The Sunday Post // The Sunday Poet #6

The Sunday Post // The Sunday Poet #6

Hello everyone! How has your week been? This week has been a week of though-provoking classes. In my Representing Contemporary Cultures module we have moved onto looking at 9/11 – how the way it was represented through the media and literature affects how people discuss and even perceive what happened. It got me thinking – how long a gap is necessary before literature can truly deal with such a world-changing event? This week’s poem is Lady Lazarus by Sylvia Plath which was published posthumously in 1965 in the collection Ariel. In it she connects holocaust imagery with the oppression she feels because she is not allowed to die – despite her multiple attempts. The gap between the events she draws upon and the poems publication is twenty years – yet we still feel the enormity of her meaning today. All the literature and even the films about 9/11 are still in their nascent stages compared to this, will it take a longer passage of time before language can truly express people’s feelings surrounding  9/11 and the events that happened as a result?

The Sunday Poet #6

Lady Lazarus – Sylvia Plath

I have done it again.
One year in every ten
I manage it——

A sort of walking miracle, my skin
Bright as a Nazi lampshade,
My right foot

A paperweight,
My face a featureless, fine
Jew linen.

Peel off the napkin
O my enemy.
Do I terrify?——

The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?
The sour breath
Will vanish in a day.

Soon, soon the flesh
The grave cave ate will be
At home on me

And I a smiling woman.
I am only thirty.
And like the cat I have nine times to die.

This is Number Three.
What a trash
To annihilate each decade.

What a million filaments.
The peanut-crunching crowd
Shoves in to see

Them unwrap me hand and foot——
The big strip tease.
Gentlemen, ladies

These are my hands
My knees.
I may be skin and bone,

Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.
The first time it happened I was ten.
It was an accident.

The second time I meant
To last it out and not come back at all.
I rocked shut

As a seashell.
They had to call and call
And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.

Dying
Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.

I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I’ve a call.

It’s easy enough to do it in a cell.
It’s easy enough to do it and stay put.
It’s the theatrical

Comeback in broad day
To the same place, the same face, the same brute
Amused shout:

‘A miracle!’
That knocks me out.
There is a charge

For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge
For the hearing of my heart——
It really goes.

And there is a charge, a very large charge
For a word or a touch
Or a bit of blood

Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.
So, so, Herr Doktor.
So, Herr Enemy.

I am your opus,
I am your valuable,
The pure gold baby

That melts to a shriek.
I turn and burn.
Do not think I underestimate your great concern.

Ash, ash—
You poke and stir.
Flesh, bone, there is nothing there——

A cake of soap,
A wedding ring,
A gold filling.

Herr God, Herr Lucifer
Beware
Beware.

Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.

The Sunday Post #6

What I’ve read…

  • Ariel by Sylvia Plath: I’ve loved this collection of poetry ever since I first encountered it. The poem I included above is really haunting, not just because of its references to the Holocaust but because I read it as a woman eating/removing the doctors that treat her as if she were something precious so that the next time she tries, she might finally die.
  • Black Dogs by Ian McEwan: this was recommended by a fellow student on my MA course when we were discussing books that defined an era. It follows the story of a once-married couple, how their different world views caused them to separate and how the terrifying vision that the wife had on their honeymoon caused this irreparable divide.
  • Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess: I’m sure hundreds of other people have bought this book for the very same reason that I have –the best first sentence ever. ‘It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me.’ I’ve only just begun this very long novel but I can’t wait to see where it takes me.

