Seventh Peer Review

Helena Citroni –

“Hi Helena,
I’m in complete agreement with you when you say that there is an immense sadness to Cash’s character and it’s heartbreaking to read about his pain. I also love that you hone in on the hidden messages in the words and read in between the lines because there is so much about Cash that is unsaid, maybe more than what is said. I also think that you’re so right when you say that carpentry and crafting things is Cash’s way of coping with his mother’s death and I love that extra bit you wrote that creating the loveliest and nicest coffin is his way showing his mother how much he cares – that is so poignant. What an emotive post, well done!! 🙂”


Eighth Blog

TASK: How do you understand Faulkner’s extraordinary statement in his Nobel Prize speech “the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself … alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat”?

I understand Faulkner’s statement to mean that humanity and the human spirit is a very complex concept and is a highly interesting subject to write about. Just before this particular bit in Faulkner’s speech, he says that young people writing today have forgotten about this and how engaging it can be to read.

The human heart in conflict is something that everyone on earth, alive or dead, can relate to in some way, shape or form whether it’s through heartbreak, loss, disappointment, betrayal, love or any other human emotion. When Faulkner says only the human heart in conflict is the only thing “worth writing about”, I believe he means that it is something anyone can write about. You don’t need great skill or mastery over the English language (or any language for that matter) to effectively convey what it’s like for someone to be in pain over anything, whether it be physical, mental or emotional.

Writing about something that absolutely everybody in the world can relate to, writing characters whose shoes everybody in the world can walk around in, writing about situations that everybody has experienced is worth the agony and the blood, sweat and tears because the end result will be something that audiences can relate to and love. I think Faulkner’s key point here is perfection doesn’t always happen in real life – it practically never happens – and it’s important for other art forms, including literature, to remember that and write about non-perfect, flawed, human characters. And, most importantly, all the work, time and effort that goes into writing these human characters and stories will be so worth it in the end.


William Faulkner receiving his Nobel Prize in literature. Image from:

Sixth Peer Review

Charles Lilienthal –

“Hi Charles,
This is a great post, it’s full of wonderful detailed analysis and it’s very thorough and well thought out – well done! I’m in complete agreement with your analysis here and your closing remarks: there’s nothing wrong with the future and embracing modernism but we can’t let it consume us and neither can we let it change who we are or make us forget who we are. Great work!”

Seventh Blog

TASK: Select the one modernist poem or text that you found spoke to you most directly. Quote the text and tell us how the text moved you.

The modernist poem that most affected me was “Burnt Norton” by T.S. Eliot. The stanza that most stood out to me was the fifth stanza because it talks about the importance of words and how they can have such a huge impact if you only let them.

When Eliot writes, “Words, after speech, reach into the silence. Only by the form, the pattern, can words or music reach the stillness, as a Chinese jar moves perpetually in its stillness”. This particular part of the text moved me because it talks about the impact that words can have on us, whether they be kind and encouraging words, or words that are meant to scare us and put the fear of God into us. Eliot basically says that, after they are spoken, words still linger in the silence that follows. The silence can be the other person formulating a response to what was just said or letting the words sink in or just thinking about what the words mean and what message they are supposed to convey.

Eliot uses a wonderful analogy next of a Chinese jar and he says that a Chinese jar is an inanimate object and, therefore, doesn’t move or talk or do anything meaningful but it can still mean something to someone and make an impact on them, if only they let it and take their time to ponder it. Eliot compares words to a Chinese jar and implores his audience to also, like the Chinese jar, let words have an impact on people like art does.

Fifth Peer Review

Danielle Gatt –

“Hi Danielle,
This is a very thoughtful post with some very good ideas supporting it, good work! 🙂
I am in complete agreement with you when you say that poetry is a journey and it’s open to interpretation; everyone has a different experience reading poetry and that lets them make their own unique journey. Your concluding remark also follows this point nicely when you say that what you learn from poetry isn’t always clear. And your last sentence is gold: “much like life itself, poetry -and the wisdom it may bring about- is not always presented on a silver platter.” – genius!!”

Sixth Blog

TASK: Write a letter to either Robert Frost or Robert Lowell and tell them about one of their poems that has had a real impact on you.

