Reading Response #8

Select one of the assigned readings this week (either Collins chapters or Poetry Pack #4), and post a 500-word response below. Be sure to also make a comment on a classmate's response for full credit.

24 thoughts on “Reading Response #8

  1. Andrew Lange

    I very much enjoyed Margaret Atwood’s “The City Planners”. Having spent much of my life in suburban areas I found it very relatable and chuckled knowingly through the whole piece, as I have lived my entire life in places with “interesting” city planning to say the least.

    I personally joke that I would like to strangle the city planners of just about every place I have ever lived. My childhood hometown of Atascadero, California was cut in half in the 1950’s by US 101, thereby as the town exploded in size in the 1970s and 1980s the town grew up on both sides of a freeway. The local joke is that there is no downtown hardly at all; the “downtown” is more like a 7-mile-long strip mall. To put this in perspective, while I miss the area the most apt written description of the town I ever saw went something like “Atascadero is a hot, dry, sun baked, 7-mile-long strip mall that needs to be bulldozed clean from one end to the other”. It’s ironic because now the idea of downtown revitalization has taken hold and the local building codes literally ban mansard roofs or knockdown stucco in new construction and mandate what color your building has to be painted, right down to the Home Depot or Lowes paint codes.

    One of my other childhood hometowns, Sitka, Alaska, had a scenic downtown but also had a rather seedy area of the downtown; think canneries next to tribal housing, one street away from a massive tourist trap, i.e the one street of true downtown. The rest of the city is either dated mobile home parks or T-111 modulars and split-levels going up the steep hills; every few years a heavy rainstorm causes landslides which take out a few houses and even take lives on many occasions. On one particular occasion, bitter irony dictated that none other than the city planning commisioner’s house was pushed off its foundation: “Well, they okayed building neighborhoods on top of muskeg on the side of a steep mountain, what did you think was going to happen?”

    The tiny town I spent my teenage years in, Port Alexander, Alaska, was booming in the 1920s, but died as soon as the herring fishery died off; this was long before the idea of “environmental conservation” was ever coined, much less in anywhere in Alaska. In the early 1970’s, a homestead program opened up an area of expansion to development. People and their oddly-staked (and now, oddly-subdivided) lots made laying out streets interesting to say the least, and to this day many people’s driveways cross private property. No building codes whatsoever has resulted in some very unique homes, however; my own house was built at umpteen different times and none of the additions match each other in the least.

    Finally, Fairbanks, Alaska and city planning do not belong in the same sentence either; instead of a planned city it was a series of booms of gold, pipeline, military, and college-town all snowballing on top of each other. The downtown area had planned, numbered streets, but with no zoning to speak of you have log cabins next to marble bank buildings. South of town they at least decided to group all the car dealerships, equipment rentals, wrecking yards, and medical offices together, so downtown is almost tourist-friendly. West and slightly north of town has by far outgrown the city limits, with strip malls and box stores as far as the eye can see, leading up to the Brutalist-era-architecture university campus up on a hill, with modern stainless steel and glass buildings mixed in with 1970’s pebbled concrete. And of course, the true residential areas are all outside the city limits. It is incredibly scenic, but it is nevertheless fun to take non-locals on the “ugly house tour”. (Again, no building codes to speak of). And the Fairbanks suburb of North Pole…well…there was no city planning at all. Liquor stores in log cabins next to 6 lanes of traffic whizzing by, tract housing in seemingly the middle of nowhere, and like Atascadero bisected by a freeway.

    1. Jessica Honebein

      Andrew I liked how you closely related the poem to your own life growing up and everything that you have experienced in “city planning.” Although I have not been to any of the other places, I can relate to what you said about Fairbanks. I love the way that you explained how the town is made and the structure of it. I didn’t even think about relating the poem to other places that I have lived, smart!

  2. Sierra Russell-McCollum

    This weeks poetry pack was something very different to me. I have never read anything like these two pieces before. And I actually kind of liked it. There were some parts where I had to stop and reread because in my mind it didn’t flow very easily. But that could just be me. Other than that I thoroughly enjoyed both of these pieces.

