April 26th, 2008
Poets have been influencing by many different events or places or things. They use these to form thoughts are morph them into words and phrases on paper and produce what is known as poetry. We have studied different poets from the past hundred years or so and each one had a distinct voice but with similar ideas in their time. The “older, classic US” poets had a certain tone throughout their poetry, but the more contemporary modern poets drew upon a very different tone. There is a contrast of tones between the two extremities of the range of years studied; they both talk about the same themes but in a different manner. The more recent the poetry was written, the more “real” the message is. For the older poetry, the message comes across in a sort of fantasy or ethereal where nothing is wrong and all is one.
In “Walden”, Henry David Thoreau talks about his two-year experiment of living near Walden Pond, a place where one can be one with nature. His efforts of doing go towards his message that people should go back to nature and stop letting the developing technology and industry take over and run their lives. During his stay at Walden Pond, Thoreau did everything by himself and for himself. Despite his starting materials, he developed a lifestyle of a nature-man, one that is very self-sufficient. He tells of nature as being something that one can only feel and be truly happy with by direct experience with it. He advocates, although maybe not directly, for the protection and love of nature. He criticizes modern society at the time many times in his book, and goes on the radical tone for nature as great place for mankind.
Walt Whitman has the same idea as Thoreau, in his “Song of Myself”. Whitman describes his many feelings of nature in sections of the poem, which all tend to be on the positive side of nature as a whole. He describes different lifestyles of woodsmen that sleep and hunt and do many things like Thoreau did in Walden, but these people have lived like this their whole life, not just two years. Whitman had a great appreciation for these people and wished he could have lived this kind of lifestyle. He tells how people should get a better appreciation for nature and have direct experiences with it. People can get a sense of beauty and knowledge of life through these experiences and being in nature.
However, these classic writers were around for a much different time, era, and place than what we are all used to in the modern age. Thoreau was able to go live at Walden Pond for those years because it was available to him. He was able to have a true direct experience with what he believed to be nature, which was just enough away from society so that he could be in his idea of what wilderness should be. Whitman wrote Song of Myself from influences of direct experience with nature and other’s experience with nature of that time. The writers had this “true” nature available to them to draw influences from and write about. This is not true in recent times. Modern writers do not have this type of nature available to them. The older nature has become overrun by technology and the housing expansion spree of the past quarter century (that maybe even started earlier than that). The essence of nature that Thoreau and Whitman possessed with their experiences of nature has decayed over time to what we call nature now. People nowadays cannot do everything that Thoreau and Whitman and everyone else did back in those times to experience nature. They have to go to a park and experience what has been spared by the government and the park authority. Visitors to these parks still have traces of human influence on nature all around them: walkways and paths, lodges, lampposts, roads, etc. This has become the overall idea of nature for our modern times, and even these parks and places for nature are still in decay. At Yellowstone National Park, the various wonders throughout the park are being polluted by humans. The hot water springs are having cups and trash thrown into them, clogging their inner plumbing’s and killing the springs. In an episode of The Simpsons that takes place in the “not-so-distant future”, there is a holographic memorial that looks like a tree. The plaque on the memorial says that this is in memory of trees throughout the world. Although this is just supposed to be a humorous gag in a comedic cartoon, it leaves a strong message, and this message is what modern writers draw upon.
Modern writers convey a message in their work, a message of general realization of what is happening in our world or their area and in what little left of nature we have. In “The Concrete River” by Luis Rodriguez, the words he uses to describe Los Angeles’s “nature” leave a taste of bitterness and horridness. He doesn’t directly say that he would like to have nature be the way it was when Thoreau and Whitman were around, but he definitely leaves an impression for the improvement of it. He describes the lifestyle and memories of life in LA throughout the book. What he describes would make Thoreau appalled and Whitman sad at what life has become for these people, but these people know no other life. This is the only life they have lived and what is normal to them. In the poem “Watts Bleeds”, Rodriguez tells of a depraved town. He words like “burned-out buildings”, “broken windshields”, and “crumbling factory walls” and a title like Watts Bleeds, one can get a sense of how this place is. Rodriguez shows signs of hopefulness for this poor community, however. He gives an idea that maybe this place was not like this. With the stanza, “Oh bloom, you trampled flower!/ Come alive as once / you tired to do from the ashes”, he advocates for a revival of this place. He points out the problems in the east LA community in his book, and although he does not leave us with solutions on how to improve all these things, maybe a reader of all this might get influenced from this book and come up with effective solutions of their own. The way he describes these problems makes the reader want to fix them. In the poem “The Concrete River”, he tells of the environment of the area: “Not like the black oil stains we lie in, Not like the factory air engulfing us; Not this plastic death in a can.” He points out the causes of these problems. He then tells us of an almost fantasy river with sunlight dancing on the surface and fish swimming happily in the water. He then criticizes the lifestyle of modern society, much in a way like Thoreau did in Walden, with “Oh, we should be novas of our born days. We should be scraping wet dirt with calloused toes. We should be flowering petals / playing ball.” Unlike Thoreau, however, this youth does not have nature available to them, only what is left of it and most likely not around them. The youth have to resort to other measures to achieve happiness, things like drugs and criminal activity to get what they want. This is reality; this is not fiction. Despite the time span between Thoreau and Rodriguez, they still share this theme of society and nature. The way they portray this theme is how they differ.
