Thursday, December 17, 2009

--Well, my Christmas dinner has been spoiled anyhow. (Simon Dedalus)

[Post a response to one of the winter/holiday poems in the comment box below. You'll find more information about this at #3 below.]

I hope not to spoil your holiday feasts be they in celebration of the winter solstice (21 Dec this year), Christmas, St. Stephen's Day (26 Dec), Boxing Day (also 26 Dec), Kwanzaa, New Year's Eve and Day, or a retrospective celebration of recent holidays like Eid Al-Adha (27 Nov this year), Hanukkah (1 Dec - 8 Dec this year), or for the Swedes among us St. Lucia's Day.

Amidst all the merriment find time to do the following...

1. Respond to a second story from Dubliner by pumpkin time Friday, December 18.

2. Turn in your part-to-whole A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man essay Friday, December 18. Or turn in a letter requesting a week's extension and turn in your essay by Friday, December 25.

3. Write an informal, exploratory analysis of one of the winter poems (300+ words or so). See if you can explain the relationship between how it's written and what it might mean. (TPCAST+Theme, SOAPSTone+Theme, Say-Play-Imply might help to get you started.) Post in the comment box below.

You have paper copies of "Christ Climbed Down" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti (a "Beat" or San Francisco Renaissance poet), an excerpt from Midwinter Day (a book length poem written on a solstice day) by Bernadette Mayer (a postmodern poet), two Fanny Howe poems (she's sometimes referred to as a "Language" poet), "Burning the Christmas Greens" by William Carlos Williams (a Modernist poet), and "The world is too much with us" a sonnet by William Wordsworth (a Romantic poet). (The Wordsworth poem doesn't mention Christmas or winter but it was alluded to in a Gloucester Daily Times my view critiquing our "getting and spending" during the holiday season.) You could also write about "The Second Coming" by W.B. Yeats (Irish modern, post-romantic poet) or "Journey of the Magi" by T.S. Eliot (American-British modernist poet, spent childhood summers on Eastern Point). Do this by Monday, January 4 (the tenth day of the nativity for Christians) at pumpkin time.

4. Read Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. It's 215 pages long and written in short sections. The diction is modern American with some substandard usage and slang. However, the simplicity of the diction and syntax is a bit deceptive because the book is surprisingly ornate in its design. The tone is a bit slippery too. Track motifs. What repeats? Take notes. Also think about the narration. What is the relationship between the author, the narrator, and Billy Pilgrim's perceptions of things. Finally I hope you lol at least once but avoid rofl-ing if there are presents, ornaments, or electronic devices nearby. If you find it helpful write comments and questions below as you read. (It's okay if SH5 comments are mixed with poem commentaries.)

14 comments:

nFrye said...

N. Frye
"Burning the Christmas Greens"

In William Carlos Williams' poem "Burning the Christmas Greens" repetition and vivid imagery are used to convey Williams' sense of the Christmas season and its end. Colors and flames are again and again incorporated into the poem, which adds depth to the rich imagery associated with Christmas.

As one reads the poem, it is possible to see that green and red, the colors associated most often with Christmas, are mentioned in nearly every stanza. Williams uses the color green most often to refer to life, particularly the life that emerges amidst the cold and snow. Red's role is to represent life in a less comforting way. It stands for the cleansing of flames, blood flowing within a person, a much less peaceful aspect of life.

Flames also are repeated throughout the poem. They signify a new beginning of sorts. But the beginning referred to by Williams is initiated by an ending, the burning of the Christmas greens: the beginning of a new year following Christmas. This association brings to mind the beginning of Christ's life at Christmastime and later, his end on the cross: an end considered the beginning of salvation and eternal life by Christians. The cleansing power of flame is emphasized in the poem as well, yet another reference to the story of Jesus and his saving power. By the end of the poem, as the flames die down, their warmth radiates out of the fireplace. This warmth is also a symbol for the comfort that Christians feel through their belief in salvation.
Williams uses the repetition of colors and images to set a scene, but is also able to make a statement based on these “motifs”. The message of life is conveyed very well through the poem, as well as the idea that when one life ends, more life follows after. He is able to make associations between what Christmas is truly about without directly stating it.