    América by Richard Blanco was my favorite poem out of the two. I really liked it, because in a way it described a bit of his struggle fitting into America while being an immigrant. He describes his culture giving the reader a taste of his life while comparing it to where he was at that moment. In a little apartment. The poem showed how much he and his family loved their culture but they were slowly being forced to change so they could fit into society. He talks about school and how he learned all about the American culture, mainly Thanksgiving. As a child, he compared it to his Thanksgiving and you could tell he didn’t like being different from the Americans in a way. Almost like he felt like an outsider and wanted to fit in. It’s sad he felt that way. And then he asked his family to change their Thanksgiving traditions just so they could fit in.

    This poem shows some of the pressure immigrants in America feel, and it saddens me. I am a person who believes that people should embrace their culture, race, religion, or traditions. Change is okay but doesn’t forget where you come from. Home is all you got.

    After doing a little research on Richard Blanco I was quite surprised. I thought he was gonna be some weird guy (don’t judge me), But he wasn’t.He is actually the fifth inaugural poet of the United States. And the first openly gay, Latino and youngest person to hold that position. It’s pretty inspiring how much he built himself up. From moving to a different country and having nothing, this man really made a name for himself. And this poem helps show one of the struggles he had to deal with.

    I like it when people write about their life. It’s like you get to see what they saw at that moment or hear what they heard. It’s interesting to me. And this poem hit the spot for me. I liked how he interpreted his family members sharing their emotions on the matter. It helped add character to the story. And when comparing his traditions or home life from Spain to America it was very interesting to me. Especially when he was describing his house back in Spain. The thought of having a two story house with a maid is so foreign to me. But I understand it’s normal over there. So he and his family must have been shocked when they found out how their living situation was going to be. After reading this poem I can say I definitely liked it. It was very different from others and it told a clear story for me.

    1. Naimy Schommer

      This background information on Richard Blanco does help to shape my view of the poem. Thanks for the info!

    2. Aundrea Pierce


      I also enjoyed “America” by Richard Blanco. It honestly helped me to relate to the cultural adjustment immigrants go through. I’ve never had to experience this kind of struggle, but I did get a glimpse when I lived in Okinawa for a few years. However, I had the comfort of knowing I will go home soon. The Okinawan culture had an amazing and positive impact in my life though. My favorite thing about the poem is how he used the meals, like on Thanksgiving, to symbolize and describe the process of the family’s adjustment. That’s funny you thought the writer was going to look weird! Its funny how reading someone piece will give you expectations like that. I did enjoy this little story and found it interesting just as you did, and heartfelt.

  3. Katherine Whelchel

    This weeks poetry pack was effortless to read, which added to the depth of each poem. Richard Blanco’s “America” was a potent glimpse into his young life in America. I loved his poem! His piece felt breathless as if he wrote it in his sleep; his descriptions were like dreams derived from repetitive everyday experiences. He sowed his own familiarity with his circumstances into the rhythm of his poem, transferring it onto me as I read. By the end, I was left with a clear picture of his young life. Through his sharing of memories, the stories of those around him were captured as well. I just loved the casual flow of Blanco’s poem! Like a brief flitter, I was sucked in and then it was done.
    There is a subconscious thought that poetry has to be full of strange language and confusing comparisons. Almost like a maze of description; a contest to see who can figure out what the poem means. Richard Blanco’s poem challenged this thought because its meaning and storyline were easy to follow and fresh. Still full of beautiful description, the piece was to the point.
    The second poem, “The City Planners” by Margaret Atwood, was similarly pure and simple, yet held more depth of description. The observations made in the poem about sterile suburbs held a deeper disgust then was openly stated. Each description was dripping with a hidden intent. The popular living sections of big cities were seemingly warped by Atwood’s poem. I related to the thoughts of hysteria in the routine similarity of each house. I could not stand living in a house that was surrounded by houses just like it.

