Tag Archives: Margaret Atwood

Politics and Poetry: Feminism

In the last year, I’ve been giving a series of lectures titled Politics and Poetry for The Socialist Party USA. This is an excerpt from the Slam Poetry section of that lecture.


Image of Sylvia Plath
Image from PoetryFoundation.Org

So, Sylvia Plath. She’s not my favorite, but one can’t talk about feminist poetry without talking about Sylvia Plath. She’s most well known for her work The Bell Jar, which is semi-autobiographical and was published right before her death. She had a tumultuous life, attempting suicide multiple times until the last time, when she stuck her head in an oven with the gas on in 1963. She was married to another poet, Ted Hughes, who cheated on her, often, and had two children. She is known for her intensely autobiographical works and the social restrictions facing women. This poem, Lady Lazarus is from her book Collected Poems and was written in 1960:

Lady Lazarus

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.


Book Abandonment, and Why It’s Okay

Bookshelf

Readers often feel a sense of guilt when abandoning a book. It could be simply that we’re not quitters, determined to finish a project or task no matter how unenjoyable. We’ve committed to this book, checked it out at the library or paid good money for it at the bookstore, and we are damn well going to finish it. Even if it’s the last thing we do.

Maybe we’re also competitive or, if you will, gluttonous. We want to read as many books as we can get our hands on. We’ve told ourselves we were going to read X amount of books this year (I’m currently behind on my personal 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge). If we can simply push through this book, it’s one more toward that goal, but in doing so, we end up slowing ourselves down.

The reasons we choose to give up on a book vary. It’s naive to assume that because you like a book everyone else you know will too. Reading is subjective. Sometimes your favorite blogger or Goodreads reviewer will fail you.

Here are a few reasons it might be time to let a book go.

Poems for National Poetry Month

April is my favorite time of year. Not for the showers (although, rain’s nice), nor for the beginning of spring; rather, April is my favorite time of the year because it’s officially National Poetry Month and that means I get to spam everyone I know on Facebook with poems everyday, and sometimes twice a day, for a whole month. It’s also the month of William Shakespeare’s birth and death, so I like to pay special attention to his sonnets and poems, as well as poetry that celebrates his work, during my favorite time of the year.

It’s really an English degree holder’s dream.

I want to share poetry with everyone this time of the year, and you are not immune. Here’s a poetry month starter kit of poetry for you to share with your friends, or to just read an enjoy, during my favorite month of the year.

How to Live for 100 Years (To Read Margaret Atwood’s Latest Book)

Dear fellow fans of Margaret Atwood,

We have a problem. It seems that one of our favorite authors has decided that we all need to live, somehow, for the next 100 years to read her next novel, which has been sealed into a time capsule.

So, unless we want to form some kind of Ocean’s Eleven-eque team to break into the vault and take the book to read now (note, if you’re interested in that, we totally are too, but send us an email so we’re not caught conspiring), we’re going to have to instead invest in longevity to be able to read this novel.

First we’ll start with the least insane route to live for the next 100 years:

Taking Care of Yourself

I know—this doesn’t sound fun. We’re all fans of books, not like, vegetables. But, alas, if you want to live for the next 100 years, you’re going to have to stop complaining and start taking care of yourself. Here are <a href="http://www.prevention.com/health/healthy-living/9-s

Books for Feminists – Big and Small, Part 3: Adult Contemporary

Hello again and welcome to our next series in the Books for Feminists book list. If you didn’t catch the first two parts of this blog, we’ve covered feminist books for children and feminist books for teens. Our next list up is contemporary books for the feminist reader.

But before I launch into adult contemporary literature, let’s review what I mean when I say feminist (you can skip this part if you’ve read the other blog posts). A feminist is simply a person, male or female, that believes that all people are equal and that women are people too.

Now, onto the books!

(Image Source: Amazon)

How to Be a Woman

Did you forget how to be a woman? Well, this book will help you with that, or at least, it’ll make you laugh. Author Caitlin Moran mixes snark, profanity, and cutting humor within her book. She is often called “the UK Tina Fey” and this book has made it onto the New York Time’s best sellers list. If you want to read about serious issues facing women from the UK to the US today, but maybe laugh while doing it, this book is the one for you.


