Monday, February 24, 2014

Assignment 12: Response to Robert Hull

image: Alone - Belhoula Amir

Arundel Swimming Pool

is good fun
for everyone –

teeter toddlers
bald dawdlers
and ancient waddlers
keen lean chaps
in goggles and skull-caps
counting the laps –

it’s great
for the two-yard dashers
unnecessary splashers
crawlers, sprawlers
screamers, dreamers
bare-back riders
sun-lotioned idlers
drop-outs on loungers
tiny ice-cream scroungers

it’s so smashing for everyone
with all the slosh
and swirl and splash
and shouting friendly din
and the view of the castle
and blue sky now and again
and clouds and swallows and martins
skimming in –

they’re going to close it
and turn it into an Important
perhaps Significant
possibly Exclusive and Prestigious
or even Significantly and Prestigiously Exclusive


and instead of an old swimming pool
which is only good fun for everyone
they’ll have something to make a lot of money
for someone.

(poem by Robert Hull)


For this week’s poetry assignment, I chose to respond to Robert Hull’s Arundel Swimming Pool.  I wanted to choose subject matter that I had written about in the past and investigate the poet’s approach.  After searching for swimming pool poems on Google, I stumbled across Hull’s work and fell in love with it.  At first I compared it with mine – I remembered that during the in-class critique, it was suggested that my poem’s story take a turn or develop to an interesting ending.  Robert Hull definitely achieved that in Arundel Swimming Pool.  He began by setting up a fun and whimsical scene, a cheerful day at the pool that most everyone can relate to.  In the end, however, the joy is taken away when the reader finds out the government is closing the pool.  There is already contrast established in mood, but also in the way it is written.  The beginning rhyme scheme is clever and bouncy, which of course reflects the tone Hull wishes to establish.  When he begins to discuss the pool’s closing, however, the rhyming ceases and the lines become longer and more formal.

While writing my own swimming pool poem, I focused a great deal on word choice.  There are definitely certain words that are more appropriate for a story that takes place at a public pool in the summer.  Robert Hull used some really great language to express this, and I especially appreciated his simple use of rhyme.  There isn’t a strict pattern to his rhymes and this adds more spontaneity.  Arundel Swimming Pool also uses wonderful repetition, for almost all the lines directly describe the various people one sees at a swimming pool.  Because the setting is so heavily human-based, for pools are generally associated with being overcrowded, Hull’s focus on a diverse population paints the perfect picture.  Some of my favorite lines were “Sun-lotioned idlers, backwards-down-the-sliders, drop-outs on loungers, tiny ice cream scroungers”.  So many stereotypes and ages are represented, from tanning women to rambunctious kids to burnout high school students.

I must say I preferred the beginning of the poem, for I enjoy writing that has a fun and childlike feel.  The end was so different and a little uncomfortable, but I suppose it needs to be that way.  By using the strong contrast in language, Hull has truly captured the sadness of the closing of a significant public place.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Assignment 11: Concrete Poem

Brenna Thummler

When the sun rises, he tells me to eat pancakes.
Bands of buttery light melt through my windows
And lead me down the staircase
To the old iron griddle,
Still speckled with batter from yesterday’s breakfast,
Or perhaps the one before.
I pour a new coat of the thick substance
And watch it seep,
Sizzle, spread,
Smelling the strong aromas of family:
Warmth blended with sugar.
Then watch it bubble,
Bake, Brown
Until I’m flipping them over and flipping out,
Ready with a platter bigger than the tabletop.
Here come the short stacks of flapjacks soaked in a maple monsoon.
Here come the doughy delights drowned in butter, sprinkled with cinnamon.
Here come the gooey pastries I can never go a day without.
And in a couple bites they’re gone.
I think the sun’s telling me to eat pancakes for lunch.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Assignment 10: Response to Ghost in the Land of Skeletons

"Boo Come Here Often?" - Unidentified Blog Artist

Ghost in the Land of Skeletons

Christopher Kennedy

If not for flesh's pretty paint, we're just a bunch of skeletons, working hard to deny the fact of bones. Teeth remind me that we die. That's why I never smile, except when looking at a picture of a ghost, captured by a camera lens, in a book about the paranormal. When someone takes a picture of a spirit, it gives me hope. I admire the ones who refuse to go away. Lovers scorned and criminals burned. I love the dead little girl who plays in her yard, a spectral game of hide and seek. It's the fact they don't know they're dead that appeals to me most. Like a man once said to me, Do you ever feel like you're a ghostSure, I answered, every day. He laughed at that and disappeared. All I could think was he beat me to it.