    1. Corbin Knapp

      Hi Katherine!
      I enjoyed your view on this weeks poetry pack. I think your description made the poem seem really clear, and I enjoyed your interpretations of his writing. Like, “His piece felt breathless as if he wrote it in his sleep; his descriptions were like dreams derived from repetitive everyday experiences.” This felt almost like poetry itself. Nice job!

  4. Naimy Schommer

    “The City Planners”
    Margaret Atwood

    I first read this poem in high school, but haven’t read it since. Back then, I thought of it as a compelling argument for segregated suburban residential areas. I thought that Atwood didn’t like too much of the uniformity, but now I think she doesn’t like the uniformity at all.

    “The City Planners” reminds me a lot of “The Planners” by Boey Kim Cheng. I read the latter last year and didn’t think a whole lot of it until this week when I re-read Atwood’s poem. They both argue for less modernization in cities and raise a lot of issues about how we structure things as a filter over the top of the things that are naturally there.

    Right off the bat I see a degrading stanza size to show “The City Planners” as a poem becoming more and more compact like the scene Atwood describes.
    It starts off peaceful; we don’t get a sense of disturbance until “what offends us is the sanities:” in lines 3-4. This is the turning point of the poem; these lines tell us that we’re not in for a nice Sunday afternoon drive. There’s a colon at the end of this thought, which should tell us that she’s about to list a bunch of things she thinks supports this point.

    Being ‘offended by sanities’ implies that we should be content with insanity. That everything should not be ordered perfectly. Atwood implies that everyone is insane, which she views as totally sane. She doesn’t believe society or “city planners” should determine who you get to be–that you should be your insane self and not be forced into a regulated state of being like this neighborhood. The state of the houses imply that the people living in them are just as they are. This could be a partial synecdoche. It doesn’t exactly fit the trope but you can see it enough that it works. Atwood, as the speaker of the poem, hates conformity and consistency in both cities and people.

    “planted sanitary trees” shows the subdued role of nature in the scene Atwood is describing. In this uniform neighborhood, there is no room for the random or wild, which implies just nature as a whole. At first, the line “assert levelness of surface like a rebuke to the dent in our car door” confused me, but as I re-read the poem a few times, I saw the dented car door as something contrasting the environment around it. The neighborhood is perfect and stoic. The dent is an imperfection passing through because it does not belong. The poet claims it as hers with “our,” and pushes the implication that she does not belong here. It also goes to show how she feels about the surrounding area. If you can’t dent it, is it really yours? Do you really own it?

    She describes the “whine of a power motor” as “rational,” which implies the same control as the line about the “sanitary trees.” It shows that even wild, uncontrollable things are being forced into small boxes of uniformity. “discouraged grass” does the same thing.

    With “give momentary access…nobody notices,” Atwood asserts that eventually the old will replace the new: this subdue-ing of natural things won’t last and is not sustainable. What is natural will reclaim itself and its space; perceived human dominance over it is stupid and futile. The city will eventually get to be too big for its britches as it grows in size and combust. I image Atwood cruising through this same scene after that has happened. Her car door still has a dent in it, but she passes buildings covered in ivy with rusted lawn furniture half sunk into the ground and curtains blowing free in the wind out of open windows. This time, the dent fits.

    At “political conspirators” Atwood diverges into WHY the scene is like this and implies the corrupted nature of those in politics who plan these things. It reflects her views on how the government should be involved in infrastructure.

  5. Aundrea Pierce

    I had a similar impression on the rest of the Collins’ chapters as I did with the first half of the book; I’m still not big on poetry, but I related with some of them on a personal level. “The Yawn” by Paul Blackburn on page 175 was merely about a girl yawning, but I enjoyed the playful structure of the poem. If the poem were written in a straight line, I probably would have had no interest in it, but for some reason, the big spaces and gaps worked for me. This writing is also a perfect example of how you can take anything and make it into a poem.

