Reading Response #6

Select one of the assigned readings this week (either Collins chapters or  Poetry Pack #3), and post a 500-word response below. Be sure to also make a comment on a classmate's response for full credit.

21 thoughts on “Reading Response #6

  1. Tometria Jackson

    I think it’s pretty funny that one of the first things Billy Collins mentions about poetry is most people’s dislike of it. On the first page of the introduction to Poetry 180, Collins mentions being approached by a student in a high school who wrote an article in the school paper in which a student is quoted as saying, “Whenever I read a modern poem, it’s like my brother has his foot on the back of my neck in the swimming pool.”

    Seeking to address that common sentiment, Collins made it his mission as the United States Poet Laureate in 2001 to make poetry understandable and enjoyable. He wanted to make poetry a part of everyday life, and so he launched Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools. Collins specifically chose launching his program for high schoolers because he says, “…it’s where poetry goes to die.”

    I appreciated Collins’ explanation of why poetry is so hard to understand. He blames it on the popularity of modernist poets who became popular in the early 20th Century like: Pound, Eliot, Stevens, and Crane who were known for their imagery and themes of alienation, and disillusionment. Collins writes that difficulty became the standard by which good poetry was judged, and the resulting obscurity led droves of readers to abandon the genre entirely. Collins succinctly states the confusion of many people in his little syllogism:

    I understand English.
    This poem is written in English.
    I have no idea what this poem is saying.

    Billy Collins also speculated that in spite of a rise in the popularity of poetry, the audience for the genre is fairly small. He believes that there are more writers of poetry than readers of poetry, and their works stay within the same ‘insider audience’. Collins believes that expanding the appeal of poetry to the larger population of readers will require, “…clear, reader-conscious poems…”, and he hoped that the compilation of poems he assembled for his book would be a start in the right direction.

    As I read through some of the poems in this book, I was struck with the feeling of irritation. While less subjective than some poets, all of the poems I read were understandable, but (for me) lacked any purpose. Why does a writer think I need to know about a space-heater in a doctor’s office? What is the point of writing about that? Or the one called, ‘Bringing my Son to the Police Station to be Fingerprinted’, which was about the clothing the mother was wearing and how the colors clashed in sunlight?

    I think that in order for a poem to have any appeal for me, it needs to be substantive, or at least create an interesting picture in my mind. In my most humble opinion, this collection of random thoughts and meanderings In Poetry 180 is like reading the personal journals of the authors.

    1. Lilia Lundquist

      I find that Collins attitude towards poetry is the only reason I am able to enjoy the writing. He doesn’t put up a front by trying to convince people poetry is something to be marveled at. He points out its flaws and lets the reader build from there.

    2. Courtney Williamson

      If you read my comment, I have no idea what’s going on, because I’m thinking there are multiple poems going on cause it doesn’t clash together. After reading it over a little bit more, it seems he lost his love and went to the beach. That is literally all I got.

  2. Lilia Lundquist

    For this week’s response I read the third poetry pack by TS Eliot. I am completely unaware as to what the first part means as I do not speak what appears to be Italian. The rest of the poem was what I typically associate with poetry. There was a significant amount of rhyming and not a lot of sense in-between all the descriptive language. My first impression was that Eliot was talking about two people who were in love running away with one another. They are fleeing from where ever they were before maybe because they cannot be together there. Along the way they stay in cheap motels and dine at mediocre restaurants. This opening paragraph made me feel like I knew what was going on. Then I became completely lost after he mentions women speaking of Michelangelo. The next paragraph made me think that maybe the two who fled together ran into some hardships. The lines seem to have darker connotations, “lingered upon the pools that stand in drains, let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys.” I am at a loss as to what this could mean but it sounds as though the two ended up returning home to avoid sleeping in alley ways, or other undesirable places.
    Not that I should have been surprised but the poem continues to get darker, the part especially discussing having time to murder made me feel on edge. A line that talks about faces made me think of having to act happy or content around others in order to make them feel comfortable. I found this to be a relatable line it reminded me of a “happy customer face” my mom used to talk about when she owned her own business. She would always have a huge smile on her face anytime someone came into her business and then right when the coast was cleat her smile would disappear. It was like she was putting on a show.
    I liked how there was an obvious pass of time in the poem when someone realizes their hair in thinning. His body also sounds as though he has lost some weight and strength. I am still contemplating as to what “disturb the universe” means. Deeper into the poem the rhyming continues which I thought made it easier to follow along with, it gave the writing a certain flow. I also lost the idea that it was about two people running away from something. I understood it more as just someone analyzing the passing of time and the effects it has on their body and perspective. In the beginning when the speaker is young the words are much more vibrant and uplifted. But as the poem goes on the darkness of life creeps in and the speaker sees how age and time can wear you down both mentally and physically. There is a sense of regret and sadness laced in the wording. Almost as if the writer wishes he would have braced himself more for the outcome that is old age.

