Wednesday, January 9, 2008

A Response to Warren's "Evening Hawk"

Robert Penn Warren’s poem “Evening Hawk” uses meticulously chosen language to convey the author’s sense of dread in society’s gathering ignorance. The hawk’s appearance at this specific time of day – evening, just as the last light drops below the horizon – shows that the author fears what is to come. The darkest of nights is about to spread over the world.
In the first stanza, Warren builds the geometric and light imagery. His light imagery in “From plane of light to plane,” and “sunset,” and “light above the pines,” show that the light is depleting from the scene. This, combined with the ideas of harsh and definitive shapes found in “the peak’s black angularity,” demonstrates to the reader that this is the final, decisive moment for the natural world, and, by extension, society. Finally, Warren’s enjambment of “The hawk comes,” is a pivotal point for the poem, emphasizing the hawk’s importance as both a physical creature and metaphorical idea.
He extends the geometric imagery in the next stanza by using the idea of lines. Sharp angles and razor edges figure prominently into his action: “His wig / Scythes down another day” and the “honed steel-edge” of his motion. This is used to create definitiveness in the poem – society must chose truth, or face darkness. He emphasizes the “crashless fall of stalks of Time” to emphasize the ephemeral nature of our existence.
Warren shows that humanity is lying to itself when he writes, “The head of each stalk is heavy with the gold of our error.” This proves that society has fabricated gilded lies to protect itself from reality; yet in doing this, it is only hurting itself. The hawk gracefully follows as truth, represented in this poem by light, escapes the scene. He looks back on the world of lies with an “unforgiving” eye, as it plunges into “shadow”, becoming a land of absolute ignorance.
He continues to show how today’s knowledge will become as ignored as the past’s: “hieroglyphics” and the wisdom of Plato have long since been forgotten. If society continues on this path, so will all of modern knowledge.
Warren does, however, manage to retain some sense of hope. If there were “no wind” – that is, the societal conventions irrelevant to the pursuit of truth – we might “hear / The earth grind on its axis, or history / Drip in darkness like a leaking pipe in the cellar.” With this sentence, Warren shows that truth is attainable; but society has to be willing to walk into the cold, dark cellar and turn on the light.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


She sat on the floor of her parent’s closet searching for words. There had been an accident, she knew that; but nobody was hurt. She knew that she was not driving, but she knew that her lack of responsibility did not excuse her from the blame. This was absolutely ridiculous. She had to fix this somehow, keep her parents from reprimanding her sister too severely, keep her sister from what seemed like an impending nervous breakdown, and somehow manage to prevent the inevitable familial implosion. After all, it was only five days before Christmas.
This was not going to end well. She knew that she was going to have to handle the situation herself, since her less responsible counterpart was clearly not capable of solving the lovely conundrum into which she managed to place herself. The pressure of responsibility weighed heavily on her shoulders. She hadn’t the slightest notion how to handle the situation, yet it was left up to her to come up with a solution. What was she to do? She felt completely trapped in an un-winnable problem. Considering her options, she realized that any direction in which she moved, she was going to cause damage. She could attempt to cover for her sibling and take the blame herself, or try to soften the impact of the scenario, but that seemed doomed to fail miserably.
Just then her sister pounded her way into the closet where she sat mulling her options. She looked at her sister’s face, and understood the anger and fear and violence expressed on it with a sense of assuredness, but felt no emotion. The girl sitting on the floor watched as her sister’s jaw muscles tensed and released, watched as her lips darted with irate words, watched the face skew itself into some unrecognizable misrepresentation of the person she knew. Yet in spite of the presence of a scenario in which equivalent desperation would have been the appropriate response, she was aware only of a low, throbbing numbness. She understood the predicament perfectly well – if she had one talent, it was recognizing the circumstances of a situation quickly and clearly – but she still felt nothing in the way of sympathy. Her sister had an unintentionally cruel inclination towards putting her into positions like this frequently; now, she felt she had solved quite enough of her sister’s problems.
Watching her sister’s rabid caricature launch into yet another tirade, she felt only the lack of compassion. She listened quietly to the seemingly endless stream of verbal abuse, but did not hear a word. Her sister had managed to put herself into another tiresome predicament, and yet again she was expected to solve it; but this situation was different. There was no possible way that she could be at fault, since she was not driving; no possible way that she had caused these results. Her sympathy well was bone dry, and, knowing that this was an unfixable, unmovable, unchangeable scenario, she simply let the situation lie.
She sat and listened to her sibling rant endlessly without feeling anything for her or expending the energy to process a single word. The girl felt that she was unable to move, yet strangely enough she felt no desire to even attempt to think of a solution. It was about time that her sister was served justice for her irresponsible actions, but she never for a moment felt hatred or schadenfreude – just the reassurance that retribution for irresponsibility was occurring.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Words, Silence, and Connection

