chriscouto

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Location: toronto, Canada

Ready to hit the world with everything i got.....

Monday, April 04, 2005


The Kermess by Pieter Brueghel Posted by Hello

The Dance

In Breughel's great picture, The Kermess,
the dancers go round, they go round and
around, the squeal and the blare and the
tweedle of bagpipes, a bugle and fiddles
tipping their bellies (round as the thick-
sided glasses whose wash they impound)
their hips and their bellies off balance
to turn them. Kicking and rolling about
the Fair Grounds, swinging their butts, those
shanks must be sound to bear up under such
rollicking measures, prance as they dance
in Breughel's great picture, The Kermess.


This poem by William Carlos Williams imitates and reads like a dance itself. The poem's structure or lack there of is continuous and fluid like a dance. There are no stanza's in the poem which resembles dance in that once the music starts the end only arrives once the music has stopped. There are only two periods in the poem one of which is at the end and the other just past the halfway mark perhaps resembling a rest in the vigorous music. However the prevalent form of punctuation in the poem, commas, are placed in almost every line throughout the poem making the read a constan swirl of words and sounds. The words used in the poem to describe the dance also adds to the characteristic of the poem itself feeling like a dance. In every line ther is either a word that describes music, instruments or a body parts action in relation to the music, or the sound created. Words like tipping, tweedle, kicking, and rolling are action words that create an energy in the audience by watching people dance.
Pieter Brueghel as per the footnote at the bottom of page 1169 was the "Flemish painter of peasant life; 'kermess': a fair or dance. William Carlos Williams captures the paintings essence beautifully as his words, lack of rhyme scheme, and lack of structure provide an effective image of joyous dancing. Still the most capturing part of the poem, personally, was the part about the floor boards. Williams imagines these over weight figures on planks of wood really enjoying their dance and music intensely and comes to the conclusion that the planks are not only well crafted but adds them into the dance by saying that they prance as the dancers dance. Everything is in unison - the dancers, the music, the bellies, and even the boards on which they are dancing on.
Although the poem seems to have no structure there is evidence of some order as the poem is in the shape of a square and every line's length is very close to the one before it and after it. Although in the confines of the poem the people dance and play almost wildly there is a line that connot be crossed perhaps referring that this festival ans dancing does not take place at any random day but only on traditional feasts or festivals. Brueghel was specifically known for his work depicting modest peasant life in villages or farms, and a kermess is known as a festival or dance held to benefit a church on the town's patron saint's day. It seems as though there is also an implied imperfect quality to the dance and music being performed. Words as squeal and blaring are usually not words used to describe music that is being played. "Bellies off balance" reinforces the notion that this is a peasant festival instead of a proper or formal kingly festival or traditional in which people are drinking and just having a good time.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Anecdote of the Jar continued

In my last blog I wrote about the poem "Anecdote of the Jar" by Wallace Stevens. I got to a certain point in the poem that I wasn't sure exactly what to say about the poem, I had nothing. Today I returned to the same poem and found a few more interesting points that I believe I missed.
Firslty I believe that Stevens wants to outline that everything has its story. A jar has a story, a hat has its own story, in general everything living or not has a story to be told about where they came from, where they have been and where they come to rest for the time being. I also realized that there is only one line that rhymes throughout the poem and this line is placed as close to the middle as possible. The poem has no set rhyme scheme and is pretty much free verse. However at the same time there is some structure to the poem as Tennessee is written only in the first and last lines and is the last word in both sentences. That line that rhymes in the middle of the poem as mentioned earlier serves as a point of reminder that this is a poem trying to get a point across. The beginning of the poem seemes to be somewhat loose and random then we get to the middle and it has order only to go back to its original random thought. Maybe not random but instead struggling. The jar can only be a symbol of humans and if so there is a defininte struggle between nature and this jar. Still with that rhyming line in the middle and the line after it, "And tall and a port in air" there seems to be a dependance between nature and manking. Its as if there's a constant struggle throughout the poem between the two worlds and a dependance that binds the two. The struggle that exists between nature and humans cannot be won by either. Nature as proven many times has the ability to be devastating and humans have the ability to cut down trees for wood to heat their homes (years ago). So who's winning?

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Anecdote of the Jar

I placed a jar in Tennessee
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.

The Wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion everywhere.
The jar was gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee.

