With our last year at OPRF coming to an unusual end, I’d like to add one last song to our playlist. Imagine by John Lennon, is a musical piece I would argue is poetic and a good listen during these times.

Within the lyrics, John envisions a world without borders, religion, and material possessions. Only with the elimination of these three can there finally be a “real” world peace. The elimination of nationalities, religion, and one’s economic class would create a unified Earth in Lennon’s mind.

Instead of focusing on John’s powerful vision of world peace, I would like you to utilize the difficult but not impossible tool Lennon encourages. Lennon guides the listener to use their imagination to envision a world without social constructs that divide us from one another. I on the other hand, encourage you to use this song to escape the confinements of your couch, bedroom, floor, wherever you are currently sitting during this lovely quarantine.

You may say I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

I hope someday you’ll join us

And the world will be as one

The above stanza is the hook for “Imagine.” It appeals to the sensuous dimension of poetry with Lennon speaking of the sensation of unity with the words “one” and “us.” The use of “one” creates a sensation of a single entity, with the choice of “us” creating a feeling of a single united entity. Lennon furthermore connects with the emotional dimension with the usage of “hope.” By using “hope,” Lennon inspires the listener making an emotional connection. Finally, Lennon continues into the imaginative dimension with the use of “dreamer.” A dreamer uses his/her imagination, and in this context Lennon is a “dreamer.” By labeling himself as a “dreamer” he inspires his listeners and followers to become like him, a dreamer.

Whether you listen to the song with focus specific to Lennon’s vision, or you utilize his lyrics to liberate yourself from quarantine and venture into the depths of possibility, Lennon’s work “Imagine” is a piece of poetry.

John Denver’s Nostalgic Ode to West Virginia

John Denver’s famous hit country song “Take Me Home, Country Roads” was released on April 12th, 1971. Considered as John Denver’s signature song, it was co-written by himself and his good friend Bill Danoff and surprisingly isn’t truly about West Virginia.

To show the poetic meaning of the song, one must look into the context of the writing of the song, as is similarly seen in poems. Bill wrote the song about his home state Maryland, reminiscing about its curving, winding roads. In a state of nostalgia mixed with home sickness, Danoff wrote the piece and presented it to his friend and artist, John Denver. Adding his own twists and turns, Denver created his now most prominent piece, “Take Me Home, Country Roads”.

Almost Heaven, West Virginia

Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River

Life is old there, older than the trees

Younger than the mountains, growing like a breeze

Denver singing to a simple beat, starts his piece with a quatrain. Right away, Denver compares West Virginia to heaven. Denver is using imagery to paint a picture to his listeners. He describes oddly describes life as old followed by describing a breeze as “growing”. I find this odd use of language combined with his detailed features of West Virginia as poetic to his listeners. His singing gives the feeling of nostalgia, a bright look on the past of a country he loved.

Denver’s lines in his hit song also reach multiple dimensions such as the imaginative, sensual, and emotional. This can be seen in the following lyrics.

Misty taste of moonshine

West Virginia, mountain mama

The line “Misty taste of moonshine” gives the listener a sensual feeling. Taste is not normally described as misty, thus the listener imagines the moonshine as misty. The following line “West Virginia, mountain mama” also oddly describes the state as the mother of mountains. Upon hearing this line the listener imagines the mountainous state and can feel the nostalgia that Denver is singing about. This nostalgia is emotional for the listener themselves as they start to recall their own hometown or other matters they are nostalgic about.

Overall, John Denver and Bill Danoff created a poem of nostalgia, that shakes the bones of the listener, painting a picture within their head, and emotionally calling upon their own nostalgic experiences and past.

Paul D, The Journey for Manhood

Paul D the wanderer and heart breaker, in my opinion is the most shady and interesting character in the novel “Beloved”. The man who carried the iron bit, with a heart of a shut tobacco tin.

Paul D was one of the other major characters in the novel alongside Beloved, Sethe, and Denver. As the reader progresses throughout the novel, they slowly learn of Paul D’s past. They learn of his adventurous journey, escaping the chain gang, surviving with Native Americans, following a path of flowers, meeting women, for about 18 years until he arrives at the door of Sethe unknowingly.

Paul D is lost during his 18 years of wondering, searching for love and for his manhood. Growing up on Sweet Home, alongside his brothers, he watched the men around him fall in love. These men being Halle and Sixo who both were able to have their own children (Seven and Sethe’s kids). Paul D admires Halle and Sixo throughout the novel for their ability to love someone when they shouldn’t love anything.

Paul D realizes upon meeting Sethe that she is a woman he can finally settle down with. After their fight when Paul D decides to leave 124 he still stays in town. He thinks and talks to Stamp Paid and realizes his faults. Paul D finally mans up and talks to Sethe on her sickbed saying “You your best thing, Sethe. You are” finally showing some compassion and emotion for Sethe. I believe they continue to live their lives together, with Paul D finally finding his manhood by finding a woman.

End of Exit West?

Nadia returned to her hometown after living half a life without Saeed. She learned that he was nearby and planned to meet, being separate from him for 50 years.

I find this interesting because this makes me question Saeed’s perspective and life. Did he return home at the same time as Nadia? Is it a coincidence?

