ENGL202 Blog 5 – Creative: Language’s Liberation and Enslavement

ENGL202 Blog 5 – Creative: Language’s Liberation and Enslavement

TASK: 1/ Write a poem or a short prose passage that illustrates the ways in which language can be both a prison and a release from prison.

Words can be gorgeously cruel. Cold and clean and quiet as they confirm your illness after months of blood tests and bone density scans. Words can be awfully kind. ‘I do,’ she whispers with tears shiny as the diamond on her pale, manicured hand.

Words can wind around you–a trickster crawling up your sibilant spine–a bilingual zephyr to seal your promises and read your palms. The words of her or him or them or you…oh, words play hopscotch with your hope and are the cement and soul in your thoughts. These letters–these hieroglyphs–these keys to the kingdom.

These syllables–this syllabus–these syntactic prison sentences.  

I remember my father’s ancient language; it was fast and harsh and loud. Truly musical, it sent me to sleep at night. A sad discussion with a village on the other side of the other world was my white noise machine.

Hausa is what they called it.

When I was small, I saw the language in my mind: it had a shape and a voice and a smell. The light of the garage was on, and the cup of tea was steaming, and my father’s impenetrable realm was teeming with melodic gibberish. It sounded as if he was casting spells, he rounded the worktable like chanting around a cauldron. Never had I ever felt so helpless and so fascinated. It was a secret power I had no access to.

It was the cotton candy grass on the other side the fence.

ENGL202 Best Blog: “Dance at le Moulin de la Galette” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (Ekphrastic Poem)

ENGL202 Blog 1 – Creative: “Dance at le Moulin de la Galette” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (Ekphrastic Poem)

4/ An ekphrastic poem is a poem that vividly describes a painting, such as X.J. Kennedy’s poem “Nude Descending a Staircase”. Try to write your own ekphrastic poem with reference to any one of the paintings shown to you during lectures in the first two weeks. Include an image of the painting in your blog.

Bal du moulin de la Galette - Wikipedia
Painting: dance at le moulin de la galette by pierre-auguste renoir

The Man from Montmartre

Lily-pad lads and rosewater-coloured ladies.
Lips shifting around the velveteen tongue of the pipe.
Flesh of cream and peach and strawberry.
Timid embraces and demure smiles.
Temptation carved with arched brows and downcast eyes.

“Oh, what a lovely day for a dance!”
Touching her cheek and taking her hand,
wrapping lace gloves in your coat.
Henri stumbled to the table, stealing his chance;
mon bon monsieur’s fille
the noise and the nerves as he spoke.

But I know you, with your back to our sights,
a weekend dappled with straw hats and Parisian sunlight.
They know so much when they are young and in love.
Leather shoes and parasols strewn upon cobblestone.
The billow of their skirts are the wings of a dove.

Chandeliers draped from the clouds,
and, as their gaze moved about
this bacchanalian shroud,
they glimpsed a man with his day in the crowd.
“What a day to put on display!
Oh, what a day too splendorous and gay.”

With your feet on the edge of the frame,
I’ll wish you had asked me to the dance.
Pummel me back a few decades with paint.
Your fractured shadow when I go home on the train;
you follow me still as I sit alone in the coach.
Your stillness shivers through the brush strokes.

Works Cited

Renoir, Pierre Auguste. Le Bal du Moulin de la Galette.
Rivière, Georges. Renoir et ses amis. 1921.

ENGL202 Summative Entry

The Twentieth Century gives me real insights
into human and social issues that are still current in the 21st century.

  • The blogs that I have written over the semester encompass my
    evolving and developing understanding of the different aspects of Twentieth Century literature. My new insights into the human and social elements of the texts I have studied are conveyed through my blog entries. Such entries are ultimately personal, evaluative, and creative appreciations of the novelists, essayists, poets, painters and playwrights I have come to connect with emotionally and relate to intellectually over these twelve weeks. My blog entries further exemplify a relevant moment in contemporary times that in-turn realises the continuing importance of Twentieth Century issues.

  • My first and the best reflection of my insights into these human and social topics was my first blog: an ekphrastic poem ‘The Man from Montmartre’ inspired by the painting Dance at le Moulin de la Galette by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Through my words, my intention was to highlight the colourful textures and moving, vivid shapes of Renoir’s Parisian painting. This creative exercise made me conscious of the processes and materials that are essential in the spiritual experience of artmaking.