    1. Tometria Jackson

      I enjoyed reading your take on TS Eliot’s poem. It sounds like you had to do a lot of mental gymnastics to grasp what he was trying to say, and throughout the reading you were scratching your head over his imagery. I googled TS Eliot to try to gain some understanding of his appeal, and he was known for his dark themes in his writing. I guess that’s what people found attractive about his work, but I just don’t get it.

    2. Courtney Williamson

      I sensed a little bit of sadness. I thought this poem was about losing a love and just feeling depressed.

  3. Courtney Williamson

    I guess I will say that I am not a poetry person for starters. After reading this poetry pack about “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” – By TS Eliot, the only part that I liked about it was the last few sentences. “I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each. I do not think that they will sing to me. I have seen them riding seaward on the waves. Combing the white hair of the waves blown back,
    when the wind blows the water white and black. We have lingered in the chambers of the sea. By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
    till human voices wake us, and we drown.” This I feel is the only thing that really stood out for me as it kept to the script as you call it. He mentioned going to a beach and mentioning mermaids and did not stray off from the subject. That is how I feel about what he did here. He strayed from the subject and it all did not make any sense until the end. I am wondering what this love song is about anyways? Is it about the beach and the mermaids? I feel like there were different stories going on in this one poem. I liked the poem though, it was hard to read, because I thought they were multiple poems and plus there was a different language going on in the beginning.
    Also, as I keep reading it seems like he lost someone he loved. He mentions in the poem about perfume on a dress making him sad. So maybe he lost the love of his life because he done something wrong and now when he goes to the beach the sirens won’t have anything to do with him because they think he’s a fool or something. It’s hard to figure it out but, it is not too bad.

    1. Benjamin Hayward

      I have been voiding the poetry packs since the first assignment. I find it easier to write about the book reading assignment. It allows me to respond to better structure with some of the lessons being taught. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock was written in 1915, a different world and a different time than now. I suffer though poetry because I must, TS Eliot isn’t as bad as some, but Poetry 180 shares some of my philosophy, say what you mean, mean what you say.

    2. nmfleming

      I’m also not a poetry person but I did TS Eliot’s poem. Those last couple of sentences are beautiful. When I was reading them they painted a lovely picture of the beach.

  4. Benjamin Hayward

    I like this book Poetry 180. Collins stated that he wanted to collect modern poems from poets he may not have heard of, or poems with the idea reader, high school students in mind. I cracked it opened to the first poem, Introduction to Poetry, by the author of said book and I was surprised to actually understand it. Towards the end of this poem he hit the nail on the head with a hammer when he wrote the prose, “But all they want to do is tie the poem to a chair with rope and torture a confession out of it.” (Collins, 3). I like to read poems that take the guess work out of what I am reading. I do not like ambiguity.

    Collins stated that some poets make their poems not clear so they can hide behind meanings, so they cannot be critiqued. This is a confession that makes sense, but considering that line of reasoning makes me think that some poets are cowards. It seems like some poets have an inflated sense of work, telling themselves, “Read my work, aren’t I awesome? Don’t tell me something I don’t want to hear. Give me my trophy, because everyone gets a trophy.” You can only grow through adversity. Without someone to tell you your poem is bad, you will never grow into greater heights.

