Wednesday, October 30, 2013

[i carry your heart with me (i carry it in]

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)


I have never understood the use of parentheses in poetry. Frequently they can be used “wrong”. One might assume that since it’s poetry, anything goes, but that is not the case. Poetry, while often shorter and harder to decipher than prose does have rules to a certain extent. Throwing around parentheses within the lines of your poetry might give the poem an air of sophistically, a look that is “edgy” and modern. But a “good” poem (which is of course relative to the reader) concerns itself not only with its appearance but with the meaning being conveyed. And what makes a poem successful is its ability to convey the meaning effectively. For years, I had thought e.e. cummings merely threw around grammatical mistakes and strange formatting to “defy the system”, but I was wrong. There is a clear purpose to his unusual style if only one would take the time to look just a bit deeper. His poem, “[i carry your heart with me(I carry it in]” reads as two poems.  

Here is the poem excluding the section in parentheses:

i carry your heart with me
i am never without it
                        I fear

no fate I want
no world
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart

Here is the poem exclusively with the section in parentheses:

(i carry it in
My heart)  (anywhere
i go you go my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing my darling)

(for you are my fate,my sweet)
(for beautiful you are my world,my true)

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
And the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
Higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)

(I carry it in my heart)

The phrase “i carry it in my heart” repeats a few times within the course of the poem. But every single time it appears, it appears within a set of parentheses e.e. cummings plays with his formatting, giving it a visual element as well. The parentheses represents the cavity of his heart, and by doing so (and keeping it consistent throughout the poem ) e.e. cummings paints a picture in his reader’s mind not only through his words but through formatting. He’s able to convey two messages, one being an intimate confession of love and the other being about the life he carries in his heart. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

shaper vs. dragon

In John Gardner’s novel, Grendel, the universe is split into two: good and evil. In general, the shaper is perceived to be “good”. In the human societies, he gives men purpose. He defines “good” and “bad”, and records histories. Grendel, our narrator, is conflicted with the shaper. He is moved by the shaper’s song and the meaning that he reveals in this universe, but at the same time he sees through the lies that the shaper creates. The shaper rewrites history to glorify humans and their wars. The Danes believe his lies easily, but Grendel is not that na├»ve. He was present for the events and remembered them differently. However, there is a part of him that wants to believe in the shaper. He asks his mother in the earlier chapters about their existence and purpose in the world, but she simply conveyed to him through her body language, “don’t ask.” In the shaper’s version of the truth, Grendel is a monster born from the fight between two brothers, Caine and Abel. His miserable life is explained by the fact that Grendel was on the losing side and had God’s wrath brought down upon him. And while the story of Caine and Abel does not change any aspect of his life, it does establish a role for him to fulfill. The dragon on the other hand, offers no explanation for Grendel. There is only one truth: we all are born and we will all die. Life is a pointless accident. It starts and ends quite suddenly. In the long run, his actions will not matter. Fate is already set, and as time passes everything would be forgotten. The dragon has the ability to see the past, present, and future, but he does nothing to change the future. He tells Grendel, “  My knowledge of the future does not  cause the future. It merely sees it, exactly as creatures at your low level recall things past.” (page 63)The actions that will be remembered will be misinterpreted as “good” or “evil”, regardless of intentions. While the shaper seems to be a vital part of the human society, giving them  reason to live, it is Grendel himself that motivates the humans. Like the dragon whose desire and purpose in life is to seek out gold and sit on it,  the humans are driven by their desire to defeat Grendel. So in the end, it is not the shaper that drives the humans, but Grendel himself. However, it is unclear whether fate is driving Grendel to make certain decisions.  The real question is what is driving Grendel to be the monster he is. The dragon would interpret his actions as being Grendel’s free will. However, according to the shaper, his actions would be due to the forces of “good” and “evil”. In the end, after the 5th chapter, Grendel seems to have chosen the dragon’s side. He is set free to go on a rampage after basically told that he should “do as he likes”. This unfortunately will have dire consequences on the Danes. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Valentine

 A Valentine

For her this rhyme is penned, whose luminous eyes,
Brightly expressive as the twins of Leda,
Shall find her own sweet name, that nestling lies
Upon the page, enwrapped from every reader.
Search narrowly the lines!- they hold a treasure
Divine- a talisman- an amulet
That must be worn at heart. Search well the measure-
The words- the syllables! Do not forget
The trivialest point, or you may lose your labor
And yet there is in this no Gordian knot
Which one might not undo without a sabre,
If one could merely comprehend the plot.
Enwritten upon the leaf where now are peering
Eyes scintillating soul, there lie perdus
Three eloquent words oft uttered in the hearing
Of poets, by poets- as the name is a poet's, too,
Its letters, although naturally lying
Like the knight Pinto- Mendez Ferdinando-
Still form a synonym for Truth- Cease trying!
You will not read the riddle, though you do the best you can do. 
- Edgar Allan Poe

