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Ansel Elkins’ “Going to the Movies Alone” that begins by describing different scenes to movies and ends by describing leaving the theater. Elkins uses an immense amount of imagery throughout the entire poem, but my favorite is in the last six lines:

“and I go out the door marked EXIT

and into the winter night, the vast

dark parking lot slick with snow and ice

where my car waits alone under a streetlight.

I clear the frost from my window,

try to unlock the frozen door.”

I enjoy this part the most because everyone who has ever gone to movie can describe the moment when they are leaving a movie theater and realize it is still sunny, rainy, snowy, hot, or cold. It does not matter what kind of movie they just watched, it is still a shock to see that the world kept going while they were entranced in the film. Ansel Elkins does an amazing job of capturing that exact moment.

The Heaven of Animals


Here they are.  The soft eyes open.

If they have lived in a wood

It is a wood.

If they have lived on plains

It is grass rolling

Under their feet forever.


Having no souls, they have come,

Anyway, beyond their knowing.

Their instincts wholly bloom

And they rise.

The soft eyes open.


To match them, the landscape flowers,

Outdoing, desperately

Outdoing what is required:

The richest wood,

The deepest field.


For some of these,

It could not be the place

It is, without blood.

These hunt, as they have done,

But with claws and teeth grown perfect,


More deadly than they can believe.

They stalk more silently,

And crouch on the limbs of trees,

And their descent

Upon the bright backs of their prey


May take years

In a sovereign floating of joy.

And those that are hunted

Know this as their life,

Their reward: to walk


Under such trees in full knowledge

Of what is in glory above them,

And to feel no fear,

But acceptance, compliance.

Fulfilling themselves without pain


At the cycle’s center,

They tremble, they walk

Under the tree,

They fall, they are torn,

They rise, they walk again.


 -James Dickey


James Dickey’s “The Heaven of Animals” is written as a quintain. This means each stanza has five lines and a typical stress pattern. This poem also has enjambment, a sentence is split between at least two lines, as seen in the second stanza “Having no souls, they have come, / Anyway, beyond their knowing. / Their instincts wholly bloom / And they rise.”


“The Heaven of Animals” is a poem filled with imagery that describes the different versions of Heaven there can be for each animal there.

“If they have lived in a wood

It is a wood.

If they have lived on plains

It is grass rolling

Under their feet forever.” 

This describes the different landscapes each animal may have, while the fourth and fifth stanzas describe the animals themselves and what they do: But with claws and teeth grown perfect, / More deadly than they can believe. / They stalk more silently, / And crouch on the limbs of trees”


Ron Rash writes “Burning Bright” in third-person limited omniscient about a woman, Marcie who has a late husband, Arthur, and a second husband, Carl. The town she lives in in North Carolina is going through a drought and someone is setting fires in the woods. Marcie begins to believe Carl, her second husband is setting the fires because he is never home during the times the fires were set, he drives a black pickup truck, and he picked a lighter as Marcie’s gift to him.

“But it was a tray of cigarette lighters where he lingered. He asked the clerk to see several, opening and closing their hinged lids, flicking the thumbwheel to summon the flame, finally settling on one whose metal bore the image of a cloisonné tiger.” (p112)

Even though Marcie believes Carl is setting the fires, she lies to the Sheriff about where Carl was when the last fire was set.

You dont need to ask Carl,Marcie said. He was here eating supper.

At six oclock?

Around six, but he was here by five thirty.

How are you so sure of that?

The fivethirty news had just come on when he pulled up.”

Hubris in Identity

Meg Day’s poem “Batter My Heart, Transgender’d God” discusses Day’s complicated relationships with both relationship and gender. One of the first striking things about this poem is the title. One of the common mistakes people make in discussing trans issues (by which I mean, things that affect those who are transgender, as opposed to how some people use it to describe the “issue” of trans people existing) is to use the word “transgendered.” This is nonsensical, as “transgender” is an adjective, not a verb. It’s like describing a person as “gayed” once they come out. Given this, it’s interesting Day made the choice to include it in this way, though using the apostrophe in place of the last E suggests a more informal, improvised usage of the term.

The poem itself takes the form of prayer. Ironically, it asks for fear to be given to the speaker, as they have grown too comfortable with their identity and forgotten the harsh reality of being trans in our society. Day uses the word “kin” to describe trans people in this poem, similarly to how the word is used to describe deaf/hard of hearing people in Elegy in Translation. In both of these instances, Day’s “kin” are being harmed or even killed based on the factors that relate them to the poet. This poem asks for a release from the hubris which makes the speaker confident they will not become another statistic. A similar theme is found in “When They Took Her Breasts, She Dreamed of Icarus,” wherein the speaker compares themself (themselves?) to Icarus as “the son of a craftsman.”  This thread between the two poems is part of a larger narrative thread found throughout the collection, in which Day discusses the complex notion of gender and how it relates to hubris.


“Parables” is a poem by Susannah Nevison about destruction split into five sections.

The first speaks of darkness and how it grows in prisoners. The darkness, the evil, eventually pins the person down as others, the legal system and citizens most likely, watch. This darkness is man made and on occasion given to the person, just to see it consume them without hope of light.

The second builds on this concept of hope. It is like the house built on sand that the speaker refers to. Hope is there, but it corrodes overtime, and the prisoners eventually lose it and become like the dead. This loss of hope is not their own doing but what they have been given in this circumstance.

The third is about the redemption they receive. Death row inmates are given a short time with a priest if they choose before they are executed. This redemption comes only with the cleansing, the flood, or in this case the death sentence. Like God flooding the earth, they must be made into something new for redemption and forgiveness.

The fourth is about the citizens, and how they will never grant forgiveness to those on death row. Even when they accept God or pray for forgiveness or whatever the priest tells them will save their soul, the citizens have passed their judgement, and in a way they are the unresponsive God. They hold the final judgement of the prisoner in their hands with jury duty and public opinion, which often effects judges. The redemption and forgiveness promised crumbles from the judgement of “God”.

The fifth is about their deaths and those left behind. They are freed from the prison finally, but only to receive graves. Those left behind realize that the earth is still just the earth, and the cycle repeats itself, a parable to those who come in with hope to such a hopeless place.

What’s unique about Elizabeth McCracken’s “Toward a Unified Theory of the Donut” is that, while it’s a personal essay, the most we learn about the author herself is through the singular lens of donut. Unlike the heavily probing essays we’ve read (and written) in the past several weeks, this one explores the place of donuts in her life as a hole.

One of the main characteristics of the author we learn of is her love of donuts. The other we learn is the place of literature in her life, with her discussion of the Shakespeare Players and working in a variety of libraries. It’s also evident through her discussions of classic literature, describing works by both Washington Irving and Edith Wharton in the process of describing donuts to us as an audience, though maybe I should have intuited it more quickly since I was quite literally reading something she had published.

The last ascertation she makes is that most art, like donuts, is defined by an absence. This piece is defined by an absence of the narrative and unique emotional depth found in most personal essays, but much like a donut, it provides satisfaction despite its emptiness.

We Girls

“Teenage Lesbian Couple Found in Texas Park with Gunshot Wounds to the Head” is a powerful piece of poetry by Meg Day.

