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"well something's lost, but something's gained, in living every day" -joni

Sunday, April 25, 2004

As a writer, I am constantly struggling with the aspects of my writing which need improvement or create dissonance in my poetry. Of Pound's three major modes for intensification of language, I definitely have the most difficulty with melopoeia. I find it hard to create rhythm and "musicality" in my work, namely poetry; it is just something that doesn't come naturally...the spacing and punctuations and pentameters and beats and all those lyrical aspects of it all. I think I'm getting better, though, and I hope this week's assignment - the once dreaded (by me) sonnet- shows that.
As for the strengths, it's hard to say because I don't want it to sound like I'm tooting my own horn when maybe someone reading this who has read my writing will disagree and be like, "what is she talking about? she doesn't write descriptions well!" But anyways, back to the point...I think my strength is phanopoeia, or creating images. I love describing things, people, places, events, tragedies, ordinary days. Definitely people the most, though. I think it is amazing how some writers can create characters and conjure up these images of people just by describing their features or mannerisms or facial expressions. And while I know I have a ways to go to be "great" at creating imagery, I think it is one of my strong points, or atleast an aspect that comes more naturally to me than musicality. I find it be easiest when I'm describing something or someone I know or have experienced...the descriptions of it all flood my memory and make their way through my fingertips and onto the computer screen or lined paper; it is like I am reliving what is or once was and that makes it easier and more real. For example, I could describe what I think surfing would be like, but the imagery wouldn't be as moving as if I were describing what it is like to ride the subway during rush hour or walk down Stewart Avenue at night. And I think I'm good at it. But i could definitely be better; a writer can always improve on even her greatest strength.

Monday, April 19, 2004

I was born on September 15, 1984 in New York, New York. Ten years earlier, Nixon resigned, Ford was sworn in, and Nixon was pardoned. India announced it had an A-bomb and the OPEC embargo ended. Between 74 and 84, the world changed in preparation for me. In '75, oil prices rose 10%, Saigon fell to Northern Vietnam and the unemployment rate was at its highest since 1941. In '77, amidst inflation and the signing of the Panama Canal Zone Treaty, my parents started dating. It was the Summer of Sam and thats how they always can remember when they began dating- the summer when young couples in new york were the targets of a mass murderer. And, as any great love story would have it, Son of Sam was arrested and Jay proposed to Edith that following April, April of '78, the same year China invaded Vietnam and the same year Margaret Thatcher became the first female British Prime Minister. In 1980 John Lennon was shot and killed and Reagan was elected President, much to my parents' dismay, as well as to the dismay of Mount St. Helens, which erupted that year as well. In 1981 Reagan was shot and the first testtube baby was born, Princess Diana married Prince Charles and the world watched. A year later the first artificial heart was implanted and then in 1983 the US had a record defecit. But that didn't deter Reagan, who announced his plans for Star Wars and future space exploration. Also that year, my brother Marc was born. But my parents were completely satisfied with him I guess, and so 14 months later I came along.
Thats the weird thing with history though, here I am recounting all these events that seem so intangible and distant. Like words on paper. I know they happened, but I can't feel them or remember them so it's almost as if they didn't. But the weird thing is, they did, and affected my life in the process. Had it not been for the federal economy's deficits, maybe my father would have had a better job after college and he would've never met the man who would later set him up with my mom on a blind date. Every event that happens affects a life, if not dozens or millions. If a pothole in the street is left uncovered and a man falls, his life will be changed. He may brake his leg, but maybe his future wife will be the nurse who tends to him. All because some construction worker didn't do his job. I guess its like that with history, every single event that has happened has changed the world, and, if not the entire world, someone's world. maybe thats why we study history- its the story of me and you and, if its not one of us, its the guy sitting next to us.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

