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Week 2: Introductions


Week 2: Introductions
Let’s get started! Along with a brief introduction, let’s begin to examine our favorite poems with a De/Composing mindset.  Please go ahead and:
  1. Introduce yourself to everyone in the group. Is there anything in particular you’re looking for help with in this course? Let your peers know and we'll try to help!
  2. Please share your favorite poem (that you can link to from the web).  In 2-3 sentences, tell us what makes it work. Where are the most successful moments? Do you detect any discrepancies in the poem? Any holes you see in it? Where?

Task Discussion

  • tesspatalano   Aug. 12, 2011, 11:16 a.m.


    Brad Pitt  
    by Aaron Smith

    With cotton candy armpits and sugary
    Crevices, sweat glazing your donut skin.
    Have you ever been fat, Brad?
    Have you ever wanted a Snickers
    More than love and lain on your bed
    While the phone rang and rolled one
    On your tongue, afraid to eat it, afraid
    It would make your jeans too tight? Have you
    Barfed, Brad, because you ate it,
    Ate all the take-out, licked
    Brown sauce off the box while you sobbed?
    Brad Pitt down in the pits chaining menthol
    Ciggys in your thick-wallet life,
    It’s not so bad Brad, sad Brad, is it?



    My name is Tess Patalano.  I am a writer who works for a hedge fund in NYC.  I received my Masters from San Francisco State University last year. I live in Brooklyn.  This class will be great because I am finding a lot of language in the financial industry that I want to access in experimental ways. 


    This is one of my favorite poems simply because it takes a real person (living non the less) and characterizes him through the narrator's point of view.  I enjoy the irony of a celebrity who is idolized, constructed into a self-concious vulnerable human being.  I also appreciate that the narrator is speaking to Brad Pitt, giving the poem an even more intimate feeling.  Also, cotton candy armpits right from the get-go!


    Apologies for the late post, I will be posting Week 3 exercise shortly! 

  • Vanessa Gennarelli   Aug. 14, 2011, 12:52 a.m.
    In Reply To:   tesspatalano   Aug. 12, 2011, 11:16 a.m.

    Hi Tess, welcome!  Look forward to your week 3 poem!

  • Vanessa Gennarelli   Aug. 5, 2011, 8:22 a.m.

    Hope you're all thinking of your poems! Look forward to reading them on Sunday. 

  • Vanessa Gennarelli   Aug. 1, 2011, 7:38 a.m.

    Time to introduce ourselves!  By Sunday, August 7th please post your introduction and poem in this task.

    Hi all, Vanessa, poetry facilitator here.  I like learning and I like the web.  I develop open-source textbooks for Flat World Knowledge. I just published a chapbook called Creation Mutes, and I'm in the process of moving from Philadelphia to Boston to study education and technology.  I look forward to learning with and from you all!  

    Just wanted to make sure everyone's read through Start of Course: Rules of Thumb.  Any suggestions or questions about format and structure should be posted there.  

    One poem I've been rereading every since it published in Poetry Magazine is "Two Times I Love you Most in a Car." I'm haunted by the delicacy of it, the nonsequitir groupings of subject matter, the jazzy voice and the severity of the closing words.  Rereading it, the poem is quite heavy on the "like" comparisons, but that's something I notice visually far more than sonically. 


    The Two Times I Loved You the Most In a Car


    It was your idea
    to park and watch the elephants
    swaying among the trees
    like royalty
    at that make-believe safari
    near Laguna.
    I didn’t know anything that big
    could be so quiet.

    And once, you stopped
    on a dark desert road
    to show me the stars
    climbing over each other
    like insects
    like an orchestra
    thrashing its way
    through time itself
    I never saw light that way
  • MichaelScott   Aug. 2, 2011, 3:23 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Vanessa Gennarelli   Aug. 1, 2011, 7:38 a.m.


    I'm Michael from Swindon in the UK, I am a writer and poet and recently published a chapbook called 'Sick of Ape'. My poetry comes from perspectives formed in addiction treatment and time spent living in the Andes of Peru. My favourite poems say something authentic about the poet, and make me think twice (or maybe three times). I am currently trying to write a memoir, so 'Breaking the Rules' is an ideal displacement activity.


