Week 9 Literature at ACU

A heady week for us all. In first year we finished off our poetry segment and explored some wonderful short poems that gave a real taste of the huge differences in poetic language between one poet and the next. I especially enjoyed exploring Gary Snyder’s “Mid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout”. This is where Gary Snyder was writing from (a magical place in what is called the Pacific North West of the USA):

Our discussions in lectures (and you can hear these as podcasts in WebCT) explored the ways in which the sharp, precise images in this poem captured that amazing sense of renewal, of detachment from all the confusions, internal and external that we human beings are constantly subject to. As the class discovered -together (there were some fabulous responses to the poem from the class)- this is a poem that takes you to the core of a meditative stillness from which we begin to see our life, our experience from a different point of view. So we discovered the amazing power of the poetic image to assist in that process of liberation- both for the poet himself AND for us, the readers
Down valley a smoke haze…
Drinking cold snow-water from a tin cup
Looking down for miles
Through high still air.
My best suggestion for first years for this week- in YOUR LiveJournals- is to take any one of the shorter poems we/you explored this week and use it as a starting point for building your own poem. For instance, has there been a really special moment or place in your life where impressions have been really vivid- as they clearly were for Gary Snyder). Could you use the shape and form of his poem to help you put together a few succinct stanzas… and then please remember what Ezra Pound said on page 724: “Use no superfluous words, no adjective which does not reveal something”. [And if you don’t know what “superfluous” means then please, please please please please look it up: that is why I organized for you ALL to get a “free” dictionary in your bundle of Literature texts: enjoy using your dictionary!!!!!!! ]

Second years: we had a ball this week talking about Chekhov and workshopping a few short sections of his play “The Cherry Orchard”. Chekhov is such a powerful observer of human behaviour, of the way -in conversation- we never really listen to each other, but we talk AT each other…. Chekhov captures this quality on stage and so his theatre becomes a frighteningly accurate reflection of the way we lead our lives half asleep, never really aware clearly of what is going on around us. That is why the lives of these characters in “The Cherry Orchard”… is in one sense so tragic, but in another sense so comic…. these are all characters like you and me… And here is some of our group having a ball in a quick rehearsal of a section from each act of the play:

Go Marc, Gemma and Anthony!

Go Karly, Michelle and Mariam!

Go Johannes! (otherwise John Van Gulick) and Noelle!!!!

Go Robert from the USA and Rhanni and Alison!

Go Giulia!
My best suggestion for entries into LiveJournal for second years this week is to take any one character from “The Cherry Orchard” and pretending that you are him or her, write a letter from his or her perspective, explaining to a friend what life is like just now- with all these changes taking place around you. Do this: a fabulous way to get inside the play and really learn and understand what is going on!!!!!!!!!! And thanks for being such an enthusiastic group of actors: we got through a huge amount in a short space of time this week.

And now for my trusted third years: this year we moved into the territory of tragedy and confronted one of the sharpest questions: why did Tolstoy hate Shakespeare so much? Was it because Shakespeare gave no soft-cushioned answers? Tolstoy in his “tragic” stories (Ivan Illych/ Kreuzer Sonata/ Master & Man) cushions tragedy by suggesting that suffering leads to enlightenment. But Shakespeare doesn’t do this. He lets his characters (and his audience) suffer the painful indignity of meaninglessness at the point of death. Is Tolstoy right in his judgment of Shakespeare? If he is, then why does Shakespeare do this? What is his aim and intention? Does he want to wake us up rudely from the way we mis-handle our lives? But there is one of Shakespeare’s sonnets (number 146) which seems to go against this bleakly pessimistic view. Have a look at it? What do you think it is saying?
As a writing task in your LiveJournal you could take up any of the questions I have just raised… or you could also do a letter-writing exercise {such an excellent way to get inside the drama and begin to see the situation from the characters’ point of view- for example BE Oswald… or BE Goneril….. or BE Kent…… and write a letter to a friend explaining the crazy situation you find yourself in…. }.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: