I want to start by wishing everybody a happy, healthy, and safe new year! I am quite excited to see what 2014 has to offer and I hope to use this year to climb up the ladder toward making my dreams come true, which includes much more writing. While my goal is to increase my fiction writing, I also hope to submit much more to my blog, for last year I was able to submit 70 posts, which was more than 2012 (53 posts), but definitely not as much as 2011 (115 posts). While I cannot promise that I'll surpass the 2011 record, I'll do my best to write more than I did in 2012 and 2013. My goal is to reach 250 posts by the first quarter of the year and perhaps 300 posts by the end. What I will mention is that I may possibly separate my updates about my fiction writing from this blog in the event that I feel that my column writing affects my fictional writing in any way, shape, or form.
Now for the meat of the post, if there's anything I brought from 2013 and hope to expand into 2014, it's my pleasure for poetry. I used to dread poetry when I was in high school and even during the early years of college. Until I discovered free writing poets, such as Allen Ginsberg, that placed just about anything that brought their point across on a piece of paper, I wasn't fond of writing poetry, for it's not a topic I was able to grasp and am still making an effort to grasp. Since taking American Literature at my college and getting into a friend of mine's work, I found a craving for it and have gained an interest in expanding on how to analyze it, but at the same time, how to treat poetry as a form of art that is what it is.
My list will include ten of my favorite poems in no particular order and WILL include spoilers. Most of these are either American or British, for those are the cultural backgrounds that I have studied the most poetry. I have started buying books filled with poetry, for I hope to incorporate them into my reading selections as time goes by. These include those based on ideas, cultural background, AND individual authors.
So here I shall begin...
"Howl" by Allen Ginsberg- I mentioned my interest for Ginsberg above and how he just writes what enters his mind and it's poetry. It IS poetry. I was introduced to "Howl" when taking American Literature and while it initially comes off as being outrageous, it delivers a message about a modern mind responds to the constrained government surrounding him. Ginsberg preaches ideas that are way before his time, most notably homosexuality and the sexual interaction they have with one another. Being gay, Ginsberg endorses the idea of such open interaction and makes description to it throughout; and while I don't share his sexual preferences, I share his idea that everyone should have a right to write and describe what they wish. "Howl," named such because it resembles a "howl" for change, depicts that those deemed mad by society actually speak some sense in the mind of Ginsberg and this poem provides them with such a voice.
"We Are Seven" by William Wordsworth- Wordsworth is Britain's Transcendentalist, just as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau were to America. Like the American Transcendentalists, Wordsworth believed in many of the same ideas as to what kept this world flowing and what kind of changes society needed to make in order to head in the right direction. While the simplicity of nature is the most common influence for positive thought among Transcendentalists, the simplicity and innocence of children is another. In this poem, a man approaches a young girl who has lost two of her siblings to death. She constantly reminds him that there are seven of them, even if some of them are dead or others may not be present at the current time. The message being conveyed is that while adults seem to over-complicate the little things, children are far more straight-forward and honest, not aware of the different traits they're supposed to pick up in order to come off as more professional. Wordsworth reminds me how children are meant to be seen AND heard, even if it's up to the specific individual to make the final judgment.
"The Starry Night" by Anne Sexton- In a class of confessional poets that includes Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, and Elizabeth Bishop, my favorite happens to be Anne Sexton, because of her raw honesty she displays as she writes which at the same time does up go so over the top that it makes the reader want to slam the book down and scream, "ENOUGH ALREADY!!!" "The Starry Night" comes off as a response to Van Gogh's masterpiece, which like most of his paintings, did not garner the necessary recognition until after he died. Last year, I wrote a review for "The Starry Night" and analyzed it as an experience the speaker has as she views the night sky above her in what comes off as being an adventurous, but at the same time, a dreamy experience. It has become one of my most popular posts and I hope that my readers have garnered an inspiration to read this poem on their way or even better, pick up a collection of her complete poems. The way she describes the night sky and how it relates to the thoughts flowing through her head are just so magical. At the same time, this is the mind of a tortured soul that would eventually go on to commit suicide, but as I said with Ginsberg, everybody has a voice.
"The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe- Poe has established himself as a master of horror fiction and the father of the mystery with her Murder at Rue Morgue. Poe is also, however, known for his poetry that ranges from the thoughts flowing through his head to the creepy, horrific pieces he's known for the most. "The Raven" fits into the latter and it was the first poem I can say that I appreciated. When I had to do a report on a poet and write a poem reminiscent to theirs back in middle school, I wrote the report on Edgar Allan Poe and wrote a poem called, "The Pigeon," in the tone of "The Raven." This poem is the quintessential Halloween work that catches the attention of just about any reader, English major, literary enthusiast, horror enthusiast, or anyone that enjoys Halloween. Fitting into the first four (Halloween's not my favorite), I can say that this rings true.
