Book Review: Brief Capital of Disturbances by George Albon
Brief Capital of Disturbances taught me a lot about writing from experience. George Albon uses writing from experience to the extreme. He does not simply use an event in his life as a subject of a long poem or story; rather he takes specific details from his everyday experiences and describes them with very unique perspective and language in short paragraphs throughout a book. I assume that the title stems from the everyday occurrences that interrupt his life, that have some impact on the way he sees things. He takes these disturbances and describes them to us, the reader. But his descriptions seem very unusual. For example, he doesn’t describe a bird singing outside as beautiful melodies of a winged creature. This would be too distinct, too clear for the reader since birds are always perceived in this sense. It would not be particularly interesting or thought provoking if Albon had put such a description into his text. Instead, it is “ a strange small bird-sound … a clucking rasp…destabilizing, since it doesn’t sound like communication (p. 23)” This poetry makes the reader think differently about the everyday chirp of birds. This is why I found Albon’s poetry very effective—he is able to take the everyday occurrence and describe it as something more interesting or significant. The bird’s chirp has destabilized, has thrown our whole world off course because we don’t understand it. As humans we are used to communication through language. If we think about a bird’s song we realize it is a miscommunication, just a mere chirping to us that we cannot decipher.
Albon’s poetry made me realize how effective poetry can be in conveying messages and ideas through a lack of explanation, by just providing a two to three sentences open for discussion and interpretation. Stories have to have a setting, plot, characters, etc. and have to go into detail about what is occurring to finally give an overall theme or message by the end. On the other hand, Albon conveys a message with each small paragraph or line on the page. I was able to get a new perspective on something with each page of the book. Albon uses very thoughtful word choice for each experience he describes which creates the overall effectiveness of the poetry. For example to describe a smile: “A young man at the café, with a plain face—except when he smiled. Not the cliché of smiling making beautiful from plain but the literal fact of his smile transforming the structure…(p. 69)” Albon sees a man smiling, and he puts it into words that create the image in its entirety. Albon goes beyond the normal perception of seeing someone smile, and creates a new definition of smile. He looks further into a smile, and sees the actual movement of the entire structure. Albon so effectively takes a daily occurrence like this and transforms it in ways that are so far from the ordinary perception. It made me realize that if we, as writers, pay more attention to specific details we can make description so much more vivid and lively. If we can further develop our minds to think out of the ordinary, to see beyond like the superficial beauty of a smile or a bird, we can invent and convey new ideas with writing.
It is this concept of visualizing and seeing that can create great poetry. Our daily experiences in life are not as insignificant as we may think if we pay more attention to it and analyze it. I realized that little incidences in life can have great significance in the way I perceive things. If I can focus my writing on the correct words to describe what I have seen or experienced, I can create better poems that provoke thoughts and feelings.
Write a response to one of the readings for this week.
"The Obfuscated Poem" by Bernadette Mayer. I read this poem through once... quickly... then I realized that I didn't really know what "obfuscate" meant. I thought it would be a good idea to look this word up, then read the poem again. So, www.dictionary.com described "obfuscate" as:
To make so confused or opaque as to be difficult to perceive or understand: “A great effort was made... to obscure or obfuscate the truth” (Robert Conquest).
To render indistinct or dim; darken: The fog obfuscated the shore.
So the obfuscated poem became "the extremely confusing and hard to understand" poem. I'm not sure of the underlying meaning of this poem. Maybe that's the author's point, she herself has written an obfuscated poem, and now I am the confused reader searching for meaning. i think i would have to stare at this poem for hours to understand the true message. I can't decide if she is saying obfuscation in poetry is a good thing or a bad thing. I think she is saying that obfuscation is like a crutch, something that poet's can use to never really express their true feelings, to keep things hidden within a complex structure. If we keep our feelings hidden then we will never really get to the bottom of an issue or change anything, so poets should try to start giving clearer meaning to their poetry. That was my initial reaction to the poem, but then she goes on to say that "poetry's not a business; it was not her business or his to remake the world". If this is so, if poetry is not meant to change any aspects of every day life, then why should poet's make their work easier to grasp and understand? I think that when poet's use obfuscation, it makes the meaning stronger, actually. While it is not poetry's business to change the world, poetry has the ability to. I think that obfuscation makes poetry stand out in comparison to a persuasive speech. When we search for meaning, we tend to put more emphasis on what we discover. I enjoyed reading this poem, but I am also quite perplexed by it.
I think logopoeia has been the most difficult mode for the intensification of language for me by far. I am a very visual person, so while I can create the images, I find it very hard to play with words. Sometimes I feel like I don't have a strong enough vocabulary to really intensify what I am trying to describe. A lot of times, I struggle to think of a word, then playing with the words I finally think of becomes an even more daunting task. It would really help my writing if I toyed with the meanings of the words I use, and perhaps not use such general and overused terminology. For example using the words heart and soul to describe love. These words connotate romance, beauty, love, etc. They don't really add much to a love poem because the reader has heard them used so much. It will be interesting going back and revising my sonnet and trying to use other words, toying with the connotation and meaning of different words in order to apply them in a love poem. I guess my strength as a writer is creating images. I am pretty good at describing what I see or visualize in my head. Creating images begins with the thoughts in your head. I have a pretty wild imagination, so I build sentences based on what I envision. I find that all of these modes overlap a lot though-- my difficulty in logopeoia hinders my phanopoeia. I would be able to create much better images if I could play more with the contexts of words.
