Saturday, January 31, 2015

The History Teacher

One of the contemporary poems that we did not go over in class, but that I really enjoyed is "The History Teacher" by Billy Collins. In this poem, the speaker describes a situation in which a history teacher attempts to protect his students from tragic events in history and wants to preserve their innocence. Instead of displaying the gruesome details of the events, he sugar coats each one into a less intimidating version of the story. Even though he means no harm, by doing this he accidentally damages them by not informing them of the true events that make up the world in which we live in. History revolves around the concept of action and reaction, a vital study in order to further understand the way the world works and to prepare ourselves for life's more unexpected events. By not learning about consequence and punishment of actions, the students are unprepared for life outside of the classroom and therefore engage in aggressive and cruel behaviors, "to torment the weak/ and the smart mussing up their hair and breaking their glasses." The outside people are described as "weak" or "smart," demonstrating how a child is either smart and educated in history, or is the alternative, weak and uninformed.

The diction in the story is not complex, but is rather simple and casual, telling the story how it is, the way the speaker thinks all stories should be told. The tone of the story is somewhat accusatory and views the teacher in a negative light. The lack of a rhyme scheme and randomness of the structure of the poem, could be looked at as the way the author views life itself, random and without an order that just sounds nice. By simply describing teacher, Collins seems to be sending a larger message about the education of children, and even further about life in general. Learning about the problems that the world has to deal with is part of life. It is part of growing up. Sparing the gruesome details of life fails to teach them how to work together and act in the modern day world.

The end of the poem tells of the infamous teacher walking home and innocently "wondering if they would believe that soldiers/ in the Boer War told long, rambling stories/ designed the make the enemy nod off,"showing how he is either oblivious to what he is really doing, or too "weak" to showcase and educate on the cold, hard truth.

Friday, January 30, 2015

A Song in the Front Yard.

One of my favorite poems from the packet that we did not go over in class was A Song in the Front Yard by Gwendolyn Brooks. I like this poem because of the perspective it gives to the reader of how children view the world. The first two lines of the poem read "I've stayed in the front yard all my life/ I want a peek at the back ." The front yard and backyard in these two lines act as symbols for higher and lower social status. Later in the poem it reads "I want to go in the back yard now/And maybe down the alley,/ To where the charity children play/I want a good time today." The speaker of the poem wants to go play in the "back yard" regardless of the social class of the people who live there. This demonstrates how children often do not care about social class but instead care about other things such as having fun and being adventurous. This is one of many examples in the poem that gives the reader perspective into how children view the world.

In the Eye of the Beholder

When looking for a song to put as poetry last week, I had a really difficult time. I found myself scrolling through my iTunes library looking for any songs whose lyrics went beyond just telling a story, and it took me a really long time to come across what I did. Those parameters I set up are worth discussing.

What is poetry exactly, and why does music count? Most people would assume that music is poetry thanks to its separated verses and rhyme scheme. But the article we read at the beginning of the unit talked a whole lot about content but not a lot about structure, implying that words don't have to be a certain form or laid out a certain way to be a poem. The article said that poetry doesn't always tell a story, which is why I skipped over songs that didn't go beyond that, but I really didn't have to. Under that rule even prose qualified.

Poetry is the most condensed form of literature. It doesn't matter what it's condensed from, whether it's a story or a moral or just words that sounds nice together; it only matters that it's condensed at all. I think poetry is any bit of written or spoken word that means more than what the word's literal definitions say on their own. But that hidden meaning is up for the reader to decipher and decide. One of the best things about poetry is that it's in the eyes of the beholder; if I could argue that "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" has all kinds of hidden meanings (within certain bounds of reality, no aliens around here) then it's poetry. If I argued that an English translation of "Gangnam Style" had more meaning than its ridiculous video suggested, then it's poetry too.

And I think that's fantastic.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Dr. Seuss

I don't know anyone who doesn't like Dr. Seuss books. Most kids, in my experience at least, learned to read with Dr. Seuss books. Ted Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, wrote the Cat in the Hat for the purpose of getting kids more interested in reading. Geisel is a widely celebrated and acclaimed children's author. He has sold over 220 million copies and his works have been translated in 15 languages.In 53 years of writing Seuss wrote and illustrated 44 books several of which have been best sellers. Books such as The Cat in the Hat, The Lorax, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, Green Eggs and Ham, and the Christmas classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Geisel's books are not just children's first exposure to reading of literature but their first exposure to poetry as well.

Some may argue that Dr. Seuss's books aren't true poetry because they are made for children and sometimes contain to rand moral lesson. However as it is written in "What is Poetry" A poem does not have to have a moral. Dr. Seuss goes well beyond simply using poetic devices such as rhyme scheme and anapestic tetrameter. His poems inspire wonder and imagination in more than just there target audience. It is for this reason that they have achieved such success. They literally ad figuratively paint out an entirely new world to step into wrought entirely from imagination. A world of wonder that most themselves could not imagine. In the words of Perrine "It enlarges our perspectives and breaks down some of the limits we may feel". This is the perfect definition for how Seuss books make people feel.The world they paint is so unique and original that stepping into it dissolves many of the limitations that exist in our world that is bland in comparison. The books of Dr. Seuss fit Perrine's definition of poetry perfectly. These are my favorite poems.

The History Teacher

After going through and analyzing or at least reading most of the poems in our packet, I decided my favorite and most memorable is The History Teacher. All of the poems and even sonnets tend to have a deep and intense vibe on the shell, beginning with the Colonel. which concluded with cut off human ears lying on the floor. Continuing through the packet, there was always something thought provoking but also intense about the poems. But when I came across The History Teacher by Billy Collins, it gave me a different feel than all the other poems. At first read, it made me chuckle at the outrageous examples the teacher would give the children: from dropping a single atom on Japan to the ice age being times in which you needed a sweater. The poem really had no meaning or effect at first, the last stanza about him wondering whether the kids believed him or not seemed like an interesting thought, but only for a brief period of time. Then I thought about the first line of the poem, "Trying to protect his students' innocence". After thinking about it for a while, it made me realize the significance to that poem as a whole and also culture as we know. It made me question, is it necessary to take measures like this? Do children need people to control their innocence? Is their even a right time for innocence to be 'lost'? What even fits into the criteria of losing innocence? Addressing the first question in my head, I thought that this was in fact doing too much to help protect young students. I think it is necessary for people to take in information that could be 'harmful' to their innocence even at a younger age. I know for myself, I did not process the entire meaning and effect of hearing they dropped an atomic bomb on a city. But, later on learning about it at an older age, it helped to have some knowledge of what it was. If you are protected from all things 'evil' and are then exposed to them, which is inevitable, all at once, I think the harm is much greater. I also think that their is no real time of 'loss of innocence'. I do not remember a time when I felt exposed and vulnerable because of information I learned, but maybe that is just me. Overall, the poem gave me a good laugh, a change of mood, but also a deeper insight after thinking and reading it over.

Where the Sidewalk Ends

When asked to pick my favorite poem, I had to admit to myself that outside of the poems we read in the packet, I didn't know many poems off hand that I loved. So I dug into my reservoir of knowledge of poetry from elementary school, and remembered the beautifully silly poems of Shel Silverstein. I distinctly remember having books of his poetry, one entitled, "Where the Sidewalk Ends." This blog will be a testament not only to the wonderful poem with the same name, but also the work that Silverstein has done in making poetry appealing to children.

The poem itself is wonderful. It speaks to the power of a child's imagination in the place where the sidewalk ends. The kids escape the place where "the smoke blows black/ and the dark street winds and bends/ past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow." And in this magical place where the sidewalk ends they will find that, "there the grass grows soft and white/ and there the sun burns crimson bright/and their the moon-bird rests from his flight/ to cool in the peppermint wind." Although the description may be nonsensical, the diction and imagery create a lighter, happier world where the children can play and enjoy themselves. Maybe it is in their imagination, maybe they are stuck in the asphalt flowers, but as Silverstein writes, "for the children they mark, and the children they know/ the place where the sidewalk ends." The children's imaginations are the strongest, and they will always be capable of finding these enchanting escapes, we just have to follow.

