Directions: Please review the reports of your group in addition to the other groups. Briefly discuss what you learned from these reports in one comprehensive post. What similarities/differences do you see in these group discussions? What, if anything, do you see in other group discussions that causes you to reflect on the texts in a different way?
As a whole class, we analyzed the three poems that were assigned. The works of poetic literature were Langston Hughes’ “The Weary Blues”, William C. Williams’ “Spring and All” and T.S. Eliot’s “The Burial of the Dead”. Group C analyzed these three poems and developed some interesting points and perspectives. From all the ideas that came about from the critical thinking, there were various conclusions that we agreed upon while there were also some that differed.
Beginning with the poem “The Weary Blues” by Langston Hughes, group C agreed that Hughes was indeed speaking of the African American culture. Kelly added that there were signs of the African American culture being referenced to. She explained that the title of the story with the word “Blues” as well as the jazz music that was described was a giveaway. The blues and jazz was created in Harlem buy African American individuals so it was relevant and somewhat necessary for Hughes to include those details. Kelly also mentioned the author was an activist in which I agreed as she continued to infer that the poem was representing living the life of someone else. I emerged myself into this topic and concluded that because of Hughes’ activist role, he wanted to allow the readers to experience and understand the life of an African American during that time. Thomas stated that “The Weary Blues” was a free verse poem and discovered that the song had a pattern similar to that of the free verse to merge the two into one cohesive message.
In Williams’ poem “Spring and All”, Thomas and Kelly wrote of it being in free verse but Thomas further analyzed the topic. He stated that the free verse style was used to enhance the imaginative scenes throughout the poem. Kelly conveyed that the amount of imagery and symbolism given to the descriptions such as the road, symbolized the journey through life. I agreed with her viewpoint but considered it to not only symbolize human life journeys but as well as those of nature. Mattison had a thought that no one else in the group mentioned. She compared the descriptions of the plants and the dead land with the ending of World War I. She made the conclusion that the soldiers whom survived the war where alive just like the plants but were in a distraught mindset. Thomas said that Williams’ work was a comparison of the past and present issues. This brings together the remaining ideas about Eliot’s work.
In T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Burying of the Dead” Thomas and I agreed on the monologue perspective being the basis of the poem. However, he once again concluded that there was a comparison happening between ancient and modern times. Mattison had similar ideas to that statement, saying that what’s modern about the poem is the time it is set in as well as the brand new surrounding events that took place. Ancient times were not in the poem, only what was taking place at that moment was. Along with that topic, Kelly explained that Eliot’s work was not written on a personal level but from modifications of past works, which further analyzes the comparisons of the ancient to modern times.
Group A Report
Group A identified the following aspects of literary modernism in the poems. Madison wrote Hughes “combines literary influences with African oral traditions and the blues” (Baldick) which he carries out in his poem “The Weary Blues”. Mathew wrote there is also an influence of African American life in the poem. In “The Weary Blues,” we see the influence of the Blues, the Harlem Renaissance, and African-American slang that the video said influenced Langston Hughes. In the video Rhythms in Poetry“The historical, cultural, and economic events that shaped poetry of this period included the Great Migration, the Harlem Renaissance, World War I, and the Great Depression” are discussed (Video). Modernism for both “William Carlos Williams and Langston Hughes looked to their own neighborhoods and personal experiences for inspiration, subjects, and styles” (Video). “Eliot’s work reflects an interest in and respect for Western European tradition, and he wrote obscure, incantatory poetry for an elite audience” (Video). Modernism (Literary Term) includes the fact that “several poets rejected traditional metres in favour of free verse” (Modernism – Literary Term). Colette wrote “modernism focuses on presenting written artwork in a more abstract, aesthetic, and imaginative way than how it had been presented in the past. Several group members noted that T.S. Eliot’s lack of form and use of multiple collages of work pieced together with symbolism, Western European imagery, and German phrases was geared toward a more elite audience making it more difficult to read.
