Friday, November 20, 2015

Short Hiatus

mrbarbaricyawp will be taking a break during the week of 11/23-11/27 for Thanksgiving break. We will return with more literature based content on the 30th.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Parents, tell your children how you feel

I was reading Our Town, by Thornton Wilder to prepare for my AP Lit students Christmas reading selection and ran across the following passage in ACT I.
     EMILY:Mama, am I good looking?
     MRS. WEBB:Yes, of course you are. All my children have got good features; I'd be ashamed if they hadn't.
     EMILY:Oh, Mama, that's not what I mean. What I mean is: am I pretty?
     MRS. WEBB:I've already told you, yes. Now that's enough of that. You have a nice young pretty face. I never heard of such foolishness.
     EMILY:Oh, Mama, you never tell us the truth about anything.
     MRS. WEBB:I am telling you the truth.
     EMILY:Mama, were you pretty?
     MRS. WEBB:Yes, I was, if I do say it. I was the prettiest girl in town next to Mamie Cartwright.
     EMILY:But, Mama, you've got to say something about me. Am I pretty get get people interested in me?
     MRS. WEBB:Emily, you make me tired. Now stop it. You're pretty enough for all normal purposes.--Come along now and bring that bowl with you.
     EMILY:Oh, Mama, you're no help at all.
No help indeed. I am embarrassed for Mrs. Webb. She had the opportunity, an opportunity to build her daughter's confidence and show her how much she is loved and valued. But instead he gets annoyed, passes off Emily's concern, and scolds her. Not the best parent in my opinion. Mrs. Webb has things to say about her own beauty, but chooses to just tell her daughter that she is "pretty enough for all normal purposes." Gee, thanks Mom; whatever that means.

People, don't be like this parent. Tell your children that they are beautiful and handsome and pretty and wonderful. Heaven knows they need that kind of affirmations, especially when they enter their formative teenager and early adult years. Don't be a "Mrs. Webb."

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

P6: I felt a funeral in my brain CCCR

P5: Because I could not stop for death CCCR

Poetic Turns

The newest poem from Linebreak is a great example of poetic turns. Here is the poem:

Against Aristophanes

by Jacques Rancourt

                                                  No e-mails can reach you.
                                                  No texts. Here, a smokestack

                                                  chokes up soot intermittently.
                                                  Cloud-makers, I once called them,

                                    (5)         and what a world if that were true.
                                                  At the window I tap from

                                                  the interior and wait for the ghost
                                                  to write back. Only the willow,

                                                  starved for water, responds
                                    (10)       by clicking a beaded branch

                                                  against the glass. At one end
                                                  of a parking lot, a Target bag

                                                  skims the pavement,
                                                  drifts before a thing whose stillness

                                    (15)        I took to be a truck at rest,
                                                  moonlight on chrome,

                                                  its driver asleep across the seats.
                                                  How his mother, if she lives,

                                                  must worry. I wake and wait
                                    (20)       for you to call at this lavender hour.

                                                  Nothing strange inside
                                                  your heartbeat, irregular as it was,

                                                  nothing but your blood's drum,
                                                  your mysterious body

                                     (25)      more mysterious now,
                                                  more foreign for being

                                                  outside of me. I thought
                                                  we were made of water,

                                                  one soul split into two,
                                     (30)      but we are made of canyon,

                                                  a sky unpolluted by light
                                                  and thus filled with light,

                                                  a moon so full
                                                  if reveals the desert to be

                                      (35)     in motion: a coyote stalking
                                                  a trickle of water,

                                                  a wren skipping nail to nail
                                                  on the arm of a cactus.

I see two distinct turns in this poem. The beginning of the poem has these wonderful images, all of them charged with some imaginal energy. I like the image of the smokestack smoking away. The narrator taps against the glass, watching a Target bag drifting through the parking lot like some wrath--"At one end / of a parking lot, a Target bag / skims the pavement, / drifts before a thing whose stillness /  I took to be a truck at rest, / moonlight on chrome," All very beautiful! The poem is focused on describing all of these images, a very image heavy poem. And then it turns in line 19-- "I wake and wait / for you to call at this lavender hour." Now we are inside the narrators head again and he (I'm assuming it is a male) is dreaming of "your mysterious body" (which I am assuming is a girl).

But it doesn't stop there. In his contemplation he continues to look inward. To examine this relationship and how it effects him and his sense of self. On this inward journey, the narrator turns the poem again in line 27--"I thought / we were made of water, / one soul split into two, / but we are made of canyon," Now we turn into a metaphor. These two people, man and woman, are "made of canyon." They cannot be further from each other; they are different.

Some wonderful final images as well.

  • "a coyote stalking / a trickle of water, / a wren skipping nail to nail / on the arm of a cactus."

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Hero Cycle in The Crossing

One of the immediate things I noticed while reading the beginning of The Crossing was McCarthy's use of The Hero Cycle. So, I thought it would be interesting to analyze the events of the novel through this lens.

