Poetry. Writerly Advice. Memoir. Literary Analysis. Book Reviews. Serious Snark.
I'm constantly reminded of our country's failures when my daughter finishes reading something and comes to me with an 11-year-old's version of WTF. Today, as she was reading the constitution, Article 1, she asks me why a naturalized citizen who has lived in the U.S. for a loooooooong time cannot be president.
Good fucking question. Why are we still creating levels of citizen in this country? Why can't someone who immigrated here (regardless of motive and circumstance), went through the innumerable hoops required to be considered legal, and dedicated themselves to this nation still not be able to be a leader of the people?
For a brief second, even though I knew better, I thought there's no way that still applies. Before giving her an answer, I actually googled to confirm that no recent legislation had gone through to amend this absurdity. Of course it hasn't changed. I knew that, but I am a hopeless romantic. An idealist. A woman who wants to believe that we are better than using someone's birthplace as a factor for discrimination.
The point is, I would like there to be a day when I can tell my child that the law has changed. That people who live here; people who become citizens can be president. That is it. That's the post.
To my narcissist
it's not about you
I learned it all
from the back pages of Playboy
stolen from my boyfriend's dad's bathroom drawer.
What is sexy
Do I go to Pornhub
I can't learn what men want from women.
It's Friday night and I've got my spanx on
feel like Spider Woman, vol. 1.
--but I'm not your woman--
Poetry Type: Alexandrine
Considered a line of six iambic feet or a line of twelve syllables. It is usually the last line too. Spenser was known for using this line style in his poetry. The Alexandrine was used prior to Shakespeare and Marlowe. It was a common line style in German literature and French poetry.
Dashes and Such
Punctuation is at the heart of my poetry; it seeks to represent a psychological, physical, or emotional upset. A thwarting of sorts. Thwarting in poetry serves to impede or shift the poem from one line of thought into another—it can complicate the image, scene, or emotional tone of the poem. The dash doesn’t always thwart—sometimes it adds to the previous statement, or provides emphasis (which is grammatically sound).
For me, a dash, whether internally or at the end of line offers the flexibility to make a poetic jump that requires space, or halting. I don’t have a problem finding a place to insert a dash and it is something that I consider my strong point. My work is held up through the functions of a dash. My “problem” with the dash is writing the line or words that follow it. I am constantly asking myself how to proceed from there…what I should write next. Should I begin a new line of thinking? Should I complicate the previous image? It isn’t about the position of the dash, rather what is to follow the dash. To understand the function of dashes and the subsequent lines and words, I am looking at a variety of poets that have mastered the use of a dash. The poets that I have looked at are:
· Emily Dickinson, The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson
· William Carlos Williams, Spring and All
· EE Cummings, a selection of poems
· Kimberly Burnick, Good Night Brother
Annotations for William Carlos Williams’ Spring and All
“Or rather, the whole world is between: Yesterday, tomorrow, Europe, Asia, Africa, – all things removed and impossible, the tower of the church at Seville, the Parthenon.”
Williams uses the dash to add motion to the prose. Moreover, it would seem that the dash serves to impede his series because it is a never-ending series. The list highlights how the eye cannot see any of these things in full—it his first mention of the use of the imagination versus reality. He cannot go on forever so he dashes off; he uses the punctuation instead of saying, etc… Another interesting facet of this section is Williams’ use of a comma in conjunction with the dash, almost as though he is preparing his readers for a quiet upset. When I reach the comma, I take a breath because I can feel his choice to create a distance between what I have just read and what is about to come…which relates to the phrase, “the whole world is between.” Furthermore, his dash does something that I myself want to do. He follows the dash with a statement that complicates the statement prior to the dash. Before the dash and the statement, the list was just a list, but the insertion of the statement completely changes the way the reader “reads” the list. It redefines what contemporaries of his time “see” the imagination.
This is different from my poetry because I use dashes to thwart an image or idea. I tend to dash off when I see the poem coming to a point that has nowhere to go or needs me to frustrate it into a new image or complicated idea, but I have a hard time creating a line after the dash that further complicates the previous lines and/or images. I lack the confidence to complicate the situation. After reading this bit of prose, I wanted to try it for myself with a previously written poem. I took a set of lines from “Lineage" that contains a dash and complicated it in the same way that WCW did:
“The concrete crushes the street heavy
after the sun sets little chirps turn off everywhere,
the world black
and the sky very gray
vultures circle in sync with the cyclone air—”
“The concrete crushes the street heavy
after the sun sets little chirps turn off everywhere,
the world black
and the sky very gray--
vultures circle readying to pluck out my eyes.”