Catharine wrote “Hughes uses musical instruments to symbolize his sadness and “melancholy tone” (Hughes). “Droning a drowsy syncopated tune, rocking back and forth to a mellow croon, I heard a Negro play” (Hughes). Hughes stress on the “drowsy syncopated tune” symbolizes the ongoing feeling of solitude that the common man in the time period could relate to.” Group A all agreed that there was a sense of loneliness and hopelessness in “The Weary Blues” that only sleep seemed to put to rest. Mathew wrote “‘The Weary Blues’ had the most rhyming in its verses. Its first six lines follow an AABCCB rhyme scheme with many other rhyming couplets throughout the poem.”
Madison wrote that William Carlos Williams “Spring and All” does not follow any poetic forms and it does not have a rhyme scheme. Madison felt that Williams was potentially using the rebirth of spring to symbolize the rebirth of America and Europe following World War I. Colette uses Williams quote “They enter the new world naked, cold, and uncertain of all save that they enter” (Williams) initially as a personified spring, but wondered if the transition of Winter to Spring was being used as a metaphor for the birth of a child. I noted that Williams poem was definitely free form, there are few punctuation marks with no periods in the entire poem and no use of rhyming. I saw winter as a symbol for lack of life and spring as emergence (rebirth) of life. The quote “Lifeless in appearance, sluggish; dazed spring approaches-” (Williams) provides a personification of spring as having person traits of sluggish and dazed.
In “The Waste Land” there was broad agreement that “April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land” (Eliot) presented an intended contradiction to the reader. Some group members also used “Winter kept us warm” (Eliot) to further show the contradiction that Eliot wanted to create. Mathew wrote “The Burial of the Dead” has select lines that Rhyme. The group found this poem to be dark with a sense of hopelessness. I used “A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many; I had not thought death had undone so many; sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled, And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.” (Eliot) to show an image of the monotony of life that a person goes through until death and possibly a selfish attitude where the person is only interested in his own well-being. Eliot uses the tarot cards to provide symbols. The Wheel symbolizes the “life’s cycles” and the Hanged Man “may simply indicate upheaval or change in your future” (Internet).
Group A Questions:
• Why did Williams use the “contagious hospital” reference in the first line of “Spring and All”?
• How do poets decide what form or format they will write in?
• The video said that urbanization of America during this time led to many of these modernistic poems relating to urban life. Why are “Spring and All” and “The Waste Land” about nature?
• How do the use of German and references to German places connect with references to things and people in London, England?
Group B Reaction Paper Report
After reading everyone’s reaction papers it was easy to tell that everyone had a clear understanding of what modernism is and how it played an important role in the three poems we all had to read, “Spring and All”, “The Weary Blues”, and “The Burial of the Dead”. Overall the entire group had very many similarities when it came to modernism and the interpretation of the word. We also all felt the same way about the poem, “Spring and All’. When it comes down to the other two, we all took in “The Weary Blues” in different ways, and Olivia, Gabriella, and I all decided that “The Burial of the Dead” was too dull and gloomy for them to read, whereas Kavon enjoyed all the imagery and symbolism within it.
Langton Hughes “The Weary Blues” left all of us understanding different aspects of the poem. I thought that the piano player was holding back in the story, not allowing his full emotions take control as well as communication being a huge theme, “I heard a Negro play” (Hughes). From that quote I was able to tell that the writer wanted the reader to become immediately engaged in the poem. Gabriella on the other hand,understood the poem” word for word. She provided great detail on how she was able to close her eyes and imagine the pub and piano player. Gabriella also mentioned that the beginning of the poem, “Droning a drowsy syncopated tune, rocking back and forth to a mellow croon” (Hughes) kept her engaged in the poem, much like music itself. Olivia was able to mention the connection with the author and the poem itself. She mentioned how Langston Hughes was an African American and how he incorporated African American jazz and blues into his poem. She felt that this poem really emphasized the freedom to express through music. Lastly, Kavon felt that this poem was too dry and boring, and felt miserable while reading “The Weary Blues”. Gabriella, Olivia, and I thought that it was one of the easiest poem to read and understand, however Kavon enjoyed T.S. Elliot’s poem much better.
