Thursday, October 16, 2008

Independent Memoir Assignment: Metacognitive

Tzivia Halperin
AP Lit
Mr. Gallagher
October 14, 2008


When the option was given to go to the Mass Poetry Festival and write a review in place of two more suggested projects, I knew I would go this route. In a busy high school schedule, this was certainly more appealing and since also I enjoy poetry, this option was win-win for me. However, it was still required that we pass in a project on Friday and for that aspect I chose to do a book cover. The book cover coalesced writing and drawing and thus I opted to do that, especially since I already had an idea. The cover I chose to do had two images that are more than anything symbolic. In the right hand corner is a crown while on the left side is a skeleton. Much of Sedaris’ book discusses image and his perception of his own image. The crown represents Sedaris’ delusions about himself especially in terms of his high opinion, while the skeleton represents a stripping down of his airs. Like Sedaris’ own attempts to understand himself, the crown and the skeleton represent the two distinct polarities of his image- the delusions and the reality.

The greatest difficulty of this project actually lay in gaining the information for and then writing the Mass Poetry review. In taking notes during the readers, it detracted a great deal from my enjoyment and understanding of the actual poetry. Thus, I could write about the way the poets spoke, quote them a few times, but I failed to truly capture the meaning of their poetry. It was lost to me as I sat furiously scribbling notes. Further, the names of the local poets were only mentioned orally and not actually written down therefore hindering my reviewing process. If I missed the name, I lacked that detail- and if I didn’t miss the name, I surely could have misspelled them. The factual information, rather than the objective was what most hurt the review.

In terms of the book cover, I feared that it may have been too plain, as I created it on white paper. Personally, I liked the aesthetics of the piece but in seeing some of the other projects, mine certainly looks less colorful than others. After I had already drawn the cover, penned it, and colored it, I realized regrettably that perhaps I should have considered putting the crown on the skeleton. The covers wouldn’t necessarily convey the same message of transition, but it would show the dichotomy between his delusions and his true self-image. Of course, I didn’t consider this until after I had finished and by that point, it was moot.

The resulting book cover met all the guidelines and resembled a book cover in that I added a bar code and a mock review. The strength lay in the time I put into constructing it to resemble a real book cover. In terms of the review, the detail of my notes allowed me to become very specific in the actual review. I could quote, note some names, names of poems, in addition to a number of other prevalent details. The specificity of the review was what made it especially successful.

Independent Memoir Project: Mass Poetry Review

Tzivia Halperin
AP Lit
Mr. Gallagher
October 14, 2008

Mass Poetry Festival Review, Friday

The Massachusetts Poetry Festival began its three-day celebration in Lowell, MA, fittingly in the birthplace of local author Jack Kerouac, on October 10. The night began with local poets reading some of their favorite works by more renowned authors- which coincidentally was Robert Frost a great deal of the time. The night was plagued by a few minor mishaps including an initial microphone problem that thwarted the audience from properly hearing the first reader. The room was also much too hot, which was distracting at times. However, the former issue was quickly resolved, while the latter could be ignored and thus the night continued on uneventfully.

The local poets read with grace although they failed to garner much attention. Mark Shore, a local poet who read some selections of Robert Frost hoped his reading would express a new outlook on Frost’s works. He wanted to “read it in a way you’ve never read it before,” and there was much intensity behind his quivering voice. The following local poet, Patrick Shaunessey, however failed to captivate the audience as much as the prior poets. Although emphatic to be sure, his reading from a passage of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road did not deviate from the expected and thus the audience was left jaded. The poet left the stage in a hurry, although some could say not soon enough.

With his departure, the night continued with the readings of the featured poets and the air within the auditorium seemed to grow more excited with the anticipation. Rhina Espaillat was the first to read for the featured poets. She was both humorous and sprightly and thus her personality may have overshadowed her poetry. While her poetry featured vivid, personal accounts of her experiences as an immigrant in the United States, the poems never deviated from this topic. She noted multiple times that she wrote of the “immigrant experience” and thus very little was left to the imagination of the audience. However, her dual reading in both Spanish and English was extremely captivating and attested to the idea of cultural plurality.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the night came with the performance of Regie Gibson. He had an expression of honesty and humor, without any hint of pretension. One of the poems he read included the amusing “How to Become an Ex-Jehovah’s Witness, Without Losing Your Mind.” All were captivating and irreverent, especially the satirical poem concerning the United States, written in the form of the Declaration of Independence. His tone and cadence, along with the plot of the poems were all appealing to the reader which garnered him a partial standing ovation by the conclusion of his set.

