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May. 1st, 2009 | 12:31 pm

I've always loved cities. Growing up, my father would always say he would eventually find me in New York City, walking down Broadway. I was his Big City Girl. It was Dad-1, City-0 when I decided to stay in Arizona and go to ASU, and not the dreamed-of NYU. Part of me still regrets not going. Manhattan is the Amazon of the United States, dangerous in so many ways while maintaining its mysterious beauty.

After briefly discussing Mary Robinson's "London's Summer Morning," in class, I wonder again why I find it so hard to speak up. Why did we read this poem in an ecocritical class? For me, the answer is simple. The imagery, the cadence...it reads just like a nature poem. In a sense, it is a nature poem. There is the summer sun, the noise of the streets, the catalog of images. Clouds still float over skyscrapers. If we think of humans as a part of nature, as creatures on the earth, the portrait of people who have built this London, who have made it their home, is no different than a portrait of an ant hill, or a flock of birds. A city is the most fascinating aspect of modern life. We came from organisms in the sea, and now we sell merchandise on the streets we have paved.

We have been very busy bees.

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(no subject)

Apr. 30th, 2009 | 06:48 pm

I can never have children, because I get really angry when noises interrupt me when I am writing. I lose my concentration, and usually just call it quits, dreaming of the day when I will be in a financial position where I no longer have to live with four noisy roommates.


In light of reading Barbauld, I think back to the introduction of our Norton Anthology. If there were so many influential women before the leading male Romantics, why are they not part of The Big Six?

It's a rhetorical question.

Another question: Why is "Mother Nature" usually used with a negative connotation? Mother Nature has the power to destroy. An earthquake devastates the lives of thousands in such and such country--that's Mother Nature for you. Mother Nature swallows a shrimp boat in the Gulf of Mexico.

What about...Mother Nature lifted her fluffy cloud-skirts and showed the world her Rainbow-Curtain. Mother Nature nurtured the bees which created the honey which fed the bear which clothed the hunter which impregnated the women who birthed the child who evolved into an intelligent race who learned to feel, then learned to speak, then learned to write, then learned to compose poetry? What about THAT Mother Nature?

Where would Wordsworth's work (woo, look at that fancy-yet-unintentional alliteration) be if not for Dorothy's record of their experiences with Mother Nature? 

And Charlotte Smith! Come on! So much passion! Can passion exist within permanence? Who knows. I mean, the Elegiac Sonnets are so damn great--and not just because I am a woman reading the work of another woman. It was not part of the required reading, but I read all the sonnets in the anthology. In some works, (Written in the Church-Yard at Middleton in Sussex), it is as if this woman took what she knew of Shakespearean sonnets and said, "I do what I want!"  Tides, combines, confines, rides, cave, bed, dead, grave, shore, wave, rave, more. A,b,a,b,c,d,c,d,e,f,e,f,g,g, can go to hell, she says.

I don't remember exactly, but someone in class mentioned something about lawns--in the context of "shaped nature." I wrote in my notes: "Dare we convert chaos into order?" I'm sure Mark, or another student, said those words. I don't think it was my own thought process, because I can barely form a sentence in class, my mind goes in so many different directions.

Kind of like now.

Permanence. We try to incorporate these women writers, but after the first eighty pages of a 900-plus page anthology, they virtually disappear. It is a contrived, politically correct effort.

I would be okay with a Big Seven. Just give me one, you know?

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(no subject)

Apr. 30th, 2009 | 06:12 pm

I do not have many thoughts on John Clare, other than the pleasure I feel in reading a poet who was not a part of the elite social circles of the Romantic Period. Despite his poetic influences, he had a voice of his own, and found his own inspirations from nature. There is a refreshing difference between the musings of a poet who escapes to nature, because he has the means to do so, and a man who lives and works within the rural landscape. Ecologically, there seems to be a stronger connection between Peasant and Nature than there is between Middle-Class Man and Nature--At least, in the 19th century,  before poverty drove families to urban areas to work in factories and the like.

What am I trying to say?