I'll admit, I never analyzed the poem "Where the Sidewalk Ends" that closely until I started this blog post. Yet, I've known and admired the poem for years, and therein lies the genius of Shel Silverstein's poetry. He succeeds in getting children excited about poetry. I think it is incredibly important to form this interest in poetry at a young age because without early exposure, its too easy to be apathetic towards poetry, when it really can do wonderful things. And even though kids might not understand the meanings of the poems at the time, the poems are generally straightfoward, and applicable to their lives. They are silly, they rhyme, and they're fun to read at bed time. Because kids like these books they will be excited about poetry, or at least more open to learning about it, in their future academic careers. So I highly encourage you all to think back on all those silly poems you read as a child, and consider their affect on you.

The Distinction Between Poetry In Music and Poetry In Literature

Referring to the discussion we had in class where some argued that today's music has no poetic value because of its repetitive verse and simplistic language, I'd like to delve into my own opinion of the matter.

When I read the posts from two weeks ago about everyone's form of poetry, I noticed that a majority if not all the posts were about the lyrics of the song, as if that alone made it poetic. This is the problem with analyzing music as poetry. The whole point of music is that there is so much more than the lyrics. Isn't that the obvious separation between music and literature? One of the songs I really wanted to talk about was "Two Weeks" by FKA Twigs, because the fluidity of her electropop sound and the raspy drum progression creates a song that is kind of elegiac and induces a lot of emotion, however the lyrics themselves are no prize (and also NSFW). Nonetheless, are we to diminish the quality of that song because it doesn't fit our concept of poetry, a concept that should strictly refer to literature? When I think of music as a form of poetry, the multidimensional language does not stem from the lyrics alone, but rather the chord progressions and other musical elements that layer on the nuances that lyrics alone cannot express.

Dear Viewers, I love poetry *heart symbol*

It's really easy to make a superficial appraisal of poetry as a whole. 

"I hate poetry," half the people you talk to will say.  "It's so boring and vague, and I'm horrible at writing it."

"I love poetry!" the other half will respond.  "It's so beautiful and meaningful."  But how much does either group really know about or invest in poetry?  How much true thought have they put into their respective answers?  Maybe some students like poetry because it involves less assigned reading material.  Perhaps some dislike it because it requires a more thorough, deeper reading process - or a high level of introspection in both the case of reading and writing.  To be honest, I've probably fallen into each group at some time or other. 

Whichever side of the poetry-appreciation line someone belongs to, poetry is actually pretty hard.  That's because good poetry has depth; it has multiple layers and oftentimes some of those layers are covered.  To reach those lower layers, the reader has to dive through the gleaming surface to an even deeper level of understanding.  That process isn't always the most enjoyable without dedication and an ability to draw joy from the mental exercise.  And sometimes after doing that, all that's been uncovered just seems like BS, or perhaps over-speculation on the part of readers who find the Aliens of Huskinania buried within a poem about desire by Sidney.  But in good poetry, the deeper layers, once successfully uncovered, have a clear and meaningful purpose in the poem - that makes poetry worth it.  Developing the skill to fully enjoy poetry, yes, is hard work, but that end result of being able to enjoy great poetry is what makes the process worth it.  It's a process that, myself and even some poetry aficionados I'm sure, have to continually work at because poetry is worth it.

Around My Head

Cage the Elephant is a band from Kentucky. Their lyrics and musical style are both very unique. The song "Around My Head," off of the album Thank You Happy Birthday,is somewhat hard to interpret. The first verse has the speaker questioning himself, trying to figure out how to interpret some of his feelings. The lines, "I don't know why I got these feelings, yeah/ I just can't seem to get away from/ Can you dig it?" show how confused the speaker. The line "Can you dig it?" makes the speaker seem young almost like teenager asking a friend for help. 

Later in the song the listener learns a little more. It is revealed that the speaker has a love interest. It seems as if he is in love with her but she doesn't notice him or is playing with his emotions. In the chorus the speaker says, "I don't think it's very nice/ to walk around my head all night." Thoughts of his love interest and the feelings they create are so strong that he cannot sleep. 

The speaker talks about revealing his love to his crush but quickly dismisses the idea thinking that she'll never feel the same way about him. He says, "But even still at times I wonder/ What you're thinking of me/ You're probably sure I lost my mind." He is too afraid to show his feelings for her because he thinks that she is going to think he is crazy. If you take the time to listen to this song the yelling in between versus also plays a role in the developement of the songs meaning. 

The music itself creates a sort of off beat crazy feeling. You start to feel as if you are actually in the speaker's head, hearing his actual choppy thought process. The screaming shows momentary loss of control and a true inability for the speaker to express himself. He is so flustered by his predicament he feels the need to scream to vent. 

The song is about teenage love and how if you want anything to come of your feelings you have to make a move or the missed opportunities will torment you. 

This Generation's Poetry

After four years at this high school, I have become accustomed to the annual poetry unit in English. It hasn't always been a favorite unit of mine, but I can appreciate any alternative way to approach poetry rather than the normal poetry analysis that students usually do with the help of shmoop. With last week's focus on defending poetry as a type of music, I realized that the same lessons we learned in class about poetry can be applied to our music and how it has the power to change the way we see things or connect with how we feel. I would say, for the most part, that our generation's poetry is music. Although there is certainly many poets of our time, I think we often perceive poetry in its old form- written by poets like Shakespeare- but when Mr. Heidkamp introduced the music assignment, poetry become a more dynamic art form.

Choosing a song was difficult because I think much of the music I listen to can be defended as poetry- even though my parents would definitely disagree at times- and "I Know Places" by Lykke Li was one song I felt comfortable defending because of the meaning behind the lyrics and her ability to create a song that many people, involved in many types of relationships, could relate to. I think songs like this help to reinforce the idea that everyone experiences hardship and that the love you may feel for someone is powerful enough to bring that person comfort. What I like the most about the song is the idea that although you may not know how you plan to help someone, or how long it will take to help them, you know that there is a reason why you want to help them- because you love them- and that because of that reason, you will ultimately find a way.

Because of this assignment, I started paying more attention to the music I listen to and what the lyrics really mean and how that impacts me as the audience. Taking this more alternative route to tackling the annual poetry unit certainly made it more enjoyable and different, but also more powerful considering students could see poetry in more than just the standard way we view, but in a way that  connects to our personal lives on a daily basis.

"Rite of Passage"

One of my favorite poems that was in our poetry packet was sadly one that we didn't reserve time to analyze together as a class. After conversing in class with my beloved friend Patrick (aka P Shawn), he encouraged me to read "Rite of Passage" by Sharon Olds for that night's homework. Being a good friend I obliged him and analyzed it for homework. And since we were unable to talk about it as a class I would like to share my analysis of "Rite of Passage"

To start it all off lets begin with speaker, audience, and occasion. The speaker is a parental figure, possibly the mom of the kid, as she is thinking to herself, while she is supervising her son's birthday party. Now what is this poem about? Well, the title starts to lead the reader in the right direction, because rite of passage is a celebration for one who, in this case the young boys at the birthday party, moves from one position to another. In this case it is the boys turning into men. Through the rite of passage that Sharon Olds is addressing human nature destructive and violent tendencies through a young boy's birthday party. As the kids are walking into the house, the speaker describes them "with smooth jaws and chins" starting off with an innocent and somber tone. The tone suddenly flips when she alliterates, "jostling, jockeying for place, small fights/ breaking out and calming." This is where we get the first glimpse of the kids violent nature. The boys try to size themselves up to one another by comparing age, similar to adults who do the same thing rather than age they use their salaries or jobs to do this.