  • This sense of self-consciousness seemed significant to prominent Twentieth Century authors such as of T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Virginia Woolf and James Joyce. What became clear to me throughout this semester was the importance of this literary experimentalism throughout this century of change and exploration. I found Renoir’s painting immensely beautiful, as well as relatable, because of the way in which it reflected both the human spirit and the social connections that continue to intertwine the artistic passion in today’s contemporary society. Even today, society is drawn to the appreciation of the beauty that art can arouse within many individuals. Furthermore, I particularly enjoyed James Joyce’s A Portrait of The Artist As A Young Man, Joyce uses his language to shed light upon the shades of Ireland: religion, politics, nationalism. Through these frames, we capture the inner world of Joyce and see there is beauty in exile when epiphany has freed the self from the constraints of the rigid
    society.

  • My readings of the perspectives of other peers in my cohort also illuminated how relevant Twentieth Century literature, art and philosophies are in formulating notions of our personal relationship with current times and social trends. The often obscure and complex interiority of many Twentieth Century writings and artworks is something for students to relate to; these ideas of exploration and change compel our own ponderings pertaining to the modern era, culture and people around us.

  • The Twentieth Century is a kaleidoscope of conflict, challenges and new ideas, both rejecting classical constructs and ushering in explorative methods of capturing the human spirit and challenging social structures. Perhaps the best wonder of the past is that it speaks to moments of
    the present; history is paved with lessons how society operates for and against the human spirit. The zeitgeist of the Twentieth Century was one of change and experimentation. It is this explorative nature of the Twentieth Century literary texts that has made for an edifying journey throughout this semester.

Works Cited

  • Eliot, Thomas Stearns. The waste land and other poems. Broadview Press, 2010.
  • Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. OUP Oxford, 2008.
  • Longstaff, William. “Will Longstaff’s Menin Gate at Midnight.” Australian War Memorial (1927)
  • Picasso, Pablo. Weeping woman. Davis Publication, 1980.
  • Renoir, Pierre Auguste. Le Bal du Moulin de la Galette. 1921.
  • Sassoon, Siegfried. “On passing the new Menin Gate.” Collected Poems (1983).
  • T. S. Eliot (1938), Percy Wyndham Lewis. Durban Art Gallery. The Wyndham Lewis Memorial Trust/Bridgeman Image
  • Woolf, Virginia. “Mrs. dalloway.” Collected Novels of Virginia Woolf. Palgrave Macmillan, London, 1992. 33-176.

ENGL202 – Peer Review 4: Jess Aramini’s ‘Insight Into The Tensions Between Cultures’

You certainly capture the sense of ambiguity and frustration that can arise from existing on the fence between two cultures. As you say, there are modern Australian ‘rituals’ such as “watching a footy match…celebrating Australia Day…playing cricket in the backyard” that define the national identity. However, many people do not conform to these elements of the Australian experience. The history of your Sicilian heritage and the feeling of “culture that is rapidly disappearing from [your] family” is a saddening reality for many multiethnic families. Whilst this post is articulate and clear, my only suggestion is to be mindful of sentence length. Some longer sentences could be divided to really emphasise the emotive strength of your argument. Your perspectives on the individual’s “inner turmoil” provoked by “belonging to neither category” of culture are both thoughtful and heartfelt. An excellent entry, Jess! – Mariama 😊

LINK: https://uniblogjessicaaramini.wordpress.com/2020/10/09/20th-century-literature-blog-4-2/amp/

ENGL202 – Peer Review 3: Menae Niotis’ ‘Picasso Painting in Words’

Your blog brought an excellent critical focus to Picasso’s painting by addressing the contextual foundations that underpin the fluidity and abstraction of this artwork. There is a careful balance between critical examination and creative description which makes this piece both informative and engaging. It is commendable how you use this balance to further suggest the provocative imagery in Picasso’s artwork, whilst detailing the “extreme changes in society” and “industrialism” of the modernist art movement. I agree with your observation that “[w]ithout such a context, this painting would be very confusing to those who look at or study it”. A great read, Menae! – Mariama 🙂