The speaker does not directly reference the incident that the poem is named after, but instead refers to the violence women face at any given point. Day herself crafts the poem expertly with uses of different alliteration in nearly every line, slant rhyme, and internal rhyme to engage the audience with the hard to hear material. This poem is very literal compared to others, but it carries the struggle, pain, and anger of the writer and those who identify with it brilliantly. Day’s last section is especially powerful, and leaves the audience with a vivid image of bodies, tying it all back to the title of the poem.

Silence is a Storm

“Wind” by Ted Hughes is a short poem about an unhappy relationship and how that makes their house feel like a storm.

The speaker begins by saying the house has been out at sea all night, which creates an image of solitude and a feeling of being lost. This is a similar feeling to how one reacts when a relationship begins to turn. The house no longer feels like home, but like a storm or a ship out at sea.

Later on in the poem, after a particularly well-crafted line of alliteration, the speaker compares the house to a green goblet that might shatter. This echoes how fragile the relationship has become between these two people. They continue on, telling of how they simply sit as the house moves its roots again, changing and shifting on the wind. They have done nothing, it seems, but the relationship continues to change anyway. They can do nothing to change it, except wait to see where they are tomorrow.


Preemptive Grieveing

“In the Cemetary Where Al Jonson is Buried” by Amy Hempel is a short story about taking care of a loved one experiencing the process of dying. It resonated with me, as when I read it I had recently spent a month taking care of a dying loved one.

One of the most terrible things you can feel in that circumstance is “fed up.” That’s one of the real tragedies of this type of care, because anyone not trained in hospice care, and even some of those who are, are bound to feel fed up at some point.

My favorite moment in the story is probably when the narrator was describing watching old movies, and ends the section with “I missed her already.” This is the most difficult part of the dying process to explain to people, but also one of the most understood. It’s something that comes with any sort of expected loss, as anyone who’s graduated anything could tell you. The phrase “I missed her already” perfectly captures the mixed-up feelings of pre-grief.

“Musee des Beaux Arts” is a short poem by W. H. Auden and focuses on suffering.

Auden chooses to focus on the way suffering goes unnoticed. The speaker tells of people going on about daily activities- eating, opening windows, walking- and how they don’t realize others are suffering while they do so. There are some who don’t particularly want to live, or wish for death, or go on with unmentioned pain in their lives, referred to by the speaker with his bit on the child skating on a pond at the edge of the wood.

The speaker also proves his point with the animals of the poem. The dog goes on in blissful ignorance, much like the torturer’s horse, who does not know his rider’s occupation. And how can we judge them for it? The horse cannot understand who rides it, and is content to just be without much thought of it at all.

Lastly, the speaker mentions Icarus and his fall from the sky. They note how everyone seemed content not to notice this miracle, consumed in their mundane activities. He notes how someone must have seen it, this miracle of a boy falling into the sea, and yet chose to carry on with life. This is much like how someone can observe pain and suffering in someone else, yet do nothing to intervene. In a way, it is natural for them to ignore such a sight and simply go on with their own lives, as it is more comfortable that way.

Fear in the Sunset

In the essay “It Will Look like a Sunset,” Kelly Sundberg goes between two characterizations of her ex-husband: One as the kindest, gentlest partner she had ever had, and one as her abuser of eight years. While the two seem diametrically opposed on the surface, Sundberg’s essay, and others like it, reveal that this is not the case.

One of the most chilling things about this essay is Sundberg’s choice of image placement. Immediately following a description of Caleb’s actions leaving her with a swollen, bloodied foot which she couldn’t walk on, she talked about the first time she stayed in his log cabin home, and how the moon that night turned the fresh snow into a blanket of stars. Even the title plays into this, with us as readers picturing what we assume must be a beautiful thing happening to this woman, which is later revealed to be a description of the bruise her husband gave her.

Sundberg discusses going “into a cave” when Caleb would hit her (or break things on her, or rip out chunks of her hair, or shout at her that she was a “fucking cunt”). I believe writing about her husband in these ways, with the things that make her love him being so separate from the things he did to her, are in fact the only way she could talk about it at all: as if the man she loves and the man she fears are two separate people.


In Kelly Sundberg’s personal essay titled “It Will Look Like a Sunset,” she addresses many issues. She addresses what it is to love; she addresses what it is like to not want to be a single mother; she addresses the role a woman plays and how she looks after everyone besides herself. She addresses wanting to get help but not wanting help — there areso many things addressed in this essay that are so important, but I think the most important is her loving someone who is physically and emotionally toxic for her. She uses all the bad things and substitutes them for the good as if they do not exist. In this essay, she does the same thing: she mentions the good then goes back into the bad. For instance, here’s a situation where she addresses the gentle, loving Caleb:

“One day he joked  in bed about what our rapper names would be. I said mine would be “Awesome Possum.” He improvised a rap song titled “Get in my pouch!” I couldn’t stop giggling. I had never met a man who could make me laugh like he could.

This is another situation in which this happens:

”Of everyone I have dated, he was the gentlest. I love his soft hands, his embraces, his kind heart. He wrote me love letters, rub my feet, took me out to lunch, got up first in the morning with our son so I could sleep in. He took care of me. He was more often kind to me and then unkind”

Though these things are sweet, she pairs the good with the bad, and in my mind the bad in this case doesn’t overcome the good. Some things that Caleb has done that she allows us to see are,

 “I’m not the type of person to hit a woman,”  he said.  “So it must be you. You are the one who brings this out and me. I would not be like this if I was with a different woman.”

Another example is

“That same night that Caleb pulled out my hair, he punched me in the spine with such force that my body arched back as though it had been stocked with electricity. I was jolted out of my cave. He did it again. “No” I screamed. I cannot protect myself”

Sundberg also makes a point to leave room between each of the sections as though she is allowing us to have a break from all these painful things we are reading happening to her.

Nearing the ending of the story we see the true struggle that she is facing, loving him or being able to let him go.

“When the older policeman saw the swelling, the black-and-blue, and the toes like a little sausage links, his expression turned into dismay. “That’s bad, that looks broken,” he said. “Ma’am does your husband have a phone number we can reach him at? We need him to come back.” They waited outside, I called Caleb. “I’m sorry,” I said. They are going to have to arrest you.”

You wouldn’t think that you would say sorry to someone that hurts you constantly but her love for him is so real that she feels that only right. This toxic love story is traumatic but moving.


In Kelly Sundberg’s personal essay “It Will Look Like a Sunset”, we follow the events of her experience with domestic violence and her eventual decision to leave.

Sundberg does an excellent job in playing with duality throughout her essay. We are met with Caleb, her husband and her abuser, and taken through his character completely. Sundberg relays his good parts, the kind parts, the ones that got her to stay as long as she did, and sharply juxtaposes them with a man who rips out her hair, punches her in the spine, and calls her a cunt. This duality plays into Sundberg herself- should she leave? Should she stay? It creates a tension in the essay that doesn’t let up, even in the very end. She portrays the duality of outsiders as well, with the friends who urge her to seek medical attention, get help, let her stay with them when she does finally leave, and the EMT who tries to comfort her, all with the police who aren’t supportive of her and her mother’s advice to stay as long as she can.

