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pied_piper.jpg

SONGS OF INNOCENCE by William Blake

PIPING down the valleys wild,

Piping songs of peasant glee,

On a cloud I saw a child,

And he, laughing, said to me:  

 ‘Pipe a song about a lamb!’

So I piped with merry cheer.

 ‘Piper, pipe that song again;’

So I piped: he wept to hear.  

‘Drop thy pipe, thy happy pipe;

Sing thy songs of happy cheer!’

So I sang the same again,

While he wept with joy to hear.  

 ‘Piper, sit thee down and write

 In a book, that all may read.’

So he vanished from my sight;

And I plucked a hollow reed,  

And I made a rural pen,

And I stain’d the water clear,

 And I wrote my happy songs

Every child may joy to hear.

At first glance, this poem had nursery rhyme resonance for me. It just seemed so happy and joyful that I knew there had to be more meaning behind the words. This piper choses to live life in a way that makes him happy: spread song and joy to all he meets. The special child from a cloud tells the piper to record these songs for every child and in doing so, the piper stains the water clear.We are all sinners. We are all in a sense, stained. We try and cleanse ourselves. The piper says to make ourselves clean by spreading joy and creating. He is creating, with each note, and each letter formed by his pen. This written language units us all as humans. We are all creators, especially in poetry. So life doesn’t suck…that outlook simply taints us more. We create our lives. Sure, we can’t control everything, but we create our world based on our reactions to mishaps. The piper says to reject the belief that everything is out of our hands. We have to power to think, write, create. We make our lives.

Idealistic Change 

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“Emplumada” by Lorna Dee Cervantes

When summer ended the leaves of snapdragons withered taking their shrill-colored mouths with them. They were still, so quiet. They were violet where umber now is. She hated and she hated to see them go. Flowers  born when the weather was good – this she thinks of, watching the branch of peaches daring their ways above the fence, and further, two hummingbirds, hovering, stuck to each other, arcing their bodies in grim determination to find what is good, what is given them to find.

These are warriors  distancing themselves from history. They find peace in the way they contain the wind and are gone. 

“Emplumada” from Emplumada, by Lorna Dee Cervantes, © 1982.

All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260.
Source: Emplumada (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1982). 
                                                                                                                

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Literally this poem seems to move from winter and death of snapdragons into a reminiscing on life. Although the observer is saddened to see the snapdragons die, she has faith that the curled and shriveled flowers will have rebirth in the spring.  She likes to remember the flowers as they were rather than how they are. The snapdragons were in their environment, with hummingbirds buzzing in harmony and unison. This reminded me of memorial services and funerals in a way, since people often like to remember the departed as they were in life: full of abundance. When someone dies after a chronic illness, no one wants to hear about how weak he/she looked lying in the Hospice bed. I was randomly reading obituaries and found it odd that older people had these pictures next to their names that obviously weren’t picture of their eighty-year-old selves; rather these photos captured the departed in youth and health.

The hummingbirds kind of remind me of what the Tufts interviewer called me: “an idealistic teenager”. I am like the hummingbird, reaching out to “find what is good” in this world. I do distance myself from history-I want newness and change. I’m not sure about the last line though: “They find peace in the way they contain the wind and are gone”. I hope not to ever find peace.

Finding peace can mean being content. I’m Intent on never being satisfied with the way things are.

I’d like to think I’m not completely an idealist “Who goes with the flow and “contains the wind” because that label often conveys naivety. I don’t want to change the world, I am changing the world.  

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A burning village

A Poem by Yusef Komunyakaa, a professor at NYU

You and I are Disappearing

The cry I bring down from the hills
belongs to a girl still burning
inside my head. At daybreak
she burns like a piece of paper. She burns like foxfire
in a thigh-shaped valley.
A skirt of flames
dances around her
at dusk.
We stand with our hands hanging at our sides,
while she burns
like a sack of dry ice. She burns like oil on water.
She burns like a cattail torch
dipped in gasoline.
She glows like the fat tip
of a banker’s cigar,
silent as quicksilver. A tiger under a rainbow
    at nightfall.
She burns like a shot glass of vodka.
She burns like a field of poppies
at the edge of a rain forest.
She rises like dragonsmoke
    to my nostrils.
She burns like a burning bush
driven by a godawful wind.

Not only did this poem scream “THIS IS DARFUR!” at me, it pulled at my heartstrings. The many images of this burning girl seep into my soul as they did into Yusef’s. Whether it be as a “burning bush,” as “rising dragonsmoke,” or as “a cattail torch dipped in gasoline,” the girl’s image is a part of the poet’s psyche. She is like an eternal flame of memory, and he can’t forget neither her nor the experience. 

The most hurtful line I found seemed to be “We stand with our hands hanging at our sides,
while she burns/ like a sack of dry ice” because the crowd is watching instead of taking action. Too many of us sit idly while a government (Sudan) systematically destroys an entire race of people. Many watch, few act. Upon reading this poem, I instantly thought of holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel and my favorite quotation:

The opposite of love is not hate; it is indifference.

elie-wiesel.jpg Elie Wiesel

We must act. Visit www.savedarfur.org for ideas on ways to help. BE VOCAL.

The Existence of God

God’s Grandeur 

THE world is charged with the grandeur of God. GOD

It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;

It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?

