Saturday, March 29, 2014

Assignment 19: Poem

Green Bean Adolescence
Brenna Thummler

We spent our beginnings in pot
Under weed and hiding from the sun
Afraid to die
Afraid to show our skin
Afraid of getting caught between
What’s safe
And what’s desired

We started to grow up
Hanging with our buds
Like nothing else would do
We’d take turns puffing up
Towards the sky
But only after you fell asleep
So by morning we were high

It only made you love me more
You made me wet
You made me breathe heavy
Sucking in your world
Between the darkness
Between your fingers
Between your gaze
Until I was adult in days

Now I give myself to you
Let you devour every piece
That you created
I am a product of your hunger
Your smallest dreams
Your green thumbs that up until now
Did nothing but twiddle
And I will let you eat me up
Until I am nothing
And only you are satisfied

Friday, March 28, 2014

Assignment 18: Response to Wallace Stevens

Life of Pi - Tomer Hanuka


This week I chose to respond to Wallace Stevens’ Disillusionment of Ten o’ Clock, which I particularly enjoyed because of his focus on the mind and dreams.  I loved the first line, “The houses are haunted by white night-gowns”.  With the image of “white night-gowns”, one immediately thinks of ghosts.  Placed before the following lines, the white attire becomes dull and empty, as if the people are not dressing to their full potential.  When I first read the poem, I also envisioned a hospital (perhaps psychiatric) inhabited by patients dressed in white.  With this in mind, the described characters in this poem become even sadder and sicklier, strengthening the feeling of hopelessness.

I was surprised, for half the poem is focused entirely on what the people are wearing (or not wearing, for that matter).  The inability to dream or imagine is linked to a mundane wardrobe, which at first seemed a little materialistic.  But I realized that so much of our personalities are expressed in what we choose to wear.  Many women especially show their voice through their clothing and accessories and enjoy presenting themselves in a certain way.  The white nightgowns also could symbolize the sophistication and conformity to high standards that prevent individuals from creating and exploring.

I liked the contrast between the “ghosts” of the house and the drunken sailor.  The first image is cold, dull, and lifeless.  A sailor, on the other hand, represents anyone with their eyes on the horizon, ready to jump on a boat and travel.  The fact that he’s drunk shows that his thoughts are not entirely in order, which may cause his mind to wander further.  The last line was a great end to the poem, for “catching tigers” is such a powerful and daring activity – great contrast to the ghosts wandering aimlessly through a house.  The “red weather” is also a nice contrast to the white imagery in the beginning of the poem.  The color red is, in my opinion, the strongest color and represents passion, anger, love, and energy.  “Red weather” might lead one to think of a storm, which adds even more life to this dreamland.  I think Stevens is demonstrating that most humans don’t let themselves dream.  “Only, here and there” does a person let his mind wander, not worrying what others will think.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Assignment 17: Original Poem

Hasta la Vista
Brenna Thummler

A cruise ship with a ready shroud
Calls forward a confetti crowd:
Over-planners, fake pre-tanners
Rubbernecking people scanners
Rowdy kids that ride on shoulders
Moms employed as duffle holders
Five-dollars-for-a-foot-long vendors
Feed the hungry money-spenders
Copping-outters, all-aboarders
Ticket stub and pamphlet hoarders
Gay partners that are one-half foreign
Coordinate in bright Ralph Lauren
Others wear Hawaiian shirts
Bikini tops and denim skirts
Yoga girls and far-too-healthies
Asian couples taking selfies
Pessimistic party-haters
Photo taking party-laters
Ice cream flavors, hot day savers
Make the children beg for favors
Kids toddle in their jelly shoes
Through models in their jimmy choos
Lesbians enjoy a smoke
And take a cruise because they're broke
Mothers smother sun tan lotion
Grandpa at last sees the ocean
Groups of three to groups of fifty
Noisy, sweaty, pesky, shifty
So long as we can stay afloat
I guess we’re on the same boat

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Assignment 16: Response to Phyllis McGinley

"Girl in the Mirror" - Norman Rockwell

Portrait of a Young Girl with Comic Book
Phyllis McGinley

Thirteen’s no age at all. Thirteen is nothing.
It is not wit, or powder on the face,
Or Wednesday matinees, or misses’ clothing,
Or intellect, or grace,
Twelve has its tribal customs. But thirteen
Is neither boys in battered cars nor dolls,
Not Sara Crewe or movie magazine,
Or pennants on the walls.