Sundberg even does this with portions of her writing, most notably in the pieces where she speaks on their relationship having respect in it. Only two sections up from this, she writes of how she couldn’t have been human to him in the moments where he hit her. These two things couldn’t exist together, and yet she puts them so close together, taking the reader through how radically this relationship shifted.

In the end, Sundberg’s piece is a wonderfully crafted and powerful piece of art that tells of a dark period of time in her life, and how she eventually found the strength within herself to leave, just like the hummingbird she set free.


“It Will Look Like a Sunset” by Kelly Sundberg was probably one of the most powerful pieces I have ever read. The pain she spoke about and the way she wrote it made it so real, she held nothing back. I thought it was especially brave of her to not only discuss what bad her husband did, but also what good he did and why she didn’t want to leave him.

There are days when I still wish he would beg me to take him back, promise to change, actually change.”

This was such a raw moment and it’s inspiring how truthful she is. She could easily have left that out and portrayed her story as one where she got out as fast as she could because she knew her worth but instead she told the truth that is more relatable than we would like to think.

The counselor at the domestic violence shelter was proud of me. So many women never get out. I didn’t feel proud. I didn’t want to get out.”

Sadly this is the reality for many people in an abusive relationship, they may start to believe that they are the problem and that they are the cause of the abuse. Sundberg was honest about how hard it was to leave her husband and about how she still loved and missed him yet still had the strength within herself to stay away.

When ever you hear stories of domestic abuse you only get a general picture. Man beats his wife. But there was something about the way Sundberg bounced from reason to memory that really paints the picture of what she actually went through. While reading this, it felt almost insulting to put it down and not read the whole thing. I could feel the desperation in her writing as it almost seemed like she was still trying to convince herself that what he did was not okay, but was what it was and not a terrible thing she had to endure. One of the first lines, and one of the last were the most powerful in my opinion. “My love for him was real, and I didn’t want to be a single mother.” is the trap women get into. Theres no time for love to truly blossom when your doing something because its whats right in the eyes of society, and not whats right for you. The last paragraph, where her mother advised her to make it work because being unhappy is better than being alone hit especially hard. Mothers are supposed to protect, and even though I cant imagine the mother knew at the time she said this that he was abusing her, the advice was probably the thing to keep her there for as long as she was.


Salman Rushdie, in his essay “Out of Kansas,” presents an intriguing, insightful analyzation of the famous film and book The Wizard of OZ. He starts by explaining how the production inspired him to write his first story, entitled, “Over the Rainbow.” As a young boy he and his family traveled a lot and amidst the travels, the short story was cultivated. A ten year old boy who grew up in Bombay stumbled upon a rainbow that was as wide as a sidewalk and was crafted like a grand staircase; he began to climb it. Unfortunately, the details of the story were lost to Rushdie’s memory, but he continues in his essay to connect his own childhood to several variables in The Wizard of OZ. He compared his Father to the Wizard and the prospect of him going to school in England to the journey Dorothy took to OZ. He came to the realization that his father was a very bad “wizard” but a very “good man”. Throughout the rest of the essay, Rushdie analyzed the film, The Wizard of OZ and quite honestly put the story, along with all the actors in it, under a rather negative light.  For example, he stated that, “Anybody who has swallowed the script writer’s notion that this is a film about the superiority of “home”… has been fooled. Whether his analysis is correct or not, it spoiled a lot of the magic and whimsical elements from the story for me. I used to consider the tale to be blissfully charming; now, lots of the magic is gone.


“Out of Kansas”

Salam Rushdie writes a film analysis titled “Out of Kansas” based off of The Wizard of Oz. In this review, he begins by discussing journeys that have caused him to read these stories and compare and contrast Bollywood stories with Hollywood. Rushdie writes of places and Oz:

England was mentioned it felt as exciting as any voyage beyond the rainbow. It may be hard to believe, but England seemed as wonderful a prospect as Oz

Rushdie compares his own life stories within the story of Oz and associates real-life people within characters of Oz,

The Wizard, however, was right there in Bombay. My father, Anis Ahmed
Rushdie, was a magical parent of young children, but he was prone to explosions,
thunderous rages, bolts of emotional lightning, puffs of dragon smoke, and other
menaces of the type also practiced by Oz, the Great and Powerful, the !rst
Wizard De-luxe.

In  The Last Psalm at Sea Level by Meg Day, I read a poem titled, “If There Had Been Time for Healing.”

I would have done it on the road –

carved out a corner of that map & lost myself

in its thick-clustered veins: I’d double back

on potholed highways & stop

alongside those lined with poppies,

stand & watch my shadow lean

into crisp orachards, heart open like

cracked blacktop, expanding in the sun.

In this poem, she writes from her perspective of feeling, portraying her inner emotions and feelings of what’s occurring to her.


What I found most interesting about Salman Rushdie’s film review and analysis of The Wizard of Oz, “Out of Kansas,” was his comparison of an American classic to the typical Bollywood style of film common during his childhood.  My roommate, a girl from Lucknow, India, has gotten me into Bollywood movies (albeit more current ones than Rushdie was referencing, but the Indian flair for the dramatic is the same) so I found the parallels immediately intriguing.  This unique perspective adds dimension to Rushdie’s analysis, because someone born and raised in America would likely never think to compare a film like Oz to Bollywood movies; after all, the two seem to be polar opposites.  My memory of Oz is foggy, and I’m not entirely sure I ever saw the whole thing in one sitting, but when I think of the film, the last thing I’d compare it to is the typical Bollywood movie.  Yet, as Rushdie put it,

“… gods descending from the heavens to meddle in human affairs, superheroes, demonic villains, and so on, have always been the staple diet of the Indian filmgoer. Blond Glinda arriving at Munchkinland in her magic bubble might cause Dorothy to comment on the high speed and oddity of the local transport operating in Oz, but to an Indian audience Glinda was arriving exactly as a god should arrive: ex machina, out of her own machine. The Wicked Witch of the West’s orange smoke puffs were equally appropriate to her super-bad status.”

When put that way, it makes sense why Oz was originally “an oddball” in America but fit right in in India; a relatively small comparison speaks volumes about the differences between the two cultures.  This both helped me see The Wizard of Oz in a new light, but adds to my enjoyment of Bollywood movies by pointing out patterns that I’d missed.  For example, Rushdie pointed out that Bollywood movies have a heavy element of Hinduism, of religion in general, that Oz lacks, which he said

“… greatly increases the film’s charm, and is an important aspect of its success in creating a world in which nothing is deemed more important than the loves, cares, and needs of human beings…”

Before reading this, I’d given little thought to the real “meaning” behind Oz; it was simply a movie I’d seen as a child that had given me nightmares about flying monkeys and melting witches.  Rushdie’s analysis peels back the layers and exposes how the small elements of the film, its lack of religion included, contribute to its overall message about growing up and taking control of your own destiny.  Though this movie wasn’t a large part of my childhood, Rushdie’s essay has helped me understand just how powerful an impression this message could have on a child.

