Friday, March 20, 2009


    The dragonfly
   can't quite land
   on that blade of grass.


Haiku is an unrhymed, syllabic form adapted from the Japanese: three lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables. Because it is so brief, a haiku is necessarily imagistic, concrete and pithy, capturing a single moment in a very few words. Because the form has been brought into English from a language written in characters, in which a haiku appears on a single line, many poets writing haiku in English are flexible about the syllable and line counts, focusing more on the brevity, condensed form and “Zen” attitude of haiku. The traditional Japanese haiku requires some reference to nature or the season; thus the related short form of senryu is distinguished from haiku as being concerned with “human nature” or social and personal relationships.

In this particular Haiku, Basho analyzes nature through the imagery of a dragonfly. He delineates a creature that can't find a way to land on a certain blade of grass. It is important to note that it is this specific blade of grass that perplexes the dragonfly, like an obstacle he cannot overcome. The dragonfly "can't quite" accomplish this task, showing that he is continually falling barely short of his goals. Also the use of the dragonfly itself introduces the element of a dignified insect, one that should be able to simply land on a blade of grass, increasing the magnitude of it's failure.

Basho is covering the idea of failure through this Haiku, analyzing the actual actions of failure. He depicts an unexpected failure that is important only because of its contrast with the dragonfly. I was wondering what you guys thought about this Haiku in terms of the relationship Basho draws between nature and failure? Also how does this Haiku analyze human nature in juxtaposition with adversity?

Monologue: The Chimney Sweeper

"The Chimney Sweeper"
-William Blake

The central theme in ‘The Chimney Sweeper’ featured in the ‘Song of Innocence’ collection is the fact that if you live a life doing your ‘duties’, you will go to heaven. Already, this shows naivety, as it has such a simple meaning. This is something that a child is more likely to understand, and being part of the ‘Songs of Innocence’, this seems a realistic central theme. However, whilst the theme in the ‘Innocence’ collection has a very simple theme, the poem featuring in the ‘Songs of Experience’ collection is questioning the work of God. It also questions religion, showing that adulthood has a much more complicated view on not just Blake’s subjects, but any topic or matter.A quote that shows naivety in the ‘Innocence’ collection is:‘And the angel told Tom is he’d be a good boy,He’d have God for his father and never want joy’This quote not only proves the central theme of doing good and going to heaven, but it also shows the lack of awareness that Tom and other children have. Firstly, Blake uses the word ‘angel’. Blake is showing the audience that although it is the parents’ responsibility to clothe a child, the boy subject of this poem is not being clothed in real clothes, but metaphorical clothes of ‘death’. This shows us that the parents of this little boy have not only neglected the child, but their responsibility to look after the boy, also.

Spenserian Sonnet: Sonnet 75

Sonnet 75
by: Edmund Spenser
A Spenserian sonnet is characterized by the rhyme scheme ababbcbccdcdee. The carrying of a rhyme from one quatrain to the next lends itself to a 12-line "body" which develops 3 related ideas (one in each quatrain) and a final couplet that presents a different idea or commentary.

One of the many traits that this sonnet shows is the many different images that it gives. The first image that appears is the man writing the women’s name in the sand. It shows in your minds eye a man writing out a name while he was sitting on a beach. The poem also describes a beach and it is very easy to see when you think about it. Another trait that it shows is symbolism. The ocean in the sonnet symbolizes eternity. The ocean seams to go on forever so this is a perfect symbol for it. Another symbol is the waves messing up the name that he wrote on the sand. This symbolizes that his love for her will go on forever and that nothing can change that.

Throughout the poem, Spenser uses alliteration to create sounds that help the imagery in his poem. In the second line of his poem, Spenser uses alliteration when he says "waves and washed it away". The repetition of the "w" sound creates a sound similar to the actual washing of waves. Later in the poem, Spenser writes, "my pains his pray" where the repetition of the "p" sound, which is a sound that gives the felling about the hard time the person is feeling. Spenser uses alliteration to tie in the words and phrases he uses to help connect the poem with the imagery.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Elegy Poem: "Elegy Written in a Country Church-yard"

"Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard"

-Thomas Gray


This poem is not a traditional elegy as more often than not elegies are written lamenting the loss of an individual. This poem, on the other hand is mourning of an entire churchyard as well as the speaker himself through his inevitable death.

He begins the elegy with a vivid description of the desolation in his surroundings. Utilizing the elegance common to this structure Gray draws on intense imagery of a sinking sun and a day ending. This powerful idea, the closing of a day, draws on the existentialist interpretations of death. Gray explores the inevitability and they uniformity of death and sets this up through his speaker’s narration in the first three stanzas.

After the ideas of an almost drowsy reality are fully delineated, Gray delves into the actual graves of his churchyard. Throughout the next few stanzas he discusses the inevitable end of all men rich, poor, famous or unknown. Here the existentialism of this poem is blatant as the author talks of the pointlessness of life, if all “in his narrow cell for ever laid” than of what consequence is our lives. This elegy now reveals yet another very unique aspect in the author’s mourning of others through an analysis of life.

Finally the speaker brings himself to a conclusion about his own death. He realizes we are all equal in life as we are in death. Through this he assures himself of a burial among commoners, despite any renown he may acquire. Thus, a very existentialist close to an existentialist piece.

Ode Poem:"To Autumn"

"To Autumn"
-John Keats
Can be read here

John Keats' ode "To Autumn" is an ornate and precise depiction of the season and its role in the natural life cycle. Keats begins his poem by addressing Autumn and describing its abundance in relation with the sun. He talks about Autumn as a time of birth and enrichment. Mentioning the ripening of fruit and the bloom of late flowers, Keats makes a very distinct connection between Autumn and the sun. This almost seems paradoxical as Autumn is generally referred as a time of death, with the changing of leaves. Autumn is here being discussed as the beginning of life whereas it is generally associated with the advent of death.
In the second stanza Keats gives Autumn a personified identity, a goddess. He delineates her sleeping in the fields along with her recumbency  on "a granary floor". This stanza seems to give an interpretation of almost idleness to Autumn in contrast with the active liveliness of the first stanza. The first stanza of the ode, known as the strophe, is preformed with a choir moving right to left on a stage, similar to the way the sun rises. While the second stanza, the antistrophe, is meant to reply to the strophe and balance it. This is seen quite vividly in "To Autumn". as the choir preforms the antistrophe they move back to the right, signaling the descent of the sun into the night, hence the almost ominous tranquility of this stanza.
The third stanza, the epode, is projected with the choir standing still. Thus in this poem the sun, or Autumn, can be inferred as descended. Here there is a very thick comparison between Autumn and death. This is clearly depicted from the wailful mourning of Keats' gnats. This section of the poem is connected strongly to the antistrophe in that there is a "sinking" mentioned that corresponds with the descending sun of the antistrophe.
Throughout the poem it seems more that Autumn is not a part of the natural life cycle, but in fact a cycle in itself, moving from the bloom and birth of late flowers to the cold departure of the soft-dying day.