Now that the boy's true nature is apparent to the reader, the speaker then uses a metaphor by comparing her boy's birthday cake to a turret, giving the living room a war-zone feel to it. In doing this, the speaker is adding to the violent nature of human beings and how they can turn anything into a violent war-zone. The speaker then turns to her son, "freckles like specks of nutmeg on his cheeks," This is the description of a innocent boy, how could he ever be as the other heathens in the room? "We could easily kill a two-year-old,/ he says in his clear voice." Suddenly the boy's innocence is gone, she continues to say "The other/ men agree, they clear their throats. like Generals, they relax and get down to/ playing war, celebrating my son's life." More war references add to the feeling that its human nature to be violent. This boy's birthday party is his rite of passage into the real world of violence, not where he is no longer that innocent nutmeg freckled boy but rather he is a human being.

My Favorite Poem In The Packet

My favorite poem from the poetry packet is Traveling through the Dark by William E. Stafford. Its power lies in its ability to reveal the perpetrations we commit in the name of convenience. The speaker is driving along a dark, windy, canyon road, when he notices a deer, laying on its side, dead. He stops, examines the deer, finding it pregnant, and noticing the baby still alive in the mother's belly. But he is standing in the road, and the road is narrow. He pushes the deer over the edge of the cliff and drives away.

The speaker shows the reader that he's under pressure to push the deer over the edge in the last paragraph. He describes the rumbling exhaust purring at him, the wilderness watching his every move, and the headlights pointing down the road.

The last two lines are the most crucial:

"I thought hard for us all—my only swerving—, /then pushed her over the edge into the river."

When the speaker adopts the group-think mentality, he strays from the right course. So this poem is a relatable example of the psychology that breeds conformity and the bystander effect. The speaker takes action when he pushed the deer over the edge, but what he's really doing is avoiding it. By shoving the deer over the edge, he avoids having to deal with the mess. And he even avoids having to live with a dirty conscience: he justifies his action by framing himself as a hero, the savior of those who drive on dark, windy roads.

Stafford has a strong message for us all: we need to all consider situations like these and take a firm stance so that want for convenience and the effects of fear don't sway us into taking the "easy way out."

Good Music /= Good Poetry

 Heading into college, I hope to have my own radio show where I play common/well known music, but have one show every week or two that is strictly new or uncommon music. I've gotten this idea from the radio station 101.1 WKQX where they play newer music Sunday nights on a program called Queued Up. Therefore, I've been setting a standard for myself where I find at least one new song a day and add it to my Spotify account. I've set up a quick way for myself to scroll through copious amounts of bands and songs to find one that I enjoy.

 First step, the rhythm/music. It's the most important factor to a good song. If you don't like how the instruments work with each other, then nothing will make you really like the song. Personally, I look for songs with a faster pace, so I scavenge the song to see if there is a faster rhythm, and if not, then I move onto the next one. Next step is the singer. Although less important, the voice and how it works with the music can change the song as a whole. If it all sounds good, then I listen to the song straight through, and add it to a list, but I never actually look deep into the lyrics of the song.

 For example, some of my newer additions to my music and the meanings of the lyrics were unknown to me until i actually focused on the lyrics themselves. One of these songs is Sondre Lerche's song "Bad Law." The sound of the song was interesting with a solid singing, so I would just enjoy the sounds and rhythms instead of what the lyrics are. Only recently, I noticed that the whole song is about the murder of a wife and going through the court systems to a guilty verdict. So instead of focusing on words as a whole, taking pieces from the song are all that can be taken from how good it is. 

 Also, I've been listening to more foreign music, most notably from the Scandinavian area. From the Finnish Satellite Stories to the Swedish Oh My!, the music, although sung in English, works well for what I'm looking for. This hasn't really caused any issues between music and poetry, until I added the song "Låt Det Blöda" by Boris och The Jeltsins. This is a Swedish band that sings in Swedish, making any interpretation of the lyrics impossible, yet the song is still great to listen to.

 So while originally I thought that it was malarkey to say music isn't poetry, it can be considered depending on the way you listen to it. Are you listening to music for the story it tells or what the words mean to you, or by the way the song sounds? If it's the atter, like myself, then i don't think music can qualify as being poetry.

The Albums I Did Not Choose Last Week But Could (Should?) Have

Last week when we defended songs as poetry, I felt obligated to write about a modern song because Mr. Heidkamp asserted that music has been steadily getting less complex and interesting (one student attributed this trend to the use of formulaic structures which seemed wrong headed to me at the time and even more so now that we have studied form poems), and I wanted to choose something that would contradict that.  This meant that some of the artists I would have chosen to do were out of the question (Bjork, David Bowie, Joni Mitchell, Love, and Neutral Milk Hotel), but I also had to chose a song rather than an album which seemed more natural to me.  I suppose if a song were a poem then an album would be a collection of poetry, but I think that many of the songs I listen to lose much of their power when not heard in the context of the album. If these rules had not been in place, I would have chosen either Bjork's Homogenic, almost any of David Bowie's albums, Joni Mitchell's Blue, Love's Forever Changes, or Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane over the Sea.  And if I wanted to keep it a recent album I would have chosen TuNe-YaRdS's Whokill, FKA Twigs's LP1, or Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavillian.

I could have just as easily chosen Vampire Weekend's Modern Vampires of the City, but I would have been worried that I would not get credit because Mr. Heidkamp used it as an example of modern lyrics that were not poetic.  He explained that he did not consider them poetic because they seemed to be more a collection of unrelated lines than a story.  As I said in class, I think that is too narrow a definition of poetry and disregarded the poetry that did not tell a clear story.  Someone else suggested that some songs are too repetitive to be poetic, which also seemed obviously wrong to me.  Upon hearing both of these comments dismissing song lyrics I thought of one of my favorite poems, "Howl."  Part 1 of the poem is a list of the things the narrator has seen the best minds of his generation do.  It is in no way a clear, conventional story with a three act structure.  Part 2 of the poem includes the word "molloch" 39 times which is more than ten percent of the words in the part. Does that mean that the poem considered by many to be the best poem of the Beat Generation is not poetic?  I think more likely it means that we have to avoid thinking of poetry as one fixed thing.  The definition of poetry in the article we read was very fluid, but somehow over the course of studying it, the definition we used became more rigid.

So maybe I Like Poetry...

A lot of people I know shy away from the thought of poetry.  Poetry can be sad, depressing, complicated, and impossible to decipher. However, I think that because of it's depth it is that much more interesting and relate-able.  When I read poetry (that I understand of course) it is captivating. I love how the words lay a path to guide you through the emotions of the poet.  I like to observe the metaphors used to explain their situations in pragmatic ways that we, as the reader, can understand.  That's what I think is one of the cool things about poetry.  You can read a poem that talks about being lonely but instead of saying it sucks and it's no fun a poem can portray the feelings one might have by saying:

The Hole- MC Smith

As I inched toward the hole in the ground,
my toes lining the edge of the deep darkness before me,
the diameter stretched for miles
The drop was endless
I gazed around the rim
and no one was there
but me.
Gazing down at this dark dim gut wrenching drop.

You can tell by the tone that the speaker is unhappy and you still get the sense that they are alone.  No one is with them and they seem almost hopeless.  They aren't saying I'm lonely and I hate it because they don't have to, you can just feel it.  You can especially physically see it as the lines "but me" stand alone.  It's just so much cooler to say it without actually saying it.  I get that sometimes it doesn't make sense reading a poem that is confusing and won't get to the point is frustrating, but honestly I think that it is so much more interesting to try to find the point yourself instead of being handed the point on a plate. Yes I'm the girl in the back of the auditorium tearing up during the spoken word competition, but hey in my defense words can be powerful and I'm just an easy target.


People often judge you immediately when a person says, "I don't like poetry". They think, she's unintelligent, she has few emotions, she doesn't enjoy life as one should. 

I do not love poetry. I appreciate it- I understand that it's a powerful medium for translating a person's emotions. I understand that it can lead to discovering greater human truths.

Doesn't mean I have to enjoy it.

I tend to be a straightforward person- I don't play games when it comes to practically anything in life; from boys to literature. I like my facts cold, hard, and straight to the point. That is probably the reason I am a math and science person; I lean away from subjects that have grey area and opinions.