    The simplicity of “The Yawn” reminds me of another poem on page 126, “Country Fair.” “Country Fair” by Charles Simic was about one of those exaggerated, and overdramatized freak shows you see at the county fairs. The first two lines sum up the majority of one’s thoughts in regards to viewing a freak show, “If you didn’t see the six-legged dog, It doesn’t matter.” I thought that was a clever hook in for readers because, it’s true! Then he jumps into another true statement about one quickly getting used to the site of the dog’s extra legs. The piece is so short and plain that it made me wonder why he mentioned one drunken girl’s laughter. Perhaps for one to get a reaction out of these shows, they must be drunk? I found this to be a funny but genuine piece, so that’s why it stood out for me.

    I figured out, from reading Collins collection of poems, that I prefer short and simple verses as opposed to the more lengthy ones. I get more out of the short ones, and I’m fascinated by the ability that a short poem can paint a masterpiece! When I see a long drawn out piece that takes up a majority of the page, like “Saturday at the Canal” by Gary Soto on page 147, my first reaction is “why don’t you just write a story?” To be fair, I’m an impatient person, so I’m sure I haven’t given long poems an honest review. The child in me was also a little disappointed there wasn’t much rhyming in many of the works. The lyrics I mentioned earlier didn’t have much rhyming, but the flow is what helped me stay engaged.

    “The Perfect Heart” by Shara McCallum was an adorable piece about the struggle every kid went through trying to cut out a paper heart. I loved how she related her reaction from her paper heart to her real heart. She was put in time out for her meltdown and reflected on her actual heart, “If I had been taught, if.” I cherish children, and I do my best to be patient and understanding with them because they’re all taught different things at different points in their life. In this poem, the little girl wasn’t taught how to cope with defeat/struggle; it breaks my heart.

    Collins, Billy. Poetry 180 A Turning Back To Poetry. Random House, Inc. 2003.

    1. Ben Knapp

      I agree that “The Yawn” was an awesome poem because of its simplicity. You also did a good job summing up “County Fair”, perfectly capturing the feeling that (I think) the poet was trying to convey.

    2. Cassidy Kramer

      I am also still on the same impression with the Collins book than I was the first half, although there are more fun poems and long poems and deep poems and short poems, which is why I love this book. Mostly because I am able to skim through the long ones, and love the short simple ones. Thanks for your insight!

  6. Aubri Stogsdill

    The first poem in the poetry pack surprised me. There were not tears of frustration or books thrown across the room, which I cannot say was true in other weeks. I enjoyed reading the first poem the most. Having spent my whole life in the same country, I have no clue what it feels like to be in a culture that is different than the culture I experience in my home. I felt sad for the boy as I read, because there was this desire to fit into this new culture but doing that was difficult because of his families culture. He seemed to feel like an outsider. And I think the fact he was the only one that spoke English may have caused him to feel more stress than he should have had to carry at a young age. Clearly, he does love his own culture, but there it seems like he feels out of place where he is. And even when he tries to seem more ‘apart’ by celebrating Thanksgiving the way that other Americans do, they don’t enjoy it.

    The second poem was a whole different animal. While the language used wasn’t terribly confusing, it was hard for me to follow, and I don’t feel like I understand what the point was.

    Honestly, I’m just glad we are on the last week of poetry! Wooohooo.

    1. Michelle Cordova

      I agree that the poems in this poetry pack were easier to follow along with. However, although I also feel a sense of sadness for the boy who wants to fit in, I’m not sure I would go as far as to say he doesn’t love his own culture, but rather he wants to experience the things he has witnessed to be “normal” in this country. For the second poem, I think the point was to show the difference between one outsider who wanted to fit in (poem 1) and an outsider who wasn’t impressed with the American lifestyle (poem 2). Anyways, I can definitely identify with your excitement about being on the last week of poetry! Enjoy spring break!

  7. Ben Knapp

    The later poems of Poetry 180 A Turning Back in Poetry were as widely varied as the earlier ones, with a couple poems that seemed a little “deeper” than those in the first half of the book. This may be intentional, as it makes sense for the author to put the “harder” poems towards the end of the book, or this may be pure coincidence. Either way, the poems were interesting to read, even if I didn’t understand all of them.

