Friday, April 22, 2011

And So, We Commence

Hello everyone!  Happy Friday!  It is with dear sadness that I write this last post.  The class that this blog project pertains to is nearing its end, and my final post is due today.  In this class, I have enjoyed learning about how to write effectively for the Internet and how technology has shaped and continues to shape the way we write today.  However, the thing that I have enjoyed the most in this class, is writing for this blog.  My idea for this blog erupted from a combination of my passion for poetry and my quirky habit of contemplating about life and formulating my own theories as to why things are the way they are.  Beginning this blog, I realized that I had to narrow the scope of “life,” as life can include a multitude of topics.  Therefore, to do this, I chose to focus only on poetry written by contemporary women writers.  I must admit that I was rather reluctant to do this, primarily because I was unfamiliar with much of the work of contemporary women poets, and also because many of my personal favorite poems did not fall within this scope.  However, reaching this point and looking back, I am delighted that I decided to get out of my comfort zone and go for the challenge; for I have came across beautifully rich poetry and talented poets that I may not have encountered had I taken a different route.    

One of my goals for this blog was to write about various life issues.  I do not know if I have succeeded in doing that.  Although the poems that I selected may have varied widely in theme, I think that my interpretations of these poems were usually quite similar: they often exhibited therapeutic qualities and frequently alluded to following dreams and accomplishing goals, finding ways to remain optimistic in daunting situations, and finding pride in being an individual.  Re-reading my posts, I realize that my interpretations may have been a reflection of me in my current stage in life: I will be graduating from college in a few weeks, and it wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that my mind has been recently preoccupied with the issues of following my dreams, reaching my goals, overcoming steep obstacles, and placing the finishing touches on who I define myself as an individual.    

I must admit that maintaining this blog was indeed a challenge.  As the school semester progressed and as my amount of class work gradually increased, I found it more difficult to find time to submit posts.  Again, I apologize for those long periods of inactivity.  Nevertheless, during the periods that I did have time to submit posts, I feel that my posts helped me to refine some of my theories regarding life and drew my attention to topics that I hadn’t previously given much thought.  By far, my most favorite post is “Keep Following Your Dreams.”     

Although one can make an argument that my blog has essentially been a reflection of me, my desires, and what I deem valuable, I hope that you were able to find some of the selected poems and commentaries applicable to your own lives.  However, if not, I hope that you at least have enjoyed reading the poems and reading what I had to say about them. 

Furthermore, I hope that this blog has given you the opportunity to view poetry in a different light.  I hope you can see that there’s more to poems than just analyzing them according to their literary devices.  Poems can enhance our understanding of life, especially when they are viewed holistically.  If you had not known this before reading this blog, then I hope that I have convinced you to think differently about poetry from now on.  Poetry can essentially be fun, even for the non-poetry lovers! 

Lastly, I would like to thank all of you have who have followed this blog, read my posts, and left comments.  Your willingness to dedicate your time in reviewing and commenting on my work has meant so much to me.  I wish you all the best and much success in continuing life and learning its lessons.  However, before we part, I would like to leave you with a poem entitled “New Beginnings” written by Gertrude McClain.  I found the poem inspiring.  Hopefully, you will find the poem inspiring as well.  The poem reads:

New Beginnings by Gertrude B. McClain

It's only the beginning now
...a pathway yet unknown
At times the sound of other steps
...sometimes we walk alone

The best beginnings of our lives
May sometimes end in sorrow
But even on our darkest days
The sun will shine tomorrow.

So we must do our very best
Whatever life may bring
And look beyond the winter chill
To smell the breath of spring.

Into each life will always come
A time to start anew
A new beginning for each heart
As fresh as morning dew.

Although the cares of life are great
And hands are bowed so low
The storms of life will leave behind
The wonder of a rainbow.

The years will never take away
Our chance to start anew
It's only the beginning now
So dreams can still come true.

I hope you enjoyed the poem.  However, this time, instead of me giving my commentary, why don’t you try formulating your own?  What do you think the poem could teach us?

To read more poems written by contemporary women poets, please visit Contemporary Women Poets.  

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Seek Refuge in Nature

Hello everyone!  I hope that you have enjoyed reading my two previous posts.  Hopefully the poem that I share with you today will benefit you in some way.  The poem is entitled, “Exiled,” and is written by Edna St. Vincent Millay.  The poem reads:

Exiled by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Searching my heart for its true sorrow,
This is the thing I find to be:
That I am weary of words and people,
Sick of the city, wanting the sea;

Wanting the sticky, salty sweetness
Of the strong wind and shattered spray;
Wanting the loud sound and the soft sound
Of the big surf that breaks all day.

