On Close Reading & Lessons from "The Blind Men and the Elephant"

When attempting a close reading of a poem, as a caution to keeping in mind the integrity of the poem throughout the process, I think about the parable of the blind men and the elephant. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blind_men_and_an_elephant Each one touches just a part of the animal and each one thinks they've come in contact with a completely different thing.

Because there are multiple elements of a poem, there are many things to closely study. To my mind these are the parts of a poem: Form,  structure, texture and energy are the interior aspects of the poem. The exterior also includes energy, along with function, substance and spirit. Each element is interwoven, dependent upon each other to create the experience of the poem itself.

By interior, I mean it is something that the poet must do in order for it to be a part of the poem. By exterior, I mean the poem has to be read in order for that element to come to life.

Substance I define as "what is in a poem". Function is "how a poem works as art". Spirit is "why the poem exists" or "the consciousness" in or of the poem.

Texture can be defined as the materials of the poem. Structure is the organization of the materials, the taxonomy (my term) of the materials, or, another way is to say the architecture. Form is the arrangement of the materials --not in the traditional sense of the term "poetic form" -- but to create harmony, pattern, symmetry, recurrence and unity. To put it another way, in the words of Robert Duncan, "It has never seemed...that the true form of a poem was a convention or an ideal of form, but, as in life, a form having its convention in the language of our human experience, as our bodies have their information in the life-code of the species, and our spirit in the creative will."

Energy is the most difficult thing to break down and analyze in a poem, but it is the thing that makes it successful. A poem could have adequate substance or form or texture but without energy, it is unfulfilling. Voice is an element of energy, as is freshness, surprise, authenticity and confidence (confidence of the poem, not the person writing it; confidence that it is the way it is supposed to be, to put it Zen-ly).

The close readings done on the Emily Dickinson poems have, so far, focused mostly on the aspects of texture and function, as in: this is the word chosen, what could it mean? what does it do? Structure and form, substance and spirit, and energy of the poem aren't really addressed. Often those things are described as metapoetic. But I don't consider them above the essence of a poem, I consider essential  ingredients in what makes a poem as poem (as opposed to a play or a story).

Mistakes? Meh

This is up in my office. I feel this way often.

Moh's NEW Hard Rock Scale

Moh's NEW Hard Rock Scale goes to eleven. Rock on!

Cool Light Fixtures

If you go to JP Licks in Jamaica Plain for ice cream, look up. They have cool lighting fixtures. 

I Want That Alot. It looks really cute!

I came across the Alot creature from this excellent post at "Hyperbole and a Half."

I had a sign with the non-existing word "alot" with the cross-out sign over it and would freak out, in a perhaps futile attempt to rid the critter from littering the page.

If you, too, have a mini stroke whenever you see the phrase a lot combined into the non-existent word alot, read this awesome little post. It's very soothing.


Artsy Mugs at Fire Opal

These funky pop art pottery mugs are in the window right now at Fire Opal Art Gallery in Jamaica Plain. I saw them after getting ice cream at JP Licks. Window shopping! They're $46 each. That's expensive coffee container. 

Summertime Reading - Time to revisit Harry?

It's been since 2010 that I re-read all the Harry potter books. I'm thinking that might be my summer time reading.

36 Questions to Fall in Love

From the New York Times article "To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This." http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/11/fashion/modern-love-to-fall-in-love-with-anyone-do-this.html

Set I

1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?

2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?

3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?

4. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?

5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?

6. If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want

7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?

8. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.

9. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?

11. Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.

12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?

Set II

13. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?

14. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?

15. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?

16. What do you value most in a friendship?

17. What is your most treasured memory?

18. What is your most terrible memory?

19. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?

20. What does friendship mean to you?

21. What roles do love and affection play in your life?

22. Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.

23. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?

24. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?


25. Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “We are both in this room feeling ... “

26. Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share ... “

27. If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.

28. Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time, saying things that you might not say to someone you’ve just met.

29. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.

30. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?

31. Tell your partner something that you like about them already.

32. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?

33. If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?

34. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?

35. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?

36. Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how he or she might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.

Letters to Chuck

I'm not sure he'll get this, person who put together this cool envelope. But I'm digging what you're throwing out there.

Color Blindness

Hey-oh! I've got perfect color vision. I think this is why I'm good at accessorizing. And also why color appears in my writing a lot.

How do you do? http://www.xrite.com/online-color-test-challenge

The Beauty of "Loafing"

Well, there was indeed some free time for me in the month of January. And I used it to both loaf about and to get busy cleaning up the home and to pursue all sorts of good things.

Firstly, I can now do a mediocre job at single stitch crochet. I've made a pot holder, a pouch for my glasses and a scarf. Next is a headwrap. Excitement! I love it because with a hook and $2 in yarn, you can make tons of stuff.

The Christmas decorations are down and in their place, though not as lavish, are a slight nod to Mardi Gras (sadly I won't be attending this year, but am hoping to get back down to visit Mom and the city of New Orleans for St Patty's) and to stupid crappy dumb whatever icky Valentine's Day (because I'm a romantic, but an embittered one). I got a bargain of $1.50 a curtain from Boomerangs for their linen sale and now the living room and kitchen have a little extra pretty pop of color.

I stopped being a full time high school English teacher almost ten years ago, so it was time to go through the storage box of all my notebooks and lesson plans and teacher materials and throw away the useless stuff. I still kept a few things, because I like how I structured the dissemination of materials from my classes and wanted to keep the framework of good ideas. I don't think I'll ever stop teaching, whether helping community college students find materials in their library or doing creative writing units with elementary school kids or who knows what.

After a longer than usual hiatus, the jewelry making resumed. I tend to do a lot of necklace beading while watching Red Sox games. And last season, with Bobby V leading the Kangaroo Court, I wasn't really into watching them sink lower than I'd ever imagine. I brought it out when I wanted a change up from crocheting.

For books, I did not acquire many new ones, for a few reasons: I have a million purchased ones to catch up on already and I have a bunch that I requested from the library. I will write about them in another post, but for whatever reason, there's a million titles that are French-oriented.
I did do a little bit of editing of the manuscript I've been most intently working on, and I also worked on organizing more of the other ones.

I also watched tons of movies and shows on Netflix. I will also leave those for their own separate post.

While doing lots of creative loafing, I've also had a job interview, put in a for a bunch of jobs, cleaned the storage area on the porch, cleaned out my car, cleaned up the living room, cleaned out the fridge and have been reading two books about career building. Because right now I'm starting to think I might needd to radically rethink what I want to be when I grow up. That may be why I'm almost, but not quite, getting what I'm seeking. That might be the message sent...hmm...

Reading this week: "What's with Modern Art?"

This is a chapbook of Frank O'Hara's art writing. First edition printing of 1500. I purchased it at Gulf of Maine books in Brunswick a few years back, for $5. That was the original price. That's what they do there, sell whatever they get for the price they got it for. Keep it on the shelves for years until a lucky person finds it.