Mar 3, 2010

Mish-Mash Responses to Visitors. The South. Hamlet. "Dream Deferred." Language and Symbolism.

The visitor comments last time were so good that I’m responding to them as a post today. Therefore, organization today might be a little iffy. Hang in there. Pretend this is a somewhat elliptical poem.

Altadenahiker, I’m glad you like the poems. I often worry that poems so rhyme-y and didactic will seem simplistic, but in their different ways, I don’t think these are. In fact, I’ve always thought “Dream Deferred” (the title I’ve seen everywhere but Poetry Foundation), is as much about human psychology—repression, denial—as it is a protest against ethnic or economic deprivation.

Harlem by Langston Hughes : The Poetry Foundation [poem] : Find Poems and Poets. Discover Poetry.

As for Hamlet, I might have mentioned a while back that I find it to be approximately six superb speeches strung together by ridiculous actions and not one human who makes me care, with the possible exception of Ophelia. Give me Lear, Macbeth, Henry IV both parts, and As You Like It. And ketchup.

Altadenahiker and Jeff, the small fraction of my brain with good sense knows to strive for the more or less Zen approach you advise (by the way, I love the E.B. White quote, along with Jeff's fantastic "cognitive sloppy joes" [speaking of Hamlet] ). But sometimes I just can't get the good brain to fire up and the bad brain to calm down. That’s why I mentioned Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s “My Mind’s Got a Mind of Its Own.” (Frisky beat, witty lines).

Brenda, when I lived in Tennessee. the Yankee comments were one of surprises for me. Among the events, my then-brother-in-law introduced me to a couple of his friends: “Yeah, he’s a Yankee, but he’s a good ol’ boy.” He meant well, I think.

I figured there would be comments behind my back, but I wasn't ready for the remarks to my face, though that might be the better way to get them. And they were always jovial, not at all pernicious like yours. I've never witnessed anything like your 11th grade English teacher and hope I never do.

I'm (pleasantly) surprised those two poems were taught in Tennessee high schools, by the way, especially if you go further back than I think you do. But I suppose it wasn’t the 11th grade teacher who gave them to you . . . or did you come across them on your own?

My school in Ohio also used the paddle, but that was in the 18th century. Also, I only remember one paddling, plus a father-to-son swat across the face—two teachers with bigger problems than we understood at the time. Yet they had long careers as teachers. In fact, the swatter was a good teacher, but his son, my friend, was hard to handle, and subtlety was not in fashion there.

About the "rebel flag"—what a shame that it's linked to so much awful stuff. Regional pride can be such a comfort if you stop it well short of fascism. I'm not a historian, but it does seem there was a different way of life in the ante bellum (and later) South, which might indeed have been more elegant, etc. than the industrial North. But how can anyone separate that elegance from the slavery used to support it? And how much of elegance anywhere, anytime is a matter of sugar-coating monstrosity.

To fly the flag on public buildings in the 1990s and 2000s is strangely confrontational and alienating to those who aren't members of that fraternity of blood or thought. If "history is told by the winners," and the South lost, why are they clinging to the story of southern gentleman and Yankee monsters? What motives could there be other than clinging to bigotry and bitterness about having lost?

Of course, many tell the story in romanticized terms, then turn around and bellow "You lie" to people who probably have a firmer handle on accurate information, on the truth, "revisionist" though it be. (Ever since the lunatic Right started flapping about "revisionism," I've thought the word was a synonym for the latest attempts at accuracy, like doctors revising their prescriptions as they learn more about a disease).

So maybe I'd aspire to be a revisionist. Yet I'm no renegade—in fact, too much the boy scout, as I see it, which might account for much of my bafflement about epidemic hatred. But I've managed to refuse to swallow whole everything my parents, church, school, and nation have told me to swallow. I’m sure that means I’m going to Hell, but that Hell was good enough for Huck Finn, and it’s good enough for me.

Commie Lib. Revisionism. Yankee. Redneck. Bigot. Language is so much more important than we realize until it’s drawn us into confusion and hatred far too often.

Jeff, if you’re still with me, when you fart at the pump, has anyone called you inelegant? I think Ma Kettle in that black pickup might have found you inelegant, her with her pinkie in the air . . .

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Jeff M said...

Nah, no one hears my gas in the Midwest; too much southern gales and economic, cultural indifference. Most people are too focused on their anger to notice the simplest of occurrences.

Brenda's Arizona said...

I'm afraid to find out how you think I am! I am NOT that old! Our little high school was just that latent. And that is the truth. No kidding. So there. 'Nuf said.

'Rebel Pride' consumes much of 'some' southern states. It has stronger roots than the 'granola pride' in Colorado or the hippy flavor of California.

Your poem selections are never simplistic. Even if it is the hundredth time I have seen/read the poem, it is not simple when YOU dissect it. Must be teacher in you... Sometimes I scratch my head and say "B52, can't you leave this poem for what it is?" But usually I only think that when my head is already busy and your words are hitting the sinusoidal wave (IE, busy signal) of the thoughts in my brain. "The processor is currently busy." My husband calls it getting the 'beach ball look of doom."

SO, challenge us more! I like the depths you make me reach - and I love the comments you derive from your followers. Do you get the idea that sister-wommun AH knows all this poetry stuff already and she is just waiting for you - waiting for a really good conversation? You certainly give it!!

Anonymous said...

I've been thinking lately that most of my grammar school teachers were probably communists -- in the best sense, I mean. Maybe I'll write about that some time.

Aligning yourself with almost anything is distateful and dangerous, but perhaps inevitable. I always thought Saturn marketing was the most brilliant, because they got a huge group of people to believe they owed allegiance to a car.

(Sister woman gives me the credit she deserves. And she also brings her brilliant mathematical mind to the discussion.)

Banjo52 said...

Jeff, profound final sentence there. Balance profundity with methane. Well done.

Brenda, I must have misstated my thought about age--it was supposed to mean you're NOT old enough
to . . . etcetera.

And yes, if granola or hippie sees rebel pride coming down the street, it should run.

Maybe because of music, my semi-hillbilly upbringing, and my years in Memphis, I feel some connection to it--certainly to the agrarian over the urban, though I wouldn't know a beet from a soy bean out in the field.

I'm sometimes surprised when I hear Detroiters or SoCals express their sense of connection to their area, but it seems utterly natural or right from a Mississippian or Tennessean.

To catch a sinusoidal wave, do you need a Kleenex?

"Beach ball look of doom." Is that copyrighted? Not sure I understand it, but I love it.

Thanks for encouragement on the poem selections. I'll keep 'em coming, but let me know if there's too much drift in one direction or another.

AH, communist elementary teachers? You just might be onto something there; we learn to share there.

Actually, I thought all teachers were at least somewhat left of center--until the 1980s. Something happened, something so big that everyone started calling Ronal Reagan a communicator. Since then, I've worked to accept my cluelessness and alienation. The struggle continues.

And, AH . . . alignment . . . dangerous . . . inevitable. Yep. One's fellow aligners jump around. Or I do. They or I become inconsistent about the alignment itself or our fierceness about it. I thought I was a Toyota man for life, but just traded a Camry for a Ford. Who betrayed whom?

But as you say, allegiance to a corporation or its objects is foolish. And now there's the talk that it's really corporations, not governments, that do or will run the world. I'm not ready to challenge the idea. Black holes swallow individual planets, even galaxies, saith National Geo Channel.

Too serious. Sinusoidal wave. Beach ball Doom. Fetch the red bandana.

Lovers' Lane