    One poem that I enjoyed was “Elevator Music.” This poem, despite being rather short compared to the other poems in the book, is pleasing in its own right. The poem describes, as you may have already guessed, the music that is played in an elevator. The poem perfectly describes the surreal feeling of riding in an elevator while listening to music. The poem is funny, but most of the humor, for me, comes from the fact that this poet has taken the time to write a poem about elevator music.

    Another poem that stood out was “The Yawn.” The whole poem is designed to get the reader to yawn, from describing someone yawning, to the author of the poem yawning, even spacing the lines of the poem in a stretched-out manner that seems to simulate yawning. Whilst reading the poem, the reader begins to feel a strong urge to yawn, which is exactly what the poet probably intended.

    The poem “The Death of Santa Clause” stood out for its shocking and dark humor. The poem begins with a heaping portion of suspense, describing how Santa has been having chest pain, and how he has been neglecting his health. The poem then vividly describes Santa’s death by heart attack. The poem ends with a child, the narrator, returning home from school after being told that Santa isn’t real by the kids at school, only to find his mother with the terrible news. Although I can see the humor, this poem is a little too dark for me. I do understand, however, how some people might enjoy this kind of poem.

    “Ladies And Gentleman In Outer Space” stood out to me because I found it completely incomprehensible. The point of the poem seemed to be to make a poem that was as strange and random as possible. The poet mostly seems to talk about cooking and philosophy, and the title of the poem has absolutely nothing to do with the poem itself whatsoever. There might be people who enjoy this style of poem, but I personally found it to be confusing. If the poet included some deeper meaning, it eludes me.

    The poems in the second half of Collin’s book where as varied as those in the first, and there were poems for all sorts of different people and preferences. There were humorous poems, dark or otherwise, there were “deep” poems, whose hidden meaning escapes me, and there were nonsense poems that seemed to be merely a stream of random thoughts. Overall, it is a good collection of poems, with something for everybody.

    Works Cited
    Collins, Billy. Poetry 180 A Turning Back To Poetry. Random House, Inc. 2003.

    1. Caitlyn Williams

      I like your summarizations of the poems, I agree that “The Death of Santa Claus” was a little too dark. It made my stomach tie in knots, and maybe some people do enjoy the sensation. I don’t!

  8. Corbin Knapp

    I am happy and a little sad that I have finished reading Poetry 180. The poems in the book were very inspiring, and I found a lot of poems in it that I enjoyed. Most of them were not confusing, and were very relatable, which is what I like in a poem. I had the same problem in choosing poems for this week as I did last week, but I finally decided on “Dog’s Death” by John Updike, “The Yawn” by Paul Blackburn, and “Elevator Music” by Henry Taylor.

    “Dog’s Death” was a really touching poem that made me feel extremely depressed for the rest of the day. It is about a couple who buys a puppy, but the puppy gets hurt somehow and ends up passing away. There were some really powerful lines in this poem such as the two that were at the beginning of the poem and one at the end of the poem. “To use the newspapers spread on the kitchen floor And to win, wetting there, the words, ‘Good dog! Good dog!’” and near the end, “had dragged across the floor To a newspaper carelessly left there. Good dog.” This suggests that as the puppy was dying it crawled over to the newspaper in the hope of hearing good dog one last time. It was really sad and I think that is what the poet was going for, so I think he did an excellent job.

    “The Yawn” is an interesting poem that really uses spacing in-between the words to improve the poem. The poem itself is about a man who sees a black haired woman on a train yawn and he has the irresistible desire to yawn as well. Then as he is describing it, he yawns. “Opens her mouth so beautifully wide in a ya-aawn.” I can’t do the spacing that is in the poem in my essay, but in that line wide and ya-aawn are separated by a big gap, bringing to mind a yawn. The following line made me yawn, “ I have only to think of her and I o-oh-aaaww-hm wow!” This is a great poem that captures the feeling of seeing someone yawn exactly.

