Monthly Archives: September 2014

Short and sweet as two sugars

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We officially finished poetry today, and moved on to short story writing. I have to say I’m bricking it, because I think the last time I wrote a short story that wasn’t some form of fanfic was…leaving cert. Like, 5 years ago. So it’s going to be painful and bloody.

Also, I’ll miss poetry, because that’s really the form of creative writing that I’m most familiar with. I have no idea what I’ll submit for assessment at the end of the semester, but writing poems has never really been difficult for me, mostly because since I don’t show them to people, I don’t really have any fear of them being crap. With short stories, aside from this fear of being graded, I also tend to get bored. Once I plan out a story…hey, I know what’s going to happen, why would I bother writing it now? I don’t really see my writing as something to be shared, and so that’s obviously a problem when it comes to stories. There are plenty of platforms on the internet for people to post fanfiction or poetry, but it seems like there are very few for original short stories. Or I’m just hanging out in the wrong places!

This next poem is the one I read out in class today. The teacher said that poetry needs to have a source of tension, which this poem really lacks, but I have to say that I’m still happy with it. I’ll make sure to include that tension / juxtaposition in the poem I submit for assessment, though!

Routine (or Don’t talk to me till I’ve had my tea)

 

Sleepeyed drowsy lazy steps

stumble to the kitchen — kettle

mug and tea and water.

 

Stand like an eejit by the sink.

Forget what to do. More

sleepeyed drowsy lazy steps

 

To the sink. Fill kettle and

put it on. Moan when greeted — focus on

mug and tea and water.

 

Finally a whistle and a click.

Pour water, add milk then

sleepeyed drowsy lazy steps

 

To the couch or table, anywhere

to sit and then shove face into

mug and tea and water.

 

Spend twenty minutes on what’s in hand:

the heat, the smell, this cure for

sleepeyed drowsy lazy steps —

mug and tea and water.

 

So I tried for a villanelle, but ignored the rhyming scheme. I think it still works, though. I’m getting more and more interested in poetic forms, since I’m so used to writing free verse. It’s satisfying in a very different way to write a poem that fits (more or less) with a set form. Here’s one I wrote last week, in the form of a tritina (basically half a sestina: only three repeating end words, and one line containing them all at the end).

Lacanian Reflection

 

There is another in the mirror.

Its hands raise when I raise mine

And its eyes stare curiously.

 

It copies my every move. Curiously,

There is no delay in this mirror:

Its actions reflect exactly mine.

 

The woman babbles that this is mine —

This figure, this reflection. I curiously

Move forwards and tap the mirror.

 

I am two selves, curiously — mine and mirror.

Je reviens “au pays natal”

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Cette semaine, nous faisons Aimé Césaire et son Cahier d’un retour au pays natal. Il y avait deux extraits pour lire avant le cours, le premier tiré du début, et le deuxième tiré à peu près cinq pages de la fin. Pour moi, cette choix du texte était merveilleuse, parce que le Cahier fait un demi de ma mémoire (Final Year Project: projet de l’année finale). Dans ce poème, Césaire essai de transformer sa relation avec son pays natal, la Martinique. Il utilise beaucoup de langage rare et inventé, pour créer un effet de confusion en le lecteur. Ça ressemble aussi les paroles d’un prophet qui nous brosse sa vision apocalyptique de la fin de la colonisation.

Césaire aussi prend soin de ne pas idéaliser ni son pays ni l’Afrique. Nous voyons qu’il décrit les horreurs actuelles du pays mais également, il ne crée pas une histoire romantique du passé. Il utilise des images violentes qui nous frappent avec leur intensité:

les volcans éclateront, l’eau nue emportera les taches mûres du soleil et il ne restera plus qu’un bouillonnement tiède picoré d’oiseaux marins–la plage des songes et l’insensé réveil.

Pour moi, cette phrase me rappelle du Livre de la révélation (même si je n’ai jamais lu ce livre, mais n’importe). C’est-à-dire qu’avec ce livre, Césaire va déchirer l’ordre coloniale, et les effets de la colonisation sur son pays, et les remplacer avec une nouvelle puissance:

le soleil tourne autour de notre terre éclairant la parcelle qu’à fixée notre volonté seule et que toute étoile chute de ciel en terre à notre commandement sans limite.

Elegy

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For my grandfather.

There is no form to sorrow,
nor rhyme nor language
for your comfort now. We too
are as silent as your sleep,
no words dropping from our lips
to catch our tears.

By the bed, a radio sits
hissing like the range, its
susurration only broken by the clock.
Your slippers are cooling.

Strong in mind, and formerly in body;
now your legacy, as we gather
that strength you give us: to remember,
as we grieve for the time
with you we’ve lost, all
time with you we’ve loved.