Both sides of the time spectrum agree on the positives of nature, but one side differs from the other based on what was happening around them and what was around them. Thoreau was all for conservation of the wilderness, while Rodriguez had none of that. Thoreau also never fully outright spoke down and fully condemned civilization, while also never fully embracing wilderness, same with Rodriguez. They both believed in a sense of balance between the two to fully achieve happiness, a yin-yang philosophy. Rodriguez didn’t reject the way his society lived, he just asked for improvements and to have what used to be the tiniest bit of nature that they had and revive and cherish it. Despite the gloomy and depressing tones of Rodriguez’s poems, there is a sense of hopefulness that calls for that specific message. All in all, the poets are call for an overall change in everyone’s attitude with nature and with their lifestyle in general. People should be seeking constant yet reasonable improvement and balance within their lives.
In conclusion, I have found that although the writers that we have studied (Thoreau and Whitman and Rodriguez) lived in different times, they still conveyed the same message for the readers. This went against my first thoughts that the themes would be far different because of the different events and environments the writers lived in. But even with the time difference and variations of urbanism between them, they still advocated for the same thing.
April 26th, 2008
An idea for my final paper would be to have it be themed about the two clashing ideas of nature: the positive and the negative. Some people have nature idealized as an ethereal place, where one can be one with nature. Others tell how nature actually is, with no sugar coating on the top of it to show how nature is in reality. We have read about some of these ideas early on in the semester (Thoreau, Cronan, Emerson) but some of the works we have been reading recently have also placed their voice in the debate. The more recent works seem to have a more realistic view on nature, one that tells us to respect it and appreciate what little we have left of it while still being cautious of what it can do to human life. What we do to nature comes back to us.
Another possible idea comes from the above statement, but mostly deals with the theme that over time, the views on nature have taken a gradual turn to what it is now. I would go along the timeline from the early works that we studied about nature and show how the view has changed each generation to what is has become. When Thoreau wrote “Walden”, he had his nature all around and available to him. In present times, that is not the situation anymore.
March 27th, 2008
Have you seen me lately?
I am the field of flowers
run over by the asphalt landscape
drawn over by parallel lines
I am the sarcastic subtle voice
that tells everyone
“Thanks for our Future”
I am friends of the damned
with the curse of Cassandra
raising their left hands high
Have you seen me lately?
I am the ghost of the trees
the soul of the homeless beast
I am an apparition rarely seen
rarely noticed by
the fox and the peacock
Have you seen me lately?
I am what children read about
because they can’t experience it anymore
I am another fantasy
lost under Junk Island
Have you seen me lately?
No need to answer
because I am dead
come visit my unmarked grave
it is all around you
March 25th, 2008
Here is a link to the video that I took. It is of Naomi Nye’s last poem, I didn’t remember the name of it. Sorry for the bootleg quality of the video (I tried to hide my camera at the start), but she had more of a vocal performance. So no need to see it really, just listen. Click here
March 24th, 2008
Seeing poetry being performed live by actual poets was a great experience. It was awesome seeing how they stressed certain words and phrases and how they overall put emotion on the poem. It was like listening to a piece of music being performed by the writer in front of you. They know when to put emphasis and stress certain words that make them stand out and stick to the audience (even if some of it seemed a bit silly). I thought most of the poetry was successful in giving off the emotions that they were shooting for. Some of the poems seemed to be more on the humorous side, so I took them a little less seriously, but they still had their own message and still were at least slightly convincing in their cause.The role of poetry is many things. From what I got from listening to the poets in D.C., I would guess that role of poetry for them is the voice of the author, the voice of a generation, the “voice of the voiceless”, and maybe even a spark to start of the fire of revolution, but there are many more categories that poems fall into.The poets seemed to be convincing with their work by the way they portrayed it: they were full of passion and very confident when in front of the audience. I felt that the only person that might have not been (fully) convincing was Alix Olson. She seemed to tell some of her poems as if it was a stand-up comedy routine. She still got her point across, but those acts could’ve been done in a comedy club instead. My favorite poet who performed would have to be Sonia Sanchez. It might have just been the environment, but I felt that she had a very personal message to everyone there; and from the reactions of the audience, her message was well received and had an impact on them. I greatly liked that (for all the poets), the way the audience reacted to each poem differently. That is something you only get when you see a poetry performance live.
