July 4, 2009

Extended Family Members

After a seemingly endless string of family get-togethers, I've deduced that the best way to deal with someone you don't know is to kiss their cheek and smile happily when they ask how school's going. It's really quite effective.
Beyond that, I'm wayyy to tired to think right now, so I'm leaving you with a ninth grade essay about a poem. (who's excited? I'm excited!!)

In the past week, I have read and reflected on Robert Frost’s poem, Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening repeatedly. In my first reflection, I wrote about Frost’s use of simple words to convey images. These words “that are used frequently in common discourse can paint a clear picture in the readers mind.” However, I mistakenly thought that simple words meant simple meaning. Reading the Donald Hall article changed my mind. For instance, he wrote a thirteen-line paragraph about the word “downy”, considering not just one, but four implications of the word. Before reading that, I hadn’t even considered that a two syllable word could convey so much meaning. It taught me how the words in the poem provided the imagery of the man in the snow.

The first reading delved into words by looking at their meanings, but the second brought each individual letter under a magnifying glass. I had noticed the sounds and rhymes at first, devoting a half a page of my original reflection on the meter and observing that I “[liked] that the rhyming syllable changes with each stanza”, because it “[kept] that poem from sounding repetitive”. However, when reading the Mary Oliver packet, I learned that there was more to the sounds than just the rhyming words. Instead of just consonants and vowels, there were liquids, mutes and aspirates; two words with the same meaning, like rock and stone, cause completely different emotions. With that piece of writing, I looked at the poem almost as a mathematical expression rather than as a piece of writing. Each consonant and vowel brought specific meanings that could be affected by the other letters around it. I took an entirely different viewpoint, and it helped me to understand the poem differently.

Despite the possible overanalyzing of minute parts of the poem, I improved my understanding of theme. In my first reflection, I didn’t even mention it, but after class discussion, I considered it a bit, saying that it was that “one can pause and see beautiful [sights], but one should continue onward”. I still think that somewhat, but have also noticed the ambivalence of the speaker. Hall commented on that, saying that the speaker “attributes one side of his feelings to his horse” and is unsure of his own wants. The speaker would happily stay in the woods, but “[he] [has] promises to keep”. He ends up giving up his enjoyment for the sake of his responsibilities. The ending of the ambivalence with this firm decision made me think instead that the theme was that obligations are more important than enjoyment. I found this frighteningly depressing.

Leaving enjoyment for the sake of what is right is responsible, but it can lead to a very boring life. The sadness and scariness of the concept led me to consider the darker aspects of the poem. After the first class discussion, I saw the word dark as slightly creepy. It is “usually used when describing scarier [settings] like a dark and stormy night” but in this case could have been indicating tranquility. After reading the packet by Hall, I leaned much more toward disturbing. I had “originally thought the poem was simply a peaceful reflection on a quiet wood”, but I was then “wondering much more”. From the second packet, I learned that “dark and deep” are both words “beginning with a mute and ending with a mute”. That is what gives them their firmer, harsher sound. I noticed that, depending on the perspective of a reader the poem could be seen as either incredibly sad or sweet and tranquil,

When I first began my study of the poem, I saw it as a simple, happy bit of writing attached to a meter. As I discussed and read more about it, I saw depth in smaller parts of the poem, and considered its mood and theme.

I'm even too tired to make witty comments about said poem. I have failed you. I am sorry. Oh, so very sorry.