Sunday, April 25, 2010

Senior Alpha Chi Omega: What I Would have Said at Omega Fireside

First: leaving OCU before senior year was the hardest decision I ever had to make. Mostly because I knew I'd be leaving all of you. I knew I'd be missing the laughs, the struggles, the beauty, the ritual, the t-shirts, the meetings, the photos. That was my life for three years and I love this organization so much.

Second: I know I promised I would visit a lot this year and I haven't really visited at all. I am very sorry. There are no real excuses for this other than work (I took a position all of the sudden that left me with no free time) and fear. I was told that I was an alum, not a collegiate member and as such I was supposed to behave like an alum. I understand this mandate. It is based in fact and in preservation of the order of the group. But I realized at Homecoming that I didn't want to be an alum. I wanted to be a member still, even if I didn't go to the same school. I wanted to wear letters and take photos and hang out and participate, but I didn't want to anger anyone by over-stepping my boundaries. Hence, Alpha Chi became something I missed everyday, rather than something I could participate in sometimes. Please hear what I say (or write) rather than focusing on what I do. I Facebook stalked you guys ALL THE TIME because I miss you so much. I talked you guys up at UCO since they don't have a chapter. Y'all were always in my heart and on my mind even if I did a bad job of showing it.

Third: You are all so talented and beautiful. I ask two things: 1) keep doing you and 2) don't take Alpha Chi for granted. This chapter is an asset to Greek Life at OCU and to the national organization on so many levels (most importantly in my mind: our dedication to class and hard work and our pride in our organizations ritual and tradition). Continue to excel in those areas AND continue to find "new walls to break down and new ideas to replace them with" (Mona Lisa Smile quote). Keep seeking the heights! And always remember that there are girls who want what you have (each other, an organization dedicated at its core to excellence) and can't have it - either because they can't afford it, or because they don't go to the right school, or because their parents won't let them, or whatever. So treasure it everyday. Never miss an opportunity to spend time with sisters. These are the best days of your life and you WILL miss them when they are gone. Especially if they are taken from you before you expected it.

Fourth: so much of who I am as a person I owe to my experience at Gamma Tau. You all taught me how to love beyond differences. You taught me how to fight fair, and when not to fight at all. You taught me when to keep my mouth shut and when to speak up. And you gave me some of my best friends (Big, Bestie ;-)).  You taught me how to let people walk their own path. You made me into a Real. Strong. Woman.

Thank you,
I still miss you,
Love ITB,
Najah, Fall 2006 PC

ENG 2653: Writing Techniques

In reading Virginia Woolfe's Mrs. Dalloway, the question was asked: what's the relationship between stream of consciousness writing and psychological realism?

In my answer I discussed what Wiki described of psychological realism in Henry James and Edith Wharton novels.

It made me think of my American Literature course when we read James's Turn of the Screw and analyzed the mindset of the nanny. Is she plain crazy, making up things, and then abusing kids? Is she crazy because she was abused as a child? Is there really a ghost? How brilliant James was to get us into her head that way.

In the same class we read Wharton's House of Mirth. Could the relationship between Lily and Selden have worked? Is Lily shallow? Is Selden a coward? That story was fascinating because we were in the characters' heads enough to wonder about their deep psychological processes, but we were still outside them to the extent that there were several questions and very few answers.

I find these authors brilliant (Woolfe is a bit too extravagant for me - as the British are known to be) in their ability to use third-person narratives to get the audience inside the characters.
A character doesn't have to be relate-able if we can see what they are thinking. That's the difference, I think, between a third person stream of consciousness novel and a first person account. Both are tied for my favorite literary style.

Quotes I loved from the story:
"She would not say of any one in the world now that they were this or were that. She felt very young; at the same time unspeakably aged. She sliced like a knife through everything; at the same time was outside, looking on. She had a perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, out, far out to sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day. Not that she thought herself clever, or much out of the ordinary. How she had got through life on the few twigs of knowledge Fräulein Daniels gave them she could not think. She knew nothing; no language, no history; she scarcely read a book now, except memoirs in bed; and yet to her it was absolutely absorbing; all this; the cabs passing; and she would not say of Peter, she would not say of herself, I am this, I am that."

"Her only gift was knowing people almost by instinct, she thought"

"...what she loved was this, here, now, in front of her; the fat lady in the cab."

