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The End is Nigh

Monday, April 26th, 2010

It is that time.  I’m leaving the country in a few days, and the English Blog is no longer my responsibility.  I hope you have all enjoyed my contributions as much as I enjoyed making them.  This was an interesting experiment that I will not soon forget.

Peace

The Poetry of Music

Monday, April 26th, 2010

I would be remiss if I didn’t make sure to show off the astonishing and gorgeous poetry of one of my favorite artists, Joanna Newsom.  Her voice and musical style aren’t to everyone’s tastes, but I think her lyricism speaks for itself.  Its long, but worth it

Emily, By Joanna Newsom

The meadowlark and the chim-choo-ree and the sparrow
Set to the sky in a flying spree for the sport over the pharaoh.
A little while later the the Pharisees dragged a comb through meadow.
Do you remember what they called up to you and me in our window?

There is a rusty light on the pines tonight,
Sun pouring wine, lord, or marrow,
Down into the bowns of the birches
And the spires of the churches
Jutting out from the shadows.
The yoke and the axe and the old smokestacks and the bale and the barrow
And everything sloped like it was dragged from a rope
In the mouth of the south below.

We’ve seen those mountains kneeling, felten and gray.
We though our very hearts would up and melt away.
From that snow in the night time
Just going
And going
And the stirring of wind chimes
In the morning
In the morning
Helps me find my way back in
From the place where I have been. (more…)

Godzilla?

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Yes.  Godzilla.  It turns out that when you take Godzilla, mix in a little haiku, you get a big ol’ pot of awesome sauce.  If you like giant monsters, or haiku, or absurdity, you should probably check out Godzilla Haiku.

Just a taste:

Killing What We Love

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Does analyzing turn a text into this?

Julie Bruneau, (currently my Critical Theory Professor) in a comment for “The Academic Vs. The Purely Edifying”, brought up a question that I have long struggled with in English.  Can you study something without destroying it?  To dissect a frog, it must be dead (or will be soon after you begin).  Does the same process happen when you study a book?  Or a poem?  Or any text, broadly defined, that you analyze?

This worries me because I love stories and uses of the English language in about equal measure; I love taking these things apart to find out how they work and why.  I can’t quite figure out how to reconcile these impulses in myself, because the deeper I analyze the text, the further I get from why I liked it in the first place.  Rarely does it make me dislike something that I liked before, but often I simply get sick of it, and don’t have the time or energy to revisit the whole that I liked so much to begin with.

Or does it turn it into something more like this?

However, as unsubstantiated and impossible to prove as this is, I think the solution is passion.  Caring about what you are analyzing or the ways in which you are considering a text will change your feelings toward it.  A text that I can’t help but care about may temporarily disgust me when I have its innards all over me, but invariably I come to love it again.  The reason this is hard to figure out or experience, is that much of the reading we do, especially as students, is not necessarily stuff we love.  We read what is assigned, and so nothing brings us back to them.  And the considerations we bring to texts for class are not usually the perspectives we care most deeply about.

But these are necessary for getting better at a craft.  We need to practice different critical approaches to different texts of different periods so as to understand how these things work.  This may not be comfortable or fun at the time, but, it may, with patience, enrich rather than destroy what we love.

For More Pictures of sweet book art, pictured right, check out http://packergallery.com/dettmer3/index.php

The Poetry of Music

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Moral Kiosk, By R.E.M

From the album, Murmur

From the album Murmur

Scratch the scandals in the twilight
Trying to shock, but instead
Idle hands all orient to her
Pass a magic pill under head

It’s so much more attractive
Inside the moral kiosk
Inside, cold, dark, fire, twilight
Inside, cold, dark, fire, twilight

(more…)

The Poetry of Music

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

No, the title is not a metaphor.  I literally would like to highlight some of the poetry that can be found in some of the lyrics of music.  Its easy to forget that the most abundant and accessible form of poetry for the vast majority of us is music.  Its probably worth paying attention to.  This is one of my favorites, and I hope to have more to come.  If anyone has suggestions of great poetry in music, I would love to hear it.

Nightingale / December song
By Spencer Krug (of the band Sunset Rubdown)

So let me hammer this point home: I see us all as lonely fires that have burned alive as long as we remember. But like all fireworks and all sunsets, we all burn in different ways: You are a fast explosion, and I am the embers. And though your flames are quick and mean, they will not last the year, but expire like a sudden falling star, that only nightingales had seen, before migrating to southern jungles. And in this way you will come find me in December.

He said he’d like to move to Nashville to master the guitar, where he would live a single day the way I live a single year. He covered his body in mud, went hunting for the sun, and then went swimming in a lake of holy water. You are too hot for me. I am too slow for you. You are a fast explosion and I am the embers. You need the one who slowly burns, and burns to stay alive. In this way you will come find me in December.