Even while analyzing the film, Rushdie gave the reader small peeks into his character and personal life by talking about how he perceived the film when he was young.  The clearest example of this can be found in how he begins and ends the piece: by talking about his father in comparison to the Wizard, and then himself. In the beginning, after talking about the disappointment he felt as a boy, finding out that the father he thought was all-powerful was just a human being, he says:

“I have begun with these personal reminiscences because “The Wizard of Oz” is a film whose driving force is the inadequacy of adults, even of good adults; a film that shows us how the weakness of grownups forces children to take control of their own destinies, and so, ironically, grow up themselves.”

He then launches seamlessly into film analysis, then circles back to this idea at the end.  This time, though, he compares himself to the Wizard, and leaves the reader with final thoughts about Rushdie’s character, the movie, and the state of humanity:

“And this is the last and most terrible lesson of the film: that there is one final, unexpected rite of passage. In the end, ceasing to be children, we all become magicians without magic, exposed conjurers, with only our simple humanity to get us through.”

While watching The Wizard of Oz, we think we are being entertained, but Rushdie shows us that there’s many layers to the film.  Similarly, while reading “Out of Kansas,” we think we’re reading a film analysis, when really we’re learning the life lessons we missed while watching the glitter of Dorothy’s ruby shoes.  

Why this Hurt me.

Nell Boeschenstein in many words described everything I’ve been though in the past year. Though breast cancer wasn’t something I had to worry about, I still wen through a surgery that cause me to loose 2 pounds of. breast on each side because of an accident. Though Im not a stranger to breast surgery, the reason why this essay hurt me the most was because 30 minutes before I went under to have a procedure that was supposed to reduce the pressure in my neck, I was told having the surgery would increase my chances, and press fast forward on the inevitable outcome of me getting breast cancer. Breast cancer has run in my family on both sides, and soon, within the next 4 years of my life, I will have to go through another surgery to get a double mastectomy to kill all chances of the cancer forming.

First of all, I think we can all agree that the best moment in this essay is when Nell spends an entire paragraph listing different words for boobs.

Secondly, I read this essay months ago when I googled Nell (like I do all my professors– sorry!) and ended up finding her website. I read a good few of her essays, but this is the one that’s stuck with me the most. At the time, it really made me examine how I think about recipients of plastic surgery, especially breast augmentation. I remember when I was reading it thinking, “oh my god, what weird information I have on Nell!” and then, a few paragraphs later, admonishing myself for thinking it was something I had on her, as if having implants after a mastectomy were the equivalent of, say, having a criminal charge of public urination. (Which she doesn’t have, to be clear.) Still, I kept the information to myself. I didn’t want to be the one responsible for the song on the wind having the lyrics of “Nell has fake tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiits.”

People talk a lot about breast implants. Like, a lot. Nell even addresses this within the article, with her quote from Sarah Silverman about, “You see, I still have real breasts. I don’t mean to brag; it’s just true.” This quote is from the year I was born. My entire life, and most people’s entire lives, fake boobs have been a big, cushy punchline on which lazy comedians have been able to land. Women want to adjust their natural appearances. Hilarious! Being me, and thinking I was better than everyone, I thought in my Genuine Feminist Brain that I was completely okay with people who got plastic surgery and that I didn’t judge them at all. This essay proved me wrong. Nell shows us that my experience wasn’t such an uncommon one, telling us about the podcaster (apparently Florence Williams, of Breasts Unbound) describing dinner with four women as “eating salad with eight plastic breasts,” demonstrating how even the progressively-minded forget the person attached to the implant.

One of the moments from this essay that’s stuck with me the most was Nell and her mother sitting in the doctor’s office. “She wants to be just the way she was! she snaps,
insinuating that your choice to go bigger would somehow be anathema to the very person you are.
Mom, please.”

Similarly to The Fourth State of Matter, we tend to think of breast implants not so much as a part of a person’s life or body, but as a thing that happens, suddenly, to other people. One of the statistics Nell gives us is that 4% of women have breast implants. Why was I surprised to have met someone who had them? Why do I assume she’s the only person I’ve met who does? This essay puts a face on what’s considered a delicate issue, thereby allowing us as readers to more empathetically engage with this subject in the future. (Messed up how I’m still assuming the readers don’t have implants ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)


Nell Boeschenstein’s essay, “A Few Words About Fake Breasts” takes the very serious topic of breast cancer and puts a rather playful, humorous spin on it, while still fully addressing the fact that breast cancer is a terrible trial to go through. Throughout the essay, Boeschenstein brings in the element of humor by referring to breasts by several of their more playful names, such as jingle bells. Then, shifting back to the difficult truth of the matter, Boeschenstein will give a statistic or account of the difficulties women face when getting implants by choice and from need. Through this humor and truth it seems as though the woman in the essay who is afflicted  with breast cancer, is trying to find some sort of reconciliation. She is coming to terms with the fact that she may lose both of her natural breasts and she is realizing the ramifications of that experience would be more than life altering. To lose one on your most feminine features, paired with several complications, fears and the prospect of regret is a heavy burden to bear. The way the essay is written makes it seem as though a lot of the paragraphs were thoughts from the subject, rather then spilled out information. As a writer, Boeschenstein succeeded; this essay, for me, evoked a lot of emotion.

One of the best parts of Nell Boeschenstein’s “A Few Words About Fake Breasts” is the entire paragraph she designated to the different names for breasts.

There are, it seems, many words for the real deals: melons, jugs, hooters, tits, titties, cans, the girls, rack, knockers, fried eggs, tatas, bosoms, bazookas, bazingas, bazongas, ninnies, grenades, guns, pillows, boom booms, Grand Tetons, dirty pillows, gazongas, tittyboppers, love monkeys, funbags, balloons, bam bams, milk jugs, milkshakes, the twins, tee-tees, cha-chas, chi-chis, chesticles, coconuts, Sacco and Vanzetti, Simon and Garfunkel, Larry and Balki, Bonnie and Clyde, Starsky and Hutch, Lucy and Ethel, Cheech and Chong, Laverne and Shirley, Wayne and Garth, Bill and Ted, goodyears, lemons, limes, bongos, flea bites, double lattes, Hindenburgs, Golden Globes, Oprah Winfreys, Lois Lanes, sweater-stretchers, lady bubbles, smothers brothers, Liberty Bells, park-and-rides, baby busters, silver dollars, little rascals, milk duds, bouncy castles, twin peaks, baby buffets, jingle bells, shoulder boulders, honey hams, samosas, kahunas, bubbies, bumpers, boobs, breasts . . .”

This was the most entertaining part of the whole essay and made me laugh while reading it. I even had to reread it a few times and once out loud to my roommate because it was just so funny. I really enjoy how Boeschenstein took what could have been a somber essay and added a paragraph just to make the reader laugh. I also appreciated how she used a few of the words listed in that paragraph throughout her essay instead of just repeatedly using breasts.

– mirror, mirror – the most ballsy, the most badass, the most empowered
of them all.”

This would also have to be a second favorite line of mine. Again through the hard things she describes in this essay she manages to continue to keep it light and not completely sad and depressing. While I’m sure it would have been extremely difficult keeping a light and cheerful attitude when she was going through this, it is nice to know that she got to the place in her life after this happened to be at peace with it and able to talk about it in the way that she did. It definitely shows her bravery and strength.