March 10th, 2008
For “No me preguntes como pasa el tiempo (Don’t Ask Me How the Time Goes By)”, I found the general theme of the poetry to be different from the ending. The start of the poetry seemed to give off a feeling of gloominess and darkness but still giving a hint of hope or happiness. The ending with the poetry with the titles of animals, however, gave off different feelings. It used personification and gave metaphors and similes to greatly describe the animals. The relationship between the speaker and the non-human world seemed to be that off appreciation but also that of cautiousness, telling the reader to take a closer look at the world. One poem that seemed to stand out to me was “Earth” on page 65. I like the use of words and how the speaker describes the earth as being composed of all that is dead. This poem seemed to be one of the darker poems. For “And So You Go, Never to Come Back”, he continues the theme from before by still using words that pertain to death (dead, dieing, etc) but there are slightly more poems that gives the reader a positive feeling. In the poem “Niagara Falls” on page 95, the speaker tells of the perpetual waves of water coming down the falls with “From the death of waves spawn others”. This poem stood out because it was one of the few that told about nature directly and gave off a sense of awe. Another poem that stood out was “To a girl who died in the sea”. I enjoyed this poem because it focused on what good can come from death. With the line ‘Now time which ruins all cannot touch your beauty’, the speaker tells that when the girl died, she will always stay that way. Her looks, her age, her personality, now set it stone by her death and cannot be changed. The speaker also tells that her death, although sad, will now make her apart of the sea and she will now contribute to the beauty of the sea.
January 28th, 2008
Emerson had a similar views and thought of nature as that of Thoreau. The difference is in the way they present these ideas. Emerson draws on history to describe nature more than Thoreau. Emerson utilizes metaphors with direct references. To me, Emerson had somewhat of a bigger vocabulary, which made it hard to follow and a little boring. Thoreau was more accessible in the way he used his words. It was more interesting to read than Emerson. His views were more on the thoughtful side. Emerson’s view on solitude is that even if you are alone and in private, there is still nature around you (in the forests, in the sky, etc.), so you can never be completely in solitude.
January 22nd, 2008
Thoreau’s description of the non-human world fits into Cronon’s discussion of wilderness well. They both tell of the feelings they get when they are alone in nature. They both describe wilderness in a way that tells of them getting away from society and describe its beauty. However, Cronon made it seem like Thoreau was growing terribly lonely in the wilderness, and after reading through “Walden”, I would have to disagree. Yes, he was alone, but I do not think he was going mad or had cabin fever, at least to an extreme. I think he finds wilderness in his mind. He is not far away from civilization (there is a train that goes by his cabin to remind him of that), but he still has a sense of wilderness and being in nature in his time at Walden Pond. When he sleeps at night, he hears nature and feels the untampered air around him. He uses all that he can from nature (grows food to eat, cuts trees, etc) and succeeds in being self-sufficient. The main perspective of life that Thoreau gains from all this, in my opinion, would be that you do not need everything that people usually depend on to live a happy life. Although this was just an experiment for him, he was content with his simple years out on Walden Pond with what nature gave him.
January 16th, 2008
At first, I was confused on which side Cronon was on. He told how the wilderness was historically supposed to be a wasteland and deserted. After saying that, he told of how the wilderness was thought of an ethereal place, where one can find God or just feel in awe to it. He then wrote how wilderness was being misused in present days, and I agree with that. We as a whole aren’t doing a whole lot to save the environment. My friend posted a website on her facebook a couple days ago. This website tells of the resources we have and use today; how they are taken from the environment, how they are manufactured, how they are distributed about the world, and how they are consumed and disposed of. From what I have seen on this site, it is awful at what is happening to wilderness in our world. I have not had many “wilderness” experiences in my life, because I had little to no true wilderness around me when I was growing up. My family has only recently gone on vacation to national parks in the United States. We visited Yellowstone National Park, and it was what I pictured wilderness to be, despite the other humans and roads going throughout the park. When we visited Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the vast craters and small patches of trees and grass throughout the lava-torn landscape made me feel so insignificant in this world.
January 16th, 2008
Hello, my name is Michael Drayer, Mike for short. I was born in Rancho Cucamonga, CA, but basically grew up in Woodbridge, VA. I am currently trying to double major in Computer Science and Music. I have become interested in psychology and english, however, so my major might change in the future. My interests include music (I play guitar), photography, and playing games with my friends. To be quite honest, I signed up for this seminar because I had the pleasure of registering for classes on the last day and this was one of the few that were not full up already. This seminar seemed like the best one out of the ones that were available. I was intrigued on the first day of class though, because my mom is from Nicaragua and came to the United States when she was 21 (1976). It will be interesting to read the literature that came from there. As for my first semester of school, I have learned a lot from the experience and have challenged myself to do better academically this semester.