Blog assignment in partial place of today’s missed class

I’m sorry we had to cancel class tonight.  If anything should cause a Canadian literature class to be cancelled, it should definitely not be the weather.  When it became clear that almost none of you would be able to make it tonight, though, there seemed like little other choice.  I wish I could have done that earlier in the day, but by late morning it was appearing that the snow might be stopping. By early afternoon, though, it was getting much worse.

We’ll definitely spend some time next Wednesday talking about the poems you all read for tonight.  I’m really looking forward to discussing them in detail, as well as getting going on Two Solitudes.

To get us going on our poetry discussion, I’d like each of you to take some time to share with us one of the poems that you found most interesting.  In no more than 300 words or so, tell us about the poem. What is it about? What are its main themes? What formal structures or types of figurative language does the poet use to express his or her ideas? What was it about the poem that you appreciated the most?

(We’ve only read male poets this time around. We’ll be focusing on women poets from Montreal soon.)


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9 Responses to Blog assignment in partial place of today’s missed class

  1. Katie I says:

    One of the poems that I enjoyed the most was Leonard Cohen’s “Story.” In this particular poem, he examines the psyche of a lover in a particularly interesting way. He shows the child-like stories that she makes up, yet also shows the tragic adult reality of her “when she contemplates her own traffic death.” I also particularly like the line: “it is important to understand one’s part in a legend.” He acknowledges the extreme creativity that comes with this child-like story telling and the significance that it may have.
    Additionally, I find the Jewish context within Leonard Cohen’s poetry as well as A.M. Klein’s poetry to be extremely interesting. I feel that between the two, you can see the Catholicism in the city change and develop. In Klein’s poetry, the reader can see the oppressiveness of the Catholic culture within Montreal on Klein as a Jewish poet, especially in the time surrounding WWII. In Cohen’s poetry, however, his role as a Jewish poet is present, but because of his time period within the Beat generation and the Bohemian culture within the city, I feel that his poetry has found a place within a more accepting niche in the city of Montreal, rather fighting the oppressive Catholicism that Klein faced.

  2. Julia W. says:

    One of the poems I really enjoyed was Leonard Cohen’s “I Have Not Lingered in European Monasteries.” Throughout the poem, he names all things he has not done, reflects on noteworthy experiences he has not had. The whole poem, until the last stanza, seems almost sad, with all the grand experiences he has skipped or missed out on. However, in the last stanza, he instead gives an image of what his life is like; it perhaps lacks the grandeur of holding one’s breath “so that I might hear the breathing of God,” but it is a positive simplicity to it.

    There is a certain almost zen-like quality of the poem, of, rather than listing off great trips & spiritual revelations of one’s life, focusing on the more mundane factors, but recognizing them as being important and good.

  3. Stephanie Wessel says:

    After reading the numerous poems I seemed to go back to “Style” a poem about Russia and America and what one can only assume the Cold War. In the first stanza it seems sort of airy but then to me Cohen begins to show an uncertainty that continues till the end. He talks about forgetting his style yet talks about a person catching rain and then the silence that is unremembered that is heading towards him. I typically have a hard time understanding poetry and what it actually is supposed to mean. I always feel like there is a cryptic language that only a select few can understand. I feel a disconnect when it comes to reading poetry. I like the language that is used through out this poem and I think that is why it stuck with me the most.

  4. ryan h says:

    Leonard Cohen’s poem “Story” is referred to in the introduction as a “psycho-parable,” a description which could not be more fitting. Cohen tells the story of an unnamed woman who tells her guest about the young child who “built her house one Spring afternoon” but was killed crossing “the street”. The poem is vague, never mentioning names or simply using fragments such as “this and this avenue,” techniques which I think serve to add to the subtle yet profound sense of horrific mystery, like ghosts are wandering through the poem as we read it. The woman is adament that the child who was run down by an automobile “at the corner of this and this avenue” was her child (not biologically), her landscaping, house-building child. Cohen’s other character sees through the woman’s fantasies (insanities), but almost seems to revel in them as if not wanting to disturb the ever-so pleasant boat ride that’s heading in the wrong direction (“Each time I visit her … It is important to understand one’s part in a legend”). The character knows that, in reality, the woman herself built the house, along with its accessories and crayon masterpieces. Cohen’s descriptions of the organized chaos of ornaments splayed throughout the woman’s house help to strengthen the idea that the woman is not quite right (I was reminded a bit of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”). Throughout the entire poem I sat uneasily in my seat, picturing this woman in my mind’s eye but not really wanting to; I think that’s the feeling that Cohen (or Cohen’s other character in the poem) is feeling – it’s like watching a train wreck happen in front of you and feeling utterly terrified yet being unable to turn away out of some sort of twisted desire to see the carnage unfold. Yet as the final stanza seems to say, sometimes you just have to join in on, and jump headfirst into, the disaster itself.