Write a historical sketch of the ten years prior to your own birth
I find it very difficult to provide a historical sketch of a decade of events. What history should I describe? Should I describe American history? Do I describe world history? I could just describe the history of my town, or the history of my family in the ten years prior to my birth. Anyway, I'll provide a brief discussion of all the history in the decade before 1983. In 1974, President Nixon resigned, marking the first American president to resign. In 1974, my parents would have been 20 and 21, married for a year and attending college at Indiana University. My mom would have been studying political science at the time and my dad most likely was undecided about his major. In 74, the United States and the Soviet Union had their first cooperative space mission. In 1975, the Vietnam War ended with the communist capture of South Vietnam. Also in 1975, civil war started in Lebanon. By 1975, my parents had finished college, and packed up to move to Washington, DC where my mother attended grad school at Georgetown. In 1979, civil war broke out in El Salavdor. In 1980, my brother was born! A healthy 10 lb boy; my parents first child. My mom finished school and got a job working for a senator while my dad started a small software engineering company. Also in 1980, Reagan was elected and the Iraq-Iran war started...Hussein attacking Iran and started a war that lasted 8 yrs thereafter. As I try to recount events, I realize how lacking my knowledge of history is. Its weird describing events before my life, because I didn't experience them so I don't really feel any emotions... but at the same time, they have affected me by molding the world that I live in today.
I attended the poetry reading by Karen Anderson and Gina Franco titled "Telling the Bees" yesterday in Mann library. Karen Anderson presented a few of her poems in the first half hour of the reading. I really liked her poems, but I found that it was really difficult for me to listen and get a good grasp on the poetry all at the same time. I have attended a couple of poetry readings, and have discovered the same dilemma. While I enjoyed her poems, I didn't have time to really "think" about the poem. When I have a copy of a poem in my hand, I read it, then I usually read it again, and maybe again, so I can really interpret the author's thoughts. You can't do that at a poetry reading. The author reads aloud, and you don't have the ability to analyze specific details and lines, you kind of have to listen to the whole thing, and then make conclusions based on what particularly jumped out at you while the person was reading. But anyway, this is my fundamental problem with poetry readings, but then again, you get a completely different feel for the poem when it is read aloud, especially by the author him/herself. So, poetry readings are give and take, you give up a little of your own analysis for the experience of hearing the poem and its interpretation through voice and sound.
I really did enjoy listening to Karen's pieces. It was really interesting how she related bees to society and politics, and life in general. The poem that I particularly liked was "Stinger". She described how the worker bees in the colony are all female, and how it is the female worker bee that dies a painful and awful death when it stings someone. Therefore, it is the female that protects the colony, she risks everything for everyone else. I thought this was very interesting how gender roles are reversed in our society as opposed to the bees society. In our society, it is generally the male that functions as the protector to the female. Females are generally thought of as the weaker of the two genders, and therefore need protection from the man. Anyway, her poem really made me think about our views in society. While, yes, men tend to be bigger and stronger, women are fully capable intellectually of being in charge, of being the "worker bees" in society. It would be interesting if our society were flipflopped, and it was men that more typically worked in the home, and cooked and cleaned for their wives, while they are out working and making money. I think this is completely possible, that society would function quite well if we were more like bees.
Gina Franco was the next presenter. I kind of struggled with how she related her poems to bees. I thought the connection was a little forced. She used the legend that when someone in the beekeeper family dies, that someone must go outside and tell the bees and further questioned, how should one tell the bees? Should it be an elegy? a eulogy? a story of their lives? Based on these questions, she told the life of someone she was caring for a few years ago through her poem. I really liked the poem, but I thought that it would be much more of a connection if this woman she described in her poetry had anything to do with beekeeping. Anyway, I struggled with that connection a bit. Her poems though were fantastic. I was amazed at how she described the life of this woman so beautifully through poetry. It really made me realize the benefits of poetry, which I hadn't really grasped before. While the story of this woman's life could have easily been written in prose as a biography or something, by writing it as a poem, made it so much more artistic and beautiful-- it really gave the story its life. I don't really know how to describe it, but this poem made the life of this woman sort of flow through thoughts. It took bits of the woman's life as a young woman and sort of mushed it in as memories in the woman's present life. This woman needed to be cared for constantly, could not walk, and could not remember details of her life as a young woman. Rather, when Gina took care of her, she would start to talk about her life randomly, as if she wasn't really sure what was past and present. Gina used her experience to really capture the beauty of this woman's life, and sort of the saddness of what it had become with age. I really liked this poem and enjoyed listening to it. I thought she did very well actually telling the poem to. I liked how she read it slowly and seriously, and where she would pause was very effective.
I also learned a lot about honey afterwards and decided that I like dark honey, which was described as the Guinness of honeys, the best. Dark honey comes from buckwheat pollen, which blossoms later in the season. Interesting.