Katina T said...

“The World Is Too Much With Us; Late And Soon” by William Wordsworth was written to show how society’s views have become so materialistic that it has overlooked nature’s beauty. He is slightly hopeless and baffled at how deep the world has fallen into industrialization. The author directs his feelings both towards the present, and the future, as he says “Late and Soon”. As the world is “getting and spending” society has forgotten to notice their surroundings as it focuses more on possessions. Wordsworth believes that the world has the possibilities of producing great things, as he uses the connotation of “our powers”, but feels they have been wasted on industrialization. Wordsworth views nature as an “emblem of god” and wants his readers to feel the same after they read this poem. He also wants them to realize what the world has come to and what it is missing out on. Wordsworth finds this missed opportunity as a “sordid boon.” He thinks that the new developments in technology are beneficial in some ways yet have disgustingly drove society into ignoring the most beautiful aspect of their lives; nature. Wordsworth goes on to describe different parts of nature, such as the sea, wind, and flowers. The author personifies that the sea bares her bosom to the moon, and the win howls at all hours, yet is gathered up like sleeping flowers. This symbolically shows how such great forces of natures, are easily overlooked by society. Therefore, Wordsworth thinks the world is severely out of touch and wonders how it could not catch the world’s attention. He would rather be a “Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;” than get lost in the current materialistic world. The author wishes to go back to simpler times. He mentions the sights that would make him forlorn such as “Proteus rising from the sea” or to “Hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.” Interestingly enough, Proteus is the god who could change his shape (thank you Mr. Walsh for assigning me a research paper on Proteus Syndrome). Perhaps, Wordsworth is ending this poem by relating the past sea reference of it being “up-gathered now like sleeping flowers” (or being ignored) to morphing into what the author is hoping could eventually be restored to the beauty it used to be recognized as in the eyes of society.

Andrew Ryan said...

The poem “The World is Too Much With Us; Late and Soon” by William Wordsworth negatively portrays people today. The speaker appears frustrated that people today are too busy with power and money that they no longer focus on nature. The speaker seems annoyed that people cannot see the beauty of nature. The speaker also feels that people are not living up to their potential and are simply throwing their gifts away. The speaker thinks that people are blind to nature and he goes on to describe its beauty when he says “The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon; the winds that will be howling at all hours and are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers…” The speaker says, “we are out of tune” because of our lack of connection with nature. The speaker seems sickened by this and wishes he was “A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn.” This quote reveals that the speaker so disgusted with society that he wishes he were not a Christian. He wishes he could detach himself from society so he would not be bothered or worried. By separating himself from society the speaker feels he can be happy even if only for a moment. By separating himself he feels he will have more time to observe nature.
This poem seems to have been used as a speech directed toward society as a word of illumination. The speaker wants people to stray away from their obsession with money and power. He wants nature and society to have a closer bond. He wants society to observe and admire nature for its beauty.
By mentioning the “sight of Proteus rising from the sea” and hearing “old Triton blow his wreathed horn” the author wishes that people today had the imagination that they had then. He felt that people a long time ago shared a close connection with nature and its mysteries. He wants people to use their imagination more because he feels money and power are ruining the world.

letsfollowthesun said...