“A Few Words About Fake Breasts” written by Nell Boeschenstein, is a personal essay about a memorable event of her struggle with undergoing a double mastectomy. In this essay, Boeschenstein discusses in personal detail her thought process of undergoing such a procedure, within her writing it’s emotional and deep yet still shallow. Boeschenstein makes such an effort to never forget a part of her that will never be the same again, in her essay she never speaks of her having cancer only her sister, yet she proceeds to undergo the surgery just for precautionary measures

Remember how this feels. Remember how this feels.

Boeschenstein writes this essay in such a way that she never wanted to write it, about how she feels and her emotions and being able to do what she did. Later in the essay, she writes,

Scan the body for memories. Try to remember how it felt.

She ends the essay with writing about feelings of how she herself cannot physically feel but the reader is able to tell that she can emotionally.


“A Few Words about Fake Breasts,” by Nell Boeschenstein is a personal essay written in the second point of view. It’s about Boeschenstein’s experience and struggle with the aftermath of getting a double mastectomy to reduce the risk of breast cancer that runs in her family, and today’s societal norms. She first explains why she decides to get it done and whether or not she would change her size, or get replacement boobs at all. She later talks about how her sister didn’t even get the option of contemplating whether or not she would get the mastectomy because it was too late for her and she was younger than Boeschenstein at the time of her diagnosis.

Boeschenstein also talks about how society views plastic surgery and particularly how surgery regarding breasts is seen as something that is looked down upon. How boob jobs are for vain, fake, and insecure women, not self-loving women.

Throughout most of Boeschenstein’s essay, she talks about nerve endings, how she squeezed, “[them] as [she] said to [herself], remember how this feels. Remember how this feels.”

And she does it because she is, “hoping that feeling might somehow imprint onto memory with the same clarity as image.”

She also talked about how at the end she does not feel it anymore

Nell Boeschenstein’s “A Few Words About Fake Breasts” is a personal essay that chronicles Boeschenstein’s struggle with breast reconstruction after a double mastectomy, and brings to light the contradictions between today’s feminist culture and society’s standards of beauty.  The piece is a first person essay written in the second person. The intimacy of the emotions that Boeschenstein writes about are too personal to not be her own feelings, yet she explains that “first person never works” in her early attempts to put her thoughts on paper. The use of second person asks the reader to go through what Boeschenstein went through, and to consider her perspective with an attention that first person narratives can’t command.  She employs several clever techniques to keep the second person impersonally personal; my favorite example being “Dr. Not-Bill-Pullman,” the plastic surgeon she couldn’t name without losing the generality that second person requires. Despite this, Boeschenstein includes many rich details that place the reader half-in and half-out of her life: we have little pieces of the puzzle, like descriptions of a place Boeschenstein has been, or a direct statement of her opinions (we know, for example, that she considers her butt to be her “best feature”).  But at the same time, we don’t know the name of her mother, a main character in the story. The balance between detail and mystery partially shields Boeschenstein’s private life from scrutiny, while also giving away major things about her.

Boeschenstein uses a lot of contrast to help make her point, the clearest example of this being her use of euphemisms for the word “breast.”  The rather childish monikers clash with the seriousness of the subject. In the first paragraph, she uses two silly-sounding nicknames while talking about how she’s about to undergo an invasive procedure in order to protect herself from a life-threatening disease:

“The last night you are alone with your original Lassies, you stand naked in front of a mirror in your studio apartment. You are thirty-one and will never be spending an evening with the girls like this again.”

The euphemisms purposefully don’t fit with the overall tone of the piece, both to draw attention to how uncomfortable thinking about breasts in terms other than immature nicknames is for most Americans, and for humorous effect.  Boeschenstein uses this dry wit throughout the piece as comic relief, and to help the reader get a sense of her personality. Clearly, she is the type of person to appreciate any comedy to be found in her difficult situation, and the humor helps communicate that about her character, despite the piece’s use of second person.  

In the end, Boeschenstein ties up her piece by talking about her dead nerve endings.  In the beginning of her essay, she recounted the last night before her surgery, when she could still feel her breasts, and at the end, she came back to that idea.  

“Somewhere just past your scars, your nerve endings check out. The towel is thrown in, the game is over, No. He has reached his destination. There is only one thing left to do: Sit silently. Scan the body for memories. Try to remember how it felt.”

By talking about her breasts’ physical numbness, Boeschenstein signals an emotional numbness, a tiredness, almost, to the subject of fake breasts.  The decision has been made, the nerve endings are dead, and the essay is done.

The Fourth State of Matter by Jo Ann Beard really made me think about who I am as a writer. She uses details that doesn’t over do her point but it’s is direct and focused on a specific goal. She plays with our minds as if she has our minds in her hands first starting off as if this whole personal essay is going to be talking about her dogs, then we realize it’s much deeper than that. We start to see relationships forming with the dogs and herself, and she takes it a step father by explaining the relationship between the dog and the odd quote saying

“She is Pavlov and I am her dog.”

Though this is an odd thing to say this is how she feels and I appreciate it. Thinking about this quote aren’t we all all pets to out dogs through there eyes? Back to the personal essay I also appreciate how she uses her personal experience through her own eyes to tell this perspective of this story. Also the back and fourth from the attention being on the dogs and on her actual work life and how they coexist together. Not only the relationship of the dogs but the relationship between her and her ex husband that makes little appearances throughout the story. The ex husband usually being compared or looked at compared the dogs, I think it’s almost humerus how she compares the two wishing the dog would leave and the husband would lay on the the blanket that’s the dog lays on. The quote is:

”I wish my dog was out tearing up the town and my husband was home sleeping in a blanket”

Then we later see the problem between the husband and herself which is she has an obsession over her dogs that drove him to leave her. But she is struggling with the intrinsic feeling of not wanting to let her dog go even though she’s very sick.

Then we see a shift in focus with the shooting talked about in the personal essay and we see that its not only about the dogs and Overall the end blows my mind and makes me wish that there was more to read. There’s so many series of important events that hit all at once.

Doughnuts Through Time

“Toward a Unified Theory of the Doughnut,” Elizabeth McCracken is a nonfiction personal essay where McCracken tells the passage of time with different forms of doughnuts in each setting. It is written in the present tense with a few “flashback” types of scenes and her voice is very present throughout the essay. One of my favorite lines is,

I prefer my doughnuts the old way, packed in tunnel formation in a rectangular container, wax paper clinging to the frosting. Dirty, in a way; by dirty I mean low-down and sexy.

It just really sets up what her personality is and it’s just a really funny line to me as well. I find it really interesting how at the end, McCracken says that she doesn’t eat doughnuts anymore. This is because of how much she had mentioned them and how much she had taken note of them throughout her life; for her to not eat them anymore seems a bit surprising.

Overall I found the story a bit hard to read but attention-grabbing as well.

Elizabeth McCracken’s “Toward a Unified Theory of the Doughnut” describes her experiences with doughnuts. She chose to write this essay in a strange way, each paragraph is numbered and its not written in true essay form. It is filled with comedy but also a realness that makes you think and go… oh wow.

The chuckles start from the first paragraph.

