Showing posts with label Eliot's Waste Land. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Eliot's Waste Land. Show all posts

Friday, October 19, 2007

Oyster River

There is a movement toward spiritual unity in Theodore Roethke's "Meditation at Oyster River."

There is a tension in the poem between disunity/unity, and there also is a fear of death being expressed in the poem.

The poem is Whitmanesque for me in the way opposites come together, such as here: "A twilight wind, light as a child's breath / Turning not a leaf, not a ripple. / The dew revives on the beach-grass; / The salt-soaked wood of the fire crackles; / A fish raven turns on its perch (a dead tree in the rivermouth), / Its wings catching a last glint of the reflected sunlight."

The image of twilight (endings) juxtaposed with that ofchildhood (beginnings), the fish raven (fish = infinity or God) with the dead tree. The wings of the raven catching the "last glint" of reflected sunlight.

While this juxtaposition of opposites is Whitmanesque, Roethke is not nearly so optimistic as Whitman. There is something malevolent in nature, in the life force, and life is tinged by the inevitability of death:

In the next stanza, Roethke says:

"The self persists like a dying star, / In sleep, afriad. Death's face rises afresh, / Among the shy beasts..." and then the tide comes in, "tongues of water, creeping in, quietly." This is where a transformation occurs.

I deeply appreciate: "In this hour, / In this first heaven of knowing..."We understand Roethke is reaching his "paradise," his moment of unity.

Even better are the lines: "I rise and fall, and time folds / Into a long moment; / And I hear the lichen speak, / And the ivy advance with its white lizard feet-- / On the shimmering road, / On the dusty detour."

Talk about permeable boundaries.

The last two stanzas can be contrasted to Eliot's "The Waste Land" quite neatly. Eliot's landscape is dry; Roethke's is wet, and water equals life. Roethke even says: "Water's my will, and my way, / And the spirit runs, intermittently, / In and out of the small waves, Runs with the intrepid shorebirds--"

Yet something dark remains: "How graceful the small before danger!"

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Things Keep Coming Together

Photo: Unknown artist. I like using it to depict my writing life.

For a while, I had a separate blog for teaching. I couldn't reconcile my teaching life with my creative life. I felt I was stuck. Happily, the two parts of my life have come together now. Over the summer, I requested to be switched permanently to the English Department. My request fell on sympathetic ears. What this means is that beginning in the Fall of 2007, I will be teaching literature and creative writing classes exclusively (women's studies occasionally), no freshman composition. This semester things are better already; I'm only teaching one composition section, and there are only nine students. They are a sweet group.

For the last three years, I have been studying poetry. I have been reading autobiographies, biographies, and criticism. As it turns out, this was a very good thing, because one of my first new assignments in my new role as an English Lecturer will be to teach a course on Modern Poetry. All said, the Modern movement in poetry covers a time frame of about eighty years. The precursors are Whitman and Dickinson and the movement ends just after WWII. So this would include Eliot, Pound, Millay, Lorca, Auden, and so forth. So things have come together for me once more. A personal interest has ended up being professional preparation. I still need to do a lot more reading and preparation, of course, but I look forward to it! Something I've been wanting to do for a long time is to study Eliot's "The Waste Land" more closely. Now I have a very good excuse for doing that.

This week in the Angst to Art Seminar, we talked about Lorca's essay on the Duende. The students also submitted their Confessional Postcards, all of which were deeply moving. One nearly moved me to tears. The students are starting to warm up to each other. This is good because in April they will be sharing a personal story about some kind of angst they have experienced.

I will write more about all of this later; right now, I have much grading and preparations to do for next week.

By the way: it is cold outside! We are supposed to get down below zero tonight.

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Northwest Ohio, United States
"I was no better than dust, yet you cannot replace me. . . Take the soft dust in your hand--does it stir: does it sing? Has it lips and a heart? Does it open its eyes to the sun? Does it run, does it dream, does it burn with a secret, or tremble In terror of death? Or ache with tremendous decisions?. . ." --Conrad Aiken

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Fave Painting: Eden

Fave Painting:  Eden

Fave Painting: The Three Ages of Man and Death

Fave Painting:  The Three Ages of Man and Death
by Albrecht Dürer

From the First Chapter

The Secret of Hurricanes : That article in the Waterville Scout said it was Shake- spearean, all that fatalism that guides the Kennedys' lives. The likelihood of untimely death. Recently, another one died in his prime, John-John in an airplane. Not long before that, Bobby's boy. While playing football at high speeds on snow skis. Those Kennedys take some crazy chances. I prefer my own easy ways. Which isn't to say my life hasn't been Shake-spearean. By the time I was sixteen, my life was like the darkened stage at the end of Hamlet or Macbeth. All littered with corpses and treachery.

My Original Artwork: Triptych

My Original Artwork:  Triptych

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