"The Vine" by Robert Herrick- "The Vine" engages in a feat that not many poems have the fortitude to do and that's explore the psychosis of male chauvinism. This poem is a fantasy the narrator's having in which his penis becomes a vine that is used to possess the frail, delicate woman of his dreams. This fantasy continues until he wakes up to an old-fashioned boner. This could be viewed as being disgusting and can cause an outcry to just about every feminist in some way, shape, or form, but at the same time can be viewed as an image of honesty. The fact that this poem is honest and explores what a specific male individual is thinking should trump the fact that it's sexist in every way possible. After all, it's only a fantasy! What should definitely be explored is the creative imagery Herrick uses to describe his genitals and the world around him.
"The Flea" by John Donne- "The Flea" is a creative, but at the same time reasonably concept that people had several hundred years ago when it came to answering the question, "where do babies come from?" Back then, they felt it was due to the co-mingling of blood. In this case, the male and female are both bitten by a flea to the point that their blood co-mingles and they decide to celebrate by having sex. As we all (or hopefully all of us) know, the sex is where the baby comes from. However, this poem explores the flea as the bearer of their unity and the disposal of the flea would mean the disposal of the two, which is where the poem leads. Donne does an excellent job exploring the idea of such a hypothetical connection and the confusion from that period of time, evening if he was writing during THAT time.
"Theme for English B" by Langston Hughes- Of all of the poets that participated in the Harlem Renaissance, my favorite was Langston Hughes. I felt that Hughes wrote about struggles that, while they involved black central characters, could be attributed to just about anyone involved in such a struggle. His "Theme for English B" is a sentimental piece that tells the story of how he writes a piece for his English teacher, describing his background and his dreams. Keep in mind that this was during an era where blacks were not equal to whites and that Hughes is speaking up to his English teacher is a different kind of way. At the same time, it shows how much passion and determination Hughes has even if he was born with skin of a different color. Langston Hughes caught my attention to the point that I decided to buy a collection of his work.
"The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost- There are probably several poems from Frost that could have made it onto this list, but "The Road Not Taken" is his most familiar and is a very good starter for those approaching poetry for the very first time. The poem introduces us to a character faced with a decision between two diverged roads and the question of which road he should take. He goes on to saying that, with a sigh, he took the road less traveled and that has made all of the difference. There are plenty of ideas in this poem that can be interpreted in different ways, most obviously the fact that the "roads" are meant to be choices that we make in our everyday lives. I feel that Frost leaves made of the ideas open-ended for a reason and allow the reader to think about what he's trying to say. I have used this strategy to create interest to my fiction and I feel that Frost is doing the same with regard to having the reader make their own judgment as to what kind of path the speaker took and whether or not it was a good decision.
"Dover Beach" by Matthew Arnold- Arnold does a spectacular job exploring a world that is reflecting the struggle of what mankind has brought forth upon it and continues by saying that while the world faces so many struggles, there is hope and possibility that society has just been unable to find through its many episodes of doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result, pointing to war as the chief cause. The themes in this poem are influential to Ray Bradbury's own ideas when he wrote Fahrenheit 451 as Guy Montag reads this poem to warn his wife and her friends about the dangers society is facing as they move forward in a direction that involves book burning and dependency on their unjust authorities. Montag is deemed as insane to the norm of this society and is driven into the adventure of his life. "Dover Beach" provides a message of the unjust traits of humanity and how it's up to us to make the necessary changes, if we could grasp such as idea.
Nipsey Russell's "Words of Wisdom"- I have this one generalized, because I am not able to select just one poem that Russell uses to convey his ideas. Nipsey Russell was most fondly known for his appearances on game shows and as an attendee of Dean Martin's Celebrity Roasts, to which he would provide "words of wisdom" that were often four lines. Some of these touched on political corruption, programs, intellect, how to live your everyday life, women, and so many more ideas. He was deemed "The Poet Laureate of Television" and even had a game show based on his poetic talents called Rhyme & Reason, where contestants had to fill in the last word that would be given to them after the first two lines. Russell's words of wisdom has always been a vibrant part of my interest for television game shows that would stray into my interest in poetry.
An interest in poetry during 2013 will be something I pick up and take with me into 2014, only to expand this interest and study it to the point that it strengthens my interest in reading, which in turn will strengthen my writing. These poems are among my favorites, not just from this past year, but overall. Of course, I plan on coming up with a new list as I read more poems and analyze them in a deeper fashion, but this is the foundation to what drove me into giving poetry a chance that ultimately became an interest.
Hope 2014 treats everybody well and I'll be excited to engage in some more blogging in the year to come!