While poetry may not be practical, it is certainly common in our daily lives.
We hear it in our music, in our speech. We see it in our writing, in our classrooms. But what would you consider poetry? Can one word be poetry? Can one line, one sentence, a book, a picture? Is poetry strictly written and spoken? Can poetry be drawn?

This is one of the few reasons I enjoy poetry- its flexibility. Though it is full of grey area, poetry has loosely defined rules that leaves anyone a poet if they want to be one. They might not be a very good one, but they still are one. Children forced to write poetry in kindergarten are poets, just not very talented.

Why are children taught poetry at such a young age? They aren't capable of understanding the deeper meanings in the vast majority of poems, such as Dulce et Decorum Est, which is just a gruesome description of wartime. 1st graders aren't going to know how mustard gas boils skin, or that men with no legs are left behind in trenches, or how when a soldier returns home, his home is no longer home.

Smell the Roses

The more we study poetry the more it becomes apparent to me that there are two ways of reading it: one as literature and one as art. I think the distinction is important to make, and maybe I'm being Nabakovian about this but when we try to blend the technical with the artistic in analysis, things get messy.

I think we need to be clear in discussions if we are coming at analysis from an artistic or technical view, because truly artful poetry includes both, but if we let our search for meaning inhibit our enjoyment of the poem, then we have to acknowledge it.

This rings the same in other art forms. I'm partial to dance, and have experienced the same struggle. Ballet in particular is incredibly technical, with details and choreography worked out in as much depth as a Faulkner sentence. Within this technique, though, is the necessity for artistry. There are many dancers whose technique is incredibly precise but they aren't as enjoyable to watch; other dancers possess artistry that draws the viewer's attention despite many technical flaws. When I go to see dance shows I have to tell myself not to get wrapped up in the technical criticisms and sit and enjoy the artistry. However, if I were to critique the company as a whole, I would have to pay attention to the fine details of their technique.

It's similar in music. I can spend hours finding grammar errors in lyrics or counting chords, and if I were to formally critique it, I would need to. But the overarching goal is for it to be enjoyed.

I guess this is just a mini-PSA to say that in spite of all of this poetry analysis and deep thinking about meaning, poetry is still an art and art is meant to be enjoyed above all, not just scrutinized to within an inch of its life. Maybe as we drift away from essays we can stop to smell the roses and just appreciate writing for how it makes us feel and not why it makes us feel that way.

Conversely, "This poetic device enhances the meaning of the poem because it entertained me," isn't usually a valid analysis in an essay. Just saying.

Thoughts on Life in Poetry

Poetry allows people to express emotions, experiences, and basically anything they feel like in a creative way and share their thoughts with others. But if you can write about almost anything in poetry, why does it seem like everyone writes about the same thing?

 Shakespearian and Petrarchan sonnets are typically about love. Sonnets describe different types of relationships and varied ideas about love but they all still revolve around love. The more contemporary sonnets that we read did vary more in topics, and there are even examples of the parodies of sonnets, but they are still about some important aspect about life.

There are also numerous poems written about suffering and death, or overcoming some major obstacle in life. There is nothing wrong with the poems having similar topics but poetry is an art form that encourages freedom of expression and writing about the same thing doesn't really seem to fit that idea.

The fascinating thing about poets and their poetry is that they all be writing about the same topic but as people are free to express their opinions and ideas in creative and various ways, no two poems are alike except for the topic. Perrine wrote that poetry is central to existence. When I first read this, I was skeptical; I am pretty confident that I can survive life without poetry. But when you look at the central and common topics of love, death, and overcoming suffering, I can see Perrine's point.

Maybe that is why poems all seem to be about the same thing. Poems describe some aspect of existence because then there is always some reader who can connect with their poem and it can be central to their existence.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Okay, so this topic might be only tangentially related to poetry, but I think it's something that needs to be addressed.  We all have used before when writing a paper.  We realize that we've already used five variations of the word "flee" in one paragraph, so we end up scavenging the list of synonyms on the site until we finally come to the consensus that "absquatulate" is our best bet.  Would most of us know how to use the word "absquatulate" off the top of our heads?  The answer is most likely no.  But in the fury of attempting to finish a history paper the night it is due at 11:59 p.m., we blindly incorporate the word into our sentence without even bothering to check its real definition.  But hey, it makes us seem smarter, no?

I have been using for as long as I have been writing papers: I feel great anxiety if the tab is not open on my internet while I am writing one.  But over the weekend, I did something I don't think I've done before: I used to assist me in writing a poem.  Since it was a form poem, I had to stick to the rhyme scheme, and it was difficult to do so at some points.  I was trying to find a word to fit into the rhyme scheme starting with "way."  However, the line I was trying to fit into the rhyme scheme was giving me difficulty.  The line sounded perfect as "Fears of trimming ran laps around my mind" (I was talking about the fear I once had of getting my hair cut), but, clearly, it did not fit into the rhyme scheme.  I was stuck after trying over and over again to rearrange the words, so I finally gave in an turned to good ol'  I looked up synonyms for so many words that I can't remember any of the things I searched.  I wanted to keep the meaning of the original line the best I could, but I knew I needed to stick to the rhyme scheme.  After searching and searching, I finally landed upon the word "astray" (I don't remember exactly what search I found it under, but I'm sure the word wasn't even closely related to any of the words in my original line), so I decided to just go ahead and use it.  I ended up changing the line to "Fears of scissors and trimming run astray," which didn't really articulate my original point.  I obviously knew the meaning of "astray" before I found it on the website, but it didn't really fit in with the more colloquial diction I used elsewhere in the poem.  It just sounded really awkward.  But it doesn't matter, right? Because I got the rhyme scheme correct, so I'll get full credit.

Using for a poem felt weird to me.  In a poem especially, I think it's important that the words be the poet's own so that he or she can showcase a unique style.  I don't think I have or ever will use "astray" in a regular conversation.

I guess this is my problem with form poetry. If poetry is supposed to be such an open-ended, global form of writing, why must we force our work to model something that has already been done?  While there are some great and powerful form poems out there, I just think they are a little bit cliche and limiting.  The threshold for my dislike of the form poem assignment?  Reverting to in order to stick to a specific form.

Fix You

Coldplay has been revered for its popular music and meaningful songs for the last decade and a half. When we had to find a song and argue that it is poetry, the first lyrics that came to my mind were by Coldplay. Their song Fix You is one of their older but most popular and meaningful songs. At first, it was the lowest charting single from the album, but has since become on of its most well known and played song behind Viva la Vida. It has been played at Steve Jobs memorial service and parts of it are used as introduction of players at hockey games. The theme or meaning of the song can be taken in a few different ways, but it is most easily conveyed that everyone goes through tough times and events, but that does not mean you should hide away from people and help. The song signifies that life is going to be tough and bad things can happen, whether it is losing a loved one or battling a disease, but there should always be hope, something that can fix you. The song was said to be written for someone close to the band who lost a loved one. In the song lyrically, there are multiple pieces of literary devices that help enhance the meaning. In the second line of the song "When you get what you want, but not what you need", there is alliteration with the w's. This alliteration fits in nicely with the feel of the song and also engages the listener. The stanzas that go "Lights will guide you home / and ignite your bones / and I will try to fix you" have many significant devices and meanings to the song as a whole. First, it is a hyperbole when it talks about igniting your bones. The exaggeration is meant to show the power the lights will have on you. Their is a lot of reassurance and encouragement in that line, letting the listener know that people will help you out and save you from your despair. It is also a symbol, because the lights can represent us as bystander, we are willing to help fix the person in need. The line "When you love someone, but it goes to waste  / could it be worse?". They are posing a rhetorical question within the song, making the listener think deeper on their situation. It helps the overall meaning because it can be taken that their are other people feeling just as bad or worse, and it is not impossible to be helped.

Is Music Poetry?

I'm a classically trained musician. In fact, I'm finishing this post in a hotel at a state band event (hope you all had fun in school). Considering my background in music, I found myself hesitant to defend music as poetry for last week's assignment for two reasons. First, 90% of what I listen to is wordless clarinet music which didn't leave me with a ton of material. Second, I think extracting the lyrics from a song neglects a large part of what contributes to its meaning.

