Sunday, March 13, 2005

poetry and me

I'm beginning to tire of the TV-as-computer-screen set-up. It works and I'm thankful for it, but the drawbacks are starting to wear on me. I'm just being whiny, I know. One day in the future, I'll get up the nerve to actually get a new computer or something. Something so that I can numb my brain two ways at once, through both computer and television. Someday.

I wore houseshoes out today. They're the kind with actual soles, but they're houseshoes, nevertheless. As I was turning onto Poplar, I remembered being a kid and riding with Nana to Sureway, and she'd be wearing her houseshoes. Of course, they were the granny terrycloth kind with white soles that are made somewhat like flipflops, not the pseudo-suede loafer-style things I'm wearing. I remember sitting in the passenger seat of her car and seeing her drive with them on. I don't remember whether I thought it was funny or normal, but I do remember it. And today, I had a reason to remember it. I was driving with houseshoes on, too.

Now for my soapbox:

So I'm trying to make peace with poetry. I have a revision of a BobCarb paper due tomorrow, and it's supposed to be a thorough explication of one of the four poems we were given to choose from. Maybe I'm being whiny again, but I just really dislike this assignment. First of all, I think the subject choices are too narrow, but I can get over that. Secondly, and more importantly, I've come to a place where I have a respect for poetry--all literature, really. I don't believe it was meant to be shredded into indistinguishable bits. I have no problem with critical analysis or searching for meaning. I enjoy seeing the ways a writer puts together a work.

There's a fine line between appreciating a work and becoming obsessed with its nuts and bolts. Teetering on that fine line is fun, but there comes a problem when you look at something and all you see are the nuts and bolts. I'm not saying you can't glean appreciation from knowing the inner workings of something. I gained a greater appreciation for art and theatre after becoming involved with the making of them in high school. But I also became distracted from the whole of a play's production because all I could focus on were the technical aspects, which would leave my theatre experience in disjointed shambles.

This is possibly the result of being a novice, knowing just enough to screw my whole perception up. Maybe this is a weak example of a little knowledge being dangerous. In some ways, that's how I feel about the study of literature, at least the study of literature that I'm being forced into with this paper. Instead of exploring the facets of a poem to find one of many meanings, I feel like I'm being made to find the loose end of the raveling so that, if I pull it just right, I can tear the entire poem apart beyond recognition. The goal seems to be to leave no two pieces of the puzzle together. Instead of coming to a mutual understanding between the reader and the poem, I feel like I have to poke and prod at each word in the poem to torture the meaning out of it.

In an effort to overcome this, I pulled Molly Peacock's How to Read a Poem...and Start a Poetry Circle down from my bookshelf. This book I acquired when I purchased my texts for my introduction to creative writing course. We never used it, so I suppose it was Ann Neelon's suggested reading material that Bradley Book Co. stuffed into my plastic bag. When it came time to sell books back at the end of that semester, I'm not sure why I didn't sell this one back. Maybe I thought it looked neat.

Anyway, I began reading it yesterday, and I think the author is going to help me reconcile these hard feelings I've formed for poetry during the first draft of my essay. I had come to the point where I felt like I must be a "bad English major" if I don't get some sick sadistic pleasure out of mutilating literature. I think Peacock understands my view. She likens tearing a poem apart to ripping wings from helpless bugs. Understanding a poem doesn't have to be an act of bullying, but in class on Friday, that's what I felt like I was being asked to do. In the middle of all the ravenous explicating, I turned to Tessa and said, "Poetry doesn't deserve to be treated like this. It wasn't made for it." So when I revise my essay about Nims' "Love Poem," I'm going to try not to make it a cruel autopsy of a poem I've killed, but rather a conversation with an entity of breathing words that deserve to be heard.

How's that for being an English major?

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