A peasant in his daily cares--
The poet in his joy.

I guess, I am trying to say the Peasant Poet has nothing BUT nature. He cannot retreat to the countryside cottage with an intimate group of fellow intellectuals. He does not have the luxury of walking the Lake District to seek divine inspiration. He does not have the socioeconomic privilege of university education. Still, his poetry turns up in an anthology of Romantic literature. Hell, I'm writing a paper on a portion of John Clare's work! So what if he does not reference Dante or mythology or specific passages in Milton's Paradise Lost? Clare is the sort of poet you read while IN nature. You take him to the park. You sit on a swing and read,

An image to the mind is brought,
Where happiness enjoys
An easy thoughtlessness of thought
And meets excess of joys.

He found his own joys in nature. The introduction describes how Clare was introduced into popular writing circles after the success of his first publication, but when his following works were ignored, he fell into madness. I think his asylum work was so remarkable because the pressure of society--that is, of Man--was lifted. There was no longer a need to prove himself as more than a peasant with no education, who taught himself rhyme and rhythm. There was only nature, and the conviction of his own imagination.

You know? 

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(no subject)

Apr. 29th, 2009 | 10:03 pm

Shelley, you jack of all trades, you. Defence of poetry? Defence of Shelley!

Have I mentioned before that Shelley's writing talents far outweigh those of Wordsworth? Also, Coleridge. So, he is a sexist chauv. Well, I will plainly say--I find W.W.'s Preface boring and narrow. I will take the sexist any day.

Poetry cannot always be "a spontaneous overflow of emotions recollected in tranquility." Even the greatest minds cannot possibly experience enough sublime events to build an entire career of writing. I think the declaration of what (romantic) poetry should be has stuck so well over the years because a) repetition, and Wordsworth leading by example in his own poetry and b) it does not seem like a lofty task.

Often, I have recalled an event in my life that has led me to compose a few lines later, in a contemplative state. To my own taste, I prefer the way Shelley says it in his own pseudo-manifesto. "...a word, or a trait in the representation of a scene or a passion, will touch the enchanted chord, and reanimate, in those who have ever experienced these emotions, the sleeping, the cold, the buried image of the past." Essentially, he means almost the same thing--except for the emphasis on something "divine" in poetry. I suppose I have always held the idea that a person, no matter how many poets he reads and how many poems he writes, may still be a terrible writer himself, if he lacks a certain inherent gift. I am not speaking of the divine, because I do not believe in divinity.

I am struck by Shelley's statement, "A man cannot say, 'I will compose poetry.' The greatest poet even cannot say it: for the mind in creation is as fading coal which some invisible influence, like an inconstant wind, awakens to transitory brightness: this power arises from within, like the colour of a flower which fades and changes as it developed....It is impossible to predict the greatness of the results." 

I concur! I enjoy the idea of this inner light within a true poet, and the power of the written word which dictates the final product of imagination.

I live with too many goddamned people. It is so hard to concentrate sometimes. And I was on such a role. (More on Shelley later.)

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Apr. 29th, 2009 | 08:20 pm

Don't read a lot into these next several entries, dear readers. I have to do a huge amount of them in a very short period of time, without reading much of the material.  EEEk.

Don't judge me.

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(no subject)

Apr. 29th, 2009 | 07:21 pm

Coleridge's softer side.

I love the concept of an Eolian Harp. An idea of the speed of a breeze controlling the music in a room is...lovely. It creates a wonderful question: What if all events in the universe were subject to patterns of uncertainty? Are we all small particles in a world of chaos? 


Where the breeze warbles, and the mute still air
Is Music slumbering on her instrument.

Before Man created the A-Bomb, he created a musical instrument for Wind to be enjoyed by Man.

And what is all of animated nature
Be but organic harps diversely framed 

No one ever touched upon it in class, but what if the speaker's reference to "O Beloved woman!" and his backstepping of poetic musings was not a cowering of the Christian Eye of his wife, who might have accused the poet of blasphemy? Rather, biocritically, maybe we can look at his unhappy relationship with his wife, and juxtapose it with the idea of the Eolian Harp. What I got, rather, was almost a passive aggression in the voice of the speaker. A sort of mockery, I suppose.  "Meek daughter in the family of Christ!" With an exclamation? He can't be serious.