I see music and poetry as different art forms. Like all art forms, they are means of expression and a way to communicate experience. However, they are also fundamentally different. While poems stand alone on paper, the lyrics of a song accompany specific music. Songwriters/musicians intentionally write this music to complement the lyrics (or vice versa) and to contribute to their meaning. I think, therefore, that analyzing a song's meaning without addressing musical elements like instrumentation, chord structure, major/minor key, etc. will not result in a thorough understanding.

The song I chose for last week's assignment was "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" by Arcade Fire. Their lyrics are always very thoughtful so the assignment wasn't too difficult. I found it hard, however, to completely ignore musical parts of the song when discussing it's meaning: the way the whimsical piano arpeggios at the beginning mimic the snowfall that the song describes; how the piano shifts to chords and the instrumentation builds as the speaker in the song grows up, but returns to light arpeggios at the end; the way that Win Butler sings emotionally, not necessarily beautifully, almost shouting at parts. All these elements and several more build the song's nostalgic mood and enhance the meaning of lyrics. I feel that setting "Tunnels" to other music or reading it without its musical accompaniment would change the whole experience of listening to it and could alter its meaning.

Essentially I want to say that I don't think it's right to defend music as poetry. Many song lyrics do fulfill Perrine's descriptors for poetry in the sense that they are a condensed form of literature. Sometimes song lyrics can stand as poems alone (e.g. our national anthem, which would probably kill the mood of our music poetry playlist but in hindsight would have been a funny choice). So yes, song lyrics can be poetic. And poetry, spoken word in particular, can have elements of music. That said, much of the rest of Perrine definition (communicating experience) applies to several art forms. Art forms can overlap, but they all have unique characteristics. Thus, while they can share elements, music and poetry are not the same thing. I think last week's assignment was really to look for elements of poetry in song lyrics rather than to defend the entire song as poetry, which would be impossible.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Viva la Vida

Viva La Vida, literally meaning, "long live life" is an ironic title for a song that conveys a significant amount of the speaker's pain to the audience. The sadness and regret that plague the speaker throughout the song become apparent right off the bat with the opening lines, "I used to rule the world, seas would rise when I gave the word," contrasting with the following lines, "now in the morning I sleep alone, sweep the streets I used to own." The speaker is reflecting on his fall from power and its effects on his lifestyle.

He describes everything he had as very fragile through the use of metaphor when he explains, "I discovered that my castles stand, upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand." The salt and sand are obviously very weak building materials, as anyone that  has made a sand castle would know.

As the song progresses, he tries to justify the situation he's currently in and take it as a positive one. The snippet begins, "Revolutionaries wait for my head on a silver plate, just a puppet on a lonely string, oh who would ever want to be king?" Using a rhetorical question, he wonders why he misses his past life as he lived under constant threat of violence surrounded by enemies. Despite dropping significantly from his past social position, in the end it can be seen as a blessing.

The song ends with the almost ominous "for some reason I can't explain, I know Saint Peter won't call my name. Never an honest word, but that was when I ruled the world." The author has lost all hope at a shot of getting into heaven due to the life he led as a ruler. Yet it seems to suggest that he's been improving as a person since his fall from power, as his dishonesty primarily occurred when he ruled the world.

The song praises life despite the pains that in can bring. The speaker was able to find benefits to his fall from power, such as his path to becoming a better person, and the newfound lack of people constantly trying to kill him. Even through all of the negative things a positive light can be seen.

Lost In My Mind (The Head And The Heart)

The Head And The Heart's Lost In My Mind is a testament to living in the moment and valuing happiness. Ultimately its message boils down to being able to accept yourself and your position in life, valuing the things that really matter in life, like "the stars up above" rather than work and money --  "bricklaying" and our "hands getting filled." Jonathan Russell, the lead singer, calls us to be honest with ourselves: are we satisfies with the conventional life we're living? If not, we should own up to our position so that "we can start moving forward"

The speaker in this song is Jonathan Russell, a guitarist, percussionist, vocalist and lyricist from Virginia. Russell partly sings this song to his brother. Jonathan thinks his brother is too focused on material pursuits, and isn't happy on the inside because he doesn't spend enough time after abstract pursuits. So in essence, Russell is singing out of deep empathy for his brother's situation. This motive sets the tone for the song.

In my opinion, this is the setting: the singer's mother just died. The brother is very successful, but does not have strong ties to the family, and his presence has always felt distant. The song comes in a time of mourning, when the two brother are together, contemplating where to go from here.

The first stanza is a plea to his brother for a moment of peace, when they won't be distracted by his dreams and material concerns. This is clearly a serious time, and Jonathan intends to try to appeal to his brother's emotions and conjure up some spontaneity in him.

The second stanza brings the mom into play. Here Jonathan appeals to his brother's sense of commitment and love for their mother. He understands his brothers' constant uneasiness and he understands that maybe the reason his brother doesn't fit in is because he never felt accepted growing up. For this reason, he sings "Momma once told me/You're already home where you feel love."

Every time he gives his brother a direction to follow, an emotion to experience, an accusation to respond to, he follows it with "I am lost in my mind/I get lost in my mind." In this way, he stays humble, stays true to his roots, and makes sure that his brother will not get defensive and hide behind his successful-objective-business-man persona.

Some of the song is simply Jonathan harmonizing. By staying simple with his lyricism, he further promotes the ideology he's living: in the moment, loving, naturalistic.

The most powerful part of the song comes about 2/3 of the way through when Jonathan outright questions his brother's persona. He knows his brother is hiding behind his external success. He knows his brother is lacking true, heartfelt emotion and openness. So he confronts his brother's persona with rhetorical questioning: "How's that bricklaying coming/How's your engine running/Is that bridge getting built/Are your hands getting filled."

He follows these accusations with the reasoning for his inquisition: "Won't you tell me my brother/Cause there are stars up above." Once his brother can fess up to his façade and embrace living in the moment and following what he truly loves in life, "We can start moving forward."

The confrontation thus is a show of true love. Jonathan is willing to confront, and momentarily hurt his brother, to rescue him from the fake life he's living.

Another approach to the song is that Jonathan is the one who was left behind. His brother was pragmatic and a hard worker. He worked his way up from "bricklaying" to building that bridge. Jonathan, on the other hand, always dreamed of the stars, but never got anywhere with his life and is now stuck dreaming, but not achieving. The "Mom" reference fits into this reading as well, for he is till at home with her, and thus remembers her adage best.

In any case, the song is special because it remains ambiguous. It's open to interpretation, and just about anyone in just about any situation can relate to the emotions expressed in some way.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Dear Mama

Tupac Shakur is one of the most talented rappers of all time. He often said he was a poet and this is reflected the complex lyrics found in the majority of his songs. One of his most meaningful and poetic songs is "Dear Mama" from the album Me Against The World. Shakur wrote this song as a tribute to his mom and all moms around the world. The theme is appreciation and gratitude for all his mother did to make sure he had a good childhood. The song is honest, artistic, and heartfelt. In his lyrics, Shakur describes the hardships he faced as a child and how is mother always was his rock. 

When I was young me and my mama had beef
Seventeen years old kicked out on the streets
Though back at the time I never thought I'd see her face
Ain't no woman alive who could take my mama's place
Suspended from school and scared to go home,
 I was a fool with the big boys breakin' all the rules.

These few lines honestly reflect on how Shakur cause some trouble for his mom during his childhood. It talks about the temptations he faced and how even though his relationship with his mother was rocky at times, she always stuck with him. He reflects on how even though his mother was single and poor she always made sure he had everything he needed. The chorus of the song further reflects this tone. 

Don't cha know we love ya? Sweet lady
Dear mama
Place no one above ya, sweet lady
You are appreciated
Don't cha know we love ya?