The image in the first set of lines ended with a dash and nothing followed it. The image hung there and didn’t leave the reader with anything. I don’t want that to become a habit in my work. To just end it. I rearranged the position of the dash to come before the last line in an effort to complicate the entire image and result in a blinding of the reader after so much seeing was presented in the previous sections.
“…we alone live there is but a single force— the imagination.”
This is different from his other uses of the dash. He treats it with the same meaning as an equal sign. He gives the line equal weight on both sides of the dash and makes both clauses invaluable to the meaning of the poem.
Poem V, Page 23.
“enter black hearts. Barred from
seclusion in lilys they strike
The dash definitely thwarts the cultivated image and introduces a new idea and image. The image following the dash does resonate back to the other image…he maintains fluidity from one side of the dash to the other.
Poem VII, Page32:
“the Milky Way
without contact – lifting
from it – neither hanging
The series of dashes complicates and elaborates on a single idea.
Annotation Notes on Good Night Brother by Kimberly Burwick
From “Weakening the Spring Currents”
The poem starts out with a “How” question, ending in a dash:
"How could I have known that you
would sever the strict shimmering of all
green birds on snow--
each facing south-southwest"
Here is a classic example of a dash elaborating on the previous line, but in this case, the dash is vital to the entire poem. I think that without it, this poem would fail. As the reader, we are left wondering on the actual snow? On a snowplow? On a snow drift? Burwick leaves me wondering where we are other than the cold. Where is the speaker? Is this her imagination, a memory, or physical? Merely a metaphor? The line following the dash does it again…placing the to the south-southwest…looking? All facing one direction? To migration? To summer? She leaves me with so many questions, yet not misunderstood question since they all leave me in the same direction as the poem. Direction, metaphorically, literally, and spatially, it is directive. I took to her idea, and wrote something with a similar idea:
Each drake works her and when the offense is over--
they fly far, far away.
I wanted to give the lines that ambiguity that Burwick uses to create an open-ended tone and image.
Annotations on EE Cummings, a selection of poems
Pg 42, the wind is a lady
“moves) at sunset
hills without any reason”
While this seems like the perfect interruptive notion of a dash, Cummings alters it slightly by treating the word that completes the statement like a secret. The word touches becomes sensual. Since many of my poems hit a sensual thread, I really liked the way he repositions the words within the punctuation to create a mood. By segregating the word touches, he sets up the entire poem for tactile exploration. The other reason that I am attracted to this set of lines is because I do not tend to use two dashes this close together to segregate a word, phrase, or idea, and that is something that I am learning to include in my work to enhance the reading of my poetry. Like before, I went ahead and attempted the Cummings-style dash:
“Her mouth lies to me,
smirking her crooked lips stained blue”
Cummings does something else with the dash that I haven’t seen very often and that is to put it at the beginning of a stanza. The “front” dash adds an interiority to his poetry that deepens the meaning. For example, in “here is ocean, this is the moonlight” on page 94, Cummings writes about the ocean and the moon, of course talking about love, but sticks hard to the metaphor until he reaches the dash.
“forgets the entire and perpetual sea
—but if yourself consider wonderful
That your (how luminous) life toward twilight will…”
He stops for a moment and in the stanza that starts with the dash, he inserts himself into the poem. He connects the lovers.
Annotated Notes on Emily Dickinson
I read a dozen of Emily Dickinson’s poems searching for answers about the dash. I found her work difficult to discuss because she uses it formally with a comma that precedes the dash. Moreover, I found that Dickinson used the dash as a substitution for most other punctuation, i.e. periods, colons, semicolons, etc. Her poems relied on the dash, but not in a way that complicated her lyrics. Since I don’t share the same style, I didn’t find her work useful for the thread that I am working on with respect to dashes. I did note that it was interesting that Dickinson’s poems survived through dashes and I intend to try my hand at writing a poem that only uses dashes as punctuation. For that, I am glad that I reevaluated her work with dashes in my head.
Every writer needs no matter what field of writing they write within needs a copy-editor. A copy-editor takes your written material and works into something presentable to the public (or your audience). A copy-editor helps you not look like a total idiot (even I look like one sometimes because I struggle to catch my own errors when typing on the computer). Let's look at what copy-editors do and how you can find one.
