what may be found in the Guru Granth Sahib, this hymn was written by the 1st Guru Nanak:Adi Granth: 1038, Rag Maru"Whereever I see, I see the Compassionate Lord; The merciful Lord, neither comes nor goes. In a mysterious way, He remains absorbed in living being [but still] remains free. 1./The world is a shadow [reflection] of Him, who has neither father, nor mother, Nor has He earned a sister or brother, Nor is there birth, death, family or caste for Him; My mind is pleased by that Unaging one. 2.
This hymn was of course more beautiful in its original language, but cannot be known to us English-speakers in any other way.
This information is relevant to this course, because I feel it is a great example of the role poetry can play in modern society. Although, the scripture was compiled over 400 years ago, the poetry in it is still an important part of a current religion and entire community of people. I suppose it is the enduring quality of poetry that I am trying to expose and this is a point we prove weekly as we examine the relativity of poetry, although mostly British, to today's readers.
Furthermore, I am feeling an intense desire to share any poetry I learn of that isn't being studied in the course, expecially if it is not of English (as in British and the English language) origin. I hope this is seen as an expansion of what we are learning in class and not a useless diversion.