Dear Mr. Lowell,

I’m writing to you to tell you of my newfound appreciation and respect for your work, especially your poem “For the Union Dead”. It took me a few reads to fully process the words and your meaning behind them but once I started to comprehend it, I was aghast at the message you were trying to convey. At first, I got very confused at the constant references to an “aquarium” and various marine references but then I honed in on one sentence particularly: “he waits for the blessed break”. I was wondering what that break would be so I began to think a bit deeper…

I think you might mean a break from slavery altogether. Not just in the typical sense of having other people – who society and history deem to be of a lesser status than the rest of us for no good reason – do our chores and dirty work for us, but also in the sense that everyone, no matter what walk of life you come from, is becoming more and more a slave to laziness and our most materialistic desires. You frequently make references to cars and machinery – maybe a hint as to the sign of the times? I think you intended this poem to be a wake up call for us as the world “slides by on grease” – I believe this to be another hint that the natural world around us is fading and the manmade world is taking over. Cars, machines and technology are now our slaves and are consuming us as we can make them do almost whatever we want whenever we want.

You wrote the word “servility” in the poem and this means to be like a slave, to be willing to serve and to be completely dependent on others’ wills. I think that’s a very fitting word for what you are trying to warn us of and what we need to be aware of: to not become slaves to our materialistic desires and, ultimately, the promise of an easy life with nothing natural and no hard work required.

You have written a most profound poem, sir, and I heartily commend your work here!

Felicity McManus

Fourth Peer Review

Christella Bade –

“Hi Christella,
I absolutely love your post this week. I love how detailed your letter is, and how you justify feeling the way you do about “Going to Meet the Man”. I did the same topic myself and I feel exactly the same way you do. Your writing is so eloquent and makes reading your blog so much easier. Well done! 🙂

Just one tiny thing: may I suggest proof-reading your work more than once before you publish it? At the very beginning of your blog this week, when you’re introducing the topic, you wrote “lat” instead of “last”. Otherwise, you’ve done such a wonderful job and I look forward to reading more of your work in the coming weeks!”

Fifth Blog

TASK: Write a letter to James Baldwin telling him what you think of the power of his writing.

Dear Mr. Baldwin,

I’m writing to tell you what I think about your writing and, quite simply, I think you have a mastery over words and the English language like no one else. You have a talent for bringing images – pleasant or unpleasant – so vividly to life that your readers are left speechless, searching for words. The images you paint are ones that live in your readers’ memories and haunt their thoughts for days after.

This was my experience when I read your short story “Going to Meet the Man”. I had been warned that this was an incredible piece of work and yet, it depicted something so horrific. I had no idea how horrific until I actually started reading it and while I was, my palms started to sweat and the words began to leap off the page and into my mind, conjuring up the scene you were painting in the story. I could start smelling the smells you were describing, seeing the sights you were seeing and feeling the objects and materials you were writing about.

Mr. Baldwin, I don’t know if I’ve ever read something more ghastly or amazing in my life and that is a true testament to your writing skills. However, I would be very remiss if I didn’t tell you how sorry I am for these awful events having occurred in the first place and giving you cause to write about them and reason to describe so vividly such horrors.

Felicity McManus

Third Peer Review

Suzanne Solaiman –

“Hey Suzanne

What an emotive post you’ve written! I did the same blog topic this week and I’m always interested to see how other people have interpreted the topic. The message about equality and doing what’s right is clearly conveyed here and I like how you write “even if it means going against the status quo” – I think it just brings home how hard it can be sometimes to do the right thing because of how people will judge you or because it’s just not what you’re used to.”

Fourth Blog

TASK: Imagine you are Huck on the raft. Write a letter to the world saying why you want to be where you are and why the world should be different than what it is.

Dear World,

I’ve capitalised the word “world” because I’m now writing to the world as if it were a real, living, breathing, talking person. It’s a real place, why can it not be a real person too? I think it is sometimes. Nature responds when something happens: the leaves rustle and the water ripples when the wind blows, the birds fly south for the winter to find food, bears hibernate when food is scarce, the ground and water freeze over in ice when it gets too cold and fires start when it gets too hot. There’s always cause and effect.

This is why I want to be where I am. Travelling the length of America by river, with no end in sight, no responsibilities to worry about and no one I owe anything to. Discovering the country by water has opened my eyes to how vast the world is and how much more there is to it than the life I was born into. How beautiful, wondrous, incredible and astonishing it all is! This is why I want to be where I am: the opportunities out here are practically limitless and the experiences nothing like I’ve ever known before.

The world should be different than what it is and I can’t really understand why it is the way it is or how it even came to be this way. The world should be a place where people can choose what they want their life to be, instead of just following in their parents’ footsteps or doing what’s expected of them. A place where everyone is equal and no one is lesser than anyone else for any reason. It’s remarkable what travelling with someone like Jim can teach you and, more importantly, what people like Jim himself can teach you. People truly come from all walks of life but they are still people: you just need to take the time to get to know them. That’s the way the world should be. So different from what it currently is.