Tupac uses several poetic devices in this song but the most prominent one is repetition. The chorus repeats itself several times throughout the song and within the chorus he constantly repeats the phrases "dear mama" and "sweet lady". He also repeats the phrase "Theres no way I can pay you back, but my plan is to show you I understand. You are appreciated." I think he does this because he feels like he has no way to give his mother all she has given him. He feels that he can't thank his mother enough for all the work she has done and he is ashamed that he didn't realize it earlier.

Another poetic device Shakur uses is the metaphor: 

And even as a crack fiend, mama
You always was a black queen, mama

Shakur uses this metaphor to show the listener how he though of his mom. He always saw her as a powerful queen who overcame any obstacle that came her way no matter how challenging. Although this assignment is only about lyrics, I think the music video for this song does a good job of showing Tupac's relationship with his mom. You can see it here

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Backpack Demons

I almost feel like I'm cheating by choosing a song by Bjork- her lovable insanity and the fact that her lyrics are almost always non-sensical, Icelandic, or entirely figurative makes it pretty easy to choose a song out of a hat and call it poetry- but I am. You might justifiably call her a poet. One of my favorite quotes from her, "you shouldn't let poets lie to you" isn't even from a song, it's from an iconic and adorable interview where she describes what she believes is going on inside her TV. Her song "Wanderlust" from the album Volta is powerful, exciting, and a little haunting, not forgetting about the fever dream that accompanies it. While the assignment isn't about music videos, I think this is a really interesting one if you have time to watch it. The lyrics are about Bjork's constant hunger for something new, dissatisfaction with religion, and trying to connect more with nature. It was suggested in the comments on song meanings that the overall theme of the piece is her abhorrence of religion, and that at the end when she says "can you spot a pattern?" she is referring to suffering and problems religion has caused throughout history. I think this is a little bit of a reach, but it's an interesting theory to keep in mind.

Looking up the lyrics to Bjork's music is a much different experience to actually listening to it in the way that she puts words together and articulates them makes it a little surprising to see it on paper. I've always found it a little more interesting to hear music written by people who's first language isn't english and the way they interpret the language in new ways. I think it's ok to assume Bjork is the speaker, describing her experience of chasing something that she doesn't know exists, "I have lost my origin/ And I don't want to find it again/ Whether sailing into nature's laws/ And be held by ocean's paws". By personifying, or in this case animal-fying, nature, she can have a relationship with it. She spends all this time struggling with her inner demons (which can be observed literally in the video) but has a constant connection with nature and science. She is constantly growing, moving, and looking, but carries her inner turmoil with her. In the 5th stanza, "Lust for comfort/ Suffocates the soul/ Relentless restlessness/ Liberates me" she expresses how mankind's preference for those things that are comfortable, such as religious beliefs, is limiting to the soul. Even though her "relentless restlessness" could be viewed as tormenting or inconvenient, she finds that to be what frees her from getting caught up in these comforts. "I feel at home/ whenever the unknown surrounds me" this line is very contradictory, and illustrates how her only home is within herself, as she has no connection to feeble things. She shows that this feeling will stay with her forever in the line "Or will I want more?'. There is a tinge of self deprecating humor, as she knows she'll never find what she wants, which is kind of the definition of the word wanderlust.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Drop the Game

The song, "Drop the Game" by Flume and Chet Faker has only two stanzas of lyrics, after which is merely repetition. But I believe these stanzas convey a larger meaning to the song. As part of the album, Lockjaw, the song has a eerie, dark sort of feel but also, to me, sounds like a sort of call out for help or a shout out for sanity.

At the beginning of the song, he is describing his encounter with someone who appears very mysterious, making him question both their life and his.

      I've been seeing all, I've been seeing your soul
      Give me things that I wanted to know
      Tell me thing that you've done

The speaker has been dissatisfied  and this one person seems to be a catalyst for his insanity. The third line seems to be a beg for understanding. He wants to know the ways of this person who brings life, or "heat" to his world in what appears to be a time of self-reflection. At the next stanza, the beat of the song changes.

      Hush, I said there's more to life than rush
      Not gonna leave this place with us
      Drop the game, it's not enough

At this point in the song, I think that his desire for sanity changes extends to more of a plea to fins the meaning of life. Maybe it's only because I now associate the word "game" with Meursault, but his plea in these lines in many ways reminds me of Meursault and brings to surface a prevalent discussion similar to The Stranger. However, rather than emphasizing that relationships themselves have no meaning, I think the song is trying to say that the expectations that are associated with relationships are where the real trap is. In other words, everyone has these notions of what someone else wants, and it becomes this massive game.

To this mysterious person, he says,"See, you are my sun," demonstrating his dependence on this soul and how he would be unable to live without it. This sort of attachment has made him insane. He realizes he is, "Not gonna leave this place with us," that the relationship is eventually going to end, and that this game of attachment is "not enough" to give his life meaning anymore.

These lines repeat several more times, each time increasing in a more desperate tone. I know we are not supposed to include repetition in the analysis, but I think it's important to the meaning of song by displaying the desperate cry for sanity and the lack of relief.

I really enjoy the music video for this song and highly suggest you watch it. It really puts to life the tone of the song adding meaning to the words and insanity and disparity of it all. There are times when he varies from looking bored to exhausted which exemplifies his loss of hope and attitude towards the meaning of life. The movements are simple, effective, and at times almost an optical illusion which I think makes it all the more powerful, and could be choreographed as a metaphor for life itself.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Beast of America

This song is one you might recognize if you've even seen the trailers for Bioshock Infinite. "Beast" by Nico Vega is a particularly powerful song off of the band's first EP chooseyourwordspoorly, filled to the brim with raw emotion, dual meaning, and political commentary.

Poetry is the most condensed form of literature, and I think this song captures that pretty well. In just three distinct stanzas (that go on to be repeated) Nico Vega makes a statement about the government as it stands and how it's up for the citizens to stand up for themselves.

In the first verse, the lyrics say "Stand tall for the beast of America", personifying the country as a great 'beast', both the designated bad guy of the song, and a representation of the strong willed nature of American citizens. The first stanza goes:

Stand tall for the beast of America.
Lay down like a naked dead body,
keep it real for the people workin' overtime,
they can't stay living off the governments dime.

In the second line they sing "lay down like a naked dead body" providing fairly gruesome imagery that paints a fairly gruesome picture of trench warfare and other tactics having to do with passed soldiers. This re-purposing of the dead is a rather uncomfortable thought that further builds the song's divide between the beast and the people. They say the hardworking people of America "can't stay living off the governments dime", that the country alone isn't able to support the people in the way they deserve.

Stand tall for the people of America.
Stand tall for the man next door,
we are free in the land of America,
we ain't goin' down like this.

Repetition of the first line stresses again the power of her worlds. I think it's an important distinction that Nico Vega isn't saying we should stand up for American, but only "the people of America", making this song a bit about supporting those around you. Since "we are free in the land of America" we should not let the "beasts" and the worst parts of our government bully us into submission, as "we ain't going down like this".

This song is a battle cry, encouraging citizens to stand up for what they believe in, even when the government might say otherwise. The band offers "together we can stand up to the beast" and that "suppression is a prison/ So I hand you the key to your cell/ you've got to love your neighbor.../and let your neighbor love you back." These lines make me think that the meaning of this song isn't just "stand up for your country", in fact, it might not be that at all. The beast may not be the villain here at all: Nico Vega may be alluding to the feeling almost everyone experiences at some point in their lives, that of being an outcast. But if we stand tall together and let ourselves be helped and let ourselves learn to "love your neighbor", we all have the capacity to conquer the beast within.

Book of James

Billy McCarthy and Augustines have been through a lot. The album Rise Ye Sunken Ships draws on inspiration from the untimely deaths of McCarthy's mother and brother. Rise is not a sad album though. It does contain heavy material and some sad lyrics, but the music speaks a different story. If you listen to the song "Book of James" it tells a story. It tells a sad story, but the music creates a feeling of hope in the listener. The song seems to be on the neverending rise, like it is building and building. The best part is that it does not stop the song just ends.