    Poets seem to surround themselves with entropy. For a poet to close off his mind is to make him exist in a closed system, to make himself a prisoner of his own design. Any system that does not receive new ideas, new materials, will suffer from entropy. As you know, entropy is when a system falls apart from the lack on energy to sustain it. It goes from order to chaos. I’m sure if you read works of poets who do not like to hear constrictive criticism of their work, you will find that it gets more and more chaotic with time. This could be the same theme through most of the works. The tone of the poem can get lighter, fluffier, or go the other way, becoming darker in both humor and subject. Poets can avoid entropy by doing what they claim to do: open themselves up to the world, bare their soul to the good and bad.

    Not all of these modern poems are for me. Shoshauna Shy wrote Bringing My Son to the Police Station to be Fingerprinted (Collins, 17). Her poem has zero punctuation, making it seem like a run on sentence. It is chaos. Part of my resentment comes from others forcing me to read something a certain way. If you have to force me to read your poem a certain way to get the message across, I think you’re a bad writer, and an even worse poet. It is one thing to do a sonnet or haiku formatted poem, but another to free verse it like one huge run on sentence. Shortly I must write my own collection of poems. We will see how it goes.

    1. Kelsey

      I have to agree with you, I don’t usually enjoy all the hidden messages and meanings in poetry. I like to feel like I know what I am reading or that there is a purpose to it. However, since the poetry pack assignments, I have been pushing my comfort zone a little and finding that it is sometimes a little interesting to guess around at what the meaning is or find different meanings in different ways of reading. However, I think I’m still a fiction and non-fiction kind of girl.

  5. Kelsey

    I was not immediately drawn into T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” I found myself just skimming over the words and guessing at what the poem was supposed to be about. It wasn’t until the very last line “Till human voices wake us, and we drown” that I felt interested and went back and re-read the whole poem. It took a couple of times reading through it before I felt like I had a decent understanding of what Eliot was saying in this poem.

    Judging by the title, this poem is a series of thoughts as told by J. Alfred Prufrock, who is narrating his own thoughts. The title calls it a love song, but it seemed a bit depressing and self-deprecating to me. Prufrock seems very insecure and talks about how people will think his hair is thinning and his arms and legs are too skinny. It also doesn’t sound like he is actually in love with the woman, because in some parts of the poem it doesn’t seem like he has met her yet and is working up the courage to talk to her, such as when he keeps asking himself, “Do I dare, do I dare?” However, there is a lot of the poem where it sounds like they are together, and planning their lives together, such as when he describes the scenery of the city streets and places they will go together.

    It’s clear that Prufrock is a very nervous person, and very worried about what other people think. He mentions being concerned that people will make fun of the way he looks and think that he is not good enough for his beloved. He also talks about feeling like he is being pinned to the wall and examined. He talks about being nervous around women in general and how he is very aware of their bare arms and perfume. He spends a lot of time focusing on what he would say and if he would have the courage to say it, and how if he does, would all of it even be worth it? I think poems like these definitely contribute to the stereotypical idea of the “tortured poet.” He wrote all of this down, and spent such time finding the perfect rhyming words, all over just the idea of talking to a woman he likes. The realist in me screams, “if you would have just went over and asked her out then we would all know if it was worth it after all!” I like that he writes from a place of nervousness though, I think most everyone can relate to that and identify with the level of anxiety he is describing. It is also comforting, in a weird way, to know that people felt that way even back in 1915, so my neurotic anxiety is nothing new to this world. Ha! I also appreciate that he did take the time to find a way to describe beautiful scenery and imagery to match his feelings.

    1. Courtney Kisner

      I liked that you saw a lot of positives to his writing style. I agree, the way he spoke through his emotions was something for the reader to relate to. I was a bit confused with many of the analogies he was making, though I am beginning to think that was his way of dancing around his direct thoughts. I agree, he did seem like a very anxious man, and very self-deprecating. It’s sad that he feels he didn’t live as full of a life as he would have liked. Great take on the poem!

    2. swaring2

      Although there were numerous references to Prufrock’s appearance, I didn’t tie in the concern he had of others opinion about his appearance. I think this was a strong point to share! I agree with you in the poem felt dreadful in the beginning, but was actually kind of enjoyable to dissect. Had there not been an emphasis on scenery and a more clear indication of relationship near the end, I don’t believe most of us would have found the end.