Thirteen keeps diaries and tropical fish
(A month, at most); scorns jump-ropes in the spring;
Could not, would fortune grant it, name its wish;
Wants nothing, everything;
Has secrets from itself, friends it despises;
Admits none of the terrors it feels;
Owns half a hundred masks but no disguises;
And walks upon its heels.

Thirteen’s anomalous – not that, not this:
Not folded bud, or wave that laps a shore,
Or moth proverbial from the chrysalis.
Is the one age defeats the metaphor.
Is not a town, like childhood, strongly walled
But easily surrounded; is no city.
Nor, quitted once, can it be quite recalled –
Not even with pity.


This week I chose to respond to a poem I came across on the internet by Phyllis McGinley called Portrait of a Girl with Comic Book.  I loved the role of “thirteen” as a personified being, or group of beings.  It’s a coincidence because in our last class, there was a quote in a video clip we watched something along the lines of: “A pronoun is a kind of withdrawing from naming because naming is heavy.”  To give a name to a specific thirteen-year-old would eliminate that sense of community – the connection to our teenage selves.  It’s something that everyone in our generation and older generations share.

Phyllis McGinley incorporated great contrasts within her poem, transforming “thirteen” into a bridge between two very different periods of a girl’s life.  I especially loved the line, “But thirteen is neither boys in battered cars nor dolls, not Sara Crewe or movie magazine, or pennants on the walls.”  First of all, it relates to my life on a personal level because A Little Princess (in which Sara Crewe is a character) was one of my favorite movies as a young girl.  Of course it’s still one of my favorites, but I’m still a child at heart.  To contrast the princess “innocence” with modern magazines, and dolls with dates, McGinley portrays the confusion of this transitional age.

As an aspiring children’s book writer and illustrator, I’m partial to poetry with nice rhyme schemes.  McGinley’s was almost uncomfortable because it lacked a powerful beat and rhythm.  I think this added to the discomfort of the age she’s describing, though, so it works.  The words she chose to rhyme are very effective because alone, they scream “thirteen”.  “Despises” and “disguises”, for example, are two words often associated with the peer pressure and high standards of a budding teenager, as are “dolls” and “walls”, and “feels” and “heels”. 

One thing that really confused me about this poem was the title.  I’ve been mulling over why McGinley chose “Comic Book”, especially because comics are often associated with young males.  Perhaps she wanted to add to the confusion, or emphasize the sequence of life?  Comic books are a collection of sequential separate panels.  Maybe McGinley saw thirteen as one of these distinct panels, separate from the rest but still part of a large story. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Assignment 15: Poem

Ode to Sheldon
by Brenna Thummler

I love your unnecessary two-layered shirts
Your plaid pants that only increase
The length of your praying mantis legs
That kneel to prayer because your mother said so

I love your five-year-old haircut
Your not-so-coy smile
Your out-of-date Macintosh
That’s still more up-and-running than you are to me

I love the labels on your kitchenware
The bathroom schedule on your freezer door
The floppy disk of your enemies
And your eidetic memory that needs none of these

I love that you can’t drive a car
And that you’d rather take a train
Getting drunk on diet virgin Cuba Libres
And excusing yourself on behalf of East Texas

I love your claimed cushion on the couch
And that you sit there Tuesday nights with
Your diced cashew chicken and low sodium soy sauce
Spicy hot mustard and brown rice, never white

I love your unhealthy Spock addiction
Your triple knock-knock-knock on every door
Your Theremin and bongo days
Because you know how much I hate them