Saeed was more reluctant to the idea of leaving his home after learning that his father would stay behind. His father staying for the reason that he felt closer to his wife in their hometown. The reader is presented with the idea that Saeed may have moved back. The reason could be to feel closer to his past loved ones. Does Saeed return to feel the presence of his father? Did he settle there to permanently feel closer to his family?

This being a stretch but it still raises a question in my head. Could Saeed have moved back for another reason except his loved ones? Did he want to feel the presence or feeling of his past relationship with Nadia? They met in this city, in the middle of a war. Their relationship flourished here, and never faltered despite having many challenges in this city. I believe he has moved on but will continue to love Nadia as a member of his family but I find it interesting to think about his motives to moving back.

Meursault vs The Chaplain

Camus brings up the topic of religion throughout the story such as the moment with the religious investigator, and towards the end of the book when Meursault denies to meet the Chaplain. Camus uses the religious investigator and Chaplain to display religion compared to Existentialism and shows the battle between the two.

Throughout The Stranger, I feel as Camus sets up our character as an existentialist, which in my opinion, Meursault strongly portrays.Towards the end of the book (basically his death), Meursault’s existentialist beliefs weaken for some moments. This can be seen in his conversation with the chaplain which he denied to meet twice before. I will not talk of who brought up the stronger arguments and who technically “wins” this battle of wits but rather the moments of weakness that Meursault displays.

Camus sets up a battle of religion vs Existentialism in these final pages with our chaplain and Meursault. In this moment, Meursault for once shares atleast one emotion, fear. As the Chaplain enters the prison cell, Meursault describes a “little shudder” run through him. I took this as a foreshadowing of his battle with the priest. He tells the priest of his fear, which the priest offers to help with because he has dealt with situations like these before. Meursault replies with disinterest which I believe results from his strict belief of no higher being. He stands his ground well but I can’t help but get the image of Meursault basically just holding his ahnds up to his ears to block out the priests words. He uses language such as “annoying” and “disinteresting” to describe the priest and his words.

The priest brings up the idea of seeing the previous men condemned to this cell. Their faces, embedded within the stones of the walls with their suffering and grief. Meursault speaks of the face he searched for as Marie’s. I find this interesting because I interpreted this in two different ways. One way, Marie being the face of his sexual pleasure and desire of women which he speaks of earlier to the prison head. The other, that maybe, being close to death, he searched for a face that “loved” him, that could comfort him, down a path he knew for certain he would travel, that being his death. But we all know this is far-fetched for Meursault does not believe in love, much less feel it.

The passage continues, and Meursault releases his anger onto the chaplain. Cursing, insulting, yelling at the priest. He calls the priest a hypocrite, a man who believes he knows how to live but is truly dead within while Meursault makes himself as “right”. I believe this outburst by Meursault displays weakness being close to his final moments. Meursault is never pictured nor written as having an outburst during the entire book. Especially not during Mamans funeral, killing of the Arab, and within the courtroom. He also does not show this weakness when talking to the other religious figure within the story, that being the religious investigator. Meursault stays composed during this interrogation not failing his beliefs. But close to death, he suddenly explodes. Why? Did death truly scare him? Did he stay true to himself, what he stood for? What does he stand for?

Sonny’s Clues

Sonny’s Blues is a story with many lessons, much advice, most of them dark. I first read this story with a positive outlook but as I look at the diction and read in between the lines the story is not so bright as I first thought.

James Baldwin effectively used everyday positive images and successfully managed to turn them into dark figures. Such as “the playground is most popular with the children who don’t play at jacks, or skip rope, or roller skate, or swing, and they can be found in it after dark” talking of the drug abuse in the youth in the community and the dark path they trail.

Image result for dark playgrounds

What I really want to get at is the on bottom of page 77 and continues at the top of 78. The conversation of the parents and older people of the community, and the topic they speak of and how Baldwin presents it. How he sets up a room of those in the community who have survived, but not thrived. The trap in which the kids grow up in, not realizing the cage that surrounds them. This is just another moment of what should be happiness but Baldwin manages to turn off the lights, and show the truth. He speaks of the darkness “growing” outside the windows and the noises of the streets, while the parents of the community are inside. They speak and have conversation with one another of their experience, the community they have suffered and endured. This darkness grows everyday because the children become a day closer to becoming an adult, in which they realize the situation they grew up in, is life they cannot escape, a cycle. He shows the cycle, is invisible to the naive youth with the line “everyone is looking at something a child can’t see” showing the kids are still blind to what is ahead of them. What is ahead of them, is what their parents went through, and what their parents went through, and on and on.

This cycle is of racism, poverty, and Baldwin sets it up as inescapable. Sonny’s brother and Sonny himself, are his examples, for Sonny went down the road of drugs, barely surviving and his brother, continuing the cycle by not escaping the neighborhood, by living in a project-house, though he has a job as a teacher. Some may argue that Sonny managed to escape this quiet cycle with his music, but Baldwin uses his music to emphasize that he is only a survivor.His music only being a parallel to the discussion of the parents, only being able to speak, create sound, in which they can understand the situation they are in, and the narrator being able to hear his brother’s music because he too understands that they are stuck. Overall, Sonny’s Blues is a wonderful work.