Women writers were often overlooked throughout history. When we all were introduced to “good” literature it was usually a white male writer that was mentioned. Women writers started to change that narrative and now women are a part of the “good” literature group. Feminist writing was a big help to changing that and writers like Judy Grahn, Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, and Louise Glück were a part of that change. Feminist writers weren’t afraid to speak up and express how they felt about the problems women face in society One of those problems was the representation of women and how women were perceived. I mainly would like to focus on Judy Grahn’s “I Have Come to Claim Marilyn Monroe’s Body” and how she points how women were being perceived.
Marilyn Monroe was a very popular figure and a lot of the time she was heavily sexualized. Besides her over-sexualization some viewed her a strong sign of femininity and yet her representation on the big screen gave femininity a bad look. Velleda C. Ceccoli PH. D wrote a great blog about Marilyn Monroe being a universal symbol of femininity, but throughout Monroe's career I felt like she was often portrayed as a seductress with no substance. What does that say about the idea of femininity in society? Throughout the poem Judy Grahn repeats “be serious” or “get serious”, what does Monroe have to get serious about? I believe Grahn wants Marilyn Monroe to understand that her sexual objectification is overshadowing her work. Is she only talking directly to Marilyn? I felt like Marilyn Monroe is uses as a symbol of all women. I felt like there was an underlying theme of just standing up for all women not just one or simply the feeling of“enough is enough”.
In her poem a reporter asks, “what right does she have to [her] body?” and I read it as if a man were asking a woman that. It made me feel like she generalized the idea of men or society only caring about a woman’s body. Does that mean femininity is only defined by a woman’s looks? No, but women were never represented with substance on the big screen and I think Grahn is attacking the lack of positive representation for women throughout this entire poem. Grahn then writes “[men] want to pose me...nude” which to me, again is stressing the objectification of women. Then Grahn goes on to say “when one of the reporters [gets] too close I beat him” which makes me feel like she’s finally letting out that frustration that women have had built up. When I inserted general language like “men” and “women” throughout this poem it read differently to me, which leads me to believe that Judy Grahn used the heavily popularized idea of sexuality (Marilyn Monroe) to attack how women were represented. Marilyn Monroe may have been a symbol of femininity but her constant objectification and sexualization could have been a reason society normalized it, which lead to the perception of women as only looks and nothing else. What do you think?
Not all poetry was deeply personal. Confessional poets such as Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath were key figures in making poetry a more personal experience. They weren’t afraid to put anything in their work and that is shown in Sylvia Plath’s “Lady Lazarus” where she talks about multiple suicide attempts. Although she uses very smooth and poetic language to describe her struggles with suicide, readers can have a clear picture of what she’s describing in the poem. She played a big role in confessional poetry and poetry as a whole, but I would like to focus on her good friend Anne Sexton’s “Sylvia’s Death”.
Sexton’s comparison in “Sylvia’s Death” shows that she had the same desire for death as Plath. Sexton wanted to do what Sylvia Plath could do which was kill herself. Sexton gave both an envious and mournful tone. She shows her mournfulness early in the poem by asking, “Sylvia was where did you go...”. She was genuinely hurt by the loss of her friend who she related to on such a deep level. I think the poem also shows how Anne Sexton was going through multiple stages of grieving. Things like “Thief” or “how did you crawl...into the death I wanted so badly for so long” clearly shows the envy /jealousy of Plath’s death throughout those middle stanzas, after she was very mournful in the beginning. Then she tries to make light of Plath’s death by saying “what is your death but an old belonging”, what do you think she means by that? I feel as if Sexton is just trying to find ways to get over Plath’s death throughout this whole poem. What good did this poem bring? This poem was very vulnerable, personal and powerful. I think both Sexton and Plath were able to bring to light the emotional struggles that women could be facing without anyone knowing, and they were able to bring those problems/emotions to the public with their personal experiences and I think that was why she was a key in changing the was poetry was approached. Do you?
There are many topics for discussion throughout Tennessee Williams’s “A Streetcar Named Desire”. We could discuss Blanche’s artificial personality, or how Stella is portrayed but what I would like to focus on is Stanley. What all does Stanley’s character represents? I believe that Stanley is a key to further exploring each character. His antics throughout the play shows the true hold he has over Stella, the way he doubts Blanche helps to shed light on her overall character, and the interaction he has with his friends shows us his true character. I know I’m leading this on as if Stanley is “good” or something, no, I thought he was a horrible person but great for the development of Blanche and Stella’s characters.
At the time of this play, society was a heavy patriarchal society. Men were always right, women were supposed to depend on their men and as Stanley said, “I am the king around here” (Williams 107). In that society men desired all the control, they made sure that they whoever they were with depended on them for their needs. If a man is the breadwinner, is he the king of the house? If a man is attractive, should women (Stella) succumb to the physical desire and ignore all the negatives? I believe that Williams is pointing out a lot of the problems in the time period through Stanley’s actions. Stanley has a childish masculinity to him. I think he views Stella as a possession of his and when a child gets that possession taken away, they throw tantrums. Stanley yells, he throws things, he hits Stella, and he makes sure he always gets his way. All the things that Stanley does is a social norm at that time, they were able to do and say whatever they want and what Stanley wants is Stella. I also believe Stanley fears Blanche as most men of that society would because she cannot be controlled by him. The hold he had over Stella was irrelevant with Blanche and I think that bothered him.