LINK: https://literaturewithmenae.wordpress.com/2020/08/28/critical-blogs/#more-228

ENGL202 – Peer Review 2: Andrew Colman’s ‘They Will Be Remembered’

This was certainly a thought-provoking post, Andrew; you offer an excellent and well-rounded critique of Sassoon’s “On Passing the New Menin Gate”. What I thought you asserted particularly well was that war memorials “are for remembrance, not glorification”, and proceeded to illustrate the various viewpoints of this topic. Your discussion discerns an appreciation of war memorials, though also acknowledges the harrowing nature of war within itself. This was an articulate and carefully considered piece, though perhaps be a tad mindful of sentence structure and clarity at times. Nonetheless, you approached this topic with admirable respect and sensitivity to such confronting events of the past. A great read! – Mariama 😊

Link: https://adventuresinliterature.art.blog/2020/08/21/blog-2-they-will-be-remembered/

ENGL202 Blog 3 – Creative: T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’ (Opening Line Poem)

2/ Near the end of Eliot’s “The Waste Land” he writes “These fragments I have shored against my ruin”. In the spirit of Eliot’s vision of the world, write a poem or a short prose passage that uses this line as its opening.

T. S. Eliot (1938), Percy Wyndham Lewis. Durban Art Gallery. © The Wyndham Lewis Memorial Trust/Bridgeman Images

How I Have Grown Into My Ruin

These fragments I have shored against my ruins
forgive me, sir, but that won’t be this story’s first line.
“Oh, world of ours!” A slither of breath from standing aligned,
but something divides us with the deceptively sublime.
I wonder if they still listen as I raise my eyes.
Distance and space and tears and heaven and time.
So far down…down…so deep above the stars below.
Wisteria upon the window,
it whispers to rest when my mind turns to fright.
maybe–maybe–maybe Eliot is right.

Like Titania from the fable,
she stirs cocoa into the milk.
Saturday night: baking for one at her two-chair table.
The tower and its lady, white-washed,
with warm, pale hands and a lonesome curse.
So she escaped her little, cosy spire in the suburbs.
She left her mum and her dad and her job as a nurse.
She followed the thrum of drums and the scent of the sun.
A gentle man with clean, dark hands; he was the one.

but now she sleeps…
like the Lady of Shalott looking at Lancelot,
or Peter and Wendy, love stories long lost.
When dark hands hang Sydney Long’s Pan,
I can still see them dance!

Pressed flush against the plush sajjāda, forehead and hands.
I used to think he was praising Pan on the wall,
in the living room. Five times to Him he would call,
to the Spirit of the Land? But…
“No,” those hands murmur gently,
entwined with the bone shackles of prayer beads;
Misbaha cuffs and those clean, dark hands.
“Not the painting. I face Allah’s homeland.”

On the bookshelf, Quran and Holy Bible lived side by side.
They leaned against each other, bound by leather and life,
next to Peter and Wendy, and recipes for a pork-free wife.
(No more gelatine for the cake.)
“Before sleep, say thank you to Allah and Christ;
pray for the uncles and aunties in Daddy’s tribe.”
(She missed bacon.)
“On safari, yes, they are protected by C.S. Lewis’ lion.”
Incense and the song of spellcasting languages at night.

So, you owe me answers, you two-faced faith,
and reasons for good souls denied the same good place.
All dead, will it be as it was when I was a child?
Can I ask Christ about parental visitation rights?
Can Dad’s Prophet come over from Jannah on weekends?
You’d better find a way to sew together your kingdoms.
So, let’s broker custody over heaven.
Take off your halo and sit down for tea.
Bring your son; he can play with your spirit
in the park across the street.
Tell me about Mecca in that print of Pan,
and explain the oasis in that bloodied Red Sea.
Ask Moses to part the waters once more;
I want to see Wendy and Peter, please.

These fragments I have shored against my ruins
“My, my, how you’ve grown.”
How I have grown into my ruin.
“Oh, dear, glass smashed on the floor of the kitchen.”
A shard forever in the toe,
and the skin around the glass will grow.
Lancelot gifts the mirror to Guinevere after the Lady of Shalott dies.
maybe–maybe–maybe Eliot is right.

Works Cited

Barrie, James Matthew, and Mabel Lucie Attwell. “Peter Pan and Wendy (1921).” Pavilion Books (1988).