Regular updates next week.

Getting side-tracked

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Procrastination is my forté, and that is in full force today. I’m going to start with a line I find hilarious…from a Buzzfeed article. Still.

Jillette argued that the occasional misstep was a small price to honor the principle of artistic freedom and access, for women as well as men. “I have a 9-year-old daughter, and it’s really important to me that she read Ulysses. I don’t want there to be a rule that there is a certain kind of language used for women, and a certain kind used for men. That’s appalling. That patronizing of women is despicable. I don’t want women to be robbed of literature.”

It’s from an article on misogyny in the atheist movement (found here: http://www.buzzfeed.com/markoppenheimer/will-misogyny-bring-down-the-atheist-movement#1dncb4o). I just, seriously? This guy thinks that Ulysses is an example of masculine writing? It may be written by James Joyce, but the stream-of-consciousness method and just so many other features are indicative of proto-écriture féminine. As well as, of course, the infamous ending. Aside from that, the rest of the paragraph is just ridiculous. There is a big difference a) between calling a woman a bitch and calling a man a bitch; and b) between profanity and literature. Yes, of course, literature can include profanity. But insulting someone is not literature, and refraining from insulting someone is not robbing them of literature! Also, I have this vision in my head now of him making his young daughter plow through Ulysses, which I’m sure most literature students would agree qualifies as torture. And I’m saying as someone writing (and supposed to currently be working on) a thesis on Joyce.

I started reading The King in Yellow yesterday, and I’m nearly finished. I am one of the sad breed who only started reading it because the first season of True Detective was awesome, but I am absolutely in love with it. The writing is amazing, I love the settings–Bohemian Paris, and a dystopian New York–and the characters really stick with you. As of course, does the horror of the play. It’s a brilliant mix of the supernatural, the fantastical, and the mundane that’s just compelling. I’m giving myself permission to read it to my heart’s content because I will have to write a short story for Creative Writing class at some point this semester, and this counts as studying, right? Anyone? Bueller?

Freewriting fail and a definition of poetry

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Starting this week, each creative writing class will begin with a freewriting session. I quite enjoy freewriting, but I’m…well, terrible at it. Especially since we didn’t have a prompt, and I didn’t have my tea this morning! I ending up with a page and a half of awful diary entry. To give you an idea, the last two sentences were:

God, I can’t wait for coffee. I’ll even spend the €3.50.

I think the exercise was supposed to help us think up ideas and gain inspiration for the short story we’ve to submit at the end of the semester. Unless I write about my renewed (and crippling) caffeine addiction, I don’t think I’ll get anything from it. Note to self: remember to drink my morning tea before creative writing class!

It went much better after that, especially after we broke for five minutes and I splurged that €3.50 in Starbucks for, I shit you not, a regular Americano with a shot of hazelnut. Yes, that costs €3.50 here. Criminal!

After the freewriting, we discussed the poems we were given last week, which were mostly metapoetry, and then moved on to various definitions of what poetry is and what are its objectives. I also want to look up the really awesome prose poem by Brian something-or-other in Niall MacMonagle’s anthology “Real Cool”. Which is a brilliant book that everyone should read. We’re supposed to think about what makes us like the poems we like: what techniques the poet uses; what appeals to us about the imagery and topics. Honestly, I’m not really sure. I don’t have a set type of poetry that I like, and it’s been a while since I dug out the anthologies I own. So that’s something I’ll be doing at some point this week! And of course, the only poems I could think of when she said that were A Puppy Called Puberty by Adrian Mitchell and Larkin’s This Be the Verse.

We turned our hands to fleshing out experiences we’ve had that might be used as subject matter for a poem: finding the universality of that experience. Again, I failed. The last line of what I wrote:

Poetry is not for the listener; it is not a kindness or an empathy–the hand outstretched is not to welcome you but to bid you admire the rings that adorn it.

From that, we looked at a few different poetic forms. Here too I had a bit of a leg up, having taken speech and drama classes since I was a young wan. Especially when looking at the first form we did, which was the sonnet. We also looked at villanelles (taking the ubiquitous “Antarctica” by Derek Mahon as our example), haikus, the influence of Irish language poetry on Hiberno-English poetry, and finishing with a brief definition of dramatic monologue or persona poetry.

I was a little disappointed that we didn’t look at the sestina, but that was mostly because I decided last week that since we only had to write one poem for the class, I’d go outside my comfort zone and write something with a strict poetic form. I tried writing a sestina before, and it didn’t turn out great (which means it was godawful), and I thought it would be a good challenge. But it’s been ages since I tried to write one, so my memory of the form is really rusty. The other option I was thinking of was a villanelle, which we did do; though, I’d like to look up more examples for myself, because Derek Mahon’s is the only one that’s stuck in my head! We each wrote a haiku in class as well, since it’s a really short–if strict–form that can be composed in minutes. Though obviously, good ones take longer!