I grew up down the street from a doughnut shop, by which I mean: I’m an American. “

This line produced a small laugh as well as an “oh wow this is true” thought. Most of us probably lived down the block from one or knew someone who did and it was funny how that isn’t really something we think of as pretty unique to America until you actively think about it.

I prefer my doughnuts the old way, packed in tunnel formation in a rectangular container, wax paper clinging to the frosting. Dirty, in a way; by dirty I mean low-down and sexy.”

This line was way more funny to me than it probably should have been. Something about calling using the old fashioned way to store donuts dirty and sexy really made me laugh.

Doughnuts, like life, will leave their mark, your mustache flocked with powdered sugar, your fingertips sticky with glaze.”

This line was one of the many deep lines in the essay and that isn’t something I could have imagined happening in a personal essay about doughnuts. Comparing doughnuts with life was comedic genius on her part and I reread that lines multiple times to really let it hit me. Doughnuts are like life.

Like most works of art, doughnuts are defined by an absence. “

One of the last sentences in the essay and wow was it powerful. Most don’t really think of it but doughnuts are completely defined by the absence of space in the middle of it. To compare a doughnut to a work of art was entirely called for because of the dedication of bakers today. As she mentioned before doughnuts are now being made with everything from plan frosting and sprinkles to cereal and other cool things. What once was simple is now a huge business and competition of who can make the most creative doughnut.

It was interesting how McCraken was able to balance jokes alongside serious yet slightly ridiculous statements and still have her essay resonate with the reader. This was definitely an essay I could relate to and I believe that is what made it so enjoyable to read. I also enjoyed the format she chose to write it in, I have never encountered a personal essay written in this manner and I really liked that.

The “Seam of the Snail” by Cynthia Ozick is a short story about a girl’s perception of her mother and perceptions of herself. Through the lense of first person reflective, the story begins with the girl looking back on her childhood, growing up in the depression. Within this memory the girl talks about how her mother used to sew her dresses. On the outside the seams of the dresses were exquisitely sewn, but on the inside of the dress there were small errors. There might be a loose thread or the spacing between the stitches may not be even. This recollection spiraled into a rant about her mother, explaining how, although her mother was a jack of all trades, there was always error in her work. As this girl found fault in all of her mother’s doings, she pegged herself as being a “pinched perfectionist” and decided she was a human snail. Kindly she said, just as a snail leaves a trail of its own essence everywhere it goes, “I use up my substance and wear myself out making nearly no progress at all.” The girl concludes by saying, “her mother has escaped her now.” At the end of the piece when she says that, there is still disdain in her attitude toward her mother. Her mother is gone yet she still stressed the fact that her mother measured her life in “sentences pressed out” and her mother’s heart was, in her eyes, “dreadfully inexact.”, Which seems to be of the most importance to that girl.


In Our Memories


The heaviest wheel rolls across our foreheads
To bury itself deep somewhere inside our memories

We’ve suffered here more than enough,
Here in this clot of grief and shame,
Wanting a badge of blindness
To be a proof for their own children.

A fourth year of waiting, like standing above a swamp
From which any moment might gush forth a spring

Meanwhile, the rivers flow another way,
Another way,
Not letting you die, not letting you live.

And the cannons don’t scream and the guns don’t bark
And you don’t see blood here.
Nothing, only silent hunger.
Children steal the bread here and ask and ask
and ask
And all would wish to sleep, keep silent and
just to go to sleep again…

The heaviest wheel rolls across our foreheads
To bury itself deep somewhere inside our memories

“Terezin” by someone simply known as Mif is one of the more famous elegies coming from the children of the Theresienstadt concentration camp. The camp, simply known as Terezin for the town it inhabited, was known for having many children imprisoned there during World War 2. It was unusual for a concentration camp simply for its culture, which far surpassed many of the grizzlier camps of the time. Still, Terezin didn’t go without its horrors, as depicted in Mif’s poem, written in 1944 at the end of war.

Mif opens with a visual of a heavy wheel rolling across their foreheads to bury itself in their memories. This is the most famous line of the poem. It’s imagery is powerful. The words bring the weight of things that Mif hasn’t yet addressed already to the forefront of your mind. It sets the mood of the poem quite quickly.

This is something Mif does well. They translate the mood and feeling of Terezin into the elegy itself. With phrases like “clot of grief and shame”, “standing above a swamp/from which any moment might gush forth a spring”, “And the cannons don’t scream and the guns don’t bark/And you don’t see blood here./Nothing, only silent hunger”, they use poetic language to translate the feeling of hopelessness, the constant waiting, and the suffering of the camp.

Mif also doesn’t dive into the too abstract, which helps in this case. There is no need for flowery or weird phrases to portray this type of suffering. They let it speak for itself. The poem laments about the suffering of all in Terezin, from the children starving to death to the adults unable to do anything about their pain except wish for the child to sleep. This suffering and imagery stays with the reader just as it stayed with those who survived, and those that didn’t.

The Seam of the Snail

“The Seam of the Snail” a short story written by Cynthia Ozick. The story begins with Cynthia discussing memories of her childhood with her cousin Sarah. Her cousin Sarah was a perfectionist and could tell who made Cynthia’s dresses. Cynthia also notes in small detail her Uncle Jake’s perfection of building “meticulous grandfather clocks”, to later go on and discuss her mother. She writes of her mother as someone who could do it all, from simple housework to gardening. Her mother’s thoughts,

There was always some clear flaw, never visible head-on. You had to look underneath, where the seams were

Cynthia took this to heart relating everything she’s completed back to the detail of her as a child in the dress. Her mother always having to make sure everything was perfect and how it has affected Cynthia as she has grown up, to pay close attention.

She was an optimist who ignored trifles; for her, God was not in the details but in the intent.

This line truly showed the values that Cynthia’s mother noted everything is done with purpose. Cynthia has come to live her own life as such within the tasks she completes as well.

I am an exacting perfectionist in a narrow strait only, and nowhere else, is hardly to the point, since nothing matters to me so much as a comely and muscular sentence. It is my narro strait, this snail’s road; the track of the sentence I am writing now; and when I have eked out the wet substance, ink or blood, that is its mark, I will begin the next sentence.

Only in treading out sentences am I perfectionist; but then tehre is nothing else I know how to do, or take much interest in.

Within these quotes, it shows that throughout Cynthia’s entire life since childhood she has completed her life with purpose and intent. Always a perfectionist.



Doughnut Days

In her creative nonfiction piece “Toward a Unified Theory of the Doughnut,” Elizabeth McCracken uses doughnuts to frame her narrative about growing up and watching the world change.  She talks about her experiences with doughnuts chronologically, moving from her early school years to now, and reflects on how both doughnuts and society in general have changed.

McCracken “debates” aspects of the doughnut—how the word should be spelled, what the best kind of doughnut is, what flavors should and shouldn’t exist—both to be humorous and to parallel the way in which people become attached to their way of doing things.  For example, McCracken brings up the subject of doughnut holes. She finds them distasteful, and says that they remind her of “surgical waste” or “amputated toes.” Of course, this is absurd: a doughnut hole is just a bit of fried dough. Why would anyone have such strong feelings about something like that?  However, a main theme of McCracken’s piece is how doughnuts, to her, are like an anchor into the world she grew up in.