    “Elevator Music” was a fun poem to read, and brought a lot of abstract meaning to the elevator music we always hear. One part that I particularly enjoyed was “A tune with no more substance than the air, performed on underwater instruments, is proper to this short lift from the earth.” This is a great line that uses a lot of abstract words to make the meaning of elevator music more interesting to the reader. This poem made me laugh, and I think it is a very imaginative take on elevator music that is perfect for poetry. I really enjoyed this book, and I am glad that it was assigned for the class, otherwise I might not have read it. I have learned a great deal from this book and hope that it will help me with my future poems.

    Works Cited
    Collins, Billy. Poetry 180 A Turning Back To Poetry. Random House, Inc. 2003.

    1. Cassidy Kramer

      I feel the same way about Collins Poetry 180! Finishing the book was bittersweet. Thanks for your insight!

  9. Michelle Cordova

    I thoroughly enjoyed both poems in poetry pack 4 as they were refreshingly different than the ones in previous weeks. I found this set to be easy to follow and a bit more amusing as well, but really liked that I finally didn’t have to question their purposes, which is what I find to be most frustrating when it comes to poetry.

    “America” by Richard Blanco was my favorite of the two. For me, it read kind of like a play with different scenes, possibly because of the numbering. It was easy to follow, and in some ways, I connected with his story. Before moving to Alaska, we were stationed in El Paso, Texas, and while being there, had become friends with a local family who this poem reminds me of. The kids and their parents were bilingual, but the grandparents only spoke Spanish. They always had aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents over, and for every occasion (Thanksgiving, Independence Day, Christmas, etc.), they cooked Traditional Mexican food rather than turkey, hamburgers, and hot dogs. I was completely in love with their culture and enjoyed listening to their banter back in forth, even though I had no idea what they were saying, except for the occasional English word they would throw in here and there. I think what I really like about this poem, though, is that it shows how diverse America is and how there is no one right way to celebrate, no matter where you are from. Blanco was extremely descriptive which allowed me to get a clear image of his family, gathering around the table for Thanksgiving dinner, and I felt that the length of the poem was perfect.

    The second poem, “The City Planners” by Margaret Atwood, was pretty spot on regarding city living. She describes the houses and trees as being cookie cutter, all perfectly placed and boring, which seems to frustrate her. Like the first poem, I feel that this author is not from the U.S, but instead of wanting to “fit in,” she is not at all impressed with the modern, urbanized lifestyle. I grew up in a small town, so I can relate to her feelings in some ways, as city living can be overwhelming. I like how her stanzas got shorter in length as the poem continued. I felt that this illustrated her feelings on rural vs. urban living, and how development over time has shrunk our ability to see the beauty in nature as we build as many structures, as closely together as possible, so someone can make an extra dollar.

    I found both of the poems in this poetry pack to be interesting as the perspectives were completely different regarding a similar topic. Through these readings, I have gained a new appreciation for different cultures all while still being proud of my own.

    1. Monica Gallagher

      That’s an interesting thought on the shortened stanzas and how that could relate to her feelings on rural vs. urban living. I never thought of it that way. I didn’t get that idea from her work at all, but it makes some sense now. I also didn’t get the drift that she maybe was not from the U.S. It’s so awesome how everybody can have such different interpretations from some poems and even some writings. I think that is the beauty of some of the best pieces. I don’t feel like they hold as much substance when you can obviously figure them out instantaneously.

  10. Jessica Honebein

    I actually found both the poems in the poetry pack intriguing. They both caught my attention and held it very well. I also think they were both easy to follow along with. Each poem gave insight into their lives in a different way. Richard Blanco’s poem gave insight into his life and the culture while Margaret Atwood’s poem was more about her opinion on one aspect, city planning.

    I thought that “America” by Richard Blanco was a interesting poem. I like how the poem indulges in his culture and how it was to live in America while living in the Cuban culture. The beginning of his poem started out very interestingly talking about “Tia” discovering different ways to make peanut butter. Then Blanco begins to go into the meat and veggies, eventually leading into the differences in food at thanksgiving, pork instead of turkey. The author describes the table, and the setting that they are in. As he explained everything that was happening like the “tukey being passed around like a game of Russian Roulette”. All of the description helped me feel like I was sitting at the table with the family experiencing it all. I thought that it was neat the he was bilingual, however interesting that his parents did not speak English. Then after dinner the entire family got up and danced, after having Cuban coffee.The poem over all did a good job about explaining cultural differences and how families have different traditions depending on how/where they grew up.