Terri M.
Christ Climbed Down

This poem is about how it is easy to lose sight from why Christmas is celebrated. That is, getting caught up in the hustle and bustle of buying a Christmas tree, purchasing presents, telling tales of Santa, feeling short on cash, and singing songs that have nothing to do with the birth of the Christ child. Anaphora is used in the line “Christ Climbed Down From His Bare Tree This Year”, to symbolize that Jesus feels that even though there are decorations on the Christmas tree, he feels left out of the celebration. This is clear in the first and second stanza where Ferlinghetti mentions many different kinds of trees, which apparently Christ did not want to be on.
The next stanza mentions some objects that do commemorate the Christ’s birthday but just in a way to make money. “No intrepid Bible salesmen covered the territory in two-tone Cadillac’s”, seems to imply the “Bible Man”, who later went on to sell plastic manger scenes is just in the business of making money off of a holiday, not that he cares at all about the birth of a savior.
The fourth stanza goes on to speak of Santa Claus. It portrays him in bad light and kind of mocks that his persona came from the name “Saint” Nicholas.
In the next stanza the author likens church services to “Matinees”, typically a term used for a theatrical production. This shows that he thinks they are a just a show for the public. Perhaps implying that the public goes just for traditions sake, not that they really know why they are participating in.
The last stanza is confusing, but I believe that it symbolizes Christ wanting to be inside people’s hearts instead of portrayed in these “traditional” ways at Christmas time. The passage reads, “Anonymous Mary's womb again”, in reference to where Christ wants to go when he gets down from the bare Christmas tree. The way anonymous is used show that Christ wants to be in everyone’s heart, instead of just some people. Mary is a symbol of the human race because she was the human that bore the god. The passage ends with “He awaits again…and impossibly…Immaculate…Reconception the very craziest of Second Comings.” To me this says that when people begin living in a way that shows Christ is influencing their decisions instead of just getting wrapped up in the material affairs, that that will be the real testimony.

Sarah Al-Edwan said...

Sarah Al-Edwan
“The World Is Too Much With Us”

“The World Is Too Much With Us” by William Wordsworth is a poem about human society being caught up in riches and power, to busy to appreciate and enjoy the world’s nature. The speaker seems frustrated with the obsession of success and speaks of the beauty of nature. “Little we see in Nature that is ours” and this sea that bares her bosom to the moon;” are examples of the beauty the narrator finds within the world that the rest of society is to busy ignoring.
Later on in the poem the narrator goes on to further describe “winds that will be howling at all hours” and “sleeping flowers” to explain that none of these things move us. He seems almost disgusted, and when the narrator states “I’d rather be A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;” he is letting the reader know that to him nothing is worse than the lack of appreciation for nature that the world has.
I believe that the narrator has a valid point that shows a lot about the modern day world. Often we are to caught up in what is next, rather than to just enjoy the moment, and the beauty that the world naturally gives us. As implied by the speaker, if society was to take advice from the past, the world would be less chaotic if we were able to forget about our obsession with money and power and grow a true appreciation for nature. It is clear by the passion used to describe nature, and the disgust used to describe the lack of appreciation for it, that the speaker is disappointed that we are not able to forget the less important, human manufactured things.

Megan Keegan said...

William Wordsworth’s “The World is Too Much With Us,” shows how people today take for granted what’s around them and don’t pay attention to their surroundings enough. It seems that Wordsworth is aggravated by people living in oblivion and not opening their eyes to take in what surrounds them. He shows this as if he is speaking of society as a whole and not just as individuals by using “us” and “we” instead of “you” or “I”. Wordsworth says “we lay waste our powers; little we see in Nature that is ours; we have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!” This excerpt reveals that the author is making it known that people are seeing little of their atmosphere and have given their souls away to things that are materialistic and unimportant. Wordsworth uses words such as “power” to show that there is an option and a sense of entitlement to everyone’s feelings but the way that society chooses to use it is incorrect. It seems that the author is trying to convey how society is walking through life and not paying attention to so many things that are meaningful such as “this Sea that bares her bosom to the moon.” Wordsworth also says “the winds that will be howling at all hours, and are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,” to show that the winds will be up at all hours, but there won’t be anyone there to listen or regard it so they have given up and are “sleeping.”
It seems that the speaker is completely against views coming from society when he says that he would rather be “a Pagan suckled in a creed outworn.” By saying this he means that he would rather be a Pagan that’s in a religion that no longer makes sense to him than become a part of his society. The poem comes to an end when Wordsworth says that if he was standing in a meadow looking out he would see Proteus and hear Triton. It’s as if he was saying that if anyone else that actually paid attention to their surrounds stood there, they would hear and see the same things but they don’t give their surroundings a chance.

amycarpenter57 said...

Journey of the Magi

This poem was written by T.S. Elliot after he converted to Christianity and tells the story of one of the magi who go to visit the Baby Jesus. For what is supposed to be a happy event, the tone of the poem is very gloomy. The magi go through an arduous journey to reach Bethlehem and when they get there, they saw both Birth and Death. They recognize the Birth, it’s obvious the narrator says. But also, they see that they are witnessing death. It’s the Death of their way of life and they are no longer enraptured by the life they left. They have seen the Light and cannot go back to who they were before. But, neither can they change so they sit around waiting for their deaths.