The story being told is complex and deep. It is about the McCarthy's brother James who committed suicide. It is hard to tell who the speaker is. The easy answer is McCarthy talking about his brothers last days and how he is coping with the loss of his brother.The harder more complex answer is that the speaker is James talking about Bill retracing James' steps before his death in order to come to terms with the loss he has suffered.

The audience is most likely James listening to his brother from somewhere our mind cannot comprehend. The occasion is soon after James' death.

What a listener should take away from the song is that you cannot just give up. You cannot hold a grudge. You cannot let sadness and grief overcome you. McCarthy writes, "And all these words can all get spoken/ Just know we tried/ and you're forgiven" to let James know that he knows it was not James' fault.  McCarthy also lets James know he loves him when he says, "He stood there in his boots unable to/ Move/ And I came here to tell you that I love / You/." McCarthy is looking for closure and reassuring James that there is no bad blood between them.

The song developes the theme through the story telling but aslo great personification and imagery. The song starts with a metaphor for James. James is described as "a crimson beating heart" whose "snow white skin" is being burned by the sun. I think the "snow white skin" is a reference to James drug use and his poor health. James starts the story in a park. He is at peace, when he starts thinking about bad things. McCarthy says that "Storm clouds began to form in his head." He goes on to say, "And the howling of hardship and heartache/Kneeled and grinned in his face." McCarthy uses personification and diction. The personifaction makes the hardship feel human. The diction makes everything so much more vivid. The word "grinned" seems so  much more sneaky and deceptive then smiled. The story continues with James walking near "the 99 cent stores and garbage in the yards." This is probably where he used or bought drugs and it is the last of James story we hear. There is sort of an upside to this verse. It talks about how James was singing about the "crickets and backroads" where he and his brother used to play. This means that there was a chance that James was thinking aobut his brother at that time and he was not doing this to himself because he wanted to but because he could not stop.

McCarthy then uses the chorus to talk about how he feels that his brother is gone. McCarthy describes how he coped with his brother's death when he said, "Cause I tried the bible, tried the bottle,/ Tried the needle, tried to love people/ And in the end there ain't much to say." This line shows how vulnerable McCarthy was but how he still pushed on. He did not let the depression overcome him and he forgave his brother.

Augustines are brilliant and if you took the time to listen to this song then I reccommend you take  few more minutes and check out a few more less deep songs like "Cruel City."

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Boss Kills It...Again

One of the wisest men I've ever known has stolen my relatives' hearts, especially my mom's. He showed me the beauty in music at the early age of six years old. He still teaches me how to address topics of controversy. Despite his significant influence in my own life, my inclination to refer to him as 'Bruce' comes out of no type of personal connection with him (unfortunately).

In my opinion, if there were a Grammy for musical poetry, Bruce would steal the stage year after year. The most recent song I wanted to share was his from his album, Wrecking Ball. The song is titled "We Take Care of Our Own".

First off, the entire song itself is a criticism of the irony of politics and war in America. The title and subject of chorus revolves around the hypnotizing statement, "we take care of our own". Surrounding this statement though are questions that come after. Questions like

"Where the eyes, the eyes with the will to see/Where the hearts, that run over with mercy/
Where's the love that has not forsaken me/
Where's the work that set my hands, my soul free/
Where's the spirit that'll reign, reign over me/
Where's the promise, from sea to shining sea"

Bruce also opened with the line " I've been stumblin' on good hearts turned to stone" in a further criticism of the negative progress he feels America has taken. His song implies the idea that the "our own" is actually not well taken care of, rather neglected. This contrast in our world leaders' statements and the actual stability of our country exposes the absurdity of the claim and adherence to the statement "we take care of our own".

The last thing that gets me each time is the statement "Wherever this flag's flown". The imagery here introduces, or rather enforces, the patriotic component of this entire song. Whether it symbolizes a war triumph or a sign of unity, the flag is a symbol of America as one and here he hopes for America as one to shine positively.

Five Years, That's All We've Got

If I’m being honest, I’ve been waiting to write about this song since the beginning of first semester when Mr. Heidkamp mentioned we’d be arguing for a song as poetry: David Bowie’s “Five Years” from The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. The album revolves around this persona that Bowie created for himself (called Ziggy Stardust). Ziggy represents the definitive rock and roll character: sexual promiscuity, drug intake, peace, and of course, love. He is supposedly the human manifestation of an alien-type being that is attempting to present humanity with some message of hope in the last five years of its existence – which brings us to the song.

“Five Years” is about the end of the world. Bowie came up with the idea for it as a result of a dream he had where his dead father told him he had five years left to live. The song sends the message that with the knowledge that everything is going to end, the Earth is doomed to destruction.

In the song, Bowie describes various scenes of chaos: the news anchor crying on the television, sad images, people everywhere. I think something that makes it somewhat poetic is his use of irony. We have all these images of fear and then suddenly there’s a girl sitting calmly with a milkshake:

I think I saw you in an ice-cream parlor,
Drinking milkshakes cold and long
Smiling and waving and looking so fine,
Don’t think you knew you were in this song.

Bowie also uses repetition to show humanity’s inability to function at the knowledge that the world is going to end. The continued use of the phrase “Five years, stuck on my eyes,” kind of gives off the impression that when the world ends, the only thing people with be able to pay attention to is the fact that they have a limited amount of time left. They will refuse to live their lives happily and will instead live the next five years crying.

Another interesting thing about this song is that it is from Ziggy Stardust’s point of view. The way it is written, we get the idea that he starts off trying to cope by filling his mind with all these material things that fascinate him, and then realizes that he actually needs people in order to cope with knowledge that the world is doomed to destruction:

I heard telephones, opera house, favorite melodies
I saw boys, toys, electric irons and T.V.'s
My brain hurt like a warehouse, it had no room to spare
I had to cram so many things to store everything in there
And all the fat-skinny people, and all the tall-short people
And all the nobody people, and all the somebody people
I never thought I'd need so many people

As the song begins to end, we see that Ziggy is starting to fall into this less alien-like and more human-like sense of fear; he becomes absorbed by the idea of only having five years (again with the repetition).

I have also provided the video because I think everyone should go listen to “Five Years” right now thanks.

Let it Rain... Or the Engine Will Catch Fire

The title of the song that I chose is “Let it Rain” by OK Go.  It is apart of their album called Oh No that was released in 2005.
When I first listened to this song I had not given it the in depth interpretation that I have now realized it conveys.  I loved the music and the words that I could pick out to sing, however, I had no concept of the meaning of the song.  I now have come to the conclusion that this song is about getting lost in a lifestyle or relationship and having to deal with it.  The writer of this song is trying to explain that this girl has been in a routine that she might have thought would be temporary but is now finding that she has lost herself in the process and has to try to find her way back.  She turns to alcohol to improve her spiralling depression however she needs to let everything fall apart because she is keeping it in.

Instead of explaining this situation in the simplest terms that I have explained above OK Go translated her feelings and actions by using metaphors and personification.  The woman is constantly described using “super automatic pilot,” or “self-sustaining system,” and finally “cruise-control distressed” all personifying her as mechanical or almost programmed.  They also imply that she is not in control, she is in a routine that has taken over her life like she is a machine.  Also in the first line as opposed to saying she is stuck in the same situation or routine they use a metaphor and say “Super automatic pilot motor running down circles in the parking lot.”  The circles represent the seemingly never ending cycle.  Later the poem also explains how the routine has poisoned her by saying “Cruise-control distressed, her kind of cursed and kind of blessed her, engine running on the fumes.”  It began as a “blessing” but later was found to be “cursed” and now she is running out of will power or motivation (“engine running on the fumes”).  

I also think that alcoholism plays a role in this poem because in part of the chorus it asks, “Did you come here to Dance?/ What’s in your glass?/ Do you feel better?” The writer is asking the woman if the alcohol is being used to ease her pain and depression and we can guess that it is alcohol while setting the party scene with the dancing question.  It also describes her vision and “blue and blurry” which explains her cloudy mind from intoxication and the “blue” represents her developing depression.  