“The doughnuts of my high school and college days weren’t from the Cottage Doughnuts of my childhood, which was gone by then. The entire neighborhood of my childhood—the Paramount Movie Theater, the Woolworth’s, the Boston Fish House, Mac’s Smoke Shop, any number of other oddball shops I’ve forgotten—was erased, the block of buildings sold and then set on fire and then torn down, in that order, in the early 1980s… Perhaps I cling to doughnuts because doughnuts still exist in the world, though Woolworth’s and Howard Johnson’ses don’t.”

McCracken’s voice is unique and clear throughout the piece.  One of my favorite lines was:

“I grieve to report that in 2018, the least sexy year since official record keeping began, a Springfield, Missouri doughnut joint introduced a pickle-flavored doughnut.”

The piece is filled with dry humor and wit, and this line stood out to me simply because it caught me by surprise and made me laugh out loud.  Another element of craft that made this piece such a pleasure to read were the exquisite details that McCracken included. The descriptions of the doughnuts were delicious, especially when she spoke of her favorite doughnuts from a shop called Lori Ann’s:

“I remember them as better than any other doughnut anywhere, light, ungreasy, all air, with just a hint of a crust. I never went to Lori-Ann’s myself. Those doughnuts were special. They had to be brought to you.”

That description alone made me wish it was Thursday!

In the second to last section, McCracken reveals that she doesn’t eat doughnuts anymore, and hasn’t for quite some time.  Her vivid descriptions of doughnuts—their flavor, their smell, how the glaze dissolves in your mouth when you take a bite—purposefully make the reader think that she’s as much a doughnut connoisseur now as she was in her youth.  This revelation is like the twist at the end of a fictional short story, aided by the placement of this information. They’re meant to shock the reader, and make them question what, exactly, doughnuts mean to the author and what they represent in the piece.  Why did she choose to write about doughnuts so lovingly if she no longer eats them? Why did she stop eating them in the first place?

In the end, McCracken reminds us that doughnuts are only a small part of her life narrative, something that we might forget while reading this piece, stuffed as it is with doughnut descriptions.  She ends on a note that contradicts her earlier doughnut-policing tone, comparing doughnuts to art and saying that they “belong to anyone.” She and the world are changing, but as long as people are still eating something that resembles doughnuts, things will be all right.  


“Hip-Hop Ghazal


Gotta love us brown girls, munching on fat, swinging blue hips,
decked out in shells and splashes, Lawdie, bringing them woo hips.

As the jukebox teases, watch my sistas throat the heartbreak,
inhaling bassline, cracking backbone and singing thru hips.

Like something boneless, we glide silent, seeping ‘tween floorboards,
wrapping around the hims, and ooh wee, clinging like glue hips.

Engines grinding, rotating, smokin’, gotta pull back some.
Natural minds are lost at the mere sight of ringing true hips.

Gotta love us girls, just struttin’ down Manhattan streets
killing the menfolk with a dose of that stinging view. Hips.

Crying ’bout getting old—Patricia, you need to get up off
what God gave you. Say a prayer and start slinging. Cue hips.”

This poem by Patricia Smith, is such a joy to read as a black woman, knowing some of the African delect used in this, I could hear my grandmother say this poem in a normal day to day conversation with me. The way she talks about “us brown girls” inspired me to write a poem about “them brown boys” or “my brown boy.” How she used the word hips so many different times but meant the same thing. She is very descriptive in this poem in a way that almost every woman could relate to not only the brown girls. She talks about the curves of a women using a rhyme scheme throughout just like a ghazal is supposed to be.

I enjoyed how the author put “Hips” at the end of each couplet but not always included it in her sentence, feeling that created a more lyrical feel to the Hip Hop Ghazel. The word “Hips” is a strong word to use. It was very musical as if Lauren Hill would have put this exact poem in one of her songs, because of how soulful and rhythmic it is. It makes you want to read and reread because of how it makes your mouth move, the flick of the tongue for example

Gotta love us brown girls, munching on fat, swinging blue hips,
decked out in shells and splashes, Lawdie, bringing them woo hips.”

This is one of my favorite poems that we have read is far. She includes slant rhymes and hidden ways to make the reader laugh and have a deeper understanding of the brown woman’s curves and how others view them. That she is proud and unashamed to show them and flaunt them to the world.

This poem makes me feel powerful.




We can’t remember her name, but we remember where
we buried her. In a blanket the color of a sky that refuses birds.

The illiterate owls interrogate us from the trees, and we answer,
We don’t know. Maybe we named her Dolores, for our grandmother,

meaning sadness, meaning the mild kisses of a priest.
Maybe we called her Ruth, after the missionary who gave us

a rifle and counterfeit wine. We blindfolded our sister and tied
her hands because she groped the fence looking for the rabid fox

we nailed to a post. Katydids sang with insistent summer urge
and the cavalier moon grew more slender. In the coyote hour,

we offered benedictions for a child we may have named Aja,
meaning unborn, meaning the stillness that entered us,

which is the stillness inside the burnt piano, which is also
the woman we untie, who is the mother of stillness.”

This poem is an elegy by Traci Brimhall.

The poem “Stillborn Elegy” by Traci Brimhall is one of the most powerful poems I have ever read. It starts off so strongly:

We can’t remember her name, but we remember where
we buried her. In a blanket the color of a sky that refuses birds.”
The very first sentence draws you into a sadness only a parent of a dead child could feel. From the first sentence, you are immediately invested in the poem. This poem couldn’t have been an easy one to write and Traci really bore her soul into it.
Throughout the poem, Traci mentions names they might have given to their daughter.
Maybe we named her Dolores, for our grandmother”
Maybe we called her Ruth, after the missionary who gave us
a rifle and counterfeit wine”
a child we may have named Aja”
It was interesting to me that she does not remember the name she gave her daughter and she gives a reason for each of the potential names. The way she ties the potential names together with the rest of the poem helps it flow in an almost lyrical way. The names start off nice and meaningful and then the last name she gives is Aja meaning unborn. She took a more dark turn at the end comparing the meaning of the name to the stillness she felt inside herself when she lost her baby. This intense poem really touched me by her bravery for coming out with this intimate poem about such a terrible time of her life.