So let me hammer this point home: I see us all as lonely fires that have burned alive as long as we remember. But like all sacrificial virgins, we all burn in different ways: You are a fast explosion, and I am the embers. And though your flames are quick and mean, they will not last the year, but expire like a sudden shooting star, that only nightingales had seen, before transforming into bluebirds. And in this way you will come find me in December.

Deeper Reading = Deeper Thinking

Monday, March 8th, 2010

I spent many hours working on a paper the other day.  This, in itself, is not particularly notable.  Instead, the sense of intense, almost unshakable focus that came afterward made me think.  I took a break, visited with some friends, and found my brain obsessively revisiting my topic, probing, exploring, writing phrases and ideas along the wrinkles of my gray matter.  And when I returned to finish my paper, the thing flowed from my fingertips into the keyboard almost effortlessly.  I was in the zone.

Now, beside the little bit of necessary bragging, I think that this experience was notably not of my own creation or skill.  This feeling has become more and more common for me as I have studied at Goshen.  And I think that it comes from reading deeply.

I know that I for one have felt the constant presence of the internet: that luring call that says one more video, one more quippy blog post, one more article, one more flash game, one more kitten, one more, one more, one more.  And, for the most part, I enjoy it.  These things aren’t mere distractions; they are, quite often, pleasant distractions.  We continue to watch You Tube videos of cats because we find them adorable.

My problem, and I suspect many other people feel the same way, is when those distractions become the norm.  When we wish to focus, to think deeply or to really consider, and we find ourselves checking our email almost against our will  (note: I quite literally did this in the middle of this sentence).

Being an English major has, for me, been a partial antidote to this.  My time spent in front of a computer, equal parts connected and disconnected, is countered by the time that I spend reading.  And not just reading, but reading things slowly and reading things which require ongoing concentration.  Regardless of the value and enjoyment that I find in what read, the simple process of reading counters today’s frenetic culture.

If I owe the English department nothing else, I owe them my current ability to focus when necessary.  I see deep reading as enabling deep thinking, which is applicable to any number of topics.  And that is a good thing.

Our Spam is Hilarious – Part 3

Monday, March 8th, 2010

Here we go.  Another gem from our spam.

Hi there, I found your blog via Google while searching for first aid for a heart attack and your post

Who knew? Turns out that English, with all its other virtues, can help save you from heart problems.

Finding the Words

Monday, March 8th, 2010

Writing is hard.  It requires an understanding not just of what the writer wants to say, but also of what the reader wants to read or has the ability to understand.  Communication is usually a two way street.  When speaking, we naturally tailor our speech to our audience.  Church communication is different than home communication is different than a debate is different than a conversation between two close friends.  The listener, simply by being present, directs conversation almost as much as the speaker.  This natural process helps to engage both parties in communication and ensures that even if both sides aren’t speaking, both sides are shaping the conversation.

Writing, on the other hand, is a one way street.  When people write, they are putting down their thoughts as they hope the reader will understand.  It either takes extreme clarity of thought, or a work of creative empathy, guessing at the experiences, feelings, and understandings of the reader.  The best writing is both.  But because the audience in writing is mostly invisible at the moment of creating, the author has no real ability to gauge the reception of her work.

This may be obvious to the point of banality, but sometimes simple truths put things into perspective.  Perhaps this means we should all have more sympathy for professors who have to grade stacks of papers, each of which make their own blind stab at relevance and interest.  Perhaps it means professors should have more sympathy for their students who are trying to gauge, not just what they wish to write, but what their professor wants to read.  Perhaps it means being a little less critical of a weak Hollywood script.  Perhaps it means nothing at all.  But at very least, it cant hurt to be mindful of.

Writing is hard.  Have sympathy for those who do it frequently.

Goshen Adventure Comics

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

ppp-book-release1

Goshen Adventure Comics will be released this Friday, 6pm at Better World Books. Attendees are invited to dress up as their favorite comic book character and a prize will be given for best costume. Contributors will discuss some of the artistic decisions they made while creating their chapter of the book.

The event is a great way to learn more about the graphic novel as an art form. Everyone is invited, from comic book fanatic to peruser of the Sunday funnies.

The release party on Sunday for “Soil and Starlight” was a rousing success. Students, faculty, and community members joined Dan Vader for the reading, book signing, and food. 

The remaining books will be on sale in the union for $3.50 at the following times this week:

  • 2:30-4pm Thursday
  • 10:30-11:30pm Friday

 

Artwork Credit: Eric Kanagy