"What was she trying to recover? Did it not become consoling to believe that death ended absolutely?"

"How much she wanted it—that people should look pleased as she came in, Clarissa thought and turned and walked back towards Bond Street, annoyed, because it was silly to have other reasons for doing things..."

"...thank you, thank you, she went on saying in gratitude to her servants generally for helping her to be like this, to be what she wanted, gentle, generous-hearted."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Searching While Trying Not to Search

My quest for an older, intelligent man who wants to have deep conversations and quiet nights buried in our books is fruitless. I just filled out the questionnaire for, and yet I refuse to pay subscription fees. That AND, I highly doubt that the type of man I want is on dating sites. He's too busy meeting pretty girls at museums and bookstores.

I wish I could get over it, but that guy whet my appetite for something that I never would have thought I really wanted. But I do. Badly.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

ENG 2653: Poetry vs. Prose

Much of the literature we've read in this course (and much of what is read in ENG 2543) is poetry rather than prose.  When I studied American Literature, it started with poetry but that trend ebbed and gave birth to prose earlier than it did in England.  For example, the American Romantics (save Whitman) are famous for their essays and non-fiction, not for their poetry.  Blake, Wordsworth, and Keats wrote essays, but we still read their poetry first.

As a modern-day writer of both poetry and prose, and as someone who wants to make a career out of teaching English (and coaching poets), I am concerned by students' lack of enthusiasm - and sometimes outright disdain - for poetry.  I wonder if students' attitude toward the genre in correlative to the lessened frequency of it today.  The most famous living poets I can think of: Ted Kuzer, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Mary Oliver are names that only poets know while prose writers Stephen King, Dan Brown, Jodi Piccoult, and Nicholas Sparks are much more common names.

Was the shift from poetry to prose purposeful or coincidental?
Wiki defines Poetry as is "a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning."  Might this indicate that poetry went out of style with Romanticism and the rise of Realism, where people wanted "apparent meaning" and reality? They were look away from emotion to reason.
I'm sure another reason poetry waned was because the modern novel was born.  Narratives have always been more readily understood than symbolic language and metaphor.  Prose tend to be narrative and when they are not, they are moreso written in "plain" language that the ambiguity that often characterizes poetry. 

Taking It In Stride

I miss his brain. so. much.

There was a guy. He doesn't exist in my world anymore. For once, I think I really hurt his feelings too (not just he mine).
Long story short: I came on too strong (damn my driver personality sometimes). He hinted at being just friends. I am bad at backtracking and kept pushing. He called me out on it. I got defensive. He got defensive. I got pissed and said mean things. We're not even friends on FB anymore.

To an extent that needed to happen, because I would not have backed off if he hadn't MADE me. I want what I want when I want it.
But I am sad, because I over-reacted. If I had been calmer about the situation, we might be able to still share thoughts and that's what I wanted. That's what I liked about him to begin with.

He was an English undergrad and is getting a master's in library science and instructional technology.  SO SMART. And I loved knowing that if I wanted to talk about something nerdy he would get it. I used to fantasize about homework parties.
I know, that's ridiculous. 

I'm sad that we couldn't be friends. I'm not trying to shirk blame for flying off the handle, but I really think it's for the best because I would have continued to try to start something if things hadn't gone the way they did.

So, who wants to help me find an older, mature, intellectual type who is avant garde, likes my strong will and my opinions, and appreciates art? 

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Short Arms - NaPoWriMo #4

Here I stand for all time
Arms extended wide of my body, fingertips reaching,
heart open, chest heaving,
All seven eyes open, seeing clearly

I see the tear-stained homework
as you continue to write and erase and rewrite
because turning your assignment in late won't make him change

I see the demons that taunt you while you sleep,
ghosts of lovers come and gone,
dreams of things you couldn't be because you're smarter than the average sheep

I see the bruise behind your newly cut bangs,
the one he gave because you fell asleep at his mother's dinner table,
exhausted by school, your job, and the baby
you haven't told him you're carrying beneath your heart

I see the bones of your ribcage
and beyond that I feel the insecurity they cause.
I feel you withdraw from the friendship you claim you need so desperately

But this should be easy
Stop pulling away
My arms are so tired, but I AM HERE TO STAY
This should be natural
All you have to do is receive

I see the muscles in your back clench
from too many successive hours spent bent over your work bench.
The work you produce is lovely
but beneath the ink, I see your fear of being a failure like him

I see the blood on the bed sheets
It's been four years and your body has healed
but I go there with you whenever your mind remembers the feel of stranger taking future

I see all of your scars and your flaws
I see your heart wishing to advance
and your mind deciding to withdraw
But you don't need to be seen...