The final featured reader of the night was Nick Flynn, writer of the memoir Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, along with multiple books of poetry including Some Ether and Blind Huber. The concluding act of any show is always expected to be the most engaging, however, Flynn did not meet these expectations. Especially following such a strong reading from Gibson, Flynn paled in comparison. He appeared nervous- monotone, and quiet, even losing his place from time to time. This in no way detracts from the poetry itself which had very strong messages masked within simplistic language. His powerful writing was not fully conveyed through his stage presence however.

The evening of poetry began slowly, but built momentum during the readings of the featured poets. Although not all poets were as engaging as others, the audience left Lowell High School in a flurry, excitedly whispering about the readings, feeling satisfied by the night.

Metacognitive: Faulkner Imitation

Tzivia Halperin
AP Lit
Mr. Gallagher
October 9, 2008

Metacognition for Emulating Faulkner’s Style

When first assigned the piece it became glaringly clear to me that I was going to write my paper emulating the style of Faulkner. My 10th grade English teacher and I once engaged in a very similar discussion about Faulkner vs. Hemingway, in which we established that I should strive to write a little less elaborately (Faulkner) and a little more simplistically (Hemingway). As a result, even before I determined whether or not I would write a myth, rewrite a short story in general, rewrite a short story of Hemingway, or merely create a conversation, I knew that I would use Faulkner’s style. In this case, I was going to use my verbose nature to my advantage. Having determined that, my difficulty lay in choosing to rewrite a short story or simply choosing a myth, eventually settling on a myth, desirous of fresh material to work with.

Faulkner’s style is so nuanced that I felt it most difficult to imitate. He employs very specific punctuation including semi-colons, colons, numerous commas in addition to italics, long sentence structure, high level diction, and periodic pacing. All the semantics of his style made it an especially arduous process to emulate. I grappled with the fact that his style doesn’t merely consist of long sentences but rather syntactically rich, extremely complex sentences. In an entirely different sense, I had great trouble with the setting of my story- ancient Greece. Since I had no prior background knowledge about the setting of ancient Crete, my descriptions of it, especially in the first draft, were sparse indeed.

The two members of my group independently came to the same conclusion about how to improve my paper, which helped my greatly in the second draft. While noting that I spent a great deal of time with the intricacies of his style, I failed to delve very deeply into the setting of the story. Faulkner writes lengthy paragraphs simply relaying the setting and the surroundings and it would aid my paper significantly to include more to catering to it. Their suggestions induced me to do research on Crete and Greece so I had a larger wealth of knowledge about the environment and natural setting. At that point, I added more details about the cliffs and the labyrinth. This accession of details especially of surroundings improved the piece significantly from the first to second draft.

The myth that I rewrote has a great deal of background knowledge. I could not simply write of Icarus without mentioning Daedalus and without also mentioning why the men were exiled to Crete. This created a weakness in the paper in which I breezed over the details concerning the exile: Daedalus’ murdering his nephew Talus, while I similarly glossed over details about their move into the labyrinth. I was gripped by the belief that such extraneous background information was not vital to my exploring Faulkner’s style and therefore I didn’t go into great depth in neither background nor setting. My lack of familiarity with the background and setting caused me to lob a lot of information at the reader very quickly and I am concerned if they fully understood it especially in terms of the initial exile.

In terms of strengths, I would note my imitation of Faulkner’s style. I spent a great deal of time reviewing the intricacies and attempting to present them in my own writing. This resulted in a myth that had syncretism with Faulkner’s writing in terms of pacing, diction, punctuation, sentence length, etc. The plot may have suffered at the expense of the style but nevertheless, the style was accomplished with the paper and that was the apex goal.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Icarus Myth: Style of Faulkner

Tzivia Halperin
AP Lit
Mr. Gallagher
October 5, 2008

Story of Icarus, as told in the style of Faulkner

Daedalus, long since exiled to Crete, sat stewing by the sea awaiting an opportunity to return to his native Athens and what more: each time a zephyr rippled over the water, disrupting the calm of his present thoughts, Daedalus’ old regrets again mounted. His nephew Talus was a young boy, obstinate certainly, but no more than any other young, fresh boy brimming with ideals, (He’s deceased! I’ve killed him; my envy was too great). Daedalus’ regret waned momentarily, distracted by the barren terrain of Crete, feeling alien in a foreign country. He peered out at the Aegean cliffs in the distance- ragged, and gray in the diminishing light. Rather than appearing welcoming, the cliffs ever threatening seemed to concentrate less sun on them than their surroundings- their darkness and formidable shape only recalled his Daedalus his present concerns.  His anxieties were compounded by the news he must deliver to his young son, Icarus, detailing their imminent move into the labyrinth- into captivity. Upon closer consideration, Daedalus concluded that he again was at fault, irking the king of the country- King Minos. Daedalus, seeing his son Icarus bounding near the lonesome hilltop he now sits, seized the opportunity to call upon his son but not before emitting a powerful wail.