    The poem I have selected is here on the marvellous Poetry Foundation website,

    Here it is with my comments;





    A last rock-skip hurlstorm (crazing river-glass)
    the closest they ever were.
    In right lockstitch
    snared and split some fire-supper cooked on sticks.
    By dawn the older brother took to chucking
    what bottle-frags he could find and crud-oysters across.
    The (high-pitched) younger blacked our waters
    with a yowl.
    Lord the sound such as rose from him
    carried so
    into us. Clings.
    Hadn’t they clung tooth and claw to branch and bark.
    —Came a man (and truck) to take them off.
    Dieseled those boys off
    some say somewheres upcountry,
    Where it was they landed (why) nobody not them knows.
    No body not them knows
    just how they humped and grubbled home
    what road they’d graved what woods criss-crossed
    which creeks which trains they’d hopped who helped.
    Came safe home sure        but blank as houses.
    Came safe home       —as him  —and him.
    —as (evermore) not them.
    This poem forces me to to fill the gaps, the title and last line allude  to something happening that Riley chooses not to tell. Sunder is an interesting word both to start the poem and then reflect back at the end. 
    A dictionary definition is : to break apart or in two : separate by or as if by violence or by intervening time or space
    From the start we know it's not a straightforward or happy poem. Riley uses some stark language
    'dieseled those boys off'
    together with an implied bigger story (local legend?)
    'some say ...'.
    Riley is a master of unusual sonic and juxtapositions and this poem is no exception. 
    In right lockstitch
    snared and split some fire-supper cooked on sticks.
    shows that Riley can achieve great images without the use of some of his more obscure language.
    The final stanza is white hot with questions that Riley won't help us by answering, he doesn't need to, he's set up the images and the situation in my head.
    Came safe home sure        but blank as houses.
    Came safe home       —as him  —and him.
    —as (evermore) not them.
    What has blanked them?
    What is so terrible to be (evermore) not them?
    That's a bit more than a couple of sentences about this poem, sorry I get carried away soemtimes.
  • Vanessa Gennarelli   Aug. 5, 2011, 1:08 p.m.
    In Reply To:   MichaelScott   Aug. 2, 2011, 3:23 p.m.

    Michael--I think you're totally right about filling in the gaps of this poem. What strikes me is its balance, how it's spaced mysteriously and delicately on the page versus its violence--snared, spit, branch, bark.  The poem has hollows and I think you found them.  Thank you for introducing me to Riley!

  • AJC   July 24, 2011, 10:58 p.m.

    Poetry has always intimidated me. I'm among those who don't have enough confidence to make it, but I love it, especially listening to it. Hearing it, for me anyways, has always been the key to accessing it. Things don't speak to me very well on paper, so I'm excited to participate in this workshop to break that barrier!

    Mexican ranchera music is one of my favorite forms of poetry. It is sung with such conviction and emotion, I cannot help being moved. I know so many ranchera songs and each's meaning so intimately in a language I otherwise cannot even speak. I can recite many verbatim, but know no other Spanish. Crazy, right?

    Here is a song by Chavela Vargas, a legend.

    My interpretation in English:

    it was a starless night
    when you left me
    so much sorrow and so much evil

    Soledad, only loneliness
    from the day you left
    in the village there is only utter silence

    Soledad, the creeks are dry,
    on the streets a thousand echoes unceasingly cry
    Soledad, return again

    Soledad, return again..
    to hide away with your music,
    in a mourning gown forever,
    that deafens my sun.

  • Vanessa Gennarelli   July 25, 2011, 3:31 p.m.
    In Reply To:   AJC   July 24, 2011, 10:58 p.m.

    "That deafens my sun." Wow.  I love the piece itself, and the fact that I'd never heard of ranchera music before.  Apparently rancheras are usually about "love, patriotism and nature"--tall order.  Thank you for sharing, Alison, and exposing us to rancheras!

  • AJC   July 26, 2011, 12:13 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Vanessa Gennarelli   July 25, 2011, 3:31 p.m.

    For me finding weaknesses in ranchera is within my own inability to translate well. Google translate does some real enlightening and some real damage at the same time. Usually I follow the translations as I listen to the emotions inthe singer. From those cues, I can usually fill in the blanks quite "poetically".