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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,

perhaps.

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.

Blog Group B: Post 4

Posted in Uncategorized on March 30, 2009 by karlakelsey

In “The Mid-Course Turn” Gerry Harp discusses work that turns, midway through, from the “genre of its development” to a different genre all together. When you look at Asher Ghaffar’s work, what genres do you see incorporated? Describe the connections and disconnections Ghaffar makes as he turns from one genre to another in the course of a single poem.

Dialectal Argument Structure

Posted in Uncategorized on March 20, 2009 by alc215

The poem I looked at to work within class was Hymn by A.R. Ammons. What appealed to me first was the way he makes very clear arguments that oppose each other. He first says “I know if I find you I will have to leave earth/ and go on out,” which meant to me, he clearly recognized that if he found this godly figure, he was going to have to leave earth with this imminent feeling of never being able to return. We get this feeling of breeching into heaven with the lines, “and on up through the spheres of diminishing air/ past the blackest noctilucent clouds/ where one wants to stop and look”

The opposition of this original idea comes with the phrase “And I know if I find you I will have to say with the earth” Just the repetition of the “I know if I find you” draws attention to what is going on. In these lines, the narrator is saying that if he finds God, he will have to stay on the earth even if he wants to be with him. He will have to find him “everywhere partial and entire/ You are on the inside of everything and on the outside.”

His final repetition of this phrase comes with “and if I find you I must go out deep into your/ far resolutions/ and if I find you I must stay here with the separate leaves” which is where it feels as though the narrator has come to this recognition that there needs to be this separation between the relationship of him and God, even when he wishes he were closer with him physically. But the only way to do that really is to die and leave the earth behind, so it definitely shows the conflict within it. I liked that Ammons was able to show the narrator’s discontent with of having this problem with having to physically leave earth and get it up to be with God in contrast with staying on earth and recognizing that the relationship needs this distance while he is on earth.

From that poem, I really wanted to emulate this direct contradiction in the way the relationship is realized by the narrator. I was really attracted to the repetition and the way it worked as a whole.

I also looked at Joshua Clover’s “Radiant City” for guidance with this structure. I really enjoyed his enjambment throughout and how that kept the reader in suspense sort of of what was going to be contradicted or create this real tension within the poem. So I was attempting to use some of those techniques in my poem for class as well.

I’m not sure if this structure is for me. The structure is very complex to me, which when done well, is really strong, but at the same time, it’s almost as though I feel like I have to be this really philosophical person in order to produce a good poem in dialectical argument structure. And in that regard, I’m not sure that my subject matter, at least for my in class poem was strong enough to accomplish that. For instances, some things that conflicted on the list I was given was whether to text someone or call them, whether to go out or stay in, and whether to drink on a school night and do homework. I think it would be really difficult to pull off a poem in this structure with that as the subject. I’d be interested in trying it again though if I thought I found something more fitting for the complexity. 

water water everywhere

Posted in Uncategorized on March 18, 2009 by Melissa Goodrich

I worked with A.R. Ammons’ “Hymn” (p. 112), whose internal contradictions (having to go infinitely beyond the earth to reach God v. recognizing the distance as an essential part of that relationship) make perfect sense even as they contradict each other. Part of what bound these irreconcilable differences so tightly together was the repetition of the phrase “if I find you I will have to”/ “if I find you I must.” What works about this complication is that the speaker comprehends his/her helplessness with this two contradicting arguments – while the speaker knows s/he will have to reach the highest heights, “up farther than the loss of sight,” s/he recognizes that s/he would be lucky to have God revealed in something so tiny as a private physical sensation or feeling (“praying for a never cell”). Furthermore, God is everywhere (according to the speaker), “You are everywhere partial and entire/ You are on the inside of everything and on the outside” – complicating this yearning to discover or find or reach God – if He is everywhere, there isn’t really any reason to go “on up through the spheres of diminishing air” – but why then does the speaker feel the longing to go looking if God is in fact everywhere at once?

When stealing ideas, I made my subject water (which is everything – in the sky, in the ground, in our own bodies) and my speaker dying of thirst. In this way, I was able to mimic the “water everything” idea and yet maintain that searching aspect (just because its humid outside doesn’t mean you can’t be thirsty). I suppose this element appealed to me because it philosophically complicates a quest (making one pause to ask questions like ‘Why do we get thirsty if our bodies are 61% water?’ or ‘Why do we feel a pull towards God if He’s supposedly everywhere?’). I think the dialectical structure forces us to confront complex arguments and makes us take the time to plot out each side of an argument and to be so thorough that we are convinced that both are true at once, even if they’re irreconcilable. I feel this structure is most applicable to its certain subjects – those which do mesmerize us because they frustrate us, and so it can be the mode by which to explore the most probing and irritating questions of life, the universe, and everything.

shared philosophy among voices

Posted in Uncategorized on March 18, 2009 by Silvana

Working with multiple voices within one poem is strange enough, yet that skill becomes more difficult when each speaker is riddled with sarcasm, and neither take a distinct form. I worked with D.H. Lawrence’s “To Be Superior.” Each voice in the first three stanzas make a distinct commentary on “superiority,” yet each allude to their own superiority among “everyone else.” Yet at the same time, I found there to be hardly any difference of voice between the speakers/the monologue of a solitary speaker. The question I addressed was “What makes people find themselves inferior among the so-called superior/’normal’ demographic?” Rather than re-write the poem from the perspective of the superior, each phrase intended on giving a voice to the bumbling, awkward inferior.