What does a copy-editor do besides making you look good?
A copy-editor combs through your written material looking for any errors in accuracy, readability, grammar and spelling errors, omission, inconsistency and repetition.
Some of the nit-picky items they look for are:
Copy-editors do not proofread your work. You would need to hire somebody for that or use the app Grammarly like I do to check on last minute items. Of course, proofing is a different beast with the use of devices to type. But typically, a proofreader will compare one copy to another copy to make sure the edits have been made. They may correct last-minute details. Nowadays, many refer to proofreading as checking for spelling and grammar.
How Much Should I Pay a Copy-Editor?
As much as your writing is worth to you. The minimum should be $35/hr, but as much as $100/hr. You can work that out with your copy-editor. Each copy-editor has their own fees.
You can take a look at my fees on my services page. If you would like to hire a copy-editor, email me and we can talk about your project.
As a writer, you are probably busy writing query letters, completing assignments, and asking yourself how you can make more money as a writer. And while many writing professionals will tell you that blogging is dead, I would argue that those folks just don't want the competition. You can manage a blog about writing and make money from it.
Form of the Day: Ballad
DEFINITION: A ballad tells a story, using rhyme to establish a regular cadence. The plot-driven poem has characters and rich imagery to show the narrative.ORIGIN: Began in European folk tradition. Originally orally shared until much later in the 15th-17th centuries when they were written down. Ballads often spoke of love, crime, social issues, and tragedy.
LINES: No establish number of lines.
RHYME PATTERN: Tends to be alternating line rhymes, but it is common to see AABB within the rhyme pattern.
OTHER NOTES: Lines may contain only a handful of stresses.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” begins:
It is an ancient mariner
And he stoppeth one of three.
—“By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,
Now wherefore stoppest thou me?
The bridegroom’s doors are opened wide,
And I am next of kin;
The guests are met, the feast is set:
Mayst hear the merry din.”
He holds him with his skinny hand,
“There was a ship,“ quoth he.
“Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!”
Eftsoons his hand dropped he.
A Brief Discussion on the Villanelle
Constraint-based writing involves a series of rules that imposes a pattern on the writing. With our conversations starting with Oulipo, the French experimental constraint-based writing group, it seemed fitting to explore potential influences on that group. Considering Oulipo’s French history, I wondered which historical writing forms not only influenced the birth of Oulipo-inspired writing, but which ones may still be a living component of the compendium.
After all, Oulipo is designed to inspire writing through compulsory rules, i.e. constraints.
What better way to do so than to look at a long-standing French poetic form, the villanelle. The villanelle, a fixed poetic form sheds light on the adherence to patterns, rhyme, meter, and style of French constraint-based writing, as a starting point for the development of constraint-based writing. Does it? Maybe, maybe not, but it is worth exploring.
Is a villanelle a form of potential literature? Does the strict form free the content? Does it create spontaneous self-discovery of writing that would otherwise go unwritten? How can we discuss the historical poetic forms as the potential birth of contemporary experimental writing? I don’t have the answers to these questions, but in my exploration of the villanelle, I seek to find woven strands.
The villanelle originates from the French and bears a rich historical development. Originally, the villanelle stood as a ballad to imitate the songs of French oral tradition. The fixed poetic form became standard during the 17th century upon the publication of Jean Passerat’s poem “Villanelle” published in 1606. And while the villanelle has its origin in French literature, a majority of villanelles have been written by English-writing poets. Poets such as Oscar Wilde, Andrew Lang, Dylan Thomas, and Elizabeth Bishop are known for using the villanelle. The original form was often used to write pastoral poems, but contemporary poets such as Sylvia Plath and Seamus Heaney have used the villanelle to write outside of the original usage.
“Villanelle” by Jean Passerat
J’AI perdu ma tourterelle;
Est-ce point celle que j’oy?
Je veux aller après elle.
Tu regrettes ta femelle,
Hélas! aussi fais-je moy.
J’ai perdu ma tourterelle.
Si ton amour est fidelle,
Aussi est ferme ma foy;
Je veux aller après elle.
Ta plainte se renouvelle,
Toujours plaindre je me doy;
J’ai perdu ma tourterelle.
En ne voyant plus la belle,
Plus rien de beau je ne voy;
Je veux aller après elle.
Mort, que tant de fois j’appelle,
Prends ce qui se donne à toy!
J’ai perdu ma tourterelle;
Je veux aller après elle.
