November 14, 2012

On Wednesday in Seminar, we continued with the reading of our poems. Brendon was first, discussing his poems Check Mate by Lucio Mariani and Birthplace by Michael Cirelli. The first poem is written from the point of view of a victim of 9-11. It tells the story of how he played chess with his father every night, and his father told him “to always watch out for those treacherous towers.” This sentence, like most of the poem, has a double meaning. In chess terms, “towers” would be the rooks, while in NYC, the “towers” would refer to the World Trade Center towers. The poem also speaks of how “it was special to grow up behind a hedge,” meaning that he had some grass or plant life at his house, instead of just concrete sidewalks of the city. Throughout the poem, however, it seems like he is still celebrating the times that he has spent with his father, even though he is deceased.

Next, James presented his poem Ing Grish, by John Yau. While this poem was by far the most comical, it carried one of the strongest messages. The poem begins with pairs of random and unrelated words such as dung and dungaree, and humdrum and humdinger. While the word pairs are unrelated to an English speaking person, a person who does not speak English would think that these words were related based on their prefixes. Dung refers to animal droppings, while dungarees are pants. They are two totally unrelated items that share the same prefix. The same goes for humdrum, which means dull and monotone and humdinger, which is a remarkable person or thing. They are complete and utter opposites, but still manage to share that same common prefix. In addition to poking fun at the construction of English words, Yau is making fun of English phonetics. For example, “Chinee, Chanel, and Cheyenne” all start with a ch- prefix, but have two different pronunciations. Chinee is pronounced with a hard Ch, while Chanel and Cheyenne are pronounced with a soft c- sounding like “shh.” As with everything else, in order to make fun of something at this level, you must understand it extremely well. Yau never learned Chinese, despite the hard pressure from his parents.

Finally, Penina read New York at Night by Amy Knoll. The poem was written in 1912 when the modern city was still developing. Before this time, major cities shut down at night and there wasn’t always a hustle and bustle. Now, we are starting to see that movement in the city never stops and that people are always moving. The structure of the poem can be compared to the city. The rhythm is uneven, dropping mid sentence and creating chaos. The poet also believes that the city itself is ugly. In addition to the structure being almost non-existent, the words she chooses to use are very violent and sharp sounding, due to the heavy use of consonants. At the end of the poem, questions are asked of why the people in the city never stop and rest. It all goes back to the fact that New Yorkers can do it all and it’s what New Yorkers are known for.