And the rest…

Another fairly quiet week on the news front for me! I’ve been researching a lot, beginning to think of the essays that I will be handing in just after Christmas and what work needs doing before I crack on with the writing. However last night me and the boyfriend did end up going to an incredibly good night at one of our local bars – despite being billed to me by the boyfriend as ‘80’s goth’ when I got there I was pleasantly surprised to hear a lot of 80’s punk and alternative being played. It reminded me of being a teenager and listening to my dad’s CDs all over again. So yeah, if you are in Manchester and think that might be your jam – have a look at their webpage and head on over! You’ll see me there dancing like a loon in the corner 🙂

Becqui

The Sunday Post // The Sunday Poet #3

The Sunday Post // The Sunday Poet #3

The Sunday Poet #3

This poem comes from the same anthology as last week; Identity Parade New British & Irish Poets – and I just want to reiterate how much I am enjoying this collection. Every time I dip into it there is a poem that I enjoy, or one that I find interesting for whatever reason. This week’s poem is by Luke Kennard whose work is described as ‘a chimerical orchestra of fabulous characters and their put-upon sidekicks.’ The choir referenced in this poem, seem to me to be a way of describing mental illness – they make it impossible for the main character to work or hold down a relationship as they are persistently there. However the choir constantly serenading a unwilling victim (for some reason I imagine them appearing at the desk of an extremely perplexed businessman…) and following him around everywhere, being entirely over the top is a farcical image, which creates an intriguing contrast between concept and imagery. At the end, after his anger with the choir/mental illness the image of them gently serenading him to sleep and saying he may ‘become fond of them’, I find quite distressing. It is a poem that appeals to both the fantastical side of your imagination but also quite seriously addresses issues of mental health.

Luke Kennard Chorus

The choir hadn’t left him alone since the first day of summer;
He awoke to find them stationed around his bed.

One day the choir arrived without warning or explanation,
Sang the choir in four-part harmony, handing him his toast.

On his first day back at work, the choir stood at his desk,
Singing, The choir are making his professional life impossible.
 
Two weeks later his partner left him for an osteopath.
Hannah cannot stand the choir any longer, they sang.

That night he pummelled the choristers with his fists;
He beats the choir in frustration, but though they are bruised
 
And bleeding at the lip, they sing with redoubled vigour, sang the choir.
Then they sang, He cannot get to sleep, he cannot get to sleep,
 
He cannot get to sleep, in perfect fifths, until he fell asleep.
In time you may even grow fond of us , they sang, quietly.

The Sunday Post #3

What I’ve read this week…

  •  The Twelve by Justin Cronin
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. This is another re-read, because I absolutely love Atwood’s books, but I think I will post a review of it next week. It is dystopian novel set in a future where fertile women are kept as servants in richer households – as due to rising pollution levels and disease fertility levels are at an all-time low. Written from the perspective of one of these ‘handmaids’ it explores how the relationships between her and the couple for whom she works for change in an ever more desperate attempt to conceive a child.
  • Identity Parade New British & Irish Poets edited by Roddy Lumsden: Sorry to bring this up AGAIN but it really is great. If you fancy a big whack of top-notch modern poetry then buy it, buy it, buy it!
  • Gender Trouble by Judith Butler: this is a text I am reading as some research, and within it Butler questions that there is a natural or essential notion of the female, thus questioning the supposedly innate notions of gender. Butler conceives of gender as being a performative action, it is reinscribed through its repetition within an accepted and established social matrix. Some of the ideas explored within this text I have read about before, but I am looking forward to tackling the whole book!

And the rest…

 This week has actually been fairly stressful; to start with it was supposed to be the first week of actual teaching on my course however one module ended up being cancelled as not enough people had signed up for it. I was pretty upset by this, as it was the module Contemporary Queer Cultures which is an area I am interested in and was so so excited for it to start and to meet and study with like-minded people. Thankfully the tutor for the course has been incredible, and has arranged for me to do an Independent Study option where I have the freedom to focus on an area of my choice and write an essay on that. So at the moment I am doing a crash course through the material that was supposed to be taught on the CQC module, and hopefully will get some inspiration! Phew! Thankfully there was a gallery opening at the museum this weekend, and despite working it I got to go out with everyone from work afterwards and relax with my good friend Pinot Grigio.

wine

Thankyou internet, I think that sums up my week. But I had a great sleep last night, good day at work today and am feeling ready to tackle everything the coming week can throw at me!

How was your week? Did you fit in a lot of reading?