When it comes to “Spring and All” we all as a group understood the poem the exact same way stating we all saw the personification and symbolism and how the poem was about life reoccurring and starting new. Lastly, “The Burial of the Dead”, brought mixed feelings to the table. Gabriella, Oliva, and I all disliked this poem finding it difficult to read, boring, and dry. I especially found myself wondering off from the poem because it was just harder to read and follow. Kavon disagreed with us three, finding this poem to be the most enjoyable.
Group D Report
It would appear as though everyone in Group D agrees that Langston Hughes possesses incredible descriptive skills, William Carlos Williams recognizes the importance of the smallest things in life, and T.S. Eliot has a gift for making allusions.
The power of Description that Hughes demonstrates in his The Weary Blues was appreciated by all members of the group. Jackie and I agree that Hughes’ The Weary Blues was our favorite poem. It appears as though we were both captured and drawn in by the descriptions that bring music to life through words which describe the rhythm and the actions the musician makes to play his music and keep his tempo. Jackie nicely comments that Hughes’ word choices are very captivating saying: “[The words that Hughes uses to describe the sound of the music] help me to hear this dreary, almost depressed, song playing in my head. I can visualize the scene in my head and the movements of the subject, solely because of the words our author uses” (Jackie).
Abiola also points out the importance of the era in which these three poets were living. Abiola makes especially good points when talking about T.S. Eliot’s The Burial of the Dead. Abiola mentions that, of the three poems, Eliot’s was the earliest, written at the turn of the century when there was a “progression of communities brought forth by industrialization, urbanization, immigration, and overall change […] In addition to this progression, there […] were depression and grief, due to the occurrence of World War I” (Abiola). Abiola then moves on to describing how this historical moment affected Eliot’s writing and how there is a sense of darkness covering the entire poem. Caitlyn nearly restates what Abiola did, saying that “literary modernism is being used as a message between the lines, [Eliot] is showing the new world after WWI in a very mono tone” (Caitlyn).
In regards to William Carlos Williams’ poem, Spring and All, it seems as though we all saw it as just another mundane poem about nature. It’s descriptive capabilities and appreciation of nature are outstanding, but despite all that, we all noticed how the poem did not seem to have as much substance as the other two. Of course, we all noticed the theme of rebirth despite disease and overcoming death with a positive outlook, but there was a lack of description of actions that was present in the other two, or as Jackie put it, the poem was “very boring and sedentary. There wasn’t much going on movement wise.”
After reading through all of Small Group E’s reaction papers about these three poems, many thoughts and opinions were shared amongst a majority of the group; however, each person brought forth some different points. “The Weary Blues”, “Spring and All”, and “The Burial of the Dead” are expression of modernism because they are written in an atypical style and they are focus on the rejection of traditions and rules. As Matthew says modernist writers use techniques of juxtaposition and multiple point of views challenge the reader to reestablish a coherence of meaning from fragmentary forms.
To me, “The Weary Blues” by Langston Hughes is a narrative poem that describes a black man’s real life in Harlem, New York. “I heard a Negro play. Down on Lenox Avenue the other night. By the pale dull pall or of an old gas light” (Hughes). He is a singer who plays Blues songs on the street. Julissa says this poem is a lyric poem with a speaker telling a story about a musician he had heard. Rebecca thinks that “The Weary blues” also emphasizes the specificity of the African American dialect, as part of the Harlem Renaissance, and integrates the quality of music. Matthew states this is a poem in the modernism style that incorporates a musical style or structure, and it has blues lyrics in the poem. As a group, we identified two main common points: the setting and the type of poem. I think that this poem serves as a method of complaint that uses a free style.