  6. Courtney Kisner

    I was not as much a fan of the poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” as I have been the other ones. The details and alliteration throughout were beautiful. I especially liked when he described the yellow smoke and fog as if it’s a cat. Elliot describes aging thoroughly, including repetition to drive home his points. But as much as I read this poem, I felt I couldn’t grasp what the writer was trying to make the reader feel. Filled with abstractions and metaphors, the poem in its entirety went over my head. But I will give it a try…
    The prevalence of fog and smoke throughout the poem might depict age and the fog he feels or experiences? When he says there would be a time when you must prepare your face to meet the faces you meet might be a point where he is thinking more deeply about death. I get the impression that he is thinking of all the things he still needs to do before he dies. He seems overwhelmed by these considerations. He may feel as though he missed his mark, and he fell short of his goals and dreams. There are some goals he may feel one needs to “murder” once they reach that point. I love the line, “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons,” for the routine it reveals in the writer’s life. Just based on the poem, it seems he lived a life that was ruled by routine and order, it’s as if he didn’t consider stepping out of the box until it was almost too late. Maybe he was too intimidated by life–as his tone appears very self-conscious and timid. He has a lot of anxiety about regrets, or at least that is what I made out of the poem. What I learned from reading this is how important it is to connect to one’s audience. I know this is a famous poem but I think I would have felt its impact more if he had been a bit more direct. The title makes the poem seem like it is a love poem, when in reality it is quite morose–so it was ironic in a way.
    His description of the evening spread out like a body anesthetized upon the table was interesting, but I didn’t understand why he chose such disconnected things to describe the evening. Maybe there is a metaphor I am just not grasping. The talk of the body illustrated that image of possible death, or being immobilized by life. With a lot of his poem, he speaks of not being able to say what he means. Maybe metaphors are his way of dancing around a topic he is too afraid to address head-on? From the stance of irony, I kind of get the poem. But through any other lens, I just don’t quite grasp it. There was what felt like forced end rhymes, and though catchy, I’m still not there with the writer.

  7. nmfleming

    I found it very interesting that TS Eliot’s first stanza is written in Italian. A lot of the other poems we have been reading these past couple of weeks haven’t started out like that. I don’t know a lot about TS Eliot, so I don’t know if that is how he starts off all his poems are just this one, but never the less I still find it a very interesting way to start off a poem. For the poem itself I found it to be very nice. Something that I really liked about this poem was the repetition of some phrases, I found that repeating lines added to the poem. While I was reading it there also seemed to be rhythm, which was something else that I liked about this poem. I think I would have liked it a little bit more if the whole thing rhymed but the more rhyming might have taken away from the story the poem was telling.

  8. swaring2

    As I struggled to be pulled into the poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, I wasn’t sure I would be able to finish it. I found the need to take a break and come back and start over. The second round I still struggled through the first half but found the meaning and story to come together. As many of my classmates have already stated, poetry is simply something many don’t find enjoyment in exploring and dissecting. I think many times it takes the entire poem and putting the story together after the fact to bring the joy of poetry to the surface.

    I feel TS Eliot was misleading the readers for a good portion of his writing. The references of you and I along a journey made it feel like a tangible relationship for J. Alfred Prufrock. Like he was experiencing the feelings of life coming to an end. The life of a loved one or his own was not readily identifiable. It wasn’t until the few sections of the poem I felt TS Eliot was describing the feelings of one man’s life coming to a close.

    At these last sections, I also found the relationship to more likely be between J. Alfred Prufrock and his Lord. The meeting was leaving the idea of anxiety and a reflection of what was and was not done throughout a life. There was little sense of living in regret, but more so of what I felt to be a reflection and questioning of how experiences may have been had the roads been traveled differently.

    The deep sense of reflection really hit me with this statement:
    “Would it have been worth while
    If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
    And turning toward the window should say:
    “That is not it at all,
    That is not what I meant, at all.”
    This directed me to think J. Alfred Prufrock was either wishing he had retracted statements to himself or to others. Somehow a feeling, relationship, or simply a conversation was conveyed in a way, that after reflection, didn’t suit the desired direction.