The reason that I believe Stanley’s character is essential to the growth of Blanche and Stella because his actions help show their true feelings. The way he mistreats Blanche helps Stella break out and sort of show that she was sick of his actions. His constant disapproval or lack of trust in Blanche eventually helped shed light to her past and helped readers to get a better story of why Blanche is the way she is. I believe throughout this play Stanley is a direct representation of what Williams doesn’t like about the society. “Tennessee Williams nicely presents the stereotypical spousal roles of the husband and wife” and Stanley was the epitome of that stereotype. Besides the fact that Stanley represented the heavy patriarchal society what else could he represent?
When I was growing up, I would always hear these jovial stories about the Harlem Renaissance, how African Americans started to spread or showcase culture. I was first taught about the music painting a fun picture but as I got older, I was exposed to writers like Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. They were excellent writers but Margaret Walker, who I was just recently exposed to, had a powerful prose style poem titled “For My People”. The title already lets us know who this poem is directed to and she makes sure to empower ‘her people’ as well as critique them.
Throughout the poem, she opens the stanzas with “For my people”, and I think her use of repetition makes the poem read differently. Instead of painting picture with the over saturation of metaphors she paints each picture with straight forward speech. Each stanza she’s grouping everyone that she’ll call to action. A reader may feel like she’s dragging things on but she’s leading the reader to her solution. “Let a new earth rise”. Considering what is happening during this time period, what does that statement mean? I believe she’s pushing for freedom, encouraging the reader and ‘her people’ (African Americans) to be free. During the time period there wasn’t much of any freedom for ‘her people’ and she makes that known throughout the poem. Lines like, “For my people...dragging along never gaining never reaping never knowing and never understanding” and “For my people walking blindly spreading joy”, gave me an image of people that have no freedom, these lines also felt as if she was critiquing her target audience. What images could you draw from those lines too? Would you agree that she is critiquing as well? C. Liegh McInnis of The Project on the History of Black Writing, http://www.projecthbw.ku.edu, states that "the imagery of “For my People” paints a vivid picture that forces readers to face the horrors of black life while also being encouraged by its beauties and successes, as the repetition and cadence is an inspiring drumbeat, marching readers through the photo collage of black life and toward the mission of surviving and thriving" and that is what I got from "For My People" also.
She also used present tense for majority of the poem and gives imagery from the past, then finished in the last stanza painting a picture of the future. What do you think that could mean? Maybe by blending the past and future together she’s giving the idea that the past and future is the present. I believe she’s saying that the world is stuck in the past and that things must change for a better future, but I am sure there are any other themes/interpretations. While I am sure she is directing this poem to African Americans I still feel like there is a call to action for everyone, not just African Americans. “For all my people...trying to fashion a world that will hold all people the people, all the faces”, I believe she doesn’t just want better for ‘her people’ I think she wants better for everyone.
Tristan Gans of www.inquiriesjournal.com called William Carlos Williams' "The Red Wheelbarrow" a 'minimal masterpiece' and that is a perfect description. "The Red Wheelbarrow" had only four two-line stanzas, yet it created a solid image. The visual aspect of the poem also created an image right on the paper. I thought that the line breaks made the poem feel a bit heavy to give an underlying importance of each stanza. Should the images given be viewed literally or are there many images that can be taken away from "The Red Wheelbarrow"?
The shape that Williams created with the broken lines played a vital role in engaging the readers mind and creating an image. Why does the line stop stop here? Why is wheelbarrow separated? I asked countless questions, in the end, I came to the realization that without the dropped lines it would be taken as a very literal poem. Williams open the poem "so much depends, upon" without any context the reader is left wondering what so much depends upon. "A red wheel, barrow". My first read trough I was confused as to why he would separate wheelbarrow. I think the separation personalized the wheelbarrow, because there are some people that simply call it a 'barrow'.
I suppose that the line helped the poem reach more people. Williams then brings it home with his last two stanzas, "glazed with rain, water" and "besides the white, chickens". From a literal view the reader know that the wheelbarrow is important to chickens but what is the wheelbarrows importance to the reader? When I first read it I took it very literally because since I've used a wheelbarrow maybe once or twice in my life, I couldn't find a deeper meaning for a wheelbarrow. Then I thought, what if someone grew up in a time/place where a wheelbarrow was very important to their livelihood or maybe someone grew up watching their family using a wheelbarrow during those rainy days and nights? Williams wrote "a red wheel, barrow" instead of 'the' red wheelbarrow, why? He leaves it open for interpretation, maybe the red wheelbarrow can represent an underlying theme of being strong no matter what storms we are being put through. I loved how this poem was able to give the reader a specific set of images while still being able to take on multiple meanings. What does The Red Wheelbarrow" mean to you?