    The next poem “The City Planners” by Margaret Atwood was also interesting. I liked how she began the poem by describing what she sees as she browses the street. She gives off a very strong opinion that she does not the conformity of the town and how each building looks alike. She does not like how uniform everything is from the grass to the driveways. Then she depicts the money side of everything and how eventually they are just going to claim what should be saved. I think that Atwood does have interesting points throughout the poem. She tells of the danger that wanting power, in this case creating new cities/suburbs, can be a forever quest. Profit is what strives a lot of people, so I think she does touch in the heart of why people do the things that they do.

    Both of these poems gave me insight into the authors. I think that I enjoyed “America” a little more than I did “The City Planners.” It seemed to be more insight into his life culture rather than just insight into an opinion. Although I still did like learning about Atwoods opinion on planning and the bigger picture of profit. I poems that show me the bigger picture of someones life, like in “America” it talks about the Cuban culture. I think that I am able to picture myself in the story a little better whereas in “The City Planners” I just had to imagine what she was saying.

  11. Leah Rego

    I have to admit, most of the poems from this weeks readings left me with a sense of vagueness. I knew I was probably missing a point that was somewhere in them, but I sure couldn’t pick it out of a line up. I enjoyed the Alley Cat Love Song by Dana Giovanni (pg 187), and Hound Song by Donald Finkel (pg 236) with their clear imagery and concrete meaning, I could almost hear the yeowling in my head and see the old hound dog waiting at the door. I got a real kick out of Steve Kowit’s The Grammar Lesson (pg 144), but I love Gramma and English, I bookmarked the poem for later use in helping my kids in learning grammar. Peter Cherches’ Where is She? (Pg 241) made me wonder if he was writing from the point of view of a dog when their master leaves them, with the neurotic magnification of the event of a persons temporary absence.
    Perhaps in living a very practical life, I’ve become less able to fathom the abstract, then again I have always preferred the concrete. I prefer realism in art over modern or abstract forms. I prefer to see the beauty and ugliness in the world as it is instead of through someone else’s interpretation of it, though truly even realism in art is the world through another’s eyes, but without the distorting filter of opinions.

  12. Monica Gallagher

    This week’s poetry pack was interesting. Richard Blanco’s work is surprising and a little hilarious. I like how he’s not afraid to use obscene language in his work. His piece tells a story and it is detailed like a book. The imagery makes you not only imagine the setting, but it brings it to life. You can almost smell and taste some of the things he’s talking about. The tale of immigration is subtle but spread throughout and is sort of ironic and witty. He seems to portray this speaker as unhappy and unfulfilled, which goes against the whole idea of the “sweet American dream”. It says a lot, without having to say a lot.

    Using roman numerals as his titles was an interesting choice and made it seem more like a story as well, which was possibly purposeful. Along with his use of obscene language, I like that he used his traditional cultural terms as well. Many writers may not use that, or try to explain it or translate it, but he just put them in there like it was a natural occurrence. It was very authentic.

    “Clinging to one another’s lies of lost wealth” (14 in II) was a great way to compactly portray the epidemic of “American dream”. I thought that was clever, especially since he had not touched on that concept yet. It was like a mini subconscious intro to the theme that he was attempting to portray. “Like the dittos of Pilgrims I painted in class” (19 in III), surprised me. There’s quite a bit of delicate hostility in that line, as well as more to come in the following poems in his collection. A sort of ungratefulness and semi prejudice against “traditional” Americans. It is obvious that he just wants to go home. Then in IV the speaker is excited about having convinced his “Abuelita” to finally have turkey on Thanksgiving, so it was a little contradictory to me and slightly confusing. But, I imagine it might be more than slightly confusing to be a transitioning immigrant at that age, at any age.