In “Ghost in the Land of Skeletons”, Christopher Kennedy has responded to his fear of death, a fear that most people share at one time or another.  The first thing that intrigued me about this poem was the title, for it establishes a contrast between two things that are generally considered one in the same: ghosts and skeletons.  They are both typically associated with death or burial, but Kennedy has separated them to make a point.  In his writing, skeletons represent tangible death – a body that is no longer on Earth.  Ghosts, on the other hand, represent the spiritual world or the afterlife.

My favorite line was “Teeth remind me that we die.  That’s why I never smile…” for it’s such a strong statement about Kennedy’s fear.  He claims he can never truly be happy, for all humans eventually die.  Pictures of the afterlife, however, perhaps in paranormal photography, give him hope that death isn’t the absolute end.

I enjoyed the eeriness of “Ghost in the Land of Skeletons”, even the poet’s twisted thoughts; he has a powerful attitude.  He appreciates the people that have done bad things (lovers and criminals), for they are permitted to stay on the planet completely unaware that they’re dead.  When I read deep into the poem, it almost seems like he’d rather be a bad person because after death, he’d get to stay right where he is.

When I saw this poem on the week’s poetry response page, I immediately wanted to read it, for I’ve always loved suspense and horror fiction.  Growing up as a little girl, I read almost nothing but scary stories such as Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series, R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps, and stacks of mystery and thriller chapter books.  The approach to death in this poem was almost uncomfortable to read.  I was taken aback by the line, “I love the little dead girl who plays in her yard…”.  Kennedy writes with a creepy frankness that startled me at first, but was captivating at the same time.  I think everyone questions the afterlife, the existence of the paranormal, and whether or not ghosts are really out to scare us.  But it got me thinking – ghosts are considered dangerous and terrifying, but at one point in time, they were humans just like us.  We all might be ghosts one day; what will humans think of us then?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Assignment 9: Surrealist "Found" Poem

Found poem by Brenna Thummler

Home is the dishes still in the sink
And the muted gleam of white appliances

Home is my father’s favorite color of breakfast cereal
On a table spilled with color:
Vermilion and mango, bright yellow and violet.

Home is looking across the street
Where Cinnabon breaks the silence.
I spit out all my coffee.
It won’t happen.

Home is my boyfriend jeans, apple wrap,
Daily dose of lusciousness with
$15 off a purchase of $75 or more.
My shank, my Q-tips, the tiny Visine bottles
Where I keep the ink I manufacture.
I wish I knew more about horticulture.

Home is up the hill on a vacant lot on Collier Street.
An elephant perched among pink pillows and satin blankets
Until she falls asleep.
Surprising a real family of chipmunks and feeling a bit jealous.

Home is hardly a meat market
Or even just a nice field with sheep or cows.

Home is a concrete bunker lit with blinking fluorescent,
Floor littered with sand, sun leaking from
So many tinted windows, unbound now.

Home is the last couple of nights
For when you’re strong, you sparkle
It is his town I will be allowed in
His school where I will study

I awake in a haze
He strides to the window, the only one close enough to look into
Then he pulls the curtains closed.
Home is mostly empty

But it’s where you’ll be sitting.

(Lines pulled from the following selections: Harvesting the Heart - Jodi Picoult, Change of Heart - Jodi Picoult, Girl in Landscape - Jonathan Lethem, Flipped - Wendelin Van Draanen, You - Austin Grossman, The Hunger Pains - The Harvard Lampoon, Seventeen Magazine Vol. 69, No. 8 August 2010)