Panic at John Baldessari’s Kiss
by Elena Karina Byrne
The aftermath always happening like an airplane falling, or a man
midair falling from a horse, and an arrow, a gun, many guns
pointing away, at us, our all bull’s-eye-on-the-mark. This is what he
sees when he sees. Maybe Wrong or not, the appropriation, the film
clip, chase, pressed lips over lips, photo moment on the minute-drawn
breath in, the over, the under, bodies in black and white cut to pose,
the way a kiss can pose, dispose of everything around it for another,
dispose of thinking. It’s like waving good-bye. Mouth to mouth seeing
as saying. Inside. Resuscitation back to the brain saying yes as the mouth
makes an O. Circles for the digital age, colored dots for faces already
made for erasing. Hurry, come, he, 6’7”, sees fifteen minutes from the
Mexican border, cremates his old paintings up close. But the ashes were
kept in a book urn, not so afloat in the ocean with my parents, Above,
On, and Under (with Mermaid) to kiss and kiss, riot in the dark depth
of it. The collision, the kiss, the capture, once in the for-all-we-know
of haunting who comes first. Kiss into kiss and so into kiss. All laws
of gravity leave us. Gender begins in violence and space. Space begins
in gender and violence as all laws of gravity leave us. So, kiss, kiss, kiss!
This prose poem is ekphrastic, after Kiss/Panic by John Baldessari.
This poem is more a reflection on and appreciation of Baldessari’s work as a whole, mentioning his works Wrong and Concerning Diachronic/Synchronic Time
The separation between a prose poem and a narrative work has to do with a lot of things. The biggest thing in my mind separating this from a work of flash fiction is the stream of consciousness style (though the repetition of sound is also a large factor in the distinction). The speaker manages to go both everywhere and nowhere in her description of Baldessari, both of his art and the man himself. Anyone who gets truly swept up in art will tell you about all the times they see something they love and start  to ramble about it, on and on, until what they’re saying makes no sense to anyone but them, and sometimes not even them. This poem wonderfully captures that moment in time, and in doing that makes itself seem very genuine, as opposed to how sometimes very constructed works can come across as contrived.
The poem plays off of the photo’s collage form in that more than one continuous work, it’s a series of loosely connected images, threatening violence, but with passion at the center. One thing that helps all of these to connect is the repetition of words. Not including the title, the word “kiss” is used ten times in this poem, and of these, only one is without another “kiss” beside it. Toward the end of the poem, the speaker presents us with a wonderful example of the interesting things you can do with repetition, with the phrase,
All laws
of gravity leave us. Gender begins in violence and space. Space begins
in gender and violence as all laws of gravity leave us.
Like a sonata, every element of a section is presented before being restated in such a way that it’s put with another.

A Sad Man


“Equestrian Monuments” by Luis Chaves seems to be a rather sorrowful poem. Through the structure of a litany poem, the life of a man is examined and then is described as being a complete waste. This man recollected his life as being lived in a fog. Unfortunately, he had that realization toward the end of his pitiful life and unfortunately rested in the fact that his life was a waste. He never seemed to rejoice in any way; his idea of things going well was, “It could be worse.” Throughout his life of struggle and confusion, he was asked questions such as, “Are you gay?”, “Or, are you an addict?” Each time these somewhat uncomfortable questions were presented, a reminder of God’s word was brought up, usually by his mother. In the midst of the themes of drugs, cripples, disappointment and travesties, God having supreme power always reoccurred. This re-occurrence of a sense of accountability is a normal appearance in litanies and seems to be presented in this poem as something this man tried to negate in his life.


Brenda Shaughnessy’s “McQueen is Dead, Long live McQueen” is an elegy in which  the narrator explains how she has been mourning. There are many similes and metaphors in this poem to express the pain and the unclearness of her immediate future, which is stressful for her.
Everything actually is blurred,
not just how you see.
Glasses and shoes are solutions
to problems that are real problems,
                                            that of blurred world,
                                            that of touching the ground.
This quote really speaks to me because it sounds like the narrator is trying to make themselves feel better but instead, becomes cynical and feeling that their feelings are trivial when there are bigger problems in the world.
The overall shape of the poem is very interesting, and I feel like it reflects on how the narrator is feeling because if you had the poem printed out and turned the paper sideways, it looks like the lines are going up and down nearly continuously. It also sometimes looks like the left side is advice or things the narrator has heard, and the right side is her own responses. Another possibility is that the entire poem is her thought-process while mourning and the structure reflects her mood. All of these interpretations work out to me, so it could be all or none, or something in between.

Bloom of the Tomb

“It is a tragedy, yes, but a confusing one. What happened to the wrestlers and where have they gone? Loulou the Pomeranian would love to know. Outdoors the hills are buried in snow, but inside a rose, a rose full-blown, a roomful of rose. The bloom and its shadow overtaking the space. The bloom proposing an impossible tomb. Of the Tachists, the master said to his friend Harry, “They paint white on white, and they believe that this is an achievement.” Harry said, “I dare you to paint a white rose in a white room with a window looking onto a landscape covered with snow.” Now this — which even Loulou, color-blindish, can tell is red — is the master’s grandiose response to an intoxicating challenge. Synesthetically, the rose fills Loulou’s pom ears with the echoes of torch songs, longing for the wrong. Loulou is practically drunk from the smell: a heady pink, and juicy, and almost obscene. Like crushed up candies, lingering and sweet, but with an adult musk at the core: a powerful flower. In looking, Loulou’s heart becomes a house at dusk about to force something to happen.”

– Katherine Rooney, “Le Tombeau des Lutteurs”

Katherine Rooney’s prose poem “Le Tombeau des Lutteurs” is an ekphrastic poem inspired by a painting of the same name, pictured below.  

Image result for Le Tombeau des Lutteurs

Le Tombeau des Lutteurs, or, literally, “the tomb of the wrestlers,” was painted by Rene Magritte in 1960, inspired by a conversation he had with a fellow artist named Harry Torczyner. Magritte, a Dutch artist, didn’t like the French style of Tachisim, which is a form of abstract painting comparative to surrealism (Source). As in Rooney’s poem, Magritte was quoted as saying that the Tachists “paint white on white, and they believe that this is an achievement.” In response, Torczyner challenged Magritte “to paint a white rose in a white room with a window looking onto a landscape covered with snow.” Le Tombeau des Lutteurs was Magritte’s response (Source).

The poem contains many narrative-like elements that make it seem like a scene from a story.  For example, in the first few lines of the poem, Rooney introduces Loulou the Pomeranian, a character through which we see the painting.  Rooney also delves into the story behind the painting, which adds more characters and even dialogue. The form of the poem, too, is prosaic; what makes this a poem, then, and not a story?

The sound of it. Rooney’s word choice makes the piece read like a true poem, especially when spoken aloud.  Though there are no line breaks to highlight the rhyme, assonance, and repetition of both sound and words, they make what could be prose into poetry.  The first part of the poem especially highlights this [bolded for emphasis]:

“It is a tragedy, yes, but a confusing one. What happened to the wrestlers and where have they gone? Loulou the Pomeranian would love to know. Outdoors the hills are buried in snow, but inside a rose, a rose full-blown, a roomful of rose. The bloom and its shadow overtaking the space. The bloom proposing an impossible tomb.”

The assonance continues throughout the poem, even in the direct quotes from Magritte and Torczyner, and gives the poem a richness of sound that matches the vibrancy of the painted rose.  Rooney also uses a lot of elevated vocabulary, which makes the poem read almost like it’s the placard next to the painting in a museum, instead of an ekphrasis written in tribute.

The end of the poem describes the painting in terms of how Loulou reacts to it.  “Synesthetically,” Rooney says, the painting makes Loulou think of the scent of a rose, almost to the point where the scent becomes real.  In a similar fashion, this poem synesthetically makes the reader picture the painting without the painting needing to be there.  The language Rooney uses to describe how the flower smells, how much room it takes up, and how it makes Loulou feel makes the rose real in the reader’s mind.  Oddly enough, this, I suppose, is the hallmark of good art: the ability to make the viewer, the reader, the listener, or whoever, think vividly of something else.


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