    “Esa mierda roja” (19 in V), made me laugh out loud, it translates to “this red shit”, and he’s speaking about the cranberry sauce. It very much took me back to my grandparents and some of my relatives that are from Mexico. It seems like something that would come out of their mouth and again is very authentic.

    Margaret Atwood’s poem “The City Planners”, was very clever and dry, a little dark too. It painted an unhealthy picture of suburbia life and what can live beyond the perfect hedge. She loses me when she introduces the city planners, saying “That is where the City Planners” and then going on to describe some chaos that I don’t feel relates to what was going on in the beginning of the poem. It makes me wonder what she had experienced. For instance, was she a suburb lady that had a conflict with a city planner and she ended up writing a poem about it? Odd.

  13. Caitlyn Williams

    I’ve really liked all of the various structure of poems found in Poetry I80. I really appreciated the way most of the poetry in this collection were easy to decipher. The different structures show how there is endless possibilities of expressing yourself, whether that’s through straight rhymed lines, or short, action packed lines. This book has showed me that the flow of the poem is a leading factor in capturing a readers attention. This has to tie in with personal preference as well in order for the poem to work. If the work does not invoke or capture a reader, why must it be read? Throughout the poetry collection, I found the first lines channeled what type of poem it was going to be. I personally prefer poetry that has a rhyme, and rhythm. For example Cat Scat poem #116. It’s fun to read, fun to rhyme, and it is positive. Granted these poems get tiring to read, with their constant decibels and rhyming last lines, they’re still my favorite.

    I really appreciated the work and time the author put into this collection. The way he hand chose poems that deemed to be ‘fit’ to be included makes me believe that this book holds more meaning than others. Knowing that the author fished out poems to be enjoyed makes me have hope in the future of poetry. Especially now having dove into the world of poetry, I’ve learned how important expression is. No one knows how you’re feeling unless you describe it. This is where poetry fits perfectly. It gives authors the chance to write creatively about their thoughts, beliefs, and dreams. They help us figure out syllables, and rhyme. It shows you can have lyricism thats melded with powerful emotion. I will most likely reread this book, in different orders, I’d like to find a poem that fits with me perfectly.

  14. Cassidy Kramer

    While reading the rest of Collins book “180 Poetry” I found that I really enjoy the simple and short poetry a lot more than the long and deep poetry. My brain just cannot take too much deep poetry all at once. Although, sometimes I will find one that is so perfect and relates to me well, and that will bring me back to at least trying to read the long deep meaning poetry. However, I did find myself starting to skip past the long poems and trying to excitedly find the fun short and simple poems that I started to love. At first, I felt as if I was horrible. Every poem deserves a chance to be read, right? Then I realized that I am excited about poetry! The small poems are what get me excited, so I think it is okay to only like them.
    The poem that I thought was very humorous was on the first page and it is called “Vegetarian Physics” written by David Clewell. I think it is very funny because all it does is talk about how tofu shows up in his fridge and he makes a whole poem about how it got there, and then he somehow relates it to physics. I really liked this poem and it “brought me back” to poetry for a bit.
    Another poem I liked was by Charles Simic, and it is called “Country Fair”. I like this poem because all it talks about is a six-legged dog. He starts it off saying it does not matter if you did not see the six-legged dog. People got used to the six-legged dog quickly and thought of other things like how cold it is for a fair. Except when the keeper threw a stick, and the dog went after it, a drunken girl laughed with a man kissing her neck while the dog ran with the two extra legs flapping behind it. The dog got the stick and looked back at them, and in Simic’s poem’s last words “And that was the whole show.” I think this is so hilarious. It is just about a dog with two flapping legs behind its four and people laughing at it.
    Charles Simic’s poems are mentioned a good amount of times throughout this book, which I think is great considering he is my new favorite poet. Overall, I really liked this book and all the different types of poems it has introduced me to. I now know that I like poems and poetry, but I do prefer the simple and short poems. I had fun in these few weeks of dealing with poetry, but I am happy that we will be moving onto the next subject of writing.

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