Biological Clock

Shopping. A child screams;

I fall back into the aisle

And buy more condoms.

We’ve to write a persona poem for next week, as well as reading more poetry on the class site, looking in depth at the imagery. I’m a little nervous about this, because I don’t think I’ve written anything like it before. As well, I want to find a balance between challenging myself and going mad: i.e., is free verse (what I usually write in) acceptable, or should I make an effort to maintain rhyme and/or meter?

Breaking news! (not really) I just found two wonderful things: the name of the poet I’ve been driving myself crazy all day trying to remember is Brian Patten; and even better, it turns out we share the same birthday! So that’s Charles Dickens, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Brian Patten all born on the same day. Be still my heart. Also, I was right about the title of the poem I was thinking of, and I have no idea why google didn’t recognise it. So I’ll finish my description of our class searching for a definition of poetry with this.

Prose Poem towards a Definition of Itself

by Brian Patten

When in public poetry should take off its clothes and wave to the nearest person in sight; it should be seen in the company of thieves and lovers rather than that of journalists and publishers. On sighting mathematicians it should unhook the algebra from their minds and replace it with poetry; on sighting poets it should unhook poetry from their minds and replace it with algebra; it should fall in love with children and woo them with fairy tales; it should wait on the landing for two years for its mates to come home then go outside and find them all dead.

When the electricity fails it should wear dark glasses and pretend to be blind. It should guide all those who are safe into the middle of busy roads and leave them there. It should shout EVIL! EVIL! from the roofs of the world’s stock exchanges. It should not pretend to be a clerk or a librarian. It is the eventual sameness of contradictions. It should never weep until it is alone and then only after it has covered the mirrors and sealed up the cracks.

Poetry should seek out couples and wander with them into stables, neglected bedrooms and engineless cars for a final Good Time. It should enter burning factories too late to save anyone. It should pay no attention to its real name.

Poetry should be seen lying by the side of road accidents, be heard hissing from unlit gas rings. It should scrawl the teacher’s secret on a blackboard, offer her a worm saying, Inside this is a tiny apple.

Poetry should play hopscotch in the 6 p.m. streets and look for jinks in other people’s dustbins. At dawn it should leave the bedroom and catch the first bus home. It should be seen standing on the ledge of a skyscraper, on a bridge with a brick tied around its heart. It is the monster hiding in a child’s dark room, it is the scar on a beautiful man’s face. It is the last blade of grass being picked from the city park.

Une introduction à la négritude

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D’ailleurs, je crois que j’aurai un avantage dans ce cours, parce que j’ai déjà étudier un peu quelques thèmes dont nous avons parlé aujourd’hui. Je l’ai discuté avec une copine après le cours, et elle m’a dit qu’elle n’a jamais entendu de ces idées. Par contre, j’étudie la négritude (en anglais, bien sûr) pendant la deuxième année et encore une fois pendant la troisième année. En plus, mon FYP (Final Year Project / Projet d’année finale) est au sujet du Cahier d’un retour au pays natal par Aimé Césaire, un des fondateurs de la négritude (et aussi sur Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man par James Joyce. Littérature comparée, youpi!). Mon style est un peu familier mais j’essayerai de ne pas être trop irrévérencieuse!

En bref, la négritude essai de créer une communauté et une identité universelles des gens noirs. Les fondateurs (Aimé Césaire, Léopold Sédor Senghor, et Léon Gontran Damas) étaient basés à Paris pendant les années 30, la même époque (presque) de la Renaissance Harlem aux États-Unis. Mais, Paris des années 30 était beaucoup plus libéral, et n’avait pas la même ségrégation raciale qui était partout aux États-Unis après l’introduction des lois Jim Crowe. Les trois fondateurs étaient chacun venus des pays différents: Césaire de Martinique, Sénghor de Sénégal, et Damas de Guyane. Ils ont voulu refuser l’ordre colonial et l’idée de la supériorité des cultures européennes (blanches).