The villanelle consists nineteen lines outlined as five tercets followed by a final quatrain. The rhyme structure holds the form in place. Two repeating rhymes and two refrains exist throughout the poem. The first line of the first stanza acts as the last line of the second and fourth stanzas. The third line of the first stanza is positioned as the last lines of the third and fifth stanzas. The rhyme scheme is noted on the layout below as the lowercase letters:
Line 1 – refrain 1 (rhyme a)
Line 2 (rhyme b)
Line 3 – refrain 2 (rhyme a)
Line 4 (rhyme a)
Line 5 (rhyme b)
Line 6 – refrain 1
Line 7 (rhyme a)
Line 8 (rhyme b)
Line 9 – refrain 2
Line 10 (rhyme a)
Line 11 (rhyme b)
Line 12 – refrain 1
Line 13 (rhyme a)
Line 14 (rhyme b)
Line 15 – refrain 2
Line 16 (rhyme a)
Line 17 (rhyme b)
Line 18 – refrain 1
Line 19 – refrain 2
No established meter exists in the villanelle. However, many 19th century villanelles used trimeter or tetrameter. Gary Kent Spain posted On the Plains, a trimeter villanelle to All Poetry. The poet deviates from the original form, an explains the reasoning as a rebellion against the way a villanelle ends. The clinamen permits a small freedom from an otherwise stringent adherence to form.
On the other hand, 20th century, poets used pentameter. Giorgio Venetopoulos wrote a villanelle in iambic pentamete to exhibit the strictness that can be applied to the form. The content discusses the process of writing, and more importantly, the villanelle. Since the villanelle has no set meter, I see this as the writer further constraining oneself … although, poets such as Elizabeth Bishop took took many liberties in her villanelle, which allows the individual aesthetics to come through, as a shadow.
FORM AND CONTENT
The rigid form of the villanelle evokes a sense of obsession and compulsion as the refrains interact with the remaining lines. The form give way to a feeling of dislocation within the content. Moreover, the strict form requires the writer to focus on the form, thus freeing the content within the form.
The sense of obsessions and compulsions, even mental dislocation is apparent in Sylvia Plath’s “Mad Girl’s Love Song” :::
Mad Girl’s Love Song
“I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)
The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)
God topples from the sky, hell’s fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan’s men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
I fancied you’d return the way you said,
But I grow old and I forget your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)
I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)”
As I see it here, the constraints of the villanelle allow for generative distraction. In order to liberate a poem of pure intellectual thought and marry together both feeling and thought, one must force the mind into distraction. In this case, the distractions are the required rhymes and refrains. This notion falls in line with the mission statement of the Oulipio Compendium. By applying rules to the writing, the content takes its own shape, its own misgivings, its own liberties to become literature.
T.S. Eliot called this the theory of dissociation of sensibility. Spontaneity. The villanelle requires labor on the form, but in doing so, it allows the writer to release the anxiety of creating a “good” poem, thus allowing the poem self-discovery.
Thus, established poetry forms such as the villanelle, the sestina, and the sonnet act as the framework for the birth of true poems. By true poems, I refer to a poem’s content that is freed from the external stresses that come with writing non-structured, free form poetry. The content delivers without the worry of line count, rhythm, etc… poems pressured into a form are afforded creative liberties that may not come about without the constraints.
I view poetic forms as a starting point for the current status of experimental and conceptual writing outlined via Oulipo and our contemporary view of constraint-based writing.
The tone of the poem is a combination of a saddened honesty and sarcasm. The start of the poem begins with, “no I cannot win a knife fight,” which feels vulnerable and honest. The word choice and sentence structure convey this attitude. The first word is ‘no’ and that seems to be a response from the speaker to an authority figure, or of a question positioned in a way that only leaves one answer; it limits the possibilities. Combine “no” with the word “cannot” that follows and the lines quickly takes a sad turn, as it becomes an admission of defeat. Through the word “cannot,” the speaker confers this as fact and there is no changing it. The rigidity presented in this statement lends to the feeling of the speaker feeling alone in a society that doesn’t welcome both the idea of a yes and a no existing simultaneously, which thus lends to the overall gender fluidity presented throughout Conrad’s poetry.
However, while the first line is depressingly honest, Conrad is quick to insert humor and sarcasm in the very next line with, “for the fifteenth time” and complexes the meaning behind line one. Sarcasm and humor add a line of defense to the speaker; he may have successfully won fourteen knife fights, but the question arises, “why was he involved in so many knife fights?” The tone continuum moves back and forth from line to line so much that it becomes difficult to know exactly what is going on in the poem, but I believe that is the point of the poem.