Wallace Stevens

Due to the lecture on Monday and our tutorial I have found an interest in the poetry of Wallace Stevens and William Carlos Williams. I find that knowing about the poets life in moderation always creates more curiousity and motivation to surround myself in his/her poems. A point that was interesting concerning the poems of Wallace Stevens are his subtle yet full titles, the poem I chose was no exception. "Anecdote of the Jar" is at first glance a strange title, one that begs further contemplation as the words anecdote and jar are usually not placed together in a sentence. An anecdote is mainly a short stroy dealing with a single incident as per Webster's dictionary. So what do we have so far? The story of the jar.
Another characteristic of Wallace Stevens is his undying devotion to finding or discovering beauty in unusual places or uncommon settings. In the first stanza the poems describes the placement of a round jar on a hill in Tennessee. Although I'm not sure of the significance of the setting of Tennessee the jar is able to make wilderness "surround that hill." It's funny how usually we don't notice a common surrounding or respect that surrounding until something is wrong with that environment. A jar in the middle of the wilderness accentuates the wilderness as this simple "bare and gray" object distort or alter our perception or view of an otherwise regular and typical place. Perhaps this is the significance of Tennessee, the fact that Tennessee is as ordinary and plain as any other place.
Wilderness is so fragile that by putting a jar on a hill it no longer can be described as wild. At the moment when wilderness itself is altered slightly or modified by the human hand it is no longer wild as or original as before. At the same time this jar placed on the ground on a hill would be the focal point of the vision. This jar takes "dominion" in that respect, that it owns our eyes and ultimatley our minds as we seek answers or solutions as to what is the purpose of the jar.
Personally I fail to see the beauty or meaning of this poem. I also with no avail, attempted to analyze the poem in terms of literary devices. But the image presented is intriguing to me and I know I will continue to think about this poem after I finish writing this blog.

Friday, February 04, 2005

I saw the title of this poem and read the footnote corresponding to the title and thought it would be interesting.

Ts'ai Chi'h

The petals fall in the fountain,
the orange-colored rose-leaves,
Their ochre clings to the stone.

Ezra Pound

The footnote that corresponds to the title of this poem reads; Ts'ai Chi'h, or more usually Ts'ap Chih, a Chinese poet (A.D 192-232) who wrote five-character poems.
The points that interested me about the footnote was how long ago the poet wrote, the fact that the poet was Chinese and the style of his poetry, five character poems. I don't believe I've ever looked at any type of poetry influenced by a Chinese poet. American influence is quite popular and when studying different eras European poetry is often reflected upon. Conveying a relevant ideas or message in five characters also seems daunting. I then became interested in what Pound had created in relation to all that I had learned by simply reading the titel of the poem and the corresponding note at the bottom of the page.
The first line is strong. I think about and realize that this image is not the first of its type that I have been introduced to. What I mean is that I have seen this before either in a movie or music video or something. At the same time because I have experienced this vision before I can modify the way I see it in my mind by altering little things about the picture. I can change the way the fountain looks or what kind of day it is etc. Then there's a strange twist to the poem as the "rose-leaves" are orange. I had never heard of rose leaves, petals are usually what are associated with roses not leaves and orange? This suddle change of what we are so used to makes such a difference in the poem, it makes this short poem art and creative. Pound takes an aspect of nature or poetry that I thought was universal and changes it. It was a change that I thought to be extremely creative and rare and to me this is what poetry is about, that one word that changes the core of the picture you had in your mind.
The last continues the intensity throughout the poem. What keeps thinking about this poem is the little changes that happen in every line that I would never have expected. In the second line the shock is the color of the rose leaves and in the last line I see no water in the fountain. the ochre or color of the the petals stick to the fountain. Ochre is a pale yellowish color. As the leaves fall they are orange yet as they stick to the stone of the foutain they become pale yellow. By the end of this poem the image I had in my head has been completely revamped. From petals to leaves, from fountain to stone (no water), and from falling to clinging, and from orange to ochre every word is truly significant. Maybe the orange leaves are staining the stone of the fountain yellowish instead of the leaves themsleves clinging to the stone. One of my favorite poems!

On The Sea

It keeps eternal whisperings around
Desolate shores, and with its mighty swell
Gluts twice ten thousand Caverns, till the spell
Of Hecate leaves them in their old shadowy sound.
Often 'tis in such gentle temper found,
That scarcely will the very smallest shell
Be moved for days from where it sometime fell,
When last the winds of Heaven were unbound.
Oh ye! whose ears are dinned with the uproar rude,
Or fed too much with cloying melody-
Sit ye near some ole Cavern's Mouth and brood,
Until ye start, as if the sea nymphs quired!