Becqui

Studying an MA

Studying an MA

So this post is a little bit different and I guess it’s a bit more personal as well. Over the next twelve months I will be undertaking an MA in English Studies, and as its going to inevitably crop up quite a lot on the blog I thought I would explain my motivation for continuing with education as well as what I will be doing on the course. Let me know what you think of this post – if you find it interesting then I will potentially keep the blog updated with how my studies are going.

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Just a few of the books/films I’ve bought from my reading list so far.

 I graduated this summer and since then the question that everyone asks is, ‘So have you found a job yet?’ When I say that I miss university, and intend to study further most of them think that I’m joking. It seems that after three years of studying many people have had enough of it, or are just tired of being poor and are ready to take on a full-time job. However I’ve worked throughout my degree, and I think that as the three years of English and Philosophy progressed I felt increasingly more fulfilled by my studies but also by balancing them with a job. I’ve always enjoyed writing and researching but it is only in my third year that I realised just how much pleasure I took in doing so, my dissertation was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done (is that really lame?) which made me think it was feasible that academia could be a career path. So that is what this year is all about, furthering my enjoyment of studying and hopefully discovering if academia is the place for me!

For the MA that I chose to take, as it is a taught course it offers the option to specialise in one of two pathways these being The Gothic or Contemporary Literature and Film.  Initially I didn’t think I was going to specialise in either, and instead take a more general pathway – however after looking at the various modules I have opted to take the Contemporary Literature and Film pathway. Therefore this autumn the two modules I will be studying are:

Representing Contemporary Cultures 1:

This unit begins with the sense of how difficult it is to define the ‘contemporary’ and does through by exploring which events have shaped our perception and definition of the contemporary. Postmodernism is explored, and then post-postmodernism leading up to the events of 9/11 and the dramatic affect that they have had upon literature and film. I’ve studied the postmodern already on my undergrad course, but really didn’t get on with it – however I think that it will be really interesting to see how it changes and develops through world events. The film that is going to be used for this first unit is Pulp Fiction, one of my favourite films so I think that studying that will be particularly interesting.

Contemporary Queer Cultures:

This unit analyses the ways in which same-sex desire is expressed, represented and received in contemporary cultures. The last two decades saw a shift away from the recently consolidated concept of gay ‘identity politics’ to a more material concept of ‘queerness’, and ‘queerly negotiated’ reading practices gained academic respectability. The politics of same-sex desires stretched to include transsexuality, bisexuality, and a range of other non-normative activities. A politics of assimilation was, in part, replaced by a politics of the margins. The ‘gay movement’ was also radicalised through the recognition of AIDS. Arguably we are now entering the era of the ‘post-gay’. This unit addresses these issues, and texts may be selected from film, television, literature or culture more broadly. Areas for study include: the impact and representation of AIDS; Queer politics vs Gay Identity politics; the development of New Queer Cinema; ‘queer spectatorship’; the commodification of same-sex desire; the concept of the ‘Post-Gay’.

I have to admit to copying and pasting that last section from the unit handbook, I think that this module is going to be extremely challenging – I wrote about the aesthetics of gay identity in my dissertation, however this is an ever-growing area of study and there is so much information to take in. It’s the module I am most excited to get underway, and I have loads of films to watch for it!

Alongside these there are research modules and literature reviews to be cracking on with and  the year concludes with original research dissertation which you present to the rest of the the MA students. As you might have gathered from my descriptions of the modules, I am challenging myself with what I am studying this year, some of it is relatively new territory and I know that my work is going to have to be of an extremely high standard. But like I said, I love studying and I think that this year is going to be great fun. My main challenge is going to be organisation, my notes for the whole three years of university were basically a box stuffed full of paper – but I don’t think that’s going to cut it somehow. So I plan to have a Dictaphone and type up lecture notes after each session, thus going over it all twice effectively. Hopefully that will help me keep on top of things!!

Do let me know if any of you are planning to do an MA, I’d love to meet some people in the same boat as me. And chuck any study/organisation tips my way; god knows it’s going to be a struggle! Hope you enjoyed this little post; I will keep you up to date with how everything is going.

Becqui