Meredith S said...

Meredith S.

“Journey of the Magi” by T.S. Eliot


The narrator of this poem goes to see Jesus after he is born, and then returning to the world he used to know but feeling differently about it. The narrator uses a somber tone in the beginning but it changes towards the end to become much more uplifting. On the journey to see the baby, the narrator is not sure if the trip is worth it and he is growing sick of the bad conditions he has to endure to get there. This is demonstrated when he says, “And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly/And the villages dirty and charging high prices.” He questions whether he was sent there, along with the people he travels with, to witness birth or death. The birth of Jesus leads to a death: the narrator is enlightened and sheds the beliefs he used to hold. He says, “And I would do it all again” but only if he knew first that he would be enlightened by the birth of Jesus when he gets there and not have to return to the life he left behind where no one else has experienced the same thing. When he returns home, he finds “an alien people clutching their gods,” which shows that the he is no longer on the same level of thinking with people he knows from his home, to the extent that he feels estranged from them. The last line of the poem, is, “I should be glad of another death.” At first glance this line may seem to be incredibly depressing, but it is actually the opposite. Since the first death he was the death of his old beliefs, his second death is his actual physical death, which must be looked at in a positive way to be consistent with Christianity. He is saying that his death would be to relive the journey that led him to his enlightenment, or something of that sort.

Brianna A said...

December 21st Jean Valentine

When first looking at the title of this poem I think winter time, nearing Christmas, maybe preparing for Christmas and the excitement leading up to the holiday. The poem is about the author appealing to God and expressing how she will remember Him on Christmas. She expresses how He is in everything from the earth to her friends that couldn’t be with her and to the still simple material things around her. She then appeals to what Christmas is celebrating, the birth of God. She expresses the connection between the stars of his birth to the star of her surroundings now. The structure of this poem is very important to its meaning because it draws the reader into significant parts. The patterns of how the author breaks down a word and where she repeats the pattern is also significant. In line 2 Emmanuel translated “God-with-us” is broken down with hyphens which at first draw the attention to the translation of Emmanuel. When Valentine uses the hyphens again in line7 with “Here-with-me” she makes a connection to God being with her, even though she has deceased and absent loved ones. Valentine’s attitude is reflective and appreciative. She expresses respect and connection in her observations. Valentine shifts the poem when she goes from reflecting on how God is present in the Earth and then to herself then to simple material things. Another major shift is when Valentine reflects on Jesus’ birth itself and how the quietness and stillness is all around. After analyzing the poem I understand the title to be similar with what I first thought but not as commercial. Yes the speaker is preparing for Christmas but not in a shallow way but so that she can connect her own life and think deeply about how Jesus is present not only on Christmas day but all around any time.

Sabrina said...

In the poem “Journey of the Magi” by T.S. Eliot, the author is talking about the journey of magi (the three wise men of the East) to Bethlehem. The poem is started off with negative diction even though it is supposed to be a time of happiness and discovery. The first stanza begins with a pessimistic tone, “just the worst time of the year,” while the second stanza is the beginning of a shift, for example “it was (you may say) satisfactory.” Later, in the third stanza, there is another shift change where T.S. Eliot compares birth and death, leaving us with the quote “I should be glad of another death,” in a sort of insensitive tone. When the last two lines in the first stanza quote “With the voices singing in our ears, saying / That this was all folly,” it seems like the journey has not been what it was predicted to be. They say that they preferred to travel all night. I think that this means that they just wanted to get through where they were and end up where they wanted to be, not liking their surroundings. T.S. Eliot uses a lot of strong imagery to capture the moments that the wise men have, since it is written as if one of the magi’s had written it, the poem captures a flashback. T.S. Eliot captures a journey being looked back on. In the end, the narrator feels like seeing the birth and death of Jesus has changed him too much to return to his life. “We returned to our places, these Kingdoms, / But no longer at ease here,” now, things are not the same. After experiencing this, he feels that everyone else is like an “alien,” since they are unaware of what he has been familiar with.