I suppose the most obvious poetic device I used was re-defining each speaker’s voice, into a similarly structured poem. I began with imitating the poem from the “superior’s” point of view, yet this only led me in a completely different direction. I originally wanted to incorporate both the inferior and the superior and end with the apathetic normal/apathetic superior that Lawrence ends with. Though the last three lines aren’t quite so indifferent because the speaker states “I should like to” and this gives us reason to believe there may be a sequel to this unanswered question. What I found most interesting about Lawrence’s use of the dialectical argument structure is how different this poem felt from the other samples. Each stanza disagrees with each other, but only to an extent. There is still an agreement that each speaker has sought betterment, therefore superior than whomever. However, the use of “people like you and me” led me to believe that this was a discussion among poets, or in broader terms, the writing community.

Voice may seem like a very basic poetic element or device, yet capturing three voices that are in agreement, yet also disagree only on philosophy but not of truth went just slightly over my head and abilities. However, I do think that the dialectical argument structure is an interesting technique, and certainly not one that I’ve used in my poetry before, unlike the emblem structure (without being conscious of what structure I was unknowingly using).

A Diolouge Between the Soul and Body

Posted in Uncategorized on March 18, 2009 by Allyson

…was the poem that I decided to imitate out of the book. At first I just tried to play around with one of the other ones, but I liked the idea of two VERY different forces conversing in the same poem, much like the poem about the house and Bernadette. I liked that the two were separated into different parts and labeled as such, but I think that I won’t use such obvious sections. I mean, it is quite possible that I will keep them the way they are(for now I have them sectioned as “yes” and “no”, which seems to work well). I think this style appeals to me the most because it seems neat and orderly. I like order simply because of my personality.

One thing about the poem I imitated that I am not a fan of is the title. I mean, it is very straight forward, but it doesn’t really add anything to the poem. Mine is called “Companionship and Compatibility” with sections titled “yes” and “no” (it’s similar to picking the flowers off the daisy and saying “He/she loves me/loves me not” except it’s not a cute-sy love poem and doesn’t involve a daisy).

I’m really not a fan of Dialectical Arguement Structure and I don’t feel that it is working for me because of the necessity for two opposing sides. Sometimes I can work in two different sides by having a particular situation with a language choice that doesn’t match it completely. This can create uncertainty or uneasiness (depending on the situation) without having to sit down and clearly state “this is what I think about owning a cat” and “this is what I think about owning a dog”. Staying true to the form, it is difficult to find a way to tie the two together, let alone end the poem. Some subjects cannot end, or do not find an end for a particular speaker/poet. I don’t like the “pressure to wrap up, or compromise”.

Personification

Posted in Uncategorized on March 17, 2009 by VV

I imitated Bernadette Mayer’s “House and Bernadette,” using the particular device of personification. She give the house a voice and feelings and opinions and even a sexual orientation. I didn’t go quite this far, because I only gave it feeling and possibly opinions. The title of my exercise was the question “What offends a house?” inspired by Mayer’s line “H: Emptiness insults me but I have my limits and you have exceeded them.” This led in my poem to a more philosophical exploration of the function and purpose of houses and the way we should treat them and, perhaps by implication, people. There was no conversation at all, but the idea of something inanimate as thinking and feeling was definitely present.

I don’t know why I’m so drawn to personification, but I think it can serve a number of purposes. When you get down to it, personification is just a metaphor: This object is like a person. But the metaphor is much less directly stated, and is inferred through such things as the voice of the object itself. This tends to put the metaphor into a more subservient category. The point isn’t that a house is like a person, but rather, that if a house were, it might speak like this and have feelings like that if it were treated the way this particular person treats it. The metaphor becomes a lens to which we look at ourselves by giving just one aspect of us (sentience) to something which in most other ways is completely unlike us. Perhaps the distance and juxtaposition of that make objective observations of ourselves easier. Maybe they convey things we couldn’t say as precisely when they were coming through our own voices.

Personification, I’m sure, can serve many other functions as well, but for me I think the most valuable thing I get out of it is a different way of seeing than I’m used to, a sudden unfamiliar angle which lets me view the world in different fashions which might be insighful or illuminating to me.

Blog Group A: Post 4

Posted in Uncategorized on March 17, 2009 by karlakelsey

In class we worked on imitations of poems from the “Dialectical Argument Structure” section of SS. Share with us which poem you imitated, what aspect you tried to model, and why this element appealed to you. End your post by reflecting whether or not, and in what circumstances, the “Dialectical Argument Structure” is for you.