Thursday, June 23, 2011

Poetry of Witness

"Charlie Howard's Descent"

Mark Doty's "Charlie Howard's Descent" is an emotionally captivating piece, exemplifying the unjust treatment and judgment of things society does not understand. Mark Doty writes about a man who's way of life is misunderstood, and therefore judged harshly by the community he lives in. "we learn to use the name/because they are there,/familiar furniture;faggot/was the bed he slept in, hard" (23-26) suggests reference to a homosexual man; however, there is much more to learn from this poem. I believe Doty is attempting to symbolize the common occurrence of fear of what we do not understand. Fear leads to violence, thus the evoking such situations to take place.  The ending lines "and blesses his killers/in the way that only the dead/can afford to forgive" (52-54) solidified the poem's meaning. Here it is shown that, though misunderstanding and judgmental acts took his life, the victim is able set aside blame, and forgive his attackers. He forgives their fear; a fear of what they cannot understand. 

"Song of Napalm"

Bruce Weigl's "Song of Napalm" represents the trauma and never ending pain that a Vietnam war  veteran must endure to their last day on this earth. The anguish a veteran may feel for his actions in the field is something a civilian cannot empathize with. This poem gives example to how war affects the people of this world, whichever side they may share. Weigl shares descriptive details of his visions, while showing us that in all truth, no side benefits from war. "We stood in the doorway watching horses/walk off lazily across the pasture's hill." (2-3) suggest he is standing next to someone he is comfortable with, in a different place and time than the war he recalls. Weigl writes "Trees scraped their voices into the wind, branches/Crisscrossed the sky like barbed wire/But you said they were only branches." (12-14) Later he writes, "But still the branches are wire/And the thunder is pounding mortar/Still I close my eyes and see the girl" (21-23) These two verses show me his physical body is not where his mind seems to be, like they have separated. One standing next to his love, and the other trapped in a world of screams. pain, suffering and terror. He ends his poem with a statement of truth, though a difficult one to accept. "And not your good love and not the rain-swept air/And not the jungle green/Pasture unfolding before us can deny it." (43-45) To conclude with such a statement shows the unforgettable event that is war.
I chose both poems because each had a significant meaning to me. My mother had a friend when she was young that was bound and thrown off a dock in Florida, with weights tied to his boots. The other because I used to work in a nursing facility for veterans. One of my favorite, and most interesting residents was a medic in the Vietnam war. He spoke many times of the blue bodies from Napalm, and was severely traumatized from it. Unfortunately, this is the world we live in. Hopefully that can change...

Works Cited 
Weigl, Bruce. Song of Napalm
Doty, Mark. Charlie Howard's Descent

Image Sources:

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Summary Vs. Analysis

What exactly is the difference between a summary and an analysis, if any at all? The two are actually quite different from one another. Let us take a look at the two and see what we find.
A summary is a quick recap of the events of a story. While writing a summary, there is very little imagination or thought required. You are not examining the text, or looking beyond the superficial meaning of the story. You simply condense the story into a few short paragraphs or pages, and touch on the highlights. A summary is not something that can be argued with, it is not opinion, just fact. 

An analysis is an examination of the meaning behind the words of a story. During an analysis, you look deeper into each aspect of the story, and find “hidden meanings” or subliminal messages. An analysis may have a short summary included, so the audience understands what the analyst is claiming, but it is not the main focus of the analysis. Analyses can be argued with, and are based more on an opinion of the text. When a statement cannot be argued or disagreed with, it cannot be called an analysis, but instead a summary.

Here is a good link that explains summary vs. analysis. Obviously, this was used as a handout to writing students, so I thought it appropriate for this post. 

Image source:

Friday, June 10, 2011

Good Readers and Good Writers


     Nabokov defines a good reader as "...the one who has imagination, memory, a dictionary, and some artistic sense..." (pg 615). He also states that "...the worst thing a reader can do, he identifies himself with a character in the book..." (pg 615-616). I would have to agree with Nabokov on both points. Unfortunately, the current day 'novels' that surface, have characters that make it extremely easy for young readers to identify with. Where is the imagination, when you can read a text and see yourself in these fictional characters?  In these cases, I find that there is very little imagination, hardly any memory required, and almost never require a dictionary. Do they require some artistic sense? In my personal opinion, I feel they do not. Of course, not all novels today fit this description. Young readers should be challenged throughout their reading, while at the same time, allowing themselves to fully enter the book, become one with the writings, and let their imagination run wild. 

     I feel that many things make up a good reader. I believe that you should understand what you are looking for out of a book. Knowing the style you enjoy reading makes it much easier to become engrossed in your read. I find it much easier to recall the words I have just read when I am captivated in the text. A challenging text may be more difficult to start, however, the end result may be much more satisfying. A good reader should not start beyond their reading level, and only challenge themselves mentally when ready to do so. Understanding your literary limits will go a long way when beginning a novel. An open mind is also a quality I feel a good reader should posses. "Don't judge a book by its cover" came about for a reason. A good reader should read a variety of subjects. There are so many different aspects to being a good reader, I find it hard to pick out only a few. The most important of all, make time to read. Allow yourself a place and time to remove all distractions, and share your mind with the words of the author. Distractions can ruin a novel, through no fault but your own.

Do I see myself as a good read? I have conflicting feelings on this question. I believe I have the potential to be a very good reader, when I take the time. I find myself easily distracted, which takes away from the book I am reading. When I take the time required to allow myself to become engrossed, I do not find it difficult at all. Reading is a bottled up passion, that I don't spend enough time experiencing. When I allow myself the time, I find I thoroughly enjoy the journey.

The picture I chose represents the beauty I see in books. I find nothing more enthralling than ancient books, that show obvious signs of many hours being read. 

For my link, I chose a website that has many classic quotes by Vladimir Nabokov. I wasn't sure what to link, but felt this was interesting. 

Works cited

Nabokov, Vladimir. "Good Readers and Good Writers." The Norton Reader An Anthology of Nonfiction. Ed. Linda H. Peterson, John C. Brereton. Shorter 11th ed. New York, London: W.W. Norton & Company.