This rolling together of lines adds another complexity to the poem: multiple potential readings depending the reader’s innate placement of breaths and pauses. The multiple readings occur due to the omission of punctuation and radical enjambment. For example, lines 1-4 offer a variety of readings due to the enjambment and reader’s choice to insert punctuation/pauses. The lines read, “no I cannot win a knife fight/for the fifteenth time/I didn’t see who/stabbed him.” At first, I read lines 1-2 as the speaker being unable to win a knife fight again, but during my second evaluation of the lines, I read line one alone and lines 2-3 together, which positioned the reader as being questioned about witnessing an event. By inserting a comma at the end of line one, and subsequently reading lines 2-3 together, it altered the speaker’s role. The speaker is no longer an active participant in the knife fight; rather, he is in the line of questioning as a witness (and perhaps involved).
Becoming the witness allows the speaker to see what the authority figure and the knife participants cannot see in the world, which speaks to the overall theme of being an outlier on a designated spectrum. Multiple readings are seen in “earache could be/from hearing/your last words/over and over in dreams” as well. If lines 16 and 17 are read together with a natural pause placed at the end of line 17, then the speaker is in pain from hearing the “your” utter his/her last words. On the other hand, if I read the work straight through line 18, then I am subjected to the speaker’s dream world. The layering of meaning that Conrad performs through enjambment and punctuation permits the reader to become a direct participant in the meaning of the poem; the reader adds natural pauses and derives different meanings based on how the lines are read together.
Conrad’s poem begs to be read multiple ways with a subtle ear to pick up on the oscillating tone and themes he explores through enjambment and punctuation.
As a part of my job working as a copywriter, I am required to write product descriptions (only during the holiday season, thank goodness). This season, I am working for Overstock, and if anybody else has written for Overstock before, then you know maintaining a diverse set of adjectives (that are appropriate and offer a benefit to the consumer nonetheless) is vital to your job stability.
Well this week I am writing about comforters. Comforters in blue. Comforters in gray. Comforters in a bag. And the thing I am coming up against is the adjective SOFT.
Yes, a comforter is soft. But how can I make the comforter more than soft? And how can I use the term soft not only to describe the touch of the fabric, but the element of softness the comforter creates in the room?
To avoid boilerplating and sheer boredom, here is the list of words that I have developed in lieu of the word SOFT:
The number one thing that you can do to gain exposure to your book is to build a professional web presence. An author should have a web presence that helps their readers find out information about previously published and forthcoming books. It seems silly, but it can be the difference between success and flop.
Create a Website
Sync Your Social Media to Website
Confident. Daring. Witty. Morgan Parker’s debut collection Other People’s Comforts Keep Me Up at Night handles modern culture and autobiography with comedic elegance. She crafts poems that observe the beauty and ugliness of American life. From poems about discrimination to social media, Parker uses powerful emotions to build a sense of immediacy and definition within the collection that builds upon itself from beginnings to endings and page to page.
In “If My Housemate Fucks with Me I Would Get So Real (Audition Tape Take 1)” Parker begins with “I didn’t come here to make friends,” and ends with “I’m so real my hair is going gray, / legs bruised up like tree bark, / veins of my neck as swollen as / ripe fruit, the cheeks of what is growing.” A vivid juxtaposition of internal negotiations and external physicality dominate her poetry We see a speaker navigate life with daring resolution. What begins as internal interlocution morphs into brilliantly written visual images. As each poem ends, the underbelly is exposed, the violence about to burst. Which is what seems to be what Parker is aiming for. Questions about American culture, environment, and relationships stack on top of each other until the reader has exhausted all mental resources.
Parker extends her reach into American culture with a fierceness that excites astute criticism of the current atmosphere. Through materials such as Jay-Z, reality television, and song lyrics, Parker is confident, chiding both what she does and doesn’t understand. She points at femininity and gender roles with comical lines like, “Cinderella jams to Curtis Mayfield/ while scrubbing her/ own vomit from the bathroom/ tiles. On her hands and knees/ she’s all like, / Damn why/ I gotta be the man of the house?” The words are humorous, but there is a deep concern beneath her words—Parker has more to say that just quick quips. Her work is here to move the hard conversations of our society forward.