You need someone you can trust
to place her hand where the blood used to be and chant songs of healing

You need someone to take the pen,
put it to your breastbone and engrave the word "free"

You need gentle fingertips
to press delicate foods between your rarely parted lips and tell you it's okay to relax

This should be easy
Please stop retreating
My arms are short,

You need a hand
gently brushing your hair back while you sleep in peace that passes all understanding

You need to be touched
in that place between wakefulness and your dreams
so you can see the angel asking your permission to fight back the demons

You need a pat on the back so you know
there's nothing enlightened about resenting growth

This should feel better
Here I stand
Hands out, heart open,
doing the very best I can
All eyes seeing,
all muscles reaching
But I can't be there for you if you insist on leaving

I've been writing them in a notebook, not typing them, but this one is so much a piece of my heart broken off and passed out to the world that I needed y'all to see it as soon as possible.
The other three have the same theme. Apparently I am really eaten up about the state of the world.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

ENG 2653: Victorianism As it Relates to America

(Dr. Hochenauer: I used this week's prompt as a starting point for my blog. I used this blue for the parts that I added to what was posted in the discussion board so you can clearly see the difference between what is repetition and what is new.)

This week we looked at Victorian literature. Our professor gave us a link to the Victorian web and asked us if the article changed our perception of the Victorian era. My response was this: I didn’t come into this as one to bash the Victorians. I find them fascinating. An era known, as the article stated, for being “prudish” and “repressed” must have had so many layers. This article did, however, enlighten me to some of those layers.

I didn’t know that “In literature and the other arts, the Victorians attempted to combine Romantic emphases upon self, emotion, and imagination with Neoclassical ones upon the public role of art and a corollary responsibility of the artist.” But this reminds me of Kate Chopin who wrote in America during the English Victorian Age. I wrote a paper last year titled "Waking Up to Fight the System" about Chopin's famous work, The Awakening. I called her work, a "text bordering on Romanticism and patriarchy, a text that sees the struggle between the two and seeks to create a bridge firm enough to cross over on. ... it also praises an ideology that allows room for the creative person to go through their processes without hesitation. Chopin and her heroine are both fighting social norms and trying to create a new life for themselves as women and as artists. The odds are against them on both fronts." I later reference Kathryn Lee Seidel's article which claims that Chopin's protagonist's “art follows the Byronesque conceptualization of the artist as alienated and alone” (Seidel, 233-4). "The ’torture’ of creativity, this knowing what is expected of you but feeling an irresistible pull to subvert it, is what drives" the protagonist to the novel's climactic crisis (Seidel qtd. Carole Stone, 234). I talk about how there should be a community for artists (there is now, but wasn't during the Victorian age in England nor America), and the lack thereof is the downfall of Chopin's protagonist.

I love this correlation from the Victorian Web: “Victorian, in other words, can be taken to mean parent of the modern -- and like most powerful parents, it provoked a powerful reaction against itself.” It seems the perfect description.

“what makes Victorians Victorian is their sense of social responsibility, a basic attitude that obviously differentiates them from their immediate predecessors, the Romantics” (Victorian Web).  I am a proponent of the Romantics, so I hate to think of them as socially irresponsible. But as I alluded to before, I can see how the “bad” behavior of many – namely Romantic writers Wordsworth, Coleridge and Byron (who had illegitimate children, slept with each other's spouses and spouses' siblings, and who loved to drink and misbehave [gross generalizations based on bios from a class taken last year])  – can be attributed to a lack of care for the social example you are setting. It makes sense that repressing your urges to act up or act out preserves the order of the group. I can see it.
But the Romantics cared more about what they individually wanted than what message they were sending to society. And this goes back to the notion in the Romanticism post (which I haven't posted yet) of self-government and a society where the self was valued like the whole group.  According to the Victorian article, Victorians selflessly sacrifice their whims for society, not doing or saying what might set an example for bad behavior.  This is great; but the Romantics - the American Romantics at least in my knowledge - assumed that each man should live by his own moral code regardless of what those around him did (Emerson, Self-Reliance).