Finally in the main chorus it says “Let it rain let it pour.”  Basically representing the climax moment of letting out all of her pain and not keeping it in.  After saying “Let it rain” the writer or woman lets out a sigh of relief saying “Hallelujah” and exclaiming the reward that comes with lifting the weight of her sorrows.

Wavin' Flag

I first heard K'naan's song "Wavin' Flag" from the album Troubadour during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa but did not until recently know the story behind the artist and the song.  K'naan was born in Somalia but moved to Canada in 1991.  He wrote the song "Wavin' Flag" for Somalia and the hopes of the people for freedom. The song is poetry because it shares an experience of a fight for freedom and uses language to emphasize the emotions and attitudes of people in that situation.

The speaker believes what he is saying and is trying to convince other people like him to feel the same way. The pronouns in the lines "But look how they treat us, make us believers/ We fight their battles then they deceive us," creates an "us against them" situation. The speaker is trying to convince the audience to rise up against their recognize their injustices and rise up against their oppressors.  

The song's title and over reaching idea of a fight for freedom is summed up perfectly in the refrain "When I get older, I will be stronger. They'll call me freedom/Just like a wavin' flag." The simile of the speaker's comparison of himself to the flag represents his aspirations for freedom. A flag is a symbol for a country and the speaker wants his countrymen to be free. It allows applies personally to him as well as he wants freedom from the hardships he faces in life.

The allusions made in the song help to broaden the expereience that is shared in the song.  The reference to Buffalo soldiers in the line "Try to control us, but they couldn't hold us/ 'Cause we just move forward like Buffalo Soldiers," shows how they are uniting, in this case on racial terms. This allusion allows for the song's meaning to apply not only to the situation in Somalia but to other situations where people are oppressed because of their race.

In the refrain, "When I get older, I will be stronger. They'll call me freedom/Just like a wavin' flag. And then it goes back, and then it goes back/And then it goes back", the words "And then it goes back" are an example of multidimensional language. "And then it goes back," can be seen as continuing the symbol and imagery of a waving flag. But these lyrics could also mean that the situation in which people are fighting to be as free as the waving flag, is not changing. Not matter how hard they are hoping and fighting for freedom things are not getting any better for them. At the end of the song it repeats "I will be stronger, just like a waving flag," which means despite the situation not improving the speaker still keeps hope for freedom in the future.

K'naan's song's meaning and the experience it shares through the language can apply to various situations and people around the world, and for this I think it is poetry.

Ashes of American Flags

The song I have chosen to defend as poetry is "Ashes of American Flags" by Wilco from the album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. This song has always been very striking to me, for a number of reasons. The first and foremost of these reasons is that when I first heard it I didn't understand it at all. I couldn't make any sense of any part of song at all. It utterly confused me to no end. It was the fact that it escaped me entirely that made it stand out. But even though I didn't get what the song was saying it still struck me.  It wasn't until much later when I was considerably older and much less ignorant that I came to understand what it was actually about. The second reason it struck me was how it was performed. The was it's sung holds tones of sadness or melancholy. But the music seemed hopeful and more optimistic even if its's a little drawn out. This contradiction within the song partially contributed to my confusion about its message.

Perrine notes states explicitly that there is no clear cut definition between poetry and other literature, but poetry is in its essence the most highly condensed form of literature. Each word is often selected meticulously, with multiple factors considered such as what other meanings said word may have. "Ashes of American Flags encapsulates this perfectly. The song itself speaks of consumerism and how without realizing it, America has been left behind in its ravaging wake, and is no longer there so to speak. The lyrics never open state the word capitalism or consumerism. But the lines,

                                              I could spend three dollars and sixty-three cents
                                             On Diet Coca-Cola and unlit cigarettes

are clear indicators of these concepts. Coca Cola being one of the primary symbols for capitalism and consumerism. The song gets it's title from the idea that this capitalism and consumerism isn't what America is all about. That is the lie that is referenced in chorus. But since people have forgotten this it has left America burnt up and in ashes. As stated in the last stanza,

                                             I would like to salute
                                             the ashes of American flags
                                             And all the fallen leaves
                                             filling up shopping bags

The ashes of the American flag are all that is left inthe wake of consumerism. As Perrine states a poem does not have to have a moral or grand truth about the world it just has to make you feel . Whether or not you agree with what the song is saying, it certainly does elicit feeling. At least within me, despite the fact that I don't fully agree with it.

About You

XXYYXX- "About You", from the album XXYYXX

There is only one section of lyrics in this entire song. However, they are reversed and slowed down.

This song's lyrics aren't the only poetic thing about it- the music seems to have a rhythmic sequence to it.

One that speaks and has its own story.

The central vibe of this song is very romantic and lustful. It seems to have a meaning of missing someone, and wanting of their presence. This song deepens the true feeling of what it is like to miss a person.

"In the sea of night where my soul is real

Broken visions let the darkness heal

And the dream of life will surely reside"

These specific lyrics are quite vivid- they provide a sense of what the author is thinking. The night provides a shelter from the pain they experience; a shelter that they can live in comfortably in comparison to the harsh brightness of reality. This multidimensional language transcends physically being in the dark, but mentally in the dark. 

Another aspect of this song that is multidimensional is that the lyrics are backwards- actually they sound more intriguing and better being backwards than the traditional forwards. This sense of reversal again plays into the theme of what it feels like to miss someone- your life suddenly feels reversed, lacking a vital aspect of your daily being. 

"I can hear your heart, I can touch your skin

Feel the whole world breathing from within

I can live in here forever inside"

These lyrics provide a more intimate aspect to missing a human. While the previous lyrics are more about a personality/mental change, this stanza reads more to the physical. The author needs his/her's missing person for a physical reason- not necessarily sexual, just for comfort. The "live in here forever inside" is a way of saying that the person that is gone provided a sense of home, a sense of ease.


Chance the Rapper's Paranoia off of his most recent mix tape Acid Rap came to mind when we were asked to defend a song as poetry. I think his intention and also the theme of this song is displaying the constantly ignored and overlooked violence in Chicago. During the first verse of the song there is a line that reads "Down here it's easier to find a gun than it is to find a f*ckin parking spot." It is not really easier to find a gun than a parking spot but by making the comparison between the availability of the two Chance demonstrates that it is extremely easy to obtain a gun in Chicago . This contributes to the theme of this song because the availability of guns is one of the root causes of the gun violence in Chicago.

           In the same verse it reads " Why you think they don't talk about it? They deserted us here/Where the f*ck is Matt Lauer at? Somebody get Katie Couric in here/ Probably scared of all the refugees, look like we had a f*cking hurricane here". Chance uses Katie Couric and Matt Lauer who are both pretty famous news reporters as a symbol for the news in general. By asking "where the f*ck is Matt Lauer at?" Chance is questioning the lack of news coverage of the violence in Chicago. He also compares Chicago's ghettos to places that have recently been hit by a hurricane. With this comparison he not only demonstrates how run down the ghettos in Chicago are, he also demonstrates why the news should be covering the violence in Chicago. The news constantly covers places that have been hit by a natural disaster or that are facing other situations so why shouldn't they be reporting on the ghettos of Chicago when they look as if they have just hit by a Hurricane? These lines give examples of how the violence in Chicago is overlooked, thus contributing to the overall theme of the song.

     Another use of multidimensional language used in this song is in the last verse when is states  "Cause everybody dies in the summer/ Wanna say ya goodbyes, tell them while it's spring." This line is an exaggeration, not everybody dies in the summertime  but the murder rate is so high in Chicago during the summer that it can seem that way. This is why Chance tells his audience if they want to tell someone goodbye "to tell them while it's spring"  while it is much safer.  These two lines contribute to the theme of the song by exemplifying how intense the violent situation in Chicago really is. Throughout the song Chance uses multidimensional and figurative language to give his listeners insight on what the experience of living among the violence of Chicago is really like.This helps him get across "the what" or theme of the song, which is to me why this song can be considered poetry.