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.


Second Peer Review

Naomi Zaki –

“Hi Naomi,
Wow, this is great! I feel like your writing really resonates with what a lot of us feel as we get older, and reflect on the people we used to be and how much we’ve changed since we were children. I think you’re quite right when you describe our vision as “tainted and narrowed” as we get older because we now care about what others think about us and their opinions and beliefs influence us in turn. What a wonderful job you’ve done, well done!! 🙂”

Third Blog

TASK: Give a brief account (in your own words) of why Whitman referred to Abraham Lincoln as “O Captain! My Captain”.

American poet Walt Whitman referred to 16th US President Abraham Lincoln as his captain in his poem “O Captain! My Captain!” because of Whitman’s personal feelings toward the President. The American Civil War was an important event in Whitman’s life and it was during this time that Lincoln was President (hence why Lincoln is the “captain” in Whitman’s poem – he is the captain of the ship that is the United States of America). While initially indifferent to Lincoln, Whitman came to think differently to the President overtime and grew to greatly approve of him.

The poem was written after Lincoln’s assassination in 1865 and Whitman uses the poem to eulogise and mourn him. He asks Lincoln, his captain, to “rise up and hear the bells,” in the second stanza to celebrate the end of the war and his admirable leadership throughout the war, “”for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills; for you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding; for you they call…”. The repetition of “for you” emphasises the deep love the people – and Whitman – had for Lincoln. The third stanza takes on a more somber and serious tone, as Whitman paints the picture of his captain lying dead with “his lips are pale and still” and with “no pulse nor will”. The rhyming couplets further drive this sadness home and makes the reader feel the people’s (and Whitman’s) loss deeper.


First Peer Review

Ngaire Ale –

“Hi Ngaire,
I really like your post and totally agree with what you’re saying. I think you’re so right when you say that the Native Americans’ love and connection to the land stems from their deep spiritual relationship with it and the fact that they use it for everything and rely so heavily on it, whereas white people only see what they can invest in the land and what they can gain from it. I love how, at the end, you bring in what trees and water do for us and how the Native Americans’ connection with the land can definitely be used today and that it would be to our benefit if we took their approach to things. Wonderful work!! 🙂”

Second Blog

TASK: Can you say briefly (in around 250 words) how the thoughts and images of either Emerson or Thoreau (or both) have given you a clearer sense of what it is you are looking for in your own life? Maybe the sentence from Walden might be a catalyst for this: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. (Chapter 2 Where I Lived, and What I Lived For). Or maybe the sentences from Nature captures what you wish for: “I become a transparent eye-ball. I am nothing. I see all. The currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am a particle of God.” (Chapter 1)

The thoughts and images of Emerson and Thoreau have given me a clearer sense of what I’d like in life as they desired a simpler world and, in turn, a simpler life. When Thoreau says, in Walden, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived”, he’s saying that there is more to life than we think and he would like to see what else there is in the world before he dies. He’s saying that there is beauty, wealth and knowledge beyond what we traditionally think as beautiful, rich and knowledgeable and that is all to be found in nature and nature simplifies things for us and also puts everything into perspective. I think we could all use a bit of that in the midst of our busy 21st century lives!

The images of Emerson and the eyeball similarly echo Thoreau’s sentiments. When Emerson says, “I become a transparent eye-ball. I am nothing. I see all. The currents of the Universal being circulate through me; I am a particle of God”, I think he means that when we take a step back from life as we know it, and all we think it means, we can actually learn so much more about the world and what it can offer us and teach us. We can learn more and enrich our lives if we disconnect ourselves from our conscious minds and be a particle of God and feel the world around us, through God’s eyes.