Molly A said...

Molly A.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s “Christ Climbed Down” contrasts the religious aspect, from which Christmas was derived, with the materialistic, candy-coated celebration it has become. Ferlinghetti redundantly states “Christ climbed down… and ran to where…” a place where there is no false exemplification of religion, or any artificial representation of its origin.
The reader can sense Ferlinghetti’s severe animosity in only the second stanza when, after criticizing the numerous methods of decorating Christmas trees, he writes, “hung with electric candles and encircled by tin electric trains and clever cornball relatives”, upset by how unnatural a tree can become. He then continues on, in the fourth stanza, to question the true the idea of Santa Clause, by comparatively connecting details, of the “fat handshaking stranger in a red flannel suit and a fake white beard… passing himself off as some sort of North Pole saint” to religious falsifications such as “Bethlehem Pennsylvania”.
Ferlinghetti also portrays, in an obvious fashion, offense towards religious mimics and objects that, he feels are unjustifiably, associated with Christmas. He writes, “no intrepid Bible salesmen… where no Dears Roebuck crèches complete with plastic babe in manger” as if this is not, naturally what Christmas should be. He then continues to make comparisons, such as “Radio city angels ice skate wingless thru a winter wonderland into a jingle bell heaven.”, as if nothing about Christmas remains holy.
Heaven, angels, Bethlehem, saints, mangers, etc. are all symbols of religion, yet they have substitutes that lack, only, that religious aspect. So Ferlinghetti’s observation is that these substitutes have taken place of the real religious figures, and Christmas is no longer about the joy of Christ and celebrating his sacrifices. It has, over time, turned into a time of replacements: plastic mangers and angels who lack wings. There is one specific element of Christmas, aside from the “fakes”, that the writer seems particularly upset with. In the fourth stanza, Ferlinghetti states, “In a Volkswagon sled drawn by Adirondack reindeer with German names and bearing sacks of Humble Gifts from Saks Fifth Avenue for everybody’s imagined Christ child.” The “humble gifts” from “Saks Fifth Avenue” illustrate an often unnoticed issue: money. So, if these gifts are for “everybody’s imagined Christ child”, then their Christ has the fortune to receive such gifts, automatically. Was Christ actually fortunate enough to receive those gifts, from Saks Fifth Ave? Was that what Christmas was ever about?
This poem is through the eyes of a writer who understands what Christmas originated as. It had nothing to do with money, decorations, or Santa Clause in his suit. But, that is what it has become. Most people indulge themselves in the joy that is brought from gift giving and receiving, decorating trees, and writing letters to Santa. That joy, is what Christmas is about, but Ferlinghetti’s point is that we should not demand the luxuries that inspire that joy. It should be natural and we should be thankful.

Nick B said...

I would quickly summarize the poem Christ Climbed Down, by Lawrence Ferlinghetty, as a piece of work that is both brutally honest and quite damaging towards modern interpretation of Christmas. If I were an outsider who hadn’t read the poem, upon hearing this summary, I would think the author must be disdainful of modern society and write from a detached point of view. The unique part is that Ferlinghetty doesn’t try to be on some high horse, he keeps his personal beliefs completely out of the poem, making it seem like he’s one of us and takes the blame as well. The power to viciously critique a huge event in modern society without inciting much anger in most people is very rare, and very prominent in this poem.

Personal views of what Christmas is all about vary somewhat depending on where one is born, but upon reading this critique it becomes apparent that there are common traits throughout modern Christmas practices. The vast majority of people, when reading this poem, realize the absurdity of most of what they do on Christmas, and how far they’ve strayed from Christ and the true origins of Christmas. The reactions, however, must vary anywhere from un-amused indifference, to surprise, to sorrow.

I find it particularly interesting that Ferlinghetty doesn’t advise changing our ways. He simply states how it is, and what he believes Christ is going to do about it. He doesn’t condemn our practices, condone them, or offer any opinion at all. I think that he realized the popularity of Christmas comes not from the spiritual origins, but from the great traditional festivities now surrounding the holiday. Christmas is a very widespread holiday, but would it ever have received so much attention if there were no feasts, no presents, and no festivities involved? It seems unlikely. Ferlinghetty’s way of critiquing modern Christmas, while refraining from opinionating the work or offering solutions, imposes the unfamiliar idea onto people of why Christmas is so distorted but so popular, and if the first weren’t true, would the second be?

