But lo, a stir is in the air!
The wave- there is a movement there!
As if the towers had thrust aside,
In slightly sinking, the dull tide-
As if their tops had feebly given
A void within the filmy Heaven.
Poe’s “City in the Sea” refers to the city erected by Death, in which all lost souls, squandered riches, and fallen idols are laid to waste in “melancholy waters,” as Death looks “gigantically down” in satisfaction.
But these lines also tend to remind me of the metropolis in which kht, jd, and I reside: New York, of course. On its best days, the towering skyline ascends to the heavens and punctures them, sending their contents spilling down onto us. On its worst days:
Hell, rising from a thousand thrones,
Shall do it reverence.
The poems of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience appear so simplistic at first blush, they were once interpreted as nursery rhymes; but the juxtaposition of thematically connected poems in Innocence and Experience, respectively, as well as the accompanying visual art, elucidate the complexity of even the most innocent poems. “The Little Boy Lost/The Little Boy Found,” for example, appears to be a straightforward, comforting reassurance of God’s infinite love. But the combination of these poems with “A Little Boy Lost” serves as a bitter, blistering indictment of the Church as a hypocritical appropriation, one that uses God’s words of forgiveness as a tool for placing the masses under a merciless doctrine.
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Persephone is a liminal figure, evoking the duality of the seasons which, as a result of the pathetic fallacy, we associate with dualities of human nature: light versus dark, warmth versus cold, passion versus frigidity, humanity versus roboticism. In Sylvia Plath’s “Two Sisters of Persephone,” this duality is used to uncover the contradictions inherent in the societal ideal of femininity. Continue reading →
The Portrait of a Lady
No one delves into a character’s psychology quite like Henry James, and in Isabel Archer, he found a protagonist more than worthy of his meticulous deconstruction. She’s a formidable intellectual who doesn’t see the value in intellectual pursuits, she’s an idealist who isn’t quite sure what her ideals are, she’s an independent who is completely and utterly controlled by the malignant, vicious people in her life. She has a complex, distinctive personality and an indomitable will, all of which is systematically broken down by a small man with “exquisite taste.” It’s as tragic as it is insightful, sensitively portraying the experience of patriarchal oppression through the eyes of a woman who is determined to “behave picturesquely.”
Acquired: through kht, who warned me I would relate to the protagonist to an uncomfortable extent. I’ve thrice been told that I am like Isabel Archer, once as a lament, once as a compliment [To be clear, this was me –kht], and once as a scathing criticism. Only a Henry James character could find so many different ways to be relatable to a real person’s life.
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In his first letter to a young poet, Rainer Maria Rilke mused, “Things aren’t all so tangible and sayable as people would usually have us believe; most experiences are unsayable, they happen in a space that no word has ever entered.” He finds himself confronted with the paradox inherent to most poetry, namely that it aims to express the inexpressible. Continue reading →