Oftentimes, the speaker desires tangible honesty, admitting that “Touching you on the shoulder/ is the honest I’ve been/ all week.” Subtly, Parker points out a flaw with the digital era, the lack of human connection. The focus on virtual versus real threads throughout the collection. Her poem “Everything Is Bothering Me” goes far enough to point the finger at herself and others with:
I am trying to sleep alone
you are doing whatever
I swear to God I know people
they live on the internet/ they are the best.
Parker indicts herself. She isn’t afraid of being called out on the very flaws she writes about because this is a poetry about the people, and how we need to be better. Technology and its grip on our attention troubles the voice in this collection as it pulls her into further bouts of loneliness. We see Parker attempt to disengage from tethered technology with the lines, “So I can be more present/ I am getting e-mails on my phone/ there are other places/ ways of living/ we have ruled them out,” but ultimately failing. Society has only mobilized the oppressor, not squashed it out. Through heavy enjambment and a lack of punctuation, her poems rush forward to create an incredible sense of urgency of the matter.
Alongside the social criticism and the urgency to reconnect is a tough, vulnerable voice. That voice starts from the collection’s title Other People’s Comforts Keep Me Up at Night. The title reeks of anxiety and desperation to understand the world it inhabits. And quickly, we learn that this voice, and the insomniatic habit perturbed by other’s creature comforts resonates on every single page. This is an intelligent, complicated voice who knows what it feels like to hurt. The voice knows heartache, but shades it with a toughness that can only be described as resilient in its efforts to shield itself from further pain.
Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up at Night is a provocative collection investigating and revealing problematics within American society. Parker successfully troubles still waters of society’s lethargic acceptance of what it means to “live in this day and age.” She positions power, money and complacency against happiness, success and ambition; voices like Parker’s are must to draw our attention to the comforts of our lives that have taken away the facets of humanity.
"Bog Queen" by Seamus Heaney
who veiled me again
and packed coomb softly
Till a peer’s wife bribed him.
The plait of my hair
a slimy birth-cord
of bog, had been cut
And I rose from the dark,
The violent exploitation of Ireland caused by England during The Troubles is the main premise within Seamus Heaney’s poem, “Bog Queen”. The poem wrestles with resistance and historical prejudice. Heaney elicits visceral images depicting the resurrection of an ornately dressed female bog body (the jewels insinuate that she was of great wealth).
Prior to the passage indicated above, the poem elaborately describes the physical body of the bog woman (from the voice of the bog queen) being uncovered by the turfcutter who pays his respects to the woman after this abrupt discovery. However, through a bribe he betrays the bog queen, leaving her to rise and seek vengeance on those who have betrayed her in the past.
The violent tone married with the language signify that the bog queen represents Ireland. Furthermore, the prior mistreatment by England (and betrayal by some Irishmen) serves as the beginning of the rise of the Irish to regain equality. Through tone, and symbolic language, Seamus Heaney’s poem “Bog Queen” uses the exploitation of Ireland to argue that historical prejudice serves as the stepping-stone for resistance of a culture against external forces.
While the tone in the first three-quarters of “Bog Queen” is empathetic, an abrupt shift to a violent tone occurs between stanza twelve and thirteen. For example, the turfcutter, “…packed coomb softly” this illustrates that the man attempts to protect her by placing her back in the bog after being stripped of her belongings (Heaney line 46). He gently reburies her. Since the bog woman stands for Ireland, a country that was culturally assaulted by England this line empathizes with the turbulent treatment of the bog woman by trying to repair the damage through replacing her in her original state.
However, the tone shifts with, “Till a peer’s wife bribed him,” and the tone becomes that of betrayal as the bog woman details her hair being “cut” and taken from her without permission (49 and 52). This prejudice against the bog woman after the turfcutter had respected her sparks a violent vengeance in the bog woman/Ireland as she “rose from the dark” in fervor to resist this act of violence against her (53). This act of exploitation against the bog woman forces her up to revolt against the men and women who seek to strip her of her hair, which very much symbolizes her connection to her homeland, as it was the anchor keeping her in the land. Arguably, the empathetic tone shifts to a violent one as the bog woman was nearly at rest once again when somebody else chose to cut her from the characteristics that identify her as the bog queen.
