“Song of Ourselves”

Coming off our final unit on Romantic poetry, specifically a deep dive into Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, we wrote a final send-off poem together, inspired by Whitman’s send-off in section 52 of “Song of Myself.”

Here is the text version of our “Song of Ourselves.”  And here is our video:

“Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson

In this absolutely surreal time, it is important to remember that “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” – Kelly Clarkson. This song is not only poetic in its lyrics, it is also inspiring during this global pandemic when things seem like they’ve hit rock bottom.

Thanks to you
I’m finally thinking about me
You know in the end
the day you left was just my beginning

One thing that really stands out about this line is the antithesis. Using “end” and “beginning” is an important contrast and it shows that although it may have been the end of a relationship for Kelly, it was the only the beginning of the rest of her life where she can really focus on herself. This really applies to us seniors because even though our senior year ended all too soon, it is really only the beginning of our lives. We have so much to look forward to.

What doesn’t kill you makes a fighter
Footsteps even lighter
Doesn’t mean I’m over cause you’re gone

This line metaphorically explains why going through something tough makes a person stronger. Your footsteps don’t actually get lighter, you just feel better after you have been through something that was really hard. I think this is an amazing way to portray successfully getting through a struggle and it is a nice reminder to all of us that quarantine is not going to kill us. In fact, it will make us appreciate seeing friends, going to school, and being able to go out to dinner so much more.

I think that this song is a great addition to our Positivity Playlist. It helps us remember that we need to stay optimistic about our current situation because we can only go up from here.

I’m Still Standing by Elton John and Bernie Taupin

Poetry Analysis

Repetition

I’m still standing yeah yeah yeah
I’m still standing yeah yeah yeah”

Don’t you know I’m still standing better than I ever did
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid

These four lines are repeated throughout the song since they are a part of the chorus. They are also reiterated on multiple occasions to suggest to the audience of this song that the singer is going to persevere and persist through the hardship the intended audience put them through. When listening to the song, it is clear that the purpose of the writer or singer is to prove that they are getting over a person, over a hardship, or over a circumstance that is not optimal to them.

Why I chose it for the playlist

The playlist constructed by Bernie, which I listen to on the daily, is meant to procure a sense of positivity and resiliency in the listener. During this time of uncertainty with the coronavirus looming large, I felt like a song about getting over adversity would help work towards the goal of the playlist.

This song has always been helpful for me when I have felt the hardship of an unexplained or upsetting circumstance, and I feel like it can help out anybody who feels like this virus has done them wrong. This virus is unexplainable. I have tried to reason with why it has to occur now, and I have yet to find an answer. I dread over the idea of never going back to OPRF as a student again. I miss my classmates, my teachers, and my friends. This song doesn’t solve those grievances, but it helps.

I hope it can help you too.

(My binge watch suggestion of the day is to check out the movie Sing)

(If you don’t know, the picture is a character from the movie who sings this song)

Beloved Sonnet

My rose

In a field of darkness there is one light

Alone I seek to grow this lonely rose

Promise of future petals that are white

My love is dirt from which my flower grows,

Await my rose’s bloom all so fast

My rose’s beauty alike Polaris

With powers to erase my neglected past 

Trauma I hope it will not inherit.

Oh no!–the wicked Devil does arrive

His breath possesses the heart of fire

My rose has become his eye of desire

He shouts, “I need your rose to stay alive,

For I will pay you all your heart desires!”

I slit the stem of my love and she dies…

For my Beloved blog post, I decided to write a sonnet depicting the situation that Sethe is put in when she decides to kill Beloved. Sethe is the speaker, and the object of the poem “the rose” is representative of beloved. The motif I payed close attention to throughout the book was birth and pregnancy, which was meant to portray how the next generation symbolized hope. This is a reason why I was so drawn to Sethe’s incredible dilemma.

I wanted to capture a situation in which someone would kill something that they loved to save it. The image I had in my head was a clearing in a forest that had only one flower growing in it amongst all of the grass. Before the flower ever gets a chance to bloom, fire surrounds it. The only way to “save” that flower so that it can eventually blossom is to cut its stem like slitting a throat.

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.