Always before about my dooryard,
Marking the reach of the winter sea,
Rooted in sand and dragging drift-wood,
Straggled the purple wild sweet-pea;

Always I climbed the wave at morning,
Shook the sand from my shoes at night,
That now am caught beneath great buildings,
Stricken with noise, confused with light.

If I could hear the green piles groaning
Under the windy wooden piers,
See once again the bobbing barrels,
And the black sticks that fence the weirs,

If I could see the weedy mussels
Crusting the wrecked and rotting hulls,
Hear once again the hungry crying
Overhead, of the wheeling gulls,

Feel once again the shanty straining
Under the turning of the tide,
Fear once again the rising freshet,
Dread the bell in the fog outside,—

I should be happy,—that was happy
All day long on the coast of Maine!
I have a need to hold and handle
Shells and anchors and ships again!

I should be happy, that am happy
Never at all since I came here.
I am too long away from water.
I have a need of water near.

I hope you enjoyed reading the poem.  Here is what I think it could teach us:

There are times in which we find ourselves suffering from some of life’s toughest blows.  Your spouse was in a terrible car accident.  The accident left your spouse on life support.  Doctors predict that your spouse will never recover; they recommend that you remove the support.  You contemplate this option, but you are clueless as to how you will be able to endure the pain and continue living.  You two had promised to spend the rest of your lives together.  Or perhaps, your adult child has just revealed to you his/her homosexuality.  You are having trouble digesting the news because it defeats much of what you morally believe.  Or maybe, you recently found out that you are pregnant.  It wasn’t planned.  You know that there’s no way you can care for a baby.  You grow scared.  What will you do? 

When life punches us with its fiercest blows, we often grow helpless and feel like exploding.  We wish we could just escape from it all, yet we feel as if there is nowhere to run.

However, Millay tells us that when the bludgeoning of life becomes unbearable, we can simply exile ourselves to nature.  She suggests that nature will comfort us from our deepest worries and will help us obtain peace.   

Therefore when life becomes brutal, we must quickly flee to one of nature’s many shelters, preferably one devoid of all humans and man-made objects, for such things could potentially inhibit our healing.  We shall go to one of nature’s beaches and let the seashells whisper to us their innocent secrets.  When the tides brush against the sandy shore, we must run into the foamy water and allow it to suck away our jittery nerves.  Or perhaps, we shall enter into one of nature’s forests.  Once there, we could rest against the towering trees, let the birds perform to us their sweetest songs, and allow the nearby ants to fascinate us with their busy activities.  Or, we could even travel deep into the godly mountains and let them woo us with their majestic beauty.  In being nature’s pampered guest, we can take a few seconds to clear our minds.  Release our frustrations.  Then, if we prefer, we can calmly begin to think things through.  However, if that begins to become too much, we can simply allow ourselves to just be. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Don't Panic, Have Faith

Hello everyone!  I hope you are well.  Graduation is around the corner, and I must admit that I am rather nervous.  This morning, I was contemplating the things that I hope to do post-graduation.  I imagined the possibilities of me not accomplishing those goals and became a little discouraged.  Fortunately, however, while selecting a poem to present to you today, I came across a poem that brightened my mood and relieved my anxiety.  The poem is written by Mary Oliver and is entitled, “Little Summer Poem Touching the Subject of Faith.”  I hope that after reading it, you too find it uplifting. 

Little Summer Poem Touching the Subject of Faith by Mary Oliver

Every summer
I listen and look
under the sun's brass and even
into the moonlight, but I can't hear

anything, I can't see anything --
not the pale roots digging down, nor the green stalks muscling up,
nor the leaves
deepening their damp pleats,

nor the tassels making,
nor the shucks, nor the cobs.
And still,
every day,

the leafy fields
grow taller and thicker --
green gowns lofting up in the night,
showered with silk.

And so, every summer,
I fail as a witness, seeing nothing --
I am deaf too
to the tick of the leaves,

the tapping of downwardness from the banyan feet --
all of it
beyond any seeable proof, or hearable hum.

And, therefore, let the immeasurable come.
Let the unknowable touch the buckle of my spine.
Let the wind turn in the trees,
and the mystery hidden in the dirt
swing through the air.
How could I look at anything in this world
and tremble, and grip my hands over my heart?
What should I fear?

One morning
in the leafy green ocean
the honeycomb of the corn's beautiful body
is sure to be there.       

I hope you enjoyed reading the poem.  Here is what I think it could teach us:

Sometimes when we are faced with daunting situations we automatically imagine the worst-case scenario.  After months of studying, you are to take the MCAT in a few days.  You take a practice test and do poorly.  You predict that that you will perform similarly or even worse on test day.  Or, you are an attorney and will be defending a major case soon.  As the court date draws nearer, you start to doubt your preparedness.  Will you be able to convince the jury to vote in favor of your client?  What if the opposing attorney has gathered supporting evidence that will completely destroy your case?  Perhaps, you are accompanying a close relative to a doctor’s appointment.  Your relative, a cancer survivor, is visiting the oncologist to see if the cancer is still in remission.  While waiting to hear the results, you imagine, what if the cancer has returned?