    I did find enjoyment in the ending of the piece. The descriptions felt more reader-friendly and the scene was someplace which felt desirable and attainable. Unlike the yellow smoke often referred to and the place of almost longing throughout, the sea and feeling of finding a place of peace was offered.

    I’m grateful this is the last section of poetry as it is not nearly as enjoyable as other forms of writing. I am glad this was the last piece presented, however. I was a piece that tied most of the reading together and also allowed for reflection and contentment after being able to take in the entire piece.

    1. Jess Young

      I felt the same way as I approached the poem – overwhelmed and almost annoyed by the complexity of it. It helped to read it in chunks and come back to it a couple of times! I thought it was interesting that it was written over 100 years ago and still managed to be relatable with its visuals and feelings portrayed.

  9. Jess Young

    I first read “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” – By TS Eliot without reading the title or author. As I flipped through, I thought it would be best delivered in song form, with some of the verses rhyming and the repeated melody “In the room women come and go talking of Michelangelo.” It was appropriate then when I went back and read the title that it was meant to read like a song. The next thing that struck me was that it was written by TS Eliot, I thought surely that isn’t right! He was a poet from the early 1900’s, there’s no way something this racy would be accepted back then. Wrong. I did a little research and found that this poem was in fact considered particularly “outlandish” but it also marked a shift in culture for the time period.

    Prufrock, for being over 100 years old, is oddly applicable to the feelings I have as a millennial today. “And indeed there will be time To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?” Time to turn back and descend the stair, With a bald spot in the middle of my hair” captures the way I’m sure many feel about the ambiguity of growing old and approaching tasks with hesitation. “Do I dare Disturb the universe? In a minute there is time For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse” embodies the idea of an individual embracing their potential for fear of changing the way the world works and the rejection it holds.

    This poem is a perfect pair for the creative assignment of the week — similes. It is chalk full of them, but the yellow fog which behaves like a dog licking windows and curling around a house to sleep was a great visual. The striking descriptions of the sea with “combing white hair of the waves blown back” was awesome as well.

    TS Eliot did what so many great poets have done throughout the years — captured a snapshot of a person, timelessly. The fact that I related so much to this 100 years later, means people really haven’t changed all that much… To me that is both a comfort and a little unsettling.

    1. Kait

      I couldn’t really comprehend the poem that well, so many descriptions that switch from line to line, but it sounds pleasant read as a song. Also I had no idea that this poem was written that long ago, wow! I really like how your interpretation of TS Eliots poem is very straightforward, made the poem more transparent for me, thank you!

  10. Kait

    I really enjoyed reading all of the different poems in Poetry 180. These poems for me were more modern and not as complicated as I thought they would be. There was some mystery in not knowing exactly what a poem meant, which I thought was beautiful in its own way. Some of my favorites are Introduction to Poetry by Billy Collins, The Cord by Leanne O’Sullivan and The Late Passenger by C.S Lewis. This book surpassed my expectations because I didn’t think I’d ever really have a favorite poem.
    The Introduction to Poetry by Collins really does show how people are trying to figure out what a poem means without really enjoying it. Sure when it comes to poetry, people cringe, but how Collins presents poetry in Poetry 180 seems like a nice way of easing a reader into enjoying reading poetry without offering what he thinks gives the reader to have their own interpretations. Also, I think the system of one poem a day for high school students is an ideal way of at least exposing them to poetry without making them cringe away by making them read and decipher it.
    The Cord is what I felt like I related to growing up with so many sisters who used to spend all their time on the same kind of phone with a long cord. It made me feel sad that the connection between the phone and the daughter was closer than the mother and daughter’s, but the end made me realize the mother is always there for her daughter, which was a nice final touch to the end.
    The Late Passenger left me astounded reading the end, I was full of wonder when it said the unicorn. I thought it was going to be a poem about Ham and Japhet boarding a late animal like the horse back on the Ark. Its an interesting concept about what might’ve been and a new way to look at the story of the Ark. Also I was delighted to read the rhymes in this poem, it felt like it just rolled off the tongue.
    Wheels by Jim Daniels was a really interesting one too. It went through a man’s life by pictures in an automobile, each car or bike representing where he was at in his life was a really neat perspective, although the ending was sad.

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