On the other hand, “Spring and All” by William Carlos Williams is a descriptive poem in free verse about the Spring and its elements. “Under the surge of the blue mottled clouds driven from the northeast-a cold wind” (Williams). The setting of the poem is in the middle of nowhere because he uses “the clouds” as a reference. Rebecca says that William, uses an unconventional free verse, and enjambments, leaving the sentence hanging, and this force readers to focus carefully on individual images. She also states that this poem has a rhythmic style since it has song-like qualities. Matthew noticed this poem was written in free verse style, and it is very descriptive. Besides, Julissa says it has free verse as well. It seems a little more descriptive of the scenario “All along the road the reddish, purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy, stuff of bushes and small trees…” (Williams). The speaker centers in describing the “road to the hospital”. All members of Group E agree on the fact that this is a free style and descriptive poem. Rebecca mentioned a really good point about enjambments that make us read this poem with attention to detail.
To me, in “The Burial of the Dead” by Eliot, the setting of the lyric poem is a burial service. It seems that different people are narrating from their perspectives. Every quotation sets the tone of the poem. Nevertheless, there is a digression among verses and it is difficult to interconnect them, but some sounds are repeated, so the verses have a pleasant sound. On the contrary, some verses are prosaic perhaps they are in other languages. Moreover, Julissa thinks this poem is characterized as lyric poetry because the narrator expresses strong thoughts along the poem; however, there is some description as well because the narrator uses adjectives and imagery. On the other hand, Matthew says this is a gloomy poem because it is related with religion. To prove this, he quotes, “living nor dead, and I knew nothing, considering the heart of light, the silence” (The Waste Land, Elliot), is a reference to religion and in the style, it is in is somewhat confusing to the reader. Rebecca sates this poem has a modernist style because it rejects a stiff rhythm and meter and use of free verse, using also enjambment what adds a disorienting sense. To me, this poem has a prosaic style because they lack of beauty, and as Rebecca says, it is difficult to read and connect every verse because the author jumps from one scene to the other. Rebecca says that each stanza represents a different scene and image. We all conclude this poem was really hard to understand, mainly because Elliot also mixed different languages to express his emotions.
The biggest thing that Group F, which was just me and Jenna this week, agreed on was how Eliot’s poem was the hardest to understand out of all of them. Jenna said in her response to mine, “T.S Eliot’s poem was extremely hard for me to understand,” and I also agreed with that in my paper. We discussed how we could definitely tell that the poem was about death, and that there were many speakers throughout the poem, which all had a common theme but spoke about it in different ways, which added to its difficulty in reading and understanding it. I said, “Each one of them seems to talk about loss or death–just something that once was and is no longer anymore, whether that be love, or memories of the past, or death itself.” In specific reference to the last stanza in the poem, Jenna interprets it as being a funeral procession. She states: “‘A crowed flowed over Long Bridge, so many, I had not thought death had undone so many.’ (Eliot) This sentence reminded me of a funeral procession. ‘And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.’ (Eliot) This sentence made me think of each man walking in a sulking manner because of the death.” We both interpreted things similarly and agreed that the poem was about death, but was harder to understand.
As for “Spring and All,” Jenna and I had different, but similar interpretations of its meanings, however we both agreed that the poem reflected modernism in its short, concise language that was simple, but also held a deeper meaning. Jenna interpreted the poem as, “The coming of spring made me think that Williams was telling his readers that better times were on their way to the “contagious hospital” that we call life,” and I interpreted it as, “I thought that perhaps a doctor is a to a contagious hospital as spring is to the winter,” meaning that spring is to alleviate the symptoms of winter as a doctor does for his patients. This made sense to me because Williams was also a doctor.
In Hughes’ poem, Jenna said it reflected modernism because of his portrayal of an African American man singing the blues, and how African Americans at this time were so influential over Jazz. She stated: “African Americans were known for their impact on the world of Jazz in the twentieth century. ‘He played that sad raggy tune like a musical fool. Sweet Blues!” Coming from a black man’s soul.’ (Hughes) “We both agreed that this poem also reflected modernism in how it rhymes, and has a lot of rhythm, which isn’t always seen in poems before Hughes’.