(Image Source: Amazon)

The Beauty Myth

Did you know that women don’t naturally come with hot pink lips, inch long eyelashes, or the ability to walk in high heels while cooking the most delicious dinner you’ve ever tasted? Sorry to dispel those myths for you. Naomi Wolf takes a look at how our society perceives beauty in women and how beauty is wielded like a social weapon to keep women perpetually chasing a standard that is unobtainable and costly. No one is naturally flawless, and, let’s face it, chasing perfection in the way of plastic surgery and makeup is an endless endeavor.


(Image Source: Amazon)

Book of Negros

Author Lawrence Hill creates a captivating narrative about an eleven year old girl being abducted from her home in West Africa, her journey by sea, and her eventual slavery in South Carolina. And, here’s the kicker—this isn’t a fictional story. This is the story of Aminata Diallo, born in Bayo, West Africa, in 1745. Book of Negros is a carefully constructed piece that takes historic evidence to recreate the events in Aminata’s life and struggles.


(Image Source: Amazon)

The Nightingales of Troy

This collection of short stories is connected by a common thread—through members of an Irish American family starting in 1908. The author, Alice Fulton, shows her talent as a poet with carefully constructed sentences and brilliantly specific word choices. Not only is this a great read for any writer who appreciates craft, but the uniqueness of this short story collection makes it a great read for all. The linage of the family is explored from the jazz age to the time when the Beatles ruled teenage girl’s hearts.


(Image Source: Amazon)

The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman’s Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine

From Sue Monk Kidd, best-selling author of The Secret Life of Bees (another great feminist novel, for those interested), comes her autobiographical tale. Her journey starts with her being the ideal Christian wife and mother until she starts to question her life. She realizes that there might just be more for women out there beyond what her religious values instilled in her. She found her feminist awakening and her faith at odds. She uses her theological background, mythological understanding, and passion for the arts to work her way through her life-crisis and she shares all of that with her readers throughout the chronicles of her journey from traditionalist to feminist.


I Hate Twitter, But It’s Good for Writers

I don’t like Twitter. Now, I do have a Twitter account—two actually! But I never use the damn things. Why? Because I hate it. I feel like I never have anything worth saying in 140 characters. I talk a lot. I write a lot. I’m a wordy person and I love my words.

And that’s exactly why Twitter would be good for me, if I so committed myself to use it. Wordiness is an issue in my writing, and Twitter would be a great way for me to practice being concise with my diction.

I won't be winning any popularity contests any time soon.
I won’t be winning any popularity contests any time soon.

Being concise is a good thing for a writer. I know it’s fun to create intricate yet grammatically correct clauses that make your reader go “wait, what did I just read?” But there’s something to be said for being short and to the point when it comes to what you write. Academia especially appreciates this trait. As a writer, it’s good to know your grammar and how to manipulate a clause, but it’s also good to get to the point.

Tips for Dating a Writer

I can’t speak for all writers because all writers are different because we’re all people and people are all different. There are plenty of lists on Buzzfeed or eHarmony that offer tips or the pros and cons of dating a writer—and I don’t like them. I feel like they are incomplete or paint a very one-note picture of a writer.

Now, I’ve never dated a writer, but I am a writer and I work with writers and I write for writers and I’m friends with writers, so I thought I’d have some more specific tips to give on this matter that may be of interest to people in the dating scene who wish to date a writer.

Heart_Book

1. Woo them with books. Here’s the thing about me and most of the writers that I know: we love to read. That’s why we fell into writing. We all have our own preferences, though. For example, I wouldn’t get my fellow blogger and co-creator Melanie Figueroa a Shakespeare play because I know Shakespeare isn’t her thing (it’s my thing), but I would seek out contemporary authors like Chuck Palahniuk or Margaret Atwood, because I know authors like that are her favorite. Being specific and knowing your writer’s taste is key to this.

One of my writer friends has a writer girlfriend, and he and I ended up traveling to Taiwan last summer to teach. He found her favorite book, The Great Gatsby, in the bookstore we visited in Taiwan and got her a copy of it in Chinese. He then had our host read the first two pages of the book in Chinese and recorded it so his girlfriend could listen to her favorite book in this language she didn’t speak. I thought that was terribly romantic, and I’m sure she did too.