The symbolic language within “Bog Queen” aids the transition from the empathetic to violent tone, as well as bears striking connotations that lend to the theme of resistance against historical prejudice. The diction in “Bog Queen” is two-fold: the connotation of the nouns and the selection of verbs to describe the action. First, the nouns are “coomb” (46), “peer’s wife” (49), “plait” (50), and “birth-cord” (51). The word coomb connotes the chalk downs of Ireland, which is a physical characteristic of the land. To pack the bog woman in a physical structure of Ireland suggests that she is a part of the land and removing her from it would sever her from her past. Thus, the diction lends to the empathetic tone and it argues that the turfcutter is aware that this woman has a nation and a history that exists regardless of the uncovering of her body. Heaney situates that body in her physical history in order to give rise to resistance as she is severed from her homeland in the violent cutting of her hair.
Moreover, the term “peer’s wife” suggests that the turfcutter was sexually bribed in order to cut the “plait” from the bog woman. Since peer is equivalent to friend, it works well with the concept of manipulating relations in order to achieve a goal, as the English did with Ireland’s people during the national conflicts. This manipulation raises the tone of betrayal as the reader witnesses the bog queen’s “plait”, an intertwining braid of hair being cut from her body and separating her from the past prejudices committed against her. Furthermore, the noun, “birth-cord” solidifies the natural connection between the woman and her motherland. Her hair serves has the umbilical cord between her and her land.
This sparks the bog woman to rise from the bog and seek vengeance on those who have attempted to separate her from her land and her culture. Not only does the cutting of the braid signify historical prejudice against the woman/Ireland, but also it allows the woman/Ireland to stand up and resist any further exploitation of the land that is home.
As the nouns provide insight to the theme by adding to the tone of the poem, the action verbs, “veiled” (45) and “bribed” (49) create the violent change from the bog woman passively lying in the land to the active resistance against those who have attempted to keep her oppressed. The term “veiled” is strong in that the bog woman was brought up from the bog, her valuables were taken, and then those who brought her to the surface put her back in the bog and “veiled” her from the world. Her eyes are covered and she cannot fight for her own rising from the dark. The term “veiled” (45) in this line sounds similar to the cliché “pull the wool over your eyes” in that external forces are hiding the truths of the exploitation from the bog queen. The word symbolizes those who are veiling the woman, as well as those who are choosing to put a veil over their own eyes in order to avoid seeing the destruction on their country and their people. The connotation of “veiled” segues into “bribed”, another manipulative verb within stanzas twelve and thirteen.
The verb “bribed” (49) suggests that there is a value threshold for the turfcutter to betray his bog queen. In this line, a woman seduces him with a bribe (money or sex) in order to get a hold of the powerful braid that connects the bog woman to the boglands. To be bribed suggests a weakness within the framework of the people of the land in that they are not strong enough to support their own land; however this demonstrates that Ireland’s historical past (or any historical prejudice) impacts the country’s ability to stand up to those that have taken advantage of the people. However, this bribe is the mechanism that enables the land to regain itself. By succumbing to the bribe, the turfcutter releases the “veiled” queen, which indirectly leads to her “[rise] from the dark” (51). These final lines are a warning of resistance should any person attempt to veil the bog queen or her people in the future.
The theme of historical prejudice on a people or a land and the rise of a resistance are strong throughout the “Bog Queen” as Heaney examines the impacts of the conflicts in Ireland regarding the position of Northern Ireland. In “Bog Queen”, the bog woman serves as the physical and cultural land that has been exploited by England. Moreover, the violent tone and symbolic language suggest a political warning to those who have violated the bog queen’s land in the past.
Want more literary analysis? Check out my essay collection.
DEFINITION: A love poem that esteems or dirges the rising of the sun. The poem can also be about lovers or love during the morning time.ORIGIN: French. The first usage was around 1678.
RHYME PATTERN: Iambic pentameter, but of course, not always. Metrical variation is important.
John Dunne’s The Sun’s Rising
Busy old fool, unruly sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains call on us?
Must to thy motions lovers' seasons run?
Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
Late school boys and sour prentices,
Go tell court huntsmen that the king will ride,
Call country ants to harvest offices,
Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.
Thy beams, so reverend and strong
Why shouldst thou think?
I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink,
But that I would not lose her sight so long;
If her eyes have not blinded thine,
Look, and tomorrow late, tell me,
Whether both th' Indias of spice and mine
Be where thou leftst them, or lie here with me.
Ask for those kings whom thou saw'st yesterday,
And thou shalt hear, All here in one bed lay.
She's all states, and all princes, I,
Nothing else is.