Words that never connect with another person have no meaning. That's not to say that the unread word has no point, nor that the word which no one hears no validation; but these words, no matter their content, eloquence, delivery, these words never change a thing. Would Eliot be great if nobody ever read his poetry? Would Shakespeare? Would Vergil? No. The only thing that makes these men great is their ability to connect. Words exist in a vacuum, they are an arbitrary invention of man to attempt to connect with his fellow man. A word occupies only so much space as it needs on a page, and stays there and does not change. Only in context, only with the understanding that there is purpose behind the saying, can a word truly MEAN anything. So why do people dislike "quiet" people? Because as people, men and women, we are constantly trying to connect with one another. The words of the "chatterbox" fall constantly, a frantic attempt to try to connect with another individual. This person is unsure of what connection really is, and they are unsure of how to attain it. This tends to be the societal norm today; a lack of awareness leads to a lack of conciousness which leads to a lack of connection. When connection is gone, they panic; they must find some words, say some THING that will restore the connection. But the knowledge is gone, and they don't know what to say. So they say everything, wasting precious syllables, letters, vowels, oxygen, in an attempt to restore the connection as fast as possible. The quiet ones are different. They still understand that connection with out purpose is as fruitless as no connection at all. And therefore, they bide their time, waiting for the moment in which they choose to understand, to be understood. This knowledge they posess is not understoood by those who do not posess it. We fear what we do not understand. We fear the silence, but the silence is the only thing that can save us now.

In other news...

...I'm going to college! Here's the essay that got my butt into UMiami!

We stood on the street corner in the middle of the city. Our hours of rehearsal were done for the day, but we still wanted to sing, so we headed out to the streets for an impromptu recital. The Madrigal Singers had traveled across the US to rehearse and perform for five days, and today was our last day in San Francisco. We had barely started the first few bars of “Danny Boy” when an old man stepped forward from the crowd, laughing and smiling, and began to “conduct” us. It wasn’t the laughs of our small audience that struck me, though; it was the look of pure happiness on his face.
From the first time I heard the Madrigals sing as a freshman at Tabor Academy, I knew I wanted to be a part of the choir. Of the six choral groups at Tabor, the Madrigals are by far the most selective. Singing had always been my passion, but I had never had any formal training. But now here I was, only two years later, making beautiful music with some of my favorite people in the world. What more could I possibly ask for?
I reflected on the last five days of rehearsals. We spent hours in the conference room of our hotel, up to seven hours in a single day, perfecting every last note of every last bar, nailing down rhythms, and learning to match vowels perfectly. I knew I was disciplined and focused, but I had no idea that I could be so happy doing anything for seven hours. But there was something special about our rehearsal time that made it even more worthwhile, and I couldn’t seem to place the feeling.
On that street corner on the other side of the country, it finally made sense. Being part of this group was more than an accomplishment; it was a privilege. We were capable of bringing unadulterated joy to people with our music. Here, in this moment, we all became part of something that was much bigger than ourselves.
We finished the song, completing the last few bars as we had so many times before. The man slowly made his way into the applauding crowd; we looked at each other and smiled. There was nowhere else in the world I would rather be.
Walking back to our hotel later, a realization hit me. Singing with this group hadn’t just made me a stronger singer – it had made me a better person. I understood passion, dedication, and discipline on an entirely different level, and I had learned to translate it into schoolwork and life. I love what I do, I thought to myself. And in the end, isn’t that what life is about?


I’m praying
That it was a ploy
To get my attention
So I’d look up
And see you there
But honestly now
Hitting on another girl
Is not the way
To get me
Maybe if you weren’t so
You’d see that you’ve
Had me
For so long already
But now I feel
Like a stupid girl
Stupid for liking you
Stupid for thinking
Even for a second
That it might be
I mean honestly
God forbid my life work
Why are you leaving me
Hanging on like this
I’ve fallen already
At least do me the decency
Of catching me
Just this once
Please God just once
Let me be right about this
If you want my attention
Just ask
And stop trying
To get me to open my eyes
And open up your own.