All of that being said, it’s really not about the price of the book. Writers are often ones who can appreciate older, used books. Don’t go buy the latest release of your writer’s favorite author if you don’t need to. We’re not greedy. You don’t have to break the bank over us.

Read These Stories from The New Yorker Before They’re Gone!

(Image Source: Wikipedia.Org)

TheNew Yorker is filled with many things, from contemporary news stories to literary criticism. What I want to focus on in this post are the short stories that are often published within the New Yorker which have been free for all to access. That is about to change. The New Yorker is planning on putting up a pay wall so that only people who have subscriptions or pay for web access can read these wonderful pieces of literature.

Personally, being left-leaning and open-source-friendly, I’m not too enthused that these wonderful pieces of literature which have been open for all are going to soon come with a price tag attached, but I do understand that to continue publishing the New Yorker does need to make revenue somehow.

If you’re broke like I am, that revenue won’t be coming from you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy some of the wonderful stories that are to be found before the pay wall goes up. Below are some fantastic stories to be found on the New Yorker for you to check out before the summer is over.

The Cheater’s Guide to Love by Junot Diaz

The first novel I read by Junot Diaz was The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Within that story, Diaz was able to create well-rounded, likable, and complex characters that jumped off the page and felt like too familiar to just be fictional beings. He has a great style that mixes family, history, politics, love, and tragedy in the way a conductor leads a full orchestra. The Cheater’s Guide to Love doesn’t fail to live up to Diaz’s talent.

Quick Bits of Literature

Literature doesn’t just come in giant, dusty tomes. It’s not that I have anything against giant, dusty tomes. Those are actually some of my favorite types of tomes, but not all of my favorite literature is a few hundred pages long. Some of my favorite pieces of literature actually come in the form of short stories.

To get your summer started out right, I thought I’d compile a list of some of my favorite literary short stories. If you want to become more familiar with literature, or you just want some good, short things to read this summer, start here!

What You Pawn I Will Redeem by Sherman Alexie has long been a favorite short story of mine. This story explores the life of a homeless Native American and chronicles his adventures of trying to recover his grandmother’s regalia. I know that sounds like it could be sad or dark, but it’s actually really funny and gives great insight into the perceptions and attitudes of those mainstream society marginalizes.

Happy Endings by Margaret Atwood is a story I use all the time with my students. This not only tells a great story, but teaches readers and writers alike what goes into telling a good story and how the ending, well, you’ll see once you get to the end.

In Defense of Love Poems

People who know me might be confused by this post. I don’t come off as one overly sentimental, especially when it comes to love or love poems. But I think love is part of the human experience, and thus, like anything that makes us human, is ripe to be explored in poetry and art.

While I agree with Melanie that it is annoying for all people to assume when one says “I write poetry,” that it is mushy-love based flowery poetry, I still think love poetry is a valid and wonderful form of poetry. There are many kinds of love, and many ways of expressing that love through poetry.

Familial love is often celebrated in poems, such as W.B. Yeats’s poem A Prayer for my Daughter written about the birth of his daughter and his hopes for her in the future, or Dylan Thomas’s poem Do not go gentle into that good night written to his father to encourage his dad to fight against his death. Langston Hughes also wrote a poem titled Mother to Son, about a mother summing up her fight for equality and passing the fight and her fire onto her boy.

Brotherly love, or bromance (which is actually a word now, so I don’t feel bad using it), is another theme often explored in poetry. Shakespeare did it in the first 126 sonnets of his 154 sonnet sequence (although, these poems can also be read as being about more than platonic love but there are many subtle things, such as Shakespeare encouraging the youth he admires to procreate and marry so that Shakespeare and the world can admire his offspring, that point to a more platonic reading for me). The best example of brotherly love from Shakespeare’s sequence comes in the form of Sonnet 30, a sonnet that explores how Shakespeare would mourn for his friend in his friend’s death. Robert Frost wrote A Time to Talk about the values of slowing life down to appreciate a chat with friends. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow also wrote a poem The Arrow and the Song about how our actions, both physical in the way of an arrow and spiritual in the way of a song, take root in the world around us and are often carried by those we are close to when we feel that these things are lost.