John Keats

I loved the way the poem opens with eternal whisperings being kept around. This mysterious introduction implies romanticism immediately. I also realized that the sea and word eternal have a common parallel. Countries throughout history change while the sea does not. As time passes the countries' people and image changes. Wars force a country to be rebuilt and other countries influence the rebirth of their neighbour countries. Seas on the other hand remain constant as travellers since the beginning use them as a means of travel. On these long voyages of discovery, war path, or adventure I can only imagine the array of emotions and conversations that have been held at sea.
The word "Cavern" that is continuously mentioned throughout the poem, and capitalized adds to this sense of mystery. Cavern meaning a deep cave. Hecate which is the Greek goddess associated with witchcraft and the underworld is also brought into the equation. When I looked up the word swell I found that it meant the heaving of the sea after a storm. The language in this poem paints a very mysterious picture. The violent movement of the water after a storm invading these deep caves in the ocean until "the spell of Hecate leaves them in their old shadowy sound".
After creating this vigorous image a gentle and soft side of the sea is seen. Even though such rough conditions can take place, a simple, small seashell can remain barely moved from where it was dropped some time ago. The words "gentle" and "temper" beside each other provide an interesting prardox. What is a gentle temper? I think Keats described a gentle temper extremely well with his seashell example. There also seems to be a cycle at work in nature, an understanding almost that there forces are to work hand in hand. Heaven's "unbound" wind is what pushes this shell to where it falls and the water which moves furiously in and out of this cavern after a storm barley moves this little object as if there's a respect for eachother's elements.
The poem concludes on an exciting note. Go hear the "melody" that is created. Hear the sound until you start thinking anxiously as if "sea nymphs" wrote poetry is the message to be taken in by his poem, and a beautiful one it is. The poem commences with high energy and retains it throughout until the very last word. By the end of the poem one is convinved that experiencing this aspect of nature is a must.

Dying Speech of an Old Philosopher

I strove with none, for none was worth my strife:
Nature I loved, and, next to Nature, Art:
I warmed both hands before the fire of Life;
It stinks; and I am ready to depart.

Walter Savage Landor

I've often wondered how is it that a person finds themselves? What I've come to conclude is that a person grows up by thinking about issues of pain, love, death etc. I believe its healthy to ponder such topics in depth and even exchange your ideas with a person close to you.
Last week I heard a person say that "in pain the soul refines itself". This phrase has ran through my mind countless times in the past week. This quote gives sense to why there is pain in life. So seldom do we reflect on anything when everything is going well. Like Rosita said about starting life anew, life seems to be brought in to context once again when our world is shaken. Our foundations are so fragile and life can really "stink" at times.
The first line of this poem struck me as odd. Was their nobody in this poets life that was worth strife? What kind of life can this be in which strife has been avoided? Is it even possible? It seems to have negative tone to it, as soon as life starts to stink departure is the way out. The poem according to my perspective has been written backwards. When we are ready to depart because "life stinks" is when we need to turn to nature and art as an inspiration to find a new birth.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Bon Amors

What Should I Say

What should I say
Since faith is dead,
And truth away
From you is fled?
Should I be led
With doubleness?
Nay, nay, Mistress!

I promised you
And you promised me,
To be as true
As I would be;
But since I see
Your double heart,
Farewell my part!

Though for to take
It is not my mind
But to forsake-
I am not blind-
And as I find
So will I trust.
Farewell, unjust!

Can ye say nay?
But you said
That I alway
Should be obeyed;
And thus betrayed
Or that I wist-
Farewell, unkist!