When we imagine the worst-case scenario, we usually have an adverse physiological response.  Our heart beats faster, our breathing becomes heavier, our palms become sweaty, and we are on the verge of trembling, all signs that we are panicking.   

However, Oliver tells us that when frightening situations loom in our view, we should save ourselves the panic and not imagine the worst-case scenario.  Instead, she recommends that we simply have faith in knowing that things will work out. 

Thus, when we find ourselves facing that scary situation, we must remember to calm our nerves and think positively. Like Oliver had faith that things were growing although she could not see them grow, we must have faith that in the end things will work out, regardless of the outcome of our situation.  We must remind ourselves that although our situation may be within our control, the future, though unpredictable, will ultimately arrange things as they should be.  Therefore, we needn’t worry. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sing a Song of Freedom

Maya Angelou
Hello everyone!  I know that it has been a while since I wrote my last post, and I apologize for the period of inactivity.  My school work in other classes has required so much of my focus and time that I have not been able to submit posts.  However, I am now back and committed to posting.  To make up for time lost, I have decided to provide you with poems and commentary on a daily basis for the next few days up until this Friday, which is when all posts to this blog must be submitted. 

Today, I would like to share with you one of my favorite poems written by Maya Angelou, who is in my opinion the Queen of poetry.  It’s entitled, “I know why the caged bird sings.”  I hope you enjoy! 

I know why the caged bird sings by Maya Angelou

A free bird leaps on the back
Of the wind and floats downstream
Till the current ends and dips his wing
In the orange suns rays
And dares to claim the sky.

But a BIRD that stalks down his narrow cage
Can seldom see through his bars of rage
His wings are clipped and his feet are tied
So he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings with a fearful trill
Of things unknown but longed for still
And his tune is heard on the distant hill for
The caged bird sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
And the trade winds soft through
The sighing trees
And the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright
Lawn and he names the sky his own.

But a caged BIRD stands on the grave of dreams
His shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
His wings are clipped and his feet are tied
So he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings with
A fearful trill of things unknown
But longed for still and his
Tune is heard on the distant hill
For the caged bird sings of freedom.

I hope you all enjoyed the poem.  Here’s what I think it could teach us:

There are moments in life in which we find ourselves trapped in unfavorable circumstances.  Have you ever found yourself in a certain situation that hindered you from being your true self?  Do you have a personal secret that you wish to tell but are afraid to do so in fear of other’s reactions?  Are you a college student living under the pressure of your parents to pursue a particular course of study and/or career path that you do not desire to follow?  Perhaps, you are dissatisfied with your job but can not quit because you are having trouble finding another one.      

Feeling trapped in undesirable circumstances can cause us to experience a range of emotions: sadness, frustration, and anger.  Like the caged bird in the poem, we are desperate and yearn to be free. 

In this poem, Angelou rather narrates her own personal experience of being trapped in an unfavorable circumstance.  When Angelou was a child, she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend.  The boyfriend told her not to tell anyone, but Angelou eventually told her older brother, who later told the rest of their family.  The boyfriend was charged and found guilty, but he only spent one day in jail.  Four days after his release, he was found dead in an ally.  It was rumored that he had been kicked to death by Angelou’s uncles.  Angelou said that she felt responsible for his death; she felt that her voice had killed him.  As a result, Angelou describes that she became mute for the next five years.  However, she states that during those years of being trapped in guilt and muteness, she began to regain her freedom by finding an outlet in reading literature and participating in the arts.  Today, having established herself as a well-accomplished and widely acclaimed poet, historian, songwriter, playwright, dancer, stage and screen producer, director, performer, singer, and civil rights activist, Angelou consistently tells her story and encourages people to simply sing when they can not be freed.        

By singing, I believe Angelou to mean that we should find outlets to help us endure the pain of our entrapment.  She suggests that these outlets are also the means by which we regain our freedom. 

As the poem so eloquently suggests, when we find ourselves trapped in cages of undue circumstance, we must refuse to remain as the caged bird, for it is the free bird that has joy and peace.  We must press towards liberty and must belt out our freedom tune through outlets in writing, reading, singing, dancing, working, or any other special hobbies that we may posses.  But most importantly, we must find outlets within our heart and conscience.  No matter how much the pain of our entrapment may intensify, we must let our hearts continue to yearn for freedom.  We must let our thoughts continue to dream of freedom, for these outlets will not allow us to grow complacent towards our circumstances of turmoil.  They will remind us of our destined freedom, will refresh our courageous strength when it falters, and will encourage us to keep pressing.