You Can Drown Yourself In Metaphors: Vanilla Curls

I first listened to Teddy Hyde’s song “Vanilla Curls” by accident, when it showed up in my Spotify recommended, but the seemingly simple happy song had more depth than I thought, and is a clear example of a musical poem. Telling of it’s inner poetry, the songs first line states the literary device used throughout:

I could drown myself in metaphor

I could crown your head and catch the floor

Lookin’ up at a yellow girl

She won’t cut me free of her Vanilla Curls

Hyde uses these opening lines as just a glimpse into the atmosphere he creates with the rest of the song. He does indeed use a plethora of metaphor throughout the lyrics, describing an almost dying relationship that has left him set in confusion, but also uses clever literary devices such as personification:

Equipped with private eyes, her stare declared me missing

Tried to talk myself out of it, but I never listen

Hyde’s use of literary devices isn’t the only thing that makes this song very poetic, but I would argue his use of diction and imagery does as well. He juxtaposes the melancholy feelings and doubt he has regarding his relationship with playful and silly imagery. Such as describing his significant other as food.

In a minute she already put my feelings in their place

I hate vegetables, but I’d put that stringbean on my plate.

His use of “stringbean” in this line has a deeper meaning as well, as in other songs of his stringbean is used as a term of endearment, like “honey” or “baby”. His seemingly silly wording and phrases creates a sense of childishness, which is interesting as the lyrics have a more to them. For example, near the end of the song he says:

She caught me by the ear and left me lying here in writhing fear

If I get any deeper, I might need diving gear

Hyde has a wonderful way of playing with wording and internal rhyme, while also telling a story of conflict and hurt. But, without looking closer at the lines, you would never guess the precision and thought put into the structure of the sentences, something shrouded by the light airy melody that shapes the song as a whole. Hyde does a seamless job of making the complexity of the lyrics and poetry seem easy and natural, culminating in a lovely tune with a hidden emotional meaning.

“Taro”

Gerda Taro and Robert Capa

The song “Taro” by Alt-j is about a real man. His name was Endre Ernő Friedmann, though he worked under the alias of Robert Capa. He was a traveled photographing many wars until his death at the age of 40. 

This song is set at the occasion of his death. He was covering the First Indochina war (referenced by the first word of the song: “Indochina”) after being convinced to photograph it. This was not the first war he had been to, from 1936 to the end of his life he photographed a total of 5 wars the first being the Spanish Civil War. He and his girlfriend Gerda Taro went there and working under the shared alias of Robert Capa documented the war in photographs. However, tragedy struck when his girlfriend, Gerda Taro, for whom the song is named, was killed. He was deeply affected by the loss and never married. A big part of the song is about his reunion with Taro after his death, however, that is not what I will be focusing on.

The first verse contains some of the best imagery I have ever heard in a song:

“(Ooh) Very yellow-white flash!

A violent wrench grips mass

Rips light, tears limbs like rags”

The line “Very yellow-white flash!” in the context of the song leads the listener to first think of a camera flash, however, the next line “A violent wrench grips mass” reveals it to be an explosion. I think the line captures the feel of an explosion well (at least how someone whose never been in one might imagine it to feel like) with its word choice. Wrench is a word you can almost feel in your stomach, it captures the feeling of sudden interruption and disturbance, like your insides are still going forward after your body has been suddenly stopped. Mass makes it feel like the change is not just the person is being wrenched, but something more fundamental. “Rips light” furthers this idea as only something large and powerful on a giant scale could really manipulate light to that extent. In short, these lines gives a feeling of greatness to an explosion nowhere near that scale, unless of course you are caught in it. 

Another example of the amazing imagery in this song is the way he describes Capa’s death:

Quivers, last rattles, last chokes

All colours and cares glaze to grey

Shriveled and stricken to dots

He provides both an external and internal view of the same event. Quiver sounds like a quiver and by repeating the word last it reminds the listener that Capa is dying. It then shifts inward to Capa and has three pairs of words starting with the same letter and separated by the word ‘and’. This emphasizes what is being said and stretches the moment in time. I think the focus on visual imagery works very well here considering how he dedicated his life to photography.

The careful control of language used in this song to tells the story of Capa and Taro very well and vividly. I believe that this song is definitely poetry.

https://genius.com/Alt-j-taro-lyrics

If you are interested here are some of the photos from his time in Indochina: https://www.magnumphotos.com/newsroom/conflict/ropert-capa-indochina-war/