In last weeks lecture we talked about a kind of love or a kind of poetry about love that focued around certain language that portrayed strong feelings. It was a very different kind of love than Sappho's love poetry that was very intense and passionate. This poetry that was brought alive by Dante Alighieri and Francesco Petrarca was a patient poetry in which a key emotion that usually surfaced in the poetry was a deep yearning for the loved one.
Since Thomas Wyatt was mentioned in lecture as one of the first poets who successfullly translated this type of poetry into english I decided to look at one of his poems. I picked "What ShouldI Say" as my poem because of the title. I find that in any situation where there is a desire for someone the first question asked in our minds or to our friends is, what should I say? or what should I do? I found the title very appropriate and real even today.
After reading the first stanza however I found that this poem was not looking for the words to swoop someone of their feet, but quite the opposite. It seems that this poem is deeling with feelings and ideas of betrayal of faith as is says, "faith is dead." Two negative questions are asked in the stanza, "and truth away from you is fled?", and "should I be led with doubleness?" Though their both questions I think because of the way the questions are asked the speaker knows the answer to both but has not yet accepted the answers. I come to this conclusion also because of the last line of the stanza as it says, "nay, nay mistress." On the other hand it could be that this faith that has been lost between the two was misunderstood. The term mistress means an upper class married woman. A typical characteristic of this type of love poetry can be a false sense of committment and love as the desire is often for a partner already committed.
In the second stanza this promise is uncovered and the relationship at hand is clearly severed. The speaker is coming to the realization that its over ans this is something that I haven't seen too often in this love poetry. Still the strong emotional feelings that are signature to creating this type of poetry are present as this loss leaks into the third stanza. In this stanza it is confirmed that he still will trust as it comes for what was taken was not his mind. The speaker in the poem also feels the need to clearly state that he is not blind, erasing the common stigma that love is blind. I believe this statement as the doubleness of the partner was seen.
Still this last stanza throws a twist and makes me think that the poem is actually about a married couple whose marriage has gone arye instead of a relationship in which one desires a married woman.. I think this because in the last stanza it seems that a vow is repeated as it was said from one to the other, a type of vow that was said in marriage. It starts as if to say........can you deny it? after saying "I will be faithful to you" and then betray. Either way there is a painful emotion to this poem that deals with love and all that it can bring.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Sappho

I have no complaint

I have no complaint

prosperity that
the golden Muses
gave me was no
delusion: dead, I
won't be forgotten

Sappho

I was looking over some poems by Sappho and came across this one. I read it over a couple times and though its short and straightforward as far as language, structure etc I'm having difficulty fully understanding it. I was thinking that this poem could possibly have been written at a time when Sappho had asserted her skill in the arts. What the Muses had given her was no delusion, the ability to write influential poetry in a significant time and place. Sappho was able to write in a very unique period in ancient Greece.
The mentioning of death in the poem also interests me eventhough I'm still not sure what is the deeper meaning behing it. Most people I assume, would think that in death they would be forgotten. Sappho on the other hand states that in her death she will be remembered. Is it possible that Sappho had realized that she would be that kind of artist, the kind that is so unique and moving that in life controversy is stirred and in death art is created? The poem sounds confident and strong. Having no complaints seems peaceful and quiet. In fact a lot of poetry is usually about complaints.
This poem is so simple and I don't know what its about. Could it be so simple that it just means literally what it says, or is there something I'm missing? Usually when analyzing I look for literary tools that authors often use to construct a poem such as the rhyme scheme, images etc. This poem doesn't have any of that. At the same time I feel like the poem is tryinig to say a lot in the simple lines. It touches on important subjects like death, rememberance in death, the Muses or faith, and complaints or the nature of humans.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Aging

Lately I've been pondering the concept of aging for some reason. A couple of days ago I looked at my Granfather and realized something that had never dawned on me before, though very obvious. I realized that my Grandfather was becoming old, and that realistically I don't have an abundance of time left with him. That night I went home and found a poem by William Butler Yeats that dealt with the theme of aging and thoughts that come with aging. This following poem is by William Butler Yeats and is on page 1085 in the anthology.

When You Are Old

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.


Age is a delicate a private issue that each individual at some point must face. For many age is a time when there is a lot of time available to reflect upon past relationships as questions of what could have been are wrestled with. The poem appears to deal with the reflection of some sort of relationship. The introduction of grey color imagery at the beginning of the poem immediately sets a tired, somber mood. There is also constant reference to sleep which add to this mood. The speaker is worn out and only has the energy to think and reflect. As the poem goes on the reader also gets the impression that the relationship was somewhat special using reference to eyes which have been related to the soul.
The word love or loved is also used often in this poem. It implies a certain intimacy that was shared and remembered, a lot of emotion towards this relationship. The love seems to be true as the description of her soul uses strong, defined words. It also says that the love prevailed over time and as her appearance changed. The third stanza is a heavy stanza as it introduces the notion of death. Sometimes it becomes too late for us to express our feelings, or too late ot simply talk. We seem to think we have all the time in the world but in essence we're not even guaranteed tomorrow. Because of this poem I also realized something else, that everyone takes with them to the stars secrets and/or certain thoughts of the past.