Ninth Blog

TASK: From today’s massive, subversive and powerfully creative world of the Beats and beyond, which artist and/or writer inspired you most?

The Beats Generation and New York School was an unknown topic to me before I started studying this unit. I had heard of writers like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg but I had only heard of them in passing; I hadn’t read nor studied any of their works. However, when I was introduced to them, I was blown away by their use of language, the messages they were conveying and, most importantly, the authenticity and freshness of their words! One writer in particular stands out: Allen Ginsberg.

Never have I ever come across a writer so genuine and direct as Ginsberg. I’ve studied literature all throughout school and university, so I’ve come across my fair share of writers, but none like Ginsberg. In “A Supermarket in California”, Ginsberg addresses Walt Whitman and, to me, he is lamenting the loss of Whitman’s vision for what the world should like and what Whitman’s own world looked like. His frankness and imagery of Charon the boatman when he says “… what America did you have when Charon quit poling his ferry and you got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the boat disappear on the black waters of Lethe?” conveys the despair Ginsberg feels for Whitman as the vision of the ideal America has not come to fruition.

In “Footnote to Howl”, it’s incredible how free Ginsberg is with his language and it’s clear how Ginsberg became so infamous for his blunt honesty in his work. I had to seriously restrain myself from laughing out loud while reading this particular piece of work because I’ve honestly never read anything quite like it! He describes everything from skin and body parts to various people to various sounds and places and everything in-between. He leaves nothing out and describes everything as holy. This makes me inclined to believe that Ginsberg had a fair amount of spirituality to him and he believed in a higher power. I believe him to be saying that everything has a purpose and everything has a reason for existing, otherwise why would they be here at all? Why would they even exist at all?

Advertisements

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.

faulkner-nobel

William Faulkner receiving his Nobel Prize in literature. Image from: http://www.openculture.com/2013/05/7_nobel_speeches_by_7_great_writers.html

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.

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.

lincoln

Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States. Image from: http://www.brandeis.edu/now/2017/February/lincoln-burt-qa.html

 

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.

 

First Blog

TASK: Can we apply the Native American sense of the importance of nature to make our own lives more whole and meaningful?

I believe that, by applying the Native American sense of nature’s importance, we can make our lives more whole and meaningful. Many people believe in some sort of a higher power, whether it be God or some other deity, science or something more spiritual that transcends this world. The Native Americans believed in nature and that connection between them and the ground upon which they lived is something that was so deeply entrenched in their lives and made their lives so much better.

Most Indigenous people of any land, the Indigenous Australians included, have a very deep, special and unique connection to their land and believe that because it serves us so much, they should respect it utterly and completely in return and I can’t say I disagree with that. The land gave them everything they could ever need in life (food, water, fire, materials to make shelter) and, as a result of this, their lives were so much simpler and far less complicated. Our lives seem so muddied and confusing because of things like technology and how busy our lives tend to be, as well as today’s consumerism, and we often forget what it is to be human or what our relationships mean and we also forget to be grateful for what we have, instead of always taking for granted like we do.

Applying the Native American sense of the importance of nature can definitely make our lives more whole and meaningful.