The Call to Adventure: Billy Parham's "call" comes early on in the novel. In the first few pages, Billy wakes in the middle of the night to the cries of wolves. He dresses, careful not to wake his little brother, and goes outside to follow the wolves, to watch them in their graceful circles. Their howling calls Billy. In that moment you can see Billy Parham dedicating himself to the wolf--that he will be intricately connected to these majestic creatures. But Billy's call doesn't end there. A short while later, Billy's father calls him to help trap the she-wolf that is eating members from their herd. This is the final moment of his call. Billy ultimately accepts the call to go out and interact with these animals.

1st Threshold: Billy crosses the border into the world of adventure in three places. One could interpret that his trips with his father are crossing a threshold. He goes out to experience the wild and find the she-wolf. Or, you could interpret the part when Billy goes out alone to track and trap the she-wolf without his father. Finally, the first threshold could be when Billy actually crosses the border into Mexico.

Mentor/Helper/Wise Old Man: Billy visits senor Echols during his journey to trap the she-wolf. Echols has scents that will attract the wolf and acts as almost a mystical helper for Billy. The fact that Echols speaks in Spanish adds to the mysticism. He gives Billy advice, but more than that he helps Billy to understand the nature of the wolf. That the wolf will be inextricable changed once Billy traps it. That to trap the wolf is to end the wolf. But he also knows that Billy will be changed in the process as well.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Sometimes you need to just stop and savor language.

This is one of those times. When we need to just stop and revel in the beauty of literature. Some quotes from McCarthy's The Crossing:

page 31--
"Before him the mountains were blinding white in the sun. They looked new born out of the hand of some improvident god who'd perhaps not even puzzled out a use for them. That kind of new."
page 45--
"He said that the wolf is a being of great order and that it knows what men do not: that there is no order in the world save that which death has put there."
page 46--
"You catch the snowflake but when you look in your hand you don't have it no more. Maybe you see this dechado. But before you can see it it is gone. If you want to see it you have to see it on its own ground. If you catch it you lose it. And where it goes there is no coming back from. Not even God can bring it back."
Little Prediction:
I think that Billy is going to catch this stinking wolf that they have been tracking and trying to trap since the beginning and then he is going to want to keep the wolf. He will train the wolf to be a pet, domesticate the wolf. But then it really won't be a wolf anymore, will it? He will take the wolf out of the animal. He'll have a pretty wicked pet, but it won't be the same. Just like the snowflake McCarthy talks about. You can look at a snowflake, but once you touch it, once you catch it in the palm of your hand you change the snowflake forever. It cannot be undone and it is no longer a snowflake.

page 46--
"The wolf is made the way the world is made. You cannot touch the world. You cannot hold it in your hand for it is made of breath only."
See what I mean?

page 47--
"He said that the boy should find that place where acts of God and those of man are of a piece. Where they cannot be distinguished."

Thursday, November 5, 2015

McCarthy and the Mundane

Beautiful passage on page 22 of The Crossing:
"He took the deerhide gloves our of the basket and pulled them on and with a trowel he dug a hole in the ground and put the drag in the hole and piled the chain in after it and covered it up again. Then he excavated a shallow place in the ground the shape of the trap springs and all. He tried the trap in it and then dug some more. He put dirt in the screenbox as he dug and hen he laid the trowel by and took a pair of c-clamps from the basket and with them screwed down the springs until the jaws fell open. He held the trap up and eyed the notch in the pan while he backed off one screw and adjusted the trigger. Crouched in the broken shadow with the sun at his back and holding the trap at eyelevel against the morning sky he looked to be truing some older, some subtler instrument. Astrolabe or sextant. Like a man bent at fixing himself someway in the world. Bent on trying by arc or chord the space between his being and the world that was. If there be such a space. If it be knowable. He put his hand under the open jaws and tilted the pan slightly with his thumb."

Couple of ideas here.

McCarthy excels at the complex compound sentence, like Faulkner and Morrison before him. His repetition of the conjunctions makes the sentence go on and on and on.

But at the end the image of a man bent against the shadowy sky, "fixing himself." That image is illuminating. Billy and his father are out setting traps to catch a wolf that is killing members of their herd. This "quest" (more on that later) is completing these men. Billy's father is becoming himself while doing this semi-mundane and pedestrian task--setting traps. But all of a sudden it becomes the most important task in the entire world. Maybe because he is passing knowledge on to his son. Or perhaps because man needs a quest; man needs something to do. Billy sees his father in a much more ancient light. Like he is some renaissance man measuring the universe. And why can't he be?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Speak-House, by Carolina Ebeid

Wonderful new poem today. Well, it was actually published on Linebreak on Oct. 6th, but I am just now getting around to read it. Speak-House, by Carolina Ebeid. Check it out here. I encourage you to go out and read it. A very powerful poem. I want to quote from just one stanza to highlight the beauty of this poem.

"say something about yourself  
: I had a doll named January First
: her eyes were marble blue
: tip her back & they would shut
: like an ode to hinges, openclose
: a backslash ode
: stop/go     goodbye/hello"