  5. Megan B. says:

    The poem that stood out most for me was Cohen’s “You Have the Lovers.” I realize this poem has nothing to do with Montreal, or even Canada, in particular, but for some reason it spoke to me. These “lovers” are completely detached from reality, it seems. They inhabit a room and perform the ritual of making love; they are mad about one another and tangled in each other’s arms constantly. What’s interesting about this poem in terms of formal structure is the fact that there are not only the “he” and “she” (the lovers) but there’s “you.” The third person involved in this poem makes me think that the third person is reflecting on the life she once led when she was in love with her “mate” who has passed. Another way to view the poem is that the second person “you” is accepting loneliness and learning to love herself again.
    The imagery is so beautiful; my favorite part of the poem was when the room became a garden—full of vines and sunlight. The lovers have inhabited the room so long that it has grown into a living thing. Besides this, Cohen uses a few similes: “All her flesh is like a mouth,” and “Their eyes are closed as tightly as if heavy coins of flesh lay on them.”
    I appreciated the poem more when I listened to Cohen recite it (on YouTube), too, because he reads with such feeling without changing the tone of his voice. I feel that poetry sounds more powerful when the poet recites it him/herself.

  6. casey s. says:

    It is important to think of Montreal as being as French as it is English. This distinctiontion was far lost upon me until reading “Very Different Montreals” and Mavis Gallant’s “The Doctor”. Both explain the important role of the two languages and cultures co-existing within the city to give it its own distinct culture. The poem that I enjoyed the most was Cohen’s ‘The Genius’. I remember him preforming this poem in the documentry we watched in class and being very impressed with the imagery he was able to create. He begins each stanza by stating that he will do something ‘for you’. I think this repetative device worked very well within the piece. It allowed him to illustrate a person who is able to manipulate how they appear. This ability is a powerful one because by having different “masks” to put on you can control how people perceive you (and how you are perceived by others). The idea of being of being a person in constant social and societial flux, I believe, illustrates the cultural aspects of life in Montreal.

  7. austin says:

    F.R. Scott’s, A Grain of Rice illustrates the paradoxical nature of the human condition, whereupon the things we deem valuable are those not necessarily detrimental to our survival nor liberating to ourselves as individuals. Scott reduces us to our basic needs, acknowledging that “Hundreds of millions live Only because of the certainty of this season, The turn of the wind.” In my mind he is perhaps referring both to the rice itself, as well as the people who rely on it’s nutrients for their own livelihood. Further more, the lives of these hundreds of millions, (be them people and/or rice) are built upon something as powerful and self deciding as the wind. Perhaps we can harness the winds forces, but we can not dictate how and when it will blow, and what season will come along with it. Acknowledging our dependence on the power moon and the seasons, and juxtaposing it with the futile nature of war and the systematic creation of order through religion and through science in a world that is filled with chaos created a vivid picture in my mind; “I read of a battle between brothers in anguish. A flag moved a mile.” Despite all our efforts and our violent order and our power as human beings, brothers fight and die in order for one flag, to make one mile of progress. When pinned against the wind and the moon and the deserts and creation itself, a piece of fabric gaining one mile of ground is put into perspective.

  8. Merilyn says:

    “Montreal” is a love song to a city that lodged itself deeply in A. M. Klein’s heart. A grandiose ode that captures the sweep and contrasts of the place, its people, and its history, it reminds me of why I’m so drawn to this city of my ancestors. The past remains alive in the present, both in Klein’s imagination and before his appreciative eyes. He pays homage to simple things – coureur de bois, voyaged mariners, the bruit of machinery – and employs images distinctive to Montreal – pendant balcon and escalier’d march, “argent belfries,”and “scintillant” Mount Royal towering above the city. Through this specificity, he paints the essence of the city.
    A lifelong Jewish resident of Montreal, Klein places strong emphasis on the theme of harmony between the city’s multiple ethnic groups. He demonstrates that he “cherish[es] the joined double-melodied vocabulaire” by liberally populating his elegant English with French words. The Indian, French, Scot, and English are all acknowledged as part of the urban settlement. There is no reference to discord in his idealized vision, which I found refreshing after Two Solitudes.
    Another main theme is the importance of place in an individual’s development. In stanza 6, Klein describes Montreal as “a part of me, O all your quartiers” and cites Mount Royal as “my spirit’s mother.” His imagination is grounded in the sights, sounds, and experiences he grew up with. The final two stanzas make it clear that no matter where he journeys, Montreal is his “pasture of memory.” Although I didn’t grow up in Montreal, I’ve visited it so frequently since childhood that it occupies a large space in the “nostalgic isle” of my memories. Klein’s poem identifies some of the forces at work to earn it such affection.

  9. Meredith D. says:

    Upon researching F.R. Scott I found many interesting things about his background. For instance, I learned Scott is one of our first recognizably Canadian poets in that his poetry expresses Canadian identity, an identity first associated with the new social vision of the ’thirties. I chose to study the poem “Laurentian Shield” because I really enjoyed the imagery and metaphors it expressed. It is interesting how Scott made the assumption that Canada is “inarticulate” because “arctic” or barren, yet in the depth of her lakes she has developing “songs” of her own. In Scott’s metaphor the land is a woman to be awakened through love into language and growth. It seems that the process of giving voice to the land is dependent on man’s co-operation with it, a co-operation expressed by his “technic.” What the poet desires for Canada is the highest in the civilizing process, the language of poetry which Scott characterizes as “A language of flesh and of roses.” The themes that I found which emerge from “Laurentian Shield” — of land as myth and property, of land as evolutionary process and history, of land in relation to human love and politics — are integral parts of Scott’s poetic vision. I also find in this poem his most effective use of metaphor, that of bringing life to the inorganic, and his characteristic use of language in which meaning is drawn out from one syllable or word to another. I overall very much enjoyed his poetry as a collective whole and look forward to reading other Canadian literatures, including prose.

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