Malgré ses différences de terre natale, ils ont trouvé une unité dans l’idée de la Mère Afrique: très approprié pour les recherches d’une identité détruit par la colonisation et l’esclavage. La négritude a deux côtés principaux: les essais sur les objectifs de la négritude et bien aussi sur la colonisation (je recommend vivement “Discourse on Colonialism” par Aimé Césaire que j’ai lu pour un cours sur la littérature post-coloniale); et le côté artistique, qui utilise la poésie pour exprimer les concepts et les sentiments de la négritude et ses auteurs. Nous avons vu pendant la classe que la poésie peut-être a été choisi parce qu’elle est faite pour être lu à haute voix, et donc elle donne voix à une communauté historiquement muette. La poésie rappelle aussi la culture orale de l’Afrique et des Africains et donne une nouvelle importance aux comptes traditionnelles africaines et à la culture ‘Africaine’. J’ai mis ‘Africaine’ entre guillemets parce que la négritude essai de créer une culture noire globale, qui n’a jamais existée avant cette conception, et je ne veux pas combiner injustement les pays et les cultures moderns et historiques de ce continent.

Nous avons étudié deux poèmes dans cette classe: Trahison par Léon Laleau, et Solde par Léon Gontran Damas. Trahison est très court, donc je le mettrai ici:

Trahison

Ce cœur obsédant, qui ne correspond

Pas avec mon langage et mes coutumes,

Et sur lequel mordent, comme un crampon,

Des sentiments d’emprunt et des coutumes

D’Europe, sentez-vous cette souffrance

Et ce désespoir à nul autre égal

D’apprivoiser, avec des mots de France,

Ce cœur qui m’est venu du Sénégal?

Solde utilise des thèmès similaires que Trahison: ce de la souffrance des victimes de la colonisation; et aussi le conflit intérieur des peuples et gens colonisés. Mais Solde nous donne une image de la complicité des peuples colonisés que je trouve très intéressante. Le conflit intérieur que nous voyons ici est peut être la conscience double de W.E.B. DuBois: ce conflit entre l’autorité (la France) et l’origine (l’Afrique), mais aussi entre l’impression de soi comme homme noir et la connaissance qu’on a de l’impression des autres de soi. Je ne sais pas si ça a du sens mais peu importe. Aussi, j’ai utilisé ‘homme’ parce que les fondateurs de la négritude étaient surtout concernés avec l’homme noir et la création d’un masculinité noir.

Okay, cette note est beaucoup plus longue que necéssaire, donc je finirai par ma strophe favorie de Solde:

J’ai l’impression d’être ridicule 

avec mes orteils qui ne sont pas faits

pour transpirer du matin jusqu’au soir qui déshabille

avec l’emmaillotage qui m’affaiblit les membres

et enlève à mon corps sa beauté de cache-sexe

Nothing happens to me

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So my modules this semester are shaping up to be the best I’ve taken yet. I’m sitting watching BBC’s Sherlock, one of my favourite shows (and my AO3 bookmarks and history will attest to that!), and best of all, I am legitimately doing it for homework.

I’m also halfway through Raymond Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely and I’m really enjoying it. It’s a bit gams and garters for my taste, and Marlowe seems to get knocked unconscious, like, a lot, but it’s really good. I’ll probably post a review when I’m finished, if for no other reason than to give myself a leg up when it comes time to writing exams.

I do always forget how big of a dick this Sherlock is, though. I prefer the versions in both Elementary and Conan Doyle’s original works, but the BBC adaption is still amazing, and it has the extremely attractive Martin Freeman, and the also extremely attractive Rupert Graves. I visited the museum in London this past January, and it was amazing!

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One of my favourite parts from the museum.

I’m so excited about the module this is for, too: comparative literature, with a focus on crime literature across cultures. I was surprised that there wasn’t a single Agatha Christie novel on the course though, seeing as she’s essentially synonymous with crime fiction. Actually, while I was in London, I went to see The Mousetrap with my fiancé. It was fantastic, and of course, that’s all I will say about it! I’m probably going to drag Christie into my presentation in two weeks, though I’m undecided as to whether I’ll look at Sleeping Murder or The Secret Adversary.

I also had a Modernism lecture today (another yay!), and I’m undecided about whether to drag that into my presentation as well. I’m very interested in examining whether there is a connection between the rise in the production of detective fiction and the advance of modern technology. The pacing of detective fiction sped up greatly as well: something I noticed for the first time in The Secret Adversary. If you look at Wilkie Collins’ work, or even some of Conan Doyle’s stories, you’ll notice that every now and then there’s a gap in the action–sometimes even of months. I mean, The Moonstone is a great book, but it’s not exactly fast-paced. And then you get to Sherlock Holmes, with the cabs, the network of street urchins, and the trains everywhere; and then you get to Christie and telegraphs, and the entire action taking place within a few days, instead of the months or years of previous detective novels. I can’t help but feel like the faster pace (and therefore, sometimes, shorter text) of the detective story increased its popularity. And then we work our way back round to the postmodernism of stories like those in A New York Trilogy, which take ages for nothing to happen.

Obviously, that entire paragraph is nothing but rampant speculation, but I still feel like it could go somewhere.