jecca hutcheson is, in a word, excellent. i just got back from goldwin smith, from the english dept's lounge reading series. and jecca's fiction piece, entitled "free love in the reagan years" was definitely breathtaking. first, let me just say that the atmosphere of room 258 was extremely relaxing, with the late afternoon, or rather early evening, sun streaming in through the mostly closed blinds, with the rows of solid green and floral armchairs as well as some folding chairs, with the array of sandwiches and fruit and vegetables and smirnoff ice and beer (!?) and cookies. the people there were mostly older, perhaps grad students, but it wasn't too crowded- the perfect size audience, maybe like between 20 and 30 people, enough to fill the seats with some later arrivers standing in the back.
when jecca stood up to read, i liked her immediately. she was plainly pretty with a smile that made me trust her and believe in her as a writer immediately. and then she began to share her story of this young woman, sugar, who visits her mother to convince her to try and move to portland with her. we later find out that her mother has skin cancer, but the story makes a point of never focusing on this issue or of making it the tragedy of the piece, which was refreshing. sugar's mother is a hippie who lives in a commune, in a yert and, as the piece waves back and forth between the present and past, it is clear that sugar's attitude towards her mother is just as full of disdain as it is with love. we are told about bastille day 1983 and her mother's lover, el tigre, whose real name i can't remember but sounds jewish and very average, and the commune they live in, with families living in tents and huts. sugar wants to go to school but her mother is firmly against it and i get the impression that sugar is much more mature as an eleven year old than her mom ever will be. her mom is very much a "free spirit," and she assures sugar that el tigre is just "passing through," so it is not suprising when he leaves town, stealing 600 dollars and her mother's silver tea set. however, the climax of the piece is not this robbery, as sugar takes it in stride, as if it were expected (which it was). the climax instead is el tigre forcing sugar to get rid of a wasp nest outside her mother's window that distracts him while he has sex with her mother. he tells this to sugar as though it is perfectly natural to share this with an eleven year old about her mother. and she does it, never getting stung, although el tigre and her mother's friend are and develop welts. there is a sense of irony about and throughout the whole story and this is just another one of those moments. there is a feeling that anything can happen and does happen, and thus there are no surprises. it is the way sugar handles it all in passing that is both admirable and shocking.
but the tone is not one of anger, but more one of biting sarcasm and bemusement at sugar's anything but mainstream childhood and her revolution-loving, reagan-hating mother. and this is conveyed magnificently through hutcheson's tone and expressions while reading the piece. "free love in the reagan years" is not a story about sugar's resentment at her childhood and at her mother, which it very well could have been. instead, it is an understated look at a daughter's love for her unconventional parent. it is not overdone or sappy, but simple and unique and touching and funny. cheers to jecca hutcheson, an author whose work i will now be on the look out for. :O)

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Brooklyn. I never really like i fit in there until i came to cornell. growing up there, iused to hate it, i didn't feel like i fit in- not with the people, definitely not with the stereotype. the part i'm from - the Gravesend/Sheepshead Bay/Bensonhurst Area (think above ground subway tracks, think saturday night fever, think nail salons and delis and pizzerias on every block)- is very VERY different from ithaca. i felt on the outside of many different cultures - the italian (what one might affectionately call "guido") culture, the russian and ukranian world of Brighton Beach, the hispanic/black street (and somewhat intimidatingly cool) culture. so when my parents told me they were considering moving to Long Island when i was 10, i was ecstatic. i wanted a house, a yard, friends down the street, i wanted Growing Pains to be my reality. but we didn't move. i had always hated my parents for that.
And then i came here and people made comments about my thick accent. thick accent?! (it has faded A LOT since freshman year, but trust me, it comes back as soon as i talk to friends from home and when i go home over the summer) and a lot of people i met here were from the burbs, and were very preppy, very...different from the people i grew up around and next door to. and suddenly, i was going home during breaks and feeling very at home. i began to love telling people i was from brooklyn, it became a guilty pleasure, just being able to not say i was from a more generic suburb. i became a brooklyn snob (i am going to put on some notorious big right now, excuse me a sec as i get into brooklyn pride mode...), it felt so right to be from the borough of b-to-the-rooklyn, home of nathans hot dogs and hot pink pedicures, of little odessa and bed stuy.
Ok, so as far as history in concerned, brooklyn has a long one. in 1646, the Village of Breuckelen was granted charter by the Dutch West India company and in 1834 the town became a city. as was the case in most of the US, the native americans lived there before the white settlers. revolutionary war battles were fought in brooklyn, especially in and around the neighborhoods of park slope and brooklyn heights. life was lost at the expense of freedom, men died, men lived. brooklyn took it all in stride. and there are statues and street names to honor the great ones. but i never felt like statues or historic buildings, not the political nor military histories, that have impacted me. i pass fort hamilton all the time on the belt parkway, and the cannons and architecture and all are fascinating, but they have not changed my experience. its the people, the cultural history, the way different neighborhoods have become alternate universes, miniature countries in the world of brooklyn. the influx of russian immigrants in the early 90s that slowly got rid of a lot of the local italian stores and restaurants, the blocks and then streets and then whole neighborhoods that slowly but surely became foreign to me. signs and store fronts in unfamiliar letters, an unfamiliar language. thats the kind of stuff that has made brooklyn BROOKLYN.
the personal histories, the families made, the families torn apart, the births, deaths, immigrations, beautifications, business successes and failures. not just my family's, but the lives and actions of every family in my neighborhood, in my borough, have impacted my life in one way or another. and that has made me who i am today. a brooklyn girl through and through. and it has come out more here in ithaca as i have let it define a part of me and become a part of my identity, as it always should have. and sometimes a bit of the accent slips out in class or in conversation. and i will always have a thing for rap music and guys wearing wifebeaters. and i will defend brooklyn pizza to any challenger as the only kind to eat. and i will miss the subway and buses more than anyone can know. because you know what they say- you can take the girl out of brooklyn, but you can't take the brooklyn out of the girl.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