Before my town was founded it was inhabited by the Iriquois Indians, I don't remember much from my 4th grade social sciences class on this particular tribe... I'm not great with historical details, but basically, the white man invaded on the Indians land, and eventually took over... the white man, the puritans, settled this area and named it Providence. Annapolis...my lovely quaint little colonial town, became capital of Maryland, one of the original 13 colonies, in 1695, around the time Queen Anne took the throne in England (Hence the name, Annapolis "Anne's city"). Annapolis thrived during the colonial period in the 18th century. Its shipping industry was particulalry prosperous and made many men rich, who then built big mansions with ballrooms and gardens. Many of our founding fathers frequented these homes. These mansions still stand in Annapolis and are frequented by tourists and local schoolchildren on field trips. Annapolis was an important city for the political scene in the 18th century, during the American revolution period. The Maryland state house is actually the oldest capitol building still in use across the US... and was where George Washington tendered his resignation as General of the Continental Army after the Revolutionary War. The Treaty of Paris, which officially ended the revolurtionary war was signed in Annapolis. Kinda interesting... Anyway, Annapolis used to be a booming city, thriving in the shipping industry, but then it lost that to the Baltimore harbor ( a much bigger, deeper better harbor). So now Annapolis has booming maritime industry- tons of sailing, boating, fishing, crabbing, etc. Annapolis is also home to two colleges, St John's college, the third oldest college in the United States, and the Naval Academy, founded later on in 1845. Annapolis still has so much of its original architecture; a lot of the houses downtown are historic landmarks. Annapolis is really cool because it looks so old fashioned-- there's still cobblestone on a lot of streets. Really the history of the city hasn't much shaped my life. In fact, I probably take it for granted. Living there all my life, I don't really notice the architecture much, i don't notice that all the buildings surrounding me downtown are from the 1700's and that George Washington may have walked the same path down Main St. In fact, the history has served as somewhat of annoyance... tourists flock to Annapolis, not only to sail, but to visit this cute little historical town as well as the Naval Academy. And the tourists crowd the streets, and the ice cream parlours... and it is so hard to find parking spaces dowtown because of them! But, I have always loved my quaint little colonial town. I love the picturesque view of the old georgian style buildings against the harbor area, I love that the town has a history to it, and its that history that gives Annapolis its vibrance and charm.
I am responding to Jill's piece, posted February 28th. I somehow came across this piece when I had clicked on a quote from her link that had been posted. Anyway, when I read this piece, it just felt like she was taking a chunk out of my life and writing about it. I related so much to her entry about finally being happy and enjoying a silly night out with the girls. Sitting around with my own friends one night, laughing about everything completely random, and just talking and talking about nothing and everything, made me realize that yes, finally I can say that I am happy. And that while, yeah it would be pretty great to be Gwyneth Paltrow (and to be married to Chris Martin!!) , I am happy to be me, and wouldn't want to be anyone else. I don't know Jill at all, and i don't know why she was unhappy... but I do know that feeling of recognizing yourself as a different person, or a better self, a happy self. Like Jill, I feel like I am finally in the direction that i want to be and that life is such an experience. I also realize that in order to become the self I am today that I had to be the self that i was yesterday. That my insecurities, my mistakes, my faults were necessary to mold me into me. I needed certain experiences to make me realize what is truly important and who I want to be. I don't think that I am a completely different person than say, the Angela freshmen year. But through time and experience, I have realized what makes me my best, what brings out my spirit, the "happy" Angela. And while, i don't know what Jill's experiences are, or her life story, I don't need to in order to relate to this personal moment of self realization. It's when you look around you and see what's beside you, and you are loving the company you are with, and more importantly you are loving being in your own skin.
I really enjoyed the poem "For Elaine de Kooning" because of the way it made me feel about colors. I really love colors, I love how you can add a touch of another color and you have completely created a different color. Like Elaine, I think its so funny how a color is "blue", what shade actually defines blue? Baby blue, royal blue, navy blue, sky blue, we have all of these blues... but where do we stop calling it blue and distinguish it from green? When does the blue stop and the green begin? We start getting blue-green or "teal". But what is blue-green? a little blue and a little green? A lot of blue and a little green? or a little blue and lots of green? I think this poem was trying to say that color is a lot like poetry, in the sense that there is no one way of perceiving a color, just like people read a poem and have various interpretations. I always have that fight where you argue whether something is yellow or green. Its just so hard to define colors, and that is what makes them unique and beautiful, just like this woman in the poem is perceived. Elaine is this unique and beautiful person because her words flow like colors from her mouth. She is not monochromatic, she is a million shades, which makes her so interesting. When she speaks, it is more like a painting. When you look at a painting, colors jump out at you, and they come together to make a beautiful image. Likewise, when Elaine speaks, it has a bold effect like color on a canvas, her words stand out against a bland background and create rhythm and image that the narrator finds fascinating. i really liked this poem. I would love someone to think that I spoke in colors, it seems like such a great compliment if someone tells you your words are like "blues and greens dancing before my eyes."