Drowning in a Bottle

The easy potential
Brilliantly drains into
An open bottle
And flashing the lid clangs
To the floorSicut, the bright one
Who fills his days
With these bottles
And sees no purpose in
Trying to find purpose
Falls behind himself
Failing the ultimate test
Which is to connect, only connect
What is it to connect?
He fails in his heart
For his heart beats but does not play
The sweet, sweet music
For which it is built
Only the steady reverberation
As yet another bottle cap
Falls listlessly to the floor
Purpose, purpose
What is purpose?
It has only failed him
So today he drowns his sorrows
Yet againAlong with his career
His friends
His future
Because he seeks to find
Not purpose in these walls
But only escape
He sees the bottle
As a porthole to another world
But again the indolent one fails
For this other world
This alternate reality
Spiraled by fermentation
Not of hops but of the soul
Is found only at the bottom
Of the glass gateway
But this threshold cannot hold
And with a snap
It breaks
There is no magic gateway, child!
There is no escape!
And don’t be afraid to live here
To love here
To grow here
For I have watched you try to see
Purpose, purpose
Connection, connection
Does the liquor give you these?
No. Of course, it can’t.
Only when the gate is gone
Only when the lock is thrown
And the last of the monotonous foam
Has burst
Can you truly connect, truly!
For what good is there in deceit?
This habit will ruin your future!
The alcohol will tell you lies!
And I beg you child, beg you, stop!
I know it’s hard.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Life and Death in "The Unbearable Lightness of Being"

There is a German adage which says, “Einmal ist keinmal,” or, as Milan Kundera translates, “What happens but once… might as well not have happened at all,” (8). He continues to say, “If we have only one life to live, we might as well not have lived at all,” (8). But while that may be true with regard to life, Kundera’s novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being begs the question: does the same hold true for death? Life may be transient and insignificant, but in terms of, “Einmal ist keinmal,” death is a monumental event because it experienced repeatedly. Although strictly speaking physically impossible, the psychosomatic impact of fear causes a person to live through their death or that of a loved one before the bodily event transpires. Tereza in particular seems to be most acutely aware that by the time humans pass away, they have already died a thousand times. The death of her dog, Karenin, and one of Tereza’s dreams most accurately demonstrate the idea that a person experiences death repeatedly on a strictly mental basis, instead of just once.
Tereza’s close emotional connection to Karenin causes her to feel the same sense of loss as she would feel when losing a close friend. Therefore, when he falls ill, she finds herself suffering through his death over and over. Kundera writes, “Tereza went out into the garden. She looked down at a patch of grass between two apple trees and imagined burying Karenin there. She dug her heel into the earth and traced a rectangle there,” (294). This demonstrates to the reader that Tereza has already experienced Karenin’s passing in her mind, and, by the time the event takes place in the physical world, it has already happened repeatedly in the cognitive realm. Tereza aches at the idea of losing her beloved dog, but yet she cannot stop the event from occurring again and again in her mind; when the day comes, “She had everything carefully laid out and thought out, having imagined Karenin’s death many days in advance,” (301). Consequently, Karenin’s death transcends the ephemeral state of a one-time occasion, becoming something significant rather than a fleeting moment.
In her sleep, Tereza also experiences her own death as well. Her set of dreams takes her through death long before it happens: “The first was of cats going berserk and referred to the sufferings she had gone through in her lifetime; the second was of her execution and came in countless variations; the third was of her life after death, when humiliation turned into a never-ending state,” (58). Tereza’s fear causes her to live these events over and over again. Although to Tereza the dreams seem to be a constant source of terror, she is actually cementing the legitimacy of her own existence in her mental world. Because she relives her own death repeatedly, she gives weight and meaning to her own death, and, by association, her life. Death is generally considered to be the ultimate one-time event; there is no means of doing it again once the physical event transpires. However, because Tereza’s dreams are recurring, she is actually living through death cognitively, and therefore causing the event to be significant in its repetition.
As far as science understands, humans are the only animals acutely aware of their own mortality. To some, this knowledge may be viewed as a tremendous weight to carry, and it is; however, it is a necessary and ultimately helpful burden. It is only in the knowledge of human mortality that the lives of human beings actually begin. The lives of men are often completely weightless and free, which would, it seems, make them unmemorable. Yet an integral part of human society is the reverence and remembrance of the dead. How is this possible, if life is so weightless? Despite nature of life, which is light and transient because it lacks repetition, death is an even which is lasting because it is replicated continually in the psychological world. This final event, the one event of life which is permanent, is the one moment which makes the lives of men more than just a collection of fleeting moments.