Throughout his poem, “A Valentine”, Edgar Allan Poe conveys his advice to his lover about life and its hidden meanings by comparing it to poetry and writing. In the third line he tells her that she “shall find her own sweet name”, or her own meaning and purpose in life. Names are not only used for simple identification and to minimize confusion; they also represent a being and their actual identity. It comes to be “who they are” and defines their physical and mental being. So he words the line carefully to place more than one meaning. The second reason for that particular line about her “own sweet name” might also be hiding a clue because he goes on to say that it “lies / Upon the page, enwrapped from every reader.” Edgar Allan Poe may have hidden his lover’s name within the lines of this poem, hiding it from the rest of the readers. The word “page” also carries a second meaning. He might be using the pages of a book as a metaphor for the blank canvas of her life that she will fill with her own meaning. Her true purpose would then be “enwrapped from every reader”, because it is impossible for a person to truly understand the intentions of the writer. “Search well the measure- / the words- the syllables!” refer not only to the structure of his poem, but to the small clues that life leaves as well. He tells her that there is “no Gordian knot/ which one might not undo without a saber, /if one could merely comprehend the plot.” He alludes to the era of Alexander the Great when he speaks of the Gordian knot. The Gordian knot is often a metaphor for a unsolvable problem. Again, he compares life to a work of writing, explaining to “his valentine” that there is no problem that cannot be solved if only you can understand the plot. The plot, of course, refers to the “greater plan” or fate. However the poem takes a sudden twist of darkness in line 13, “Eyes scintillating soul, there lie perdus” Perdus can refer to several things. Originally a French term, “perdu” is a soldier assigned to an extremely hazardous duty ( The second meaning is hidden, concealed, or obscured. ( In this context, Poe is probably using the first definition. “the leaf” in line 12 can be  an allusion to the Tree of Knowledge. We seek out the meaning of life but cannot comprehend what is written on the leaf.  The “three eloquent words oft uttered in the hearing” can be referencing the words, “I love you” since poets are frequently known as hopeless romantics. As for “as the name is a poet’s, too,” Poe is telling her that he cares for her so much that his name, which consequently is 3 “words” long, has become “I love you”. But “I love you”, like “the knight Pinto-Mendez Ferdinando” or Fernando Mendez Pinto, who was a Portuguese explorer and writer known to have recorded his adventures with many lies in between that no one is sure how truthful his tales are, the phrase is naturally used for lying. However his feelings are genuine, they “form a synonym for Truth”, his truth. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Comparing Wineburg, Ohio and “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

WInesburg, Ohio, a collection of short stories written by Sherwood Anderson, deals with the overwhelming loneliness and disillusionment that sometimes comes with growing old. Similarly, T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” addresses the confusion and hopelessness of growing older.  The loss of youth is expressed through lines such as “I grow old…I grow old…” (line 120) and “Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?” (line 122) The peach in line 122 bears connotations of sex and sweetness, both which are often saved for the young. The speaker’s constant questioning throughout the poem: “To wonder, ‘Do I dare?’ and, ‘Do I dare?” (line 38), “Do I dare / Disturb the Universe?” (lines 45-46),  and “So how should I presume?” (line 54) also serves to put an emphasis on the self-doubt the speaker feels, indecisiveness, and inability for the speaker to act out on his desires. Similarly, Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio characters encounter this same problem. The majority of them are grotesques that cling to their “truths” or desires. Like J. Alfred Prufrock, the characters in Winesburg, Ohio waste their time asking questions, dappling in self-pity, and giving into self-doubt. They deny themselves the company and understanding that they seek through their inability to act on their desires. Instead, they waste their time by praying, speaking to imaginary characters that they made up inside their heads, and creating shapes of figures out of pillows in their bed. J. Alfred Prufrock’s question, “So how should I presume?” is equivalent to that of Elizabeth Willard’s praying in “Mother”. The questions and praying are only a distraction, an excuse to not fulfill their desires. Elizabeth Willard has every capability to leave Winesburg, Ohio. She has the money; her father gave her eight-hundred dollars before he passed away. In fact, she hid the money in the walls, and it remained there until the day she died. In the same way, J. Alfred Prufrock, who we assume is the speaker of T.S. Eliot’s poem, has the potential and means to do the simple things he keeps asking the reader and universe permission for. He asks, “how should I begin?” instead of simply starting, and seems to be confused and apprehensive about going through with the simplest, most trivial things. He is extremely concerned about what others think of him as he goes over how he looks in lines 40-45, “ With a bald spot in the middle of my hair- / (They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”) / My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin, / My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin- / (They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”) “Like the characters of Winesburg, Ohio it is what others think of them that leads to their isolation; it is their inability to connect and understand one another.  In Sherwood Anderson’s “Loneliness”, the character, Enoch, could not connect with others because he could not express how he felt. This inability to express himself could have been caused by the self consciousness he felt as others judged his artwork. The speaker in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” also experiences isolation and loneliness as he cannot express himself.