Francesco P said...

The excerpt from the Poem Midwinter Day by Bernadette Mayer speaks of the hindering force of the winter darkness upon the soul. She initiates the poem by relating the extended darkness to curtains that shroud a room in darkness, and to the allure of the moon’s intricacies, which arise eager for further analysis by civilization’s keen curiosity in the dark hours of winter. She then further insinuates the influence of the sun by extolling it in contrast to the artificial notion of streetlights. Such lights are easily broken, through chance or through corruption, and are placed high in the minds of men as their light maintains the continuance of society during winter. What Bernadette is implying here is that man attempts to assert itself as a higher power by flaunting it’s capability of producing light and illuminating cities, something that was for centuries before the responsibility of the intangible notion of the sun. This concept fits well with Jesus in a certain context, as he can signify the manifestation of a divine essence, such as the sun itself, which has become palpable in the reality of man.
The author, whether it be by her own sentiments or that of a fabricated narrator’s, asserts that the “queer sleep after death” or the hibernation of winter that follows the transient death of nature, carries a certain tone of modesty: a modesty that contrasts the immodest living that continues regardless of the slowing sleep of the universe. According to her, it’s better to close her eyes to attain a certain type of sleep, a reflection perhaps, from the opportunity offered by the hibernating languid months of winter. Incandescent lights is “like the vigil of a virgin” she articulates, replacing the period of rest that ought to exist, with an inexorable wakefulness of the race as it continues on underneath artificial lights, unhindered by the limited hours of sunlight.
Within the dreams of reflection that arise from the modesty of winter’s darkness, the author finds inspiration to see the “introduction to modes of love and reason”. The author makes clear that this love, this sense of purpose that she has derived from the winter months, is all that she remembers or is affected by, by the dusk of the winter solstice. She opposes the masses of society that carry on diligently in the mundane aspects of life while the earth hibernates, and affirms that all that ought to be experienced is the winter season’s reverie.
The poem concludes with the prospects of the returning sun, augmenting the days with a sharper, prolonged daylight, that pacifies the bitterness of winter. Through the sun, the author suggests, life re-awakens and re-orders itself to the fluid vitality of nature. Not necessarily the life of vegetation, but more so the inspirational vigor of creativity and motivation. She insinuates it is an awakening from the dream of night, and illuminates “love and reason” that was shrouded in the impassivity of night.

Marisa D. said...

In Fanny Howe’s poem Veteran the speaker doesn’t believe in anything that society tells us about the holidays and winter time. She doesn’t believe in living in the past or thinking about the past. She views the holidays a completely different way than people do. She sees them as more of a burden than a blessing. The setting of the poem is during the winter time around the holidays. She says “I don’t believe in seeking sheet music,” (probably referring to Christmas carols sung) “ by Boston Common on a snowy day, don’t believe n the lighting of malls seasonally,” which is how we know when the time period of the poem is. The way it is written is almost sounds as if she is talking to someone else who has put her down in some way. The audience is somebody who clearly does not have the same beliefs as the narrator does which is why she is telling this person how she feels about the holidays.
The way the author says “I don’t believe in holidays long lasting and artificial. Some of the others do,” is very straight forward, she doesn’t hold anything back. She doesn’t care about what anyone else believes she is going to believe what she believes and nothing will change that. The author makes her feelings clear about holidays within the first stanza. The last stanza however is the one that stands out to me the most. Howe writes “Some of the others believe in food & drink & perfume I don’t. And I don’t believe in shut-in time for those who committed a crime of passion. Like a sweetheart of the iceberg or wings lost at sea.” This stanza is the one that sticks in your head. When Howe says “Like a sweetheart of the iceberg,” I get the feeling she is talking about the sweetheart of a man who is always moving with the tides and “wings lost at sea” could be referring to men who have died overseas. The poem is very sad actually, this person doesn’t believe in anything which leaves the question, if she doesn’t believe in any of the stuff discussed in the poem, what does she believe in?