Right. The juxtapose. One shift in the breeze, and the song of the Eolian Harp creates a different tune. I often think, "If I had done just one small thing differently in my life, would it have turned out the way that it did?" Well, if Coleridge had done one small thing differently, would he be in an unhappy marriage with a Bible-humping Harpie? 

That's all I have to say about that.


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More Thoughts on Wordsworth

Apr. 29th, 2009 | 06:36 pm

I have been thinking more of Wordsworth, especially in light of reading Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey... I give Wordsworth a lot of grief, as do a lot of readers. However, there is a reason this poem is considered one of the best to come out of the Romantic period.

I suppose the reason I find this poem more compelling than his earlier writings is purely between William and me. I could revel in the depiction of the poet's three aspects of the self: Sensory experience, the memory of sensations, and the unconscious memory.  I could marvel at the physical pleasures of the speaker's boyhood, and the passion elicited by the experience of nature. That is not why I enjoy this poem. Given my history of reading Wordsworth, the only real aversion I have for his verse is the blatant lack of modesty when regarding his love of nature, and the self-assurance of his genius. More than in any other poem of my knowledge, we see the speaker move from the egocentric poet observing nature to a mature man who is one with nature---"soul of my moral being." 

It is better just to quote the poem. This is the single reason why I enjoy this poetic verse more than any other by the GREAT WORDSWORTH. These lines:

For I have learned
To look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes
The still, sad music of humanity,
Nor harsh nor grating, through of ample power
To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Or elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused

yadda yadda

Also, there is something terribly sad about a poet who adores the inspiration derived from the natural world, and can feel that the youthful joy of it slipping away. That selfless desire to pass on the sublime experience, and to selfishly view it in someone else--that is fascinating. It is much better than, "I am Wordsworth, I am really really talented, and here is what I think about nature." 

The end.

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Electric Light Show

Mar. 26th, 2009 | 07:43 pm

When I was a kid, I was never afraid of thunder and lightening.

Yesterday, Martha, (I think that is her name?), made an interesting point about nature. She said, "When it is raining, or it is windy, people go inside, they shut themselves up, to get away from nature." I think there is a reason so many movies portray confessions of love in the rain. John Cusack holding a bomb box, or on the pay phone...Ben Affleck and the girl who looks and talks like Renee Zelwegger in Chasing Amy. There's something romantic about the rain. Maybe because love is supposed to be such a naturalistic feeling---it just happens. There's the building, and then the explosion...Or maybe just the drizzle? 

I don't know.

Tonight, I sat outside and watched the wind. My eyes hurt as all hell from all the dust flying around, but I don't really mind so much. I told a woman who came into my work today that it was a beautiful morning, and she just complained about her allergies. We're such a weak species. Allergies? In geology, my professor explained, "In the timeline of the Earth, the human race is about as long as my thumb nail---if I file it, we'd all be dead." Anyone who believes in Creationism needs to take a Geology course. We are so much smaller than where we live. I don't think the dinosaurs had allergies. There are so many films about the fragility of humans. Why? Because it makes perfect sense. A disease carried by rats (rats!) wiped out more than half the population in Great Britain. May eyes are burning and I can't stop sniffling because I sat in the wind for more than ten minutes. Last summer, I spent 24 hours going from the couch to the toilet because the sun poisoned my skin so horribly that I could barely move without needing to hurl.

When I was a kid, I lived in a three-story house in New Mexico. People say it is the most boring state to see. They don't see past the highway. The house where I spent my childhood had a balcony that stretched across the width of the backyard. When it rained, my father and I would sit on lawnchairs on the balcony and watch the lightening. It was better than a firework show. There were no "ooohs" and "ahhhs." In fact, I don't recall there being any noise at all. Just my father, my brother and sister, and me all watching the same lightening show. Feeling safe under the roof of our balcony, with our father. Feeling as if the lightening was miles away.