“My son,” Daedalus lamented, “tonight we are to move from our modest but comfortable home by the river to forever be constricted to the labyrinth.”
“But is there not something we could do?”

Daedalus looked at his son blankly: his broad square shoulders, pronounced cheekbones, and a mass of curly brown hair; he seemed to gleam in the sun. He could no more imagine Icarus in captivity than the golden pheonix. Nevertheless, Icarus exemplified his inability to accept authority, what would soon prove to be his downfall.

They moved that evening. Their new home, the labyrinth, was an obscure jumble of twists and turns, each one dishearteningly leading nowhere but a wall- a dead-end, and the very air they breathed was viscid, leaving a rusty, metallic aftertaste in their mouths, that took the men weeks to acquaint themselves with. Their days in the labyrinth soon melted into weeks, into months, into years, yet neither man could discern the difference. Time was simply time, beating them down into the dankness of captivity. Daedalus, squinting out of darkened eyelids, noted a profound difference in his son; no longer expressing an innate joy of life, he seemed to sag. While Daedalus’ own blaze was stymied, it could not be extinguished, forever glowing with the naive hope of leaving the labyrinth and leaving Crete to return to Athens and it was then, looking at the mass that previously was his son, that Daedalus determined they escape immediately. Rousing his son from his light sleep, Icarus glowered at his father.

“Gather yourself, we are leaving tonight.”
“But how, father? You know as well as I it’s impossible.”
“Minos may thwart our escape through land and sea but not even he can prevent our leaving through the air.”

The two men sat silently, side by side, neither feeling inclined towards conversation, innately understanding the task at hand, and rather expelling their energy vigorously gathering feathers that had fallen through the open roof of the labyrinth, squinting in the inky darkness of their prison. The feathers were ordered with great stringency- beginning with the smallest and becoming increasingly long; the white of the feathers gleamed in the pulsating night. The feathers were fastened with wax and a sheer rope at the middle and bottom, so when bent, they resembled the real wings of birds. Icarus on his part, seemed to regain his pinkish glow, a sight so familiar to his father, that he could have wept aloud with joy but instead allowed his old heart to regain some of its childlike vitality, and the two worked with increased stamina. The two sets of wings were completed just as the sun began to peek through the dawn morning splashing interesting patterns of light on the dirt floor of the labyrinth and a light fog proliferated about the labyrinth that dissipated soon after. 

Prior to their intended flight, Daedalus, looking at Icarus adjusting the wings, pulled his son close to him: “I must caution you son not to fly too low as the water will weigh on your wings and you will drown, but so too do not fly very high where the sun’s strong beats will burn your wings. You must fly in the middle and closely follow my course.” Icarus, giving his father a familiar grin of both humor, confidence, and skepticism, noticed his father’s hands begin to tremble and eyes grow moist and kissed his father on the cheek for what would be the last time.

Daedalus was the first to take off, flapping his manmade wings, and gaining more and more altitude. It was refreshing among the clouds, which formed in heavy, cotton-like masses. He turned to note the trajectory of his son and, with a deep relief, realized he was following him closely and heeding his advice. After several minutes of uninterrupted flight, however, Icarus, with increased confidence, began to fly higher and higher, despite his father’s warning, emboldened by the gathering of people- an audience that had formed below to watch what they perceived to be gods taking flight. At such a close proximity to the sun’s sweltering rays, the wax, which bonded the feathers of the wings together, began to soften and eventually was ineffectual. Flapping his arms with great force, Icarus attempted to retain his height but, without the wings, failed to do so. He called out to his father: “Father! Father! My wings can no longer support me!” But it was too late, he already began to fall, gathering speed, splashing into the cobalt blue ocean that swallowed him whole. Daedalus looked about the empty expanse of sky for his son, his only son, and called: “Icarus, my son!” spotting the broken wings floating on the ocean far below. He cursed his son for his foolishness and himself for equally indulging him over the years. Daedalus buried his son and traveled onward to Sicily, with a deep, unshakeable melancholy in his breast.