Archive for April, 2009

Ghaffar: Nonfiction and Dream

Posted in Uncategorized on April 2, 2009 by erinl09

I see Ghaffar continuously moving between a nonfictionish narrative and a dreamlike state of meditation, abstractness, and the awareness that nothing is what it seems. Nonfiction versus Dream. A strong example of this can be found in the poem In Possible Departures (begins on page 9). The first six parts I assumed to be a kind of nonfiction; given Ghaffar’s background and the inability to pinpoint the “I,” I characterized the voice as someone who is Ghaffar-but-not-Ghaffar. It would be unfair to say it is him, but I think we all will agree that it might be him. Never the matter–

The nonfiction contemplates “the myths of childhood” and the Father/Mother relationship, the voice feels guilty about his part in his parents’ disjuncture, and unsure of how to digest his ethnicity. For all these complexities, we understand that these parts are about something that happened (in someone’s reality). The voice is memoir-like, speaking of the past to the audience, and even if the voice is not at all Ghaffar, this is nonfiction. A fictional character’s nonfiction, to be sure, but a nonfiction nonetheless.

The turn to the Dreamer Genre occurs with part 7, which initiates with a future possibility for solace. The language of this part, like the rest of the poem, is sleep/dream-obsessed. “Into a place awakened,” “then they awoke us,” “the Nightmare roamed,” “that night I dreamed,” “he was having nightmares again”–et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. This Nonfiction vs Dream mid course turn is significant not only as a poetic element, but as indication of the voice’s obsessions with ethnic/cultural identity. He knowingly moves between between realities, but he is also split by them. Sleep, awake, sleep, awake–the Nonfiction vs Dream is the pattern I identified in this poem, identified in many of Ghaffar’s poems.

What I’ve appreciated about Ghaffar is his memoir-like voice, which allows for an accessibility that I found less-present in Revolver, The Cosmopolitan. My poem-critic confidence has been restored by reading this work, because even if I’m not privy to the context, I am able to take his hand, so to speak. The voice’s directness is grounding, even when the narrative is beyond my individual scope.

A Continent Away

Posted in Uncategorized on April 1, 2009 by stephroush

In Ghaffar’s “Meanwhile, A Continent Away” I see a shift which could be termed a “shift in genre” between the second and third stanzas. I see this as a shift in address/description. The mode changes in a way that could suggest “the poem’s speaker has in the course of the poem changed his or her mind about what kind of poem is underway” (Harp, 147).The first stanza and part of the second address crow imagery. Ghaffar particularly plays with the concept the crows carry souls. In this case, crows carry names that seem equated with souls as they “enter into the bodies, / which suddenly heave, born again.” I had some confusion in the switch to the second stanza and placing exactly who the “they” were (bodies or crows?). Then, the reader is suddenly thrown in another direction with the address of “We.” The “We” seems cultural, mythic, expansive. The sense of mythic travel remains consistent between the stanzas, but the bodies in question change. The crows scattered seeds of names and the people scattered their blood over the land like seeds/names. The other parallel that shifts and mirrors simultaneously is the difference of crows flying above and dropping names to the ground and then humans measuring the bedrock and dropping blood to the ground. Both events are written on the land, but are still somewhat opposite. The observation of the crows, which is detached, shifts to the confident assertion of future action with the repetition of “We will.”

There is a second shift in the forth stanza because the language shifts from the complete lyric, floating mythic style into a sudden grounding: “We huddle together at dinner parties / in wonder at the cracked surface / of creme brulee” (69). I feel dropped into this particular landscape almost violently in its mundane quality. Just as suddenly I am back in the overarching cultural landscape: “We would like to burn / a gorge through our sleep until everything / that is monstrous is hollowed out” (69). I find that this movement fits well within the section of “Production” and in the title of “Meanwhile, A Continent Away.” In those clues I can accept the kind of production that is a magic trick or a sudden leap in place even though they are still jarring and meant to be. I also want to say that there is a final shift with the introduction of the “saki” in the fourth stanza. I cannot be certain what “the saki” is because while I think it refers to the arabic coffee in containers like saki, I might be missing something culturally. I tried some research to see if I could feel confident about “the saki” at the end of the poem, but I was not satisfied with the results. I do know that depending on its significance it seems another shift in address while weaving in the thread of collective assertions. The start of this poem seems mythic in the way the Joy Harjo plays with incorporating tribal/ancestral myths into her poetry. The poem incorporates cultural burdens that rise out of this mythic space and into the present. There is a disconnection because I do not feel the mythic translates as well into the modern insertions of “dinner parties.” By the end of the poem, I find the idea that the passage of time is built into the passage of names to people, objects, lands. The mythic come through as ancestry that changed across lands physically, but also arises underneath a culture in “a silent empire of meaning.” The “world away” is temporal and physically separate. I guess I am seeing the shifts in genre reconcile and reflect each other at the end of the poem. I was really intrigued by this, but I do think my interpretation is limited by cultural divide. Elements of this book alienate me because I am not/do not feel part of the “We.” I am reluctant to make definitive statements about the ending of the poem because of this.

Turning to a Golden Dream with Some Wasps

Posted in Uncategorized on April 1, 2009 by Mary-Kate

Throughout the entire book of Wasps In A Golden Dream Hum A Strange Music it can defiantly said that from poem to poem there is a specific turn in the form. This concept is completely different when it comes down to analyzing just one poem in hopes of finding a turn, more specifically a mid-course turn that has to do with genre. I found this somewhat hard but decided to give it my best shot while looking at the poem titled Wasps In A Golden Dream (60-62).

Through this poem I I saw three somewhat shifts using the voice of the speaker of the poem as well as a turn of images. The first turn is a little tricky to place because it can come from two places; I think this is due to a smooth transition on Ghaffar’s part. The first place that the porm could possibly turn would be with the lines:

Wasps in a golden dream hum a starnge music.

The autumnal image provides membrane

for the mind again.

The second would be the stanza right underneath it:

The sirens wail through the empty street,

autumn’s last song,


The reason I feel like it is between these two is because then the transition takes place where the poem is talking about a burning building after just describing ‘landscapes’ and ‘rivers flowing’. So it takes the reader from imagery that is very peaceful and somewhat calm without the hectic activity involved with a burning building. The second turn starts when Ghaffar starts to drift into talk of the past and connects it towards the burning building. So even though he is on a different subject he has moved on using a link from something else to get to the bottom of something. This turn was evident through the straightforward words in the stanza:

The here. The there. Not proper to build a lean-to

in these woods, paki.

We learned to build a lean-to after reading

a Boy Scout manual. In case you are ever trapped

in the great white north, be sure to bring an umbrella.

The reason I find this stanza a turn is because of the tone of voice that I get from it, using the past voice and a somewhat sarcastic or declarative voice, that have been placed right next to each other.  Also, the words ‘Not proper to build a lean-to in these woods, paki’ definitely shake up the poem a bit with the voice and the direction of  who exactly the speaker is speaking to, or even the change of the speaker himself. Another turn could be when he brings up the term ‘alchemy’ which is a change from all of the ‘building’ and ‘burning’ references that he has been making, yet this is a very brief instance so I’m not quite sure if I could actually call it a full turn. It seems more of a concept/idea turn within one line of the poem that he uses to switch the topic for a moment.