first, let me say that i love all of your blogs. i stalk you all via the blogs and i feel like i know you all better because of them. like, when i see you in class, i feel so slick and sherlock holmes-y because its almost as though i know this secret other side of you- its like we shared a private conversation before we entered the classroom. on that note, tho, i think there was one particular blog that stands out in my memory more than others (and, yes, i really have read all of all of your blogs- and you've all atleast had a couple amazing entries). that blog was irena's blog entitled "THOUGHTS ON LOVE, BECAUSE IT'S HIGH TIME FOR SOMETHING TO ANSWER THIS QUESTION."
i first loved this blog because it wasn't even in response to an assigned blog topic. and then i loved it because it flowed really well. and it was like a stream of conciousness, one that sounded like it couldve been a product of my stream of conciousness, something i would write/think/say. only it wasn't - it was irena's. its so great to read something and feel it completely and understand it. there are some great lines, some of my favorites are - " the bubble gum that got stuck between you and probably your converse sneakers" (oh how i love my converse sneakers) and "exploring the world on a sunday morning, before rolling down hills, before getting stuck in the mud and deciding we like it that way" (ahh sundays and freedom). the descriptions are so full of life and, as irena defines it, love. that really is love tho. its not just romance and flowers and holding hands and the stuff movies are made of. not to me. its the stuff that makes us vibrant and young and happy and, i don't know, just alive. i can't explain it, but irena can. go read her blog if you haven't.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Frank O'Hara's "Why i am not a Painter" was good. really good. it was a story within a poem, which i thought was interesting. and it just defined writing in a such a different and such a true way. that its painting a portrait of sardines without actually painting the sardines. its writing about oranges without ever using the word "oranges." its the process of sitting down and contemplating a topic and then just writing and writing and writing until ultimately you are sitting there and all these pages in front of you are all meditations on and tangents from that topic, about everything and anything but.
so why aren't we painters? well, as o'hara point out, painting is about deciding whether or not something belongs in this spot or in that one, if it looks right there or here. and writing, well writing is more about just feeling and letting the words and your pen go wherever your mind lets it. and then theres revisions and fine-tuning, but its just more freedom in a way. personally, i have tried painting and i love love love using watercolors and oil and all that. and, personally, i am not good at it. its fun but its draining and i worry too much about the aesthetics of it all. the prettiness or the accuracy. ugh so much to worry about. while writing allows me to focus on the contents and my thoughts, not what the page looks like. its liberating. but i guess poetry is more like painting that prose, deciding which word and which punctuation and which line goes where on the page and the lyricism of it all has to be perfect. i guess maybe that is why i dont like poetry as much as prose. i never thought of it that way. hmm.
anyways, painters and poets and writers are creators, dreamers, realists, idealists. but a painter cannot write like a writer and a writer cannot paint like a painter. well, atleast frank and i can't.

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