Feeling, even at such a young age, that nature was ultimately way cooler than humans could ever be.

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Five: Putting your money where you mouth is.

Feb. 27th, 2009 | 03:58 pm

Yesterday, I felt a weight on my lash,
The way it feels when mascara clumps,
Gets too heavy.
Or when your bangs are too long,
And they would rather rest there than stay in place.

It happened that the weight was a
Black baby spider.

All things are holy.

Shaking, I let him live;
Helped him to a safer place,
Where he blended into the wall--
It wasn't his fault he landed on my lash, afterall.

Later, I wasn't so kind.
Gnats are too insolent for their size,
I swatted him away,
Thoughtless, whether he lived or died.

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Four: Of Mice and Men

Feb. 23rd, 2009 | 10:27 am

My roommate has a toad. The toad doesn’t have a name, and it sits in a tank, in an empty room. The toad is hideous. Hideous! I have never minded the idea of a toad in the house, because they’re just funny little dudes with big tongues. If I found a toad in nature, I would be rather excited. However, this isn’t just any toad. Like many other reptile/amphibians, he likes to eat crickets. In addition this, Toad likes to eat mice. When fed, the mouse inside the cage looks about the same size as the toad, and one has to wonder how Toad can be so gluttonous as to eat something that is nearly its same size. It would be like a human eating, not just a few slices of ham and some mashed potatoes on Christmas day, but eating the entire pig. Physically, it doesn’t make sense.


I hate Toad.


More than Toad, in the moments before, as my roommates call it, “The Feeding,” I hate my roommates. There is something perversely exciting about seeing the slaughter of an insignificant (is it?)animal. When I complain, roll my eyes, rush out the room, I am chastised and told, “He has to eat, Melissa!” I understand the hideous caged toad, must eat to survive. I am also aware that the pet store sells already dead mice for snakes and the like. I don’t have to ask why he just doesn’t buy the dead ones. It’s the thrill of the feast. It is entertaining to watch a mouse huddle in the corner on the opposite side of the tank. It is even more entertaining when the mouse does not realize his impending doom, and scurries around the take, plays in the water bowl, and inevitably sits on the mudd-shrouded toad, thinking it is a rock. It happens quickly. Toad bites once, hard, and swallows the mouse whole. Sometimes, only the tail remains for a gruesome few minutes before it too is swallowed.


“The Feeding” has become a ritual in the house, where all gather around the tank and watch for the fatal bite. I, of course, do not participate. I have seen it once, and it was enough to understand the cruelty of it. I have heard too many times, “It’s just a mouse.”


But Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,

In proving foresight may be vain:

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men

            Gang aft agley,


Robert Burns didn’t think so.


So, when destruction lurks unseen,

Which men, like mice, may share,

May some kind angel clear they path,

And break the hidden snare


Anna Letitia Barbauld didn’t think so.


I’ve been thinking about the Barbauld poem. Now, I do not believe in angels, but the poem reminds me of one particular Feeding. When the roommates gathered around the tank, the mouse scurried to the water bowl and bathed itself, and they waited…and waited…and waited. Apparently, Toad likes to arbitrarily hibernate. The mouse and the toad shared the same tank for days. I often tried to think of a time of day when no one would be home so that I could free the mouse and have everyone assume the toad had finally eaten it. I imagined how it would feel to let it free, but I never got the chance. When I wasn’t home, the toad decided he was hungry.


Now, more than ever, I feel a horrible pressure in my stomach when I think of The Feeding. I think of Erica Fudge’s description of the baiting of animals in Garrard’s text. She writes, “In proving their humanity humans achieve the opposite.” Even if a mouse is just a mouse, the act of making it into bait is still sadistic. The question of feeding caged animals to caged animals is an entirely different issue, and requires an equally lengthy internal debate. The question of whether it is inhumane to take so much pleasure in it: Yep. Totally revolting.

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