I love how you avoid everyone
But depend on them for everything
How you run from open arms
But beg for lullabies about soft kitties

I love that you can never tell a lie
So you’re way too blatant with the truth
Like you’d rather shred your hands to pieces
Than hold them close to mine

I love your genius
I love your incomprehension
I love your need
I love your self-confidence

I love how I can tell you all of this

And you’ll still think I’m talking about monkeys

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Assignment 14: Response to Joyce Sutphen

"Rural Farm" - Tom Brown

The Farm

My father’s farm is an apple blossomer.
He keeps his hills in dandelion carpet
and weaves a lane of lilacs between the rose
and the jack-in-the-pulpits.
His sleek cows ripple in the pastures.
The dog and purple iris
keep watch at the garden’s end.

His farm is rolling thunder,
a lightning bolt on the horizon.
His crops suck rain from the sky
and swallow the smoldering sun.
His fields are oceans of heat,
where waves of gold
beat the burning shore.

A red fox
pauses under the birch trees,
a shadow is in the river’s bend.
When the hawk circles the land,
my father’s grainfields whirl beneath it.
Owls gather together to sing in his woods,
and the deer run his golden meadow.

My father’s farm is an icicle,
a hillside of white powder.
He parts the snowy sea,
and smooths away the valleys.
He cultivates his rows of starlight
and drags the crescent moon
through dark unfurrowed fields.


With the semester halfway over, I’ve been thinking of home and the places that mean most to me.  My grandparents live on a farm and it’s one of my favorite places in the world.  Therefore, I decided to respond to Joyce Sutphen’s “The Farm” this week.  I didn’t notice until the fourth verse that the poem mirrors the seasons and I thought this was a particularly nice touch.  Farm life and duties are greatly impacted by the changing weather; Sutphen established a nice contrast between different periods of the year.

Sutphen grew up on a farm in Minnesota, so I believe the words and language she chose were reflective of her childhood.  I drew many connections myself, as I still remember vivid images of my grandparents’ rural home.  I especially loved the line “He keeps his hills in dandelion carpet”, as though the landscape itself is a home he has to tend to.  Seas of dandelions are common, but still are such powerful visuals of the sunny, quiet countryside.   I also loved “His field are oceans of heat, where waves of gold beat the burning shore”.  Although it portrays the dry summer days, there is still freshness by using “ocean” and “waves”, proving that even in the blazing sun, the garden remains rich.

The poet captures the liveliness and spirit of farmland, especially when she says “crops suck rain from the sky and swallow the smoldering sun”.  Along with her effective use of alliteration comes personification.  The fact that the vegetables are pulling in the water, rather than the rain simply falling on the land, gives the farmer’s garden more power.

I wish that the third verse began with “My father’s farm” or “His farm”, as the others do.  I would enjoy this repetition; it would place the farm as an immobile piece of landscape that can’t escape the changing seasons.  It may just be personal preference, but I also think the verses could be rearranged.  Ending with winter is so cold and dismal for a farm setting.  Placing this verse third would make it more of a climax, as if the winter has taken over and the crops are no longer able to grow.  Sutphen could then have ended with spring – bringing hope and new life to such a wonderful and colorful place.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Assignment 13: Poem

by Brenna Thummler

Your fingers gallop mindlessly across the desk
Four stifled horses looking for something to do
You mosey five spaces ahead
Thinking the grass might grow quicker on the other side
The hangnails you pick
Were not even there to begin with
A car door closes outside your window
You rubberneck, check for a delivery, delinquient, DiCaprio
You hope for a new notification
And update your status to “feeling disappointed L
There are thirty-eight tiles above your head
And seventeen pencils in the holder by your hand
Your eyes dig for the gold of intrigue
But linger only on recycled material
Where are the dishes to dry?
The cluttered corners to clear?
The toenails to trim?
At last an email arrives
With twenty tasks due before noon
Tock tick tock tick tock tick tock
What do you think you’re doing
Just sitting around?