Eliot, Thomas Stearns. The waste land and other poems. Broadview Press, 2010.

Lewis, Clive Staples. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Zondervan, 2005.

Long, Sydney, and Anne Gray. Sydney Long: The Spirit of the Land. National Gallery of Australia, 2012.

T. S. Eliot (1938), Percy Wyndham Lewis. Durban Art Gallery. The Wyndham Lewis Memorial Trust/Bridgeman Image

Waterhouse, John William. “The lady of shalott.” (1888).

Author’s Note: This is probably the most personal and stream of consciousness poem I have written in quite a while, so it is nice to be sharing it with others for a change. The spirituality and collagelike fragmentation of Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’ made me revisit the early literary, mythological, spiritual, and religious stages and aspects of my own life.

I felt as though I was replying to Eliot’s vision of the world with, literally, my world. My world fused of Islam and Christianity, of African and European ancestry–bound together and torn apart and stitched together and unpicked again; living is such a cyclical experience for so many people.

It was incredibly cathartic to write this piece and, though it may draw away from addressing Eliot’s modernist world, it was nice to capture my own realm in words through inspiration in ‘The Waste Land’.

ENGL202 Blog 2 – Critical: Siegfried Sassoon’s “On Passing the New Menin Gate”

4/ CRITICAL How does your response to Sassoon’s “On Passing the New Menin Gate” make you reassess your reaction to war memorials in your own country? Try to be as honest as you can about this.

Sassoon, Siegfried. “On passing the new Menin Gate.” Collected Poems (1983).

Sassoon’s ‘On Passing the New Menin Gate’ questions the glorification of war memorials and challenges the way in which memorials merge with our own sense of national identity. This piece makes me consider the degree of patriotism and nationalism that exists to silence the critiques upon conflict. Sassoon speaks on behalf of the dead soldiers and contends they “rise and deride the sepulchre” (Sassoon) for memorialising the criminality of this war. The use of alliteration in “paid, with a pile of peace-complacent stone” (Sassoon) emphasises the attitude of pulsating immobility and often ambivalence that ensues in response to the traumatic events of war. Sassoon’s piece does make me reconsider how war memorials operate inherently in conjunction with national identity. It is significant to note that many individuals do not typically identify the Australian national identity with the ‘success stories’ of history. The Battle of Gallipoli and the Eureka Stockade, for example, are mythologised into our understanding of what it means to be Australian, and these events essentially typify moments of failure, and yet symbolise the ‘Aussie’ ideals of resilience, of “the dead who struggled in the slime” (Sassoon), and mateship. Australia, especially, pedestalises the losses of war as an intrinsic element of our national identity, as exemplified through the manifestation of the ‘ANZAC spirit’. Perhaps Sassoon not only challenges the notion of war, this piece further addresses a culture’s relationship with national identity. Personally, Sassoon’s piece reminds me that Australians (and our European allies and predecessors) suffer from an unconscious fear of admitting that this unattainable glimmer of ‘peace’ we envision for our world may not have been worth those countless, short-lived lives who faced unimaginable horror. By nature, I feel humankind want (nay, need) to believe the insurmountable pain of the past and such unconscionable wars are the price to pay for reconciliation; therefore, this “Gateway claims” (Sassoon) its lives. For if those wartime lives were sacrificed for nought, then how much are our peace-addled lives worth?

Works Cited

Anzac Day 2016, Menin gate Ypres (Day ceremony) – Advance Australia Fair.

Longstaff, William. “Will Longstaff’s Menin Gate at Midnight.” Australian War Memorial (1927)

Sassoon, Siegfried. “On passing the new Menin Gate.” Collected Poems (1983).

ENGL202 – Peer Review 1: Sarah Weaver’s ‘Spring in the Blue Mountains’

Review: Through such vibrant imagery and evocative symbolism, you capture wonderfully the images of the natural realm in the Australian landscape. I felt you added a deeper, introspective element to this task by addressing how the beauties of the natural environment can be threatened and damaged by the “empty coffee cups and the commotion of their carnival” that is human activity. This is a stunning poem, Sarah!

Link: https://sarahweaverengl202.wordpress.com/2020/08/14/blog-1-14-08-2020-spring-in-the-blue-mountains/