Princes do but play us; compared to this,
All honor's mimic, all wealth alchemy.
Thou, sun, art half as happy as we,
In that the world's contracted thus.
Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
To warm the world, that's done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy center is, these walls, thy sphere.
Since I haven't been writing much poetry this year due my other goals, I have found poetry-writing-solace in Haiku. If you haven't written haiku before, it's simple to learn and you may find that the constraint frees your imagination (seems counter intuitive, but constraint-based writing creates incredibly productive writers).
A haiku is THREE LINES that look like this:
LINE 1: FIVE SYLLABLES
LINE 2: SEVEN SYLLABLES
LINE 3: FIVE SYLLABLES
Here is a HAIKU a wrote this morning --
Middle sexed finger
Writing Inspired by Bishop
On the trail traveled by my bare feet— by my mother’s, father’s sister’s, brothers’, daughter’s, dogs’, tourists’, every year. The path, usually littered with boot prints and broken lures was clean— an erased chalkboard. It circled the lake, which was never the same size twice, found me on it alone. The quiet humming of motor boats and splashes of kayak paddles could be heard across the still water to the river’s mouth. It was summer, no autumn when the needles smothered the red clay like a woven Miwok basket, when I found myself a sparkling pinecone, wet from the licks of the lake. Ice had glued itself to the scale tips. The color was mahogany, the reddish brown of my hair after giving birth. The cone clung to the branch that had left its mother (or perhaps the mother expelled it from her trunk because of the weight) the way an infant is attached to a snipped umbilical cord— slimed over with moss, bristled with bark from growth—the only memory it would have of ever having been connected to another living thing. I couldn’t help but carry it over the forged, yet raw terrain tracing the lakes edges. The knocking of blue jays and the crinkling of scattered squirrels bounced off the granite. The smooth clay mixed between my toes. We traveled together until the end where I sailed the cone out into the frigid waters to return home.
DEFINITION: A poem guided by the alphabet. Each line or stanza begins with the first letter of the alphabet followed by each letter following, until the last letter is reached. Variations of the form occur.
ORIGIN: An ancient poetic form that was commonly used to compose letters, prayers, and hymns. The modern literary world relies on this form for children's books, mnemonic devices and lullabies (think Edward Gorey and Dr. Seuss).
RHYME PATTERN: Varies. Contemporary abecedarian poetry doesn't rhyme, but there are clear metrical relationships. Children's versions often rhyme and are very sing-songy.
EXAMPLES: John Disch's Abecedary, Carolyn Forché's Blue Hour, Edward Gorey, Dr. Seuss, and Mary Jo Bang's The Bride of E
24 Work-from-Home Options
A few weeks ago, my contract as a curriculum writer expired. It was a wonderful contract, but I knew that my work was done and there wasn’t an option for renewal (I had to say goodbye to $50 an hour, five hour days!). That left me scrambling for work to fill my schedule. You see, I work as a managing editor for Unsolicited Press, but that doesn’t result in a paycheck. It’s all ROI work and someday it will pay off, but today isn’t the day. I usually fill my days with freelance projects (editing and writing), but this fall has been slow, so I have been looking into a few outlets. Here is what I came up with – these companies are hiring in 2018 and if you are looking for a job, it’s important to get on board early.
Others that were hiring in 2017 and may still have positions open:
GreatAuPair, The Hartford, Motorola Solutions, Western Governors University, Walden University, Crawford & Company, Overland Solutions, an EXL company, Cigna, SYKES, Citizens Bank, Achieve Test Prep, Kronos, CVS Health, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Lenovo, and American Heart Association.
Writing Prompt of the Week
I Don't Want Stock
I don't want good company & good fires & good vibes.
I don't want to talk to you about the heat or the cold.
I don't want to hear about how making time for you would make me happier.
I don't like black roosters or cocks. It's not very funny. It's racist.
I don't think being a proud homophobe is attractive.
I don't want to talk about what we did eight years ago.
I can't just get married because you think you still love me.
Writing Prompt of the Week
Making the decision to become a writer is a tough one because there is a lot of negative stigma out there, but you shouldn't let that stop you. Writers can and do make a living in this world. In fact, I'd argue that writers are in greater need than ever before with the explosion of the Information Age.
Once you've decided to pursue writing, whether you are 18 or 57, you need to tell your family and friends. To help you, I've prepared a few statements that you can use to break the news. Enjoy.
Writing Prompt of the Week