Generations have trod, have trod, have trod; And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;

And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod. And for all this, nature is never spent;

There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;

And though the last lights off the black West went

Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent

World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

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Using “charged” invokes a feeling of light and creations, such as when God said “let there be light”. The next few lies speak of suffering generations, probably ones in which people have lost faith in God. I think that the image of the earth being soiled by men’s smudge is especially interesting because it brings on the whole idea that our world has been tainted since Eve and that darn apple! We put ourselves here, on this soiled planet. “Nature is never spent”. Is our HUMAN nature spent? The Bible says  no, “[f]or God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him” (Wisd. 2.23). God hasn’t given up on us yet, and as for now, the human race will continue on. The light will nonetheless continue to shine without interruption.

I wonder sometimes. I have faith in God’s existence, but like many, I wonder why we have such atrocities in our world if God exists. I still have hope for some reason though….maybe it has to do with Barack Obama!

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These images combine to assure the reader that although the world may look bleak, man may yet hope, because God, through the sacrifice of Christ and the descent of His Holy Spirit, has overcome mortality.

The Applicant

First, are you our sort of a person?
Do you wear
A glass eye, false teeth or a crutch,
A brace or a hook,
Rubber breasts or a rubber crotch,

Stitches to show something’s missing? No, no? Then
How can we give you a thing?
Stop crying.
Open your hand.
Empty? Empty. Here is a hand

To fill it and willing
To bring teacups and roll away headaches
And do whatever you tell it.
Will you marry it?
It is guaranteed

To thumb shut your eyes at the end
And dissolve of sorrow.
We make new stock from the salt.
I notice you are stark naked.
How about this suit –

Black and stiff, but not a bad fit.
Will you marry it?
It is waterproof, shatterproof, proof
Against fire and bombs through the roof.
Believe me, they’ll bury you in it.

Now your head, excuse me, is empty.
I have the ticket for that.
Come here, sweetie, out of the closet.
Well, what do you think of that?
Naked as paper to start

But in twenty-five years she’ll be silver,
In fifty, gold.
A living doll, everywhere you look.
It can sew, it can cook,
It can talk, talk, talk.

It works, there is nothing wrong with it.
You have a hole, it’s a poultice.
You have an eye, it’s an image.
My boy, it’s your last resort.
Will you marry it, marry it, marry it.

After reading “The Applicant” by Sylvia Plath, I can’t help but laugh at her cynical views of marriage. In today’s society, it can seem like finding a spouse is like hiring someone for a job. With online dating websites like match.com and others, you can program a profile of the perfect one for you, click enter, and zing! instant matches of THE ONE at your fingertips. Why find love when you can create it?

Of course, Plath’s view seems to be more dismal. As a feminist, she definitely picks up on certain female sterotypes like cooking ‘to bring teacups’ and being a nurse for a husband and ‘roll away headaches’. Would you marry a robot? it will do ‘whatever you tell it’. it’s clear that Plath rejects the typical life of a housewife and sees a housewife as weak and unaffected. She presents this poem as a sales pitch, satisfaction guaranteed.

Is this all that women mean to men? Are we living dolls that can ‘sew, […] cook […] and talk, talk, talk’?

Check out this creepy video of The Applicant:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDlJXgoHcXE

As I Walk These Broad Majestic Days
 
As I walk these broad majestic days of peace,
(For the war, the struggle of blood finish’d, wherein, O terrific Ideal,
Against vast odds erewhile having gloriously won,
Now thou stridest on, yet perhaps in time toward denser wars,
5 Perhaps to engage in time in still more dreadful contests, dangers,
Longer campaigns and crises, labors beyond all others,)
Around me I hear that eclat of the world, politics, produce,
The announcements of recognized things, science,
The approved growth of cities and the spread of inventions.
 
10 I see the ships, (they will last a few years,)
The vast factories with their foremen and workmen,
And hear the indorsement of all, and do not object to it.
 
But I too announce solid things,
Science, ships, politics, cities, factories, are not nothing,
15 Like a grand procession to music of distant bugles pouring, triumphantly moving, and grander
    heaving in sight,
They stand for realities — all is as it should be.
 
Then my realities;
What else is so real as mine?
20 Libertad and the divine average, freedom to every slave on the face of the earth,
The rapt promises and luminè of seers, the spiritual world, these centuries-lasting songs,
And our visions, the visions of poets, the most solid announcements of any.

I myself had an illuminating weekend. I connected with others at a Model United Nations conference and felt my visions be illuminated like the “lumine of seers”. I enjoyed political discourse with my fellows from all over: Manhattan, Memphis, China. Most importantly, I was treated with respect and felt like I had a sense of duty there. Meeting Aniket Shah, a junior at Yale who is on the Board of Directors for Amnesty International was truly incredible. To witness the amazing 20 year old as a representative working for human rights blew my mind. It was like I was walking the “broad majestic days of peace”. This idealism dazzled me; I could hear the “éclat of the world [and] politics” like never before. I could see the “ships” (the understanding and hope in our youthful eyes) but I still knew that this would “last  a few” years.

 

Something my Yale Model United Nations chair said to me resonated. Although we gain speaking skills, a little international affairs lingo, and background knowledge of events, MUN is only a simulation. I now realize I am here on this earth to give time to real things. I am done modeling. I am now ready to act and be an activist. Human rights, Darfur, these issues are “realities” and “are not nothing”. I make my own realities. Now I can understand the urgency of Whitman- that “freedom to every slave on the face of the Earth” is necessary.

 

In the end of the poem, my visions are truly solid. They are not just dreams or ideas. They are realities, just like poems are the most solid realities we have.

http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2008/01/27/caroline-kennedy-endorses-obama/

I am very proud to call myself an Obama supporter! Congratulations on S.C., Senator!

Fired up, ready to go.